Trail mix


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Texas State junior Mason Puckett stops for a scenic selfie along the Pacific Crest Trail. He completed the hike with his brother, Conor, in four months.

Bobcat, brother conquer Pacific Crest Trail  

By Mariah Medina

Mason Puckett began his college education as a criminal justice major, but after a four-month, 2,650-mile hike, the Texas State University junior has a broader scope of interest for his future.

It was a journey with his brother, Conor, along the legendary Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that set Mason on a new path. The red-haired duo came home on October 28 lighter by a combined 60 pounds, and a lot richer in experiences.

“The reason we, as backpackers, do what we do is multifaceted and impossible to answer,” Conor wrote before making the trip. “Smelling fresh air hinted by the different scents of the country under your feet … It’s the fire burning in your chest and the mile-long views from the top of mountain passes. Pulsating adrenaline after an encounter with a not-so-friendly animal and the inexplicable, mouthwatering deliciousness that trail food becomes. All of these require a removal from day-to-day, week-to-week distractions in order to experience.”

For months the men called various places along the trail from Mexico to Canada home — making sure to write about their experiences weekly on Conor’s blog, From inflamed knees to encounters with area wildlife, first-aid training and hikes through Texas state parks couldn’t prepare the two for what adventures the trail held.

“Hiking a long trail is very mentally exhausting as well because every day we had to hike for 12 hours, and we knew we would be out for no less than four months,” Mason says. “So there really isn’t any great way to train for a long trail besides hiking a long trail.”

The trail passes through six of the seven major ecosystems— excluding the tundra — making the PCT a favorite choice for Conor. He had initially planned on making the trip with a friend, but financial problems came up, and Conor reached out to his brother.

“I was in my English class and immediately I said yes because I can always take summer classes if I need to make up hours,” Mason says. Bringing the idea to their parents, however, was a new obstacle. While the brothers are both Eagle Scouts and very familiar with the wilderness, their parents expressed concerns ranging from “how will you afford it?” to “what if you get eaten by a bear?” After some discussion, they got parental approval, and ― more importantly — the approval of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

There was a delay of about a week from their planned starting date, but the duo were eventually among a group of 50 PCT hikers to begin the trail on July 1.    Equipped with backpacks filled with Snickers, oatmeal cream pies and other high-calorie foods, the two set off for the Canadian border. Thanks to the hospitality of others, who would give Mason and Conor rides to local eateries and back to the trail whenever necessity took them off course, the brothers are among the 4,605 people who have successfully hiked the PCT.

Conor, who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, joined the workforce.  Mason returned to Texas State in January with a renewed focus on careers relevant to land management and wildlife preservation.


Photo courtesy of Mason Puckett

Top 15 TXST Moments of 2015


2015 was full of memorable moments at Texas State University. Here are some of the top moments in no particular order as measured by their popularity on our social media accounts.

15.  San Marcos ranks as one of the 50 Best Small College Towns in America

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It’s hard to deny that San Marcos is an amazing place to live. This year it was ranked as one of the top small college towns in the country.

14. Butler Hall at Texas State University made U.S. News & World Report’s list of haunted university residence halls

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Students have long reported strange sounds and feelings of being watched in Butler Hall.

13. Acclaimed film director Robert Rodriguez delivered the LBJ Distinguished Lecture

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In his speech, Rodriguez urged the audience to “embrace the idea that you are a student” and to remember the maxim, “action first, inspiration second.”

12. Bubble Believers bring joy to the Texas State campus

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This fall, the Texas State Bubble Believers spread positive energy across campus, blowing bubbles and giving words of encouragement to passers-by.

11. Texas State University at sunset from our Instagram follower, @jdbecceiro

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This photo taken by one of our Instagram followers, quickly became our most popular Instagram post, earning more than 2,200 likes on the social network.

10. Texas State celebrates the anniversary of the Higher Education Act

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The Higher Education Act, signed by Texas State University distinguished alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson on this campus 50 years ago, opened up possibilities for thousands of lower- and middle-income students who otherwise might never have pursued advanced education.

9. Alkek Library celebrates its 25th anniversary


The Albert B. Alkek Library, named for an influential oilman and philanthropist, was founded in 1990 and celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

8. Texas State sets enrollment record for 18th consecutive year

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Texas State University announced the most diverse student body in the school’s history, part of a record-setting enrollment for the 2015 fall semester.

7. Star Wars Day at Texas State

TIE fighters and AT-ATs were spotted on campus in these two popular posts in honor of Star Wars Day.

6. Lost bull on campus


Students were instructed to “steer” clear of the area as a lost bull made its way on to campus.

5. Texas State launches Snapchat account and filtersCVpNkJNWwAABZNd

Texas State expanded its social media presence with a Snapchat account. The popular photo sharing app is one of the fastest growing.

4. Therapy dogs visit Alkek Library


The therapy dogs from Divine Canines made multiple visits to the Alkek Library during finals week to help students get through the stress of the exams.

3. Texas State student goes viral with sign language version of “Uptown Funk”

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Texas State student, Brian Guendling brought the house down with his sign language version of the Bruno Mars hit, “Uptown Funk” and became a YouTube sensation overnight.

2. Texas State physics professors uncover a hidden secret behind one of history’s most iconic photos.


Texas State professor, Don Olson uncovered a secret behind this iconic photo.

1. Students volunteer to help with flood relief


After the San Marcos area was struck by flooding in both May and October, the students of Texas State University volunteered in the relief efforts.

Preparing for Thanksgiving

by Texas State SLAC


The days are getting shorter as your to-do list is getting longer. You might be tempted to put some class work off till after Thanksgiving because you don’t want to be doing homework, writing papers, working on projects or studying for tests while you are around family and friends, eating turkey and then sleeping off the L-tryptophan! But by putting off course assignments, you could find yourself neck-deep in work — and facing lowered motivation because the semester is almost over. Plus you’ll have finals to study for. Here is a better course of action.

Today and tonight:

  1. Write a rough outline for a paper and/or presentation.
  2. Review notes about your 99 physics problems (or problems in any other class) and do related homework.
  3. Plan and start any projects and/or presentations due by the end of class.
  4. Read notes for other upcoming tests.

Tomorrow night and the next few nights:

  1. Write the first paragraph of your paper and/or prepare the first slide of your presentation.
  2. Continue working on homework due before and after Thanksgiving.
  3. Implement plans for projects and/or presentations and begin needed research.
  4. Study your notes a little more.

The next week:

  1. Go over your work to make sure it is written or presented in a professional manner.
  2. Make necessary corrections to homework and to your notes.
  3. Develop plans and projects more and research more as needed.
  4. Continue studying as needed.

During Thanksgiving, you can be worry free because either you are done with all your projects or you are finishing them in manageable amounts.

This takes planning, but you can get started now. Once the ball is rolling, it’s easier to keep it in motion. Don’t sabotage yourself by waiting until the last minute. Start getting the work done today so that this Thanksgiving is as restful as possible.


Stay “App-to-Date”

Apps are an important addition to any phone.

Apps are an important addition to any smartphone. Photo credit: danielygo/

by Julia Sloan

Let’s answer the question that millions search Google for every day: “What are the best apps for my phone?” There are complicated and in-depth lists that rate apps by company, genre and cost. There are so many, in fact, that the search for the “best app” is almost fruitless. With college schedules getting more hectic, students need apps that are easy to learn and use and are beneficial for college life. Here are our picks for the top six must-have (and mostly free for iOS and Android) apps for college students.


Trying out a diet but still eating pizza at Harris every time you finish at the Rec? MyFitnessPal can help. This app allows you to track calories and meals, set a goal weight and browse recipes (see the “Community” tab) for simple meals. For support, you can add your friends and even comment on or “like” their updates. Not only does this app have 16 million+ downloads, it’s free on iOS, Android and Windows operating systems.


Need some tunes while you’re waiting for the bus? Spotify is free to download, easy to use and is overflowing with songs to suit your music needs. Spotify Premium allows you to listen offline without an Internet connection. It does cost a bit of cash to use, but there are discounts for students and families. Google Play comes in at a close second, allowing you access to the music you keep in your cloud.

Grade Tracker Pro

Grade Tracker Pro allows you to calculate the grades you need to pass a class, whether the professor operates on a point system or percentage system. It also calculates current GPA standing and class averages.


Your end-of-the-week Chipotle tradition sounds delicious, but may not be so healthy for a college budget. Paired with your bank account, BillGuard keeps track of your spending and notifies you if someone tries to use your card.  Stay on top of your money habits with this app that allows you to budget efficiently.


It is hard to complete the ever-growing pile of homework with the constant urge to check your messages and notifications. Solve your habit of procrastination and self-distraction with this clever app by growing your own forest. Set an amount of time to stay off your phone and in that time, the small tree will grow. If you use your phone before your set time is up, the tree will die. The only downside is that it does cost .99 cents for iPhone users. Find more about this clever app here.


What does social media need more of? Filters. Snapseed is a free app that offers many filters for photos without endless searching, and is great for adding that extra flair to your Instagram and Facebook photos. Capture your best Bobcat game-day moments in style, from the tailgate to the final touchdown.

Do you have any apps that you’d like to recommend? We’d love to hear how you use technology to make college life easier to manage.





How the “Google Maps Method” Can Help You Through Essay Tests


When you read an essay question, do you get a headache? Does your brain go blank? Try comparing taking essay tests to using Google Maps or another map search engine. Principles that achieve good map search results also work for answering essay questions.


Read the question thoroughly. Details determine the route you take in your explanation.

Search tip: Identify specifics in an essay question so you don’t waste time on false starts and explanations that are loose or dead ends.


Make an outline of relevant information to make clear connections, organized by main and subordinate ideas.

Search tip: Link relevant ideas into a navigable whole. If links or chains of reasoning are random or chaotic, your answer could miss the mark.


Visualize action words to find your line of argument:

  • ANALYZE – provide an in-depth exploration of a topic, considering components of ideas and their interrelationships
  • EXPLAIN – clarify, interpret, give reasons for differences of opinion or of results, analyze causes
  • ILLUSTRATE – justify your position or answer a question using concrete examples
  • TRACE – describe the evolution, development or progress of the subject step-by-step, sometimes using chronological order
  • COMPARE/CONTRAST – emphasize similarities and/or differences between two topics, give reasons pro and con
  • PROVE – argue the truth of a statement by giving factual evidence and logical reasoning
  • CRITICIZE – express your judgment about the merit, truth or usefulness of the views or factors mentioned in the question and support your judgment with facts and explanations
  • EVALUATE – appraise, give your viewpoint, cite limitations and advantages, include the opinion of authorities and give evidence to support your position
  • INTERPRET – translate, give examples or comment on a subject, usually including your own viewpoint
  • REVIEW – examine and respond to possible problems or obstacles in your account

Search tip: Use the essay question as your guide to choose the line of argument that allows you to make your strongest, most concise argument. Then, map your answer! 


If your professor allows, take in an outline or more than one outline of essay questions, but be SURE this is OK before you do this. If you can’t take in an outline, go in with one (or more) in your mind, and write it inside of your bluebook or on your paper first thing. This helps when you can’t remember something because of stress. It also helps you stay calm and focused during tests.

Happenings: Library Turns 25

Alkek Library Celebrates 25th Year

by Julia Sloan

Our Albert B. Alkek Library, named for an influential oilman and philanthropist, was founded in 1990. Previously, the J. C. Kellam Building housed our books and resources. To symbolically mark the official move to the new library, which opened on May 1, 1990, a long line of students, faculty and staff formed a “Book-It Brigade” to transfer four books from JCK to Alkek: La relacion y comentarios del governado Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca from the Southwestern Writers Collection, Selections from the Poems of Robert Burns, the aptly titled Move! and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

New column-wraps on Alkek celebrate the building's 25 years.

Column wraps on Alkek celebrate the building’s first 25 years.

Members of the Texas State community are invited to join a reenactment of this event on September 23 at 10 a.m. The line will start at Old Main, where the very first Texas State library was, and end at the top of the Alkek Library staircase. Some of the people who were involved in the original Book-it Brigade are still a part of the Alkek family, working and serving our library as it celebrates 25 years on the Texas State campus.

Library Associate Vice President Joan Heath is excited about the many events that will mark the building’s first quarter-century. “The whole point of this celebration is to share it with the whole campus community,” she says. These 25 years bring the past and the present of Texas State population together, giving “the students back then and the students of today something in common, 25 years apart,” says Heath.

As technology advances, more and more students are turning to online resources for completing class assignments. The Alkek Library serves both as a physical library and a virtual one, offering books to check out and online databases for extended research. Despite the changes that have taken place over the past 25 years, Heath says, “People still need the physical library. It feels great to walk out on the main floor and see it so busy. To me, that’s a message. That says we’re doing something to meet the needs of students.”

Many celebrations are happening this semester. Join in the party! Learn about all the planned events at

SLAC’s Freshman Survival Guide


Moving to a new city and starting at a new school can be challenging for anyone. Read these tips and tricks from experienced Bobcats to guide you through your first year @txst!

1. More dining resources are available for you to use with your Bobcat Bucks than just the local dining hall. Baker’s Crust, Boko’s Mongolian Grill, Meatball Mania, Einstein Bros and more are available for you with your Bobcat Bucks. See this map for more information.


2. Walking Through the Quad: The Risks and Rewards

In a Rush?

If you need to make a quick trip to your classes, avoid eye contact with people—especially those at booths—on the Quad. Put your headphones on and walk fast. Beware, especially, of the Fighting Stallions in front of Derrick and next to Evans. It is a known gathering spot for those wishing to speak their minds on a variety of issues.

Time to Spare?

If you have time, student involvement opportunities are offered on the Quad. Social sororities and fraternities, honor societies and political, volunteer and career organizations look for members there, and many groups raise funds for charities. Also, organizations and some local vendors will sell food or products at their booths. Plus, you almost always can find someone giving away free stuff like koozies, sunglasses, T-shirts and, sometimes, soft drinks!

3. Find all of the computer labs available for student use on campus here.  You never know when your computer might crash or your printer might die. Along those lines, save, save, save!

4. Even a little studying goes a long way! You don’t have to study for six hours a day to be successful. And studying in small, measurable increments can prevent you from being overwhelmed nearer to midterms.


5. Learn how to write e-mails to your professors. They won’t take you seriously if you begin your e-mail with “Hey, so,” or use all lowercase (or worse, uppercase) letters and forego correct punctuation.

6. Make friends in your classes and get their phone numbers. You will have questions at 2 a.m., and so will they.

7. Join an organization! It’s the fastest way to make friends, and a good excuse to get out of your room.

8. Make sure you have another room besides your residence hall room to hang out in. Too much time together can make even good roommates irritable and prone to fighting.

9. Learn where you can and can’t park to avoid parking tickets. Maps for parking are available here.

10. If you can, get an on-campus job. That way getting to work doesn’t involve driving, you’ll be earning some spending money while still having time to study, and you’ll meet more college students just like you.

11. Join the Honors College! It offers not only free coffee and a warm and inviting lounge, but also, most important, interesting people and fantastic classes. Check to see if you meet the minimum requirements here and enjoy awesome classes in place of other classes! For example, honors students can take classes like “America in the 1970s” in their freshman year in place of a history credit.

12. Get familiar with and make use of the recreation center, on-campus tutoring centers, counseling and health centers, and other services you are already paying for through your student service fees.

13. Sign up for alerts about emergency situations, cancelations and more with the Texas State Alert System. Find out more at here.

14. In need of some sleep? Head to Boko’s Living Room. Just be sure to get pillows and blankets from the clean bin!

Keep these tips in mind and your first year will be a breeze! Eat ’em up Cats!

Written with the help of writing tutors Aly, Katy, Jon, Marilyse, Abby and Rachel at the Student Learning Assistance Center (SLAC).