Only in West Virginia
Up All Night, the PRT, Spry-t, the flying WV ... some things only happen in West Virginia
I'll have a Hillbilly Hotdog
By Jennifer Gardner
Sonny’s the Weenie Man. He owns a weenie stand. He sells the best weenies around. Ding ding ding. Sharie’s his Weenie Wife.
She adds the spice that’s right. Hillbilly Hot Dogs day or night. Ding ding ding, YEEHAW!!!
In the small-town of Lesage, West Virginia, just forty-five minutes west of the state’s capitol, sits a gourmet hot dog stand putting a new twist on the old favorite drive-in diner.
Between its 15-inch hot dog, famously named “The Homewrecker” and the unique dining rooms built inside of two old yellow school buses, Hillbilly Hot Dog has become more than just a stand since it was opened 15 years ago by a California girl and her hillbilly husband.
Its owners, Sonny and Sharie Knight, have poured their hearts into creating one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state. Their goal: to create a unique customer experience and have the chance to work side-by-side everyday.
The stand is known famously for its 1-pound weenie piled high with Jalapeños, sautéed peppers and onions, nacho cheese, habanero, chili sauce, mustard, slaw, lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese. Appropriately named “The Homewrecker” by Sharie’s brother, they call it “15-inches of pure eatin’ pleasure!!”
If you finish the weenie in less than 12 minutes, you get a t-shirt to prove it. The current record sits at 2 minutes and 34 seconds and is held by Ron Cash Clark who claimed the honor at Hillbilly Hot Dogs’ first Homewrecker World Record Event competitive eating challenge in 2011.
The food surely speaks for itself, yet the décor is just another part of what makes Hillbilly Hot Dogs so unique. From the walls of the stand, covered in old antique signs, children’s’ toys, and junk you might find in your grandpa’s garage to the two old school buses turned into dining areas, this roadside attraction causes those driving by to take a double take and maybe even stop to figure out what’s causing all the fuss on the side of the road.
“When I bring people here for the first time, their eyes get really wide,” says Sean Udy, the marketing director for Hillbilly Hot Dogs. “They get a terrified look on their face but everyone becomes an instant fan, especially after they try the food.”
While not everyone is up for the Homewrecker challenge, their assortment of grub still offers something for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
Congressman Nick Joe Rahall ll, a fan of the restaurant, even has a weenie named after him. While appearing on an episode of Food Network’s Diner, Drive-ins and Dives, in 2008, he introduced the Rahall’s Red Hot Weenie, a grilled spicy mettwurst, nacho cheese, habanero sauce, hot mustard, sautéed peppers and onions, jalapeños and sauerkraut all stuffed into a toasted bun.
If that doesn’t seem unique to you, their 30-pound “Bubba’s Triple Wide” burger will feed 50 of your closest friends.
The history of the stand has its own curve.
Sonny owned a carwash in California where the two met. He claims Sharie was stalking him as she came more often then usual to have her car detailed.
The two began dating and decided to open a business together where they could work side-by-side everyday and afford Sharie’s Mustang payments every month.
The first time Sonny and Sharie opened doors in the fall of 1999, it was just a 12x16 building on the land he grew up on.
After opening the business for the first time, it was closed three days later while they got married. They’ve renewed their vows 35 times since.
Still crazy in love, they will soon be opening a “Hillbilly Weddin’ Chapel” on the property and will renew their vows right where they were first married.
Over the years, the attraction has been featured in the spotlight on a series of television shows. In 2007, Food Network’s Guy Fieri couldn’t help but try The Homewrecker while filming a feature on the joint.
The Travel Channel’s Hot dog Paradise has also made its fair share of visits along with American Pickers and The Homewrecker has even been shipped to the set of Bones, a television series on FOX, to be used while filming.
While franchises have not worked out in the past, the two would like to expand to a touristy place like Myrtle Beach. Opening a mini-golf is another way they would like to foster the idea that the business is a true attraction.
They would also like to move their famous hot dogs into grocery stores, selling them by the package along with their renowned sauce in hopes of bringing their famous flavors to homes across the country.
Awarded “Best Hot Dog in West Virginia” this year, Hillbilly Hot Dogs plans to remain a tourist and local favorite for years to come where those who come as strangers and leave as kinfolk.
PRT: Running (mostly) since 1975
By Tessa Iglesias
Only students of West Virginia University can say they have traveled to class in a vehicle other than a car, bus, or bike. WVU’s Personal Rapid Transit system is truly one of a kind, as there is no other system like it in the United States. Students can use their school IDs to swipe in and hop on one of 71 self-propelled cars that travel at 30 mph to get to each of its five stations.
According to WVU’s Transportation and Parking services, The PRT has been running since its tracks opened in 1975, transporting about 15,000 passengers across campus each day.
If you don’t have an ID to swipe like students and faculty, the PRT costs just 50 cents to travel to any station, making it easy for locals and visitors to utilize West Virginia’s easy-to-use personal transportation system.
You simply hop on the station platform and select which station you would like to go to next, and within minutes a car will arrive to take you to your chosen destination. The PRT is the only transportation system in which you can travel from Point A to Point B without stopping at other stations along the way, unlike that of a shuttle or bus.
While PRT’s uniqueness means that it has many positive facets, there are also some negative aspects to a transportation system that is different from every other transportation system in the country.
“If you’re the only one around, it’s kind of hard to get the technical support and parts and things like that, but so far we’ve managed,” said Arlie Forman, eight-year associate director of PRT administration. Since there is only one PRT system in the country, it’s rather hard to get broken parts fixed.
The PRT vehicles were designed by Boeing Aerospace, however, it is not as simple as just buying more pieces from Boeing when there is a problem. Many of the parts used to build the cars are aircraft grade. For liability reasons, Boeing will not sell anyone these parts if they are going to be used for anything other than their intended purpose, said Forman.
“What we do is, just for instances like that, we’ll kind of reverse engineer something and find a suitable equivalent,” he said.
Although the PRT is essential to helping transport thousands of WVU students to class each day -- a feat the busses could not accomplish on their own -- sometimes students find themselves wishing they hadn’t made the decision to ride it. Among students, the PRT has a reputation for being somewhat unreliable. This is because the PRT is known to stop randomly on the tracks while on the way to new stations.
This definitely does not happen every day, but because of the frequency of these stops, seemingly every student has a crazy PRT story. Only in West Virginia would these stories be able to unfold.
Students have actually pried the doors of the PRT open when their vehicle is left stopped close by to their station, and walked on the tracks the rest of the way. This however, is something that Forman has advised heavily against doing because this creates a lot more problems for system operators who have to make sure that it is safe to restart the system.
“We don’t know how many people were on that vehicle, so we have to sweep the whole area looking for people to make sure they’re not hurt, they’re not trapped inside the fence, or anything like that because in order to go back into service we have to turn the power back on, and that power is trapped inside the fence, so they could end up getting hurt or worse,” said Forman.
Steve Sharpe, a senior at WVU, can recount multiple occasions in which the PRT shut down while he was on the way to class, the most dangerous of which happened during winter because of an alarming amount of snow.
“I had to take the PRT over to engineering for a film class. And me and my friends saw the clouds and we just got a bad feeling,” said Sharpe as he relived the day a “wall of snow” appeared and trapped his friends and him inside the car for about 45 minutes.
As he approached the PRT, there was no snow fall at all. He rode for only one minute when it all happened. According to Sharpe, “If anyone’s ever seen a wall of rain as it just pours but is immediately coming down at that exact moment – I saw a wall of snow. I swear. It was like fog as if fog was rolling in at 20 miles an hour.”
Surrounded by still and falling snow, it was impossible to see even the street below him, much less the PRT station that he had just left. Sharpe was glad that the vehicle stopped when it did, because if it had gone any further he believes something worse probably would have happened. The car didn’t even begin moving again as is usually the case when the PRT stops; authorities had to walk the tracks in order to rescue the students stuck inside.
Julia Copenhaver, a junior at WVU can also recall a moment in which she was stuck on the PRT. She was stuck for about an hour and a half in a completely full car, in sweltering heat with no air conditioning.
“I was standing the entire time, just hating my life and looking at my phone,” said Copenhaver, who actually got an unexcused absence from her class that day even though the situation was out of her control. “She [her professor] actually marked me absent even though I told her what had happened. She said it’s not an excuse and told me that I should have left for class earlier.”
Not all professors, however, are as unsympathetic as Copenhave’rs was that day. Most, in fact, are rather understanding of the PRT and the problems that sometimes come with it. According to Sharpe, he didn’t have any issues with professors marking him absent during times when he missed class due to PRT failure.
Sometimes problems with the PRT are not systematic ones. Forman recalls a few years ago when a student decided to light a textbook on fire while alone in a PRT car, causing panic among system operators as they tried to find the source of the problem.
Forman also says that game days are different than any other day of the week when it comes to running the PRT. From inebriated and overexcited fans, to the sheer overcrowding of stations, game days are always a little insane. Police usually come to monitor the stations and help with crowd control, but Forman hopes to get a larger police presence during game days in the future. Without police, he and his colleagues have no real control over the drunken mob of fans that can accumulate and cause problems.
The PRT has experienced many ups and downs in the eyes of those who use it most, but in the end, it is an extremely convenient and quick way to travel around campus. Without the PRT, it would be just about impossible to transport WVU’s more than 30,000 students to classes each day. For a campus as big as this one, the PRT is a useful and innovative transportation that will be around for years to come.
Show us the money
By Mariah Congedo and Rachel Teter
When 92 percent of 141 students, polled on Twitter, believe the tuition increase last year has not benefited student life, there lies a clear divide between what administrators believe is beneficial and what students believe to be true.
The Higher Education Policy Commission increased West Virginia University’s tuition by nearly 10 percent in the last year.
WVU isn’t the only university that has had cut funding though, which has lead to the increase in tuitions statewide. Student Government Association Vice President Ashley Morgan addresses the bigger picture.
“The state isn’t giving us very much money anymore, they cut education funding all over the state—3 or 4 percent, which is a drastic cut,” Morgan said.
Students are trying to fight back though, SALA, Student Advocates for Legislative Advancement, goes to Charleston every year to ask for a grant from the state to break up through out organizations.
“The administrations are trying to make it affordable to go to school, they don’t want us to drop out because we can’t afford it,” Morgan said. “I think the administrations are always backing us to go down there to push for money so that we can get more money from the state so that our tuition doesn’t go up.”
WVU students also participated during the fall semester in a million-student march, which is a national campaign in 34 states and 90 cities. The campaign’s main focus is on allowing public education to be free for all students.
“We are... uniting in a day of action on November 12, 2015 to demand tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers,” WVU’s chapter of the campaign said on Facebook.
Not all students feel the tuition increase was hurtful though, Morgan thinks a lot of new things have occurred throughout programs because of the increase of tuition.
“President Gee is definitely the best president of universities across the nation and we are so fortunate to have him here. By having him come here he has given us great new ideas so that we can compete with our peer institutions,” Morgan said.
The WVU foundation reported that it has reached nearly 92 percent of its billion-dollar money goal with two years remaining for the fundraiser. The fundraiser has built scholarships for students but collectively many students have not been affected by the large amount of money being poured into the university.
“We started this campaign called ‘Dream First’ and this campaign is all about you, the students. It’s about students being able to come here and dream,” Gee said. “This campaign is letting us be more competitive when it comes to the tuition issue. “
WVU students are not the only ones who have been talking about tuition increase, dining services employees have not seen a pay raise in years.
Carrie Brady, an employee in the dining services, has been working at WVU for 15 years. Brady doesn’t believe the tuition increase was successful, at least in aiding employees at the university.
“Student managers make as much as a lead worker at WVU,” Brady said. “Since I started, the biggest difference is the pay has not went up for [most of the] staff, however tuition [has gone] up.”
Brady has worked under five presidents at this university. There have been several differences in each president, but something that stands out to her is that since Gee has taken control she believes there have not been many positive changes.
“Dr. Gee is all about pictures and handshakes, maybe [for] students there have been more changes, [but] as an employee since Dr. Gee took office I have only received one pay raise,” Brady said. “Out of all the presidents, Mike Garrison was the only one to give all the WVU employees a raise.”
The latest tuition increase wasn’t going to take effect, but according to WVU MetroNews, HEPC commissioner Dr. John Leon was skeptical of the tuition increase until President Gordon Gee convinced the commission that it would be beneficial for the university.
President Gee said that WVU tuition is among the lowest in the country. “If you take a look at the cost quantity analysis, we are probably one of the best educational bargains in the country,” Gee said.
Even with the tuition increase, attending WVU is still one of the cheaper universities across the nation.
“Our quality is very high and our costs are very low for students. Many students can go here out of state for far less than they can go instate in their home state,” Gee said.
“I think it’s all about balance, they are trying to get new and exciting things on campus so that way we don’t see something at another school and wish that we could do the things they are doing, instead we want to be at the center,” Morgan says.
WVU spent roughly $800,000 on the 2014 concert, which hosted bigger headliners such as Maroon 5 in 2010 and Kendrick Lamar in 2014. The Office of Student Life budgeted about $425,000 for the 2015 concert. This was because the funds had been divided up between different and new events during Welcome Week, including the lighting of the stadium, which was hosted for only the freshman class, whereas Fall Fest includes all students.
“We are recalibrating the whole Welcome Week. The first thing we’ve done is redoing the calendar. Right now students move in on a Friday and start school on a Monday, we are changing that to have students move in on a Friday and start school on a Wednesday,” Gee said.
According to Gee, starting school on a Wednesday will allow Fall Fest to be held not on a school night, in order to give students more time to prepare for their first day of classes.
“I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve been involved in Fall Fest, but when it was held on the first day of school it gives off a very strong negative message that we are all about having a big party and not about having an education,” Gee said.
“This is at the end of my career and I feel no pressure and so I really feel I have an opportunity to do new great things at the university,” Gee said.
We reached out for comments from Vice President of administration and finance, Narvel Weese, in hopes of obtaining his professional opinion on the financial aspects of WVU. However, after a month of being in contact with his assistant and having sent in our interview questions we have yet to receive a reply.
By Zachary Hohn
The game’s over and the football team pulled off the upset of the week. Students now have left the games and have taken to the streets. Fires erupt in dumpsters and streets, and property is being destroyed.
This was the scene at West Virginia University after beating No. 4 Baylor on Oct. 18, 2014. The next evening, a student-run initiative called Respective Mountaineers was born.
Chris Hickey and Deonna Gandy founded the student-run initiative with the goal to promote respect among the students, alumni, surrounding communities, and the state. For a while now, WVU has been known as a “party” school where a small percentage of students act outrageously and defile the town. On Sunday Oct. 19, the day after the riots, Hickey tweeted, “ My name is Chris Hickey and I’m a #RespectfulMountaineer. I love and respect this University and the town in which it resides.”
This was the first step in bring the initiative to light at WVU. Over the next two days the hashtag #RespectfulMopuntaineers reached over 500,000 people and 1.4 million Twitter timelines to show that students at WVU were not going to stand for the outrageous and dangerous behavior of some there. Once it became a trending matter around campus, the group now needed to figure out how to bring it to a national level. Two weeks after the release of hashtag, the group figured out a way when ESPN’s College Gameday and Snapchat announced they were coming for the game against Texas Christian University. The Respectful Mountaineers had 13,000 shirts made with the hashtag #RespectfulMountaineers which were passed out by students for students to show the nation how Mountaineers really are.
The Respectful Mountaineers have had long journey over their short lifespan. From the time Hickey tweeted the hashtag to start the social media campaign, they quickly grew and turned into an official student organization at WVU on Feb. 4, 2015. The now student organization Respectful Mountaineers have created multiple leadership teams within the group to help continue the growth of the group.
“I think it’s great to have a group at our school of individuals who want to positively impact the community around them,” said Taylor Damm a senior at WVU. “I believe that they will inspire more students to be considerate like them and their numbers will grow.”
The biggest leadership team impact has been due to the social media team. The Respectful Mountaineers have official Twitter and Facebook pages that continually updates throughout the day about possibilities and instances of students, alumni, and the community being Respectful Mountaineers. With these pages it allows for the information to spread quickly and get many people to participate in it. The Respectful Mountaineers are not only on social media. You can find them holding meetings and conferences every month talking about different ways to go out in to community and continue to show that the students are changing the school’s imagine in a positive way.
The Respectful Mountaineers have faced challenges with their idea to bring a positive light to the university. Some students at WVU don’t believe that they are making an impact and don’t understand what they are talking about when saying that they are Respectful Mountaineers. The Respectful Mountaineers are not trying to deliver the message that it is wrong to go out and celebrate big wins in sports, or just enjoy a Friday evening. They are trying to say when you put other students and the community in dangerous positions that you become the problem. Enjoy the big win or going out Friday night but do not destroy others property or burn couches. The riots and other problems bring very negative attention to the university and town itself, which in turn, gives everyone that goes here a negative image.
“The riots that have occurred put lives of students and civilians in danger, and gave WVU a bad name,” said Damm.
The Respectful Mountaineers were created to combat these negative images by students who truly care for their university and what happens around it.. This year, WVU was not ranked in the Playboy’s top party school list, so it seems that the nation is taking notices of the ideas that the Respectful Mountaineers are promoting.
The Respectful Mountaineers are going to continue to fight for what they believe in and help bring a positive light to the university.
It's not just drunk breakfast
By Lydia Alexander
A sea of West Virginia University students guzzling alcohol, yelling obscenities, smashing cars and burning couches are the majority of the scenes that make up the YouTube video titled “Shmacked I Am: West Virginia University: St. Patrick’s Day 2012.”
The video was created by a brand known as I’m Shmacked that travels from college to college making videos of wild parties and posting them online for the world to see. WVU has consistently been considered one of the top-five party schools in the nation by major magazines such as Playboy and The Princeton Review since 1997. When the I’m Shmacked St. Patrick’s Day video was released in 2012, it helped WVU maintain its status as the No. 1 party school in the nation.
In December of 2013, when former Ohio State president Gordon Gee was hired to return to WVU as president, he came with a mission to expunge the school’s crazy party status. The university had already taken steps to change the school’s party reputation by creating a program known as Up All Night. The program was started in 1998 by Ken Gray after the Princeton review named WVU the No. 1 party school in the nation in 1997. Up All Night provides students with an alternative to partying and drinking by holding activities every weekend in the student union, known as the Mountainlair, that start on Thursday night and run through Saturday night. Some of the activities include laser tag, casino night where students can win prizes such as Apple TVs and Apple watches, bounce houses and obstacle courses, and tons of free food and drinks, non-alcoholic of course.
Up All Night is such a successful program because, let’s be honest, West Virginia is one of the duller states in which to live. It’s no wonder why so much drinking and partying goes on at the university. There wasn’t much else to do besides that, until Up All Night was established, that is. The program hires students to intern for it and President Gee works closely with these interns along with the rest of the Up All Night planning board to oversee each event that the program holds.
“We talk about what were the most successful events and what are ones we do not want to bring back,” junior intern Harper Hurwitz says. “We try to host as many events that are exciting as we can within our budget.”
Since the board members know which events are most successful they try and plan those events to correspond with the biggest party weekends. Move-in weekend, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day are all big party weekends for WVU students, and likewise, successful weekends for Up All Night.
Hurwitz loves the program, what it offers for students, and the environment that it creates for the university.
“President Gee comes to Up All Night on a fairly regular basis which is cool because students always want to be around him to get their selfie taken,” Hurwitz says.
Creating a non-party reputation for the school isn’t Up All Night’s only benefit. In addition to that, the program also provides aspiring students, like Hurwitz, with experience through internships. This is Hurwitz’s first year working with Up All Night. After a falling out with her friends during her sophomore year she became an intern with the program her junior year and fell in love.
“I sort of found my way again through Up All Night. It gave me something to do on the weekends where I felt like my time was being valued,” Hurwitz says.
Hurwitz became friends with one of the other interns, Paige Klingensmith, who shares similar feelings towards working with Up All Night. Both girls love knowing that what they are doing is a great thing for their fellow students.
“I love getting feedback from everyone about how much they loved an event,” Klingensmith says. “It is the best feeling knowing that the work that I put in weekly for these events promotes a fun and relaxing environment for the whole university to be able to enjoy.”
Up All Night has done so many great things for WVU and continues on its success each weekend. Creating a fun alternative for students that doesn’t involve alcohol consumption, giving students internship opportunities, providing them with job experience, creating strong relationships for those involved with it, and helping shine a light on WVU’s positivity rather than it’s students misconduct are just a few of the great things that the program does for the university and its students.
“Up All Night is the first-of-its-kind college late night programs ever, and really brings something different to campus,” Klingensmith states.
“Up All Night has been amazing. I love the people I get to work with in the fact that there is something to do on weekends that doesn’t involve partying,” Hurwitz says.
Sounding it out: The West Virginia Dialect Project
By Isaac Zivkovic
If you’re a native-born West Virginian someone from another area of the nation has likely told you, to your surprise, that you have a very strong accent.
Many people believe that sounding a different way can lead to judgment by others. But before you go hiding your accent, or even denying that you have one, be assured, you are not alone. Dr. Kirk Hazen, of the West Virginia Dialect Project, states everyone has a specific dialect, and, yes, people do draw assumptions from it.
For some this revelation may not be shocking, but the question remains: how do dialects vary and why are they so strongly judged by society? This is the main agenda of the West Virginia Dialect Project.
In a quiet room in the basement of Colson Hall undergraduate research assistants delve headlong into hours of raw audio files. Computer screens sport statistical and diagnostic software and at the head of it all is Hazen, affectionately referred to by research assistants as “Dr. Dialect.”
Hazen is an English Professor at West Virginia University. His specialty is linguistics and he is the founder of the WVDP.
“I study how language works and I look at it from a perspective that is usually considered scientific,” Hazen said. “We look at the way things are changing by looking at the current patterns and we look at different generations to get a guess at the direction of change.”
Hazen went on to explain the significance of linguistics in a place like West Virginia and how it can often lead to false impressions between different speakers.
“It’s one of the major ways we go about judging people,” Hazen said. “So when we assess who a person is we assess their language and we’re excellent at discerning language variation.”
The largest problem linguistic research has revealed is the limitations different types of speakers place on one another due to dialect differences.
Hazen explained dialect and how often it is used as an indication of social standing.
For most people Hazen said, “It’s a marker that a person can’t do things, you know, if you’ve got a southern accent you can’t possibly do calculus.”
“Helping people learn about and accept dialect differences is a part of what we do, it’s something we need to do more of,” Hazen added.
The idea for the project was inspired by his graduate work at North Carolina State University. There, it is called the North Carolina Language and Life Project and is led by Hazen’s mentor, Walt Wolfram. Hazen says their project is similar in many ways, except the WVDP is not nearly as well funded.
In spite of financial limitations, the project has already invested countless hours of research and interviews to chart local linguistics.
Hazen said, “When I first came here people were like, ‘oh you need to find this person or that person’ and they wanted me to interview the most socially disadvantaged, the least educated… different language varieties are a part of what everybody has, not just certain folks.”
Of the linguistic anomalies Hazen has investigated so far perhaps the most outstanding came from, of all places, fast food restaurants.
Hazen said, “Apparently this was fairly common, southerners would come up to Morgantown and go through a drive thru fast food line and they order a Sprite - and get given fries. Again, and again, and again.”
They ultimately discovered it was the social expectation of how a word should be spoken. West Virginia, like much of the rest of the country, sports a distinct north-south divide in dialects.
“It’s not expected in those kinds of environments in the north,” Hazen said. “So when you hear ‘Spry-t’ it is heard as ‘fries’…it’s the expectation of where you get ‘I’ in a word.”
Findings like this were made possible with the help of the research assistants who, unlike other similar projects, may be from various majors and aren’t required to be graduate students.
“Here the undergraduates are the primary folk,” Hazen said.
One of those undergraduates, Kaitlin Licause, is a senior at WVU in the department of English, and this is her first year as a research assistant with the WVDP.
For the day-to-day work Licause briefly explains, “Basically we’re taking interviews and breaking them down to their very, very tiny bits, down to their vowel components, and then we’re taking those vowels out and we’re going to analyze them.”
She shares the WVDP’s higher goals of raising social awareness but Licause says she is more concerned about the immediate future of the program and making the massive amounts of data a little easier to process for future researchers.
“I would really like to make something that future research assistants can use,” Licause explained.
Licause also described how the project has served to raise her own awareness of how different people speak. Growing up in West Virginia’s northern panhandle and only minutes from Pittsburgh Licause said, “I never fit in with the West Virginian accent.”
Because she was a West Virginian, but also a northerner amongst northerners, dialect differences weren’t an issue she paid much attention to until she started working for the WVDP.
On the other side of the spectrum is fellow researcher Olivia Grunau, who noticed dialect early on. Grunau is a junior at WVU and although she has only been working on the project for a few months she says it has made an impact in her own life.
“Before I came into this program I had this really strong view that there was a correct way of speaking and an incorrect way of speaking … now I’m starting to realize that it’s normal and it’s healthy and it has helped me to not be so quick to judge people based on the way they speak…it’s affected me personally,” Grunau commented.
Training one’s voice or changing it, referred to as “shifting dialect,” is something Hazen explained as being common everywhere.
Grunau explained, “My dad always had this sense of, there’s a right way of speaking. ‘Don’t ever speak like a West Virginian to begin with.’”
So Grunau made efforts to speak English in only the proper form. A practice that soon came back to haunt her with her family in the south.
Grunau remembered one of the times when a family member pointed out, “‘You sound like a city girl why are you talking like that?’ …I think they associate it with being kind of stuck-up maybe, so that was the problem for me.”
Misunderstandings and false impressions occur on both sides when there are two different speakers. Fortunately, instances like these are precisely what the WVDP can address.
The WVDP plans to serve WVU and the community at large by discussing dialects at conferences and lectures with hopes of providing awareness in dialect differences to all West Virginians one day. But for now the biggest beneficiaries are the researchers themselves. From a few short visits to the basement of Colson Hall the comradery combined with professionalism is palpable.
The project is only in the early phases of research and has a lot of work to do before the results really begin to flow. However, Hazen said it best, “The students are, by far, the best things we produce.”
Blame the media
By Luke Craven and Jacob McGowan
The West Virginia stereotype has long been an image that has both haunted West Virginia and has also been embraced by those with ties to the state.
When most college sports programs have proven themselves with a number of big wins over noteworthy opponents, they are rightfully given media attention throughout the years, and eventually are inked into the media’s coverage on a daily basis. This can be said with such prominent schools as Texas, Penn State and Oregon just to name a few. West Virginia’s University’s men’s football and basketball programs have performed on par with many of the other programs that fit this trend, yet it usually seems as if WVU is receiving unequal treatment.
Maybe the media just doesn’t think WVU is worthy of D-1 level coverage, or maybe it’s that they don’t believe the university has a wide enough audience that would pay close attention to the stories surrounding its athletics. Or maybe there could be a negative correlation between West Virginia’s stereotype and WVU’s media coverage.
The statewide stereotype is that West Virginians are nothing more than hillbillies and toothless, blue-collar men and women living out in the boonies. WVU’s stereotype has more to do with the school’s party image. That being said, the statewide stereotype definitely has its role in the WVU stereotype. An example of this was seen in an Instagram posted by Sportscenter after West Virginia’s overtime loss to Oklahoma State. The camera panned to three separate men, likely students, wearing overalls, no shirts and a raccoon skin hats. The men were dancing and jumping around in the stands and one of the men was drinking from his hiking boot. The caption to the video was “Party on West Virginia!” This came with no mention of the game and its outcome. Apparently Sportscenter believes the only attention worth giving WVU isn’t involving its athletics, but the antics of the students.
It can be said that behavior by a small number of students has increased the impact of the school’s party school image. The infamous Baylor riots, for example, have given some people from the outside looking in the impression that WVU students can’t handle a big win from one of its sports programs without burning down Morgantown.
Matt Wells is the associate athletic director of external affairs; his job is to manage the video material surrounding the WVU football team. These videos can range from highlight tapes to even commercials for the games to raise interest and ticket sales among the West Virginia faithful. His main obligation is to create interest among fans and other media outlets through video shorts that he puts on West Virginia’s website to maintain positive coverage of the university and its sports teams, specifically football.
Wells is not a fan of the way the school has been portrayed in the media as of late.
“I think it’s a negative image and one that we’re trying to get away from. And getting away from that image can take some time, years even,” he said.
Wells’ co-worker, John Antonik, the director of West Virginia Athletics Digital Media, had a similar point of view. A bookmark win in the program’s history is not an everyday occurrence and “riots are an unfortunate part of it,” Antonik said. “Rioting has become part of college sports.”
What many people fail to see is that this kind of behavior is happening at colleges all over the country by a small number of students. For some reason the media tends to only mention certain schools when the party school topic is under a microscope.
“The party school image is something you can’t easily shake away from,” Wells said. Once that image is put into someone’s head, it is hard to see the school as anything else.
“The Big 12 Conference gets disrespected so much and it’s annoying,” WVU student Chris Krier said.
Many Big 12 teams have seen similar coverage in the media, leading one to believe that the stereotype of the region is a possibility for the disrespectful coverage. Though the location of WVU may not be as close to its fellow Big 12 members, the cultures of the areas are very similar.
“I think that people nationally look at us in a different light now than before because we have access to the Big 12 conference,” Wells said.
Over the past few years, as WVU has joined the Big 12 Conference, while the football and basketball teams should be earning more respect from the media, their coverage has noticeably been below-average, at best. In the past few years, the most love from the media has been the bid to host ESPN’s “College Gameday” in 2014. Mountaineer fans and students showed their school pride by camping out a week prior in anticipation of the event. While it seemed WVU’s media coverage was going nowhere but up, the opposite has happened, and Mountaineer sports are disrespected week after week once again.
The Mountaineer football team has had some big showings in the past couple of years. The highlight wins being a 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson in 2012 and a win against high-scoring Baylor in 2014. Prior to making a run in March Madness to the Sweet Sixteen in 2015, the basketball team took down NCAA powerhouse Kansas in consecutive years.
During their 2015 March Madness run, the Mountaineers beat an underrated Maryland team, with one of the best point guards in the nation, before playing undefeated Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. While most would think the media would talk about West Virginia’s success running a full-court press, the media couldn’t stop talking about WVU player Daxter Miles Jr. confidently implying that the Mountaineers would end Kentucky’s undefeated streak. The media ripped Miles apart saying that he was being too cocky. What should Miles have said? That he thinks his team is going to lose? That probably wouldn’t have blown over too well with his teammates and WVU fans.
Lack of coverage hasn’t stopped WVU fans from showing their love for the Mountaineers. Fans have seemed to embrace the West Virginia stereotypes, because why not go along with it if the image is not going to change? They have realized that they might as well have fun with it instead of letting it have a negative impact. Maybe the media hasn’t seen the significance of some of WVU’s recent big wins, but Mountaineers fans sure have and they are grateful for them. Flying under the radar could be a potential leg up on the competition. WVU is accustomed to playing the underdog role, so why not embrace it?
If WVU’s success at this point has not been rewarded with rightful media coverage, there’s no reason to think there is going to be a spike in the near future. The mainstream media might not often cover WVU athletics, but local publications do a good job of giving the fans the coverage they deserve. These local publications are familiar with West Virginia and understand the mistakes that the mainstream media has made covering WVU; therefore, they can objectively cover them without angering Mountaineer fans.
Being part of the community helps the local journalists get a true feel for WVU sports and the fans. The mainstream media often looks in from the outside, so they are not even experiencing the true atmosphere of WVU athletics.
Any Mountaineer fan would agree that if the media gave WVU sports a chance, they would see more than just a stereotype and instead see the talent of the teams and the passion of the fans.
One punch at a time
By Matthew Fergo
Six months removed from a national championship, Dan Gipson is setting new goals.
It all started in the wrestling gym in junior high school. That’s when he moved on from wrestling and MMA to boxing, and never looked back. Seven years and 300 miles removed from that moment, even he could have not pictured how far he has come.
“Once you reach a goal,” Gipson said, “you never really reach an end goal. You set new ones.”
Gipson walked into the ring as a freshman for his first ever, collegiate fight. He was just trying to win, he says. Three years later, he is gearing up to make a run at consecutive national championships.
“He’ll take it again,” said Damian Dennison confidently, who is a junior business management major and a member of West Virginia University’s boxing club of which Gipson is the President.
“Dedicated is the first word that comes to mind,” said Chad Lundeen, a sophomore member of the boxing club.
You don’t have to look far to see the proof of this dedication. Gipson, who is drenched in sweat already, watches practice intently while pacing around the gym.
“Pivot, punch, repeat,” shouts Gipson. “Be quick B!” he says to another boxer as they spar.
The calm, cool, and collected Gipson takes his leadership role to heart, but it hasn’t always been easy. It’s certainly no easy task for a 21-year-old to balance schoolwork, a social-life and most importantly his role as the President of the WVU boxing club.
“It’s difficult sometimes because most boxers are just boxers. Most boxers don’t have to worry about training other people. But I spend a lot of the practice teaching the new people,” Gipson stated. “So yeah, it’s definitely been something I’ve taken on, even though it’s been a lot at times.”
His coach, Brandon Lial, has gotten to know Dan very well in the past three years.
“He’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met, and often times he’s willing to sacrifice his own time for others,” said Lial.
Lial gushed of Gipson’s ability to balance his responsibilities with a smile on his face. After talking to him, and it’s easy to see why with his calm demeanor and kind attitude.
Gipson went on to say, “Maybe it does kind of come easy. It takes some time every now and then - I gotta spend some time on my own.”
When he came to WVU, Gipson did not know a single soul. Yet, he felt comfortable from the start – even though his second home was so different from where he spent the first 18 years of his life.
The week before classes of his freshman year, Dan became acquainted with the campus and the state of West Virginia for the first time. As he overlooked the gorge from Cooper’s Rock, that is when he realized he was a long way from home.
“It was powerful at first, seeing that for the first time,” Dan said. “Every time I go back there I’m reminded of that and that’s like the starting point of my journey here, basically.”
And what a journey it has been. Dan, who is in his fourth year at WVU with a fifth year left, and has set his goals far beyond this final collegiate boxing season.
He wants to go undefeated in collegiate boxing this year, and continue to train after that. His ultimate goal is to make the next Olympics. That would be an impressive feat for a kid from West Deptford, NJ – just across the river from the streets of Philadelphia.
“I didn’t think twice about West Virginia before my senior year of high school. Now a piece of me is here,” he added.
Dan says he has no regrets looking back on his years at WVU, but nothing can replace the people he left behind four years ago.
“I’ve had the same group of friends since – same core group of friends rather – since about 5th/6th grade, I would say. Ryan, Steve, Jemele, Kyle, Sean Leafy, Sean Wilder, Eugene,” Gipson said.
Friends and family are what he misses the most. He has managed to replicate the type of relationships he developed at home, mainly through boxing. That has been a huge part in making Morgantown a second home – by finding a second family.
It all comes back to the boxing club, which he joined as a freshman.
That’s where the work started, and it has certainly paid off. Gipson thought about that work in the moments following his championship-winning bout last spring.
“There’s a picture of me when I’m getting my hand raised, and I’m just straight faced. I’m not smiling, and I always look back at that picture like it’s kinda strange, but at the same time – there’s nothing sweet about boxing,” he said. “I put in hard work for that, I put myself in some pain to get to that, and I was digging deep during that match.”
He certainly possesses wisdom beyond his 21 years – and that has played a critical role in his success between the ropes.
Dan’s success won’t be limited to in the ring. He’s a lot more than a warm body with boxing gloves. He eventually wants to teach, but for now, his focus is on his true passion. The same passion he discovered as an 8th grader in wrestling practice.
No matter how far he goes he will always remember his days in West Virginia, where his dreams of glory transformed into reality.
And he never looked back.
Just another research project
By Jillian Clemente
Greg Thompson and Dan Carder weren’t driven to take down Volkswagen. They were just the unbiased lead researchers in the study that showed Volkswagen cars were releasing 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide into the air. It cost the company $1.9 billion, according to CNN, but only cost the researchers $50,000.
“We just do the research and we report the data, and we try to make sure that the data is good,” said Thompson, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University. “Again, we’ve done hundreds and hundreds of these types of programs - we have shown good things. We have shown things that haven’t worked.”
Volkswagen’s diesel engines were one of the things that just didn’t work.
“We set out to do just the opposite of what ended up happening,” Carder said.
The “we” Carder is referencing is the faculty members and collection of common resources at CAFEE, the Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions, within WVU’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. He’s the interim director of the group.
“We’re all pretty much a group of applied engineers that can see interest in anything related to emissions, fuels, engines, anything of the like,” he said.
One resource in CAFEE was the crux of this scandal: the chassis dynamometer.
WVU created the first - and second - portable chassis dynamometer, a device that measures the pollutants in car exhaust. WVU also pioneered exactly where to put the device on the engine to measure those pollutants. These two notable firsts in the state – and the world – revolutionized the mechanical engineering world by allowing researchers to do more experiments and tests in a mobile fashion. That means that the chassis dynamometer can be put into the back of a car or van and be driven around, for performing tests on specific vehicles to transporting the device around the world. If not for this invention, this experiment could not have been completed.
The chassis dynamometer can measure any type of light-duty or heavy-duty engines. Heavy-duty engines are busses, trucks and the like - the ones typically studied by CAFEE - but this experiment called for studying passenger, light-duty diesel engines.
“There’s not a lot of glory in this stuff for most people, but it’s what we’re most interested in,” Thompson said. “When we have the opportunity to do light-duty, it’s something new, something different, and hey, we can look at these two different technologies that’s not used in the heavy-duty side.”
Plus, there wasn’t a lot of information about the light-duty diesel vehicles.
“We’re looking at passenger car diesel engines, and that was one of the reasons why we proposed to do the work - because there wasn’t a lot of public record or public dissemination of any of that type of information,” Carder said.
It’s why the initial interest was sparked in the project proposed by the International Clean Council of Technology. The ICCT had $50,000 allotted to compare European light-duty diesel-powered vehicles to those also found in the US, and WVU had the best proposal and the right resources – the chassis dynamometer – to do the job.
“This is stuff that allows us to play with big toys,” Thompson said.
The three vehicles chosen to study were written as “Vehicle X” in the initial paper, nixing the make and model. The identities were later revealed and are as follows: Vehicle A, a 2012 VW Jetta; Vehicle B, a 2013 VW Passat; and Vehicle C, a BMW X5. The location of testing was set in California because of connections with the California Air Quality Board and the higher range in change of elevation.
The researchers found that Vehicle A and Vehicle B, the Volkswagens, were producing excess emissions - 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide. These discovered results were not desired from the folks at CAFEE because they support diesel passenger cars.
“We were trying to show the opposite,” Carder said. “We’ve always been proponents of diesel, that it’s a very viable technology. We believe that industry and the regulatory agencies have done a great job of reducing emissions and harmful pollutants from diesel engines. We’ve been trying to support the introduction of diesels into the passenger car market because it’s not something that’s been very well accepted here.”
Consumers were not happy, either. Adam Richter, a now-former VW owner and enthusiast, said, “I don’t think a Volkswagen owner can feel anything but betrayed no matter what car you’re driving. The level of cheating is so, so bad, especially when you consider the issue of decreasing air pollution.
“People who bought diesel thinking they were cleaner using less carbon fuel thinking they were doing something better for the environment were actually making things worse for everybody.”
Consumers around the world were not pleased, either. In the past few months, sales have dropped 50 percent in Brazil and 25 percent in Russia, according to CNN. Overall, the Volkswagen Group, which is also Audi, Skoda, Porsche and Seat, was down 3.5 percent in October.
And Richter was just about to buy another Volkswagen, too.
“This whole scandal and the incredible - for lack of better word - evil thinking that went into it completely turned me off from buying a Volkswagen,” he said.
It’s a story for the whole world to be concerned about, and the initial amount of requests for interviews was overwhelming, so overwhelming that WVU’s research writer Marissa Sura became Carder’s temporary media relations person.
“It was like a tidal wave of requests from all over the world,” Sura said. “There’s been a lot of interest from European countries, but also Volkswagens are very popular in other parts of the world, like in Australia and Japan and even Korea. There’s even been interest from countries that don’t sell Volkswagen just because it’s a huge global business story.”
Thompson was meant to answer the initial email from the EPA, but he was teaching a class. Carder ended up responding to that email and a phone call that set his course of work for an indefinite amount of time.
His first phone call was from NBC, and it totally confused Carder. In this confusion, he even forgot the reporter’s name. However, she was very nice, he said. Carder just didn’t have a clue why she wanted to talk to him.
“I’m thinking something’s happened bad, something... who knows,” Carder said. “She said maybe you should go collect your thoughts, take time to check out the Internet and see what’s going on. I did, and we found the story broke.
“When I say I thought things were gonna get big, I figured there’d be a few phone calls from a few media outlets, a few articles or something, but I never would’ve dreamt it would be what it’s turned into,” Carder said.
That’s why he’s extremely thankful for Sura. Luckily, divine intervention helped reduce the amount of requests after the first few weeks - the Pope visited America and the focus shifted to him. However, there are still inquiries to talk to Carder.
“The requests became more detailed about the actual technology because it was less of a business story and more of a technology story,” Sura said.
While there will still be interviews trickling in about Volkswagen, the hope is that there will be more coverage about other findings from WVU.
“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, so I think as long as the story is still unresolved, we’ll probably still get questions about it, not nearly to the volume as when the news first broke,” Sura said. “I think there will always be journalists and readers who are curious about it and I think, as the center (CAFEE) continues to do the work that they do, people will be interested in what they’re doing because they’ve seen what they can do. Even if it’s not related to Volkswagen, I think we’ll continue to get requests about what we do here.”
Bragging about home won’t be a problem for proud West Virginia natives and WVU graduates Carder and Thompson.
“It’s atypical of an average West Virginian for them to be boisterous or go out and talk about how great they are, and I think that that’s kind of sad because there’s a lot of great things going on here and the world doesn’t know about it,” Carder said.
Initially, Thompson was slightly grumpy about the sheer amount of calls because they prevented him from doing his job. Now, he forwards them to Carder and has managed to see a positive side in this overall experience: talking about the wonderful state of West Virginia, his home.
“I’ve got a stack of papers to grade, this is what I’m concerned with,” Thompson said. “I don’t even go out and read the stuff in the newspapers, I don’t watch the news - I just can’t deal with it. I’ve gotta deal with this stuff here. The only thing that saves me from all of this is that hopefully this is positive publicity for WVU, for Morgantown, and for the state of West Virginia. And if it’s positive, then I think I’m doing good things as a faculty member.”
Looks Can Be Deceiving
By Ryan Decker
Sophomore infielder Kyle Davis may not necessarily jump out at you the first time you see him play.
He’s not 6’4”, he’s not the fastest kid nor does he have the most powerful bat on the team.
But he is consistent; both at the plate and in the field. And after you watch him play three, four, five, maybe six times, it’s easy to see that he is one of the best players on his team and has the ability to practically do anything he wants on the baseball diamond.
Those qualities, that assessment, is part of what ultimately got him overlooked by all the Big 12 schools that weren’t named West Virginia, and the reason he wound up in Morgantown.
“I’m not super flashy, but I was blessed to get an opportunity in the biggest conference that I could go,” Davis said in an interview prior to the Fall Baseball season. “That was my biggest goal: to go to a school with a good medical program, and really good fan base, really high academic standard, and really good conference.”
Davis has been playing baseball since he was 6-years old, growing up in Cincinnati.
He was a third baseman and a catcher at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy where, according to his father Duane, he broke six school records over the course of four years. In 2013 he set the school record for doubles in a season with 18, while batting for a .466 average.
The next season Davis hit eight fewer doubles, but he hit at an incredible .480 clip.
Despite his solid numbers Davis wasn’t getting some of the collegiate looks he and his family thought he deserved.
“He was a kid that just always produced,” Duane said. “So, when you’re 5’11”, he’s not the fastest guy in the world, you’ve got to see him play a bunch of times. There were many colleges that were on him, but he probably didn’t get the big-time schools that, based on his production, we thought he would hear from. But anybody that saw him play five, six, seven times loved him.
“It was a best of times, worst of times type of deal. You think he should be getting attention from bigger schools. The fact that he’s not, I understand why. But, at the end of the day when you see production over time, it’s like, yeah, he can play at that level no question.”
West Virginia was one of those schools that loved him. Duane talked of one particular time the Mountaineers had eyes on his son.
“I remember this like it was yesterday,” Duane said, describing a summer league game Kyle played in after having been moved up to a new team. “Eric Matlock was sitting up in the stands at 8 o’clock in the morning up in Cleveland. Kyle had a great game. My parents happened to be sitting behind (Matlock) and saw the notes that he was writing down. ‘Great stick. Got to look at this kid.’”
The next part is obvious. Davis signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the Mountaineers, the only member of the Big 12 conference that offered him a baseball scholarship.
“I wanted to go to the biggest conference I could, so that obviously made (WVU) the top choice,” Kyle said. “But when I saw the new renderings of the stadium I was like, ‘That’s incredible.’ They have a really good medical program, so, that’s what I want to do in the future. And it’s only four-and-a-half hours away from home. My grandparents can come see me, my parents. Coach Mazey was awesome. You’re here and it feels right. All the visits I came on, and it just felt right. So I was like I must be here.”
Duane concurred, “I don’t know if it was meant to be, but it has certainly worked out well.” He went on to say, “At the end of the day it was like, ‘I’m supposed to be here for something.’ And maybe last year rubber-stamped that he was supposed to be there.”
Part of the reason it has worked out so well is because of his hitting ability, something that appeared evident from the get go.
“As soon as he walked on campus you could tell that he had a really good feel for hitting,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “Once we realized that, it occurred to us that we needed to find a way to get him in the lineup. So, we tried him at third base, tried him in left field, tried him at second base, he actually caught some in the fall and early spring. We were just trying to find a way to get his bat in the lineup.”
Last season as a freshman Davis did things that haven’t been done by a first-year player at WVU since current major leaguer Jedd Gyorko wore the blue and gold.
Davis hit for a team-leading .353 average, and also led the Mountaineers in at bats, runs scored, doubles and on-base percentage. He was named to Baseball America’s Freshman All-American Team and, among other accolades, was named to the All-Big 12 Rookie Team and All-Big 12 Second Team.
So, how does Davis improve upon last season? Statistically it will be hard to do. However, according to the head coach, he’s made progress since last season ended.
“He’s getting a lot more serious about his baseball ability,” Mazey said. “He’s transformed his body a little bit; he looks great. He’s moving a lot better; he’s way more athletic. He’s starting to realize that he’s a really good player.”
Motivation is a part of what’s driving Davis to continue to improve. He hasn’t forgotten about the eight opposing teams in the conference, or any other team in the country for that matter, that didn’t show interest.
When asked if the fact that his only Big 12 look came from WVU motivates him, Davis said, “It obviously puts a chip on my shoulder. ‘Who’s this kid? Where’d he come from?’ That’s what I want to show people. I got the last laugh almost. I’m here, and I would rather stay here than be at any other Big 12 school for sure.”
“He gets really motivated to face the best team on the schedule, the best pitcher that we play against,” said Mazey. “That’s why he has his best at bats and best average against the best guys.”
Asked what set WVU apart from other schools that were interested in him, and that he was interested in, Davis said that the Mountaineers’ brand new field, that during his recruiting process hadn’t even begun to be built yet, was a selling point.
“We would look at pictures of it on Facebook, and we would look at renderings of it trying to picture it,” said Davis. “And it was just so hard, looking back on the pictures now, it was like, now I see where that was going, but it was kind of hard to tell back then on those renderings.
“The anticipation was just really real. We just wanted to get out there. Once we finally stepped on it, and looked back and saw the 3,500 people, there’s nothing I can really compare it to. Just having everyone here for you, because West Virginia doesn’t have many sports teams. So, the state really revolves around West Virginia and that other school. It’s incredible. The fan base we have here. And now that this thing is built, the fans want to come. We have more space now for more fans than ever. Playing on this field for the first time, being one of the first people to play on this field, it’s something that I can say forever, and look back on.”
The wonderful Whites of West Virginia
By Ashley Conley
Kevin White’s younger brothers look to carry on football legacy at WVU
Kevin, Ka’Raun and Kyzir White all have a few things in common. Aside from being brothers, they all have top-notch football skills, similar hairstyles, and they’ve all played junior college football at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania.
Perhaps the most significant thing they all have in common is the aspiration to play football in West Virginia, at the state’s flagship university.
We all remember the iconic dreadlock hair that blew in the wind overtop the No. 11 on Kevin White’s jersey from 2013-2014.
Now, Mountaineer fans are having flashbacks as Kevin’s younger brother, Ka’Raun, has made his debut at WVU where he also plays the wide receiver position. Not only does Ka’Raun have that same dreadlock hairstyle, but he’s also starting to show some of the sheer talent Kevin provided at Milan Puskar Stadium for two seasons.
“I am not comparing the two. I’m not. I won’t,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen as the 2015-16 season got underway. “Ka’Raun is new. He has been on campus since June. Kevin was on campus for a whole year before things started to click for him.”
That statement from Holgorsen meant that Ka’Raun was beginning to develop into a valuable asset even faster than Kevin, who is now known as one of the best players in WVU football history, did.
Kevin’s journey to WVU, or any Division I school for that matter, was long and difficult given that his grades and financial situation coming out of high school were not ideal. Finally in 2013, after an injury-plagued tenure at Lackawanna, White was given an opportunity to move up to the top level of collegiate football.
He decided to become a West Virginia Mountaineer.
As a junior, Kevin caught just 35 passes for 507 yards and only found the endzone five times. Holgorsen wasn’t exaggerating when he said it took a while for things to start clicking, but no one expected what was about to happen next.
When his senior season got underway, Kevin quickly became one of the best receivers in the country. As the first receiver at the Division I level to reach the 1,000-yard mark that year, Kevin also led the Heisman Trophy race well into the month of November. He finished the season with a whopping 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“It’s easy,” White said jokingly at his NFL Pro Day back in March. The phrase, “It’s easy!” quickly became Kevin’s trademark as his talent level rose. “It’s a mental thing. If you think something’s hard, it’s gonna be hard. If you think it’s easy, it’s gonna be easy. If you think you’re great at something, you’re gonna be great.”
Kevin is now continuing his football career at the next level, the NFL. As a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears took Kevin seventh overall. Although he hasn’t been active all season due to another lingering injury, chances are things are just taking a while to click, just like they did before he had a breakout season at WVU.
Exit Kevin, enter Ka’Raun.
Just imagine how hard it must to be to follow in those footsteps.
The whole process of transforming into a Division I athlete at WVU has certainly been tougher on Ka’Raun, given the fact that he’s often compared to Kevin in every football aspect.
“Coaches were talking to me, telling me to relax,” Ka’Raun said following his first productive game against Texas Tech on Nov. 7 where he caught a career-high of five passes for 80 yards. “You know, I was worried about being compared to my brother and stuff like that.”
Though the constant comparisons aren’t always confidence boosters, they can sometimes be beneficial. Ka’Raun says he talks to his older brother every day and receives useful advice from someone who’s already gone down the road he’s currently on.
“My brother? Oh, I talk to him every day,” Ka’Raun said. “I send him practice film and he lets me know what I’m doing wrong and stuff like that. It’s a big motivation.”
Quarterback Skyler Howard has experience throwing to both Kevin and Ka’Raun. Although the No. 2 isn’t his top target quite yet like the No. 11 was back in 2014, Howard says he’s starting to see Ka’Raun transform into his own type of player.
“He has strong hands in traffic,” Howard said. “You know, I always prefer to his brother (Kevin), but he’s becoming his own player and his own man and I’m really proud of the way he’s coming along and he’s really showed what he can do.”
Ka’Raun has played in only five of West Virginia’s nine games thus far this season. Through those five games, he has 10 receptions for 145 yards. With three-straight games of production, Holgorsen gave him the starting nod against the Texas Longhorns last week.
“I’ve been waiting,” he said. “It finally happened. It felt good out there. I’m not worried about being compared to my brother anymore. Just be patient, and play like I’ve been playing.”
The future looks bright for Mountaineer fans that follow the White family legacy. Next season, the youngest of the White boys will make his WVU debut.
Unlike his brothers, Kyzir plays the safety position. He’s also the highest-rated of the three to commit to WVU as a four-star recruit with additional offers from Pitt, Penn State, Louisville and Arizona, among others.
As a freshman at Lackawanna, Kyzir had 34 tackles and an interception. This season as a sophomore, he has 37 tackles and three interceptions. The young talent is expected to arrive on the WVU campus sometime in December of this year to start preparing for his first season in the old gold and blue.
The White family has truly brought something special to the state of West Virginia. These three brothers, originally from New Jersey, made the move to Pennsylvania as young boys and somehow, someway, they’ve all found a home right here in Almost Heaven.
Pole dancing is my therapy
By Rebecca Toro
Jasmine Scheffel discovered the art of pole dancing to give herself a release from the traumatizing event that occurred in her life.
She was living in Charleston, South Carolina, and was on duty there, serving in the military. She felt that she needed to do something more with her time and got a job at a Coyote Ugly-style saloon. They danced to choreographed dances as well as bartended.
“When I was working at the Saloon, I had a boyfriend. We were together for a year and a half, almost two years. We were going through a rough patch and it was just getting better. I remember he asked me to go to Miami, he asked me in October and he asked me to go in January. And the rumor was that he was going to propose to me. And I would’ve probably said yes. All of a sudden he died in a car accident,” says Scheffel.
Scheffel was the bartender for her boyfriend and his friends that night. She did not know that when she was serving them two rounds of Miller Lights and Rum & Cokes, that only her boyfriend drank them. She got busy and did not see that he wandered off with his friends. She did not understand how managed to drive onto the base were they both served. Scheffel was furious when he called her asking for a ride because he was too drunk to drive any further. Her anger continued as she drove to meet him at the gas station which was the closest place she could meet him since on base is zero tolerance for alcohol. This lead them to get in a fight and the gas station attendant chased them off. They both were driving home. They lived together and Scheffel followed his car to their home but he kept speeding past her. She then got stopped at a red light and he kept going. That was the last time she ever saw him.
“His family sort of blamed it on me, a lot of people did. They were like ‘Why didn’t you take his keys?’ Like of course I would do anything to go back and take his keys. In my situation I was scared, we were fighting. I don’t want to say he was getting violent. He was an amazing person. I was a little bit nervous I guess, scared. And in that situation it was hard. And so I got blamed for it. So I kind of had to cover it up, expressing it. I guess through movement was the only way. It helped a lot. And it is like therapy I feel like, dancing,” says Scheffel.
She had to dance, she had to get those horrible last moments with her boyfriend out of her head. She needed a clear mind.
Scheffel had always wondered what the choreographer at the Saloon did with her free time, and it turns out she taught pole dancing.
“So I just started taking her class. And it was just fun at first. Dancing is kind of like therapy. It started helping me through that tough time. It was the only time my mind wasn’t on what happened. It was an escape,” says Scheffel. “And then when people started saying I was good which I didn’t think I was. ‘Really, I’m good?’ It was a confidence booster and it kind of progressed from there.”
That’s when she started getting really good. With her dedication and energy, the results were unimaginable.
“Before I was not super insecure but like any normal person. I feel like- everyone is insecure. After hanging around my dance teacher a lot and taking pole, I started getting a lot of confidence and then the physical results. So I started seeing my abs come in for the first time and I was like ‘Wait, I don’t hardly break a sweat. How am I getting abs? Just this!?’” Scheffel says.
In August 2012, Scheffel moved to Morgantown to attend school at West Virginia University. She saved up enough money and opened up her own studio the following February.
Scheffel even began to enter competitions.
She would compete in these grand hotels. She would walk into the hotel and it would be full of pole dancers. Scheffel has a small studio compared to the others but that did not stop her from going in there and giving it her all. She is astounded with the students that actually stuck to pole and went with her to compete because it is not a facile sport. Her style is less on the exotic side and more on the gymnastics side of pole.
“When you’re by yourself in a sport, like a dance, you’re going up there alone. It’s so nerve-wracking. And I respect anybody that gets out there. I’m so proud of them (students). It’s big getting up there because I know how I feel when I get up there. You want to bail. I respect anyone who can get up there and do that,” Scheffel says.
It does not matter at what age you do pole, the confidence, the skills, and the feeling one gets from performing are the biggest confidence boosters yet.
“I do believe pole fitness helps increase a woman’s self-confidence. Beyond the positive physical changes such as increased lean muscle and endurance, it helps women feel a sense of accomplishment through learning, challenging, new body movements, says Haute Fitness pole center owner Sue Barron. “Pole dancers are very eager to share experiences, spread the love of pole dance/fitness with non-polers, and help one another out.”
Pole is more than just an art; is an escape for people like Scheffel.
“There’s just something about it that’s gonna make you more confident and in shape,” Scheffel says.
An Appalachian tradition
By Kaitlyn Neff
Travis Stimeling grew up in Upshur County, West Virginia listening to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings with his dad. Little did he know, commercial country would create a huge impact on his future profession.
Stimeling is an Appalachian music historian where he is given the opportunity to share his love for his home state. Appalachian music was a key influence on the production of country music, bluegrass and old-time music. This music is derived from the region of Appalachia located in the Eastern United States. Appalachian music became an interest to Stimeling and now his profession.
“Dad had this 8-track tape of Willie Nelson, and I can remember him singing, ‘Well I gotta get drunk, and I sure do dread it ‘cause I know just what I’m gonna do. I’ll start to spend my money calling everybody honey and wind up singing the blues.’ I was probably like 3 years old and this song was stuck in my head,” Stimeling said.
He would spend his Wednesday nights in Elkins, West Virginia at the Augusta Heritage Center where they would have “Pickin’ in the Park.” He would attend with his mom by his side just to listen. He was too nervous to ever play at that age. He began to play bluegrass gospel music with his mom at 11 years old.
“She played piano and I played guitar. I would sing the high tenor harmony to my mom’s lead, and then when my voice changed we would flip,” Stimeling said with a laugh.
He attended a Methodist church on Sundays where he would partake in a tradition that introduced him to Appalachian music.
“We had this wonderful tradition that on months that had five Sundays we would get together and have a sing. So all the choirs would get together and anyone who played music would come, and we would all spend two or three hours together just playing music. This was my real introduction to the music of Appalachia,” Stimeling said.
Stimeling completed his undergraduate degree in low brass performance at West Virginia Wesleyan and then continued his education at West Virginia University, where he received his master’s degree in music history. He earned his Ph.D. in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After spending six years teaching at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, he moved back to Morgantown, where he currently teaches music history at West Virginia University.
Alongside his profession as a music history professor, Stimeling is a scholar of commercial country and Appalachian traditional music. He recently edited an anthology of primary source readings in country music history spanning the late 19th century to the present titled “The Country Music Reader,” wrote a book titled “Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive County Music Scene” which earned an American Musicological Society Publication Subvention and published articles in journals such as “American Music,” “Popular Music,” “Popular Music in Society” and the “Journal of Popular Music Studies.”
Currently, Stimeling is working on a book on songwriting in West Virginia.
“This is a project that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but it wasn’t possible until I moved back home. This is my third year back home after 10 years away, so I’m working on that.”
Stimeling was recently hired by the WVU Press as an editor for an upcoming series titled, “Sounding Appalachia.” This will include documents rich in traditions of music making in Appalachia including gospel, blues, country, old-time, jazz and classical. He will work with authors from a variety of disciplinary and methodological backgrounds as well.
Stimeling is also credited with starting the first bluegrass band at WVU about a year ago. He said it went from an idea to taping posters around the Creative Arts Center and now a program.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for his encouragement, I would have never started singing in the bluegrass band. It is great to find that kind of music, see where it is happening, and go to it. He’s had a pretty significant influence on my last two years here,” said Sophia Enriquez, a senior music education student at WVU.
Stimeling is pleased with the amount of participation from the group.
“Part of my mission is to just get people playing this kind of music. It is really exciting to be able to offer this as an opportunity to students. Show up, we’ll give you what you need, and we will have fun,” Stimeling said.
Mon Hills Records released the WVU bluegrass band’s first album recently, and the group is currently touring around the state. Stimeling said the band’s goal is to visit every county in West Virginia and perform.
“Dr. Stimeling always has the music of West Virginia in mind. It is good for the university to be recognized in supporting these musical traditions. This area is a prime Appalachia music country,” said Enriquez.
With modern-day country being drastically different than what Stimeling usually focuses on in his scholarly work, he offers his opinions on the subject.
“My caveat is that I’m a country music scholar. I accept modern day country as country music, and I accept that audiences approach it the same way. For me personally, I am not a fan of the overly produced and extremely loud country music that is coming out these days. I’ve spoken about this before,” Stimeling said.
Stimeling said he likes music where you can tell that the musicians are in the room together having fun with one another. He said that contemporary country music seems like a wash of sound. He likes hearing the musicians working.
Stimeling shared a story about experiencing Colleen Anderson, a songwriter who wrote “If You Love My West Virginia,” speak at a protest regarding the Elk River spill.
“She gets up there and says ‘My name is Colleen Anderson and I am going to speak the only way I know how,’ and she sang, ‘If you love my West Virginia you will keep her mountains clean,’” said Stimeling.
Anderson directed her song towards politicians regarding the state of environment after the spill.
“Those voices are the ones that I want heard. Not those ‘get up in my truck, hey baby’ voices. These are voices that can help us solve problems. The world we are living in is complex and it is thoroughly screwed up, but sometimes songwriters have the ability to say things that are incredibly perceptive, and do it in a way that is memorable and catchy. I’d like to hear that stuff on the radio,” Stimeling said.
After living away from home for 10 years, Stimeling said they were the hardest years of his life. He missed the hills of West Virginia, but he wouldn’t be the person he is today if he hadn’t spent those years away.
“We all have to go some place different to have experiences, but we can always come back. West Virginia is kind of like your grandma, I guess. Grandma understands when you have to go do something else, but she always has a piece of pie in the fridge for you when you get home,” Stimeling said.
While Stimeling’s scholarly work keeps him busy and sometimes away from home, he enjoys all aspects of his work. He says that he finds great enjoyment out of meeting new people, going into their homes, talking about their careers and how they make music. To him, learning all of this information makes his job worthwhile.
One could stay that Stimeling’s love for Appalachian music comes from his love of the state of West Virginia. He stresses that West Virginia is a special place filled with so much opportunity. When Stimeling tours with the WVU bluegrass band, he shares with students the importance for kids to go out and get an education, but come back and be an addition to the communities that they grew up in.
“No matter where you are, you want to be home,” Stimeling said.