Former Washington Post Editor R.B. Brenner Named University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism Director
At The Washington Post, Brenner served as Maryland editor, metropolitan editor, Sunday editor and deputy universal news editor. He was one of the primary editors of the newspaper's coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2008. The following year he helped lead the merger of the newspaper's digital and print newsrooms.
"I am honored and very excited to return to UT Austin as director of the School of Journalism," he said. "The school is celebrating its centennial, and when you think about the impact its graduates and faculty have had on journalism, the university's motto comes to mind: 'What Starts Here Changes the World.' What excites me most, though, is that I am joining the school and the Moody College of Communication at a time of tremendous optimism and opportunity. Step inside the Belo Center for New Media, and you see and feel it — the talent, ambitions, high standards and openness to ideas."
Brenner's appointment marks a return to the School of Journalism, where he was a visiting lecturer in the spring of 2009. That year, the Moody College honored him with the DeWitt Carter Reddick Award, which recognizes excellence in the field of communication.
Currently, Brenner serves as deputy director of Stanford University's journalism program. At Stanford, his professional home since September 2010, Brenner also teaches public issues reporting, digital journalism and long-form feature writing in the Department of Communication. The Stanford Daily named him one of Stanford's 10 best professors in January.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Brenner began his reporting career at the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina and then worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in California and Florida before joining The Washington Post. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., and was previously a Poynter Ethics Fellow. He served as technical adviser for the 2009 film "State of Play."
"Brenner brings an acute awareness of new trends facing journalism and demonstrated success at furthering the teaching and intellectual missions of journalism programs," said Roderick P. Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication. "In turn, he will help our students anticipate the shifting media landscape and enable them to make the communication breakthroughs of tomorrow."
Looking to start a business? Have a new technology? You’re in the right place. The University of Texas at Austin is home to an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports student, faculty and Central Texas businesses — from idea to IPO.
This story is part of our yearlong series “Eyes on Innovation,” which explores UT’s world-changing ideas, fascinating discoveries and new ways of doing things.Austin Technology Incubator
“We get you funded.” The Austin Technology Incubator’s (ATI) tagline says a lot about how it helps young technology startups get off the ground. Founded in 1989 and celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, ATI offers seed- and pre-seed-stage tech startups expert guidance and invaluable connections to local mentors and potential investors. ATI is a unit of UT Austin and is affiliated with the IC2 Institute.
In a report released this week, the incubator’s efforts have clearly paid off for Austin, Travis County and Texas. The report, commissioned by ATI and published by the Bureau of Economic Research at UT Austin, finds that 39 ATI graduate companies — companies that have flown out of the nest, so to speak — generated 6,520 jobs and produced $880 million in economic impact for Texas between 2003 and 2012.
“By any economic metric, ATI’s effect on the Austin technology ecosystem has been profound,” said Jim Jarrett, the report’s lead researcher.
Multiple companies from that era went on to receive significant venture capital funding, become publicly traded or were purchased by other firms. Many of the companies’ founders went on to establish other startups, took on leadership positions in major corporations and returned to ATI to mentor other startups.
“Director Isaac Barchus and his team at ATI have been integral to tapping into Austin’s entrepreneurial spirit and making our city a technology capital,” said university president Bill Powers.Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs
Another entrepreneurial engine on campus is Texas Venture Labs (TVL). Now in its eighth semester, the TVL Accelerator pairs graduate students from across the university (including the schools of business, engineering, law, natural sciences, pharmacy and communication) with companies to help them move through the earliest stages of growth.
For instance, teams of students may help a company complete a “market validation,” a process that sizes the potential market and quantifies its value. It’s a step many startups fail to do or don’t know how to do.
“We ask, ‘Where is this company in its life cycle, what is the company’s team good at, and what are they lacking?’” explained Jaime Sutton, MBA ’13 and a member of the TVL Practicum (the classroom framework for the students who work with the companies), in a 2013 story about TVL.
Since the accelerator launched in 2010, more than 87 companies have participated in the accelerator, and TVL companies have raised more than $193 million. And its success is breeding more startups, according to TVL director Rob Adams.
“We’re starting to see an interesting trend of second generation TVL companies, with graduated TVL students using the accelerator for ventures of their own,” he said.Longhorn Startup
Longhorn Startup gets undergraduates into business, gathering students into interdisciplinary teams to start real companies.
During the semester, Longhorn Startup Lab students work on developing their companies (which they must already have in progress before applying to the program), participate in lecture series and networking events, and receive hands-on mentoring from entrepreneurs and experts.
“We want our entrepreneurs to be as celebrated as our athletes,” said Longhorn Startup founder Bob Metcalfe at a recent UT System Board of Regents meeting. Metcalfe is the Cockrell School of Engineering’s professor of innovation and the co-inventor of the Ethernet.
The Longhorn Startup Seminar is a course for individual students wishing to benefit from the classroom sessions and who may have entrepreneurship opportunities in future semesters.
And Longhorn Startup Studio is Metcalfe’s newest venue for getting faculty into an entrepreneurial mindset. Each month during an informal gathering co-hosted by Metcalfe and the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the regional business and entrepreneurial community learns about the newest products and inventions coming out of the Forty Acres.Office of Technology Commercialization
Moving technology and innovations from the laboratory to the marketplace is the charge of the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC).
Working with faculty innovators and inventors, OTC staff members navigate a methodical process that identifies market potential, protects faculty intellectual property, seeks potential investors or partners and manages the commercialization agreement. Over the past decade the OTC has earned more than $128 million in licensing revenues.
“My vision for OTC is to diligently work with partners inside and outside of the university to spur innovation and bring the research performed by our world-renowned faculty to the marketplace,” said OTC director Dan Sharp when he joined the university in January 2013. “The efficient transfer of these innovations to the private sector is critical.”
These organizations represent only a sampling of the entrepreneurial activities in full swing at UT Austin, helping students and faculty realize their visions and making a real economic impact on the city, the region and the state.
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The University of Texas at Austin is one of three recipients of the 2014 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award, an honor given by NAFSA: Association of International Educators for innovative study abroad programming.
The award recognizes the university’s First Abroad Initiative, a program piloted in 2010 to address barriers that prevent first-generation college students from studying abroad. The initiative connects first-generation college students, one of the university’s most diverse and underrepresented populations, with scholarships, outreach activities and programming that make international study possible.
“I am honored that our efforts to internationalize The University of Texas have been recognized by the Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award,” said Janet Ellzey, vice provost for international programs. "Our First Abroad Initiative continues to increase access to transformative educational experiences that help students go on to become competent global citizens."
First-generation college students account for between 20 and 23 percent of each incoming class at The University of Texas at Austin. Only about 8 percent study abroad, compared with 18 percent of the overall student body that studies abroad. Through the First Abroad Initiative, 268 first-generation college students have received awards that allow them to pursue their courses of study in China, Spain, Brazil, Costa Rica and other countries.
“What we’ve done at UT is really special,” said Heather Barclay Hamir, director of study abroad. “It’s not just about study abroad; it’s really about educational opportunities for students who might not have had this on their radar. Not only are they getting a world-class education, but they are also receiving a true world experience.”
One of the first programs of its kind, the First Abroad Initiative began in 2010 with the creation of the Hutchison International Scholars program, which provides study abroad scholarships to high-need, first-generation students. Today, the McCombs School of Business, the College of Liberal Arts and a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation all provide additional scholarships for first-generation college students interested in international study. Significant outreach and programming within the university's Division of Diversity and Community Engagement have played a critical role in increasing study abroad participation among underrepresented groups on campus.
“Many first-generation students haven’t been out of the state, much less the country,” said Hutchison scholar Lorena Watson, who studied in Spain and now serves as a study abroad peer adviser. “I’m extremely excited that the International Office committed to this. It’s a huge step in connecting underserved students to opportunities abroad.”
The University of Texas at Austin shares this year’s Spotlight Award with Albion College and George Mason University. Named for the late Senator Paul Simon, a longtime proponent of international education, the Senator Paul Simon Awards for Campus Internationalization have been honoring outstanding achievements in study abroad and international student programming since 2003.
The university will be profiled in NAFSA’s fall report, “Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities,” and will be honored at a ceremony during International Education Week in Washington, D.C., in November.
Since 1999, an estimated 25,000 University of Texas at Austin students have participated in The Project—one of the largest days of university community service in the country. Each year, a group of about 35 students plans and organizes the day-long event that focuses on an underserved Austin neighborhood.
The 15th annual Project was no different. A total of 1,859 volunteers worked a combined 9,371 hours on Saturday, Feb. 22, to weed, dig, plant, paint and carry out other odd jobs at 36 sites in the Holly St. neighborhood in East Austin. Projects were completed at five schools, three parks, five churches, five community centers, two nonprofit organizations and 19 homes.
The Project team works its magic each year under the supervision of the Division of Diversity’s Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement staff. “Our students amaze me every year with their dedication and passion for community service,” said program coordinator Amory Baril.
In 2012, I asked a group of 13 alumni and business leaders to examine UT’s administrative structure and operations with the goal of increasing our business productivity. They made their recommendations in January 2013. Since then, under Vice President Kevin Hegarty’s leadership, we have done an extensive study of the feasibility of those recommendations and gotten valuable input from the campus.
One major recommendation of the committee was to consolidate certain administrative functions across campus to be more efficient — a model known as “shared services.” We formed a steering committee composed of UT deans, staff, faculty, and students to examine this idea. Today, I present the Shared Services Steering Committee’s recommendations, viewable here.
The Steering Committee has proposed that over the next year shared services be piloted by select volunteer units. I am currently reviewing these recommendations.
Sharing services is not new to our campus. Pockets of shared services already exist in the College of Liberal Arts, McCombs School of Business, Information Technology Services, and the Central Business Office, which currently provides services for my office. So in addition to the pilot programs, we also will undertake a detailed study of these existing structures and how they are performing.
Change is never easy, but I believe we must share services across the campus for three reasons: to improve service, to improve career paths for our staff, and to reduce costs, allowing us to better serve our core missions of teaching and research.
I thank Vice President Hegarty and the Steering Committee for their thoughtful work.
SXSW is one of the world’s biggest conferences, bringing together leaders in technology, business, music, film and more. University of Texas faculty, staff, students and alumni can be seen throughout the events, leading panels and workshops, debuting films and hosting events. Visit the UT SXSW website for a complete list of all UT events. Below, a few highlights.Exclusive UT Casting for ABC’S “Shark Tank”
Thursday, March 6
10 a.m.-3 p.m. *
Etter-Harbin Alumni Center
This event is for members of the UT community only. Must present Texas Exes Life Member keytag or UT ID.
The critically acclaimed, business-themed ABC show “Shark Tank” is continuing the search for entrepreneurs with the best businesses and products that America has to offer. The Texas Exes is hosting an exclusive casting event for Texas alumni, students and faculty. If you’ve got a great business, product or idea and need an investment to propel you forward, come meet the casting directors for ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
*10-11 a.m. is reserved for Texas Exes Life Members priority casting. Doors will open to the broader UT community at 11 a.m.Location Deception: Yacht vs. GPS Spoofer
A team of UT Austin scientists used the custom-made GPS device to take control of the White Rose of Drachs as it sailed last June in the Mediterranean. The White Rose’s captain will give a first-person account of the attack. The panel will discuss the technical aspects of the hack and the broader implications of location deception, highlighting the challenge of using location as an authentication factor.
Friday, March 7
Sheraton Austin Creekside
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin
Himschoot Consulting bvba
White Rose of Drachs
Saturday, March 8 – All Day
Are you a proud Longhorn? Make it known. On “Burnt Orange Saturday @ SXSW,” everyone wears burnt orange to represent The University of Texas and show school spirit during SXSW, when thousands of visitors from all over the world are in town. Let’s show everyone how strong the UT network is while they are in Longhorn Country. Hook ‘em!
Saturday, March 8
AT&T Conference Center
1. What exactly is the current state of the law when it comes to NSA surveillance?
2. What do we know about what the NSA is and is not doing?
3. What do privacy theorists have to say about the impact of technological change on our privacy?
4. How do national security officials think about these issues?
5. What is likely to happen going forward?
Assoc Dean for Academic Affairs & Charles I Francis Professor in Law
The University of Texas School of Law
Visiting Fellow in Intl Studies
This panel will discuss the types of impacts that autonomous vehicles may have on people’s activity-travel patterns, location choices, and vehicle ownership. We will discuss the developing vision for transportation models of the future that are responsive to the presence of driverless vehicles
Monday, March 10
Hyatt Regency Austin
The Center for Transportation Research – UT Austin
The exploding popularity of museum performances — as seen, for instance, in – Kraftwerk’s residency at MOMA, or in Jay-Z’s performance at Pace—demonstrates an underserved opportunity to connect visual and sound art. We will discuss strategies for making those collaborations happen.
Wednesday, March 12
Austin Convention Center
Manager of Public Programs
The Blanton Museum
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Blanton Museum
SoundSpace Artistic Director
The Blanton Museum
Due to winter weather, The University of Texas at Austin will close at 10 p.m. tonight and will reopen at 11 a.m.,Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Normal operations will commence at that time, including evening activities and classes.
All classes tomorrow morning are cancelled until 11 a.m.
Those classes that are scheduled to already be under way at 11 a.m., will be cancelled or have a delayed start time. Students should follow faculty instructions with regard to those class start times.
The university asks that supervisors work with employees who have children in school districts that have closed for the day.
Essential personnel, defined by http://www.policies.utexas.edu/policies/emergency-leave are asked to report as requested by their supervisors.
Weather is often unpredictable and conditions can change rapidly. The university will continue to monitor the situation through the morning. As the situation progresses, updates specific to closure and reopening will be available through local media, the university's Facebook page and Twitter feed, the emergency web page (www.utexas.edu/emergency), and by calling the university's emergency information number, 512-232-9999.
Before traveling to campus, carefully assess your personal safety. If conditions are not safe for you to travel, please stay home.
It’s a great time to be part of the UT Austin family.
Yesterday, on Texas Independence Day, we crossed another milestone in the Campaign for Texas, when our total giving surpassed $2.75 billion. More than 257,000 alumni, friends, foundations and corporations have given during this capital campaign. If you are among them, thank you! If you haven’t given yet, you can still help us make history and achieve our goal of $3 billion by August 31.
Your contributions are already hard at work. One exciting example is UT Austin’s new Dell Medical School. Because of your generosity, we are breaking ground for the medical school on April 21. And your donations help in thousands of other ways, such as scholarships for deserving students, faculty chairs in critical areas of study, and support of crucial programs across the University that will shape the future of our state and world.
Every gift, large or small, counts. Estate gifts (and letting us know about them) are especially important. And it just might be yours that propels UT across the finish line. Please give today. http://giving.utexas.edu/
What starts here changes the world.
It’s a weekend of celebrating milestones and achievements, starting with the men’s swimming and diving Big 12 championship on Saturday.
The eighth-ranked Texas men are poised to win their 35th consecutive conference title under 36th-year head coach Eddie Reese, 31st-year associate head coach Kris Kubik and 20th-year diving coach Matt Scoggin. With one session remaining on Saturday afternoon, Texas leads with 769 points while West Virginia sits in second place with 543 points. TCU holds third place with 480 points. The Tower will be lit to honor the team’s championship. For final results and more information, visit TexasSports.com.
Then Sunday, March 2, the Tower will glow again in recognition of Texas Independence Day. Read how Texas Independence Day came to the university in the story Texas takes a holiday. See an online exhibit about Texas Independence from the Briscoe Center for American History. Visit UT History Central for more university facts and stories. And read more about the university’s iconic Tower in two feature stories: How to Build a Tower and A Towering Mystery Solved.
Meet senior neuroscience and jazz performance major Mason Hankamer, who has a unique brain condition that causes him to see music in colors. Since 2012, he has been a recipient of the Willie Nelson Endowed Presidential Scholarship.This story originally published in The Texas Scientist, the magazine for the College of Natural Sciences. [Photo credit: Sarah Wilson]
So what do you like about neuroscience?
There is so much that we don’t know about the brain. There is just so much to figure out and who knows what we can do with it once we know how it can be applied.
What is your history with the Longhorn Band?
I joined the Longhorn Band to march my freshman year and have been in it every year since. Although I’m a jazz bass major, I play the tuba in LHB, and have been a section leader for the past two years. It’s such a great organization with amazing people.
And how did you realize you wanted to add jazz performance as a major?
I’ve always really loved music. Doing neuroscience by itself just felt like there was an empty hole, but at the same time, if I were just to do music there would be this entire gap where my academic thinking was missing.
How do you think the two majors come together for you personally?
I have what’s called color synesthesia, where I see music in colors. Certain sounds and instruments have different colors. For example, a song could be deep purple with sharp streaks of orange. I like playing bass instruments because they produce a dark blue color to me. When I compose, it’s like I’m painting a picture. I don’t actually see them physically; it’s more the aura of the color, which is difficult to explain. What really links the two is that we studied the condition once in a neuroscience class. It was really neat to actually learn and understand why I experience this.
What are some ways you think music and the brain are connected?
I am always thinking about music. Just humming a song in my head during class makes me ask so many questions. How and why do songs get stuck in your head? How and why does this song make me feel this way? I think it’s amazing how music completely inundates our entire lives. Take a look at ACL [Austin City Limits Music Festival]. Walk across campus and see everyone with their headphones. It’s a weird force that controls a large portion of our lives whether we think about it or not. There has kind of been this cultural phenomenon created at the intersection of music and the brain.
This story is part of our yearlong series “The Creative Campus,” which showcases student creativity.
Public beer and wine sales at select UT Athletics spring sports events will begin tomorrow at Red & Charline McCombs Field when Texas Softball hosts the Texas Invitational.
“This trial will be in effect this spring for all remaining men’s and women’s basketball, softball and baseball games, and the fan fest area at the Texas Relays,” said UT Men’s Athletics Director Steve Patterson. “We could look into expanding it for other sports events next fall provided the outcome of the trial is positive.”
At the conclusion of the 2014 spring sports seasons, UT Athletics, UT Police, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and UT Athletics concessionaire Sodexho Sports and Leisure will evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the trial to determine if alcohol should be sold at other sporting events. The evaluation will include information from UTPD and the TABC to ensure there has been no adverse community impact.
The beer and wine trial will not include the spring football game on April 19 at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Junior competitor Paul Kropfitsch, 13, from Austria performs “The Cowboy and the Rattlesnake,” an original composition by Butler School faculty member Dan Welcher, during the first round of competition on Monday, Feb. 24. [Video by Marsha Miller]
Competition judging can appear to be a baffling, highly technical endeavor to non-expert outsiders. Judges watch a performance by a figure skater or platform diver or pianist, scrutinize form and record detailed numerical scores.
But at the Menuhin Competition, the pre-eminent international competition for young violinists being held at UT this week, technical excellence is expected; it’s a given for the field of 42 contestants from around the world.
The expert panel of Menuhin judges (in this case, called jurors) are listening for something that even an untrained music fan can spot: the “goose bump” factor.
“Who moves you? That’s what the jury is looking for,” explained Sandy Yamamoto, a former member of UT’s acclaimed Miró Quartet. Yamamoto and Menuhin Competition artistic director Gordon Back gave a talk Tuesday called “The Juror’s Ear,” sharing their insights with a roomful of contestants, parents and enthusiasts at the Butler School of Music.
[Learn about more events during the Menuhin Competition's stay in Austin.]
“For most competitions, there’s a more complex scoring system, like the Olympics, where computers are involved, and percentages are involved, averages are involved,” Yamamoto said. But the Menuhin jurors are making a simple choice.
“Really, all the judges do is check, YES, I want this contestant to go through, or NO, I don’t think this contestant should go through,” she said.
In essence, Back explained, they’re asking themselves, “Would you buy a ticket to see this person perform a second time?”
Performing is one thing the Menuhin jurors share in common with the young contestants they’re evaluating. All nine members of the international panel — including Anton Nel, professor of piano and chamber music, and Brian Lewis, professor of violin, at the Butler School — are current performers rather than professional judges who move from competition to competition. And at points throughout the 10-day event, the jurors perform alongside the contestants.
“It really puts the jury members and the contestants on an even playing level,” said Yamamoto, also a member of the Butler School’s faculty. “It feels like this is a festival where we’re sharing the love and joy of music; and it’s not so much, ‘We are the jury members, you are the contestants. Now you will play for me.’”
The jury members also offer master classes during the competition, giving contestants access to coaching from some of the world’s top performers.
“You’re meeting your future colleagues, you’re meeting the people you might be working with one day,” Yamamoto said.
By Sunday’s closing gala concert, the jurors will have chosen winners — after all, that is their job — but during their time in Austin, they will be joining the contestants and the audience in the celebration of music.Menuhin Competition jurors Ilya Gringolts (playing violin) and Anton Nel (playing piano) join the UT Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerhardt Zimmermann, in the competition’s opening concert on Feb. 21 at the Long Center in Austin. [Photo by Marsha Miller]
Home page image by Daniel Cavazos. Menuhin Competition junior division winner Kevin Zhu performs with the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra during the opening concert at the Long Center on Feb. 21.
Last week, longtime UT supporters Bob and Marcie Zlotnik gave $5 million toward the construction of Robert B. Rowling Hall, the new graduate education building at the McCombs School of Business. Bob and Marcie are Texas Exes and founders of the Houston-based energy company StarTex Power. In recognition of their gift, the ballroom in the new building will be named the Zlotnik Family Ballroom. The innovative space, which will be underground, will connect Rowling Hall to the neighboring AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. It will give the graduate business program and the conference center the capacity to attract large-scale conferences and events that will benefit the University and its students.
The gift is a significant step toward raising the $58 million required to build Rowling Hall.
The Zlotniks have a long history of supporting business education and athletics at UT. Bob received his BBA in 1975 and MBA in 1980, and Marcie earned her BBA in 1983. Earmarking their gift for the ballroom was a family decision, made with their three sons. Kevin and Mitchell are both current McCombs students, and Matthew is in high school. The Zlotniks previously donated $1 million to establish a chair in entrepreneurship. Bob is a member of the McCombs Advisory Council and will serve as chair starting in November. Marcie serves on UT Austin’s Development Board.
I’m proud the name of this great family will be connected to the campus.
Photo by Sasha Haagensen
On Presidents Day the university announced that two former holders of that office — Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — will deliver keynote speeches on campus in April. The cause for their appearances: a three-day Civil Rights Summit, hosted by the LBJ Presidential Library, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.Martin Luther King Jr. meets with President Johnson at the White House in 1963. [Credit: LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto]
In the years that followed the Civil Rights Act, Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Together, this triumvirate of laws would ban discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.
The summit, taking place April 8-10, will reflect on the seminal nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Lyndon Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today.
Additional speakers include former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, LBJ’s daughter Luci Baines Johnson, journalist Tina Brown, former Atlanta mayor and visiting professor Shirley Franklin, and former NBA star Bill Russell.
Other commemorative activities include a Civil Rights Film Series (April 2, 3, 7) and a “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit at the LBJ Library (April 1-30) highlighting civil rights legislation passed during the presidencies of Johnson and Abraham Lincoln. On display will be the 13th Amendment Resolution ending slavery, signed by President Lincoln, original documents of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and iconic hats worn by the two presidents.
The LBJ School of Public Affairs will continue celebrating Johnson’s legislative legacy with “50 for 50,” a special series of 50 events for 50 years, exploring the critical civil rights issues of our time such as human rights and social justice and calling for a renewed effort to “get things done” in order to improve the lives of all citizens.
This spring also brings the 28th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, co-hosted by the UT School of Law, the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good on March 28.
The daylong event will focus on the future of access to opportunity through higher education, bringing together scholars, advocates, educators and students to examine contemporary debates involving diversity in higher education. In addition to examining the Supreme Court’s decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas case and the questions currently before the Fifth Circuit, panels will explore race-based versus class-based affirmative action, achieving diversity through race-neutral admissions plans and the ripple effects of diversity in higher education.
Sweatt v. Painter was the landmark case that ruled in favor of Heman Marion Sweatt, securing his admission as the first African-American student to The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. That suit paved the way for Brown v. the Board of Education and later for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.Further Reading from our Black History Month series:
Explore UT begins with thousands of school children from across the state stepping from buses to visit the biggest open house in Texas. The day ends several hours later with many of those children coming together to form a giant map of Texas for the class photo.
In between on Saturday, March 1, the expected 50,000 visitors can dig into more than 400 free activities in six realms of discovery on the university’s campus:
- Arts Adventures — Embrace a culture of innovation found in the arts, architecture and communication.
- Cultural Crossroads — Harness the creativity and critical thinking found in business, information, education and the liberal arts.
- Engineering Expeditions — Chart a journey to solve global problems, expand knowledge and improve lives.
- Public Service Passageway — Learn how your world is enriched through the law, social work and public service.
- Science Safari — Experience new technologies in the sciences, and see the innovative fun in pharmacy, nursing, geosciences and more.
- Longhorn Trail — Discover our Longhorn community, and see firsthand the many ways The University of Texas at Austin is changing the world.
Activities will give students an opportunity to design and create paper flying machines, learn about robotics and automation, create a magazine cover and learn how tiny worms are helping to solve mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome.
Attorney General Greg Abbott’s lead has widened over gubernatorial challenger state Sen. Wendy Davis, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
If the election for Texas governor were held today, Abbott would have an 11-point lead over Davis, 47 to 36 percent, with 17 percent undecided. In last November’s poll Abbott had a 6-point lead over Davis, with 25 percent responding as undecided.
When asked if the 2014 election for lieutenant governor were held today, respondents preferred any of the four GOP candidates—including frontrunners David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick—over Democrat Leticia Van de Putte by margins ranging from 9 to 12 points.
The statewide poll, conducted Feb. 7-17, surveyed 1,200 registered Texas voters and had a margin of error of 3.28 percentage points.
“The 11-point gap between Davis and Abbott reflects the underlying fundamentals of party identification in the Texas electorate, where Republicans have consistently enjoyed an advantage for the last decade and a half,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin and a co-director of the poll. “The early boost to Wendy Davis's candidacy evident in the fall seems to have subsided into a more recognizable Texas pattern, at least at this stage of the campaign.”
When asked about candidate favorability, 36 percent said they had a very or somewhat favorable impression of Davis, with 35 percent indicating somewhat or very unfavorable. Forty-five percent said they had a very or somewhat favorable impression of Abbott, with 25 percent indicating somewhat or very unfavorable.
“Greg Abbott has successfully improved his favorable ratings since our October poll, which helps strengthen an already formidable advantage,” Henson said. “Wendy Davis's favorability ratings have not improved since our last poll in October, but she remains well-liked among Democrats.”
With primary elections drawing near, undecided respondents were induced to choose someone, resulting in a different margin of error, 5.37 percent, for the following races:
• Thirty-eight percent of Republicans polled would vote for David Dewhurst in the primary election for lieutenant governor, with 31 percent favoring Dan Patrick. Sixteen percent said they would vote for Todd Staples, with 14 percent opting for Jerry Patterson. In November’s poll Dewhurst led Patrick 26 percent to 13 percent, with 46 percent undecided.
• The poll also indicates a tight race in the Republican primary election for attorney general, with Dan Branch leading Ken Paxton 42 to 39 percent. Nineteen percent said they would vote for Barry Smitherman.
• In the primary for the U.S. Senate, 60 percent of Republicans polled said they would vote for Sen. John Cornyn. His nearest challenger, Steve Stockman, was second with 16 percent.
“The main story from the Republican primary ballot results is that we are probably looking at run-off elections for lieutenant governor and attorney general,” said poll co-director Daron Shaw, a professor of government at The University of Texas at Austin. “The exceptions are the top of the ballot offices, where both Abbott and Cornyn look very solid.”
This is the latest in a series of online polls conducted by the Texas Politics Project and The Texas Tribune. Comprehensive poll results, information about methodology and the survey dataset will be available at the Texas Politics Project website later this week.
President Obama displays the “Hook ‘em Horns” hand signal during a speech at UT on Aug. 9, 2010, where he told the crowd, “The way to move forward is to put education first. Education and opportunity always go hand in hand.”
When President Barack Obama told employees at a manufacturing plant last month that “folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” he immediately countered by adding, “Nothing wrong with art history degree. I love art history. I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.”
But the emails came anyway, including one from Ann Johns, senior lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History, who saw an opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about her field.
“I wanted to dispel any notion that art history is frivolous, and I wanted to dispel the notion that we are elitists,” Johns says.
She doesn’t have a copy of the email because she submitted it via a form on the White House website, but says her message “was not so much one of outrage at Obama’s statement, but rather a ‘look what we do well’ statement. I emphasized that as art historians, we challenge our students to think, read and write critically. I also stressed how inclusive our discipline is these days,” she says.
As has been widely reported in recent days (New York Times, ABC News, Chronicle of Higher Education), Johns received the surprise of a lifetime when the White House delivered a handwritten apology letter from President Obama himself. The note read:
Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed.
So please pass on my apology for the glib remark to the entire department, and understand that I was trying to encourage young people who may not be predisposed to a four year college experience to be open to technical training that can lead them to an honorable career.
Of the very unexpected response, Johns says “I think this is a powerful example of telling truth to power for our students, and it should also be a lesson about not becoming complacent or apathetic.”The Truth about Art History
I emphasized that as art historians, we challenge our students to think, read and write critically.” — Ann Johns
Indeed, the entire department, including students, has been electrified about the discussion surrounding art history since Obama’s remarks were first reported. Students in associate chair Julia Guernsey‘s undergraduate capstone class crafted a statement explaining the value of majoring in art history and inviting the president and Mrs. Obama to the Undergraduate Art History Research Symposium in April.
“We feel strongly that our education as art historians prepares us to do a variety of things, many of which are vital to the educational well-being of our country, and some of which are also politically, socially, and economically-charged,” the statement reads. “We develop strong writing skills, learn to do in-depth research, read multiple languages, work collaboratively, engage and support creativity at all socio-economic levels, and promote diversity within the arts, archaeology, and the museum world.”
The statement goes on to list the post-graduation plans of some current art history students, including attending medical school, joining Teach for America, working with undocumented Texas artists, attending graduate school at Sotheby’s art and business program, and entering Harvard Law School, the president’s alma mater.
“It’s not just about ‘looking at pretty pictures,’” says Johns. “We ask hard questions of our students about the images and artifacts we show them. How can one painting or one small object conjure up a bygone culture or an entire political system? And these observational and interpretive skills can then be used by our students across the disciplines.”
For Johns and Guernsey, the publicity has been exciting, but it takes a back seat to the teachable moment it has provided for students, who are rallying together to support their chosen discipline.
“I have never been more proud to be an art history student than I am in this very moment,” says senior Tracey Borders, vice president of the Undergraduate Art History Association. “The buzz that has been created from Dr. Johns’ email is just incredible to watch and be a part of.”
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The University of Texas at Austin’s Explore UT is expected to draw more than 50,000 visitors of all ages from throughout the state March 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., when nearly 400 free activities in six realms of discovery will be featured on the university’s main campus.
The public event has proved to be an effective means of recruiting bright, talented prospective students to the university in past years. It also has inspired excitement in learning among younger children who attend and experience the intellectual life, technological advances and rich natural and cultural resources of a world-class university.
More than 400 buses filled with children from school districts throughout Texas are scheduled to arrive on campus to participate in Explore UT, known as “the biggest open house in Texas.” Many of the students will travel hundreds of miles to have access to an academic setting that encourages them to continue their education beyond high school.
Activities at Explore UT are organized into six realms of discovery:
- Arts Adventures – Embrace a culture of innovation found in the arts, architecture and communication.
- Cultural Crossroads – Harness the creativity and critical thinking found in business, information, education and the liberal arts.
- Engineering Expeditions – Embark on a journey to solve global problems and improve lives through engineering.
- Public Service Passageway – Learn how your world is enriched through the law, social work and public service.
- Science Safari – Experience the sciences and see the innovative fun in pharmacy, nursing and geosciences.
- Longhorn Trail – Discover our Longhorn community and see firsthand the many ways we are changing the world.Some of the activities will give students an opportunity to design and create paper flying machines, learn about robotics and automation, create a magazine cover, and learn how tiny worms are helping to solve mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome.
While the students are exploring activities on campus, dozens of their teachers will participate in free continuing education courses, which will count toward their required professional development credit hours.
For a complete schedule of activities, visit the Explore UT website at http://www.utexas.edu/events/exploreut/.
Explore UT has been held since 1999. It allows the community, especially young people, an inside look at the university and provides an opportunity for prospective students and their families to see the university’s literary and art collections, learn about its cutting-edge research, experience its history and traditions, and interact with faculty members, staffers and students.
Last year, about 50,000 people attended Explore UT including more than 19,500 kindergarten-through-12th grade students, teachers and parents. Those students represented 109 school districts and 230 individually registered schools from across Texas, the majority of which (72 percent) are classified as Title 1 schools, representing a significant proportion of students from low-socioeconomic-status households. This outreach effort has grown far beyond Central Texas to include schools from Laredo, Corpus Christi, Houston, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley.
Panelists (from left) Daina Ramey Berry, Shirley Thompson, Mark Cunningham and Eddie Chambers are introduced by moderator Helena Woodard at the Public Roundtable and Discussion of “Twelve Years a Slave,” co-hosted by the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies on Feb. 6. [Photo by Thomas Humphreys]
During every Hollywood awards season, a handful of films spark conversations about the quality of the acting or the ingenuity of the plot. But one of this year’s most lauded films, “Twelve Years a Slave,” has generated articles and discussions about the institution it tackles: American Slavery in the 19th century. “Twelve Years a Slave” was directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen and is based on the personal narrative of Solomon Northup, a free-born African-American from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery before finding freedom again more than a decade later.
Four scholars from a variety of disciplines came together earlier this month to discuss the film and offer their perspectives. We’ve excerpted some of their remarks below.Eddie Chambers, Department of Art and Art History
On depicting the “reality” of slavery in film.
Steve McQueen is an extraordinary artist and filmmaker. Having said that, I’m not sure that slavery is a good topic for film. The common sentiment is that the film expresses slavery as it happened, or the film gets close to this notion that it’s a realistic portrayal of slavery. I would argue that there’s a profound and possibly frustrating impossibility of accurately depicting the awfulness of slavery. And if we think we’re getting close to it by looking at a film — even a film as powerful as “Twelve Years a Slave” — I think we are some way off the mark.
Within the film the biggest crime isn’t so much slavery itself or the ways in which Northup is dragged into slavery. It’s being torn away from his family. This is the way the crime takes place. He’s removed from his family and he endures 12 years of hell. The moment of salvation, the moment the film reaches its climax in ways in which the audience is satisfied, is the point at which he is reunited with his family. Of course, we have all these other people who are still trapped in the torment of slavery. But there’s an uncomfortable hierarchy at the end of the film in which they are left in their torment and he’s reunited with his family, and so in some ways all’s well with the world. There’s a troubling cultural force at play in the way in which this film is constructed.Mark Cunningham, Department of Radio, Television, Film, Austin Community College
On audience reception to the film.
I want to talk about audience reception of this film… I’m thinking of the level of vitriol that [Steve McQueen] has received, a black filmmaker making this film… I’ve read numerous things [by] black journalists who said, “I’m tired of seeing these movies about black people downtrodden,” and I’m thinking, how many movies about slavery have there been? There haven’t been that many.
But this film is important and it is integral because of what it will teach young people and teach people who don’t know. We have gotten to this point where we look at slavery, where we look at domestics, and we say, “That is an embarrassment, that is nothing we want to talk about. That is nothing we want to focus on.” And then I look at the contrast of Jewish people who embrace that struggle, who embrace the Holocaust. Who recognize the importance of that in their history, in who they are as people now, and wonder why we cannot do the same.Shirley Thompson, Departments of American Studies and African and African Diaspora Studies
On the monetary value of human life.
I’m interested in the experiences of people who were owned as property and how their legacies complicate and challenge our assumptions about the property relation. Solomon Northup tracks his own journey, from being a priceless self-possessed person, laboring on his own property in upstate New York, to an article of merchandise eventually sold for $1,000 in the New Orleans slave market. He went from $0 to $1,000 — or in the buying power of today’s currency, from $0 to $27,000 — in the time it took him to travel south. In Northup we see not only the inequities of life under capitalism that we all take for granted today, but the serious absurdity of life as a fluctuating price.
About a third of the way through the narrative Northup is sold to Master Ford. One of Ford’s debts in to John Tibeats, the poor white carpenter who aspires to join the slaveholding class. But Northup’s price, his market value, is worth more than the debt Ford owed Tibeats, $400 more. So Ford took out the chattel mortgage of $400 and retained that percentage of ownership in Northup. So here’s Northup, a whole person, 100 percent of a person, stretched between the property rights of two owners.
We found out in the housing crisis of 2008 what strange, sometimes wondrous, sometimes disastrous, things happen when the mortgage of a home, for example, is chopped up and divided among many owners, stretched thin across a volatile market. But Northup allows us to experience what happens when it’s a human being, human flesh that’s distributed in this way. This was a truly bizarre kind of limbo that was run of the mill in slave society for enslaved people. These arrangements greased the wheels of the slave market and facilitated all kinds of circulation with the U.S. and global economies of the era. And since none of this currency was ever demonetized, the value still circulates to this day.Daina Ramey Berry, Departments of History and African and African Diaspora Studies
On the sensory experience of watching the film.
I wanted to talk about a teaching philosophy that I’ve used for more than 10 years, and it really came to a climax this semester for me: teaching about slavery through the senses.
I’ve talked about slavery, I’ve talked about chains, I’ve touched chains, I’ve touched whips that were used during slavery. But there was something about the sound and the heaviness of the chains in that opening scene [after he was kidnapped], where you actually felt [Northup] struggling to get up. And the way they clanged down was loud, ear-piercingly loud. Hearing that and watching him get up reminded me of when a baby cow is born, when a calf comes out and they’re trying to stand up, or a horse, they’re trying to walk for the first time: they get up, they fall down, they get up, they fall down. That was, to me, a rebirthing scene for him, of being born into slavery.
I took two classes this semester to see the film, [and] I ask the students, how do you feel, what can you see? We look at images, we listen to music, we listen to spirituals, we listen to work songs, we touch cotton, we touch rice, we husk corn. We think about what songs were they singing when they were husking corn? What is the rhythm, what is the cadence of that? What kind of space does that bring you to? But there was something about witnessing the whipping from a visual angle that I had not imagined. You’re watching from an angle where the whip is almost coming to you. You’re seeing the person that’s giving the whipping. You’re seeing the sweat flying off his face. And I think you realize at this moment how being whipped or whipping someone wears you out. Literally, physically. You saw people having shortness of breath, taking turns, being exhausted from that. That is something you can’t really capture … in the [book].
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The Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies (TILTS) is an annual, multidisciplinary initiative that showcases dynamic scholarship in literary and textual studies. The 2013-2014 edition of TILTS, “Reading Race in Literature & Film,” convenes scholars, artists, filmmakers, and writers for conversations about the degree to which categories of race and ethnicity are both more fungible and more fixed than ever before. TILTS is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Vice-Provost, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of English of The University of Texas at Austin. The co-sponsor for this event is the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.
Home page image: still from the film “Twelve Years a Slave” used under Fair Use Guidelines.
Event: The Project 2014
When: Saturday, Feb. 22, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Holly Street Neighborhood, with kickoff at Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach; headquarters at Martin Middle School. Click here for map of area.
Background: More than 2,000 University of Texas at Austin volunteers are expected to participate in The Project, one of the largest one-day student-run service events in the nation. Established in 1999 by the Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement (LCCE) at UT Austin, The Project is the annual culmination of a 12-month partnership effort involving UT student volunteers, city government departments, community organizations and local businesses.
The 15th annual Project will include 129 different projects to be completed by volunteers at 24 worksites throughout the Holly Street/East Cesar Chavez Street neighborhoods. The goal for this year’s event is to assist low-income residents, elderly residents and veterans with individual home repairs and improvements in order to combat the effects of the swift gentrification of the area.
Community partners include the Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, Austin Parks & Recreation, Downtown Austin Community Court, Solid Waste Services, Keep Austin Beautiful, University Federal Credit Union, The Home Depot, all of the neighborhood organizations in the selected community, area school representatives and several other organizations.
For more information about individual worksites and recommended sites for filming and interviews, contact Mario Rodriguez, Project Media Coordinator, 956-325-9989. Media headquarters is at Edward Rendon Sr. Park at Festival Beach, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St.