Ella Canfield, senior strategic communication major from Mason, Texas, is set to walk the stage at graduation in December 2021. In addition to that big achievement, the seventh-generation Masonite is on a special mission to benefit her hometown through her internship with the Mason County Historical Commission.
In early February 2021, an arsonist set off a fire inside the 111-year-old Mason County courthouse, destroying it. Luckily, the building was vacant at that time, as it was undergoing renovation. Records, archives and files had already been removed and employees had relocated to other workspaces.
An organization called Friends of the Mason County Courthouse is working to raise funds for the rebuilding efforts, but are in need of approximately $4 million. It’s estimated the rebuilding process will take four to six years. According to Mason County officials, rebuilding is set to begin at the end of this month.
Canfield says after the courthouse burned down, shock and devastation flooded the community. “People immediately rallied to raise funds and we felt compelled to help, too,” she says. “We thought of a creative way to unite the community, commemorate the courthouse and raise money – through a book.”
Canfield has paired up with TCU alumna Cristi Slocum ’13, who works as the director of the Mason County M. Beven Eckert Memorial Library, on the book project. On Nov. 13, the two are hosting an event at the library they’re calling a “Storytelling Drive,” that is open to the public. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their memories of the courthouse. Canfield and Slocum will record the stories, which will become part of the Mason County Historical Commission files as an oral history archive. The audio files will be transcribed to be considered for use in Canfield and Slocum’s book. The two writers hope to tell the story of how a small town changed, yet stayed the same over time, and how the beloved courthouse played a vital role in uniting the community. Canfield says she envisions the final product being a commemorative coffee table book containing photos, interesting stories and facts about the courthouse. Her hope is the book will serve as a morale boost to the community and generate funds, as profits from the sales of the book will be donated directly to the rebuilding effort.
Canfield says faculty members in the Strategic Communication department have been helpful as she has taken on this book-writing project. She met with Josh Bentley to discuss the legal aspects of the event. In fact, he helped her draft a consent form for participants of the storytelling event.
The strategic communication major says the Writing and Editing and Strategic Writing classes she has taken with Russell Mack have been impactful. “I never even knew I liked writing before I took that class, and then I did, and I thought, ‘This is really fun and I think I’m kind of good at it!’” Canfield says. “If I didn’t take that class and have Mr. Mack as a professor, I probably would never have thought I could do this.”
Other classes Canfield says have been helpful to her are the Research class with Lindsay Ma and her Campaigns class with Wendy Macias, who taught her how to conduct interviews in a professional manner. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how to be a good listener,” says Canfield. “When asked the right questions or prompts, people will share deep insights that can be very valuable—they just need a chance to talk.”
In addition to her pursuit of becoming a published author, Canfield has recently accepted a full-time marketing coordinator position at Valor Mineral Management in Fort Worth, Texas.