In the Eye of the Beholder: A Museum Exhibition Review

ACCENT’s Web Content Editor, Angelica Ruzanova, gives us an in-depth look into Daniel Johnston’s “I Live My Broken Dreams” exhibition at The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center.

Story by Angelica Ruzanova 

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Truth, deep-seated within each one of us, finds its own way of expressing itself. For the late Austin artist and musician Daniel Johnston, it manifested through personified ideas in his imaginary – and perhaps very real – scattered world. 

Upon my first visit to the installation located within The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center museum on Congress Avenue active from September 11, 2021, to March 20, 2022, my friend and I overheard a gentleman admiring the hung pieces on the walls in awe. He was led by a guide and was in a rush, but it was clear how much every display meant to him. 

We later determined the visitor to be Johnston’s best friend, David Thornberry. Thornberry is also an artist and painted the Jones Center exhibition’s front entrance portrait in Johnston’s memory. The acrylic painting on 24″ x 30″ canvas portrayed Johnston in his McDonald’s uniform from his days working there in the 1980s. 

An art gallery filled with Daniel Johnston's work.
The gallery at The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center featured the work of late Austin artist Daniel Johnston. Best known for his mural of a frog asking “Hi, How Are You?” Johnston was also a prolific musician with a distinct childlike voice. Courtesy of The Contemporary Austin website.

The guide leading Thornberry, Tori Sal, gave us insight into the museum’s collaboration with individuals and organizations who helped make the exhibit become a reality. 

“The Contemporary worked with the Daniel Johnston Foundation and collaborated with No Comply – the skating company downtown, as well as Vans and a lot of local businesses,” Sal said. “We worked with Austin Books and Comics to recreate this comic book in his style to celebrate him, and the mural on the side of our building was premiered on Daniel Johnston’s day.”

The collection of handwritten letters, poems and symbolic artwork showcase the progression of Johnston’s rugged fate, and the newspaper features with authentic cassette tapes are an exploration beyond merely make-believe worlds. The displayed work of the late songwriter and cartoonist is a deep dive inside the heart, mind, and soul of an intuitively-driven prodigy of outsider culture and underground music.

The Person

“Well it just goes to show that we are all on our own

Scrounging for our own share of good luck.”

Lyrics from “Grievances” in Daniel Johnston’s album “Songs of Pain.”
Daniel Johnston’s sketches portray common themes the late Austin artist used in his drawings. He frequently used satanic imagery, humans with cut-off limbs, and multi-eyed animals. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

The innate drive to create began early in Johnston’s childhood. His predominantly Christian household and the popular culture of the time sparked an interest to draw random sketches and recreate the likeness of various comic book characters in his notebooks.

Elements paralleling Vincent Van Gogh’s art style, Cubism, and recurring appraisals of John Lennon of the Beatles shaped Johnston’s style into what would become a proliferation of unfiltered thoughts inspired by his early idols. As a young student, Johnston began writing songs to amuse his classmate for whom he’d formed an unrequited love.

When Johnston moved to Austin in the early 1980s, the young artist would hand out homemade tapes, which were recorded individually on a portable recording device, to strangers and friends while working at a McDonald’s near the University of Texas at Austin. It was through Johnston’s method of making direct connections with people in Austin that he began recruiting a local audience. 

Daniel Johnston's musical instruments are arranged in a display in The Contemporary Austin's Jones Center.
The Contemporary Austin was able to acquire Daniel Johnston’s musical instruments for their exhibit “I Live My Broken Dreams.” With this display, the museum aimed to portray the eccentric artist’s workspace and influences. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

As word of his music spread, so did his cult-like following. Johnston’s childish-like voice accompanied by often sorrowful and sincere lyrics yielded a wave of national recognition for the alternative feel of his music, especially after it was featured on a 1985 MTV episode of “The Cutting Edge”. The title of his first song on television, “Broken Dreams” premiered in front of a live audience. Among his fans and supporters, Johnston was acknowledged as an inspiration to other artists and bands such as Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo. 

Johnston’s mental health began deteriorating around the time of his rise to fame. His unresolved love for his lifelong muse and trips in and out of psych wards undoubtedly made Johnston live his “broken dreams.”

The Art 

“The sun shines brightly on my soul

But, there’s something missing.”

Lyrics from “Mind Contorted” in Daniel Johnston’s album “Fun.”
Wild images from Daniel Johnston portray a sinister looking devil, a three-eyed dog from hell, a boxer with an erection fighting a many eyed monster are some of the many images drawn.
“Daniel Johnston’s Symbolical Visions” gives the viewer insight into themes he used throughout his art. Some images are graphic, some are dark and grotesque while others are occasionally cute, but they all allow the viewer to understand the artist’s mind. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

Johnston’s work is a deep dive inside a scattered mind.

One of my favorite pieces, “Daniel Johnston’s Symbolical Visions,” reveals so much about the inner workings of his often religiously interpreted delusions. Demon figures, bodies with cut-off limbs, void heads, and imaginative frog-like creatures with many (and I mean many) eyeballs are common themes in the work displayed at the installation. 

Every time I laid eyes on one of Johnston’s sketched pieces, the amount of detail enveloped me in its metaphorical universe of events that were either real, made-up, or a mixture of both. 

Whether the framework of these anarchic universes is what led to Johnston’s displaced reality or if the digression in his mental state was what the drawings depicted, the line between “art” and mental illness is blurred. 

In the self-titled excerpt “The Origin of the Dead Dog’s Eyeball,” Johnston recalls various memoirs on the distinguishable side of a double-sided paper handwritten in blue ink. His first known word “eye,” his inspiration from a Beatles song lyric, and a vivid memory from a road trip during his childhood make it possible for him to jump through timelines of his life.

Many sketches of Daniel Johnston's "Captain American" series.
Daniel Johnston’s untitled “Capitan America” series showcases a more fictitious side of the late Austin artist. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

In his Captain America extensive collection of comic-like drawings with colorful markers, he implies hyper self-awareness through satirical comics and phrases like “fear yourself,” “it’s cold to be alive,” and “there is still hope.” 

A lot of Johnston’s artwork is a product of isolation, and so he often speaks of existentialism and makes naive jokes about serious issues or situations. It is simultaneously strange, captivating, and raw. And yet at times, it’s relatable, refreshing, and original. 

The Phenomenon 

“When I was a little kid

And all the people they looked big

I never exactly understood

How to tell the trees from the wood.”

Lyrics from “Joy Without Pleasure” in Daniel Johnston’s album “Songs of Pain.”
An image of a man with only a skull for a head plays a small piano.
Another of Daniel Johnston’s sketches at The Contemporary Austin. Johnston, who played the piano himself, may have been attempting a self-portrait in this sketch. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

With a huge, messy collection of EPs and albums in his discography, lofi self-taped recordings and serious struggles with mental health, Daniel Johnston checks all the boxes for artists categorized into the “outsider” music genre. 

Artists in this unofficial category, often driven to create music out of self-prophetic callings and not out of contractual obligations, have an unconventional sound and look to their art. But getting past the first impression of the strangeness and eccentricity of their work allows the observer to experience a new perspective on the world. 

If you want to dive deeper into the world of outsider music and the fine line between creativity and mental displacement, I recommend this documentary on origins of outsider music and this short film about Johnston’s embodied manic schizophrenia.  

From his famous mural promoting an album titled “Hi, How Are You?” on a now out-of-business indie record store on Guadalupe Street, to the misery and hope depicted in his homemade recordings and sketches, Daniel Johnston openly shared his vulnerability with the world for all to see.

Keep You and Yours Cyber Secure

Video by Nathan Lu

Story by Pete Ramirez


The prominent role the internet plays in our world has highlighted an issue we’ve been dealing with since the creation of the internet: cybersecurity.

Every few months there is a new headline in the news about a prominent company or government organization that has been hacked such as the large-scale Solarwinds breach or the massive Twitch data dump.

Understanding that our ever-connected lives won’t be unplugging from the internet anytime soon, a few Austin Community College students and faculty are doing what they can to educate those around them about the many threats that are lurking online.

“More of our learning has moved onto the internet,” Austin Community College student and Phi Theta Kappa honors society officer, Arden Silva said. “Children are being exposed to the internet at a much younger age.”

Alya Mansoor, another ACC student and PTK officer, said that she works with young kids and has often witnessed them unknowingly download malware and ruin whatever technology they are using.

“A lot of what I see is kids being impacted and easily influenced by the technology, entertainment, and media out there,” Mansoor said. 

In order to educate people about the dangers of the web and promote healthy cybersecurity habits, PTK’s Honors in Action committee created a convenient, accessible website that contains eye-catching PDFs filled with tips and guides to keep you safe online.

“I hope that we can at least bring some awareness to these kids and help them in navigating their own lives through the technology that is available to them.”

Alya Mansoor, Austin Community College student and Phi Theta Kappa officer

“We researched in the spring and we found out that kids are being taught cyber security in school but that is not really being enforced at home,” ACC student and PTK officer Isabella Santos said.

The PTK members believe their new website will be a reinforcement tool that parents can utilize to help their families stay protected in the ever-expanding digital world.

“I hope that we can at least bring some awareness to these kids and help them in navigating their own lives through the technology that is available to them,” Mansoor said.

All of the recommendations that are found on PTK’s cybersecurity website are not only for children. Adolescents and adults can benefit from adopting the practices as well.

An ACC faculty member that is doing his part to spread the gospel of safe online practices to all ages is Dr. Michael MacLeod.

MacLeod is a professor working in the computer science department who has a background in cybersecurity.

“I was in information technology for 35 years,” MacLeod said. “I built the fourth-largest state-owned network in the state of Texas.”

Having seen how digital threats have evolved and increased frequency over the years, MacLeod said that most people don’t understand that we’ve been in serious cyber warfare since the early 2000s.

“Every day [hackers] get better,” MacLeod said. “So every day, our people have to get better.”

For those that are interested in entering the world of cybersecurity, MacLeod encourages learning as much as you can and exposing yourself to groups that work in this field.

When it comes to the average internet user who may not know the ins and outs of cyber security, MacLeod recommends purchasing a full suite internet security tool like Kaspersky, Norton, or Bitdefender to protect your devices.

“You’ve got to have something in place to protect yourself,” MacLeod said. 

The ACC professor also said that everyone should use caution with the apps that are downloaded onto their devices.

“Every one of those free software apps tracks every single thing you do,” MacLeod said.

Improving cybersecurity habits may seem overwhelming but there are many trusted tools and resources available to the average consumer to use to defend themselves from threats on the web.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the quickness of the internet but investing in cybersecurity knowledge and skills is beneficial not only to you but others around you,” Mansoor said.


ACC Students and COVID-19

Story by Duncan McIntyre

Edited by Pete Ramirez

We are all still living through one of the most significant periods in human history. Each person you encounter has likely experienced an unexpected change in their own story because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The virus has affected each of us in a unique and perhaps fundamental way.

COVID-19 precautions have forced students and educators to adapt to a novel form of learning dominated by virtual meetings, webcams and Wi-Fi. Students who were already facing the challenges of higher education have had their decisions strained even more by COVID-19 and it’s ripple effects. 

Whether it be financially, mentally, emotionally or even spiritually, the past couple of years have significantly affected us all and as a society we will be recovering from this for years to come.

A decade ago, Michelle McKown was a student at Austin Community College. Ten years later during the fall semester of 2019, McKown returned to complete her undergraduate psychology degree. 

A few months later in March of 2020, ACC shut its doors to in-person learning for the first time and began the transition to online education.

“I started the semester before the world turned upside down,” McKown said.

We can all remember the beginning of quarantine where life became simpler and vastly more complicated all at once. 

For some students, this time away from the hustle and bustle of the world allowed a moment to pause and reflect.

Andres Rodriguez, a high school student taking dual-credit courses at ACC, says he’s not the same person he was when the pandemic began. For some people, Rodriguez said, “it gave them an opportunity to reassess themselves, and figure out where they needed to go and what they needed to do.”

McKown also saw this as an opportunity to do some reassessing of her own. 

“The pandemic forced a restart on me, so I wanted to take advantage of that and not waste this opportunity,” McKown said.

McKown’s restart included decisions on what and who to keep in her life, and what to change. These decisions affected her spirituality and sense of self. 

“What all those choices boil down to is the fact that we, as human beings, are not good at letting go of things that are no longer what they once were,” McKown said.

The new COVID-19 world is a place of contrasts. In some ways it seems some good came out of this period of self-reflection. However, it is undeniable that many experienced great difficulties and losses as well.

Leslie Tejeda, a general studies student at ACC, said she experienced difficulties grasping the material in some classes due to the nature of online learning. Tejeda also said that she experienced, “a lot of isolation, I didn’t even go outside.”

Rodriguez says he is fortunate that he did not personally lose any family members because of the virus. 

“I know a lot of people that lost family – aunts, uncles, grandparents,” Rodriguez said.

From elementary school to graduate university, students have also been learning to adapt to a changing educational environment. This has been easier for some compared to others.

Rodriguez is someone who found classes harder because of the switch to online learning. 

“I took a couple classes online, it was alright, but some of them were more difficult because of their workload,” Rodriguez said. “The cameras in my opinion, aren’t as effective as in-person learning.”

Tejeda was in the same boat and said that not being able to go to class in-person made grasping the concepts taught in class difficult.

On the other hand, there are students, myself included, that think online learning was easier. McKown said that during the pandemic she discovered that she actually preferred taking classes online.

“I love the freedom that online asynchronous learning affords me,” McKown said. “Now I get to work on things in a way that works with my schedule, and I have to say that I really love it, which was a huge surprise for me.”

The past few years have been tough and the end of the pandemic has yet to be seen. We can’t forget that we are in this together. 

McKown offered words of encouragement for those who may still be struggling.

“You are not struggling right now because you aren’t enough, things aren’t hard right now because you’re somehow not strong enough to handle it,” McKown said. “If things feel hard right now, it’s because they’re hard… We have to be kinder to ourselves.”
ACC offers mental health resources to any students who need them. Students can find them at https://www.austincc.edu/students/mental-health-counseling. If you need more immediate help, you can call 512-472-HELP (4357)

Astroworld’s Utopia Turns into Catastrophe

Rager mentality of Travis Scott’s fans fueled the deadly crowd surge incident at Astroworld Festival, placing Houston on headlines across the globe

Angelica Ruzanova runs towards the Astroworld Festival entrance marked by a giant inflatable object depicted as Travis Scott’s head, a landmark that has made an appearance throughout all his previous festivals. Photo by Camille Nul

By Angelica Ruzanova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

There is nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill you experience before attending a concert. Months worth of built-up energy, relentless preparation, and memorizing music culminate in a grand euphoric experience shared with other fans. 

But when the audience’s temporary bliss of a live performance becomes an out-of-control mob, you have no choice but to give in to the uncontrollable forces of the crowd. 

Multiple investigations are trying to figure out how harmless enjoyment turned the third-annual Astroworld Festival into a catastrophic event, leaving 10 attendees dead and hundreds more injured. The festival, founded and headlined by superstar rapper and Houston native, Travis Scott, has sparked a living hell for the survivors and the families of the lost concert-goers. 

After my friends and I attended the 2019 Astroworld Festival, we expected a similar experience extended into two days rather than one. The festival felt like its own Travis Scott mini-world, with everything from a Cactus Jack pop-up store to amusement park rides. 

Many people in a crowd in front of a massive outdoor stage at the Astroworld Festival. Screens display the schedule for day-one with Travis Scott headlining.
The “Thrills” stage scene with the festival schedule for day one flashing on all screens.
Photo by Angelica Ruzanova

It soon became painfully obvious to us that the number of concert-goers had more than doubled, and the Astroworld “utopia” seemed beyond the maximum capacity offered at the venue. As we noticed the lines of fans growing larger and the crowd becoming extremely packed, things did not feel quite right. 

I witnessed people who were missing shoes and wristbands required for entry after running through unprotected security fences. I also observed inattentive staff skipping the mandated COVID-19 tests once the lines of attendees grew longer and more impatient. 

With only one single water dispenser area in the arena, people grew dehydrated and ill. Those who fainted as a result of these circumstances were crowd-surfed out of moshing pits. A vast landscape of haze covered the area near the stage as groups of people smoked in the midst of the crowd.

The countdown before Travis Scott’s grand-finale performance felt like the calm before a storm. As minutes turned into seconds, the spaces in between each person morphed us all into a collective clump of bodies. 

My friends and I were standing near the front of the crowd on the stage-right side and we were quickly swept up in the shifting waves of people around us, who unintentionally stomped on our feet and continuously hit us with their shoulders. At one point in the madness, I was able to lift up my feet and be held up in the air due to the intense pressure of those surrounding me.

As the crowd’s mixture of excitement and impatience grew more ravenous, people began forcing their way toward a better view of the famous rapper. This came at a cost to those who were in a more vulnerable, unprotected area where they struggled for relief and gasped for fresh air. 

I was fortunate enough to grasp onto someone’s backpack which allowed me to make my way through the crowd, but many others were stuck towards the center with no chance to get out. 

A lot of people in a crowd in front of a stage where Yves Tumor is performing. One concert-goers holds up a poster that states "Stampede of Lost Souls".
Musician Yves Tumor and his band perform at the “Thrills” stage, with a poster titled “Stampede of Lost Souls” raised in the air from the crowd upfront.
Photo by Angelica Ruzanova

To be honest, most attendees did not realize what was happening at the time, but when the tragic news came out, it was a mind-boggling thought. 

“I remember at first it took a while for the news to settle for me, to comprehend how big of a deal it all actually was,” said Isabella Conti, a fellow Austin Community College student who attended the festival with her friends.

“I thought to myself, this could’ve been my friends. It could’ve been anyone”, Conti said. “And the ages of those young kids reminded me of my younger brother. They were kids who went to the concert expecting to have fun and enjoy music.”

The night at NRG Park on the 5th of November ended with 10 confirmed deaths, hundreds of injured attendees and a  crowd of over 50,000 people. The Houston Police Department is currently investigating exactly how this tragedy unfolded. 

Rumors have run rampant after the event. Stories have spread throughout social media of involuntarily injected security guards, drugs laced with fentanyl sold to some of the attendees and even a conspiracy theory of a satanic ritual. 

One of the deadliest concerts in United States history has resulted in more than 100 lawsuits being filed against festival organizers and performers, including Live Nation and Travis Scott himself.

“After trying to stay optimistic about the situation, I got angrier with what I heard. The more I learned about the circumstances, the more aware I grew,” Conti said. “I hope this horrible tragedy will change safety measures which go ignored by many festival organizers, and the ‘rager’ mentality gets the awareness it deserves. The tragedy trickles down to poor organization and people’s lack of decency when it comes to helping those around them.”

Our generation chases ceaseless sprees of carpe diem within the pressures of our social media presence. Carpe diem, a Latin phrase for making the most of the present time with little thought for the future, holds a dangerous explanation to why some concert-goers danced on ambulances that carried unconscious fans rather than at least standing back. 

The cost of this failure by numerous parties is personal and painful. We must remember and honor these 10 young people who died:

  • Brianna Rodriguez – 16 years old
  • Axel Acosta Avila – 21 years old
  • Madison Dubiski – 23 years old
  • Danish Baig – 27 years old
  • Rudy Peña – 23 years old
  • Jacob Jurinek – 20 years old
  • Franco Patino – 21 years old
  • John Hilgert – 14 years old
  • Bharti Shahani – 22 years old
  • Ezra Blount – 9 years old

How Students Stay Active

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness.

By: Pete Ramirez

One of the most significant ways the pandemic has affected Austin Community College is by the cancellation of in-person intramural sports. Losing these extracurricular events placed a hold on what is normally a fun way for students to stay active and socialize with their classmates.

No one has felt this loss greater than Tracy Partin, intramurals coordinator and health & kinesiology professor at ACC.

“It’s been kind of tough, the last year, not being able to see my students or get out on the court with them,” Partin said.

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness. Last March, Partin began sending an email with workouts and health tips to his subscribers every Tuesday and Thursday during the semester.

Partin’s email fitness program hasn’t missed a semester since it began a year ago.

“Tracy’s emails have been great,” said Brienz Edwards, a student at ACC studying peace and conflict within the interdisciplinary studies program. “I used to think that a gym was a pretty necessary part of working out and it has been quite the revelation for me that that’s not what I really need.”

Edwards mentioned underestimating a workout Tracy sent earlier this semester that only called for using a kitchen chair for the movements. 

“I was like, ‘oh I can do a chair workout, that’s no problem’ and I was immediately sweating,” Edwards said. “It sounds ridiculous that you can sit in a chair for ten minutes and sweat but I promise you.”

Partin’s fitness emails not only include workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels but they also touch on mental health and wellness advice.

“I send them suggested YouTube workout videos,” Partin said. “And on Thursdays I touch upon mental health a little bit. Stress relief. Things that you can do mentally to help your mindset.”

For Jeshika Lamsal, a prospective ACC student and subscriber to Tracy’s fitness emails, staying active means being conscious about what you are doing.

“My favorite way to stay active is first meditation and second is working out,” Lamsal said. “I think everyone should try to meditate.”

Lamsal encouraged ACC students to adopt a meditation practice a few times a week at first and then slowly increase the frequency as time progresses. 

Lamsal also compared starting a meditation practice to going to kindergarten and learning the alphabet. When you first begin, you may not know anything about the subject but as you continue to practice, you learn and grow to have a better grasp of the practice.

Regardless of the route Partin’s students take to stay active, his ultimate goal is to get his subscribers to reconnect with their bodies and improve their mental and physical health.

“It gets those endorphins going and it does make you feel better so anything you can do – whether it’s taking a walk, whether it’s doing some exercises at the house – it helps”, Partin said.

Edwards said her favorite way to stay active is by taking walks at her own pace through her neighborhood.

“It’s a really good way for me to get back into my body and be able to think clearly”, said Edwards. “It helps me organize my thoughts for whatever I need to do next and reconnect with myself but also with the world outside.”

With his fitness emails, Partin wants ACC students to realize that there are simple yet effective things they can do to be active while staying within and nearby your home. 

“Most importantly, try to keep a consistent time when you are going to workout”, Partin said. “There’s going to be those days where you are tired and want to blow it off, but you’ve got to push through.”

Partin said he will begin to send out his summer semester fitness emails on June 8 and students will be able to sign up via Student Life.

“I would just like for the students to know they can contact me at any time,” Partin said. “I want them to know that there is somebody out there, that we do care about them.”

Signing Up with a Study Group

The Study Session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.

By: Jaxon Williams

In this time of remote learning, Austin Community College resources have found ways to support students in challenges that come with virtual classrooms. Shortly before the pandemic, the Learning Lab began offering study group sessions where students could easily register for a wide array of online tutoring sessions with their ACC Gmail accounts, held through services like Zoom and Google Meet. As more and more students transitioned to remote learning the attendance numbers for all Learning Lab online sessions shot up. So much so that the Learning Lab made the effort to hire full time online instructors to help meet the new demand. Wondering myself exactly what benefits students were receiving from participating in these sessions, I decided to register for one myself.  

After attending my first online session, it was clear to me that the Learning Lab at ACC is one of the most valuable resources available to students. A resource that I myself have not been taking advantage of. My experience with the Learning Lab and with their online methods of instruction was nothing short of insightful as well as convenient. From the process of registering to the actual delivery of the instruction, the Learning Lab has definitely managed to make something that could be difficult to navigate and plan out so streamlined and quick. All students need to do is visit ACC’s website and register for a session under the ‘Tutoring’ tab. There, students will find a calendar with a list of future sessions in a variety of different subjects. It only takes registering with an ACC ID and email to reserve a space for you in the session held through Google Meet. The session that I attended was centered around Redox Reactions in Chemistry. I myself am not majoring in science, but surprisingly I was still able to keep up and participate in the session. The instructor took the time to answer any questions I had while also making sure that what was being reviewed was being fully understood. No stone was left unturned. No question unanswered. The experience as a whole was surprising and incredibly insightful. It made me wonder how I had gone for so long without taking advantage of such a useful service. 

After having such a positive experience, I decided to reach out to José Resendez, a tutor at the Learning Lab, to discuss what benefits students saw after participating in online study groups. Resendez shared that students who participated in these study groups on a regular basis saw an improvement in their class performance. Not only that, Resendez also reported that the majority of students who attended the Learning Lab sessions were successful in both graduating and transferring to other institutions. He credits these figures to the fact that by attending sessions on a regular basis. Resendez said that “Students begin building the good study habits that are the foundation for success.”. 

The study session I attended has introduced me to an additional resource on my academic journey, one that I will be heavily utilizing in the future. I recommend that any student struggling with a class or requiring a place to review take advantage of all the Learning Lab has to offer.  Getting started with these good study habits is as easy as going to ACC’s website. There, you will find the option to sign up for online study sessions under the Tutoring tab of the Student Support section of the website. All available upcoming sessions will be shown in the list of Learning Lab Virtual Events. 

ACC Students Take on Virtual Events

Three students of Austin Community College share their perspectives on how virtual events have impacted their life, and what they believe could be done better; a guide for officials to consider, and implement into the academic format we now consider our new normal.

By: Renata Salazar

Austin Community College has continued virtual learning during the global pandemic for over an academic year, as of now. As we approach another semester of online education, it is easy to become overwhelmed during the school year when navigating online classes and might often feel discouraged from the lack of every day interaction  with classmates and staff. ACC provides more than education, as students continue to develop relationships and interact with each other through student organizations and events. From Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, to online advising, ACC continues to provide several virtual events and resources that allow students to unwind between classwork, and tips to stay on track with  online courses. 

ACCENT spoke with student Katheryn Pharr, an active member in the Student Life community, Vice President of ACCess Autism Iva Millsap, and Todd Snow, a student pursuing studies to qualify for a bachelor’s in software development at ACC to learn how student organization can be another resource for peer support. Three students with varying perspectives share their take on the perks and disadvantages of ACC’s online presence and what the school and student organizations can do to improve them.

Pharr feels that in-person events are more casual and provide a sense of community that virtual events lack. 

“Student life is doing a great job making sure we can still connect with each other even though we’re all isolated and spread out” Pharr says. 

Pharr attended Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, a recurring event within Student Life. One thing Pharr appreciates from virtual events is the ability to go back and review the event with recordings. Pharr is open to the potential virtual events possess with the fact that abilities such as recordings and screen grabs, allow students to utilize the information from events at any given time.  Regarding school resources, Pharr primarily takes advantage of online advising and the ASL IT Lab online. 

“I appreciate that even though we are not able to be in-person on our respective campuses, that these services are still available. Although helpful, there is something lost by not physically occupying the same space,” Pharr says. 

She added that it is easy to become distracted during online advising, whereas “in-person the advisor can probably tell when the student loses focus.”

The increase of virtual events in student life has made some student organizations get creative and implement new perspectives into their events.  Vice president of student organization ACCess Autism, Iva Millsap believes the new virtual platform has driven them to find new ways to make events more interactive by implementing new concepts. 

“We had an event where our members would create artwork on how their autism affected them in sensory ways.,” Millsap says.

Though Millsap feels she has been equally involved during the pandemic similarly to in-person events. She still prefers attending events in person due to the sense of community that in-person events can bring to some students. 

Virtual events may seem more complicated than a casual in-person event, but ACC’s online platform has encouraged some students to give Student Life a try. Snow shared that his involvement with Student Life became more frequent once Student Life events began going virtual. What kept Snow from getting involved with in-person events prior were factors such as commutes and personal obligations, which can be the case for many other students.  

“Virtual events have been great for me. These events have allowed me to explore aspects of SL and ACC that wouldn’t normally pique my interest or just would not have been a priority,” Snow says. 

Proving virtual events do present advantages towards students thanks to their accessibility. Snow aforementioned the knowledge they have provided him and how much more understanding he is of what ACC offers to students. Adding he believes the benefits are definitely there when contrasting to in-person events, hoping that “any events in the future conducted in-person maintain a virtual component.

Virtual events and resources prove to have both pros and cons. Though students seem to prefer in-person events as they present a sense of community that can’t be rendered through a screen,  they have managed to adapt and make amends with the pandemic and restrictions we abide by during this era. 

Some students are even benefiting from this  virtual environment and are becoming more  involved with Student Life at ACC for the first time, just like Snow.  

“I have a much broader understanding of campus operations and the ACC mission.  Virtual events have shown me great opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, and have fundamentally altered how I look at my career and academic choices.”

I Tried Pomodoro Studying

By: Pete Ramirez

I’ll admit it, managing my time has never been easy for me. At times, I have felt as if my to-do list is a never-ending tower that enjoys piling onto my anxiety. Luckily, I received an assignment that has given me an effective tool to combat that pesky to-do list. I have a feeling it can help you too.

My task was to learn about the pomodoro technique. Then, adopt pomodoro into my studying methods for a couple of weeks. Finally, create a vlog along with a companion opinion piece. I had never heard of this technique but after speaking to Jordan Easley, an Austin Community College academic coach, I was ready to go. If you haven’t watched the vlog yet, here is a quick explainer:

  • The pomodoro technique is a time management strategy that uses intervals of time to focus the mind on one task at a time.
  • Begin by choosing a task to complete, limiting distractions, and setting a timer for 25 minutes.
  • After working for the allotted time, take a five-minute break.
  • After four rounds of this, take a longer break.

I had a few issues at first, but it did not take long for me to get used to using this technique. During the first few rounds, I would get frustrated when my timer would ring because I did not want to be pulled away from my work. But I soon learned to enjoy those precious five minutes. Those breaks are great moments for you to assess how your work is going.  During one of those breaks, I realized that putting my phone on silent was not enough for me to overcome the hypnosis of my little black mirror. I learned that airplane mode is a much better solution.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

Easley mentioned that you can make this technique as flexible as you like so I also tried various work-time to break-time ratios. Most things fit nicely into twenty-five-minute increments but with some tasks, like writing, I get into a flow and refuse to stop working when the timer rings. The pomodoro technique helped me prioritize and hone in on one task at a time instead of doing twenty tasks all at once.

Give it a try. Play around with the work-to-break ratios and find what works for you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you break the rules (I broke plenty.) Sometimes the hardest part is getting started and this technique will help you take the first step.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.