Archive for: April 2016

Taking the Leap: Parkour in Austin

Malory, a gymnastics enthusiast, starts off her cartwheel with speed and precision.

Malory, a gymnastics enthusiast, starts off her cartwheel with speed and precision.

By Brian Lee, Felicia Rodriguez and Amanda Voeller

Parkour is the activity of moving quickly and efficiently from one point to another. Join us as we visit BAM Academy, one of the few gyms in Texas that specializes in teaching parkour to the masses. Leap into the story here.

Rez Week 2016

Rez Week is a week long spiritual event celebrating the life and death of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith. Check out more here!


Students Seek Methods for Self-Defense

by Alejandra Martinez, Faith Ann Ruszkowski, Jackie Sanchez and Sarah Talaat

When University of Texas at Austin student Haruka Weiser’s body was discovered in Waller Creek on campus April 5, the UT Austin community grieved but was also forced to address heightened concerns over student safety.

Weiser, an 18-year-old dance major, was walking back to her dorm from an evening rehearsal when she was attacked and murdered, according to police statements. After news of the murder broke, students, parents and faculty immediately called campus security into question. UT Austin President Gregory Fenves responded to their concerns in an April 6 email stating that police patrols on campus would increase and the university would provide free shuttles for Fine Arts students with evening rehearsals.

In the email, Fenves urged students “to always remain focused on your surroundings while walking; to never walk alone after dark; and to stay on clearly-marked and well-lit sidewalks.” While the UT Police Department encouraged students to participate in SURE Walk, a volunteer organization that will send two students to guide another student to any destination on or near campus.

For some students, however, the incident has prompted them to think about self-defense.

Lauren Gusman, a vocal performance junior, said she frequently walks near the spot where Weiser was murdered.

“That night, when I walked by there, I had no idea what was going to happen, “ Gusman said. “I walked right by where it happened, within five or 10 minutes of it happening.”

Gusman said she’s now looking into self-defense classes offered at UT, even though she owns a Taser and is trained in gun use.

“I’ve never taken a self-defense class before, and I feel that this will be a really great opportunity, especially with what has happened on campus … I figure that having some sort of self-defense skills is something that all women should be able to do,” Gusman said. “I just want to be able to protect myself.”

Options for self-defense classes on campus are rather limited though. Through the university, students can take Hapkido, a Korean self-defense martial art, for P.E. credit each semester. UTPD also offers a free 12-hour, three-session Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) course for women. The next available course is at the beginning of May.

In addition to official classes, there are extracurricular groups that offer instruction on self-defense. UT Aikido, a student group on campus, teaches situational awareness through martial arts. The group, which welcomes everyone, meets every Tuesday and Thursday in Belmont Hall.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that actually combines elements of several other martial arts including judo. Its principle aim is to thwart attackers by shifting their momentum.

“Just because someone attacks us, we are not interested in hurting them,” Dan Hamilton, an Aikido sensei with UT Aikido, said. “We are interested in protecting ourselves.”

Huong Vu, a biophysics graduate student, started training with UT Aikido three months ago.

“I study Aikido because I like martial arts and especially I feel very scared when I walk on the street, so I think that might help me with my confidence when I walk on the street,” Huong Vu said.

For Vu, Aikido was more appealing than other popular forms of martial arts because of her gender.

“Aikido is more gentle than some other martial arts that require a lot of strength. Aikido is more soft, so it is more suitable for a woman,” Vu said. “I heard that it’s more famous for defense, instead of attacking, and that’s what I was looking for.”


Off campus, members of the Austin community have also come forward to offer their expertise in self-defense techniques to the public.

Niki Jones, founder of Sure Shots, a non-UT-affiliated shooting and social club for women, decided to offer two free self-defense workshops in the wake of Weiser’s death.

“Situational awareness and one’s personal defense and planning is something that we always rotate through in our topics … I just wanted a nice, two-hour discussion where it was very interactive and people could really start thinking about these things,” Jones said. “It was such a tragedy to see that life be taken. And it really just kind of felt personal in that she is no different than a lot of our [young female members].”

Jones’ workshop mainly focused on ways to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

“Walking with your head up and not looking down at your phone is huge. And it was applicable to this situation, unfortunately. A confident walk [is important]. Any social media you have to do is not important, you know–even if that means you take those apps off your phone–[self-awareness is] the No. 1 thing,” Jones said.

While some people might worry that they are offending another person if they choose to cross the street to keep a safe distance between them, for instance, Jones said that nothing is more important than feeling safe.

“Trust your gut–that’s the No. 2 thing.That feeling or that fear that you can’t pinpoint, it’s there for a reason, so listen to it and do what you gotta do. If you gotta yell, if you gotta act crazy, don’t be embarrassed.”

Above all, Jones wants people to remember three key things when they are in a potentially dangerous situation: “You have to have a plan, and you have to commit to it, and you have to not be afraid of offending people.”


Sure Shots will offer a second free self-defense workshop this Wednesday at Red’s Indoor Range (South) from 7 to 9 p.m.

Mental Health Week Seeks To Promote CMHC Services

Story Package By Will Cobb, Marysabel Cardozo, and Trisha Seelig

This spring, The University of Texas’ Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) hosted their first Mental Health Promotion Week. The campus-wide event offered many activities to help create awareness for mental health issues and promote emotional well-being.

Last week’s events included: interactive tabling, documentary screening, a mobile mind body lab, glow-in-the-dark yoga, panel discussions, sports, sugar scrubs, and an unplug campaign. Students who attended these events received a T-shirt that read Be Kind to Your Mind, promoting the event.

In their panel discussion on diversity and mental health, Kimberly Burdine, a Diversity Coordinator and Psychologist for the CMHC, said that therapy is unique in that the focus is on you.

“What I really want to do is reduce any stigma associated with mental health,” she said.  

Every fall semester, CMHC hosts Suicide Prevention Week, but historically they have not done big events in the spring.

Linda Serna, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major as well as a Voices Against Violence Peer Educator said that accessibility and safety are factors in students pursuing mental health services.

“You deserve to be in a place where you don’t feel like you have to justify your identity,” Serna said, “In a system that isn’t built for certain people, seeing yourself represented is so important because it also says, you belong here and you can make it.”

With the semester winding down, students’ feel more stressed over approaching finals. Alyssa Mastronardi, a junior psychology and Spanish major and CMHC Peer Educator, said that they decided to host Mental Health Promotion Week now to give students ways to cope with that stress.

Coping with stress looks different for everybody. For Mastronardi, it looks like Yoga and conversations with her mom.

Mastronardi said they’ve had good turn outs, especially to events like their play day and glow-in-the-dark yoga, but will be improving the times they host certain events next year.

UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has a record number of likes on Facebook right now from the promotion of this week’s events. Mastronardi feels they have met their goal of spreading awareness throughout campus.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, Mastronardi said, “It’s not just about preventing tragedy, but helping everyone live better.”

Israel Guerrero, a sophomore Psychology major, said that he has found the CMHC counselors to be relatable and that students have a voice in getting their needs met here at UT.  

“The staff [of CMHC] really care and would be more than happy to chat with you at any time,” said Mastronardi.

Going forward the CMHC plans to hold a Mental Health Promotion Week annually, with a different tagline each year, Mastronardi said.


Photographs by Trisha Seelig


Infographics by Will Cobb


The Dirty Truth: Bar Closures on “Dirty Sixth” During Texas Relays

UT White Rose Society Presents 10,000 Roses and Max Glauben

By: Ellen Gonzalez, Jayelyn Jackson, Rachael Pikulski and Taylor Villarreal


Earlier this month students carried white roses around campus as a means of promoting awareness of genocide and commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. This event was put on by the UT chapter of The White Rose Society, and led by co-presidents Leah Kashar and Sophie Jerwick.


The White Rose was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943 that called for active opposition to Adolf Hitler’s regime. The original Society was executed by Gestapo, the secret state police of Nazi Germany.


The White Rose Society addresses growing concerns of “fascism and right-wing hate” spreading across Europe and North America. Currently, the group is calling particular attention to the human rights crisis in Syria and to the plight of over 11 million Syrian refugees. Today the UT branch also focuses on Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention.


On April 5, the UT White Rose Society asked volunteers to help the group cut and de-thorn 10,000 white roses to distribute around campus the following day. The roses served as a commemoration of the 10,000 individuals who died every day in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.


“We think the event 10,000 roses is really great representation that people don’t always get from that textbook that you read in school,” Kashar said. “It’s a really great way to spread awareness and create change in awareness that is happening now.”


“The evil of genocide is like a disease. For a disease, you have to find a remedy. By making people aware of how cruel humanity can be, maybe this can be a cure for the illness. The moral of the story is to be nice to everybody and to never hate.”




White Rose Society presented a conversation with Holocaust survivor, Max Glauben at Texas Hillel on Wednesday, April 6 as a closing to the 10,000 Roses event. Humanities Honors senior, Elan Kogutt, says he has a personal connection with Glauben. Both his grandfather and Glauben shared Flossenberg, a concentration camp that Glauben spent time in, and which Kogutt’s grandfather’s division, the 97th Infantry Division of the US Army, liberated in WWII.


Later in life, Glauben began leading trips to Eastern Europe to teach Jewish youth about the Holocaust and share his experiences growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto and at five different concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Flassenberg.


“I had the privilege to travel to Poland and Israel with Max roughly 70 years after the Flossenburg liberation. I spoke to my grandfather today to corroborate the story— Poppop, who went on to boast about the amazing life that Max has led ever since,” Kogutt said. “In spite of all his experiences during the Holocaust, Max is an incredible source of light and wisdom.”


At 86 years old, Max Glauben is an upbeat, positive man who is described as someone who “laughs a lot” and “always sees the glass half full.” Glauben lived through six concentration camps during WWII, and on his arm is the constant reminder of a lost childhood and family – a tattoo of the letters “KL” (konzentrationslager), the German government’s identifying mark for the Jews who were imprisoned.


During his speech, Glauben said that he believed God spared his life for a reason: to tell his story. As one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, he feels that sharing his story is a duty he owes to the millions who didn’t survive Hitler’s commitment to murder all the Jews.


“The evil of genocide is like a disease,” Glauben said. “For a disease, you have to find a remedy. By making people aware of how cruel humanity can be, maybe this can be a cure for the illness. The moral of the story is to be nice to everybody and to never hate.”


From Uganda with Love

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Steven, Adeline, Rachel & Asher Kehne. Photo: The Kehne Family Home


By: Selena Depaz, Caroline Hall & Anthony Green

What makes up a family is hard to explicitly define. Even Webster’s dictionary has seventeen different definitions for the word. But looking at the Kehne family one thing is clear; their family is a complete one.

Matt and Crystal Kehne have four children, two biological and two they adopted internationally from Uganda. While the Kehne’s chose to complete their family through international adoption, for those also considering adoption there are many different ways to adopt and various factors to consider.

There are two basic types of adoption in the United States, public adoption and private adoption. Public adoption, which is always domestic, is when children are adopted out of the foster care system. Private adoptions can be either domestic or international and are typically run through adoption agencies or directly through the birth parents. Private adoptions are financially much more expensive, with an average cost of $30,000, compared to the public adoption cost of around $5,000, according to the American Adoption Agency.

“Private adoptions are much more expensive, and there are other challenges with them as well,” Jillian Bonacquisti, the Adoption Program Specialist at the Texas CPS State Office said. “Internationally, cultural issues are probably the biggest challenge; they’re pulling that kid away from everything they’ve ever known.”

The Kehne family experienced this firsthand when they moved their family to the United States after ten years of living in Uganda.

“I’ve considered it similar to when someone has a stroke and they have to learn how to walk again,” Matt Kehne, the father of the family said. “Culturally that’s what you have to do; you have to learn how to walk again in a different way of life. We’re teaching the kids how to walk over here, and we’re learning again ourselves.”

Aside from cultural challenges, there are additional factors to consider with adoption as well. Especially internationally, because other countries do not have the same foster care system we do; it takes longer and requires more paperwork to adopt.

“One of the biggest parts of the challenge of adoption was the waiting,” Matt said. “Waiting for official documents and reports and court hearings.”

It took the Kehne’s four years to officially adopt their first adopted son, Stephen.
Despite the challenges, the Kehne’s are passionate that adoption is a good thing. There is such a need for adoptive families, not only internationally but domestically as well.

“Currently there are around 30,000-40,000 kids in the United States that need homes,” Bonacquisti said.

Although the Kehne’s chose to adopt from Uganda, they have some advice for others who are interested in adoption.

“I always ask families if they’ve considered domestic adoption first,” Crystal said. “If they know how many kids in their hometown, in their city, are waiting for a family too.”

Cap10K Draws Athletes And Families Alike

University Fashion Group in their ‘Elements’ for upcoming fashion show

Bachelorette Parties Take Over Austin

Photos courtesy of Shannon Smith


By: Kate Bartick, Jessica Jones, Shannon Smith

In ten days, Tori Ivanovich will marry her high school sweetheart. There are final dress fittings, menus to review and music to select. Yet last weekend, her bridal party had only one concern—relieving her wedding stress and giving Tori a weekend she would never remember.

Years ago, the bachelorette party was a celebratory girls night out, a last hoorah for the bride-to-be. But more recently, this definition has morphed into something much much grander. Why celebrate one night, when you can celebrate the entire weekend?

For Tori, this meant a trip to Austin, planned by her sister/maid of honor, Ali Girdley. With endless food options, live music and the chance to spend a night on the revered 6th Street, Girdley said Austin was the “obvious choice”.

And she’s not the only one that sees potential in Austin. Last year, The Travel Channel awarded Austin a spot on their Best Bachelorette Party Destinations list. Around 10,000 parties will come through Austin this year, according to local party planner Mandy Fortin.

This influx of pre-wedding tourists has given rise to businesses solely dedicated to planning these weekend-long celebrations.

Fortin, a party planner at Austin Detours, personally plans about 55 bachelorette parties a year. She is responsible for arranging lodging, booking meal reservations, organizing city tours and coordinating rides. However, these planners do not come cheap, with prices starting at $335 per person for the most minimal weekend package.

Even without a professional planner, destination bachelorette weekends can quickly add up. Typically, the costs for the weekend are split evenly among the women. Pricing will obviously depend on what activities the group chooses to do.

The bachelorette weekend can be as expensive as you make it… Check out the average cost per person for a pre-wedding destination weekend above! Data courtesy of Mandy Fortin.

Popular activities include visits to 6th St. and Rainey St., pub crawls, food truck crawls, city Segway tours, wine tastings and scavenger hunts.

Already familiar with Austin and with the help of Pinterest, the maid of honor was able to create a unique weekend for Ivanovich, complete with personalized shirts and matching outfits. According to the bridesmaids, they spent around $300 each on the weekend, despite having their main activity, ziplining, cancelled due to rain.

Even if costs can be steep, bachelorette party weekends allow the bride a great opportunity to relax before the stress of the impending wedding kicks into high gear. Austin, a hotspot for these events, allowed for Ivanovich and her bridal party to get in some much needed down time before her big day.

“You’ve got to come to Austin, there are so many fun things to do here,” Ivanovich said. “You’re always entertained, Austin is definitely the place to be.”



Tori’s bachelorette party theme was Great Gatsby. Below you can see the weekend’s itinerary, created by her sister/maid of honor, Ali.