by Wynona Mobley --

(Editor's note: We shared another family's story about the Kente ceremony in last week's Parent Perspective. Learn more about this mom's "extensive research.")

Trinity always had my vote during the college process. Like most mothers, I did my research – extensive research – and was pleased with what I found. A university that would challenge, encourage, and prepare my daughter for her greatest successes. But what about diversity? While the statistics I found may not have been exactly what I hoped, I understood the reality. I trusted that the low representation of diversity would be relative in relation to the overall population. I hoped.

This hope quickly turned into a confident reality. From the strength of the Black Student Union to the frequency of Diversity Dialogues, Taylor’s comfort in regard to diversity on campus eased my mind and reiterated my initial belief that Trinity was the right decision for her college experience. Each story, each experience, each moment Taylor shared with me touched my heart, but there was one moment that meant the most to me. It was the first annual Kente ceremony that took place the week of her graduation.

When Taylor initially told me that some of her fellow seniors were planning Trinity’s first Kente ceremony, I was skeptical. The Kente ceremony is a rich tradition on most campuses that recognizes African-American seniors for the successes and achievements that led them to graduation. The term Kente comes from the cloth design on the stole that is worn by graduates to act as a visual representation for reaching this milestone. The ceremony is intimate and a family member “dons” the graduate with a beautiful stole. My skepticism did not come from doubts that the students could plan an appropriate ceremony, but rather from a fear of how the university would receive it. To hold dialogues and meetings is one thing, but to support the first Kente ceremony, clearly specific to one racial group, is not only a risk but could be taken the wrong way. I am pleased to say, however, that my doubts went away the minute I arrived.

James, Taylor, and Wynona Mobley at the 2016 Kente ceremony. 
The ceremony exceeded my expectations. As I watched the event unfold, I did not feel as if I was witnessing the first Kente ceremony at Trinity, but rather one that carried on a preceding tradition. It was a proud moment to see a group of young men and women, many of whom I have witnessed grow over their college career, start a legacy that will carry on long after they are gone. Each student introduced the next recipient and invited their family member to don them with the Kente cloth. To see young students of color sing each other’s praises was a moment I won’t soon forget. The bond between them was unbreakable which suggests the environment that fostered their relationships over the past four years was a healthy one.

As an illustration of the University’s inclusiveness, the audience at the ceremony said it all. Attending were the president, the dean of students, and even coordinators of Residential Life. For them to support this ceremony put on by the Black Student Union, Black Male Leadership Initiative, and African Student Association speaks volumes of Trinity and its core values. It was in this moment that I felt my research four years ago was not only true, but it was exemplified right before my eyes. Trinity is forever growing, innovating and trying to be better. Not just academically but socially and, in the midst of it all, I believe diversity is at the forefront of the change. Trinity could have rejected this idea when it was brought to the table, but instead, it was welcomed, supported and well attended.

I am proud of my daughter for being part of this inaugural ceremony at Trinity, but I know this group of students won’t be the last group to take risks and test the limits. Whatever the situation may be, I believe Trinity will be there to offer the same support I witnessed throughout Taylor’s college career. Therefore, if you’re doing extensive research, like I was, and you’re hesitant when it comes to the diversity category, trust that Trinity will make your child feel included and valued, no matter what the statistic says.

About Wynona

Wynona and James Mobley are the parents of Taylor Mobley ’16, who was active in the Admissions Office as a Distinguished Representative, tour guide, and Admissions intern while working with Tiger TV and as a resident assistant.

(Editor's note: In observance of Black History Month, we are sharing a story about Trinity's first Kente ceremony sponsored by the Black Student Union. We will share another family's story next week.)

by Frederick M. Woods --

Kente cloth, known as Nwentoma (woven cloth) in the Ashanti language of Ghana, is a sacred colorful silk cloth worn only in times of extreme importance. The Trinity University Black Student Union (BSU) deemed, as did their parents, that graduation from college is a time of extreme importance. Therefore, to memorialize it in an African tradition warranted the wearing of Kente cloth.

So on May 13, 2016, in a separate pre-graduation ceremony attended by the graduating black students, their family, friends and Trinity University President Danny Anderson, the BSU held its "First Annual Donning of the Kente Ceremony" in Parker Chapel on the Trinity campus. My daughter, Bria M. Woods, a 2016 Trinity graduate, made sure that she and her parents attended.

Celebrating with Bria Woods '16 after the Kente ceremony is her brother Mike and parents Rhonda and Fred Woods.
As her father, it was a high honor to place the beautifully designed Kente cloth around my daughter’s neck following a reading of her bio by one of her graduating peers. It was equally an honor to listen to the bios read about of all the other graduates.

After donning their Kente cloth, there was endless picture taking and heart warming fellowship and bonding with all of the graduates and their families in the picturesque Chapel Meditation Garden. There, the graduates and their families shared stories of times past along with plans and dreams for their future.

It was an outstanding ceremony and should remain a Trinity pre-graduation ceremonial tradition. To BSU members, asante sana, which in Swahili means thank you very much.

About Frederick

Frederick E. Woods is the father of Bria M. Woods '16, who graduated with majors in communication and film studies.

by Robert and Lisa Gain—

“I want to go to Trinity University in San Antonio.” That is what we heard from our graduating senior, Joshua. We had not heard of Trinity before but my first thought was “San Antonio is not too far from Waco; maybe three hours, but not too bad.”

We visited, he loved what he saw, he was accepted, and he chose his classes as a first-year student. I was surprised when he chose the country western dance class as his P.E. credit. In junior high and high school in Waco, he only danced when there was a school or church program that was choreographed. He always did well on those, but the only other times I can remember Joshua dancing is with the Just Dance on the Wii and then at prom. I could tell he had rhythm but was still surprised and happy that he was taking a social dance class.

When Joshua came home at Thanksgiving, I was shocked when he invited us to his Country Western Dance final. He said it was going to be open to the public and he would like to show us his newly learned dance skills. I was very happy because this is the only thing he has invited us to. He had been talking about how well he and his partner have been doing. They were practicing some afternoons and some weekends.

Joshua talked throughout the semester about how much fun and what a good instructor he had. He mentioned the instructor was willing to put in extra time with any of the classes during non-class hours. He told me of stories of some of them meeting at different places to practice dance skills. I could hear the pride and confidence in his voice when he talked about the dances he was learning.

No way were we going to miss this dance final since it was open to the public. He even said other parents might be there too. I asked him, “What if we are the only parents who show up?” He assured me he didn’t care. We had a great time meeting his friends and watching him and his partner dance; they placed first in one of the dances. We took the friends to eat afterward and had a great time getting to know them.

Life is different without Joshua at home. His younger brother often turns to him on the couch and starts a sentence only to realize that Joshua’s spot is empty. I text him often and call him too. He is enjoying his newfound freedom and admits to sleeping too late much to my dismay but that is part of growing up. Joshua is a first generation college student and Trinity seems to be a great fit for him.

About Robert and Lisa

Robert Gain has been in the copier repair business for 21 years with 15 of them being with Parsons Office Systems in Waco. Lisa Gain has been with Central National Bank in Waco for seven years and currently works as a lending assistant after being a stay-at-home mom for 12 years.
by Kay Hazelwood –

Editor's note: In December 2016, we featured a story about a Trinity mom who donated to a school the desk left behind when her daughter arrived at Trinity. Here is another family's story about what happens to a college student's room when parents become empty nesters. 

The last Hazelwood left for college in January 2014, and Tom and I found ourselves empty nesters. The transition, as each child departed, changed and was as varied as their personalities. With Aly, Maddy, and Audrey, their rooms, though, did not undergo many significant changes when they left for school other than the usual removal of odds and ends: unmatched socks, unwanted jeans, clothes they had outgrown.

Marion, on the other hand was an entirely different story.

Marion decided to leave for college a semester early, so her departure coincided with the departure of her older sister Audrey's return to Trinity in January. Before Marion left, I had one requirement, Copper, the rabbit that had occupied her room incognito since its arrival in September, had to be spayed so it could go live with Marion’s best friend, who also had a rabbit. The spaying went off without a hitch, but when it was time to have Copper’s stitches removed, that was another story altogether.

The Hazelwood family includes mom, Kay, center, Trinity class of '82, with daughters who played volleyball at Trinity: Audrey '15, Maddie '13, and Aly '09, and daughter Marion, a volleyball player at Oklahoma.

Since Marion had to be at school a few days before the other students, she enlisted Audrey to take Copper to the vet. Simple enough, right? Copper had other plans. The pet did not want to go and ran under the bed...and we all know how fast rabbits can move. After 45 minutes of hopelessly chasing the rabbit who did not want to be caught, Audrey called me in tears. I suggested she take the mattress and box springs off the bed to make easier access and remove the hiding place. She did and propped them against the wall.

With Marion’s bed tossed, Copper now chose to hide behind the dressers. Too heavy to move, Audrey called again. This time, I suggested enlisting the pet whisperer. Enter Tom, who until I called him had no idea a rabbit had been living upstairs for four months. Here is how our conversation went:

Me: Honey, I need you to go upstairs and help Audrey get Marion’s rabbit into the crate and take it to Dr. Abshier.
Tom: Audrey is already gone. She left an hour ago. . . . . what rabbit?
Me: Marion’s rabbit. Marion got a rabbit in September. Audrey is upstairs trying to catch it because it needs its stitches out. I need you to help her catch it and take to Dr. Abshier.
Tom: D*********, Kay!
Me: It needs to go to the vet, and I need you to catch it. And that wasn’t the plumbing making those weird thumping sounds
Tom: Anything else up there?
Me: Nope, just a rabbit
Tom did catch Copper in his typical whisperer style. He called her name, and she hopped right over to him. Tom, by the way, has whispered a parakeet from our back porch and onto his shoulder, a cockatiel out of a tree, and a duck, Wilson, into its crate.

Since Copper had free rein of Marion’s room, her departure led to a complete makeover. No more nibbled baseboards and shredded carpet; and no more familiar room to return home to. Marion's room is now a beautiful nursery for daughter Aly and her husband Michael’s son, Spencer.

About Kay

Kay Hazelwood sent three daughters to Trinity, and they all played volleyball. The only daughter who didn’t come to Trinity to play volleyball grew up coming to campus to see her older sisters play.

by Leslie Wan—

As I walked into a bedroom in my home recently I stopped in the doorway and reflected on something that was nostalgic but very sweet. I reflected on the fact that my daughter's bedroom, was no longer "her" bedroom, and how that had come to pass. In any transition of parenthood, the time comes when you decide that your children are on their way, and that the room that used to be theirs can serve another purpose. It is a rite of passage and a recognition that they will spend their time now in another place, or planted on a college campus miles away from where they started. A page has turned and it is your decision to make that room, now empty, become something else more useful to YOUR life.

The transition of my daughter’s room, from her room, to "just any bedroom," was a gradual process. For me, her room was a refuge and a reality check. You see, she is our only child, and we live another country away. When she left for college, we knew she would never return permanently to live in her/our island home. We had known THAT from her earliest days. Whenever the reality overcame me that she and I would be separated by an ocean for years and years to come, I would wander into her bedroom among the treasures of her youth and read in her rocking chair. That chair had nurtured her when she was young, and as she grew, became the place where so many of her friends would laugh and chat, as she prepared to leave for college again or go out for an evening. So there it was, when the room changed, I had to acknowledge that the future we had planned for her was NOW, and home, this bedroom which was an ocean away from her, would really never be full of her spirit again. (Another waving goodbye.) That room and that rocking chair gave me peace, a place to read, and to remember that missing her was not about holding on to those youthful days, but about the affirmation that we and she had met the first goal, achieved the first hurdle. All was as it was supposed to be, despite the hole in my heart and the ocean of tears that fell.

Desk of former Trinity student before being donated
Desk once used by a Trinity student was donated to a school for special needs children.

One day a treadmill became a fixture in there, and her tired little desk that had seen many a homework session was sent to a school where we volunteered together, and I still do. Today, it serves as a desk for special needs children so they feel like they are part of a mainstream student classroom experience. It gives me great satisfaction to see those special children working with a teacher on the desk that once had my sweet little girl behind it, books splayed out, doing what she needed to do to transition to Trinity. That little desk is tired now and wheelchair scarred, but it reminds me that we did it, that life blooms again, and that where she sat, continues to nurture children. The bedroom that was, is now the bedroom that is different. It is more about the goal that was achieved and the life plan that came to pass. Oh, and that rocking chair? It still remains, and it still gives me peace.

I suppose I reflected on this as I stood in that doorway recently. As Christmas approaches, so does the season of giving and the return of my daughter home for a few days. I remembered the decision that when that room transition took place, the desk that had served on her road to Trinity, MUST be a gift given to other children so they too, could try and make their dreams happen. Even though she is gone, I still see children circling that desk and KNOW that the room transition didn't have to be about the past, but about futures in the making.

My advice is to make the changes in your home and the transitions of your children’s youth become celebrations of the future because the past may have worked just as planned.

About Leslie

Leslie's daughter graduated from Trinity in 2010, but the mom remains a true ambassador for the University.  Her daughter Christina now works as a university student administration professional, and Leslie continues to pursue special needs work and her passion for personal/professional writing and public speaking. She writes a blog (, and speaks and volunteers in support of the special needs community in Jamaica.

Trinity University students touch the tiger

by Darin Mackender –

At this time four years ago, one wall of our home office was covered with notes, graphs, and spreadsheets reflecting the college search of our daughter, current senior Allyson Mackender. She had examined every angle: majors and minors; extracurricular activities; cost of attendance; financial aid; rankings; size; average class sizes; location; and, of course, the likelihood of admission, i.e., selectivity. There were seemingly unending conversations about “reach” schools and “safety” schools, and sleepless nights trying to make sense of it all.

By the holidays, Ally had settled on a school in the Chicago area. The decision seemed final. Nonetheless, in February, she asked if we could visit Trinity. With time short, we scheduled a trip for the following week. After a full day on campus, as we took one last quick walk around campus, Ally told her mom and me that she had changed her mind and wanted to attend Trinity. She said it just felt right. Although I too had been very impressed with the visit, I told her to sleep on it. Later that evening, as we waited to board our plane, Ally continued to ask for my opinion. Finally, I said, “I am not the one going to school. It’s your opinion that matters. But, since you asked, I think Trinity would be a great choice—top-notch academics, genuine people, vibrant campus, interesting location. I don’t think you would ever regret the choice. Like I said, sleep on it.” She did and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Mackender Family -- dad Darin, Ally, and mom Jennifer
Now, as Ally registers for classes for her final semester, I can’t help but reflect on her choice. Undoubtedly, it was the right choice, but why? A few things stand out. First, and foremost, Ally has benefited greatly from the high level of engagement between faculty and students. Like most its peers, Trinity has small class sizes taught by faculty with terminal degrees in their disciplines. But the faculty also seems to be deeply invested in the success of their students. For example, in the first month of her first semester, Ally went to talk with one of her HUMA professors about a paper. She ended up having a long conversation with that professor about her interests and her goals at Trinity and beyond. That conversation had a profound impact on Ally and was the first step towards her declaring an English major. Since then, she has had many similar conversations with that professor and others. That level of engagement is not easily measurable, but is invaluable.

Second, Ally has reaped tremendous rewards from Trinity’s global perspective. Ally studied in Denmark during the fall semester of her junior year. Her semester abroad, which was arranged by Trinity, was life changing. It expanded her horizons, and she returned more confident, more mature, and more worldly. I previously wrote about it here. Finally, Ally has grown immeasurably as a result of Trinity and San Antonio’s richly diverse communities. She has been exposed to different political, social, and cultural perspectives, and has been forced to examine and re-examine her own beliefs and values.

The Mackender Family -- dad Darin, Ally, and mom Jennifer

I recently read that the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education ranked Trinity #1 in Texas and #6 in the nation for outstanding faculty. It is an interesting ranking, focusing more on what students get out of a university than how hard it is to get in to that university. Trinity’s high rankings are well-deserved. As a parent (and a significant financial supporter of Ally’s education), I am deeply appreciative of Trinity, its faculty and administration. Ally graduates in six months. I know she will be leaving school well prepared, academically and personally, for the next stage of her life. Honestly, I have no recollection of Trinity’s so-called “selectivity.” I will never forget, however, what it has done for my daughter.

About Darin

Darin Mackender received his undergraduate degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and his law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. He is an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Denver. His daughter, Allyson, is a senior at Trinity University.

A Trinity University parent visits with professors

by Joe Knippenberg —

We parents worry about our kids in college. Are they getting enough sleep? Are they eating right? Are they engaging in risky behaviors? Are they studying hard enough to pass their difficult classes? And so on and so on and so on. We send them away, but we don’t stop being parents. My parents—now in their 80s (I’ve been out of the house for a long time)—haven’t stopped being parents.

When I was student back in the dark ages—er, I mean the ‘70s—I could pretty easily keep my parents at arm’s length. The occasional prohibitively expensive long distance phone call was about it. I always told them everything was fine and please send me some money. What happened in East Lansing (yes, I was, and am, a Spartan) stayed in East Lansing. To be sure, we had conversations about what I was going to do when I graduated, but they hadn’t gone to college themselves, they weren’t paying much for my education, and at that time college graduates were still for the most part rewarded relatively handsomely in the job market. When I told them I knew what I was doing—well, sort of—they trusted me.

My, how times have changed, as this very interesting article points out. Parents are in constant contact with their kids—texting, Facebooking, Facetiming, and, yes, making or receiving the occasional old-fashioned phone call. Many more parents are college graduates and have a much more vivid sense of what college is like. (Kids, take heed: we probably won’t believe you if you tell us you’re studying in the library on Friday night.) And, by golly, college has gotten pretty darn expensive!

One of the consequences of this is that parents are or at least can be much more intimately involved in their students’ live than was the case way back when. I see evidence of this all the time on the Trinity University Parents Facebook page, and in our own lives, with a son at Trinity and a freshman daughter at a small university in North Carolina. Our empty nest doesn’t feel quite so empty.

Trinity University classroom
Students shouldn't be pressured to make educational choices their parents want.
But pedagogically and developmentally there may be a downside. Presuming that we know a lot about what’s going on both on campus and in the real world, we may be tempted to interfere a bit more—maybe even a lot more—in the educational choices our students make. Wanting them to be happy, thinking that a good job (often defined in terms of salary and prestige) is the ticket to that happiness, and believing that we know what majors lead to those good jobs, we may be tempted to press our views very hard, not just when we’re sitting down to dinner over winter break, but all the time, in ways that are harder to ignore or deflect. Students may feel pressure to make the educational choices their parents want, not the ones they want.

What’s the problem, you might ask. We love our kids and want them to be happy, and we’re intimately acquainted with what it takes to succeed in the real world. Far be it from me to challenge the first two claims, but I would like to raise a few questions about the third, or at least about the connection between what our students are doing in college and what they’ll be doing after they graduate. Don’t you think, for example, that smart, motivated students who are asked by their professors to stretch intellectually and get out of their comfort zones will be prepared to face the learning challenges that are posed by every workplace? Do you really think that the narrow substantive skills they might learn in a class in 2016 will be the ones that they’ll be called on to use in 2026 or 2036? Are you confident that the job you want them to prepare for in their four years (well, we hope it’s only four years) at Trinity will be the job they have ten years after graduation?

I could go on at great length about this, but, for the sake of brevity, will encourage you only to read the aforementioned article.

Trinity University parents with LeeRoy tiger mascot
Trinity parents love posing with LeeRoy, the University's tiger mascot.
I’ll only add this: in my experience: students who are interested in what they’re studying work harder, do better academically, and, indeed, are happier. They’re motivated to find a way to turn what they love into their life’s work. Having learned how to learn (and loving it), they are precisely the kinds of flexible, entrepreneurial employees that many employers say that they’re looking for and having a hard time finding. So encourage your students to find a subject they love and devote themselves to it. Do ask them how they think they can continue to pursue this love after graduation. Encourage them to visit the folks in the Office of Career Services, to look for an internship or two, and maybe even to take a “practical” class or two so that at the entry level they aren’t befuddled by what they’re asked to do.

They’ll be happy. And if they’re happy, we’re happy, right?

About Joe

Joe Knippenberg is a professor of politics at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, where he has taught since 1985. His son, Liam, is a junior at Trinity, majoring (shockingly) in political science, though he has absolutely no intention of following any further in his dad’s footsteps. Father and son chat frequently, mostly about politics. Recently dad has been working his personal network (friends and former students) to find people in the “real world” with whom Liam can speak about career opportunities. And Liam, with dad’s blessing, is applying for internships this summer. Joe’s wife Lee also teaches at Oglethorpe, in the Core Curriculum and the theatre program, and directs the drama ministry at Oak Grove U.M.C. Their daughter, Charlotte, is a freshman at Wingate University in North Carolina, where she is on the swim team and contemplating a psychology major. You can find some of Joe’s essays at,, and