Gregory Gym Plaza

Members of the Indian Students Association greet students attending Party on The Plaza, providing them with information about the organization. Party on the Plaza gave many organizations like ISA a chance to connect with students and recruit new members.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The Gregory Gym plaza was filled with students Wednesday attending the annual Party on the Plaza event. 

The event, hosted by the Division of Recreational Sports, provides student organizations and commercial vendors a venue to connect with UT students at the beginning of each school year. 

Sara Beirne, co-chair of the Party on the Plaza committee, said the purpose of the event is to raise money for the Student Emergency Fund, a reserve of money designed to help out students with short-term financial needs. The event raised money from a mandatory $20 Student Emergency Fund fee that organizations must pay in order to host a table at Party on the Plaza.

“If [students] are dealing with different types of bills they can’t keep up with, we have a fund to help with lease assistance,” said Krista Anderson, coordinator for Student Emergency Services. “We will work with students through any type of financial crisis.” 

Party on the Plaza was the last part of Longhorn Welcome, two weeks of events hosted by the Division of Student Affairs intended to help new students acclimate to campus. Aerospace engineering freshman Shawn Killian said Party on the Plaza helped him become familiar with various student organizations. 

“I thought [Party on the Plaza] was well put together,” Killian said. “I feel like I was exposed to a lot of things I would have never even considered.”

Undeclared freshman Bailey Saldana said the event helped her find organizations that made her feel like more than just a number. 

“I think it’s been really helpful so far,” Saldana said. “It makes you feel like a part of UT and not just someone that goes here.”

Organizations such as Texas Quidditch use the event as a way to recruit students.

“We really like Party on the Plaza because it draws out a lot of the freshmen,” said Audrey Wright, physics senior and vice president of Texas Quidditch. “Not only are we getting students from Party on the Plaza looking for something to be a part of, [but] we’re also getting the people on the way to the gym.”

Braydon Jones, Party on the Plaza committee co-chair and Student Government assembly speaker, said the party is important for new students to attend.

“You can always make a large university small, and you can do that by being involved,” Jones said. “We have a lot of great events, and the dean of students’ office wanted Party on the Plaza to wrap it up and be the final event.” 

Mathematics professor Dr. James Vick was one of the inspirations behind “Pancakes for Parkinson’s” when he was diagnosed with degenerative muscular disease. 

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

The wafting aroma of pancakes will guide students and faculty through a gauntlet of spatulas, griddles and pancake mix Wednesday in the Gregory Gym Plaza. Pancakes for Parkinson’s, an annual fundraising event put on by the Texas Round Table, will donate all of its proceeds to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which researches cures and treatments for Parkinson’s disease. 

The Texas Round Table, a group of current and former presidents from 14 campus spirit organizations, first introduced the event on campus in 2011 in honor of James Vick, a UT mathematics professor who was diagnosed with the degenerative muscular disease. Pancakes for Parkinson’s represents a collective school effort to procure donations and raise awareness. 

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that manifests itself in painful motor dysfunction in its later stages. Because the disease is so difficult to identify early in its progression, victims often remain undiagnosed until a severe decrease in muscular coordination occurs. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, a leading research organization that studies the pathology of Parkinson’s, claims that nearly 1 million people in the United States currently live with the disease.

Over the last three years, Texas Round Table has succeeded in raising $140,000, according to Katie Koehler, the committee’s treasurer. The organization aims to collect at least $20,000 this year by selling more than 4,000 pancakes.

“From the initial event in 2011, we have pledged that 100 percent of the money raised will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation to further its goals in finding a cure for Parkinson’s and generating awareness about the disease,” Koehler said in an email.

Supplies for the event, including pancake mix, griddles and syrup, are contributed by a number of local businesses and organizations including H-E-B and the Division of Housing and Food Service. Because all of these supplies will be returned or recycled, Pancakes for Parkinson’s is a low-cost, green event.     

In previous years, Texas Round Table volunteers relied heavily on Batter Blaster, a pressurized can filled with pancake mix. Dominic Ferrario, a Texas Round Table co-committee chair, explained that Batter Blaster is similar in style to Cheez Wiz, allowing student chefs to cook hundreds of pancakes in a short period of time. But the Batter Blaster company has since gone out of business.

This time around, student volunteers will be improvising with the help of H-E-B, which offered to pick up the program’s batter costs. Instead of Batter Blaster, chefs will use a combination of empty ketchup bottles and Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

“We have never run out of pancakes yet, but doing so would not necessarily be a bad thing,” Ferrario said. “I hope that people, through pancakes, realize how powerful student organizations can be when they work collectively for a common cause.”

Popularity and support for the program, which Ferarrio said he hopes will become more of a tradition, has grown tremendously over the last few years.

“There aren’t many events like this that bring so many different student groups on campus together,” Ferrario said. “From all of those supporting organizations we are able to gather literally hundreds of volunteers who help with everything from mixing pancake batter to collecting donations from supporters.”

Along with his wife and daughter, Vick has been involved in the event since it first began. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008, he has been profoundly inspired by the excitement and dedication that underlies events like Pancakes for Parkinson’s on campus.

“I always appreciate student efforts that go beyond the classroom that serve the community and bring people together for a good cause,” Vick said. “I believe that the work the students have done in the past has been quite successful and it’s been fun to have my family involved.”

Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2013 as Students sell pancakes to fund Parkinson's disease research 

The Taiwanese American Students Association presents the 10th Annual Night Market in front of the Gregory Plaza on Friday night. Students get to experience traditional Taiwanese culture through performances and games.

Photo Credit: Haipei Han | Daily Texan Staff

Students experienced the atmosphere and taste of a Taiwanese night market Friday evening after standing in lines for traditional food, painting lanterns, playing a Taiwanese ring-toss game and participating in other cultural activities.

The Taiwanese American Students Association organized the 10th annual Taiwanese market in the Gregory Gym plaza. The event replicated the atmosphere of a traditional Taiwanese night market to educate students about Taiwanese culture.

“What an actual Taiwanese market is, you walk into a street and there are just vendors everywhere selling clothes, selling food, and it’s a really overwhelming experience,” Douglas Wang, the association’s financial director, said. “The food and everything is all blended so well together.”

Wang, a finance sophomore, said an actual Taiwanese night market promotes businesses, whereas the replicated event at UT promotes the culture of Taiwan to students. He said the market was filled with vendors from other Asian cultural organizations that were also invited to promote unique aspects of their cultures.

Plan II senior Daniel Hung, the association’s president, said the event had more food, entertainment and tabling by organizations this year than ever before.

“To me, it’s just nostalgic being here,” Hung said. “It reminds me of Taiwan and being at the night market in Taiwan. For me, it’s just bringing back the old memories. That’s the best part.”

Hung said he thinks the best part of Taiwanese culture is the food. At the event, students got to try Taiwanese cuisine for free. Students stood in long lines that stretched from the south side of Gregory Gym plaza to the north side. When it was announced the green onion pancake line was moved, students ran to form a new line.

The night was filled with a variety of entertainment, including a mochi-eating contest, a Chinese yo-yo performance and singing. Biochemistry freshman Kevin Chan sang a popular Taiwanese song titled “Kiss Goodbye” acoustically. Vendors and students attending the event sang along in Taiwanese. He said the song is one of the more popular songs of the current Taiwanese generation.

Students also played “Tao Chaung Chaung,” a game similar to ring toss, at the Taiwanese International Student Association booth.

The event was a success because they were able to share the unique culture and identity of Taiwan with more people this year, Hung said.

Hung said, “I think the best way to express that is through our culture, through our food, through our games, which is why the night market is such a big deal for us.”

Massage therapist Sheila Tremblay gives a massage to undeclared freshman Safi Jenkins at the Healthy Horns Fest Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

University Health Services continues to live up to the Princeton Review’s recent praises as the third-best college health services organization nationwide by offering a health festival featuring information, food and games.

UHS presented its “HealthyHorns Fest” Wednesday at Gregory Gym Plaza to educate students about health-related problems. Sherry Bell, senior program coordinator for University Health Services, said the event aims to inform students of the health services UHS provides while displaying health-related campus resources.

“Our survey research shows us that a good number of students still don’t know that we exist,” Bell said. “Today we are able to serve students who never come to us when they are ill or injured.”

HealthyHorns Fest set up tents for each of its branches, including women’s health, urgent care, general medicine and sports medicine. Many tents distributed free items to students, including T-shirts, apples, safe sex kits and thermometers. Bell said UHS budgeted for the purchase of promotional materials to attract students’ attention.

“If we do not let students know who we are, students will not be able to use our services,” Bell said. “Our job does not stop at the doors of the Student Services Building. We need to reach out and bring information to students on campus because that is part of our mission.”

Electrical engineering freshman Natalie Herrera attended the festival and was drawn to UHS’s merchandising strategy.

“I have been trying to get one of the mustache T-shirts forever,” Herrera said. “I think the free items initially attract students and then while they are here they learn about a healthy lifestyle and how to keep yourself safe.”

The Student Health Advisory Committee, composed of students who give feedback to UHS administrators, helped plan HealthyHorns Fest. In addition to volunteering at the event, SHAC members met with the event coordinator in advance to discuss what activities attract students most.

International relations and global studies senior Kanishka Kogar, a committee member, said the organization worked hard to think on students’ level for the event.

“This year we have a photo booth, which was one of our ideas to bring students to the event,” Kogar said.

Kogar helped run a question-and-answer game at the sexual health tent. UHS aimed to advertise their first free sexually transmitted infections testing event next week. Kogar said many students may be unaware of these free sexual health services.

“This is a great avenue to let students know about our facilities,” Kogar said. “I would hope that students learn a little bit about how to be healthy.”

 Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: Festival encourages healthy behavior

Students enjoy a free cycling class at the Rec, Monday afternoon. University Health Services and RecSports have teamed up to offer free TeXercise and cycling classes all week to demonstrate the important role exercise plays in maintaining a healthy mental outlook.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

Barbie and Ken stood on display at Gregory Gym Plaza Monday to show students how mainstream media and pop culture influence an unrealistic body image for men and women.

National Love Your Body Week kicked off its first event by displaying life-size versions of the toy dolls with the purpose of encouraging students to think critically about and challenge the “ideal body image” portrayed in the media, said Susan Hochman, University Health Services manager. Love Your Body Week consists of daily planned events focusing on helping students discover what a healthy and positive body image consists of.

Barbie and Ken made their appearance at the “Love Your Genes” campaign, the first event of the week, which encouraged students to donate “skinny jeans” they have lying around that might represent an unrealistic ideal for their body type. The campaign will continue taking jeans donations at Gregory Gym Plaza today and Wednesday and in the West Mall on Thursday and Friday.

During the events, UHS nutrition peer educators will be distributing positive messages about ways to love your body at workshops Wednesday and Thursday, Hochman said.

“The peer educators will address the influences that shape body image, the cost of poor body image and methods for overcoming negative body image,” she said.

Love Your Body Week coincides with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which is an opportunity to bring light to the eating disorder issue on campus, said nutrition senior Megan Destefano, a UHS nutrition peer educator.

“We want people to accept their bodies and realize it’s okay to be who you are and how you were made,” Destefano said. “We want people to understand that bodies come in different shapes and sizes and that’s perfectly fine.”

Hochman said Love Your Body Week is also an opportunity to promote the campus resources and services at UHS that are available to students who may be struggling with poor body image or who are concerned about a friend.

Nutrition senior Samantha Partida, president of the Nutrition and Wellness Association, said Love Your Body Week is an opportunity to raise health awareness.

“Most people don’t know when they’re treating their body poorly or when they aren’t taking the right approach [to becoming healthier],” Partida said. “It’s really more about being healthy and accepting who you are first before you make any changes.”

Hochman said UHS and RecSports also teamed up to offer free TeXercise and Cycling classes throughout the week to promote the joyful movement initiative.

“We want to encourage students to engage in physical activity for reasons of having fun or staying healthy rather than attempting to achieve an unrealistic body image,” Hochman said.

Nutrition senior Victoria Carrasco, a UHS nutrition peer educator, supervised the free group cycling class Monday at the Recreational Sports Center.

“A lot of people think exercise can be boring, depending on what you do, so we want to help students find something that they like to do and help them keep up the healthy behavior,” Carrasco said.

Printed on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 as: Love Your Body hosts jean drive, free classes