Published by the Baylor Lariat on March 4, 2019

Lula Jane’s named in top 100 eateries in the nation

Whether it be by eating their chocolate chip cookies at “milk and cookies night” at Line Camp or stopping by on Saturday morning before a football game, many Baylor students have made it to local restaurant Lula Jane’s at least once during their four years.

Lula Jane’s opened up in East Waco on Halloween 2012 and has quickly grown to be a favorite spot in the Baylor and Waco communities. It was even listed as No. 71 on Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. 2019,” yet owner Nancy Grayson said that the honor wasn’t something Lula Jane’s was aware of until after the list came out.

“We didn’t know the list existed before or even after — we got a Facebook notification from a friend about it, which is how we found out. Yelp never contacted us, so it’s not something you actively work towards,” Grayson said. “We saw it, thought it was nice and went back to baking, because that’s not why we do things. We serve up excellence and whatever falls our way is okay.”

Grayson, who has been baking since she was a child, comes up with Lula Jane’s breakfast and bakery recipes herself and said that she constantly strives to improve, even if that means making mistakes along the way.

“I use a lot of chemistry when I bake — when I amend a recipe I think about pH levels and other factors that truly involve chemistry, which is a huge component. I’ve read a lot, practiced a lot and made lots of mistakes, which are great. I believe in making mistakes, lots of them,” Grayson said. “When we get comments from customers about something they felt wasn’t quite right, we’ll go back to the drawing board, even if we’ve been serving it for six years, and think about how we can do things better. We’re a service industry, so we listen and are responsive and we care. I read and answer every review myself because I want to know what people think so we can be better than we are. Good is never good enough — you should always strive to be excellent and excellent is hard to reach.”

All ingredients and recipes made at Lula Jane’s are completely from scratch, which Grayson said makes Lula Jane’s the first garden to table and farm to table restaurant in McLennan County. Grayson is also working on opening a grocery store in East Waco, a project that is four years in the making, to offer fresh food options to the community.

“Everything we make here is fresh and from scratch — we don’t cook any frozen food, which is rare in Waco,” Grayson said. “We’ve been consistent about our approach to food with healthy options that are also delicious and fill you up. Showing people that eating that way can be done and make people happy has been good. The grocery store we’re doing up the street is an extension of this in looking at fresh food and making it available to the neighborhood, so they can continue eating in a way that serves them well. We’re also training people in East Waco to garden so we can buy their fresh foods from them. It’s a self-sustaining approach to community and good food.”

Grayson said a primary mission of Lula Jane’s is to feed people, particularly the people of East Waco, and all profits made from the restaurant are invested back into the local community. She has also opened a public charter school in East Waco, and with her husband, she has worked to build and develop homes in the area.

“My goal was to help foster community and economic development for this neighborhood. I’ve been in the neighborhood since 1998 with the opening of the school,” Grayson said. “Since the opening of the school to today, I take no money home. I’ve worked 70 hours a week for 20 years, and I take no money home because for us it’s about fostering community in a neighborhood that we think is fantastic. We love Waco which is why we give back — Waco has been good to us, so we need to be good to Waco.”

Ida Jamshidi, a frequent visitor of Lula Jane’s, appreciates the work that Grayson has done to give back to the community and encourages growth in the local neighborhood.

“I know that revitalizing East Waco was a part of Nancy Grayson’s vision when she opened Lula Jane’s more than six years ago,” Jamshidi said. “She’s been intentional about welcoming everyone who walks through the doors of the bakery and actively searches for opportunities to give back to the community. I truly believe that this philosophy has set the tone for other businesses who have been drawn to the area.”

One of Jamshidi’s favorite aspects about Lula Jane’s is the community the restaurant encourages through friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere.

“Lula Jane’s is all about bringing people together around great food,” Jamshidi said. “Everyone is valued there regardless of your background. You could be a first-time visitor from out-of-state or someone like me who comes in several times a week – the staff will always make you feel like you’re home.”

Grayson reflects this vision of acceptance and community through hiring dedicated staff and making a conscious goal to welcome all people that step inside the restaurant.

“It’s important to us that whoever works here plugs into our community at Lula Jane’s. Our environment and welcoming approach is that everyone who walks through our doors has value, and they need to know that to work here,” Grayson said. “Our goal is gather people together — we don’t have a huge interior space, so you often have to sit with and get to know other people. This strengthens the sense of community within Lula Jane’s and hopefully within the greater community. The people keep us happy to be here — if we can add joy to people’s days through food or connections, we’ve done our job.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on February 21, 2019

Sing judges explain how they score acts

Whether it be the themes or the preparation or students’ families flying out for performances, there are few campus events that seem to unite Baylor like All-University Sing. Although many students are familiar with the preparation and hard work that goes into Sing performances, the judging process and scoring criteria can seem a bit mysterious. Here’s a quick breakdown of how Sing acts are typically judged.

Five categories are used to evaluate each act: entertainment value, musical quality, creativity, choreography and theme development. Each category has a different weighted value. Entertainment value is the highest with 30 points, musical quality and choreography come next with 20 points each, and creativity and theme development have the smallest weight with each 15 points each. Acts are not officially judged on Thursday nights, but judges’ scores average together across every judged night with the highest and lowest scores dropped. The overall final score ends up as an average of all judges’ counted scores.

When it comes to evaluating the acts, judges are chosen based on four area strengths: dance, music, theater and student affairs. Chelsey Art, a judge for this year’s All-University Sing, is a representing the student affairs category.

“I was actually chosen to be a judge this year because I previously served as the graduate apprentice for Student Productions,” Art said. “I had participated in Sing during undergrad and getting to be the graduate apprentice showed me even more of the behind-the-scenes work needed to create each act. No formal experience with Sing or show business is required to be chosen as a judge, but we’re picked based on our expertise in one of the four areas attached to Sing.”

Art said information regarding Sing policies and evaluation is given to the judges beforehand in preparation, and that despite having specific focus areas, judges look at acts holistically.

“As judges, we are given the policies and procedures in advance in order to give us an idea of what is expected of the acts as well as giving context to those who may not have had previous experience with Sing,” Art said. “Once we get to Baylor the day we are judging, we are given more information regarding each judging category and an idea of what aspects of each act we should be looking for. Even though each judge may have a strong background in one of the categories, we judge the act as a whole.”

Along with looking at the established categories, Art said an aspect that specifically stands out to her is when she can tell that those involved are invested in their performance and theme, and are having a genuinely good time.

“For me, a Sing act in which it’s clear that the members have bought into the theme and the experience are always going to stand out more to me than acts where it doesn’t look like the members are enjoying themselves,” Art said. “I think this plays out in how clean an act looks, facials that match the story or the emotion of an act and the ability to draw me in to their world to where I almost forget I’m watching an act on stage. I also love when groups are clever in their use of small details and aspects that advance their theme. And of course, vocals and choreography play an important role.”

Ryan Machen, who will also be evaluating Sing this year, served as a “club night judge,” meaning that he provided critiques for each act on the first night of all performances.

“I was contacted by the graduate assistant for student productions, Liya Scott, a couple of months ago with the request to be a club night judge,” Machen said. “Club night judges are unique – we judge on the first night of performances and our scores are not compiled with the other nights toward each group’s final score. The purpose behind our judging is to provide constructive criticism for the groups as they prepare for the truly judged nights. Club night judges are usually former Sing chairs or former members of the Student Productions committee – I was a member of Sing Alliance during my time at Baylor and was a Sing chair for multiple years.”

More than anything else, something that makes a Sing performance standout to Machen is when a group has high energy and is enthusiastic about their performance.

“For me, the stand-out groups each year win with energy. That, to me, is the X factor,” Machen said. “There is nothing like a high-energy Sing performance. To me, that trumps clean choreography, strong vocals or polished spectacle. It’s important to me as well that the group has a clear development to their theme. Nothing frustrates me more than watching a group perform a song that doesn’t fit well with their theme.”

Along with watching captivating performances and admiring the theme of each campus group, Machen appreciates Sing for how it unites students and families across the Baylor campus.

“I 100 percent believe that Sing brings the Baylor community together. For two months, the whole campus is abuzz with who is doing what theme and last night’s difficult rehearsal and who is going to make Pigskin,” Machen said. “Sing brought me most of my best friends that I still treasure to this day. In my unique experience as a Sing chair and also as a freelance choreographer, I have seen and experienced a lot of Sing. I’ve been involved with it for 13 years and my parents, my aunt and uncle, my sister and brother-in-law were also involved in Sing. It means a lot to me to this day and I hope that in a small way, my critiques to these new groups will help them to experience this program and get to have as wonderful of a time as I did.”

Art agrees and appreciates the honor to serve as a Sing judge after participating in All-University Sing herself during her time at Baylor.

“To me, it is such an honor to be a Sing judge. Sing has meant so much to me through my involvement both as an undergraduate student and in my time in grad school that being able to be involved again in a new way is so exciting,” Art said. “I believe that Sing has the ability to bring so many people together. Whether you are involved as a performer, crew, or audience member, as an alumni or a current student, or even as a grandparent coming for the 30th time or a child coming for the first time, everyone is able to be a part of something amazing.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on January 21, 2019

Baker by morning, student by day: Hanna Austin reaches success with Bittersweet cookie business

When Houston junior Hanna Austin decided to turn baking cookies into a small business, she never imagined that her Bittersweet brand would attract consistent, loyal customers and become a passion she hopes to pursue beyond college.

Austin began selling her cookies at popular local ice cream shop Heritage Creamery after being hired as their head baker in mid-August. She makes two dozen of both cookie flavors she offers during the day. Austin makes it a priority to constantly be thinking of and trying out new and unique flavors almost every morning.

“I have my schedule set up where I only have class Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Austin said. “On those days, I get up at five in the morning to make sure everything will be out by noon for customers. On days I don’t have classes, I do prep for days when I do have class.”

Austin recognizes her partnership with Heritage Creamery as an important platform for making her cookies known and as a helpful resource for her baking.

“It’s given me the resources that I didn’t have before to produce the amount of cookies that I can now,” Austin said. “The kitchen that they let me use has great appliances, and it has given me the opportunity to create and take the reins for what I want to do.”

Austin’s Bittersweet cookie flavors at Heritage change daily and typically include unique toppings and fillings. Examples include Nutella stuffed brownie batter, a white chocolate Lucky Charms milk cookie and cinnamon roll stuffed snickerdoodle.

“I have a cosmic cookie that’s a chocolate chip cookie baked around a brownie with double stuffed Oreos on top stuffed with caramel,” Austin said. “There’s also a glazed donut cookie which is a chocolate chip-less cookie with vanilla baked around a donut hole. On top is a donut glaze with sprinkles.”

One of Austin’s favorite parts about baking every day is coming up with the new flavors and trying out new creations that take a unique twist on a basic recipe.

“I feel like I have at least ten other ideas when I come out with a new cookie,” Austin said. “That’s just how my brain is wired — creative stuff like that comes easily to me. Right now I’m in a breakfast cereal phase with my flavors, but I would definitely like to experiment with Pop-Tarts, banana foster and crème brulee.”

Although Bittersweet produces high-quality cookies and flavors, Austin said that she only began to bake seriously fairly recently and decided to give what was once a casual hobby her full-time commitment.

“I used to bake with my friends, but it was never something like this,” Austin said. “I think the reason this has become what it has is that with every hobby I’ve ever had, I’ve always been zero to a hundred with it — if I’m not going to give it my all, I’m not going to do it. Once I began creating flavors, the whole thing just kind of kicked off and it’s been really fun. I love how artistic baking is.”

Austin’s Instagram account for Bittersweet has attracted success as well with over 2,000 followers. She posts daily videos and images of her cookies and offers the first ten commenters an order of cookies every Sunday.

“Instagram is huge right now, and I try to post frequently and interact with customers,” Austin said. “I just shipped cookies to a guy in Michigan and had people comment from California. Things like that give me the determination that I could end up having a franchise expanding to different states.”

Along with serving cookies at Heritage Creamery and taking some orders each week, Austin has also been able to serve her cookies at sorority and fraternity events, Roots Boutique and a Buttoned Bears event at Pinewood Roasters.

Dallas junior Winona Bacud has been a long-time supporter of Austin and her cookies and is proud of the success Bittersweet has reached in such a short amount of time.

“I’ve being eating her cookies since my sophomore year — even before she started selling them at Heritage,” Bacud said. “Hanna has worked so hard on her business and continues to be so good about being inventive — it’s always amazing to see what flavor she comes up with next. I’ve loved seeing how her cookies have evolved from being a close friends’ favorite snack to becoming one of Waco’s most loved cookies.”

Some of Bacud’s favorite Bittersweet cookies in the past have been apple pie, cinnamon roll stuffed snickerdoodle and salted caramel, and she hopes that Austin experiments with flavors like dark chocolate or coffee in the future.

“Hanna’s flavors are definitely unique. They’re not your ordinary cookies,” Bacud said. “They’re delicious and you can tell how passionate she is about Bittersweet and how much she loves doing what she does by how intricate each flavor is.”

Austin hopes to continue creating new flavors and reaching out to customers with Bittersweet next semester. She also plans to expand her baking after college.

“A goal is to have my own store one day, but I hope that it also goes much farther than that. Right now though I’m focusing on graduating and trying not to get too ahead of myself,” Austin said.

Although balancing school work and owning a small business can have its challenges, Austin views the work she does as worth the effort and is glad that she’s connected with something she is passionate about.

“It’s so fun getting to work every morning, and I’m still shocked that this is my job,” Austin said. “Baking really isn’t work to me — I’m having the time of my life doing this.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on October 17, 2018

Third Space Theory creates coffee and community in Waco

There’s a new coffee spot in town. Third Space Theory Coffee, also known as Thrst Coffee, is a recent startup business looking to positively impact the Waco community.

Thrst is owned by Andreas and Bianca Zaloumis, a married couple who moved to Waco in December 2017 and had always dreamed of starting a business together. They considered getting involved in the food and restaurant industries, but ultimately decided that a coffee-related startup was the way to go.

“We’ve always wanted to own our own business,” Bianca Zaloumis said. “That’s been one of our goals for years now, and something we’ve talked about since we met in high school. We both love coffee, and that was something we kept in the back of our minds. We liked the idea of creating a conversation and music-driven space.”

Andreas Zaloumis agreed, noting coffee is a simple idea that they can expand on in the future.

“We wanted to get involved in something that gave a cultural type of feel to bring people together,” Andreas Zaloumis said. “A coffee shop is where we landed. It made the most sense. We wanted to start somewhere small we feel confident in.”

Thrst Coffee is mobile, but currently located as a coffee cart within Cultivate 7Twelve, a local art gallery and gathering space on Austin Ave. The couple was approached by Cultivate co-founder Rebekah Hagman to be included within the space, which they saw as an interesting spot that could lead to their coffee initiating conversation and a sense of community among artists and Waco residents.

“Rebakah told us that she had been wanting a coffee concept for a while inside the space, and we realized that a cart could be a good idea. It’s simple scale and a great starting point,” Bianca Zaloumis said. “Cultivate 7twelve is tied into so many more avenues than people realize, and the spot has so much potential. There’s a world of opportunities within this space.”

Andreas Zaloumis appreciates how being located within Cultivate leads to conversation about art and the community over coffee, an aspect he sees as bringing liveliness and community to the spot.

“Coffee and art — what better place to have great conversation when you have different pieces you can look over and think about with others,” Andreas Zaloumis said. “Cultivate 7twelve highlights artists and progressiveness in Waco. Everything the spot does gives back to the community. They recently brought in a Banksy piece, which attracted a lot of attention. There’s a lot of traffic coming in and out of the space.”

Thrst Coffee specializes in pour over coffee, and also serves Italian sodas and specialty items on their menu.

“Everything we do is a pour-over, and we do some different region blends,” Andreas Zaloumis said. “Our most popular is Ethiopian, and we also have a house blend. Our provider is Chaney Brothers, a local roaster around 20 minutes outside Waco. For specialty items, we have the Shakerato, an iced coffee that it shaken up for a frothier top, and is served either regular or with pumpkin spice. We want good quality coffee without dressing it up too much.”

Bianca Zaloumis said they are also considering furthering a partnership with a local bakery and adding on additional drink items.

“We’d like to be able to have evening events in the future so we’re experimenting with ways to have non-coffee drinks as well,” Bianca Zaloumis said. “We also make our own whipped cream for the Italian cream sodas. We’re working with a local bakery called Sugar Home to slowly bring that on as business grows. Everything is made from scratch. There’s biscotti recipes, lemon pound cakes, and we’d love to introduce a chocolate Guinness cake they do. We’d definitely looking into adding food items.”

Andreas and Bianca Zaloumis said they appreciate Waco as a city that supports and encourages local businesses and believe Waco will continue to grow and expand as time goes on.

“You look at a city like Austin that is so progressive and entrepreneurial. It has its own personality,” Andreas Zaloumis said. “I see that in Waco as well. Within the last year of being here, I’ve witnessed crazy change and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

“The community is so supportive of local business, which is cool to see,” Bianca Zaloumis said. “It was a huge motivator that the community was so responsive and welcoming.”

Moving forward, the couple hopes to continue promoting their business and creating partnerships with the ultimate goal of one day owning their own store front. They said that the best way to get in contact with or stay updated on Thrst Coffee is through their Instagram page @thrstcoffee.

“Long term, we’d love a store-front coffee shop by day, bar and music scene by night,” Bianca said. “We want to entertain people and make it our real Third Space.”

Andreas and Bianca Zaloumis advise Baylor students and Waco residents looking to start their own business to stay motivated and focused on the goal when tough times hit.

“The biggest thing is realizing that there will always be a blockade to overcome,” Andreas Zaloumis said. “Once you surpass it, you look back and are encouraged that you did that. Also make sure to keep a positive mindset. Once you see progress, hold on to it and keep going.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on October 15, 2018

Baylor political groups talk upcoming midterm elections

In a nation where politics is a significant part of every day culture and young voters have the ability to voice their opinions on important topics, College Republicans and Baylor Democrats seek to educate college students on our country’s policies and conflicts.

Portland junior Eric Soo, chairman of College Republicans, and El Paso junior Aldrin Ballesteros, president of Baylor Democrats, seek to use their leadership positions to inform Baylor students about their respective party.

Soo values limited government and the reward of hard work, with his family playing an important role in inspiring his political views.

“My father’s family were refugees from China after the Cultural Revolution, and they had their land taken away,” Soo said. “For me, a smaller government that is not socialist is something that I want to maintain. My family was very poor, but both parents worked hard and became doctors. When I see the examples of my parents, I am inspired and have faith in the American dream — that’s something I want to fight to protect.”

Ballesteros, originally planning to major in entrepreneurship, decided to switch his major to political science after discovering that he could potentially influence important decisions in his community as a politician.

“I came to Baylor seeking a BBA with a major in entrepreneurship and corporate innovation,” Ballesteros said. “I wanted to learn the best ways to create businesses that could help my communities back home grow and further develop. As my freshman year progressed, I realized that politicians have the opportunities to impact communities in the exact same ways I wanted to be able to. It was then that I decided to major in political science.”

Both College Republicans and Baylor Democrats seek to educate the Baylor community on political issues and involve their members in spreading information on campus and in Waco. Both groups hold regular meetings that include guest speakers and involvement opportunities in their programs.

“Through Baylor Democrats I was able to interact with other students who deeply cared about our current state of politics and was able to learn many things from them,” Ballesteros said. “It exists to allow students to have a space to share and express their political opinions, ideas and concerns. Our goal is to help students learn and talk about the current state of politics. We also actively try to inform our members of the opportunities that exist in both Baylor and Waco to become involved in politics.”

Soo notes that he appreciates College Republicans as a place for students to voice their opinions and concerns in a safe environment.

“I grew up in Oregon, which is a very blue state — my county was one of the highest registered Democrat counties in the United States,” Soo said. “My school was of a particular view and our teachers were open with that. I wasn’t antagonized, but I didn’t feel represented ideologically. Having a community where I can safely talk about stories of my family without offending anyone and where people agree with me ideologically is important.”

With the midterm elections fast approaching and the intense Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’ Rourke, both campus groups hope to encourage students to vote and become informed on both candidates and what they stand for.

“I think it’s easy to voice your opinion but hard to make politics a priority,” Soo said. “There’s a real need for youth enthusiasm, and that’s very encouraging. People think that in this age of social media if they’re not leading a protest of thousands, they’re not making a difference — but we’re all making a difference. If you believe something, your voice counts, and youth do make an impact.”

Ballesteros noted how Baylor Democrats also encourage students to use their voices by registering to vote and mentioned his group’s involvement in Beto O’ Rourke’s recent visit to Common Grounds.

“The midterm elections will be one of the most important political events happening in our country this semester,” Ballesteros said. “We’ve encouraged our members and students at Baylor to register to vote and become deputized. We’ve also shared important registration dates and information on social media. We worked closely with the O’Rourke campaign and were highly involved in supporting his event at Common Grounds. Our members felt extremely proud to see him speak to so many Baylor students.”

An issue both College Republicans and Baylor Democrats hope to better understand is the United States’ political division and tendency to develop stagnant political views without proper communication.

“It’s extremely important for organizations like our own to understand that both parties can have good and bad ideas, and to pause and see things from the perspectives of both sides of the argument,” Ballesteros said. “The [Brett] Kavanaugh confirmation is a great example. It’s perfectly okay to have your own firm opinion on the issue. However, it’s also important to understand that someone who was either for or against the confirmation can have a valid concern or reason backing their decision. We encourage this approach to politics.”

Soo sees several conflicts as the cause of the United States’ division — including the media and political correctness, as well as the fact that the United States is naturally an antagonistic system — leading to inevitable tension between both parties.

“As a Republican, most of the media is left-leaning, and that’s something I’m used to. Republicans do this too, and I’m not saying we’re not guilty — but I think late- night TV and political satire in general goes too far to get advertising revenue,” Soo said. “I also struggle with the idea of political correctness, and that if you disagree with someone, you must hate them. I think we should have stronger borders, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-immigrant — my dad is an immigrant. However, the media would say that I must hate immigrants.”

Both groups believe an important way to make progress and eliminate unnecessary tension is by having honest discussions and communication among both sides, and by respecting other viewpoints without making assumptions.

“I love how close our group has been with the Democrats,” Soo said. “As club president, I’ve made it a huge priority to get closer with them. We’ve had a bipartisan lunch and bipartisan bowling party — it’s important to not only have a presence on campus, but also to make sure that we get along with the other side.”

Ballesteros agrees, noting how both groups, despite disagreements in viewpoints, are present on campus to encourage students to get involved and use their voice in a positive way.

“Our club encourages our members to reach across the aisle and have a healthy political discussion with someone who disagrees with them, since this is how we learn to understand each other and work to find solutions together,” Ballesteros said. “In the end, both the Democrat and Republican parties are made up of people who work hard every day to do what they believe to be best for the country.”

Both Soo and Ballesteros encourage Baylor students to become informed politically and take action in meaningful, significant ways.

“If you’re a student looking for a space to voice your opinions or to learn about our current state of politics, both Baylor Democrats and College Republicans are great clubs where you can do this,” Ballesteros said. “One thing I highly recommend if you’re a student wanting to become involved in politics is the Baylor in Washington program. I’m fortunate to be part of the inaugural class, and it has been the best decision that I’ve made at Baylor. You’ll make amazing connections, meet great mentors, gain unique experience and a whole new in-depth perspective on how politics work.”

Soo agrees and motivates students to realize that younger generations can make a significant impact in our country by becoming informed and active politically.

“Many people don’t make politics a priority and would rather complain about it on Facebook,” Soo said. “If you make politics a priority in your life, you’ll start to use your time in a more productive way towards that end. At the end of the day, what happens in Washington doesn’t define who I am or who my friends are. It’s important to have humility and not take things too personally.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on September 27, 2018

Facebook page BU Crushes leads to matches, marriage and more

When it comes to Baylor relationships and finding love on a college campus, BU Crushes hopes to be the ultimate matchmaker.

BU Crushes is a Facebook page that acts as a way to connect Baylor students, through anonymous submissions, with people messaging the account about another student they notice on campus or would like to get to know better. BU Crushes then posts the submission on the page with the hope that the admired individual will notice.

The account began in 2013 when Facebook was the dominant form of social media among young people and was founded by a few Baylor students. A founder of BU Crushes and a 2018 Baylor grad (Referred to in this article as John Smith in an effort to maintain the anonymity of his page) sees the account as a way to bring people together, especially since the page started at a time when other forms of social media were nonexistent.

“Back then, Instagram didn’t play such a huge role in social media, and Facebook was the number one platform,” Smith said. “We wanted to offer something to get the people of Baylor together — not everyone has the courage of coming straight up to somebody and talking to them, so we thought it’d be a good idea to help those people out by giving them a chance to let their crush know somebody likes them. Sometimes you just see a person for a few moments, and it’s hard to make contact without coming off in the wrong way.”

BU Crushes has gained a significant following over the years, with hundreds of students submitting anonymous notes since 2013 to express their love for a fellow student or even just in the hopes of getting to know someone better or asking someone to coffee.

“The page is actually pretty simple — if you see somebody on campus, even if it’s just a glimpse, you send your best possible description of that person to us and why you like them,” Smith said. “Then we’ll publish it on our platform. Whether you don’t know the person but would like to find out who he or she is or you want to give your crush a shout out, we like to share in your experience. At the moment, we have over 6,000 people liking our page, and we act as a mediator between our followers.”

Smith enjoys BU Crushes for its ability to connect students together in a safe and anonymous way, especially at a campus like Baylor with 16,787 students.

“It gives a chance for the more timid people to speak up and eventually find their person. What’s always pretty funny is when somebody sends in a description about a person you actually know, but you can’t exactly tell them who it is because that would go against our guidelines,” Smith said. “Baylor has small enough of a population to connect with one another, but is also big enough that some of our paths don’t cross often, which leaves a little mystery.”

BU Crushes has a goal of connecting students together, but does the page have any success stories? Not only has the page created real-life relationships, but the bond formed between Baylor grads Micah and Haley Wolters through the page ended up leading to marriage.

Micah and Haley Wolters met under unusual circumstances in 2014, but they formed a special connection. The two were able to find and reach out to each other through BU Crushes.

“We met driving down the highway on I-35 going south toward Baylor on Nov. 30, 2014 — we were both coming back from Thanksgiving break,” Haley Wolters said. “We both got caught in traffic, and Micah kept looking at me and smiling — I looked over, and he made the sign for “I heart you” with his hands and drives off. Long story short, I caught up with him and signed it back to him. We waved goodbye and when we exited for Baylor, we both had stickers on our trucks that said we go to Baylor, but we went different directions. We both posted on BU Crushes hoping the other person would see it and the next morning, we both did.”

The day after the two met on the highway, Micah Wolters posted a message on the page hoping that Haley Wolters would spot it, just to find out that Haley Wolters had posted a message for him as well.

“To the girl driving the red Toyota Tacoma with the ‘I Heart Baylor’ sticker on the back, thank you for making the trip a little less terrible,” Micah’s original Facebook message said. “I would get stuck in traffic every day if it meant seeing you in the car next to me. I would love to meet you and have a good laugh over that — just comment on here and I’ll message you — the guy in the white Ford Ranger.”

Haley Wolters unknowingly posted a similar message around the same time as Micah Wolters with the goal of reaching out and connecting to him.

“To the attractive man driving the white truck down 35 tonight, your smile is captivating. It was adorable how you made those hearts with your hands and kept smiling at me,” Haley Wolter’s message said. “If we weren’t both going 60ish mph, I would have rolled down my window and actually spoken to you. But since we were and that would have been a very windy, hi and you’re cute — the girl in the red truck.”

Micah and Haley Wolters spotted each other’s Facebook messages, and the two were able to immediately connect. Now, the couple is married with a 10-month-old daughter named Penelope — a true BU Crushes success story.

“We were inseparable after meeting the next day — we had a bet that whoever’s post got the most likes had to pay for a coffee date the next day,” Haley said. “We started officially dating two weeks after meeting, got engaged the following November in 2015 and got married June 3, 2016. We had a baby girl this past November and now live in Arlington.”

Haley Wolters sees BU Crushes as an exciting way to get to know your potential soulmate and said that she and Micah Wolters plan to continue staying connected to Baylor.

“I love how fun it makes crushing on someone — a lot of times, you are too afraid to approach someone, so it’s fun to let them know in secret how you feel,” Haley Wolters said. “We come and visit Baylor often. It played such a huge role because that’s where we both met, got started in our lives and developed friendships and relationships.”

Smith said that despite many of the original founders having graduated, new admins will hopefully continue to build the page and expand it in the future.

“Though many of the original admins have graduated, we just got an awesome new admin who is working to build the page for the current student body — we also welcome applications if current students are interested,” Smith said. “The page is expected to grow in the future, and we are excited to see the potential new relationships that can form from our page.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on September 21, 2018

From Cameras to College: Youtube stars Brooklyn and Bailey talk business, being in the public eye

This spring, teen YouTube sensations Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight announced that they would be attending Baylor in a video that hit over 2 million views.

The twins, best known under their channel name “Brooklyn and Bailey,” are identical twins and have over 5.5 million YouTube subscribers with almost 4 million followers on Instagram. Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight post videos related to lifestyle, makeup, clothing and other similar topics.

The Dallas freshmen at Baylor. The girls frequently film vlogs on campus and have gotten used to being approached by students and fans of their channel.

“There are definitely people who say hello and ask us for pictures,” Bailey McKnight said. “Our school in the past was really used to us having cameras and filming, but at Baylor we haven’t gotten too many weird looks — most people know who we are and know we’re filming videos. Occasionally people will ask to be in a video or we get weird stares, but it’s been good here and no one’s really questioned us,” they said.

The girls typically interact with students who recognize them or watch them on YouTube, but Brooklyn McKnight noted some particularly interesting interactions she’s had with people on campus.

“I got a calendar invite on Google for a Brooklyn and Bailey viewing party club — apparently they watch our videos every Wednesday, and it seemed like a legit thing,” Brooklyn McKnight said. “I’ve had guys and girls come up and ask me to come. Originally we thought it might be a joke or making fun of us, but then we met people in the group and they’re really nice — they just want to support what we do, which is really refreshing.”

Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight have always attended public school in the past, as opposed to taking a homeschooling route, and despite some initial hesitations, have found students and classmates throughout the years to be supportive of what they do.

“There was an element of being concerned that we would be treated differently since we’re in the public eye and can be easy targets,” Brooklyn McKnight said. “We wondered if people would be jealous or make assumptions about who we are as people, so coming in was a little nerve-racking. Overall, though, we’ve had pretty positive reactions and have received support.”

Along with posting frequent videos on YouTube, Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight have their own lines of mascaras and scrunchies, as well as a partnership with companies like Arizona Jean Co. through JCPenney. As entrepreneurship majors at Baylor, the girls hope to continue expanding their brands.

“We both already have careers in what we’re doing, but our goal right now is to build an empire around our brand,” Brooklyn McKnight said. “Social media is unpredictable, so we hope to build brands that can exist outside of that on their own.”

The twins hope to continue growing their businesses and pursuing projects that will be meaningful for their fan base.

“Our way to do this was by selling mascara and scrunchies to test our audience and see how they would react,” Bailey McKnight said. “The products ended up doing so well that we’re continuing to put them out. We have equity in a couple companies and might be delving more into the makeup and accessory industries. When we leave college, we want businesses we can go into.”

Attending a traditional college is something that makes Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight unique from similar YouTubers of their age. They love that being in a “normal” school environment allows them to be social and stay grounded.

“From day one, we’ve tried our best to stay down-to-earth no matter what happens,” Bailey McKnight said. “We were raised as Christians and normal kids — we never considered taking a step back from the real world and entering the Hollywood mindset. We’re both really social and love people, so we wanted to have a touch of normalcy in our school life.”

Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight also noted that their YouTube channel is targeted toward an audience of young girls, so they seek to set a good example by staying grounded and receiving a college education.

“College education is really important, and our channel is based around girls growing up with us,” Bailey McKnight said. “We wanted to set a good example by pursuing an education — we hope to be female role models. Also, the ‘everyday girl’ is what our channel is based off of, so not going to college would be a poor business decision.”

Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight said they chose Baylor because they saw the school as a great option close to home and were impressed by the university’s interest in their career goals and willingness to work with their schedules and partner on projects.

“We applied to six different colleges, and Baylor was the quickest to catch onto our work and see us as different and unique,” Brooklyn McKnight said. “Baylor also has a great entrepreneurship program and is a Christian university which is a big deal for us. We have a really good relationship with Baylor and the staff here. They’re willing to work with our schedules and understand what we’re doing. It’s a great partnership.”

Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight had considered attending separate colleges, but ultimately realized that their strength comes from working and spending time together.

“We’ve been apart for like two days total our whole lives, so it’s hard to picture separating,” Brooklyn McKnight said. “We’re roommates, best friends and business partners.”

It might seem tough to have to balance running businesses and a successful YouTube channel while being full-time students, but Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight said the transition hasn’t been as tough as they expected and is surprisingly less busy than their high school schedule.

“It’s been surprisingly easy — high school was so much stuff all the time, so the fact that we made it through high school was almost training us for college,” BaileyMcKnight said. “High school helped us with time management and building a support team back home has made things easy and straightforward.”

Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight said they look forward to attending their first football game and running the line since they’ve been out of town during the games thus far, as well as participating in traditions like Dr Pepper Hour and Diadeloso. They hope to continue getting involved and attending on-campus events.

“We’re looking into some clubs right now to pursue in our free time,” Brooklyn McKnight said. “We had never thought about Greek life before, but we’re looking into rushing, and we’ll see what happens.”

The young women plan to continue promoting and providing exposure for their brand and products and said they will consider pursuing a business outside of their brand or looking further into the makeup industry in the future. They encourage students interested in pursuing YouTube or an online career to realize that it’s a big time commitment, but it can be a great avenue to express your passion to others.

“Make sure you know what you’re getting into and don’t go into it with the intention of just making money — you should do it for the right reasons,” Bailey McKnight said. “It took us five years to establish and grow a channel, so it’s a slow-growing process. If you’re true to yourself and pursue what you’re passionate about, people will see that. Grow your presence genuinely and be dedicated to what you do.”


Published for The Baylor Lariat on September 7, 2018

 Craze for Caffeine- Baylor student’s love of coffee leads her down unique path

On a typical day, you can find San Clemente, Calif., sophomore Christina Beaulieu working a shift at Common Grounds or grabbing an iced vanilla latte from Pinewood Coffee Roasters — two activities that stem from her love of coffee.

Beaulieu isn’t just your average college student with a craving for caffeine. She interned on a coffee farm in Hawaii this summer as a way to prepare for her dream of working in the coffee industry.

“I actually used to not like coffee — I started drinking it around my sophomore year of high school. I slowly started to get more into drinking it and enjoying coffee shops,” Beaulieu said. “Since I’m into science, I also thought it was interesting to start looking into the chemical aspects of coffee.”

Beaulieu spent a month and a half at the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation in Kona, Hawaii, where she learned more about the coffee industry, led tours of the farm and assisted with packaging and roasting coffee.

“I learned a lot about the coffee roasting process and picking process,” Beaulieu said. “I drank way too much coffee because we got free cups throughout the day.”

Beaulieu said that her favorite part about the internship was giving tours of the farm. She was able to teach others about the coffee making process and the coffee industry.

“My favorite part was probably giving the tours — I love teaching people about stuff that I’m interested in, and it was really fun to educate people about the whole process,” Beaulieu said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much work goes into making coffee.”

Beaulieu is an engineering major at Baylor and hopes to attend UC Davis for graduate school to receive a Master’s degree in Coffee Science. UC Davis is currently opening a Coffee Center on campus for students to specialize in the chemistry and engineering elements that go into specialty coffee making.

“Modeled closely on UC Davis’s existing world-class graduate programs in wine and beer science, the Master’s degree in Coffee Science will be a one to two year program that provides advanced, multidisciplinary education focused specifically on coffee,” the UC Davis Coffee Center website says. “The Master’s degree in Coffee Science will provide a sorely needed talent pipeline for the coffee industry, and provide crucial focused training for students to accelerate their careers.”

As for Beaulieu’s dream job? She said she would love to own a coffee shop that roasts its own coffee or to work behind the scenes by using her engineering background to promote growth in the coffee industry.

“I either want to focus on the bean chemistry and how that changes throughout the roast to make it better, or the aspects that go into roasting coffee and the electrical and mechanical side of it,” Beaulieu said.

Beaulieu also spreads her love of coffee by working at Common Grounds and running her own coffee-themed Instagram, @Coffeewithchrissyb. She uses her account to feature different coffee shops that she visits and to share interesting coffee facts that she learned at her internship.

“I created it because I love exploring new coffee shops — it’s a good excuse to go around and try new places,” Beaulieu said. “Ever since I came back from the farm, I thought it would be fun to post interesting facts about coffee that you wouldn’t normally know.”

Cumming, Ga., sophomore Morgan Halverson is Beaulieu’s roommate, and she loves drinking coffee with her. Beaulieu brought back cold brew coffee from the farm that she interned at, and the two steep the cold brew and add in vanilla shots nearly every morning.

“I drink coffee with Christina almost every day — she literally makes the best cold brew I’ve ever had,” Halverson said. “Christina has definitely made me enjoy and appreciate coffee more. She knows so much about coffee — any question I have she can answer in vivid detail because she has this unlimited storage of knowledge.”

Halverson is proud of how Beaulieu has used her passion for coffee to teach and inspire others, and she has full confidence that Beaulieu will excel in whatever path she takes in the future.

“Honestly the world is her oyster when it comes to what she could do with her passion for coffee — she’s insanely smart and talented,” Halverson said. “I truly believe she can change the world one coffee drink at a time.”