Sunday, January 31, 2010

No stall left unturned: College uses 'reading time' to educate

Telegram Staff Writer

Toilet stalls have a pretty specific purpose.
You go in, let nature run its course, wash your hands and go about your day, right?
There's not much else to do in there, unless you have a book or cell phone at easy access.
At least, that's what I used to think.
A recent trip to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton changed my mind. I took a bathroom break that gave me a giggle and taught me a few things about studying habits and sleep patterns.
It wasn't a joke or cheat note scrawled on the stall wall.
It was what every UMHB student and professor sees when a potty is needed: the latest issue of the Stall Street Journal. Its trademark is its icon, a human-like toilet that's got a wide grin on its face.
'The publication is well known on campus,' said Nate Williams, director of the UMHB center for counseling, testing and health. 'But visitors usually leave with a bit of a surprise.'
The one-sheet tabloid is a favorite project of Debbie Rosenberger, the college's health services coordinator.
'It's an outreach to students,' she said. 'We want to keep them informed of important health issues, and this is a good way to do it. Everybody's got to go to the bathroom, and when you're in there, you're a captive audience.'
The Journal is in plain sight.
'It's at eye level when you're sitting down,' Ms. Rosenberger said.
And it's easy to read.
'Thought is put into the size of the type,' Ms. Rosenberger said. 'And so is the content. It's not long and boring. It's short and to the point.'
For the December issue, she used the Journal to remind students about the necessity of adequate rest on the night before final exams.
And the month before that, the issue focused on the H1N1 virus.
'There were tips on what to avoid and what to do to remain healthy,' Ms. Rosenberger said.
Ms. Rosenberger shares the responsibility of writing articles with her colleagues in the health department. Williams serves as the editor and designer.
'Nate, he's the one who comes in behind us and makes everything look pretty,' Ms. Rosenberger said.
However much they'd like to, Williams and Ms. Rosenberger cannot take credit for creating the Stall Street Journal. That honor belongs to the last owner of Ms. Rosenberger's job title, Jeanne Duphree.
'She was an alum of the nursing program,' Ms. Rosenberger said. 'She's the one who got it up and running in 1998.'
Ms. Duphree, who retired to Colorado, couldn't be reached for comment.
But Williams remembers how the Journal got its start.
'The idea came from Chili's Restaurant,' he said. 'In the men's restroom at the urinals, there were sports scores plastered everywhere.'
There was something just as informative in the women's restroom too, but he couldn't remember what it was.
'So we thought it would be a good way to get health information out to students,' Williams said.
He and Ms. Duphree, along with the rest of the crew from the health department, started brainstorming until they came up with the idea of a health newsletter for toilet stalls.
'We wanted to have fun with it, so we tried to come up with a catchy name,' Williams said.
They chose Stall Street Journal for its obvious pun on the Wall Street Journal.
'But there were some good runner-ups,' he said. 'Like the Daily Urinal and the Daily Scoop.'
Since the Journal launched, it's grown fairly popular. Students and professors alike regularly ask for copies they can call their own.
And several school districts, including Salado's, are regular subscribers to the Stall Street Journal.
'They came on a field trip, and some teachers thought it would be a neat thing to have at their school,' Ms. Rosenberger said. 'So as a service to the community, we share it. As soon as we get through with a new issue, we email it to them so they can get it distributed.'
So...the gist is this: if you've seen one stall, you haven't seen them all.

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