Arts & Humanities recognizes four ACC students who are making a difference

Jonathan Mangrum

Jonathan Mangrum, recipient of the drama scholarship, played the role of Charles Bukowski in the play Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life. Sara Harless, ACC creative writing student, met with him recently to discuss his role.

How did you get here?
I grew up in South Texas, I moved to Houston right after high school. A year after hurricane Katrina, I got recruited by a construction company in Mississippi, so I ended up working all over Mississippi and Louisiana. When that wrapped up, I moved here because I wanted to live in Austin and finish school. Which has been a desire that I have. It's a goal.

What about Bukowski's work speaks to you?
He described the real pain and suffering that exists. People everywhere experience that, but a lot of people keep it internal. Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life is kind of a biography with excerpts of his poetry all throughout it. I think the poetry really expresses the struggle he was going through in his life, and it's kind of amazing. Bukowski is known for being emotionally unstable in his personal life.

Is it difficult to connect with someone like that?
Heartbreak can be very eye opening and surprising. In reading his poetry, I think everybody can identify with it. Even if they disapprove, they can recognize that what he's saying is deep seated and genuine.

He is sometimes considered misogynistic. Did you apply that to his character in the play?
Obviously Bukowski was not at all concerned about being politically correct. Love has pleasurable moments, but there is a lot of agony involved. I can identify with that.

Schandra Madha

How did you get to ACC?
I was a sophomore at the University of Texas when I had to withdraw from school for a while due to an onset of a medical condition I have known as ulcerative colitis. When I finally got my health back on track, it was already past the deadline to re-enroll at UT. I didn't want to waste any time and I knew ACC was a great community college so I thought it would be an excellent place to transition back into my academic life. Part of the reason ACC is so great for students is that it offers so many different semester start dates.

What role has your writing played in your development as a student and as a person?
I have discovered on innumerable occasions how much being a strong writer improves my skills in other subjects. Writing for me is creative but also formulaic. As a student, knowing how to write also means knowing how to think laterally, see details, problem solve, and organize. As a person, however, writing is much more personal. Creative writing, especially, is my constant therapist for whatever rut in life I'm going through. Through this, it has reinforced my compassion for the difficulties of others. Writing teaches me how to listen.

You had several of your monologues chosen to be produced for the 2011 In 2 the West. In particular, your piece about a veteran had a particularly strong impact on the audience. Can you describe your inspiration and writing process for this piece?
The piece was actually inspired by real events. I was at a bus stop downtown when I saw a man desperately trying to express to the twenty-or-so people around how awful war is and how selfish we are. Almost everyone he addressed ignored him. It was unclear if he was a veteran, but what is clear is that there are people in this country who are not being heard, topics that are avoided, and citizens who are indifferent. I wanted to show that these people and topics can't be ignored any longer. When I wrote the monologue, I wanted to stay true to what I observed. Although to be fair, I did add a more dramatic ending. Interaction (or the lack of) with others in this piece was important, which turned out to be a problem for a monologue, so I wrote the audience in as the strangers at the bus stop. Daniel Zuniga gave the piece an even deeper layer of realism by suggesting he sign the words as he spoke throughout the performance. Daniel is very adept at American Sign Language. He truly brought the character to life.

On Saturday, November 10, you will be reading work written by veterans – can you describe your feelings about this activity?
I am not a veteran myself, nor do I ever intend to be. However, I do not take for granted the privileges and safety I enjoy everyday in light of the sacrifices of others. I am honored to be able to do this small thing in return. I hope November 10th will be a day of listening and understanding for all. I know that through this experience, I personally will gain a better connection with the veterans in my community.

What are your future academic and creative plans?
Currently, I am completing my Bachelors degree in Honors Humanities, a program at UT that allows students to build their own interdisciplinary degree plan. My focus is in Creative Writing, Philosophy, and Comparative Literature. When I graduate, I expect to immediately pursue my MFA in Creative Writing, preferably in a program with an equally interdisciplinary nature. Of course, I would like to be a writer and have aspirations in every genre. But I also want to be a Creative Writing teacher and plan on developing writing programs that facilitate therapy and non-violent conflict resolution for a variety of individuals in need, such as victims of child abuse and sufferers of PTSD. Eventually, I'll go on to pursue my PhD so that I can be a professor.

Heather Moran

Heather Moran is a major in dance at ACC, and will be performing in the Fall Choreographers' Showcase December 7-8 at the Rio Grande Campus.

How did you get here?
I've been dancing on and off since I was four. I started dancing seriously again last fall, when I enrolled in a ballet class at ACC. I had taken a break from dance when I moved here from Louisville, KY. After I got settled, I decided to go back to school, and I originally came for nursing, but I took that ballet class and it was like – okay, I'm home. I realized there is no way I'm going to become a nurse. If it weren't for ACC I probably wouldn't have started dancing again. Affordability was a huge issue for me.

What's next?
The instructors I've had these past semesters really geared us towards “What are you going to do with this,” you know, “Build on this,” “It's not just for fun.” They've been really supportive. They talk to you when you ask, “Where do you see me going?” or “What university would fit my style of dancing?” Having that kind of feedback and knowing there are different options has helped a lot. ACC has built me up for that and I'm now ready to take that plunge. After ACC I want to transfer to Texas State for a BFA in per formance. Then, I hope to join a company and eventually have my own studio that offers classes for inner-city lower income families. I know that finances were definitely an issue with my family. I want people to experience dance even if they don't pursue it later. A lot of people have said they took dance and loved it and it led them to what they're doing now. To be able to offer that to someone who wouldn't normally have that chance—that's what drives me right now.

What would you tell someone who is interested in coming to the performance?
Come experience what these students have created because it's really amazing to see that we are just students and the level of technique and thought process and just the whole concept of these pieces are very complex—one student even used physics to figure out the spacing for her piece.

It's hard to generalize the performance because the choreographers are so different, and each piece has a different meaning. One piece deals with letting go, which has really struck a chord with me. We've all been there where we've had to let go of something or we're missing someone. The movement and intention is just so beautiful, I'm nearly in tears at the end of every rehearsal. It's just that powerful. Actually, a lot of the pieces are relationship themed and about letting go or overcoming some sort of trial. I think everyone can relate to these themes.

Ron Mahnick

Ron Mahnick was a panelist at a recent professional development workshop designed to prepare faculty for working with deaf and hard of hearing students. The workshop was supported by a grant Arts & Humanities received from the The National Technical Institute for the Deaf. After the workshop, Ron took a little time to let us interview him for this student profile.

How did you get here?
I was going to community college in Pennsylvania and I experienced quite a bit of frustration because they had no office for students with disabilities services and the interpreting services were quite inadequate. I learned that Austin Community College has outstanding services for deaf and hard of hearing students, so I moved here in 2004 and I have been with ACC ever since. I did get my AAS degree in engineering as well.

You also work here now, right?
Indeed I do! I work as a math tutor for deaf and hard of hearing students at the Riverside Campus in the learning lab. I tutor basic level math to advanced college credit courses.

How would you describe ACC?
I could spend hours and DAYS talking about my experience at ACC— truly I could! ACC is a wonderful place for deaf and hard of hearing students. This is because of the interpreter services that have been provided and the amazing learning environment. It's almost barrierfree and discrimination— free for deaf and hard of hearing students at ACC. Everyone works together and I feel honored that ACC is my home. Truly— I will stay until my dying day at ACC— if they will allow me to! I want to have on my tombstone “ACC is my home.”

What's next for you?
My next step is to go to a four–year university. I've had some difficulties with transferring some of my courses because some of the four–year institutions don't have articulation agreements with ACC. I have to repeat some courses at ACC so that I can transfer completely, but I'm not in a hurry because ACC is a good institution. The classes are small and it's a good learning environment— better than the 200–300 student classes I might encounter at a university. I've been playing around with the idea of a major in aerospace engineering, or possibly hybrid courses such as mechanical and aerospace engineering. My goal is to work for NASA or possibly a private contractor in aerospace.