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Mark Brewin

TU fairytale with a twist: Starting kicker, recruited to play major league baseball, now a lawyer and dad

A mere 10 years ago, double-alumnus Cole Way (BA ’17, JD ’21) was a collegiate football player recruited to play professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals. Today, he is a prosecutor in Rogers County, Oklahoma, married to the woman of his dreams – speech-language pathology alumna Kasee Way (BS ’15) – and proud father of their two kids.

man in a blue football uniform about to kick a football
Way kicking off against Iowa State in 2013

How could such a fairytale unfold except with a twist?

In this case, the story involves a literal twist. Way was recruited to TU in 2010 from Union High in Tulsa, where his teams won state championships in both baseball and football. At TU between 2011 and 2013, he was the starting punter and kickoff specialist for the Golden Hurricane. Then, in his senior year, Cole threw a bullpen for the Kansas City Royals, and they invited him, alongside college All-Americans, to Kauffman Stadium for a pre-draft workout. “Long story short,” Way recalled, “Kansas City drafted me in the 2014 MLB draft.”

A year later, however, Cole sprained his elbow and, after three years of working with the team, never recovered to the same level. “That twist may have saved my career, or at least made it,” Way joked.

A time to reflect and plan

man in a red jersey and white trousers pitching a baseball
Way pitching in the minor leagues for the Idaho Falls Chukars

Way’s period of recuperation gave him time to reflect on what he wanted to do with his life. His mind returned to his almost-complete education at TU, where his communication major and history minor had enabled him to combine a love of speaking publicly with a passion for writing and the historical record. Way credits much of his learning and growth to the faculty of the Department of Media Studies (then called Communication). Referring to professors Mark Brewin and Ben Peters, he noted that “taking their courses really inspired me to combine my two career interests in communications and history into a legal career. Without them I would not be where I am today.”

During the same three-year recovery period, Way married his college sweetheart Kasee. Way then turned his mind to completing his degree at TU and embarking on a future legal career. “The experience of being so close to having something I thought I wanted, but not being able to get it, nudged me to reflect on what I really wanted in life,” he observed. “And, eventually, I realized I already had all the pieces I really needed right in front of me: my sweetheart, a future family and a path to a meaningful career.”

From the dugout back to the classroom

tall man wearing graduation gown and mortar board hat being hugged by a short woman
Cole and Kasee Way at TU College of Law Hooding Ceremony (December 2021)

Way came back to TU, completed his Bachelor of Arts and then turned to preparing to apply to study at the TU College of Law. He found that, upon returning to college, his mind had matured and he was more focused on his studies. “Discovering that purpose really matters,” he remarked. “To all the college athletes struggling to find purpose in your schoolwork, I say: Learn from my example — you do not have to be recruited out of college to find your purpose in studying hard. Hit the books now while you have them!”

At TU Law, Way found corollaries with his athletic career. “Not unlike in the sports arena, law school is a place where a competitive nature, teamwork and the playbook can combine to bring about a public good,” Way commented. He also found new, wonderful stresses, as Kasee and he had their first child during his first year of law school and their second child in his third year. “We figured that law school was already hard,” he remarked in jest, “so Kasee and I decided we wanted to make it harder.”

The opportunity to serve others

man in a white shirt holding a small boy in a blue shirt beside woman in a burgundy sweater holding a smaller boy in a checked shirt
Cole and Kasee Way with their two sons

Way notes that it was not until he undertook an externship with the Rogers County District Attorney’s Office that he found his precise career path: “I realized I could make a difference in my community by fighting for others in need. There’s no scoreboard in real life, only the opportunity to serve real people.”

In December 2021, Way graduated with a Juris Doctor from TU Law and he plans to take the Oklahoma bar exam in July. He has also accepted a position as an assistant district attorney in Rogers County. “Kasee recently co-founded a speech-contracting company called Motor Mouth with her best friend, another TU alumna,” Way noted. “Our careers are coming together and we’re excited to see where the twists and turns of life lead our little family next!”

In the end, perhaps the twist in the story of Kasee and Cole Way is not the one that ended his professional athletic career, but the twist that, by bringing them back to TU, helped him finish his education, find his career and launch a new path forward in life. Not many lawyers can claim to have played two different sports in college and the major leagues, but perhaps even fewer can say they found their way with a TU twist. Cole Way can.

Activist. Creative director. Critic. Journalist. Media scholar. Producer. Publicist. Lawyer. Teacher. Whatever your ambition, the TU Department of Media Studies will help pave the way.


Art and its impacts

By: Mark Brewin

Can art change your life?

How can art change your life?

Most of us know the answer to the first question is supposed to be “yes.” As for the answer to the second, well, it’s complicated. A truly memorable artistic experience is so subjective, so unique, that it is often hard to describe or to explain.

This might not seem like a problem, except that artists, and those hoping to promote the cause of the arts in the modern world, are increasingly finding it necessary to make a case for the relevance of what they do. That, in turn, often translates into a demand that art’s effects on us be clearly spelled out and carefully measured.

It is something that my colleague Jeff Van Hanken found out about six years ago.

A man wearing a beige blazer and an open-collar light-blue shirt
Jeff Van Hanken

An independent filmmaker and the Wellspring Associate Professor of Film Studies at The University of Tulsa, Van Hanken had the idea of using a visual art project to help ease the divide, both physical and cultural, that exists between Tulsa’s north side and its downtown neighborhoods. Van Hanken proposed using video technology to transform an underpass below Interstate Highway 244, which currently cuts through the middle of the city, separating North Tulsa from the rapidly developing Greenwood business area and nearby Arts District. Van Hanken’s way of describing this now is that he wanted “to make the [244] bridge disappear.”

The nonprofit arts group that was thinking of funding Van Hanken’s proposal was enthusiastic about the project itself: out of 1,300 proposals submitted to the group that year, his was one of a very small group of finalists. Eventually, however, he was told there was not enough information in the project proposal about its impact on the surrounding community. In other words, it wasn’t that an impact was not expected — the whole point of the project, essentially, was to change the community dynamic within the city’s public spaces — but that there was not a clear way to measure that impact.

Disappointed by the final decision not to fund the proposal, Van Hanken nevertheless found himself intrigued by the new language that was being used to think about art. “I knew that there was a movement toward being able to demonstrate the impact of a project on a specific indicator, and I could just feel that was growing.” He decided that he needed to know more about this.

CHAMP and the Greenwood Art Project

Logo stating Center for Health, Arts and Measurement Practices

It was out of this experience that CHAMP — the Center for Health, Arts, and Measurement Practices — was born. A research effort currently based at TU and co-directed by Van Hanken and myself, CHAMP brings together scholars, artists and arts administrators from across the country to explore how to make a rigorous and persuasive case to an often skeptical public that art still matters. Participants also develop and implement methodologies that can be enlisted in that cause.

a group of eight people seated around a meeting table
A meeting of the CHAMP team and members of Bloomberg Philanthropies, GAP and BOP in Aug. 2019 during the early stages of the evaluation process.

CHAMP’s current work, conducted under the auspices of Bloomberg Philanthropies and London-based BOP Consulting, centers on the evaluation of the Greenwood Art Project (GAP). Part of a community-wide effort to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, GAP is led by Rick Lowe, a Houston-based artist and MacArthur Award recipient. It will involve more than 20 projects spaced out over the course of the year. Taken together, these various exhibits both look back to the tragic events of 1921 but also look forward to the future of Greenwood and Tulsa’s Black community.

Currently, CHAMP’s evaluation effort consists of four components:

  • A content analysis of local media coverage of GAP and the neighborhood
  • Interviews with local businesspeople
  • Qualitative and quantitative surveys of Tulsa residents
  • Periodic observations of how Tulsans use their public and cultural spaces.
young woman with long hair and glasses wearing a green top and standing outdoors
Stasha Cole

Stasha Cole (BA ’21), a joint English and Russian Studies major who is also part of the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences’ Honors Program, has been part of the evaluation team since late spring of last year. Cole is a native Tulsan but says she almost never heard about the Massacre growing up. While attending Booker T. Washington High School, which sits near the site of the Massacre and actually served as a refuge for some of residents during the rampage, she remembers “a single day, in my freshman year,” when the event was discussed.

Besides learning more about what happened on that fateful late-spring evening in 1921, Cole thinks her work on the project has also made her more attuned to the coverage of people of color in the modern media. “I’m starting to notice bias in media portrayals in everyday life,” she remarked. It is this sort of bias that the GAP project could begin to address.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre centennial is an important moment in the history of Tulsa — an opportunity for the city to come to terms, in an honest way, with its difficult racial past. At CHAMP, we believe GAP could be a key element in making that shift happen. This is why CHAMP’s involvement in the evaluation is so exciting for both the students and faculty involved: there is a real opportunity here to make the case for art’s potentially transformative role in our lives.

man with short hair and a loose-fitting black sweater over a green t-shirtChapman Associate Professor of Media Studies Mark Brewin is co-director of the Center for Health, Arts, and Measurement Practices (CHAMP). He is fascinated by the intersection of postmodern or late-modern culture, politics and media technologies, as well as the role of the body as medium for political and public communication. Brewin can often be found in the summers at ONEOK Field, conducting informal participant research into the role of minor league baseball and soccer as conduits for civic identity.