This story is part of our series “In Pursuit of Health,” covering medical news and research happening across the university.
Abby Bassett was only four weeks old when what seemed to be a mild cold turned into a much harsher reality.
The newborn was diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough, a disease that claims the lives of 195,000 children across the globe annually.Quick Facts About Pertussis
- Pertussis causes coughing fits that last longer than 10 weeks, earning it the nickname “100-day cough.”
- Approximately half of infants younger than one year old who get pertussis are hospitalized.
- Worldwide, an estimated 195,000 children die from pertussis annually, and another 16 million pertussis cases are reported.
- In 2012, more than 48,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the U.S., the most since 1977 when nearly 63,000 cases were reported.
- Texas reported more than 3,400 cases of pertussis in 2013, giving the state the 12th highest per capita incidence rate with 13.2 cases per 100,000 residents.
- In 2012, 22.6 million infants around the world were not immunized against pertussis.
“As Abby was clinging to life in the intensive care unit, I just couldn’t believe that even after decades of research, there were no treatments that were specific for pertussis,” says Suzanne Bassett, Abby’s mother. “I knew that we could lose her at any moment. It was such a hopeless feeling. All I could do was pray.”
Now, a University of Texas at Austin researcher is working on a better way to treat whooping cough.
Jennifer Maynard, an associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, is on the cusp of a therapeutic injection to treat the symptoms of pertussis and the painful coughing fits that come with the illness.
Maynard’s passive immunization techniques gives babies who’ve had exposure to pertussis “instant immunity” using a mixture of two antibodies. The first binds to the whooping cough toxin, preventing it from attaching to healthy cells. The second stops the toxin from reaching its target within a healthy cell.
“It gives this one-two punch to deal with the toxin,” says Maynard, who is a scientific colleague of Bassett’s. The therapeutic can also help babies who’ve contracted the disease by alleviating their symptoms, which are caused by toxin, in conjunction with antibiotics that eliminate the bacteria that causes the illness.
Maynard is working with Synthetic Biologics to bring her solution to the market, and she hopes to start clinical trials in 2015, paving the way for public use in only a few years. With support from that company and The University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Technology Commercialization, Maynard is optimistic her vaccine will soon reach the people who need it most, possibly even being distributed for free in developing counties. (As for baby Abby, her mother says she’s a happy, healthy 3-year-old today.)
“We want to make sure that whatever we come up with at the end is really going to have impact,” Maynard says.
While working on her Ph.D. research to create an antibody to neutralize anthrax toxins, Maynard realized the passive immunization technique could be used to fight pertussis. And the work she’s now done on pertussis may be the stepping-stone to combat the next sickness on which she sets her sights.
“Everything we’ve learned how to do with anthrax and with pertussis,” Maynard says, “we can apply to other diseases.”Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin (UTCID) has launched IDWise, a state-funded online resource and one-stop-shop for consumer-friendly tips, articles, games and videos on how to manage and secure personal information for individuals, businesses and families.
Completely free, IDWise is a resource designed to educate those most at risk for identity theft: children and parents, older adults, small businesses, veterans and active-duty service members. Fueled by innovative research, support from the Texas Legislature and contributions from UTCID’s partners, IDWise takes a novel approach to identity theft prevention, uniting practical advice with entertaining and relevant content tailored to address the top concerns of these at-risk audiences.
“We are working to reduce instances of identity theft and data breach around the world by educating organizations and consumers about what they can do to protect themselves,” said Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity. “Smarter citizens and businesses can help prevent millions of dollars in lost income, fraudulent costs, wasted time and reputation damage.”
“I’m proud to be a part of UTCID’s efforts and the launch of IDWise,” said Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, a member of UTCID’s advisory board and head of the Child ID Task Force. “As Texas’ CFO, I can tell you that this is a daily concern to many Texans, and this unique resource is crucial to helping folks in Texas and all over the country who face the threat of identity theft every day.”
The Center for Identity hosted a public launch of IDWise on Oct. 7, 2014, on campus at The University of Texas at Austin.
Learn more at identity.utexas.edu or use #IDWise on social media.
Building a better future for American children lies in creating effective policies today. One of the more effective policy changes that must happen is raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 and then indexing it to inflation so that American families can keep up with the rising prices of gas, food and housing.
While the minimum wage needs to be raised across the nation, the lack of effective movement at the federal level leaves it up to the states to step up and lead this movement. Texas should be one of the states leading the change.
The current minimum wage was established in 2009 at $7.25 per hour, only $7 more than at its inception in 1930 at 25 cents. While the current minimum wage has remained stagnant, the price of food, housing, gas and college tuition has not. As a result, purchasing power among low-wage families has decreased, and the gap between the poor and the middle class has widened. It has also increased dependence on government services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.
For the 20 states that have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum, positive results are being seen. According to the Washington Labor Council, it is important to a state’s economy for low-wage earners to maintain their purchasing power beyond the ability to meet their basic needs.
In addition, several cities have also increased their minimum wages. For example, Seattle ($15), San Francisco ($10.74), Santa Fe, New Mexico ($10.66), New York City ($8), and San Jose, California ($10.15). To date, Santa Fe has seen no effect on employment and is doing economically better than Albuquerque, its sister city, which did not raise its minimum wage past the federal minimum.
When take-home pay is increased for low-income families, they tend to spend more within their local communities, which helps local businesses. This cycle creates better economic conditions locally and statewide. For business who employ minimum wage to low-wage workers, studies have shown higher productivity, decreased turnover, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale for these businesses with increased minimum wages.
Those opposed to raising the minimum wage offer a number of arguments that suggest any increase would be detrimental to the economy. Unfortunately, when scrutinized these arguments fall apart.
First, several economists have indicated job loss as a consequence of raising the minimum wage. This argument is based in the theoretical premise that when price increases, demand will go down. This simple supply-demand construct essentially says that if the cost of paying low-wage workers increases, then the demand for low-wage workers will decrease. These authors state that the supply-demand premise only holds true when the critical condition of “all else equal” is met.
Considering the country’s ever changing economy and the changes increasing the minimum wage would inspire, the critical condition of all else equal is not maintained — essentially invalidating the increase in unemployment argument.
Opponents often state that raising the minimum wage would actually harm the people it is intended to help. However, a report this year from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office states that for families living below the poverty threshold, a raise in minimum wage to $10.10 would increase real income, on net, by $5 billion and pull about 900,000 families above the poverty threshold.
Opponents also say that the only way to offset the wage increase is to lay off workers or relocate. Again, rigorous studies show businesses absorb the costs by other means such as slightly raising prices, initially accepting small profit reductions, or improving productivity.
With the highest number of hourly-wage workers of any state at about 3 million, Texas could set a strong precedent for the rest of the nation if state policymakers raise the minimum wage. Texas’ low-wage families would see an aggregate increase of $5.9 million to $8 million in additional income. This additional millions of dollars would go straight into the local and state economies.
Our state policymakers should take notice and raise the wage for the betterment of society and enable economic growth.
Shetal Vohra-Gupta is a research scientist for the Institute of Urban Policy Research and Analysis at The University of Texas at Austin.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:October 6, 2014
I’m proud to report that once again the London-based publication Times Higher Education has ranked The University of Texas at Austin among the best universities in the world. This year, UT came in at No. 28. This is the fourth consecutive year we have ranked in the top 29. Among public universities in the United States, UT Austin ranked sixth on the list. The full list of universities can be found here.
Times Higher Education examines 13 factors in five separate areas to determine excellence — teaching, research, influence of research, innovation, and international outlook. UT Austin’s highest marks were in its influence of research, as measured by the number of times faculty members’ studies are cited by peers; overall research, which includes funding, number of articles published and quality; and teaching, which is based largely on the university’s reputation among scholars.
All Texans can take great pride in the fact that UT Austin keeps company with the world’s very best universities.
AUSTIN, Texas — Lorraine J. Haricombe has been selected as the new vice provost and director of libraries at The University of Texas at Austin. Haricombe currently serves as the dean of libraries at the University of Kansas. She begins her new position Feb. 1, 2015.
“Dr. Haricombe brings to UT Austin critical expertise on the evolving role of libraries in advancing teaching and research at top universities. She also is an international leader in improving access to scholarly publications. I’m proud she’s coming to UT Austin,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers.
During her tenure at KU, Haricombe oversaw the enhancement of several library facilities across campus. She was instrumental in implementing a faculty-led open access policy at KU, the first public institution in the U.S. with such a policy, ensuring increased visibility for KU research and scholarship. Open access reduces barriers to scholarly output to create faster, wider sharing of knowledge and increases the return on research investment.
"I am honored and humbled by this appointment to lead the libraries at a world-class research university,” said Haricombe. “The University of Texas Libraries provides an exciting opportunity to elevate the role of libraries as an integral partner in the higher education ecosystem, while advancing new strategic directions in support of teaching, learning and research.”
Haricombe was selected through a national search to fill the position.
“Given her extensive experience as a director of a major research library system at an institution that is a member of Association of American Universities, Lorraine has much to offer UT,” said UT Provost Gregory L. Fenves. “She has a vision for how to enhance learning communities for students and scholars and understands the importance of creating better digital access to original materials.”
Haricombe earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology and library and information science at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in library and information science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In her new role at UT Austin, Haricombe will oversee one of the nation’s largest academic research library systems, which annually serves more than 2.5 million visitors and 11 million online visitors with collections in excess of 10 million volumes. The library system includes the flagship Perry-Castañeda Library, nine specialized branch libraries and world-class special collections (Alexander Architectural Archive, Benson Latin American Collection and the PCL Map Collection).
Along with those core units, the library system also maintains numerous digital-native collections, including the Human Rights Documentation Initiative and the University of Texas Digital Repository. UT Libraries are founding members and hosts of the statewide Texas Digital Library.
Haricombe will replace Fred Heath, who retired this year after 11 years in the position.
In addition to her university experience, Haricombe is a co-founder of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions in North America, an international advocacy group for institutions with open access policies. She also has served for the past seven years as a mentor to junior librarians from underrepresented areas as part of the Association of Research Libraries Leadership Career Development Program.
Given the utter lack of competition in Texas, political observers in the state are forced to examine characteristics other than competition to find “interesting” races this year. The state’s 27th Congressional District is in the running simply for its location in the state, its demographic makeup, and its incumbent.
Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold is running against Wesley Reed, a Democrat who has never sought political office. Farenthold was part of the tea party class of 2010, when he won by just 775 votes over 14-term incumbent Solomon Ortiz.
According to the latest Cook Report ratings for U.S. House races, Montana, which elects one person to the House, has as many “competitive” races as the state of Texas, which has 36 seats. Cook, incidentally, rates Texas’ 27th District race as “Solid Republican.” In 2012, Mitt Romney got 61 percent of the vote in the district to Barack Obama’s 38 percent. At the same time, Farenthold won by 18 points.
If the electorate in 2014 is supposed to be even more Republican, and Barack Obama is supposed to be even less popular in the district, how is it possible that Texas’ 27th District is “interesting”? At least four factors make this race one of the most interesting races in Texas.
First, the competition for “interesting” in Texas isn’t particularly strong. Only one of 36 incumbents opted to give up his House seat. Steve Stockman chose to run against Sen. John Cornyn in the Republican primary rather than run for re-election to his House seat. One other Texas incumbent, Ralph Hall, was defeated in his primary. Romney did even better in both of those districts.
Although most political scientists would consider Farenthold’s 18-point victory margin fairly substantial, it was the third lowest in the state. The other Republicans in the state won their districts by an average of 40 points.
Second, if it wasn’t for the adoption of a Republican redistricting map, this race very well could have been the most interesting race in the state. The district where Farenthold beat Ortiz was 73 percent Hispanic. After the 2010 redistricting cycle, the district is now just 51 percent Hispanic.
Farenthold is the closest Texas House Republican to the Texas-Mexico border and has been an opponent of immigration reform, suggesting that the Senate-passed bill (that had 14 Republican votes) “doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell in the House of Representatives.”
Third, Farenthold isn’t what you would call a formidable incumbent. While Reed, according to a June 30 campaign finance report, had only $114,484 in cash on hand, the incumbent had only $419,900. Although six of his fellow Texas Republican incumbents have even less cash on hand, their opponents have a combined total of $18,175. Furthermore, in his four-year career, he has only sponsored one successful bill. Having flirted both with “birtherism” and with a scantily dressed woman while wearing pajamas during his initial run, Farenthold has recently been targeted by comedian Bill Maher in his effort to “Flip a District,” though he “lost” in the semifinals to Congressman John Kline of Minnesota.
Finally, the voters in the 27th District do not have an easy job. They must balance their ethnicity, their ideology, and their partisanship in choosing between a “colorful” incumbent and a challenger who will be tied to the unpopular policies of the Obama administration. Furthermore, they will have to balance their distaste for Obamacare, even while more than 20 percent of them lack health insurance, and the complications of a stalled immigration reform bill while a crisis festers at a border fewer than 200 miles away.
Perhaps if it weren’t the midterm of a second-term president who is unpopular in the district; perhaps if it weren’t the currently configured, but rather, the pre-redistricted district; perhaps if the economy were doing better or if foreign crises dissipated, Reed would have a chance. As it is, the only reason that the race is interesting at all is because of Farenthold, who under a different set of circumstances could very well be running to save his political life.
Sean Theriault is a professor of government at The University of Texas at Austin. He is an expert in party polarization in elections and voter retribution.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:September 17, 2014
Stop. Go. Red light. Green light. Blaring car horns, exasperated hand gestures and the frustrating gridlock of your daily commute. There has to be a better way of getting from here to there, right?
As one of the leading university-based transportation research centers in the world, the center has created a place where researchers, faculty members and students work together to promote cutting-edge developments in transportation science and technology.
Bhat is widely recognized as an expert in the area of travel-demand modeling and travel behavior analysis, examining the ways people move through urban environments on a day-to-day basis and finding solutions to the transportation challenges facing communities.
According to Bhat, “a good understanding and prediction of the activity and travel behavior of individuals is critical to evaluating the effects of alternative traffic congestion-alleviation strategies, such as work rearrangement measures, transit service improvements, congestion pricing schemes and real-time traveler information systems.”
“My research is particularly relevant to long-term transportation planning in today’s rapidly changing demographic profile of the U.S. and world populations,” Bhat says. “For instance, the population is aging and the mobility needs of such an aging population have to be anticipated in advance for good infrastructure investment decisions.”
Bhat has received countless awards over the years for his groundbreaking work. Yet his proudest moments can be traced to his work mentoring students, many of whom have gone on to make massive strides in the transportation field themselves.
“I have been fortunate to receive several research and teaching awards during my career. While I am humbled at receiving these awards, it makes me particularly happy when I’m appreciated for teaching,” Bhat says.
“It certainly is gratifying when I receive notes from students indicating how much they enjoyed a course I taught or how much their future career aspirations have been influenced through interactions with me,” he adds. “However, my proudest moments are when my graduate students receive awards for their master’s or Ph.D. research under my guidance.”
Chandra Bhat, he’s a Longhorn Game Changer. That’s how we change the world.
This story is part of our “Finding Solutions” series, which explores how UT Austin faculty, staff and students are putting their big ideas to work.
The Department of Defense has awarded $17 million to 11 U.S. public and private institutions — including The University of Texas at Austin — to support advances in traumatic brain injury research.
This unprecedented public-private partnership aims to drive the development of better-run clinical trials, with the goal of developing the first successful treatments for traumatic brain injury. The condition affects athletes and combat veterans, as well as millions of other people.
The five-year award, officially launched Oct. 1, brings together leading academic clinician-scientists with innovative industry leaders in biotechnology and imaging technology, with patient advocacy organizations, and with philanthropies.
UT Austin psychology professors Alex Valadka and David Schnyer will join the national team of researchers in collecting a broad range of long-term data from existing studies and databases, and integrating these into a dataset that can be analyzed for traumatic brain injury associations and causes in a way that has never before been possible. The principal investigator overseeing the project is Dr. Geoffrey Manley, chief of neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital.
The funding will support Valadka and Schnyer’s participation in a multisite longitudinal study (TRACK-TBI) designed to collect clinical, advanced imaging, genetic, proteomic and neuropsychological data on traumatic brain injury. The collaboration demonstrates the ground-breaking research partnerships that UT Austin frequently develops with the private sector.
“It is an honor to be a part of this critical endeavor lead by Dr. Geoffrey Manley and his team at UCSF and supported by the Defense Department, National institutes of Health, General Electric and Seattle’s One Mind,” says Schnyer.
The research collaborators will work directly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with better methods for selecting patients for clinical trials and better ways to measure patient outcomes that may lead to the identification of effective traumatic brain injury treatments.
Each year more than 2.5 million people in the United States seek medical care for traumatic brain injuries that arise when blows to the body or nearby explosions cause the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 2 percent of the U.S. population lives with disabilities caused by traumatic brain injuries, at an annual cost of about $77 billion. No treatment has proved to be effective.
The new research initiative, called the TBI Endpoints Development (TED) Award, is designed to overcome the difficulty in demonstrating the effectiveness of drugs and medical devices by actively involving the FDA in clinical-trial design from the outset.
Quarterly earning calls that receive zero questions or a very low number of questions during the question-and-answer session of the call lead to a significant decrease in stock price according to new research from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
McCombs Associate Professor Shuping Chen and her co-authors analyzed nearly 50,000 earnings conference calls from 2002-2012 and identified 9,434 calls that either received zero or a low number of questions during an open-response Q&A session. They found that those companies’ stock prices then dropped significantly following the call, resulting in a $4.3-6.1 million decrease in market capitalization.
Their findings reveal that a typical earnings call carries with it unintended consequences when those calls fail to elicit questions. An increase in information asymmetry, concluded the researchers, leads to an immediate, negative market reaction that is predictable, significant, and avoidable.
Information asymmetry occurs when one person has more information than someone else, such as a corporate executive who has more information about a company than an investor. This is measured by tracking the changes in intraday trading numbers. By taking the midpoint of the daily ask high and the daily bid low, researchers can chart a decrease in stock price surrounding the date of the earnings call. Calls that received zero or a low number of questions exhibited more negative returns in the five days following the calls — up to 135 basis points lower than peer firms similar in size and analyst coverage.
Chen and her co-authors ruled out other variables to confirm their findings, such as company size, day of the week, time of the year, or even whether the call occurred at the same time as a major national news event.
“All things being equal,” says Chen, “the fact that these earnings calls received so few questions is, by itself, the catalyst for the significant, negative market reaction we observed.”
According to the study, the lack of interaction between managers and call participants can be detrimental both to investors and managers: the lack of questions deprives managers of a valuable opportunity to benefit from immediate feedback from market participants, and investors can interpret the lack of questions as a signal to sell.
Chen and her co-authors’ findings call for follow-up research that takes a deeper look at investor relations programs and how they can avoid hosting quarterly earnings calls that don’t generate questions. Initial suggestions include paid-for analyst research or face-to-face meetings with investors to improve firms’ visibility and information dissemination.
Co-authors of the study are Stephan Hollander and Kelvin Law of Tilburg University.
Can we use plants for energy instead of oil? That’s the question one group of intrepid students is trying to answer as part of an innovative program that plugs first-year students into real-world research projects with top faculty and research scientists.
Students in the Biology of Biofuels stream — one of 25 “research streams” in the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) — investigate the physiology, genetics, breeding and ecology of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a promising biofuel species, and compare it with other potential biofuel sources.
Almost seven billion humans live on Earth, supported by finite planetary resources that are being affected by global climate change. Biofuels are an alternative energy source that could be both sustainable and help minimize climate change. But the benefits of growing plants for fuel will depend on both natural limits to plant productivity and competition for space between biofuel crops, food crops and natural ecosystems.
“We’re just trying to understand this plant that no one has actually studied,” says Maria Villalpando, a biology sophomore, about the work she did as a FRI participant.
“One of my personal motivations is to get students excited about doing research,” says Brandon Campitelli, research educator in the College of Natural Sciences for the Biology of Biofuels research stream. (Support for this research stream was provided by a National Science Foundation Plant Genome grant.) Campitelli manages the day-to-day work of the students.
Each year around 800 first-year students work on research projects in faculty labs while earning traditional class credit through FRI. Students in the research streams — cohorts with 30 students each — work under the guidance of faculty, graduate students and peer mentors. Projects include robotics, plant ecology and climate change, infectious disease, white dwarf stars, cancer, drug discovery and more.
“Witnessing as freshmen go from learning basic scientific skills to designing and executing independent research projects with real publication potential is enormously satisfying,” Campitelli says. “There is certainly something special about learning how to do science, in addition to learning the science itself.”First-Year Researchers Find Early Success Compared to their non-FRI peers, students who participate in FRI have higher GPAs, are more likely to graduate and are more likely to go to graduate school. Students emerging from FRI have experience with experimental techniques, lab work and a deep understanding of the scientific process. In his State of the University address on Sep. 22, President Bill Powers said that traditional classroom lectures give students “the product of research.” “[Lectures] don’t expose our students to the process of research, with all of its dead-ends, failures and frustrations,” said Powers. “The Freshman Research Initiative does. So we get more bang for our buck by designing the FRI the way we do.”
This story is part of our “Finding Solutions” series, which explores how UT Austin faculty, staff and students are putting their big ideas to work.
As summer turns to fall, the gubernatorial campaigns of Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis have ritualistically taken to the airwaves in an effort to shape the outcome of the upcoming election. While much attention has focused on whether a particular ad has “hit the mark,” little attention has been paid to how the separate emotional tones of these ads reflect the strategic plan of each campaign. So far it has been a classic contest between fear and anxiety, and hope and stability, and these rhetorical choices do a lot to tell us about what the candidates really think about the current state of the race.
The impact of emotion on voters’ cognitive processes — and in some cases, their behavior — has been well documented by several prominent scholars. An emotion like hope signals that all is well and that we can rely on our habits, such as in the case of politics with partisanship or ideology. So if you feel hopeful and consider yourself a Republican, even loosely, you’re likely to vote Republican. On the other hand, anxiety signals to those experiencing it that they need to stop and gather new information. Relying on a habitual approach in the face of anxiety — an uncomfortable emotion defined by its uncertainty about a given situation — may be harmful to one’s interests, so anxious people feel compelled to stop and learn more.
Davis kicked off her fall advertising campaign with “A Texas Story,” an ad that outlines the brutal rape of a woman by a vacuum cleaner salesman. There is scary music, grainy footage and an ominous, foreboding tone. These cues are intended to induce anxiety. As the viewer is in this induced state of fear, Davis then presents the information she wants you to learn: Abbott’s minority opinion as a member of the Texas Supreme Court that the vacuum cleaner company was not liable for the salesman’s actions. An anxious viewer might then ask friends or family about the accusation, or turn to a quick online search. The anxiety-inducing ad is an obvious contrast to Abbott’s hopeful message, and Davis’ other recent ads maintain the same tone.
For Davis to have any chance in November, she will need to shake up, or at least loosen, the fundamental partisan dynamics underlying the electorate, the same dynamics that Abbott is looking to maintain. Her use of scary music and intense subject matters are tools for this purpose. This anxiety is beneficial to Davis, just as Abbott’s reliance on hope is beneficial to him. It’s not that either candidate is running a positive or negative campaign per se. It is that each candidate is running the campaign that gives him or her the best chance to win given the electoral context each faces.
There are other elements of Davis’ campaign, in particular the release of her memoir, that provide plenty of hope and resolve for her supporters, but nonetheless, she has chosen to begin the public phase of the election season with a slate of ads that are clearly intended to induce anxiety with the hope of shaking Texans from their reflexively Republican positions. Given this reflexive orientation, Abbott will find success assuming this election proceeds on a business-as-usual track. Producing a hopeful electorate gives Abbott the strategic advantage of reinforcing Republican voters’ partisan predispositions.
By paying attention to the emotional dynamics underlying these prominent campaign ads for each candidate, one can get a clearer sense of how each campaign really views this race, regardless of what you may read in their fundraising emails. In the end, an emotional electorate will pick the next governor of Texas, and the campaigns wouldn’t have it any other way
Bethany Albertson is an assistant professor of government at The University of Texas at Austin and researches in areas related to political attitudes and persuasion. Joshua Blank is manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:September 29, 2014
Producing oil through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses similar amounts of water on average as producing oil by conventional means, according to a new study by The University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology.
Bridget Scanlon, a senior research scientist at the bureau and lead researcher on the study, said the findings are important because of the current debate about the amount of water used to produce energy.
“This analysis of water demand for hydraulic fracturing is critical for assessing the adequacy of water resources to support unconventional energy production,” Scanlon said. “Results of this study can be used in future economic and policy studies about environmental impacts of unconventional energy production.”
The study, which has been posted on the website of the Environmental Science & Technology Journal, compared water use in hydraulic fracturing operations in the Eagle Ford and Bakken formations with previous estimates of water use in conventional operations throughout the country. The Eagle Ford play in Texas and Bakken play in Montana and North Dakota account for about two-thirds of the oil produced by hydraulic fracturing in the United States.
Water use for hydraulic fracturing varied significantly between the Eagle Ford and Bakken plays, primarily due to variations in geology, but in both formations the proportion of water used per unit of energy gained was comparable to conventional oil production. The ratio of water used for hydraulic fracturing to oil produced ranged from 0.2 to 0.4 gallons of water for each gallon of oil produced over the lifetime of a well for both the Eagle Ford and the Bakken. This translates to 0.03 to 0.06 gallons of water used per million British thermal unit (Btu) of energy gained. That is in the lower end of the ratio for conventional production in the U.S. from previous studies, which ranges from 0.1 to 5 gallons of water for each gallon of oil produced over the lifetime of a well (corresponding to 0.01 to 0.7 gallons of water per million Btu).
Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which liquid is injected into geological formations at high pressure to extract oil or natural gas. Because of economics, in recent years production has shifted from predominantly dry gas plays, such as the Barnett and Marcellus formations, to more oil-rich plays in the Eagle Ford, Permian and Bakken formations.
The public perception, Scanlon said, is that hydraulic fracturing uses extremely large quantities of mostly fresh water. This underscores the importance of quantifying water use. The study found that increases in water use for oil production are due to increased energy production and not a higher intensity of water use.
The oil and gas industry is using more water because they have increased the rate of production in the United States and are producing more domestic energy,” Scanlon said.
Research scientist associate Robert Reedy and research scientist Jean-Philippe Nicot, both with the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, also contributed to the study.
Funding for this research was provided by the Jackson School of Geosciences and the Shell-University of Texas Unconventional Research program.
To read the study, go to http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es502506v.
The University of Texas at Austin is committed to transparency and disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. All UT investigators involved with this research have filed their required financial disclosure forms with the university. All three of the researchers have received research funding for past projects from major government science and environmental agencies — including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Texas Water Resources Institute — and from Shell. Reedy and Nicot have received past funding from Statoil. Scanlon has received research funding to examine global water supplies from BP America.
They comb through documents, cover important meetings, live-blog breaking news and even chase runners preparing for big races to get an interview.
Students in the Moody College of Communication’s School of Journalism are getting hands-on reporting experience by covering assignments in the field, exploring new technology and taking pointers from some of journalism’s biggest names — like the iconic Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal leading to President Nixon’s resignation.Students gather around Washington Post legend Bob Woodward, who spoke at the Belo Center for New Media on Sept. 24. [Photo by journalism senior Cassandra Jaramillo]
These young reporters document their experiences online, including on Twitter, using #ReportingUT.
That hashtag is part of the “J310F Reporting: Words” course, in which students use Twitter “as a learning component in the syllabus.”
Robert Quigley, a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism, says the course helps students develop the skills necessary to be a reporter, from newsgathering and writing to journalistic values and beyond. (Check out Quigley’s Tumblr for the class.) The course also helps students meet cross-curriculum requirements to be “exposed to a set of skills and experiences in preparation for a complex world” by carrying two Flags: Writing and Cultural Diversity.
“It’s fun, and our students love it,” says Wanda Garner Cash, a clinical professor in the School of Journalism who teaches the #ReportingUT students. “Over the past four semesters, we have regular Twitter users who follow our class tweets. Responses have come from NPR, The Associated Press, Reuters and scores of journalists.”
Cash says professors encourage students to live tweet class lectures as a way both to take notes and interact with classmates and faculty by sharing links, asking questions and commenting on the topics.
At the many in-the-field reporting assignments students attend — like covering City Council meetings, attending keynote lectures and capturing culture at events like the Keep Austin Weird Festival and the Capitol 10K race — students are required to use the #ReportingUT hashtag as a way to tie together all of the pictures, videos and interviews the class members produce.
Katey Psencik, a digital journalist for KVUE in Austin who also graduated from the School of Journalism, says even though she took the #ReportingUT course more than a year ago, she looks at content under the hashtag as a way to “never stop learning.”
Here’s a look at some of the Tweets from #ReportingUT students, professors and lecturers:
I took the class more than a year ago, but the start of another semester means re-adding #ReportingUT to Tweetdeck. Never stop learning!— Katey Psencik (@psencikk) September 2, 2014 September 24, 2014 June 28, 2014 June 28, 2014 November 21, 2013 June 12, 2014 April 28, 2014 March 3, 2014
Attention newsmakers & gov't agencies: Student journalists are 'real' journalists. #reportingut— Wanda Cash (@cashUT) February 28, 2014 January 27, 2014
About 10 years ago, I led a two-week China business observation tour of McCombs Business School MBA candidates. One of our first stops was at the headquarters of Jack Ma’s Alibaba in Hangzhou, China.
We went to Hangzhou because we had heard that Jack had created an interesting Silicon Valley-like e-commerce company. Jack was a tall, rail thin, intense former English teacher with the personality of a new car salesman.
Alibaba was only 4 years old and had just moved into new, larger offices. Although the paint wasn’t dry, his offices were filled with flat tables covered by row after row of computer monitors. In front of the monitors were bright, intense young men and women wearing headsets.
They were making energetic, emotional phone pitches to Chinese business owners. Their message was urgent and simple.
“The Internet revolution is here. If your company doesn’t have a Web presence, you will miss out on the biggest economic revolution in your lifetime. You don’t have a minute to waste, because your competitors have already signed up with us. If you tell us yes, our team will get you on the Web within the month, and from then on, you can offer your wares to buyers everywhere in the world.”
Eleven years have passed. Alibaba is now a global Internet giant, even though the lion’s share of its revenue comes from China. Later this month, it is scheduled to have its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Alibaba’s IPO could be the largest in the history of the world. What we do know is that Alibaba’s IPO will make Jack Ma the richest man in China.
There are arguments for and against buying Alibaba’s stock. For the first time, American investors will have the opportunity to make a “pure play” investment into the amazing growth of China’s middle class. Every year, 30 million to 50 million Chinese join China’s exploding middle class. Since 1980, China’s middle class has grown to 500 million people. Their e-commerce platform of choice is Alibaba and its dizzying array of e-commerce websites.
There are real risks in buying Alibaba’s stock. Alibaba is a Chinese company. The idea of regulatory and business transparency is a foreign concept in China. When Xi Jinping became the president of China, he ordered every Chinese judge to swear allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party first and the rule of law second, so investors will have to “hope” that Alibaba’s financial statements are truthful. Hope, typically, is not a good strategy for investment.
When Alibaba shares started trading on the NYSE, the company had to comply with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules. This will provide investors unprecedented insight into the operations of a Chinese multinational. But the words “subprime,” “too big to fail” and “Bernie Madoff” are chilling reminders of the limits of our regulatory system.
Today, about 80 percent of the stock of most publicly traded companies in China is owned by the Chinese government. Some fear that the Chinese government could dump millions of shares on the market and drive down the value of everyone’s shares. Others think that it is in the economic and political interest of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to be capitalists and maximize the value of the stock that government owns.
I believe that the Chinese Communist Party wants Alibaba’s IPO to become a symbol of the “new” China. I believe that they will give Jack Ma and Alibaba unprecedented freedom to comply with SEC regulations. They know that if American investors get comfortable with buying the stock of a Chinese company, that will open the floodgates to other Chinese IPOs on the NYSE, Nasdaq and other American and European exchanges.
Today, China is the largest mixed economy in the world. Its inexorable move toward capitalism cannot be stopped.
For that reason, and what I saw in Jack Ma’s eyes in 2003, when Alibaba’s stock went public, I knew it could meet the expectation of being one of the largest in history.
John Doggett is a senior lecturer of management in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas At Austin.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Austin American Statesman.
What should you do when you get an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn who you’ve never met? I say ignore it. It may seem counterintuitive, but that’s the take-home message from our ongoing research at The University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University. If you’re unemployed and turning to a site such as LinkedIn to search for jobs and referrals, the size and strength of your network directly affects your ability to find new leads, get peer recommendations and land a job offer.
Online social networks on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn have, on average, about 150 connections, and many users have networks that exceed 500, but we can usually only recall how we connected with about half of them. Even so, many people are tempted to build a large professional network that they can turn to one day for help finding a new job — but doing so warrants caution. If your online social network is mostly made up of people you barely know or have never even met, it won’t help you land a new job. In fact, it could backfire.
You might assume that having a larger network is the key to finding a new job; more contacts at more companies means more open doors. However, if your network is composed mostly of “weak ties” — people you never met or met once but never contacted again — you may have increased access to job leads, but not to the referrals that turn leads into interviews and job offers.
We tracked 109 unemployed LinkedIn users and found that those with the highest number of weak ties had an easier time finding jobs to apply for, but they had a significantly harder time securing interviews and, subsequently, offers. On the other hand, those LinkedIn users who had more “strong ties” — close friends they knew well and have maintained relationships with — didn’t find as many new job announcements, but when they did apply for an opening, they were more likely to get an interview, and more of those interviews resulted in job offers.
We believe that having a large network made up of predominantly weak ties can backfire when viewed by a recruiter. If you and a recruiter have someone in common, the recruiter will probably contact that person. If your shared connection is strong and can recommend you, you’ll get an interview or an offer. If that person is a weak tie and says, “Sorry, I don’t know her well. We’re just connected on LinkedIn,” then your entire network is suspect, and you’ve probably just lost that interview. In fact, you would have done better without a shared connection.
So job seekers, don’t just “connect” with people. “Know” people. Maintain stronger ties by staying in contact. Build relationships with weak ties by meeting for coffee and catching up when possible. When you meet people at a conference or workshop, don’t just add them to your LinkedIn list. Follow up afterward. Build a network of people who can advocate on your behalf and who would be happy to do so.
Everyone has weak ties, and we understand that those loose connections are valuable because they bring us more leads. But if you don’t have enough strong ties who can apply for a job internally for you or give a recommendation directly to a hiring manager, then those leads are as helpful as finding a “Help Wanted” ad in a newspaper.
Rajiv Garg is an assistant professor of information, risk and operation management in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. To learn more about this research, click here.
To see more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:September 23, 2014
Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege of delivering my ninth and final State of the University Address to the University of Texas community. In the address, I said:
Thirty-seven years ago I fell in love with UT. A lot went into that, but nothing more than our people. Our amazing students. Our unbelievably talented faculty. Our innovative and hard- working staff. Our astonishing alumni and friends. I know all too well what all of you have done for me! Thank you!
You may read the entire address here:
Or watch it here:
Also, you might be interested in this new infographic about the University’s accomplishments:
Thank you for all you have done to make the state of the University of Texas at Austin strong.
A new report from The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) reveals a positive relationship between community colleges’ implementation of several “high impact” practices — like offering supplemental instruction and creating learning communities — and students’ completion of developmental courses and persistence from semester to semester.
"A Matter of Degrees: Practices to Pathways” is the third, and last, in a series of annual reports released by the CCCSE. Because research indicates that only 54 percent of students starting at two-year public colleges had earned a degree or certificate or were still enrolled in college six years later, the reports have focused on giving colleges practical, proven ways of reversing low completion rates.
For these reports, the center used data from two national surveys that it administers to identify effective strategies for boosting community college student success rates.
The report comes amid national discussion about improving accessibility, affordability and success rates in higher education.
“In the first report we described 13 high impact practices, like offering tutoring and helping students with academic goal setting and planning, that community colleges can adopt to improve students’ academic outcomes,” said Evelyn Waiwaiole, CCCSE director. “The second report focused on notable differences in engagement between students who participate in those high impact practices and those who don’t.”
Highlights from the most recent report include:
- Clearly stated attendance policies made a big difference; developmental math students were three times more likely to stick with a class when the instructor explained the attendance policies.
- Developmental students were four times more likely to successfully complete a gatekeeper (introductory college credit class) English course if they had participated in a student success course that taught them specific skills such as studying and test-taking.
- Students who registered for all of their courses before the first class session were four times more likely to persist from fall to spring and 11 times more likely to persist from fall to fall.
In this third report the researchers also looked at five structured group practices that colleges can use: first-year experiences, student success courses, fast-track developmental education, orientation, and learning communities.
They found that when students participate in more than one structured group learning experience, the odds improve that they will complete developmental math and/or English and a gatekeeper course with a C or better.
“The more of these engaging, high impact practices that a student can experience, the more likely it is that he or she will reach key academic milestones,” said Waiwaiole. “Research and college practice suggest that students are more successful when institutions adjust their academic model so that these high impact practices are intentionally integrated into established educational pathways.”
The three-year CCCSE initiative was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.
Two far-reaching programs at the forefront of higher education — Ethics Unwrapped and the Ethics and Leadership Flag — are giving students at The University of Texas at Austin, and people beyond the Forty Acres, the ability to live ethical lives and set the example for others to follow.
Professor Robert Prentice, the faculty director of Ethics Unwrapped, put together this quiz to test just how ethical you actually are:
Answers are available both at the end of this post and by hovering your mouse over each question.1. True or False: Most adults have solid, well-founded ethical beliefs that can be changed only by new evidence or reasoned arguments.
Hover your mouse over the question, and the answer will appear.2. True or False: I am more ethical than my peers. 3. John is the captain of a submarine. An explosion has caused the sub to lose most of its oxygen supply and has injured a crewman who is bleeding badly and is going to die from his wound no matter what happens. The remaining oxygen is not sufficient for the entire crew to make it to the surface. The only way to save the other crew members is for John to shoot dead the injured crewman now. Then there will be just enough oxygen for the rest of the crew to survive. Is it morally acceptable for John to shoot the injured crewman? 4. True or False: Sally is a tourist in New York City. Late at night she is confronted by a vicious mugger on a side street. Sally starts screaming for help. Sally is better off if there are 20 bystanders close by rather than only one. 5. True or False: If you were in a job interview and an interviewer started asking you sexually inappropriate questions, you would stand up and walk out of the interview. 6. True or False: You are driving and come upon a terrible collision between two cars that just happened. Both cars are on fire and will soon be consumed with flames, killing the occupants. You realize with horror that your brother is unconscious in one of the cars, while two strangers are unconscious in the other. You have time to save the occupants of only one of the cars. The moral thing for you to do is to save the two strangers.
Don’t panic if you didn’t correctly answer all six questions. Prentice says we all tend to overestimate our ability to act ethically, and the good news is that studying ethics education — like watching nearly 50 Ethics Unwrapped videos that anyone, anywhere can use for free — will help you find your ethical bearings.
“The big picture is that everybody…tends to think of themselves as good people with the confidence they’ll make ethical decisions. But we aren’t realistic about the pressures we face,” Prentice says. “The best way for us to prepare students is to explain how hard it will be to live up to their own standards.”
1. False. Most people’s ethical judgments are easily manipulated by simply changing contextual factors. By telling them that their boss has a certain view, that their peers have a certain view, or even just by spraying the room in which they make the decision with “Fart Spray”(yes, there is such a product), psychologists can alter people’s ethical judgments. Because people generally do not realize how easily their ethical judgments are manipulated, they are prone to making poor ethical choices.
2. Who knows? You may be more ethical than your peers. But 85% or so of Americans also believe that they are and that is simply not mathematically possible. This and the fact that 92% of Americans are satisfied with their moral character illustrate the point of Ethics Unwrapped’s video on The Overconfidence Bias that most of us tend to be overly confident in our own morality, which can lead us to make ethical decisions without being sufficiently reflective.
3. There is no incontestably right answer here. But by giving subjects brain-teasers that tempted them to quickly choose obvious answers that turned out to be wrong, psychologists prompted them to be more thoughtful in answering this question. When they did, subjects tended to answer ‘yes’ at a meaningfully higher rate than did people who answered with their gut. When people answer ethical questions spontaneously, they tend to be more deontological (rule-based) in their responses (“Thou Shalt Not Kill”). With more reflection, they tend to take a more utilitarian (consequences-based) approach (taking one life to save many).
4. False. Because of the “bystander effect”-the tendency of people to take their behavioral cues from those around them–Sally may be better off with only one person nearby because that person will know that unless he or she helps, Sally will be in big trouble. If there are many people around, they may all look to each other to see what to do and if no one takes the lead, they may all end up doing nothing. Ethics Unwrapped’s video on The Conformity Bias illustrates how this human tendency can cause bad ethical decision making.
5. False. Probably anyway. In one study, when a group of young women were asked individually what they would do in this situation, virtually every one predicted that she would walk out of the interview or protest in some other fashion. But when other young women were actually put into what they thought was a real job interview, not a single one protested. They all wanted the job so much that the ethicality of the situation just faded away. The Ethics Unwrapped video on Framing illustrates that the kinds of ethical decisions you are likely to make has a lot to do with how you look at the issue. For example, if you see it as an ethical issue you will tend to make different (and more ethical) decisions than if you look at it as simply a business decision.
6. Again, there is no incontestably correct answer here. Most people believe that the right thing to do is to save your brother, even though two people will die instead of one. Many psychologists believe that our tendency to favor in-group members (friends and family) in this way is evolutionarily based and helped our ancestors improve the chances that their genes would be passed down. There is quite a bit of evidence that our moral sense evolved to help us live together cooperatively in groups.
This story is part of our “Preparing Leaders” series, which explores how students are learning valuable leadership lessons.
Vanessa Chorush sometimes finds herself in a hurry, running a few minutes late to class.
But she doesn’t always just step on the gas, breeze through yellow lights and weave past traffic. Instead, she tries to follow the law.
“I am not the exception to the rule — there’s a law for a reason,” says Chorush, a 21-year-old public relations senior from Sugar Land, Texas. “I imagine what would happen if everyone decided to speed?”
Chorush is among the many UT students who have taken a course where participants discussed how to make ethical decisions every day. They’re important lessons for a generation of students that has seen myriad ethical scandals in the media — from Enron’s collapse and steroid use in pro sports to an impeachable presidential lie and questionable police actions — their whole lives.
In more than 100 degree programs at UT, students in different majors not only examine specific instances they may face in their respective fields but also build a foundation of broad approaches to ethical behavior that apply in any profession or stage of life.In a video about “Causing Harm,” Ethics Unwrapped — an online ethics teaching program developed at the McCombs School of Business — explains how emotional harm is a short-term feeling, like being offended, embarrassed or humiliated. But instances of emotional harm can evolve into more longer lasting physiological harm, which makes us feel unsure of our worth and lose confidence in ourselves.
Those courses fall under the Ethics and Leadership Flag, which ties ethics education into existing courses across the undergraduate curriculum.
In Megan Seaholm’s U.S. history course, for example, students don’t just learn when certain events happened, they discuss the factors that caused leaders and followers to make certain decisions and study conflicting influences shaping the nation’s past.
“Students are seeing the relevance of moral issues that recur throughout history,” says Jess Miner, coordinator for the Ethics and Leadership Flag in the School of Undergraduate Studies. “They are stopping to ponder why these issues were important in the past and why they are still important today.”
The Ethics and Leadership Flag courses are setting the pace for the future of higher education. In the coming years, all undergraduate students will be required to complete this flag through courses where at least one-third of the final grade comes from work in practical ethics, or the study of “what is involved in making real-life ethical choices.”
[How ethical are you? Click here for our ethics quiz and put your decision-making skills to the test.]
“UT is trying to graduate students who will go out into the world and be leaders in their fields, regardless of where they go and what they do,” Miner says. “It’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t leave a hole in their education as far as ethics is concerned.”The “Causing Harm” video uses a “wheel of misfortune” to illustrate that ethical people won’t cause harm unless 1) there is legitimate justification that can be explained to the public and 2) everyone else is equally justified in causing the same kind of harm — even to yourself. Ethics Unwrapped Expands Beyond UT
Ethics Unwrapped isn’t stopping with the foundation of behavioral ethics. Upcoming videos will include discussion of general ethics concepts “like the ethics of representation, legal rights vs. ethical responsibilities, causing harm and so on,” according to program director Cara Biasucci.
The Ethics Unwrapped videos have racked up more than 100,000 views and have been shown in more than 150 countries across the globe. The videos are being used to teach ethics not only in courses at the university but also at businesses and more than 100 other colleges and universities, including 45 different disciplines or departments and several dozen business schools.
Ethics Unwrapped isn’t only preparing tomorrow’s leaders — it’s also transforming education.
The program’s international influence coupled with the resources’ easy access have garnered financial support from both the Office of the Provost and The Teagle Foundation, which supports “new thinking in higher education.” The Teagle Foundation awarded Ethics Unwrapped a $150,000 grant — the largest grant the foundation has ever given to the university — in a gesture that validates the program’s efficacy.
“We’re offering stuff nobody else is offering,” says Biasucci, MFA ’99. “In 10 years, we want to be the go-to resource — if anybody around the world wants to teach ethics, they come to us.”
Many courses with the Ethics and Leadership Flag focus on practical ethics, which can vary by discipline. Some courses also explore a more traditional approach to ethical reasoning based on principles of philosophy. Still others tie in behavioral ethics education by using materials developed right here at UT as part of an initiative called Ethics Unwrapped.
“The big picture is that everybody — and I mean everybody: teacher, engineer or Wall Street banker — tends to think of themselves as good people with the confidence they’ll make ethical decisions. But we aren’t realistic about the pressures we face,” says professor Robert Prentice, the faculty director of Ethics Unwrapped.
“The best way for us to prepare students is to explain how hard it will be to live up to their own standards and show them the pressures they’ll face from their bosses, peers and goals not to live up to their own standards,” he explains.
The Ethics Unwrapped initiative, housed in McCombs School of Business since it launched in 2012, started with a focuses on behavioral ethics, or “how and why people make the ethical decisions they do,” says Prentice, who also serves as chair of the Department of Business, Government and Society. The program centers around nearly 50 videos on ethics education that anyone, anywhere can use for free.
“We try to get people to practice how they go about making arguments that support their ethical decision making,” says Minette Drumwright, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations and chair of the Ethics and Leadership Flag committee. “The first step is seeing and recognizing the problem.”
The videos aren’t boring, talking heads rambling about conceptual ethics — they’re lively, colorful and entertaining pieces that include creative animations.
In one video, the businesspeople standing under a “MegaCorp” sign begin to grow pointed devil ears and red tails until the entire group no longer looks like one made of typical professionals. The metaphor illustrates the problem of conformity bias, or the tendency to mimic the behavior of those who surround us rather than following internally held beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong.
The videos also feature frank feedback from university students who share their experiences with ethical dilemmas.
“I thought it was important for students to relate to themselves and see some of their own experiences reflected back at them,” says Cara Biasucci, the Ethics Unwrapped Program director who uses her filmmaking background to create the pieces. “Ethics doesn’t have to be a standalone course. It can be a component of any course.”
Mixing specific career-oriented ethics education with broader approaches to handling ethical dilemmas through these teaching tools is also helping professors who may not specialize in ethics education to strengthen the ideals of students — from dancers and musicians, future doctors and lawyers, to businesspeople, architects, engineers and everything in between.
“Teachers, architects and engineers all face different ethical issues, but they tend to make the same mistakes,” Prentice said.
Ellen Lobb, a public relations alumna who graduated this past summer, finds herself thinking about the lessons she learned in a course on ethics in the field of advertising and PR.
Lobb says materials from that course are helping her in the post-college workforce — and sparking conversations as she analyzes commercials she sees on TV.
“Ethics are involved no matter what you do,” Lobb says. “After taking the course and seeing how much speaking up about ethics can be for the better, I see the importance. It’s important for UT students to figure out their ethics and morals before they leave the college environment because you can very easily be swayed.”
“If we can reach every undergrad and make them aware of ethics,” Miner says, “the hope is that it will be impossible for them not to think about it when they come to a tough decision.”
This story is part of our “Preparing Leaders” series, which explores how students are learning valuable leadership lessons.
You might also like:
Behind the Scenes with Ethics Unwrapped Director Cara Biasucci (McCombs Today)
Answering an Ethical SOS (McCombs Today)
Share this story on Twitter:September 22, 2014
There is now a national conversation about the difference between spanking and physical abuse. Many Americans are uncomfortable about physical punishment that injures children, but still favor milder forms such as spanking. In accepting spanking as a form of discipline, we, as a country, are condoning violence against children.
Spanking is hitting, plain and simple. Think about it. Spanking involves a big, powerful person hitting a smaller, less powerful person. Just calling it “spanking” instead of “hitting” does not change that fact. Children are the only group of people whom it is legal for adults to hit. Across all states in the U.S., parents have the right to hit their children in the name of discipline, and in 19 states including Texas, school personnel have the right to hit children in schools. Indeed, school disciplinarians typically use large wooden paddles to strike children when they administer corporal punishment. If an adult were to hit another adult with such a paddle, it would be considered a weapon, and the act would be considered assault.
It is time for parents and educators across the U.S. to rethink our use of spanking as a form of discipline. Research clearly shows that spanking is ineffective at teaching children how to behave appropriately in the future. In fact, spanking actually increases children’s disobedience, problem behavior and aggression. It also increases their likelihood of developing mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. When parents spank often, they increase the likelihood they will injure and physically abuse their children. There is no research evidence that spanking is necessary or effective at correcting misbehavior, regardless of the age of the child.
Yet parents continue to spank despite this growing evidence of its ineffectiveness and harm, primarily because they were spanked by their parents when they were children. Adults throughout America are repeating the phrase, “I was spanked and I turned out OK,” and using that as justification for spanking their own children. Those statements are wrong on two grounds.
First, everything we know about how children learn tells us that hitting does not teach children how to behave. Rather, when parents teach lessons to their children, lead by example, praise children when they behave appropriately, and serve as a source of love and support for children, children learn what behavior is expected of them. Spankings are memorable because they hurt us both emotionally and physically. It’s harder to remember all of the talks, hugs and compliments our parents gave us over the years, but it is those acts, not the spankings, that helped us become who we are as adults.
Second, just because our parents did something to us does not mean we should repeat the same behavior. In my generation, our parents smoked or drank while pregnant and drove us in cars without car seats or even seatbelts. We now know that each of these behaviors is potentially damaging if not life-threatening to children, even though they were “normal” at the time and what everyone did. We can learn from the mistakes of previous generations and from the benefit of years of research by using more effective and less harmful ways of raising our children.
Those of us who were spanked by our parents and “turned out OK” were lucky — lucky that our parents did all the other things that help raise well-adjusted children and adults. It is time to flip the adage on its head to say, “I turned out OK — not because I was spanked, but in spite of it.” Current and future generations of parents can break the cycle and raise confident, well-behaved children without hitting them.
Elizabeth T. Gershoff is an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and an expert on the effects of spanking on children.
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Spank debate: Is spanking discipline or is it a form of child abuse? UT expert weighs in. http://t.co/fAvhiq66OD.— Texas Perspectives (@TexPerspectives) September 22, 2014