Frog Logs: Senior perspectives, strange times and more


McNair Scholars program students. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jan Lacina

By TCU 360

This is Frog Logs, TCU 360’s new blog written for and by members of the TCU community. Here are our thoughts, our experiences and our perspectives. We invite you to participate by contributing your own piece of writing, or simply by reading what others have to say.

Dear Frogs:

Are these the weirdest of times we are currently living in – and – through?  Rhetorical question. I, for one, cannot wait for the ‘olden days’ to return……when I could actually see people when I walked in and out of Sadler Hall, when Frog Fountain was up & running, when people still were running in and out of the BLUU for Chik-fil-A, and when students complained about parking issues. Those really were the good old days. 

Of course – I never realized it at the time…….because human nature does not allow us to do that… least my ‘human nature’ does not allow me to do that without a lot of intentional thinking. 

Hopefully, one of the good things that will come out of these weird COVID-19 days will be that all of us will take more time to ‘take a step back’ and appreciate what we do have vs. what we think we need to have. I know that I am bad about doing that. I tend to always be in a hurry and looking for whatever is ‘next’ in my life. I am now trying to fight that standard reaction on my part. 

Chancellor Victor Boschini accompanies Tristian Brooks to class as part of “The Big Switch,” in spring 2018 (Photo by Shane Battis.)

I also find myself wondering what will be the permanent changes in our lives as a result of this virus? Then I find myself thinking……Oh, I’d love to know that because it would mean we are already through this crisis. See what I mean? Sorry I am rambling. Most of all I hope that everyone in the TCU community = happy and healthy……and that you will stay that way until we are all together again (and I don’t mean virtually). 

Go Frogs!

Chancellor Victor Boschini

Dear Frogs:

It still doesn’t seem real to me.

The day before I left for spring break, I told all of my professors that I’d see them in a week. I was convinced that I still had two months left in Fort Worth to make life-long memories with my college friends, but that reality was taken away in the blink of an eye.

It’s hard to believe that I spent my last night at my off-campus house, took my last class in the College of Communication and studied in the library for the last time without even knowing it.

On top of this, I was ready to start a part-time job the day I got back into town from spring break, but those plans were quickly snatched away in the wake of the virus.

Robbie Vaglio is a senior journalism major and outgoing executive editor of TCU 360.

I wasn’t ready for it to end in May, let alone this abruptly in March. Now, I’m finishing up my college career back home in Raleigh, North Carolina — safe, but still overwhelmed.

I’ve been lucky during this month that I’ve been home to have been blessed with beautiful weather. Even though I can’t enjoy it like I have in the past, I still do my best to get outside for some fresh air every now and then as a break between my classes or homework, just like I would at college.

I’ve been trying to make distance learning as similar as I can to college life by trying to get workouts in here and there and getting up at the same time everyday to keep myself in the right mindset to do schoolwork every day.

To clear my mind in these uncertain times, I run through my neighborhood. I usually take a two-mile loop, long enough to get a good workout and get some time to think, but also short enough so I don’t completely wind myself.

During this time that I have to myself, I reminisce on the good times I’ve had over the last four years at TCU, the memories I’ve made and the lifelong friends I’ve met.

I’m so glad that I chose to step out of my comfort zone and travel halfway across the country to study at TCU. I’ve learned so much about journalism, myself, and the real world, and I’m forever grateful for the community of Horned Frogs in Fort Worth for shaping me into the man I am today.

Go Frogs, forever.

Robbie Vaglio, TCU 360 executive editor

Dear Frogs:

On March 6, I took an unanticipated flight to Reagan National Airport. On April 6, exactly one month later, I flew home to Fort Worth. In the time between, air travel—like virtually every other aspect of our lives—had been transformed.

A medical emergency call from one of our daughters on the 6th sent my husband and me scrambling to get two seats to D.C. that afternoon and to cancel our long-envisioned group vacation. The flight was packed, like virtually every American Airlines plane back in those pre-Covid days. We now know that Coronavirus was already spreading across the country and around the world. But U.S. political leaders hadn’t yet sounded the alarm about the high potential for person-to-person transfer in tight spaces like the plane my spouse and I were on that day.

Empty gate ate Ronald Reagan National Airport. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Sarah Ruffing Robbins.)

In the time between my initial March arrival in D.C. and my trip home in early April, air travel morphed entirely. Our family is still facing a long-haul challenge on the medical front, and our country struggles now with a larger-scale, parallel challenge to public health. Ironically, I was likely safer on the second flight than on the one earlier in March.  

Maintaining social distancing was easy in the gate area, since hardly anyone else was waiting there. Fewer than a dozen passengers joined me on the enormous 737. Each of us had our own three-seat row, with a number of empty rows in front and behind us as buffers. The eeriness of such a wide-open and quiet space wound up drawing me into a fitful sleep.

Since arriving home, and while awaiting a call-back to D.C. to support the next stage of my family member’s grueling treatment, I’ve sought solace in poetic travels. After all, I’m a literature professor. I’ve rediscovered several “old favorite” verbal portraits of journeys; rereading them in today’s context has been illuminating. If such lyrics don’t always bring solace, they at least support reflection that, for a time, can take me somewhere beyond where we all are now, cut off from so many friends and affirming social interactions.

Emily Dickinson brings a special comfort. In choosing a circumscribed space for much of her daily life, she did not actually isolate herself, as some of the lore about her suggests. Rather, she made careful choices about the connections she sought and nurtured. She also used her writing to expand those horizons, to plumb depths, to observe significance in the modest everyday travels within the natural world: a bird hopping down the walk, a wind in the trees carrying memories of other farther-off places, a fluttering moth pictured in Brazil.

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears the Human Soul –

For a fuller version of this entry, including more poetry for going on imaginary journeys, visit Dr. Robbins’s blog post here.

Dr. Sarah Ruffing Robbins, Lorraine Sherley professor of literature

Dear Frogs:

I went for a run the other morning to get some fresh air and exercise. I’ve always enjoyed jogging, but this activity has become all the more significant to me recently, given it’s now one of the only legitimate reasons for me to leave my house.

I love my family. I do. But being around only my parents and siblings for weeks on end is challenging. “I need to see other people,” I’ve sometimes told them.

So my runs are my way of taking a break, of briefly getting away from my brother, who is perpetually yelling at his friends via his gaming headset, or my sister, who pops her knuckles far more than what is healthy.

My usual route takes me through my neighborhood, across a two-way street that intersects the nearby highway, down the road of another neighborhood, and back.

Renee Umsted is the incoming executive editor of TCU 360. (Photo courtesy of Renee Umsted.)

I love the roads in my neighborhood. They’re wide enough for two cars to pass each other, dotted with small hills and bordered by curbs, separating lawns from asphalt. The roads in the neighborhood across the street are flatter and not as wide, and they lack curbs. So the grass and the dirt are even with the paved road, coming right up to the side of it. 

On this particular day, I ran in the morning to avoid the rain forecast for that afternoon. It was cloudy and humid with no breeze–not my preferred running conditions. I was looking forward to finishing.

About two miles into the run, I was on the road of the neighborhood across the street from mine. I happened to look down, and there I saw less than six feet in front of me a snake, coiled and unmoving, its tan and brown skin contrasting with the black asphalt.

I immediately moved aside, walking around the snake and making sure I didn’t disturb it. I took a few breaths, and then I resumed my run.

The snake incident followed another unexpected animal sighting a few weeks ago. That time, I saw a possum running across the yard of someone who lives in my neighborhood.

I survived. Neither the snake nor the possum posed any real danger to me. 

All the same–and I can’t stress this enough–I miss the Trinity Trails.

Renee Umsted, TCU 360 managing editor

Dear Frogs:

For most, the ending of one’s college career is filled with bittersweet emotions. The month of May is chocked full of excitement about the future, sorrow of parting ways with friends and colleagues and anticipation for what’s to come; however, while the class of 2020 is experiencing those endings as every class before them did, the goodbyes have felt a tad premature.

More than a tad, if you ask me. 

Graduation is framed to be the most climactic part of anybody’s time in school. Instead of our lives resembling a scene from “High School Musical” (a cinematic gem – please don’t come for me, FTDM majors), it has now morphed into the plot line for “Groundhog Day.”

Yesterday, my mom compared life in quarantine to a bad fever dream, to which my brother responded, “Yeah mom, but at least you didn’t have to leave your college bros!”

I’m not exaggerating, he said “bros” unironically. Living with a sophomore frat-star is riveting; however, I digress.

His statement, though cringy, is valid. Research shows the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic can have immense psychological impacts on undergraduates and adolescents — specifically leading to increased rates of anxiety, depression and loneliness. Rightfully so — the class of 2020 is entering arguably the worst job market since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

So many of my friends’ internships have been canceled, job opportunities halted mid-interview and futures put on hold as the world desperately tries to adapt to this new norm. It’s a weird and exasperating feeling to get so far just to have the opportunity ripped from you thanks to something outside of your control. I speak from a first-hand perspective — it happened to me yesterday.

Gracie Amiss is a senior journalism major and an outgoing managing editor of TCU 360. (Photo courtesy of Gracie Amiss.)

Although misery loves company, I can’t help but try to find the silver linings out of this whole mess. Anyone who knows me will tell you I can be overly — and sometimes annoyingly — optimistic. It’s in my nature; you should meet my mom.

So yes, I never got to jump into Frog Fountain. I never got to have that cinematic scene where I danced the night away with my friends one last time, laughing over the rails at The Yard or accidentally swallowing a bit of confetti at TXR (on the record it never happened, off the record it totally did). I never got to bid adieu to my favorite professors-turned-parental figures — tell them how much they impacted my life for the better and thank them for providing snacks and words of wisdom between classes. Lastly, and the one that seems to hurt the most, I never got to properly say my goodbye to TCU.

Tired of my self-pity, yet?

I’ve seen how the fallout from this pandemic has impacted people all over the globe, but I marvel in the beauty of how it’s brought us together. Of course, I can’t wait for the day the credits start rolling on Groundhog Day – but until then, sitting on my back porch listening to my mom sing off-key to The Beatles, quarreling with my little brother over who really won the game of Monopoly, or reminiscing over the past four years with my best friends via Zoom will have to do. Honestly, it hadn’t been so bad. Silver linings, remember?

You’ll have to excuse my melodramatic antics, I’m a college senior.

Gracie Amiss, TCU 360 managing editor

Dear Frogs:

I am proud of the way the College of Education transitioned to remote learning, keeping the same TCU spirit we are all familiar with in our on-campus classes. One thing that stays the same in these uncertain times is our care and concern for our students. From our very youngest Horned Frogs at KinderFrogs to our doctoral students, we have found ways to support our students while mentoring them to pursue excellence in their coursework and research.

While the physical building is closed, learning continues for children at KinderFrogs and Starpoint Schools. Their teachers held virtual coffees each morning to discuss and plan instruction as well as held parent-teacher conferences in a new virtual format. The most important aspect of teaching online at Starpoint—particularly in the current situation—can be summed up in three words: grace, flexibility, and relationships. We’ve been able to continue to support and even challenge students academically and continue learning in music, PE, Story Stage, and visual arts, but we’ve only been able to do that successfully because our teachers had strong relationships with students and families already established.

In the McNair Program, when one of our engineering students found that he could not work on the TCU electric car in person, he tried a new way using computer modeling. When an art student did not have access to a TCU pottery wheel and clay materials, she bought a miniature potter’s wheel and began making tiny sculptures at home.

In the Language and Literacy master’s degree program, students and professors meet virtually each week to discuss the program and online experience. Our professors provide mentorship online as the graduate students search for teaching jobs.

In the Educational Leadership graduate program, one professor focuses time at the beginning of each online class to check in on each and every student’s personal well-being and meets with students via phone or Zoom for one-on-one conferencing. Similarly, a professor in our Early Childhood-Sixth Grade program begins each online class checking on her students’ well-being.  She seeks ways to support students and emphasizes that well-being is most important during this difficult time. Our students continue to amaze us through their research—and they presented through a virtual Research & Pedagogy Festival this year. Award winning topics ranged from encouraging interaction with online discussions to investigating science discourse in STEM undergraduate classes using decibel analysis for research in teaching.

We have an amazing College of Education—and we continue to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community. In these challenging times, the TCU mission is more relevant than ever before. We are all in this together in TCU’s College of Education and that is what makes us Horned Frogs. 

Dr. Jan Lacina, interim dean of the College of Education

Dear Frogs:

I am one of the lucky ones. I am still in Fort Worth and am quarantined with two of my best friends.

I have finally hit the golden age of 21. I think I have dreamt of my 21st birthday since I was 10. I planned this elaborate and over-the-top birthday in my head that I couldn’t wait to happen someday. That day was supposed to be last week.

Marissa Stacy is a managing editor of TCU 360. (Photo courtesy of Marissa Stacy.)

Once I chose TCU, it became very clear what my 21st was going to consist of: Chuy’s margaritas and of course going to west 7th Street. I had those plans ready for months to come. I knew exactly who was going to be invited to dinner and what stories would be told. But those ideas never materialized.

It was March when I realized that my plans were changing, and quickly. As they were being canceled right in front of my eyes, I had to come up with something new and learn how to make the best of what we are currently going through.

As I was stressing over what my birthday was going to be, my roommates and friends from back home were planning the birthday of my dreams.

My mom ordered my roommates and me Chuy’s to-go (with margaritas included) and about 40 of my closest friends from all over the country got on Zoom to celebrate my birthday with me.

We played a Kahoot to see who knows me best (my first-year roommate Caitlin ended up winning), and some of my best friends throughout my life even gave a little speech of a memory we share.

This is the moment I realized all of this isn’t that bad. We are all still connected with each other, even hundreds of miles apart. It may not look exactly like it used to, but there are still ways to enjoy it.

While it was not the birthday I ever planned on living out, it is definitely one I will never forget.

Marissa Stacy, TCU 360 managing editor

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