Building a legacy

Patriot Talon adviser restructures student media outlet

By Austin Countryman

In 2011, Patriot Talon adviser Vanessa Curry was fired shortly after student journalists at the Patriot Talon printed protests against The University of Texas at Tyler administration. Curry told the Student Press Law Center that her termination was due to complaints unrelated to the students’ protests.

Nonetheless, UT Tyler hired Kevin Dilley as a senior lecturer in journalism and adviser for the Patriot Talon in January 2012. Dilley was a lecturer at Fayetteville State University and adviser of FSU’s student publication, ‘The Voice’ with nearly 20 years of experience in print and visual media, according to a UT Tyler press release.

“When I arrived, I arrived to some controversy; some change,” Dilley said. “The newspaper had moved out of the building where the rest of the department of communication was, and they were in a portable building.”

Part of that change was a decline in staff at the Patriot Talon.

“I think there was some disinterest in doing the Talon anymore, and that may have had to do with the controversy or not,” Dilley said. “But either way, I arrived to a staff of about six to ten people.”

With such a small staff, Dilley sought to build up the Talon in numbers and in opportunity.

“My biggest concern was getting more people in here so that the six or seven or eight or nine people in here didn’t get burned out, and that we could do new things,” Dilley said. “We could move forward.”

And part of moving forward was opening the door for new opportunity for UT Tyler students at the Talon.

“I call this place an innovation laboratory,” Dilley said. “If we keep calling it that, I think students are willing to come forward with ideas, and that’s always an important thing.”

Dilley went on to explain many different ideas that the dynamic of the Patriot Talon has turned into reality.

Morgan Jones started a magazine, Patriot Pulse, for students to thrive and survive at UT Tyler in 2012 and Bryan Savens started an online broadcast, Patriot Press, in 2014.

“We have grown in staff from six to ten, as I mentioned, to, we started this semester with 44 students. We’re at about 35, I’d say, that are truly working on the Talon,” Dilley said. “That’s pretty amazing. And that’s a result of the great work the students are doing-it attracts people, and that’s simply it.”

The Patriot Talon and the UT Tyler department of communication work hand-in-hand to prepare students for their future careers. The things that students learn in class are put into action at the Patriot Talon. From journalism, to design, to multimedia and public relations, there are many areas to gain real-world experience through the Patriot Talon.

“The back and forth between the academic side and then what we do here at the Talon is crucial. Having said that, I would also encourage students not to just take classes. Okay, your classes are important, you’ve gotta get your grades, you’ve gotta pass, you’ve gotta get your degree,” Dilley said. “But if you are not getting involved in something like the Talon, or getting an internship at another media outlet somewhere in town, or getting involved in a club on campus or something where you can practice what it is you’re learning, where you can develop leadership skills, you’re putting yourself to a disadvantage to all the students who are. They’re gonna be much more competitive in the marketplace to get a job than you are, so that’s my last piece of advice to students. Get involved.”

Quitting is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Quitting nicotine is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Even after hearing so many recovering nicotine addicts’ stories and them saying the same thing, ‘quitting nicotine is the hardest thing I have ever done,’ I would always roll my eyes and think, ‘it can’t be that hard,’ until I myself dipped my hands into the world of tobacco and became an uncontrollable addict.

‘I’m not addicted,’ I would say.

‘I can quit at any time.’


But with each cigarette I inhaled, my body became accustomed to the constant intake and relied on the nicotine to function.

A lady I worked with once gave me the perfect explanation for my nicotine addiction. She quit cold turkey and said it wasn’t just about losing the nicotine, but it was like losing a friend. Years later when I finally decided to quit and reflected on that conversation, I understood how much truth was in that statement.

Every hour when I would light one up, I would walk out onto my porch and spend 5 or 6 minutes with myself and the cigarette. As weird as it sounds, when I quit, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. I would pace in my living room because I was going stir crazy. I was used to spending an hour inside and then smoking a cigarette and then an hour later repeating that. Now without that “friend,” I was lost.

But as much as I see the truth in her statement, I also can’t help but laugh at the thought of nicotine being my friend. Are friends really that demanding? Do friends put your health at risk? Do friends cost you so much money that you can barely afford to eat? The answer is no.

My nicotine addiction controlled my life. It made me late, it made me early, it made me uncomfortable, it made me grouchy, and it demanded time from me that I didn’t have to spare.

It made me late.

My addiction would make me late in the fact that if I didn’t have to be somewhere until noon, I would wake up around 9:00, smoke, eat, smoke another, chill, smoke another, and then at the last minute I would shower so I wouldn’t smell like smoke when I showed up. And even when I didn’t have enough time to smoke before showering, nicotine would win, and I would be late to wherever I was headed.

It made me early.

My family had caught me smoking a few times in the past couple years, but not much was said. And I made sure that the subject wasn’t brought up because I didn’t want to have to talk to them about it. I kept it from them. Maybe they knew the entire time, but I never talked to them about it. So when I would go home and visit with my family, my mom would always ask if I was staying the night or how long I was going to stay.

I rarely stayed the night; I usually left earlier than I should have because my body was shaky and needed its nicotine. I would leave early and come back to my apartment, for nicotine. On rare occasions that I did decide to stay the night, I would stay up with my dad watching TV until he went to sleep and then sneak outside to get my fix, even on the nights when I was exhausted, my body wouldn’t go to sleep until it had some nicotine.

It made me uncomfortable.

As mentioned above, I would wait until the last minute to shower before going somewhere so I could smoke as much as I wanted and no one would be able to smell it on me. But for my girlfriend of almost a year and a half, she was always with me, and I would smoke. It was difficult to avoid, especially since I had become comfortable with her knowing I smoked. I can’t imagine what it’s like to hug and kiss someone that reeked and tasted like smoke. I hated that it had become so normal for me to smoke, because I know it had to smell awful.

On days that I had an afternoon class and had smoked in between my morning classes and the afternoon class, I always felt like everyone could smell me. I couldn’t concentrate in class because I was always paranoid that someone was disturbed by the stench that followed me.

It made me grouchy.

If I woke up late for my classes, I wouldn’t get my morning cigarette to start the day off. So when I would get to school, my brain and body would almost completely shut down, as if I hadn’t had my breakfast. And when I hadn’t had my breakfast (or my morning cigarette in this case), I was not very charming. Anything and everything would irritate me and I couldn’t think of anything else except for when I would take my next drag. Go ahead, ask my girlfriend.

It demanded time from me that I didn’t have to spare.

As a college student, there have been many late nights working on projects, papers, or studying. But to be honest, some of those night wouldn’t have been as late if it weren’t for my addiction. In addition to my internal schedule, writing papers and studying stressed me out, which made me want to smoke even more often. So I would study a bit, and then “reward” myself with a smoke break. A few cigarettes less and I could have cut the studying time in half.

Prisoner to my own decisions

My health, my brain, and my life had fallen victim to nicotine addiction.

Despite depression issues and other issues in my life that I thought were difficult to overcome, I never would have imagined the struggle my addiction would cause.

Quitting nicotine is the hardest thing I have ever done.

At first, I tried just cutting back and weening myself off the nicotine. When that didn’t work, I went back to smoking and decided to quit when it was a “better time.”

For years, I used the excuse that it just wasn’t a good time to quit. Finally, for the new year of 2014 I decided I would try to quit. After not enough motivation, yet again I failed.

In February as Valentine’s Day was approaching, my girlfriend decided that we should limit our spendings to $15 for each other, so we could be more creative. I spent days trying to figure out what I could do for my sweetheart that wouldn’t cost money. One of the first things that popped into my mind was quit smoking, but I kind of brushed off the idea. Over the next few days, I began to think about quitting; how I wanted to quit so bad and how happy it would make her if I quit. I had my eye on the nicotine patch so I could let my body adjust slowly instead of quitting cold turkey.

On Valentine’s Day, I got scared. As I handed her some hand-made gifts I had made, I wanted to chicken out and not say anything about quitting so I wouldn’t be held to it, but I decided to just tell her that she had one more gift coming the following day.

The next day I woke up, went to the store, and bought the nicotine patch.

Later that day, Morgan called me and said she was coming over. I had about ten minutes ’til she arrived. I stood in the kitchen as I opened the box. I cried a little bit. I knew my world was about to change and it was going to be a hard journey ahead, but I put the patch on my upper arm underneath my sleeve.

When she arrived, we sat down on the couch and started talking. She asked what the other part to her present was. I told her it was on me.

She looked at my clothes in confusion. She started searching my arms for a tattoo or something.

She kept asking what it was, and I kept telling her it was on me. Finally, I raised my sleeve up and showed her the patch. She was so excited. The joy in her eyes made my eyes water and I began to cry again.

So on February 15, I started the 10-week nicotine patch program.

Living with a patch

The journey with the patch proved to be difficult. I had mood swings, irritability, and sometimes nausea. I cried. A lot. I cried more during the 10-week program than I had in the past few years. My emotions were all over the place.

I went to a competition with my college newspaper and competed in magazine design. The morning the winners were announced was my day to start half the dosage of nicotine patch.

I won second place. As I walked up to get my award, I was nervous, almost paranoid. My emotions were on a roller coaster, and I didn’t know how to control it. Luckily I made it back to my seat and was able to just disappear for the rest of the award show.

Needless to say, the patch changed my life, and all the emotions were worth it.

Three and a half months later, I can say I made the best decision to quit.

Quitting nicotine is the hardest thing I have ever done.


Quitting nicotine is the BEST thing I have ever done.


UT Tyler Give Back program encourages service learning, community service


by Austin Countryman

A new initiative by The University of Texas at Tyler provides students a way to keep up with service hours. The Give Back program is part of the University’s initiative to encourage community service and service learning in classrooms.

The program is offered for students to verify their community service hours and service learning projects and document them through the University’s Office of Leadership and Service.

As registered volunteers, students can qualify for scholarships, receive awards and request official service hour reports and letters of recommendation from the office.

Give Back program

Through the Give Back program, faculty are able to work with the Office of Leadership and Service to incorporate service within their classrooms. The office partners with professors to incorporate a project or service and relate it to the course material.

UT Tyler Student Development Specialist Chase Ragland coordinates leadership and service programs at the University and helps with the new Give Back program.

“Give Back actually started with the idea of we needed a way for students to be able to track service hours because that is something we have not had in the past,” Ragland said. “So we created Give Back as kind of a generic program to be all encompassing of service here on campus.”

Since its launch in the fall of 2013, more than 250 students have registered and more than 1,200 service hours have been documented, according to the Office of Leadership and Service.

The program disperses service opportunities from around the community to registered Give Back users.

“Constantly community partners are sending us opportunities outside of campus as well as different student organizations and professors who are doing things on campus,” Ragland said. “We send out a newsletter [to registered Give Back students] that has different opportunities that students can partake in.”

The Give Back program is not only for students, but also connects faculty with community partners in need of service.

“If professors are needing a community partner to do a project with, we will be able to set them up with those connections and help them out,” Ragland said.

In the future, the Give Back program hopes to be able to help faculty plan out how to incorporate service learning projects into their courses, Ragland said.

A student’s perspective

Misty Butler, a UT Tyler student who has completed classes that incorporated service learning said it was beneficial to get the real-world, hands-on experience.

Butler was in a public relations class that required her to work with classmates and director of the University Center on campus to prepare a promotional campaign informing students of resources that the University Center provides.

“It was really helpful to have that kind of social service learning experience,” Butler said. “I was learning in class and was able to put it towards a final product.”

Butler said working for a client in a real situation helped her to better understand the course objectives.

“I think it’s important for students to have that kind of experience because it really gives you hands-on experience and real-life experience rather than just learning and reading things out of books and presentations,” Butler said. “It’s important to get out there and actually do it and it’s going to help you further your career.”

Community Service

The University offers a list of service opportunities in the community on their website and information on how students can get involved.

The City of Tyler also provides a list of many volunteer opportunities on their website.

Students interested in serving their community can contact for information on how to get involved.

View a map of the top 25 colleges using service learning in the United States

(data used in the above map were derived from a U.S. News survey)

UT Tyler supplies more than just education

Pine woods, nature trails create unique school environment


by Austin Countryman

Tucked just behind the pine curtain in East Texas, the University of Texas at Tyler is known for its beautiful park-like atmosphere. UT Tyler students, faculty and staff agree that it is a unique environment for a higher education school.
With wildlife, pine wooded areas, nature trails and the two lakes in the center of campus, UT Tyler definitely stands out among other universities for its calming and peaceful environment.

How Syria Affects Me

The war with Syria has been a widespread topic for debate recently. With so much going on within Syria, the world depends on journalists to report accurate news about the Syria crisis. But with budget cuts, newspapers have increasingly sought after freelance journalists to cover the civil war in Syria.

According to Bob Garfield’s report, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that many of the deaths within Syria were freelance journalists. Those are people that are in the same profession that I am training for. Seriously a great discussion from NPR and On The Media, listen below.