Articles tagged as: Mike Waters

October 18, 2012

Liberal Arts Prof Mike Waters Is A True Newsmaker

One thing Texas A&M University anthropology professor Mike Waters has learned through the years is this: if you have a good story to tell, the world will want to hear about it.

That nugget of advice comes from someone who should know. When the media needs to dig up a story, so to speak, Waters is often the man for the job. In the past several years, he has become the focus of hundreds of media interviews for his quite literal groundbreaking work on when the first settlers arrived in Texas. By uncovering artifacts from a remote area near Austin known as the Friedkin site, Waters learned that the first settlers came about 2,500 years earlier than previously believed – meaning they came at least 15,000 years ago, and his work was detailed in a major Science magazine article.

Michael Waters

Michael Waters

Several months later, Waters’ research confirmed evidence that hunters were present in Washington State at least 800 years earlier than Clovis people, who were previously believed to be the first to populate North America. In addition, he is actively involved in restoring Camp Hearne, which was the largest World War II prisoner-of-war camp in Texas and one of the largest in the country, and his book Lone Star Stalag is considered the most complete history of the site located outside the nearby city of Hearne.

For these and other efforts, Waters has been named the 2012 recipient of Texas A&M’s Newsmaker Image Award, presented annually by the Division of Marketing and Communications.

The award goes to a faculty member who has “gone the extra mile”  in assisting Texas A&M with its media efforts and for helping to promote a positive image of the university by demonstrating the highest ideals and goals of the institution.

Previous winners of the Texas A&M Newsmaker Image Award include John Moroney, professor of economics; Bonnie Beaver, professor of veterinary medicine; and Dean Bresciani, former vice president for Student Affairs. Also, group awards were presented to members of the College of Architecture’s Hazard Recovery and Reduction Center and to five entities (Department of Oceanography, Texas Sea Grant College Program, Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University at Galveston) for their efforts in responding to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Last year’s winner was John Nielsen-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences and State Climatologist, who handled hundreds of media requests during the historic 2011 Texas drought.

Jason Cook, vp for marketing and communications, presents 2012 Newsmaker Award to Mike Waters

Jason Cook, Vice President for Marketing and Communications, presents 2012 Newsmaker Award to Mike Waters

“Dr. Waters has received national and international media coverage in the past year for his discoveries, and he is always accommodating to the media and never says no to a media request,” says Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communication, in presenting the Newsmaker Award to Waters.

“He’s always sees to it that students are involved at research sites as much as possible because he knows this can be a great learning experience for them. He’s a great asset to Texas A&M and is certainly very deserving of this award.”

Waters says he’s more than happy to help the media for several reasons.

“First, I believe we as faculty have an obligation to share what we have learned in our research,” he says.

“After all, the public is usually funding our projects through such groups as the National Science Foundation and others. So the taxpayers are providing us with lab space and the time and materials we need.

“And also, we are in the knowledge business and we should try to convey what we have discovered, either in the classroom or to the general public. If people want to know about my research, I think it is my duty to tell them about it. And too, I think news stories get young people excited about discovery and science. News stories about what we do might inspire a young person.”

Waters says that during the past year, he has been interviewed by all the major news outlets, such as CNN, FOX News, the New York Times, MSNBC, the Washington Post and Houston Chronicle and numerous others. “Any time you get an interview request from the New York Times, that is a big deal,” he confirms.

“I also enjoyed doing some of the radio interviews, such as with the BBC folks, and NPR (National Public Radio) and even German Public Radio. All of those have a huge worldwide audience to help get the message out.”

Any tips for other faculty members who might get besieged by media requests?

“I think the trick is to try to tell your story in a way that is as clear and concise as possible,” he notes. “You want to tell what you have done in a way that people can understand, as if you were talking directly to a freshman in an introductory class. At least that has worked for me.”

Several hundred news clips proves he is right on target.

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Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 945-4664

February 27, 2012

Texas A&M Prof Preserving POW Camp Hearne

Many Texans may not know it, but the state was home to more than 50,000 prisoners of war — more than any other state — in about 70 POW sites during World War II, and Camp Hearne was among the largest, housing almost 5,000 POWS in its brief tenure. A Texas A&M University researcher is helping to preserve the memory of the camp and its colorful history.

Mike Waters, professor of anthropology who has conducted research at Camp Hearne over the past 15 years, has helped to archive documents and preserve artifacts related to the camp, located in the city of Hearne, about 20 miles north of the Texas A&M campus. His book Lone Star Stalag details life at the camp and its unique place in Texas history.

a restored barrack at Camp Hearne

A recreation of one of the barracks at Camp Hearne.

Waters says Hearne city leaders petitioned the government to build the camp as a means of boosting the local economy, which it did. The Army bought 720 acres outside of town and construction started in 1942. The camp opened in early 1943 and was equipped to handle 4,800 prisoners.

“Most of the POWS there were non-commissioned officers, and according to the Geneva Convention, non-coms were not required to work,” Waters says of the facility.

“So only a few hundred prisoners did any actual work while the rest spent the day reading, listening to music, woodworking or playing recreational sports.  For them, it was almost a country-club type existence, and many of them later said their time at Camp Hearne was one of the best times of their lives. The local citizens often referred to the camp as the ‘Fritz Ritz.’”

The camp may have been one of the most cultured in the U.S. Some of Camp Hearne’s residents were musicians and part of the famed Afrika Korps under the command of legendary German general Erwin Rommel, known as the “Desert Fox.” Not considered military threats, the musicians were allowed to keep their instruments when captured and frequently gave concerts at Camp Hearne, playing for fellow camp inmates or anyone who would listen.

In fact, quite a few of the camp’s prisoners were part of Rommel’s elite Afrika Korps captured in Tunisia. Rommel himself was later involved in a failed plot to kill Hitler and was allowed to commit suicide.

“Camp Hearne is considered a good representation of a typical POW camp in the U.S.,” Waters notes.

historical marker at Camp Hearne

The camp is commemorated with a Texas historical marker.

“It was a central post office for all of the other POW camps in the country then, and at one time, there were more than 400,000 POWS scattered all over the U.S. in various camps. The Camp Hearne inmates were taught skills, many learned how to speak English and they were healthy and well-fed, and when they returned home when the war was over, they were in much better shape than most people in Germany.”

Waters says that in early 1943, there was a struggle for power between the Nazi and anti-Nazi elements at the camp that culminated with a murder in December of that year.

“After that, the Nazi element was in charge, and while this created a tense atmosphere, most of the prisoners tried to steer clear of trouble and spent their day reading or engaging in other activities,” he says. “By 1945, the camp had a very nice library of several thousand books.”

The number of prisoners at the camp — reaching between 4,800 and 5,000 before it was closed — far outnumbered the population of the town at the time, which was about 3,500, Waters says.

When Germany surrendered in 1945, the prisoners were gradually shipped out and the camp was dismantled, with many of its buildings sold to local businesses for warehouses, offices and even a home for a local pastor.

interior of the museum at Camp Hearne

The site now has a museum telling the Camp Hearne story.

Waters says it is important to keep Camp Hearne’s memory alive, especially “for students today, so they can see what a real POW camp was like. Camp Hearne now has museum built on the site and it gets quite a few visitors every year. We are trying to do preservation work, and there is a walking tour of the site which is quite interesting.

“I think anyone who likes Texas or World War II history would enjoy a visit to Camp Hearne.”

For more information, go to http://camphearne.com/

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Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644 or Mike Waters at (979) 845-5246

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