View an update at: http://www.utexas.edu/news/2014/12/03/brain-specimen-disposal/
AUSTIN, Texas — Following is a statement from The University of Texas at Austin on a report about missing brain specimens:
As researchers and teachers, we understand the potential scientific value of all of our holdings and take our roles as stewards of them very seriously.
We are committed to treating the brain specimens with respect and are disheartened to learn that some of them may be unaccounted for.
The university plans to investigate the circumstances surrounding this collection since it came here nearly 30 years ago.
The brains that are now on campus are actively used as a teaching tool and are carefully curated by faculty. As our investigation proceeds, we will seek to confirm whether the specific details that have been reported about the other specimens are accurate.
Jessica Glennie, Sai Gourisankar, and Mark Jbeily
I’m delighted to report that among UT’s thousands of outstanding students, we now have a Marshall Scholar and two Rhodes Scholars.
The Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards supporting outstanding students for two years of study at the University of Oxford. Thirty UT Austin students have now received the award in its history. Approximately 83 scholarships are awarded each year. Our Rhodes Scholars are Jessica Glennie and Sai Gourisankar.
Jessica Glennie, an architecture student and member of UT’s varsity women’s rowing team, will focus on environmental policy and change during her time at Oxford. She is interested in the world’s environmental and social management issues and plans to be an architect and environmental leader. The Rhodes Scholarship is administered through various English-speaking nations. Jessica’s scholarship comes via New Zealand, where she attended Macleans College before coming to UT. A native of South Africa, Jessica received the Big 12’s 2014 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award.
Sai Gourisankar, a Plan II student, will focus on mathematical modeling, scientific computing and theoretical physics. After completing his two years at Oxford, he plans to return to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Sai is particularly interested in understanding and solving problems at the intersection of chemical engineering and mathematics. Sai is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars selected in the United States this year.
Mark Jbeily, also a Plan II student, has won the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, which allows Americans to do graduate study in the United Kingdom. He is one of 34 Marshall Scholars this year. Mark is a recipient of the ROTC Leadership Award and wants eventually to help develop America’s national security strategy in a rapidly changing and interconnected world. Mark will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in International Relations at Oxford University. At UT, he is currently drawing upon an interdisciplinary arts and sciences degree to study literature, philosophy, science, mathematics, and language (Arabic), as well as to explore courses in United States government and the classic texts that shaped and continue to shape our civic life.
I know you join me in congratulating Jessica, Sai, and Mark.
What starts here changes the world.
AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have identified a network of genes that appear to work together in determining alcohol dependence. The findings, which could lead to future treatments and therapies for alcoholics and possibly help doctors screen for alcoholism, are being published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
By comparing patterns of genetic code from the brain tissue of alcoholics and nonalcoholics, the researchers discovered a particular set of genes co-expressed together in the individuals who had consumed the most alcohol. Specifically, certain sets of genes were strongly linked as networks in alcoholics, but not in nonalcoholics.
“This provides the most comprehensive picture to date of the gene sets that drive alcohol dependence,” said R. Adron Harris, director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research. “We now have a much clearer picture of where specific traits related to alcohol dependence overlap with specific expressions in genetic code.”
Scientists have known for some time that genetics play a role in alcoholism and addiction and that the tendency for dependence to be genetically linked is more complicated than the presence or absence of any one gene. The new research, however, represents the first time scientists used revolutionary bioinformatics technology of RNA sequencing to identify the specific group of different genes that, expressed together, are highly correlated with alcohol dependence.
“We hope our model can serve as a type of Wikipedia of alcohol dependence, helping to break down the complexities of alcohol dependence and becoming a reference for future research into drug therapies,” said Sean Farris, a postdoctoral fellow also at the Waggoner Center and lead author of the study.
Only three drugs have approval from the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcoholism, and none offers a silver bullet in helping people dependent on alcohol end their addiction. The identification of genetic factors and networks in the brains of alcoholics gives drug researchers more information to work from and may one day allow for better screenings to evaluate a person’s risk factors for alcohol dependence, possibly even before the onset of heavy drinking.
Authors of the study in addition to Farris are lead research scientist R. Dayne Mayfield of the Waggoner Center; bioinformatician Dhivya Arasappan of the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology; Scott Hunicke-Smith, director of the Genomic Sequencing and Analysis Facility; and Harris, director of the Waggoner Center. All are from the university’s College of Natural Sciences.
Support for the research came from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, with funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
DNA Reveals Local Adoption of New Technologies, Not Migration, Caused Cultural Changes in Ancient Illinois
AUSTIN, Texas — DNA samples from North Americans who lived more 1,000 years ago in Illinois reveal that rapid cultural changes came from acceptance of new practices rather than from a population influx into the region, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin and Indiana University.
Seeking an explanation for a major cultural transition that occurred between the Late Woodland (A.D. 400-1050) and Mississippian (A.D. 1050-1500) periods in the Lower Illinois River Valley, researchers examined the mitochondrial DNA of 39 individuals at a site in western Illinois and compared it with samples from other sites in the region. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child and allows researchers to trace maternal relationships and female migration. The researchers wanted to know whether the cultural transition in the Lower Illinois River Valley was caused by migration of a new group into the region, or whether the population in place adopted new cultural practices through existing social networks.
“This cultural transition, seen across the Midwest, is one of the most significant events in North American prehistory,” says Jennifer Raff, a research fellow in UT Austin’s Department of Anthropology and one of the two lead authors of the study. “It involved changes to social and political structure, the adoption of intensive maize agriculture, changes to mortuary practices and the development of new art, technologies and religious practices. These cultural changes first appeared at the nearby site of Cahokia, just east of present-day St. Louis, so we wanted to know if migration from there had brought the changes to the Lower Illinois River Valley.”
The study, to be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, was conducted by a team of researchers at Indiana University and UT Austin. The UT researchers included Deborah Bolnick, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Population Research Center; Austin Reynolds, a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology; and Raff. The team also included Della Cook and Frederika Kaestle, professor and associate professor of anthropology, respectively, at Indiana University Bloomington.
“This study provides valuable insights into how sites peripheral to the largest Mississippian settlements incorporated new cultural practices during this transitional period,” Reynolds says. “The local people clearly adopted Mississippian practices, suggesting that cultural shifts in the archaeological record are not always caused by replacement of the previous inhabitants of a region.”
Bolnick says more research is needed to determine whether the findings in the Lower Illinois River Valley are representative of the process of culture change across eastern North America during the Late Woodland-Mississippian transition, or whether this change was triggered by acculturation in some regions and migration in others.
In the future, Reynolds says, it will be important to obtain information from other regions of the genome.
“Studying the paternally inherited Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son, would allow us to test for male migration during this cultural transition and further refine our models of demographic change in the region. Previous work done in our lab has suggested that in the past, the movement of males and females may have been very different in the eastern United States.”
Essays have been written, scores have been submitted, recommendation letters sent and applications are in — now the waiting begins. But for some students, the good news has already arrived.
The first students admitted to The University of Texas at Austin’s Class of 2019 began receiving admissions packets in the mail on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. As the newest Longhorns began to share their excitement in social media (#gonetotexas), we asked current and former Longhorns to weigh in about why they chose to come to UT.
Some cited specific programs, others declared Austin to be a major factor. But for many Longhorns, UT’s beloved traditions, strong community and top-notch academics stood out the the most:
- “To get a world class education close to home. Small classes in my major, big campus feel. Best decision I ever made!” (@KatwithCoffee)
- “My dreams go beyond what I already know. I have a longing to learn & understand the unknown.” (@EliseFrame)
- “Deep in this Heart of Texas, there’s a perfect mix of challenge and prestige that drives you to go bigger and do better.” (@voyvox)
- “Attending UT is a dream for many, I made it a reality because I wanted to do better than what was expected of me” (@mrgil77)
- “I chose Texas because I wanted a degree that would be respected world wide and help me change the world!” (@cheerer8000)
World AIDS Day is Dec. 1 and it provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
For social workers and academic researchers like us, one thing is clear: If we truly want HIV/AIDS prevention to succeed, Americans need to have a courageous conversation about decriminalizing prostitution.
Let’s be honest. Paying for sex has been around a long time, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Recent court cases have established sexual rights and privacy in protecting what consenting adults do behind closed doors, but those rights end for people who wish to exchange sex for money.
In the U.S., sex workers’ rights are mostly unprotected, and those who sell sex are usually arrested, charged and shamed in public. But this only adds to the HIV/AIDS problem and increases chances for unsafe sexual practices.
Discussions about sex work are often polarizing, at least in part because some people do not believe sex workers should have the same legal rights as other workers in society.
A study recently published in The Lancet found that even partial criminalization — such as the Swedish model now quite popular in the U.S in which the clients of sex workers rather than sex workers themselves are criminalized — places sex workers at equal risk for human rights violations and exploitation.
Trying to stop demand will not stop prostitution.
Laws that aim to prevent prostitution such as prostitution free zones, which allow police to ask any group of people who an officer believes are engaging in sex work to leave a certain area or face arrest, and condom seizures, which is a police practice of seizing unused condoms as evidence of prostitution, only exacerbate the problem.
These types of laws disproportionally target transgender people and people of color; pose a significant threat to safer sex practices; and open the door to police harassment, extortion and abuse for perceived sex workers.
Health care providers, human rights advocates, social workers and politicians should join forces with sex worker rights groups to create legislation and a movement to repeal laws that criminalize people engaged in sex work. Too often Americans look at the moral issues of sex work too narrowly, missing the broader, positive implications of removing legal constraints.
Decriminalizing does have its limitations. Our conversations about sex work must include attention to sex workers’ human rights, and these conversations must occur at the intersections of poverty, gender, race, class, employment/underemployment, ability, sexuality, desire, health and migration because even with decriminalization, certain people engaged in sex work would continue to be criminalized for their actual or perceived racial, class, gender, sexual orientation and citizenship identities.
Equally important is the need for Americans to appreciate the differences between sex trafficking and sex work. Sex trafficking inherently includes violence, force, fraud and coercion, whereas sex work does not.
Although those engaged in sex work may experience violence, fraud and coercion while trading sexual services, it is important to recognize that those forms of exploitation are never a part of the sex worker-client contract.
Although the decriminalization of sex work wouldn’t solve all the problems sex workers contend with, it could be a start. Decriminalization would eradicate laws that criminalize sex work, consequently creating spaces for sex workers to participate in the regulation of the industry, facilitating safer transactions between workers and clients, and allowing sex workers to report abuse and rapes without fear of prosecution.
By facilitating safer sex practices, decriminalization would also lead to a reduction of HIV/AIDS infection as predicted in recent research conducted at the University of California San Diego Global Health Initiative, and witnessed in New South Wales where sex work was decriminalized in 2009.
It would also facilitate access to anonymous, nonjudgmental, free and voluntary HIV testing and more engagement in services when sex workers themselves are involved in the creation and delivery of those services.
Nearly every industrialized nation has made prostitution partially legal or outright legal. It’s time America does the same thing. Doing so would be a large step in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Noël Busch-Armendariz is a professor and director of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. Stephanie Wahab is an associate professor of social work at Portland State University.
Related op-ed on Texas Perspectives:
Black Women are Already Dead in America
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To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:December 1, 2014
Convocation Speakers to Address Fall 2014 Graduates at The University of Texas at Austin on Dec. 6 and 7
Speakers for the 2014 fall convocation ceremonies by schools and colleges at The University of Texas at Austin on Dec. 6 and 7 include a state senator, corporate executives and academic scholars.
In honor of graduating students receiving their degrees during the ceremonies, the university's Tower will be lighted orange with “14” displayed in the windows on Dec. 6 and 7.
The 3,095 graduates this fall semester comprise 2,375 undergraduates, five law students, 238 doctoral students and 477 students receiving their master's degrees, according to the Office of the Registrar.
Convocations at the university’s colleges and schools recognize students individually. Fall graduation activities do not include a university-wide commencement ceremony.
More information about fall convocations is available online at http://www.events.utexas.edu/commencement/fall.
Parking for commencement activities is free in designated areas on a first come, first served basis. On Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 7, with the exception of spaces marked “At All Times,” all university parking garages and most surface lots will be available.
In addition to official convocation and graduation ceremonies, the Texas Exes invite all members of the fall class and their families to The Great Texas Exit, a celebration Dec. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, 2110 San Jacinto Blvd.
Speakers for the fall ceremonies are listed below.
Saturday, Dec. 6
9 a.m. Cockrell School of Engineering, Frank Erwin Center. Speaker: Dana D. Sellers, chief executive officer of Encore, a Quintiles company.
9 a.m. School of Nursing, Bass Concert Hall, Performing Arts Center. Speaker: Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson.
9 a.m. School of Social Work, LBJ Auditorium. Student speaker: Meghan Graham, bachelor of social work, chosen by her peers.
Noon. College of Communication, Frank Erwin Center. Speaker: Jeff Hunt, partner and co-founder of PulsePoint Group.
Noon. College of Education, Bass Concert Hall, Performing Arts Center: Victor Sáenz, associate professor in educational administration at The University of Texas at Austin.
1 p.m. Jackson School of Geosciences, McCullough Theatre. Speaker: Scott Anderson, senior policy adviser, U.S. Climate and Energy Program, Environmental Defense Fund.
3 p.m. College of Fine Arts, LBJ Auditorium. Speaker: Michael Tusa, professor of the Butler School of Music and the Grace Hill Milam Centennial Fellow in Fine Arts, The University of Texas at Austin.
3 p.m. College of Liberal Arts, Frank Erwin Center. Speaker: Jacqueline Jones, the Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas, College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin.
3:30 p.m. McCombs School of Business, Bass Concert Hall, Performing Arts Center. Speaker: Rad Weaver, chief executive officer of McCombs Partners, the investment management division of McCombs Enterprises.
Sunday, Dec. 7
2:30 p.m. College of Natural Sciences, Frank Erwin Center. Speaker: Brian Kushner, senior managing director at FTI Consulting.
Sophomores Chloe Collins and Paulina Prieto Cerame celebrate a point. The Longhorns won their fourth consecutive Big 12 Championship on Nov. 15 with a win over the Oklahoma Sooners. Photo courtesy of TexasSports.
“It feels great, because we’ve accomplished our first goal. Our first goal is always to win the Big 12,” said senior Haley Eckerman. “To know that we have done that every single year, it gives us more confidence.”
Texas won its fourth straight Big 12 Championship with a win over No. 24 Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 15. The Longhorns have won 21 conference titles in program history, including eight as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
“We never take that for granted, it’s an honor to win that,” said head coach Jerritt Elliott. “It’s a great conference and it’s very hard to do when you play a true double-round robin. It’s a tribute to our girls and how hard they’ve worked, what this program has done and we are really excited to be able to win that championship and add another year to our banner.”
You’ve been given the daunting task of drafting a new constitution completely from scratch for a budding democracy. You’re gonna need some help.
With a grant from Google Ideas to The University of Texas at Austin, Elkins and his colleagues Tom Ginsburg (University of Chicago) and James Melton (University College London) created Constitute, a free online resource that offers a growing set of constitutional texts that users can compare systematically across a broad set of topics.Associate professor Zachary Elkins helped build an online resource for countries that are working to develop a constitution.
“Writing anything is difficult. Writing a document that’s supposed to be the framework and the bulwark for democracy for generations is even harder,” Elkins says. “If Constitute can help that in even a marginal way, it will be a success.”
A major goal of the project is to assist those in countries revising or replacing their constitutions.
“A basic step in constitutional design is the search and analysis of different models,” Elkins explains. “Constitute allows drafters to explore a more representative set of options, more systematically, and in a clean and beautiful reading environment. This site will help drafters get their work done and could also lead to some intriguing discoveries by scholars and educators who analyze and explore the data.”
The Constitute site launched in 2013 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and is built with data from the team’s Comparative Constitutions Project, a National Science Foundation–funded project that catalogs text and analysis from more than 900 current and historical constitutions since 1789.
This digital library in dozens of languages provides the most comprehensive resource in existence for countries drafting their own constitutions. Not only is The Constitute Project useful for drafters, it also gives ordinary citizens access to the process, creating a sense of ownership in shaping the direction of their country.
“Constitutions are very symbolic and they’re very important. In many ways they establish the principles and the ideals that countries aspire to,” Elkins says.
Zachary Elkins, 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.
AUSTIN, Texas — A neuroscientist, a chemical engineer, a mechanical engineer, a molecular biologist and a pharmaceutical researcher who are faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
AAAS fellows are chosen annually by their peers to recognize their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.
The fellows approved by the AAAS Council from The University of Texas at Austin are:
Richard Warren Aldrich, professor in the Department of Neuroscience in the College of Natural Sciences. Aldrich was recognized for outstanding and important contributions to the understanding of gated conformational changes in ion channels. Aldrich is the Karl Folkers Chair in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research II. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Roger T. Bonnecaze, professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. Bonnecaze was recognized for distinguished contributions to the field of computational engineering, particularly for theoretical modeling and design of complex fluids and nanomanufacturing systems. He is co-director of Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Energy Technologies (NASCENT), a research center based at UT Austin and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Arumugam Manthiram, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. Manthiram was recognized for distinguished contributions to the field of materials chemistry, particularly for new materials development, novel synthesis methods and fundamental understanding of structure-property relationships. He is director of the Cockrell School’s Texas Materials Institute, which provides infrastructure and organization support for modern multidisciplinary materials research.
Stanley Roux, professor of molecular biosciences in the College of Natural Sciences. Roux was recognized for his innovative experiments to elucidate the key role of extracellular nucleotides and apyrase enzymes in regulating plant growth and development. Roux is a Distinguished Teaching Professor who has received funding from the NSF and NASA for his research on how the environmental stimuli of light and gravity alter patterns of growth and development in plants.
Karen Vasquez, professor in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the College of Pharmacy. Vasquez was recognized for pioneering contributions concerning genome instability, particularly by demonstrating that noncanonical DNA structures can be mutagenic, and for discovering new roles for DNA repair factors. She is the James T. Doluisio Regents Professor in Pharmacy.
The new fellows will be honored during the AAAS Fellows Forum at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California. They join 69 previously honored AAAS fellows at The University of Texas at Austin.
Bevo XIV enjoys his 96th birthday on Thanksgiving 2012.
When the football team takes the field Thursday, one Longhorn will celebrate his birthday.
But instead of a birthday cake, he’ll feast on bales of hay.
Bevo, the beloved steer and mascot, debuted as The University of Texas at Austin’s mascot during the 1916 Thanksgiving Day football game against Texas A&M. To mark his 98th birthday, The Silver Spurs will present Bevo XIV with a big bale of hay, complete with a candle on top — but don’t worry, it’s not actually lit.
While the Bevo birthday festivities this week commemorate the first time a steer served as the university’s mascot, Bevo XIV celebrates his literal birthday on April 8, when he was born as Sunrise Studly.
Bevo XIV celebrated his 10th anniversary as the university’s live Longhorn mascot during the 38-7 victory over North Texas to kickoff the 2014 season.
That win also gave Bevo XIV his 100th “W,” putting him on track give Bevo XIII a run for the title of winningest mascot in school history. With the Longhorns’ most recent victory (28-7 over Oklahoma State), Bevo XIV has now reigned over 105 football wins and only 35 losses.
But Bevo doesn’t just support the football team — he also helps make sure local students have a reason to be thankful. Bevo XIV makes as many as 50 appearances annually at events like charity fundraisers, and his appearance fees fund tutoring and mentoring for 6,000 East Austin children in addition to funding scholarships for university students, support for the Texas Neighborhood Longhorns Program and other philanthropic endeavors.
Bevo fanatics who want to meet the steer in person are in luck — Bevo XIV will pose for pictures with fans, alumni and friends of the university on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Joe Jamail Field. Get more information about the photo op.
To learn more about the mascot’s history, read “100 Facts about Bevo for Bevo XIV’s 100th Win.”
The Longhorns football team plays its final home game of the season on Thanksgiving Day against TCU. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the Fox Sports 1 network.Follow Bevo:
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AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas at Austin student Sai Gourisankar, a Plan II and chemical engineering senior, has been awarded a 2015 Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most distinguished graduate scholarships in the world. He becomes the 30th UT Austin student to receive the award and the second this year.
Established in 1903, Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards supporting outstanding students for two years of study at the University of Oxford. Approximately 83 scholarships are awarded to exceptional students across the world each year.
As a Rhodes scholar, Gourisankar will focus on mathematical modeling, scientific computing and theoretical physics. After completing his two years at Oxford, Gourisankar plans to return to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He is particularly interested in understanding and solving problems at the intersection of chemical engineering and mathematics.
“We are incredibly proud of Sai and excited about what he will accomplish over the next two years at Oxford,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “He is one of the Cockrell School’s most outstanding students, and he has exemplified the value of a multidisciplinary engineering education.”
A past recipient of the Astronaut Scholarship, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and the Churchill Scholarship, he has been celebrated and published for his work in nanotechnology. Gourisankar conducts innovative biomedical therapy and imaging research, helping chemical engineering faculty members design gold nanoclusters for biomedical therapy and imaging, techniques that can reveal real-time changes of various biomolecules associated with cancer and other diseases.
Gourisankar joins Jessica Glennie as the second UT Austin student to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for 2015. Glennie, a senior in the School of Architecture, will focus on environmental policy and change.
“On behalf of everyone at our university, I congratulate Sai on this tremendous international honor,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “He is a highly accomplished and talented young man, and I’m excited to see how he will use this opportunity to lead future advancements in computing and mathematical modeling.”
Amid the back-and-forth in Congress recently over the Keystone XL pipeline, which will ship fuel from Canadian oil sands to Texas to be processed and sent on to global markets, it’s become increasingly hard for Texans and Americans to decide whether they support the project.
The project is worth supporting, but only with the right kinds of environmental protections in place.
Six years ago, when the XL project was proposed, oil was more than $100 per barrel and rising. The economy was suffering, and the nation was in desperate need of multibillion-dollar capital projects. The pipeline looked like a solution to both vexing problems.
Today, oil is less than $80 per barrel and falling, and the economy has improved. The pipeline would be just one more major construction project among many others. And the permanent jobs created by the pipeline — in the dozens, not thousands — don’t look that impressive. Making things less urgent, most of the states where the pipeline would cross have low unemployment rates.
If global oil prices keep dropping, production in the oil sands will drop, too, reducing the need for the pipeline. And while the pipeline awaits a permit, competitors, namely oil trains, have quickly filled the void, undermining some of the alarmist claims that failing to build the pipeline will inhibit production.
The energy-security arguments have also shifted. Years ago, energy imports from the Middle East were growing, and Canadian oil seemed like the easiest way to reverse the trend. Today, we’ve realized that domestic oil production is an easier pathway to reducing Middle East imports.
With all of these changes, it would seem that the pipeline is no longer necessary. But there are economic and national security arguments for why it’s still worth pursuing.
Although the connection between the pipeline and reducing Middle East imports seems weaker than before, it’s in our national interest to maintain a strong relationship with Canada, our largest trading partner. Its prosperity is in our nation’s interest.
Investments in energy infrastructure also generally yield benefits for all of us. Building more rails and pipes gives us a more responsive, dynamic market that can smooth out price spikes and respond quickly to supply cutoffs.
Done the right way, a robust midstream sector — the storing and transporting of oil and gas — helps producers sell energy with better margins and helps consumers buy energy at lower prices.
The environmental risks, however, haven’t changed in the past six years. Carbon is still bad, and water quality risks are still prevalent. To the environmental community, the pipeline looks like a 1,200-mile fuse to a Canadian carbon bomb. And it looks risky for the sensitive aquifers that underlie its path. Instead of the line in the sand, it’s the pipeline in the sandhills.
But if we have to choose between sending oil sands by pipe to relatively clean Texas refineries versus by rail to relatively dirty Chinese refineries, the Texas option wins every time. It’s safer and environmentally preferable.
So how do we capture the economic and security benefits of the pipeline while also acknowledging the very real environmental effects? Two ways: Put a price on carbon, and set up a safety fund to pay for regular inspections of the pipeline.
The pipeline’s risk to water quality won’t come when it’s built or when it first turns on. It’ll be decades later, when the pipes are at greatest risk of failing. We should set aside money now to pay for those inspections later.
Debate over the pipeline will likely flare again in Congress next year, and with proper protections for the environment in place, the project will still be worth supporting.
Michael Webber is the deputy director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Texas Tribune.
Related op-eds on Texas Perspectives:
What You Should Know About Those Apps Your Kids Want to Download
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To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:November 24, 2014
Fall is a great time of year for healthy foods that feature every UT fan’s favorite color: burnt orange. Many of these burnt orange foods are in season come autumn, and produce picked during its peak season can contain more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than foods harvested before they’re ripe and then shipped long distances.
So in the ultimate show of school spirit, why not try fueling up on some of these burnt orange foods and spices before heading out to the game?Pumpkin
If you only use pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns, you’re missing out. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, fiber and beta-carotene, which is a pigment and antioxidant responsible for protecting our vision. Beta carotene — which causes the orange color — is also linked to preventing heart disease and cancer and boosting immunity. And pumpkin seeds are chock full of protein, magnesium, potassium and phytosterols, all plant-based compounds that may reduce cholesterol.
How to eat pumpkin: Skip the pumpkin spice latte (which contains no actual pumpkin in its flavoring) and pick up some pumpkin puree to add to soups, stews, oatmeal or even smoothies. Pumpkin puree is also a great substitute for butter or oil when baking — just add the puree to a box of brownie mix for a more nutritious sweet treat. And be sure to save the pumpkin seeds after your pumpkin carving party to roast in the oven and toss with a sprinkle of sea salt.Carrots
In ancient times carrots were used as medicine instead food, and it’s no surprise why: like pumpkin and other burnt orange foods, carrots contain high amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin A. In fact, a medium-sized carrot can provide more than 200 percent of your daily recommended intake for vitamin A and is also low in calories while being high in fiber.
How to eat carrots: Raw baby carrots are the perfect portable snack, especially when paired with hummus or other healthy dips. Carrots are also excellent roasted, which brings out their sweet flavor.Sweet Potato
Not to be confused with yams, sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses due to their high content of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Sweet potatoes also have a lower glycemic index score than their non-burnt orange counterparts, which means sweet potatoes are better for blood sugar management than white potatoes. Finally, sweet potatoes store well and can avoid spoilage for weeks if kept in a cool, dry location.
How to eat sweet potatoes: Think beyond the marshmallow-covered Thanksgiving casserole and roast, bake or mash sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish. Just like pumpkin, mashed or pureed sweet potato can be used as an oil substitute when baking, and these spuds are also tasty when sliced into fries and baked in the oven.Butternut Squash
This versatile veggie is a perennial fall favorite and is loved by many for its slightly sweet and nutty taste. The nutrition profile of butternut squash is equally appealing: one cup of cooked squash cubes contains 297 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, 48 percent of your vitamin C requirement, 18 percent of your requirement for the mineral Manganese and about three grams of fiber — all for a mere 80 calories!
How to eat butternut squash: Roasting butternut squash is simple — simply slice the squash in half, remove the seeds, add a small amount of olive oil and roast until tender. Other popular ways to enjoy butternut squash are in soups, stews or pastas.Turmeric
If you like to keep things spicy, then reach for some turmeric next time you’re making dinner. Turmeric is used as a culinary spice and is derived from the root of the turmeric plant, which is widely grown in many parts of Asia. Turmeric is commonly used in curry powder and contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory molecule that may prevent Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer.
How to eat turmeric: Add some extra turmeric into your favorite curry dish, or toss some turmeric when roasting veggies or baking chicken in the oven. In Okinawa — the island nation famous for having the world’s longest average life span — turmeric tea is consumed in large quantities. To make your own, boil four cups of water, add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain your tea through a sieve for an easy anti-inflammatory brew.
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Five Secrets to a Happier and Healthier Thanksgiving
A Burnt Orange Thanksgiving
Tori Jarzabkowski, MS, RD, LD, is the nutrition program coordinator at the Fitness Institute of Texas, a program of the Department of Kinesiology and Heath Education at the university, which serves the Austin community and enhances the education of UT students.
Around dinner tables and on social media, families and friends are expressing gratitude as part of the Thanksgiving tradition.
But taking the time to reflect on the positive parts of our lives is more than just an engrained part of the holiday’s celebration — it also boosts our mental wellbeing, prompts us to give back to others and steers us on a healthy path.
“This ought not be something that happens only on Thanksgiving,” says Robert Duke, a professor of music and human learning in the Butler School of Music. “If there’s a resolution to be made at Thanksgiving, it’s to be conscious of the positive things that happen in your life all the time and to not make this a momentary event that only happens because some holiday reminds you to be thankful.”
Duke and psychology professor Art Markman star in the “Two Guys on Your Head” radio show on KUT News 90.5. Markman and Duke say memory and mood strongly affect one another, creating both “vicious and virtuous cycles.”
“If you’re in a bad mood, you tend to remember bad things from your life, which then makes you feel bad,” Markman says. “If you want to break that cycle, one great way to do that is to think of the great things that have happened to you. Thinking of those things makes you feel better, which makes you notice more of the great things, and then you can create that virtuous cycle.”
Giving thanks is an actionable step we can all take to begin living happier lives, Duke and Markman say.
“I don’t have to rely on the whims of my emotional self to decide how I’m going to feel at any given moment,” Duke says. “I can choose to focus on these things that are positive and I know bring me pleasure, and that will change the way I feel in the moment.”
Giving thanks is also a humbling experience, as we realize we didn’t accomplish our successes alone, Markman says. Realizing others are willing to lend a hand makes us willing to help others in need.
“Making that list of the things you’re grateful for reminds you of all the people in your corner who have helped you in the past,” Markman says, “and whom you can rely on to achieve things in the future.”
With that in mind, The University of Texas at Austin family has a lot for which to be thankful this year: From the arrival of head football coach Charlie Strong to the profound generosity of donors who contributed $862 million to the Campaign for Texas during its final year, helping the state’s most ambitious nonprofit fundraising effort ever to top its $3 billion goal by $120 million.
Following Duke and Markman’s advice about showing gratitude, we made a list of accomplishments Longhorns can celebrate this Thanksgiving.From the Top University rankings from around the world recognized UT Austin as a top-tier institution during the past year.
This year brought The University of Texas at Austin more strong showings in collegiate rankings across the globe, giving Longhorns a great view from the top.
These five rankings highlight the university’s academic prowess:
- UT Austin was ranked No. 30 in the world by U.S. News.
- UT Austin was named one of the top universities in the nation and world in four other rankings surveys.
- The Nature Index, a new ranking from the prestigious journal Nature, ranked the university among the world’s best on its list of most productive scientific research institutions.
- UT Austin’s graduate schools in business, education, engineering, geosciences and law are all ranked among the Top 15 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
- As the flagship, UT Austin contributed to The University of Texas System’s No. 5 ranking on the annual list of Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents.
[Did you know UT Austin is also the ninth-happiest college, has one of 11 coolest college recreation centers and is the most influential university on Twitter? Check out “The Other Rankings” that paint of picture of student life on the Forty Acres.]Bright Minds Each year the Freshman Research Initiative gives 750 freshmen the chance to work alongside renowned faculty members in research labs.
At UT Austin students learn from the best professors, and we’re thankful for everything our faculty members and leaders have accomplished this year.
President Bill Powers delivered his final State of the University address in September, touting achievements as a model for higher education reform across the nation, citing improvements in the undergraduate curriculum, online teaching, student success and graduation rates, and creating of a new type of medical school.
These five honors show that some of the brightest minds around are right here in Austin:
- Three faculty members earned the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.
- Cockrell School of Engineering professor John B. Goodenough picked up the highest honor in the engineering profession.
- In May, the Tower shined orange to honor chemistry and chemical engineering professor C. Grant Willson for winning the Japan Prize, an international award similar to the Nobel Prize.
- Vincent L. Snyder, associate professor in the School of Architecture, won the 2014-2015 Rome Prize, one of the most highly regarded awards in the arts and humanities.
- English professor Wayne Rebhorn and Bill Minutaglio of the School of Journalism received PEN Literary Awards.
Students have a great opportunity to help shape the world while also making memories that will last a lifetime — just ask the Longhorn Band members who performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and played alongside Trombone Shorty at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
The accomplishments of these students during the year prove that UT Austin is preparing leaders:
- Architecture student Jessica Glennie was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious graduate scholarships in the world.
- Biomedical engineering senior Ashvin Bashyam was one of 15 students in the nation selected for the prestigious Hertz Foundation Fellowship. He will pursue a Ph.D. in medical engineering and medical physics at MIT.
- John Russell Beaumont, a Plan II Honors and architecture graduate, won a Marshall Scholarship, one of the most coveted study abroad scholarships available.
- Two student teams in the McCombs School of Business took home national championships in business competitions.
- Moody College of Communication graduate Annie Silverstein, MFA ’13, won first prize in the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfoundation Selection program.
Graduates of The University of Texas at Austin had big years, leaving marks in pro sports, gracing the silver screen and even exploring space.
- The Texas Exes honored an impressive group of alumni this year with the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Awards. The recipients were legendary athlete Earl Campbell, Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, former regent H. Scott Caven Jr., astronaut Karen Nyberg, historic preservationist Dealey Decherd Herndon and education champion John H. Massey.
- Admiral William McRaven, B.J. ’77, who oversaw the raid that claimed Osama Bin Laden’s life, will be the next chancellor of the University of Texas System. Before being selected to lead the System, McRaven gave an epic commencement address to the Class of 2014 in May.
- Legendary Longhorns quarterback Vince Young, who led the team to the 2005 national title, returned to the Forty Acres to work for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to help the university better serve first-generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds. [Read why Vince Young says he returned to the university.]
- Former Longhorns men’s basketball star Kevin Durant earned the title of Most Valuable Player in the NBA and delivered a memorable tribute to his mom in accepting the award.
- Students flocked to the polls this fall to vote, and UT Austin alumni on ballots across the state faired well. A Longhorn will lead the Lone Star State, with Greg Abbott, BBA ’81, winning the governorship.
If The University of Texas at Austin survived on tuition alone, it would be forced to shut its doors in November of each school year. Private donations not only help keep the university running but also preserve the university’s mission for future generations.
These five donations embody the generous spirits of alumni who help the university reach its potential:
- In August, the Livestrong Foundation gave a $50 million gift to the Dell Medical School, establishing the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.
- To start the year, the Mulva Family Foundation made a $60 million multiyear pledge supporting the McCombs School of Business and the Cockrell School of Engineering.
- The late T.W. “Tom” Whaley, Ph.D. ’68, who quietly served his country in the CIA during the Cold War, surprised university leaders this year with a $35 million bequest to create engineering scholarships at the Cockrell School of Engineering.
- Numerous corporations, foundations and individuals came together to contribute $10 million to establish the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, in honor of the founder of the Dallas-based advertising agency The Richards Group.
- Alumni Judy and Charles Tate of Houston gifted approximately 120 modern and contemporary Latin American artworks to the Blanton Museum of Art in addition to making a major contribution toward the endowment supporting the museum’s Latin American curatorship.
UT Austin celebrated its 131st birthday this year, and its leadership in higher education has never been more pronounced. These five things we’re thankful for highlight the university’s far-reaching influence:
- Last spring, the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act during the LBJ Presidential Library’s Civil Rights Summit. To commemorate the anniversary of one of LBJ’s crowning achievements, four U.S. presidents, civil rights leaders, scholars, activists and media came to the Forty Acres to discuss the future of civil rights advocacy in the United States.
- The university is making progress toward its goal of higher graduation rates, with last year’s freshman class returning to campus in larger numbers, earning better grades and taking — and passing — more credit hours than any other class on record. The Class of 2017, now in its sophomore year, was the first group of students to benefit from campus-wide initiatives designed to increase four-year graduation rates.
- Building on our 44-year history of Mexican American Studies, the university established the first-ever academic department in the U.S. to take a comprehensive look at the lives, cultures and histories of Mexican and Latino populations.
- Construction of the new Dell Medical School began in April. In October, the university announced that Dell Medical School and the Seton Healthcare Family laid the legal foundation for the new medical school, a new teaching hospital, a health care district in downtown Austin and greater access to health services in Travis County.
- The Department of Energy as well as industry and research partners awarded a $58 million grant to a university research team to study what could potentially be the next great energy source. The grant, one of the largest ever awarded to the university, will enable researchers to analyze deposits of frozen methane under the Gulf of Mexico that hold enormous potential to increase the world’s energy supply.
Longhorns asserted dominance on the field (and court) this year, giving fans a lot of reasons to be thankful.
- The next chapter of Texas football is here, and the team’s 6-5 record makes the Longhorns eligible for a bowl-game matchup (even Matthew McConaughey is excited about the team’s direction). Head Coach Charlie Strong’s arrival came with a set of core values that’s garnered national attention, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell turning to Strong for advice.
- Every year, Texas Athletics celebrates its tradition of excellence at the Men’s and Women’s Halls of Honor induction ceremonies. This year, a class of former letter winners, coaches and administrators were honored for contributions to the Longhorns family.
- Ushering in the next generation, Texas Athletics recently signed a number of student athletes to several teams. The Texas family is far-reaching, and the support of hundreds of thousands of fans continues to make the Longhorns strong. (Across the country, fans bought more Longhorns gear than merchandise for any other university, making UT Austin the No. 1 merchandise royalties collector among U.S. universities.)
- Texas teams keep competing for (and winning) championships, lighting the tower burnt orange throughout the past year. Among other championship contenders and winners, volleyball heads into the postseason ranked No. 3 nationally after winning a fourth consecutive Big 12 title, and the baseball team traveled to Omaha for an appearance in the College World Series.
- Our student athletes compete not only on the fields and courts but also in the classroom. This spring, UT Austin’s student athletes set a Texas Athletics record with a cumulative GPA of 3.1, and rowing senior Jessica Glennie, the architecture student who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, is the ninth Texas student athlete to receive the prestigious award.
From the entire University of Texas at Austin family, we’d like to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving!
In this week of Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank each of you for what you do — day in and day out — to make this a life-changing institution. To our students, thank you for your Longhorn spirit and for making this campus a place I want to be every day. To our faculty, thank you for dedicating your lives to our students’ futures and for pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the world. To our staff, thank you for your dedication and creativity — you make this place run. And to our alumni and friends, thank you for your pride in UT Austin and for your critical support. Here is a great compilation of reasons to be thankful.
Speaking of support, I know you all join me in cheering on Coach Strong and the Longhorns as they take on No. 5 TCU this Thursday at 6:30 at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. It’s been exciting to watch the team grow this season, and we’re looking forward to a bowl game. (And if you are coming to the stadium, don’t miss our great new exhibit in the North End Zone featuring memorabilia donated to UT by Willie Nelson.)
I also want to congratulate Coach Jerritt Elliott and our volleyball team for winning their fourth straight Big 12 Conference regular season title, their fifth in six years, and eighth overall. What a dynasty.
I hope that you have much to be thankful for this year, and that your time with family and friends will be relaxing and enjoyable.
Hook ’em Horns!
Nobel Prize-Winning Author Gabriel García Márquez’s Archive Acquired by The University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center
The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the archive of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez (1927–2014).
The archive documents the life and work of García Márquez, an author who obtained nearly unanimous critical acclaim and a worldwide readership.
Spanning more than half a century, García Márquez's archive includes original manuscript material, predominantly in Spanish, for 10 books, from "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (1967) to "Love in the Time of Cholera" (1985) to "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" (2004); more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence, including letters from Carlos Fuentes and Graham Greene; drafts of his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech; more than 40 photograph albums documenting all aspects of his life over nearly nine decades; the Smith Corona typewriters and computers on which he wrote some of the 20th century's most beloved works; and scrapbooks meticulously documenting his career via news clippings from Latin America and around the world.
"García Márquez is a giant of 20th-century literature whose work brims with originality and wisdom," said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. "The University of Texas at Austin — with expertise in both Latin America and the preservation and study of the writing process — is the natural home for this very important collection. Our students, our faculty and the state of Texas will benefit from it for years to come."
Highlights in the archive include multiple drafts of García Márquez's unpublished novel "We'll See Each Other in August," research for "The General in His Labyrinth" (1989) and a heavily annotated typescript of the novella "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" (1981). The materials document the gestation and changes of García Márquez's works, revealing the writer's struggle with language and structure.
"Heir and admirer of literary innovators like Jorge Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, García Márquez experimented with intricate narrative structures, with lush and winding long sentences, with the clash of the ordinary and the impossible," said José Montelongo, interim Latin American bibliographer at the university's Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. "He was a master of the short form in novellas that read like Greek tragedies set in the Caribbean, as well as a consummate long-distance literary runner, master of the sprawling, genealogic novel in which everything fits, including history and crime and love and miracles. Above all, he was an intoxicating stylist with the primal instincts of a storyteller. As one literary critic has put it, García Márquez's imagination was so powerful and original that he will be remembered as a creator of myths, a Latin American Homer."
Born in Colombia, García Márquez began his career as a journalist in the 1940s, reporting from Bogotá and Cartagena and later serving as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Cuba. In 1961, he moved to Mexico City. Alongside his prolific journalism career, García Márquez published many works of fiction, including novels, novellas and multiple short story collections and screenplays. He published the first volume of his three-part memoir "Vivir Para Contarla" ("Living to Tell the Tale") in 2002.
In a 1981 interview with The Paris Review, García Márquez said: "It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination."
The archive will reside at the Ransom Center alongside the work of many of the 20th century's most notable authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner and James Joyce, who all influenced García Márquez.
Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center noted: "This acquisition marks an important extension of the Center's literary holdings. García Márquez has had as important an influence on the novel of the second half of the 20th century as James Joyce had on the first half."
Other Nobel laureates represented in the Ransom Center's collections are Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Doris Lessing, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Steinbeck and W. B. Yeats.
Supporting the university's acquisition is LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, a partnership between the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. LLILAS is regarded as one of the strongest Latin American studies programs in the country, and the Benson Collection is recognized as one of the world's premier libraries focusing on Latin American and U.S. Latina/o studies.
"García Márquez is a towering figure of 20th-century Latin America and beyond, profoundly influential as a novelist and a key figure in journalism, politics, film and cultural production," said Charles Hale, director of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. "With his archive at the Ransom Center, the font of faculty expertise across the campus and the immense array of complementary materials at the Benson Latin American Collection, Austin will consolidate its status as the premier destination for research and scholarly exchange on the wide array of topics that his life and work bring to the fore. We are thrilled to be in collaboration with the Ransom Center on the García Márquez project, and we look forward to forging close ties with our Latin American colleagues and sister institutions, working together to realize its magnificent potential."
Future plans relating to the archive include digitizing portions of the collection to make them widely accessible and a university symposium to explore the breadth and influence of García Márquez's life and career.
"We are delighted that Gabo's archive will live at the great and unique Ransom Center, where generations of scholars and lovers of his work will be able to deepen their appreciation and understanding of his life and of his literary legacy," said Rodrigo García, one of the author's sons.
Glenn Horowitz Bookseller represented the family of Gabriel García Márquez.
The García Márquez materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged.
The Texas Army ROTC Ranger Team displays its prizes at the Fifth Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition on Oct. 31, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Texas Army ROTC.)
The Tower will glow orange Thursday, Nov. 20, in honor of the university’s Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Team, which placed first in the 2014 Fifth Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition on Oct. 31.
The Texas Army ROTC team bested teams from Northeastern State University, University of Arizona, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs and Texas A&M University.
The two-day competition challenges cadets mentally and physically, enhances leadership, critical thinking and team cohesion, develops healthy competition among battalions and helps retain cadets. It includes a 10-kilometer foot march in which cadets carry more than 40 pounds; day and night land navigation where teams use only a map, protractor and compass to find points over several kilometers; weapons assembly and disassembly tests; grenade assault course; a tactical combat casualty care test; and a commander’s challenge, a surprise event.
“The Ranger Challenge Competition tests cadets’ abilities to perform in a high-stress environment, both physically and mentally, ” says Cadet Promise Maino, senior nutrition major. “Events simulate real-life situations and challenges soldiers face.”
“By winning our region, the UT team is the best university in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas and Arizona,” says Lt. Col. Travis Habhab, chair and professor of military science at UT Austin.
With this win the Texas Army ROTC team will go on to compete in an international competition at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.
“Of the 275 ROTC programs across the country, Texas Army has earned one of just eight available slots, and will head to West Point to compete in the spring,” says Cadet Alan Figurski, senior petroleum engineering major and captain of the team.
“As many as 50 teams from around the world (some made up of cadets, others composed of prior-service soldiers)” will compete at West Point in a more rigorous series of events, Figurski explains. “The skills tested are increased to include events like rappelling, obstacle course navigation, combat swim (with full gear), rifle marksmanship, a raft paddle and a 12-foot wall climb.”
When a black woman stands up and declares herself a feminist, the response is never universal celebration.
Self-proclaimed feminist and singer Beyoncé Knowles knows this well. Just recently, former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox offered the latest critique of Beyoncé’s feminist credentials in a series of interviews branding the artist’s stance as “feminism lite.”
Lennox decried Beyoncé’s example as noxious to girls and young women who are fascinated by the “overtly sexual thrust” of her performances and declared her luxuriously sensuous persona “disturbing” and “exploitative.”
Yet, when a black woman stands up and declares herself a feminist, this act has a profound impact on other black women, especially when she wields the megawatt-bright profile that Beyoncé enjoys, and especially when the platform where she declares her feminism is the MTV Video Music Awards.
The day before Lennox made her comments during an NPR interview, the schedule at The University of Texas at Austin posted a new course that I’ll teach next spring called “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism.” The buzz was instantaneous and several news outlets ran stories.
But the people who approached me with the most engaging questions about “Beyoncé Feminism” were young black women: undergraduate and graduate students, burgeoning black female journalists, women who wrote from places like Ames, Iowa, and San Antonio, Texas.
They approached me to express their excitement that a professor was taking Beyoncé and Rihanna seriously. That someone was reflecting back that the lyrics they sing, the songs they dance to, their shirts that proclaim “I woke up like this” just might be important and worthwhile — just might be the meaningful sources of empowerment they always felt them to be.
While Annie Lennox looks at Beyoncé glittering onstage with feminist embellishment behind her and sees feminism lite, I on the other hand, along with many black women and girls, see something different: feminism light. And by this, I don’t mean her lightning display.
Beyoncé recently released an extended promo video for her “Mrs. Carter” world tour. The video revolves in a fantasy of Beyoncé layered in gold and opulence. She is laced in a gold corset and gold hoop sans skirt, dripping with chains and jewels, brandishing a scepter and balancing a crown in her curls as she emerges graciously from behind double doors.
Dazzling in red thigh-high boots, Queen Bey glides into the halls of a palace reminiscent of England’s Buckingham Palace where she apparently reigns as the Sun Queen.
This is clearly no place in the world we know. Rather, this is the jewel-laden, spectacularly abundant fantasy of a black feminist imagination: a world-changing vision that stages an alternative reality in which black women have value.
Contrast this with a news story days later in Beyoncé’s native Texas about a black woman emerging from another doorframe. Last February, 47-year-old Yvette Smith opened her front door for police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. The officers shot her dead in her doorway. Later police offered, then retracted, claims that Smith was armed.
Smith’s twin sister, Yvonne Williams, pursuing a wrongful death suit, mourned: “A part of me is gone, you know, and I wish I could have that back, but I can’t.”
In Texas and elsewhere across the country, black women are more likely to be shot in the dark than to appear on stage in the light. Turning on the news to see black women catalogued as eternal victims, we all feel a part of ourselves is gone.
Girls don’t run the world, and Beyoncé knows this perfectly well. But creating a fantasy vision where for a moment we all are Sun Queens is beautifully necessary to keep the hoping spirits of black women alive.
I don’t want to teach students that Smith represents the only experience of black women’s existence. We must imagine alternatives too, and I appreciate how Beyoncé offers us opportunities to celebrate those alternatives.
I applaud how she creates visions of black women’s freedom, especially in a world where that freedom doesn’t exist. Black feminism, light: thank you, Ms. Knowles, for that small gift.
Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley is an associate professor of African and African diaspora studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Huffington Post.
Related op-ed on Texas Perspectives:
Black Women are Already Dead in America
States Should Execute Their State Power and Raise the Wage
Sexy Halloween Costumes for Girls? Now That’s Scary
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:November 20, 2014
Researchers in The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education have found that a blood flow impairment in blacks that puts them at higher risk for cerebrovascular diseases like stroke appears at a much earlier age than previously thought.
Prior research has identified a blood flow difference in several regions of the body between older whites and blacks. This study is the first to spot blood flow impairment in a relatively young population that is free of cardiovascular and metabolic disease and to discover that a blood vessel in the brain is involved.
The appearance of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular blood flow problems at an early age means that blacks have a longer time for the condition to progressively worsen and develop into full-blown diseases with advancing age.
Researcher R. Matthew Brothers and his colleagues studied healthy, college-aged blacks and whites who were matched in age, sex, and body weight to measure the ability of cerebral blood vessels to dilate and elevate blood flow when there was a modest rise in carbon dioxide.
They found the increase in blacks’ blood flow was reduced in comparison to white participants.
“We’re not sure why this physiological difference exists, but it’s likely related to underlying blood vessel dysfunction - the arteries can’t dilate sufficiently or they constrict too much,” said Brothers, lead researcher and an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. “There’s a much higher prevalence of cerebrovascular disease and cardiovascular disease like hypertension, vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke among blacks.”
Discovering there are early warning signs may help researchers develop preventive strategies, like screening tools, as well as interventions that can be used with young adults. According to Brothers, the next step is to identify the actual mechanisms behind the impairment.”
Brothers emphasized that the study only measured the responses in one blood vessel and that carbon dioxide sensitivity may differ between cerebral vessels.
These findings were published in Experimental Physiology, The Physiological Society’s peer-reviewed journal.