Fall 2017


Good (Medieval) Times

Shakespeare scholar Erin Dagon Mitchell ’94 has put the knowledge gleaned while working on a master’s degree in theater communications to good use. Not only is she theater director at South Anchorage High School in Alaska, she’s also associate director of TBA Theatre. And, for 20 years now, she has written and directed the “tomato show” at the Three Barons Renaissance Fair. The show, a Ren fair favorite that offers a glimpse into real Renaissance history, is, Mitchell says, an “essential part of the fair because it fulfills a theatrical archetype or cliché of sorts: throwing rotten food to show displeasure at an actor or performance.” Fairgoers this past June purchased many a basket of tomatoes — good Medieval times!

Machine-Nature Fusion

Mike Miller ’13 creates amazing kinetic sculptures that come in all kinds of shapes and forms and materials — including a giant dragonfly crafted, in part, by salvaged Wichita State parking lot signs destined for the dumpster. The dragonfly, which flutters its mechanical wings and moves its metal legs, makes its home in Wichita atop a 20-foot pole at 14th and Broadway. Not in Wichita? You can see a sampling of Miller’s work on YouTube, where you can be mesmerized, for example, by the sand-making workings of his “Machine-Nature Interface No. 76.”

Farewell, Cassini

Michael Staab ’13 was 2 years old when NASA’s Cassini mission was funded, and 8 when the spacecraft was launched on its 20-year mission. He was a sophomore in high school when Cassini reached Saturn, and on Sept. 15, when the mission came to an end and Cassini disintegrated in Saturn’s atmosphere, Staab was a flight controller at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and one of only four mission ACEs (Advanced Composition Explorers) who had the authority to tell Cassini what to do. “The Cassini team,” he says, “really felt like a family. So it was like the family getting together to say our final goodbyes to this spacecraft we’d spent so much time caring for.”

Bullets, Badges, Bridles

John K. Burchill ’03 is a professor of criminal justice at Kansas Wesleyan University and the author of Bullets, Badges, and Bridles: Horse Thieves and the Societies that Pursued Them, an investigation into the once lucrative crime of horse stealing. Burchill, a noted criminal justice historian, details the activities of horse-thief gangs and some of the most notorious outlaws from the colonial era through World War II. He also chronicles the counter-operations of groups dedicated to preventing horse theft, the most famous of which was the Anti-Horse Thief Association. Published in 2014, the book offers a riveting look at the history of horse theft and recovery.

The Lure of Beetles

During a live broadcast from Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre on Sept. 9, Public Radio’s Science Friday host Ira Flatow talked with Rachel Stone and Emmy Engasser, graduate researchers at Wichita State’s biodiversity lab, about – dung beetles. Yup. Dung beetles. Carrion beetles, too. It proved to be a fascinating conversation about “nature’s recyclers,” as Stone and Engasser called the insects. Did you know, for example, that dung beetles use the sun and the Milky Way to navigate? “There have been studies,” Stone explains, “where scientists put, if you can imagine, adorable little hats that cover their eyes. They could no longer navigate, and they would wander in circles. But whenever those are removed, they can go in a straight path using the sun and using the Milky Way at night.”

Knight Companion

Mashitah Binti Mohd Yusoff ’85/98 has attained an honor unique within our Shocker Nation realm. During a ceremony held Sept. 26 at Sultan Abu Bakar Palace in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, she received the insignia Knight Companion of The Most Illustrious, by order of Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang. The honor carries with it the title Dato. Yusoff is professor of chemistry and deputy vice chancellor of research and innovation at the Universiti Malaysia Pahang.

Beef Cattle Researcher

Despite our agricultural roots — we are the Wheatshockers, after all — it’s not often these days for WSU grads to make headline news in the ag world. But David Amrine ’97 did in October when he was named as research director for the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State’s Beef Cattle Institute, which since its founding in 2007 has become a big-time professional and educational connection with the beef cattle industry. Amrine’s credentials for the job are impressive, but too extensive to list here. Suffice it to say, this veterinarian, data scientist, applied epidemiologist, and ag researcher is a Shocker!

Why “Tight Pants”?

“I’ve had an amazing experience in St. Louis. I’ve learned and grown so much, but Wichita is home,” says Jacob ‘Tight Pants’ Bowling ’13, who has been named by iHeartMedia Wichita as assistant program director, music director and afternoon personality for ALT 107.3, Wichita’s Alternative Rock radio station. He returns to the Wichita market from iHeartMedia St. Louis, where he was the night host on Z107.7, the city’s No. 1 hit music station. Tight Pants began his career with iHeartMedia Wichita as a promotions assistant. BTW, we’ve posed the journalistic question, “So, why ‘Tight Pants’?” and will divulge the answer when we have it!




Newsworthy info about alumni and university personalities and events - all packaged up in bite-size reads, complete with original illustrations by Wade Hampton.