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Close Up

In the beginning, Kailah (pronounced Kay-lah) Gonzalez ’12 wasn’t the least bit interested in attending Texas A&M

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May 2009

Close Up

In the beginning, Kailah (pronounced Kay-lah) Gonzalez ’12 wasn’t the least bit interested in attending Texas A&M and didn’t appreciate it when her parents insisted she at least visit the school.  Happily, her attitude did a complete 180 the day she set foot on campus.


“I fell in love,” she admits. “I was here for one day, and my mind was made up: this was where I was going to school.”


Six years later, with both a bachelor’s and master’s in marketing, Kailah still isn’t ready to leave the place she describes as beautiful and fun, both busy enough and quiet enough to keep her happy. We recently caught up with Kailah in the Trigon—where she now works as administrative assistant to the Commandant—to find out more about one of the Division’s newest members.


Passback:  So how long have you been working here, Kailah?


Kailah:  I started at the Trigon at the beginning of February, so almost two months now.


Passback:  And how’s it going so far?


Kailah:  Great! I love the people who work here; everybody is friendly and helpful. I felt comfortable and welcome right away.


Passback:  Good to hear! And the job itself? What, exactly, does the administrative assistant to the Commandant do?


Kailah:  Well, I spend most of my time coordinating General Ramirez’s calendar—scheduling meetings, trips, etc. That involves quite a bit of e-mailing back and forth with a lot of people, trying to figure out times and places. The most challenging thing about the job is making sure you don’t drop the ball on anything. Schedule changes and e-mail requests come one right after the other, so it’s easy to lose track of an e-mail or forget to get back to someone about a meeting. You have to be diligent about checking things off, making sure you’ve finished.


Passback:  Sounds like you have your hands full. What do you do to relax in your spare time?


Kailah:  I love taking pictures, mostly of things that we usually don't "see." Take birds, for example. We usually don't ever get to see, in real time, even a small fraction of the fluid motion of flying. I especially love getting shots of humming birds. They move so quickly; you don't realize how much of their flight path we miss until you start taking pictures of them. I even have pictures of hummingbirds flying stomach-up.


I also enjoy writing, mostly poetry, because I have a hard time finishing long stories. I started a character novel in November for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), but haven't had time to finish it. I'd like to finish a novel.


Passback:  Photographer, poet, novelist  … obviously, you’re a very creative person!  We see how you fulfill that side of you during your off hours, but what about  your marketing degrees? Do you ever use that training?


Kailah:  As a matter of fact, I do.  When a friend of mine, Chris Findeisen, and his friend, Roberto Talmas, started a company called, he asked me to head up marketing for the company.


Passback:  And what does the company do?


Kailah:  It’s a free online study tool for students focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) that allows them to study in groups, remotely, by setting up a study room on the site. The study room has both a white board and an audio channel, so they can talk about problems, work them out, as if they were actually in a physical study environment—except they never have to leave their computers!


Our vision is to bring the study environment up to speed with the rest of the school experience, and make education more global and flexible. Currently, a lot of school is online—homework, reading, entire classes—but there’s no online study environment. Where do students who take online courses, students who may live in different states, study? We're closing that gap.


Passback:  And your job is to get the word out.


Kailah:  Right.  So if you've ridden on the Texas A&M buses lately, you might have seen our advertisement in some of the handles. I coordinated that. I manage social media, our campus reps who do the footwork talking with students and getting the word out. Pretty much anything that you can think a marketing person would do, I do.


Passback:  Sounds like you’ve managed to strike a satisfying balance between your work life and your personal life.


Kailah:  Well, I want to make sure I’m happy, making the right choices for myself. Living well and trying new things and cultivating memorable experiences are important to me. A lot of people my age think, Hey, I’m only 25. I’ve got time. But, really, time starts flying by faster and faster, and eventually, you run out! I want to do as much as I can!


For Kailah, doing “as much as I can” also includes family BBQs and movies, hanging with Shiver, her toy poodle (“they are not as pretentious as people think they are … just a little less in your face”), and naming the occasional jumping spider that appears in her window. For your viewing pleasure, we’re including a couple samples of her photography (click on the image to enlarge) and this link to StudyOnBoard.


Rose  Dog with Bubbles

Generally Speaking

Now Taking Fall Reservation Requests!

University Center & Special Events (UCEN) is now taking special event requests occurring June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. Special events must include attendees outside of your organization and one of the following criteria to be eligible for early reservations:


  • You are inviting a guest lecturer or keynote speaker
  • You are planning a banquet, dance, reception, conference, or other large event


Weekly organization meetings occur in 70-minute blocks at the following times in All Faiths Chapel, MSC, Rudder Tower and Koldus:


  • 5:30 pm-6:40 pm
  • 7:00 pm-8:10 pm
  • 8:30 pm-9:40pm
  • 10:00 pm-11:00 pm


Web reservation requests for all reoccurring meetings, informationals, and interviews taking place throughout the fall semester will be accepted starting at 12:00 noon on Monday, April 14, 2014.  To make a web reservation request, please visit our Virtual EMS Reservations page. Paper reservation request will be accepted starting at 8:00 am on Tuesday, April 15, 2014.


Submitted by: Amber Hopkins




Texas A&M is participating in the Student Experience at the Research University survey (Aggie SERU) again this year.  The survey, sent to all undergraduate students, covers many topics from academic to co-curricular. In the last couple of years, for example, we have been able to look at the data to know about their engagement in service and to understand differences between on and off campus students in a variety of areas. To increase the response rate, the SERU committee is trying to get the word out to students in a variety of ways. The survey will be open at least through the beginning of summer, but we clearly would like get as many responses as we can before students leave.


Please encourage your students to visit and tell us what it’s like to be an Aggie undergraduate at a premier research university. Participants have the chance to win one $500 or one of 50 $50 TAMU bookstore certificates. Five certificates will be given each week, so they'll want to take the survey early for more chances to win. Students' confidential feedback is crucial to improve the Texas A&M experience!


Submitted by: Darby Roberts



How many questions should I ask on a survey?

I get this question a lot. Here’s my answer: It depends (my SAAHE assessment class students could have guessed that). There is not a magic number, but there are some good practices:


1. Fully define what the purpose is for your assessment. Spending time on this will help you focus.

2. Ask yourself, “What do I REALLY NEED to know to make a decision for improvement?” It’s not what is just nice or interesting to know. Each survey question you create should be evaluated against that standard. If it is not going to give you actionable (or at least important) information, drop the question.

3. If you already know you aren’t going to use the results, don’t ask the question(s).

4. Realistically, you cannot take action on 75 things in one year, so you don’t need to ask 75 questions. Better to have quality over quantity.

5. If you do not have the power to make change about an issue, you might think twice about asking a question. You don’t want to set up an expectation that you are going to take action.

6. Respondents are busy people and have short attention spans in survey work. In general, the shorter the better, but you do need to ask enough questions to help you improve your programs and services.

7. Match the survey to the length of the activity. In other words, you will probably ask fewer questions after a one hour presentation and more for a three day conference with multiple activities.

8. Qualitative (writing) questions take longer to answer than quantitative (checking a box). You need to balance the type of questions for your needs.

9. Only ask demographic questions if you plan on doing something with that (and put them at the end of the survey). If you are working with Student Life Studies, we can usually pull demographics and insert them “behind the scenes” so you don’t need to ask them. Then you can concentrate on the information questions.

10. Pilot test your survey with a few people who would be similar to your sample if possible. Is the survey too long, too short, confusing, awkwardly flowing, etc.? Then you can adjust accordingly before you launch it to a larger group.


Half-jokingly, when I get the question about survey length, I say “Five. You get five questions. Make them the best five questions you can think of that you will commit to using when you get the results.” In all seriousness, Student Life Studies is here to help you devise the best survey if that is the right option. For assistance, please contact Student Life Studies (, send us an email (, give us a call (862-5624) or stop by (222 Koldus).


Submitted by:  Darby Roberts



Corps Excursion to Chile

Twenty-six cadets traveled to Chile during Spring Break. They had a wonderful time learning about the Chilean culture, including political, economic, and military aspects as they visited many locations around the area. The cadets visited La Escuela Militar, (Chilean Military Academy), the set of a local television show “Buenas Dias” at Televisión Nacional de Chile TVN, hiked the Andes Mountains and even enjoyed Futbol Sala (indoor soccer) as the South American games were taking place during their visit. By all accounts the excursion was extremely educational and enlightening for all those who attended. These Corps excursions provide a unique opportunity for our cadets to experience new countries, new cultures, and new perspectives on the world. Congratulations and welcome back to the cadets who travelled to Chile as part of this recent Corps excursion.

To view photos from this event, go to


Submitted by:  Annette Walker



Bataan Memorial Death March

Several of our cadets participated in the 25th annual Bataan Memorial Death March last month in the desert of White Sands, New Mexico. This yearly march commemorates the thousands of lives lost in the now-infamous Bataan Death March during World War II. Our cadets who participated put a LOT of hard work and effort into training for this event, and they also consider it important  to honor those who endured this terrible event in our military history. Thanks to all of our cadets who participated in this grueling event, and for representing our Corps and university so proudly. Very proud of all of them. Events like this remind us that we can never forget all who have served and continue to serve our country in the military – especially during time of war. May we never forget their sacrifices.

To view photos from this event, go to

Submitted by:  Annette Walker

Comings & Goings

Howdy and welcome to ....

  • Joe Hartsoe, Accommodations Counselor, Disability Services (starts mid-May)
  • Sean Danner, MSC Box Office Supervisor
  • Moises Cruz, Theatrical Electrician I, University Center & Special Events
  • Blake Biediger, Theatrical Electrician I, University Center & Special Events


Bidding a fond farewell to all y'all ....

  • Passback editor Kathy DiSanto, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs—retiring April 30 to become a part-time adventurer, full-time author, and dyed-in-the-wool eccentric. Thanks for 10 wonderful years, and Gig'em!

Up 'N Comers

Kudos to ....

  • Maria Ortega, Disability Services, on being selected as a 2014 T-Camp Namesake
  • Josh Keil, recently promoted to MSC Box Office Manager
  • Cruz Rios, Multicultural Services, on be named the NASPA Latino Knowledge Community's Outstanding New Professional
  • Tonya Driver, Multicultural Services, on being named to the NASPA Journal of College and Character editorial review board
  • Mary Ann Covey, Associate Director of Student Counseling Service, on earning her board certification in Counseling Psychology
  • Melissa Shehane, Student Activities, for successfully defending her doctoral dissertation
  • Sarah Bradley and Josh Dennison, Student Activities, for passing their first CPA exams
  • The Aggies of MSC Freshmen Leadership International (FLI) for a successful spring break service trip to Costa Rica (get the details at
  • MSC Whoop! for Troops for their service to our troops deployed overseas. Read the troops' letters of appreciation at
  • The Corps Marksmanship Unit's Maroon Centerfire Team on winning the 2014 Scholastic Pistol Program National Championship (the larges collegiate action shooting event ever held) with a record-breaking performance at Ft. Benning, GA.


Presentations by our staff

  • Cord McLean of Multicultural Services presented "The Future Is Now: Influencing Social Change as a New Professional" at NASPA's 2014 national conference
  • Kelly Cox of Student Life Studies presented "Assessing Student Learning in the Co-curricular" to advisors attending the Conference on Student Government Associations
  • Melissa Shehane (Student Activities), Brandon Carlson (Residence Life), and Kelly Cox (Student Life Studies) presented "Student Leader Learning Outcomes Project: Transforming Learning One Student at a Time" to System academic advisors attending the University Advisors and Counselors Symposium

Short & Sweet

Mark your calendar!

Parents' Weekend 2014
April 11 - 14
Be sure to attend the Open House at the Vice President's Residence from 10am—noon on Saturday


ArtFest 2014:  MSC VAC’s Annual Student Art Competition
On Exhibit through Sunday, April 13
MSC Reynolds Gallery


The Artist Revealed: Fifty words in a variety of media examining self-portraits and portraits of other artists
On exhibit through May 25
J. Wayne Stark Galleries


MSC OPAS Presents West Side Story
Tuesday, April 8 – Wednesday, April 9
Rudder Auditorium
Tix available at


MSC FISH presents Kyle Field Day:  A day of service and play
Sunday, April 13
Blue Bell Park at Olsen Field


Division Awards Ceremony
Wednesday, April 30
Rudder Theatre


Donate clothing and household items to MSC FLI and Lifecycles, serving refugees living in the Houston area

Items needed include

  • Towels
  • Linens
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Kitchen items
  • Furniture
  • Clothes (especially smaller adult sizes)
  • Baby clothing and supplies
  • Shoes 

Drop off items April 21-25 at the MSC Student Programs Office, Suite 2240 from 9am-6pm. To have items picked up contact Libby VanHouten at or 325-338-7711.


Job Market

No vacancies were submitted this month.

Question of the Month

“How many cadets make up this year's Fightin' Texas Aggie Corps?”

  • A 1,875
  • B 2,232
  • C 1,946
  • D 2,112

Correct Answer

B This year's Fightin' Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets is 2,232 strong, making it the largest Corps in 40 years! (Can we get a, "Whoop!"?)

The Down Low on SLLO

Teach Me How To SLLO – HIP Style 

This year we in SLLO are mixing things up a bit, and are going to start sharing information about many of the High Impact Practices (HIPs) that are occurring across our Division.  Starting next month, we will be highlighting one HIP per month and sharing information on the SLLO Blog about the staff’s (and possibly student’s) perspectives on working with that program, event, or organization. 


If you’re interested in learning more about the HIPs that have already been identified across the Division, or if you have a program or event that you believe would qualify as a HIP, check out our website at to learn more!  Also, if you have any questions, feel free to contact Darby Roberts at or Cynthia Hernandez at


You & SLLO

If you’ve had some time to think about some favorite memories of 2013-2014 year, why not share your SLLO memories and moments with us as a Blog post? Please contact Sara Harrison at or Sarah Edwards at