Category Archives: Articles 2013

Home away from home: alum take over stage for Elon-only concert in the Big Apple

It started on a bench in Central Park.

Elon University 2011 alumni Claire Manship and John Yi sat in the heart of New York City, talking about various aspects of their lives. After wandering around several topics, Manship brought up the concept of creating a concert together.

As music theatre majors from Elon, the roommates started talking about how they could engage in a concert that also included their acting friends, Yi said, who was completely on board with the idea.

The first step was to create a solidified concept of the concert. After jogging their memories, they decided to bring back an exercise they had learned at Elon. This exercise, created by acting professor Richard Daniel, taught Manship and Yi one of their first lessons in Elon’s music theatre and acting programs.

Daniel had the students finish the sentence, “Hello, my name is.” The answers varied and revealed a lot about each person. Yi said he and Manship loved this concept and decided to name the concert they would create, “Hello, My Name Is…”

image“It is a concert series showing the challenges, joys and lives of 20-somethings living in NYC striving to make their dreams come true,” Yi said. “It is a concert for 20-somethings to share what is going on in their lives right now.”

The second step was to book the venue. Manship called 54 Below, a renowned Broadway venue. Yi said they both wanted the show to start in a serious venue. When the representative from the venue said they had late-night spots open, Yi and Manship jumped at the opportunity.

“Obtaining 54 Below as the venue was definitely a ‘wow’ moment for both Claire and I, as it shed light on the often surprising dynamics of self-efficacy,” Yi said. “I give full credit to Claire who made it happen, and I definitely admire her for never backing down until she hears a response from the horse’s mouth.” 

They also needed to get a concert lineup. Manship and Yi decided to make this show unique – it would include only Elon alumni. They received a good response from the performers they invited.

“Elon produces the type of performing artist that if they say they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it and do it really well,” Yi said.

Yi said he really wanted to include Elon students with Broadway credits, so when Alex Ellis, Class of 2005, joined in, he was very excited.

However, when push came to shove, the alumni with Broadway credits had to drop for various reasons. Yi said he could never be mad at these performers because they were getting work, and in the theater and music theater fields, getting work is not easy.

“After we cleaned up the lineup and got our venue, step three was making sure we had our rehearsal down and an accompanist for the show,” Yi said.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 9.38.13 PMElon alumnus Christopher Staskel, Class of 2010, offered up his friend Max Mamon, who is a writing and composing partner at the New York University graduate program, to play for “Hello, My Name Is…” His friend offered to do it for free.

Yi said while he was happy to see people from his alma mater come together to put on one powerful concert, there was a drawback to having only Elon alumni on stage.

“The only downfall of having an Elon-centered, Elon concert is nobody knows what Elon is outside of Elon,” he said. “No one knows what Elon is. No one in non-profit really knows what Elon is. It’s a little more of a low-key school. That is one of the disadvantages that we recognized that we would have to face.”

Despite this challenge, 54 Below had a good-sized crowd when the first concert ran Nov. 17. Yi knows the difficulties he and Manship faced along the way helped them in the long run.

“There were a lot of unforeseen challenges that helped us grow,” he said. “We knew there was going to be these challenges that we didn’t know of.”

During the show, Manship and Yi were not simply watching from backstage. They had their own performances.

“I’m excited to sing a duet with my roommate and dear friend, John Yi,” Manship said. “He is so incredibly talented and I’m pumped for our song.” 

Yi said their duet was focused on capturing the visceral power of love and how it sometimes emanates from overwhelming sacrifice and pain. Choosing the song they would sing together was not an easy one, Yi said.

“The song selection process leading up to finally choosing ‘All The Wasted Time’ was somewhat arduous, seeing as we both have high expectations and we didn’t want to forcefully push the artistic process in a way that felt unnatural,” he said. “It was also very important for us to find a song that complimented the blending of our voices.”

The audience, as one would expect, was full of Elon alum as well. Sarah Oldham, Class of 2012, said what stood out to her, aside from the incredible talent, was the community she felt.

“Part of what makes leaving Elon so hard is leaving behind a strong sense of community,” she said. “Although the alumni performing spanned five years of graduating classes, you could truly tell their shared experience as performing arts majors brought them back together in New York with a desire to perform together. I don’t think that is something you would find coming out of a lot of other schools. 

Manship said if she had to describe the concert she and Yi put together, she would use three words: discovery, fearlessness and nostalgia.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 9.25.39 PM“I wanted to create a cabaret and concert series like this one because I believe in the talent of Elon alumni and I also think we should create our own opportunities,” she said.

Both alumni said Elon helped them get to the successes they have experienced since graduation.

“Elon prepared me to be a well-rounded individual who, with no questions asked, pursued what I wanted to do after school,” Yi said.

Manship said Elon is her greatest training ground for theatrical performers and she is honored to call it her alma mater.

Because Yi and Manship have such strong ties to the Elon community, they were eager to offer advice to the Class of 2014 music theatre majors. 

“Relish every moment because where you are right now is where you are supposed to be,” Yi said. “I’m happy with what I’m doing, but I’m always relishing every moment. What’s happening right now is supposed to happening. The universe puts systems in place for us to achieve the goals we want to achieve according to its own time.”

Yi said it can be hard to relish the negative emotions, like frustration, fear and anger. However, it is best to savor those moments, release them and then move forward. He also encourages the seniors to attend every dance class they can since practice rooms in New York City are generally very expensive.

Yi and Manship have big plans for the next show, which is booked for February. They hope the show will include alumni from other schools and top music theater schools from around the country. They are also planning on changing the name of the concert and rebranding it to include alumni outside of Elon. Overall, the next show will be more diverse.

“Through multiple means of feedback and the inevitable process of trial and error, we definitely intend on ensuring that the logistics, operations and long-term impact of the show constantly improve,” Yi said. “Amidst all of this room for improvement, however, Claire and I also intend to cherish this concert series as our fun, creative project.”


Spicing up the season: Conservators’ Center holds annual Pumpkin Prowl

Arthur Tiger plays with a pumpkin in his hammock. Guests were encouraged to carve their own pumpkins before entering the facility so they could "give" them to the animals. All photos by Stephanie Butzer.

Arthur Tiger plays with a pumpkin in his hammock. Guests were encouraged to carve their own pumpkins before entering the facility so they could “give” them to the animals. All photos by Stephanie Butzer.

By Stephanie Butzer

While it is the season of pumpkin spice lattes, something different was flavoring the atmosphere at the Conservators’ Center last Saturday.

On Nov. 2, the Center kicked off the second annual Pumpkin Prowl. The nonprofit organization rescues wildlife, preserves endangered species and provides educational tours ranging from personalized photo tours to general facility tours.  Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, pumpkins filled with scents and meat were placed in almost every animal enclosure.

“Just like us, animals need things to keep them lively and keep themselves excited about their daily life,” said Wildlife Educator Jesse Anderson, who created enrichment ideas for the animals. “It’s exciting to be able to provide them with new and interesting things and get them excited about things but it’s really important for the animal to maintain that interesting benefit between its daily life and having new things enriching its life or brought into its life.”

Pumpkins became a successful and seasonal way for animals like lions, tigers, binturongs to have sensory enrichment. Anderson said major parts of designing the enrichment included taking into account the animal’s personality and deciding how to creatively place the fruits around the enclosures. He focused on two types of enrichment when planning the Pumpkin Prowl: physical and sensory enrichment.

“The physical enrichment are the pumpkins hanging and swinging and things that are in precarious places so that if they knock them down, they will start rolling,” Anderson said. “With the young, playful cats we will use more of the physical enrichment, whereas with some of the animals that are a little bit older, they really like the sensory enrichment.”

The event was limited to the Center’s volunteer force before last year, when they decided to open the facility to visitors who would watch the animals tumble, crush and stick their faces in pumpkins, all of which were donated by multiple pumpkin farms.

Pumpkin farms from around the area donated more than 250 pumpkins to the Center's Pumpkin Prowl.

Pumpkin farms from around the area donated more than 250 pumpkins to the Center’s Pumpkin Prowl.

“We decided it would be a great opportunity for the public to see how we work with our animals and how we enrich their lives,” said Julia Wagner, senior director of administration at the Center. “The animals had a great time running around, throwing pumpkins everywhere and this year we opened it up for two days, which has been so far very successful.”

The next and last Pumpkin Prowl will be Nov. 9 and Wagner said the Center is expecting just as many people as the first event. As the weather gets colder, the animals become more active so the Center looks into doing big events such as this during the cooler months.

“This is a great event for families and for adults,” Wagner said. “We really work to make our large events like this friendly to all different types of people, whether it be a family with small children, a young couple, whether it be friends wanting something to go do so we offer food trucks, beer and it’s a really great opportunity to get out and enjoy the weather.”

Dania Ermentrout came to the Center for the first time for the Pumpkin Prowl event. She said her favorite part of the experience was the lions rolling around with the pumpkins.

“I really wasn’t sure how all the different animals would react to the stimulation, but it was funny how some of them just wanted [the pumpkins] filled with meat and the other ones thought it was just this really amusing play toy,” Ermentrout said.

She said being so close to the animals became an intimate experience for her and her 4-year-old son, Asher, who continuously claimed the New Guinea Singing Dogs were the best animals at the Center because they were his friends.

“I felt like the animals are much more active and you can see them interact with their environments more,” Ermentrout said.

One of the serval brothers plays with a hanging gourd.

One of the serval brothers plays with a hanging gourd.

The Pumpkin Prowl was a walkabout event, where visitors were welcome to explore the facility at their own pace. Meanwhile, guides answered questions, helped people learn more about the Center’s mission and animals and ensured both animals and people were safe at all times.

The Conservators’ Center will have a similar event, called the Tree Toss, Jan. 4 and Jan. 11. In the past, substituting pine trees for pumpkins caused just as much excitement.

“We are, each year, adding more and more events to the calendar,” Wagner said. “We want to ensure that somebody who wants to come visit our animals has a lot of unique ways to do that throughout the year because visitors are the main source of what is funding our operations here at this point. Coming and participating at the Pumpkin Prowl is a direct connect to helping us connect to the animals.”

Please look here for more photos and video.

Eye of the tiger: Runners greet mud, obstacles at The Wild Stampede

By Stephanie Butzer

Heat by heat, runners at The Wild Stampede conquered numerous obstacles, uneven and slippery terrain and lots of mud.

The mud and obstacle 5K, created by Legend Race, attracted more than 150 people of all ages and running levels to the Conservators’ Center grounds.

Just thirty seconds into the race, participants in The Wild Stampede had to face three large and muddy hills. The third heat of runners had to slip and slide their way through the course since two previous groups had made the mounds slick.

Just thirty seconds into the race, participants in The Wild Stampede had to face three large and muddy hills. The third heat of runners had to slip and slide their way through the course since two previous groups had made the mounds slick. All multimedia by Stephanie Butzer.

After they finished the race, participants had the chance to walk around the facility and visit the Center’s animals. But there was a great challenge to fight through first.

Runners met their first obstacle — three muddy hills with water on the opposite side — within the first minute of the race. After a half-run, half-swim through a pond, they entered the woods where the obstacles were more difficult and complex.

One of the highlights of the race, as well as one of the hardest tasks, was a lake crossing. Participants had to cross by hanging from a fire hose. Many different techniques were used — some went headfirst or feet-first while others decided to simply swim.

Participant Chris Roach said he had done this sort of exercise before, but this obstacle tested him the most.

“It can be really challenging cause I did it when I went to boot camp for the Army and I remember going across that rope,” he said. “But this out here, it’s like, wow.”

Roach said he had participated in the Greensboro Zombie Mud Run the weekend before and said he enjoyed The Wild Stampede more because of the animals.

After the race, participants and spectators were invited into the facility to view some of the Conservators’ Centers animals. Arthur Tiger, a rare white tiger, entertained some guests with his immensity and toothy yawns.

After the race, participants and spectators were invited into the facility to view some of the Center’s animals. Arthur Tiger, a rare white tiger, entertained some guests with his immensity and toothy yawns.

“[In the Greensboro race], you felt short-changed,” Roach said. “Here, it’s like you get to see not only the animals, but you get to meet all these different people. Everything here is just so much better. It’s far better than being chased by a zombie.”

Further down the course, the runners experienced obstacles like a log throw and an A-frame. The race ended with hills similar to those at the start and a long flat stretch to the finish line.

“It was great —challenging at points,” Roach said. “You don’t really know sometimes what’s ahead of you so it kind of surprises you.”

After the runners received a medal and T-shirt, many entered the grounds or had lunch, courtesy of Manna Concessions.

Leah Gardener, a participant and graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said The Wild Stampede was her first mud run.

“It was really cool when we passed the animals on the last leg,” Gardener said. “It was really good. They did a great job.”

Click here for The Wild Stampede photo gallery.

Conservators’ Center holds obstacle 5K for the wild at heart

One of the obstacles in The Wild Stampede was for participants to get across a lake via fire house. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

One of the obstacles in The Wild Stampede was for participants to get across a lake via fire house. All photos by Stephanie Butzer.

By Stephanie Butzer

There are few races that incorporate balance beams, mud hill crawls and rope climbs. There are even fewer that guide runners past exotic animals.

The Conservators’ Center, in conjunction with Legend Race, a local company that constructs unique races, will host The Wild Stampede, a mud and obstacle 5K that runs along the Center’s outer border Sept. 21.

Some of the obstacles will mimic toys in the animal enclosures, such as the A-frame, a common plaything for tigers to run up and down.

Fred Augustine and his wife, Gail Augustine, created Legend Race, a obstacle racing company focused on low costs for intense local races. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

Fred Augustine and his wife, Gail Augustine, created Legend Race, a obstacle racing company focused on low costs for intense local races.

Fred Augustine, founder of Legend Race, has been constructing the course since late June. This will be the first race the Center has held, and Augustine said it will be a challenge the whole family can enjoy. He said the run is a good mud run for both beginners and experienced athletes.

“This won’t be timed because we want more families to come and tour the animals and get a feel for what’s up here,” Augustine said.

Maximus MacClennen, the Center’s coordinator, said the question his team asked themselves when planning the race was how to make The Wild Stampede more entertaining than the dozens of other mud runs in North Carolina.

“It’s like, you can go out to a field and do your mud run and leave or you can come here, do your mud run and you might hear some lions and tigers while you’re doing it and then afterwards you can take the whole family on a tour,” MacClennen said.

Two groups of Elon University students — Service Learning students and Leadership Fellows — came out to the Center to assist with digging trenches and moving large parts of the obstacles into place Aug. 16 and Aug. 23, respectively.

At a trial run, two men attempt to scale a wooden - and slippery -  A-frame. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

At a trial run, two men attempt to scale a wooden – and slippery – A-frame.

“The 23 of us not only arrived at the Center with jittery determination, but also with uneasy anticipation,” said freshman Kelly August, a Leadership Fellow. “As a member of the staff explained our tasks for the day, howls and unrecognizable growls sounded in the distance.”

After working for hours on the obstacles, August and the rest of her group were able to see the animals inside the compound.

“The dedication of the volunteers and workers at the Center left the biggest mark on me,” August said. “It was easy for the 23 of us to complain about the heat or the bugs, but to those who give entirely of themselves to this cause, it was just another day doing what they love.”

Freshman Dexter Blank, also a Leadership Fellow, said he thinks the Center deserves more recognition for its animal care, so hopefully the race will bring in more positive publicity.

“The event will be one-of-a-kind and I have no doubts that it will be a success,” Blank said. “I believe that our group was very helpful, worked hard and represented Elon in a very respectful manner.”

The race fee is $50 and includes a walkabout of the compound. Spectators can pay a small fee to enter. Sixty percent of the proceeds go to supporting the animals the Center cares for, including big cats, wolves and binturongs.

Faculty, staff aim for higher student success with new initiatives

By Stephanie Butzer

Students will bring in their own excitement for Elon University’s 2013–2014 school year, but the faculty and staff are pushing for new and better strategies to ensure students are more successful and satisfied than ever before.

Academic and student aid departments have been organizing fresh measures to introduce in the fall semester. In addition, new professors and courses that span many areas of study will add more diversity and value to Elon’s already detailed classes.

Those who enjoy Elon’s go-green attitude will be thrilled to discover the Office of the University Registrar has changed to a paperless environment, according to Rodney Parks, an employee in the office. The environmentally savvy change will give students the opportunity to access many functions online, such as ordering transcripts. Degree audits have also been changed to a more readable web format with color-coded sections.

Parks said the registrar can Skype with students who cannot meet in person to discuss transferring credits from other schools.

“The goal will be to be a national leader in student-centered services within a two-year period,” Parks said.

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning will offer new courses this year, according to Peter Felten, the executive director of the Center. Some highlights include Greek language and culture studies with Kristina Meinking, an honors course exploring questions about life on other planets taught by Tony Crider and Anthony Weston and a teaching and innovation course taught by Kevin O’Mara.

“The deans keep their fingers on the pulse of curricular changes, new faculty and such,” Felten said.

The School of Communications will welcome six new faculty and staff members who are going to bring more knowledge to business journalism, public relations, advertising, interactive media and sports management courses, said Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications.

“The faculty this fall will complete a year long curriculum discussion about how best to prepare students for the rapidly changing world of communications,” Parsons said. “In the new curriculum, which would be implemented in 2014-15 at the earliest, I anticipate a greater emphasis on multimedia, mobile media, visual communication design and media analytics, within the context of a liberal arts education.”

Students who earn grades worthy of the Dean’s List and President’s List will be able to receive tangible certificates to display their honors. Student transcripts will also show the term averages and will break apart transfer credits, which were previously lumped together, so the student and third parties know where the credits came from.

Lastly, seniors graduating in May 2014 will get a pleasant surprise upon graduation: The diplomas will be much larger than in previous years.

Tents from another land come to Alamance County

By Stephanie Butzer

SNOW CAMP — Yurts have been a distinctive feature for housing in Central Asia for at least 3,000 years. Now they have come to Alamance County.

Larry George, the president of Siloam Missionary Homes in Snow Camp, has added a yurt as housing for missionary families and many people are drawn to them when they visit the grounds.

A group of volunteers help to put up Alamance County's first yurt. Photo by Scott Muthersbaugh from The Times-News.

A group of volunteers help to put up Alamance County’s first yurt. Photo by Scott Muthersbaugh from The Times-News.

The round, weatherproof houses can be as large as 50 feet in diameter. The yurt at Siloam Missionary Homes, an organization aimed at helping missionaries readjust to the fast-paced style of American living, is 24 feet in diameter and can sleep 16 people.

George said he and his wife decided to build a yurt to give back to the community that had helped them continue their service as a place for missionaries to rest and recover.

“The yurt concept screams culture,” George said. “They are a Mongolian tent and usually if I tell somebody, ‘do you know what a yurt is?’ they don’t know.”

The yurt will serve as a place for volunteers to stay while they do work for the people staying at Siloam Missionary Homes. There will eventually be four yurts and they will sit on platforms on the side of a hill, like a tree house, George said. The one currently standing is a demonstration and will be moved once a volunteer group builds platforms on the hill.

“What’s happening in America is that volunteers are not as interested in materialism as they are in sharing the experience or doing things,” George said. “At one time, people just said, ‘well, I’ll just give the money.’ Now they’re saying, ‘No, I’m going to give the money and be a part of what I give to.’”

George said he hopes the yurt will help bring different cultures together, something very important for a missionary residence. Fourteen families stay at Siloam Missionary Homes and they come from all around the world. Each family has their own fully furnished houses.

“We build the houses as the funds are donated because we’re a nonprofit and so all the houses have just been built as money came,” Joyce George, George’s wife, said.

George said a lot of missionaries return to America and are overwhelmed by the changed culture. The yurt will be a way to introduce a new culture to Alamance County. Visitors who have not traveled out of the country will be able to see a small portion of another culture.

“Some young people may never have the opportunity to travel overseas so we want to bring that here,” George said. “There’s one thing about seeing something and not just reading about it on the Internet.”

All of the materials for the yurt’s construction came from the United States, aside from the skylight, which was made in Canada. Military canvas surrounds the frame and the sturdy housing may last more than 20 years. Once it is completed, the yurt will have insulation, LED lighting, a freestanding loft and a compost heater as a toilet.

George said he thinks the yurt will give Siloam Missionary Homes an opportunity to share cultures with people both and in and out of the gated neighborhood.

“We’re kind of an oasis out here,” George said.

Church celebrates 40th anniversary with senior pastor

By Stephanie Butzer

May 19 will be a special anniversary for Beacon Baptist Church, marking its 40th year under the leadership of the founding pastor, Greg Barkman.

In 1973, Barkman was invited by a group of people in the Burlington area to begin a new church. The people were members of a nearby church and, for various reasons, did not like that pastor.

“At first I was not very inclined,” Barkman said. “I didn’t really like the idea of starting a church. I liked the idea of stepping into a church better. That was what I had in mind.”

Barkman has been the senior pastor at Beacon Baptist Church for 40 years. Photo from The Times-News.

Barkman has been the senior pastor at Beacon Baptist Church for 40 years. Photo from The Times-News.

But as Barkman got to know the people better and prayed about it, he found their goals were very compatible with his.

“We had the same desire and that was to establish a church that was committed to the Bible, that would be as Biblical as we could possibly make it,” Barkman said.

When the decision was made, the church only had 19 adults and they met in the E.M. Holt Elementary School cafeteria. Forty years later, the church had a large congregation and a three-building facility.

“I can’t believe I have been here for 40 years,” Barkman said. “I can’t believe I’m 65 years old. I don’t feel that old, but it has been so richly rewarding that it seems like maybe I’ve been here for 20 years, but it’s 40. That’s what the calendar says.”

Many pastors move around to different churches a few times during their career, but Barkman said he has never had a strong urge to leave the church, even though he has had offers.

Robert LaTour, the minister of families at Beacon, became a member in 1978 and joined the pastoral staff in 2006. He and his wife first chose to join the church because they were attracted to the “serious-mindedness of the preaching of the Word” at Beacon.

Since he became a leader at the church, LaTour said he has seen how dedicated Barkman is to his study. Barkman spends hours each morning studying the books in the Bible and dedicates 12 to 15 hours preparing for each sermon.

“Even though there is a time expense, if you love doing something, you bring that love to it,” LaTour said. “His respect for the position is a humbling thing, it’s not a prideful thing.”

easelly_visualIn the afternoons, Barkman mainly prepares for future sermons and records his sermon on a radio show so people far away can listen. You can hear the sermons at the church’s web site,

One man who lived in High Point listened to Barkman’s broadcast regularly. He drove to the church one Sunday and told Barkman he had become a Christian through his radio broadcast.

“How rewarding is that?” Barkman said. “To have someone show up and say, ‘I’ve listened to your radio broadcast and I’ve become a follower of Jesus Christ as a result of listening to it.’”

His congregation appreciates all the years Barkman has led them and, as a thank you gift, they put together enough money to send him and his wife to Israel.

“I had never been to Israel before and that was wonderful to see Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and to see the Sea of Galilee and so many things. I read about them all my life and studied them in textbooks but to actually be there – that was a wonderful thing. I was very grateful for that.”

In all of sermons, both in the church auditorium and through the radio, Barkman aims to take a text of scripture, explain what it means and apply it to daily life.

“That’s what I do,” Barkman said. “That’s what I have been doing for 40 years.”