Bearkats are banding together to sew face masks for essential workers within Sam Houston State University. 

Faculty, staff and alumni opened the doors to the Family and Consumer Sciences sewing laboratory for the construction of cloth face masks. The overall goal of the effort is to provide personal protective equipment to students, faculty, staff, custodians, and administration that are in need, since they are now recommended by the CDC. These cloth face shields are recommended for the public over surgical masks or N-95 respirators, so that those supplies stay reserved for those working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

The volunteers were led by Rosanne Keathley, assistant chair in the Department of Population Health, with social distancing and sanitation guidelines closely followed the entire time. Sewing stations were set up 10 feet apart with protective gear and each sewing station was disinfected on an hourly basis.

"A few weeks ago, I lightheartedly spoke to FACS Department Chair, Ron Reed, about using the sewing lab to make masks. This was before COVID-19 had reached pandemic state,” Keathley said. “Then, last week, I asked Mr. Reed what he thought about this, and he was very supportive of the effort. I crafted an e-mail to Dean Runyan on Friday, and by the end of the day he responded that he thought it was a great idea. The provost and the dean wanted to ensure that the production team maintained social distancing, proper sanitation, and general safety guidelines.”


The sewing lab, located in the Margaret Lea Houston Building, was equipped with the tools and materials required to create the much-needed shields, they just needed volunteers to come in and make it happen.

“The sewing lab was available, waiting on us to help serve in this International crisis,” said Valencia Browning-Keen, FACS faculty member.


A combination of 11 seasoned sewers and non-sewers from across the College of Health Sciences participated in the service project over two days to produce about 100 face shields. Those who don’t sew were busy ironing, measuring, cutting fabric and threading elastic strips and ribbon through the masks, while sewers handled the machines.

“​​​We all know by now that our new normal involves social distancing, good hygiene and self-quarantining. Earlier in the week when I heard about this project, I immediately thought yes, absolutely. Over these past weeks, I have encouraged my students to practice all of the CDC guidelines which our newest one is to wear masks when we are out in public,” said Susie Stone, Population Health faculty member. “Throughout this pandemic experience we have not only been told the facts about this virus, we have been asked to demonstrate kindness and love. The goal of this project is to protect lives and to send the message of human kindness.”


This project represents the heart of the College of Health Sciences Vision to “empower society to cultivate the enduring health of individuals and communities”.