U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas holds a narrow lead over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker among potential Republican primary voters in Texas, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
If the 2016 Republican primary election for president were held today, Cruz would have a one-point lead over Walker, 20 to 19 percent, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ben Carson trailing far behind among Texas voters. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was favored by only 8 percent of voters polled.
The Internet-based state poll was conducted between Feb. 6 and Feb. 15 by the market research firm YouGov. The sample included 1,200 self-declared registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heavily favored over other potential Democratic candidates, with 62 percent of Texas Democrats selecting her as their first choice for the 2016 Democratic primary.
The poll for the presidential primary match-ups included 547 Republican and 401 Democratic voters, with margins of error of 4.19 and 4.89 percentage points respectively.
“Scott Walker's challenge to Ted Cruz's dominance of the still unformed 2016 field in our previous three polls is driven by his appeal to conservatives,” said James Henson, director of UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project and co-director of the poll. “The burst of national press coverage of Walker's potential candidacy definitely boosted his standing among Texas Republicans.”
All respondents were asked their views of several state and national political figures. Forty-six percent said they had a very or somewhat favorable impression of Gov. Greg Abbott, and 28 percent indicated somewhat or very unfavorable.
Texans’ views of Congress improved slightly, from 14 percent job approval in the previous poll in October 2014 to 20 percent in the current poll. Disapproval of Congress decreased from 71 percent in October to 58 percent in February.
“While the increase in congressional job approval is nothing to write home about, the improvement of their dismal ratings over the last few years was likely helped in Texas by the Republican takeover in the 2014 elections,” Henson said.
The poll also asked the Texas voters to rank the most important issues facing Texas and the nation. According to the findings:
- The most important issues facing the country are the economy and federal spending, which were each cited by 12 percent of the respondents. National security and terrorism followed at 10 percent each.
- Twenty-one percent of voters identified border security as the most important problem facing Texas.
- Fifty-nine percent of voters think the country is headed down the wrong track, while 50 percent think Texas is headed in the right direction.
“Perceptions of the national economy are still negative, although Texans appear to see a glimmer of hope amid the gloom,” said Daron Shaw, UT Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. “Meanwhile, the perception that border security and immigration are major issues facing the state has been a persistent finding of the poll since we began it back in 2008.”
This is the latest in a series of online polls conducted by the Texas Politics Project and The Texas Tribune. Comprehensive poll results, information about methodology and the survey dataset will be available at the Texas Politics Project website later this week.
In recent days, three UT Austin executives have announced they are stepping down from their posts.
Kevin Hegarty, who has served as vice president and chief financial officer for 14 years, will become executive vice president and chief financial officer at the University of Michigan. His last day on campus will be Feb. 26, and he will begin at Michigan on April 6. Kevin has been a visionary leader, a champion of efficiency and effectiveness in our administration, and a stalwart member of my team. Mary Knight, our associate vice president for finance, will serve as interim vice president until his replacement is named.
Tom Gilligan, who has served as dean of the McCombs School of Business since 2008, will be leaving at the end of August for Stanford University to become director of the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution, and Peace. Tom has led the McCombs School to new heights, attracting top faculty and students and fostering research that is central to UT’s intellectual climate. He also has built and expanded multiple programs that support industry while challenging students and preparing them to be leaders. Rowling Hall, now under construction, will stand as Tom’s most visible legacy.
And Ambassador Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs since 2010, will step down when his current term concludes at the end of August. After taking some time off to write, Bob will return to the LBJ faculty to teach, advise, and mentor. Among his many accomplishments he has been responsible for key faculty hires and the creation of a dual degree program with the law school and an executive master’s in public leadership.
All three of these leaders have my profound thanks for their service to the University and my very best wishes for the next chapters of their distinguished careers.
Black History Month this year coincides with a high-stakes political conflict over federal food programs for impoverished Americans. Too often, debates about budgeting these longstanding programs hinge less on the availability of funds and more on the “culture” of the poor.
Fifty years ago during the first confrontations over the Food Stamp Program, talk of lazy fathers and out-of-wedlock mothers became as pivotal as it is now. Then, challenges came from civil rights activists who had plunged into antipoverty work.
Today, constant references to “broken families,” “inner cities,” and “cycle of dependency,” and “drug abuse” — terms that often become code words for poor African Americans — convince many Americans that restricting food stamps is a good idea because a sector of the poor is deceiving them.
Such language draws a line between needy families whom both parties term the “struggling middle class” and those depicted as outside that category. The resentment it has fueled has bolstered the political profile of many calling for restricting or abolishing programs to help poor people.
This needs to stop. But it hasn’t.
One state after another has opted to use taxpayer money to perform drug tests on a subset of welfare recipients who seem like they might be drug abusers. Such “suspicion-based” programs have turned up few such abusers. Nevertheless, Maine just became the latest state to announce it will roll out such a program.
The Texas Legislature will vote on a similar one this spring. Texas policymakers would be wise to vote against such a requirement.
Food stamp recipients have never been subjected to these tests. When Georgia attempted to do so last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered it to stop.
Current federal law prohibits mandatory drug testing because it would add an extra requirement for eligibility; anyone refusing the test would be denied benefits. Regardless, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who recently presented his state budget, intends to make his state the first to do just that.
The specter of junkies supporting their habits with food stamps is a powerful example of how cultural vilification could potentially sway voters to support a harsher food stamp program.
But the stakes can best be grasped by looking back to the struggle that erupted over federal food programs 50 years ago.
In plantation counties that had become battlegrounds for the voting rights movement, activists confronted horrifying levels of poverty, including hunger and malnutrition that threatened the lives of infants and young children.
Circumstances became so dire in part because cotton planters finished replacing sharecroppers with machines in the mid-1960s. Still, Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Food Stamp Act should have staved off malnutrition, as an alternative to the existing program that distributed mostly starchy food commodities.
Instead, it exposed the poorest families to crippling hunger because the stamps had to be purchased, and it gave county officials the power to choose which program to implement, if either.
Civil rights activists suspected authorities of using the Food Stamp Program to pressure newly registered black voters to move.
Today, when the racial connotations are more veiled, we should remember how Unita Blackwell responded to state officials who blamed hunger on unwed mothers of “illegitimate” children at a 1967 Senate subcommittee hearing: Black women’s sons were “illegitimate” when it came to assistance, she declared, but “legitimate” when they reached draft age and were sent to Vietnam.
That kind of indignation fueled the years-long campaign to eliminate fees and require food stamps in every county.
At the hearing, Marian Wright Edelman then an NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney but soon to be the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973, persuaded Sens. Joseph Clark and Robert Kennedy to see the conditions for themselves.
Forty-eight years later, she and the Children’s Defense Fund issued “End Child Poverty Now,” a straightforward economic plan to eliminate most child poverty. The problem, it underscores, is one of political will.
This Black History Month, politicians need to stop encouraging Americans to buy into this old vilification of poor people and to start paying more attention to demands to end poverty now.
Laurie Green is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Share this story on Twitter:February 20, 2015
Event: Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day
When: 2-5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015
Registration is now closed.
Girl Day By the Numbers:
- 4,300+ — First- through eighth-grade students registered for Girl Day 2015
- 93 — Registered students in 2002, UT Austin’s first-ever Girl Day
- 800+ — Community volunteers expected this year
- 100+ — Activities throughout the day
- 9,000 — Gumdrops used by students for various experiments
- 20,450 — Toothpicks used by students for various experiments
- 18 — Gallons of glue for the bounciest ball activity
- 2,800 — Lifesavers used by students for the puff mobile activity
- 400 — Shoeboxes and lids used by students for a pinball game
Background: The Cockrell School of Engineering's Women in Engineering Program at The University of Texas at Austin will host more than 4,000 girls from across the state for its 14th annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, a daylong event of activities meant to spark creativity, inspire future careers and show how engineers can change the world. Girl Day has grown to become the largest of its kind in Texas and the country.
Elementary and middle school students from Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and dozens of Texas towns will engage in more than 100 engineering activities as diverse as designing a dome out of gumdrops and building a pinball game.
For more information, contact:
Media Relations Manager
Cockrell School of Engineering
Director of the Women in Engineering Program
Cockrell School of Engineering
February is National Heart Month, and cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death of both men and women in the industrialized world, causing more than 30 percent of all deaths in the United States.
It is the most costly component of total health care spending.
To improve health and lower spending cost, physicians should turn to engineering principles and methods. In fact, to improve heart disease outcomes, it appears inevitable that, in the future, the practice of medicine will have to resemble the practice of modern engineering more closely.
Historically, physicians have used various tests to diagnose a medical condition and then plan a treatment or intervention based on experience and statistics.
However, statistics alone are not reliable predictors of success for individual patients. There is simply too much variability from case to case, especially for diseased patients.
In contrast, in engineering there is an attempt to accurately predict the performance of a product or procedure for its intended use.
The entire design process is based on predicted outcomes, and often a number of criteria must be satisfied simultaneously. The field of computational medicine hopes to bring these engineering principles to patients.
Computational medicine will make medical care more like the practice of engineering, and more physicians need to embrace this idea.
Built on vascular research that began about 20 years ago, computational medicine relies on patient-specific computer modeling to diagnose disease, evaluate the efficacy of various possible treatments, and plan optimal interventions.
For example, by using a computer model of a patient’s specific problem, the effectiveness of a bypass graft can be assessed before surgery is performed.
However, of even greater importance are the intervention’s implications after time has elapsed. How does a treatment hold up a month, six months, a year or a decade down the line? At this moment, researchers are beginning to develop models of these longer time phenomena.
Computational medicine technologies will enable clinicians to craft cardiovascular therapies that are optimized for the cardiovascular system of each individual, and to evaluate interventions for efficacy and possible side effects before they are performed.
They will also provide design methodologies, enabling biomedical engineers and physicians to devise new therapies while decreasing costs and increasing safety associated with their introduction and clinical testing.
Medicine has much to learn from engineering practice, which leverages modern computational technology to provide consumers with high-quality products to satisfy customer demand at attractive prices.
Indeed, the noninvasive nature of computational medicine technologies may be one of the most effective ways to control spiraling health care costs without sacrificing the quality of care. Closer collaboration between physicians and engineers will facilitate development and introduction of these technologies.
Cardiovascular disease is the current focus of research in computational medicine. However, the concept is obviously more general and is already beginning to affect other areas, such as cancer.
The development and clinical implementation of predictive computational medicine may represent a milestone in the history of engineering and medicine, one that may have significant benefits for the health and welfare of humanity.
In view of the promise of computational medicine to benefit patients and improve efficiency of the health care system while reducing costs, this field is one that merits strong support in federal research programs and the private sector.
Thomas J.R. Hughes is a professor of aerospace engineering and computational mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin and director of the Computational Mechanics Group at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. Charles A. Taylor is the founder and chief technology officer at Heartflow Inc.
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Op-ed: More doctors need to embrace the idea that future medical care will be more like the practice of engineering. http://t.co/jX2Oh0zUpd— Texas Perspectives (@TexPerspectives) February 18, 2015
Huston-Tillotson University and Dell Medical School Partnership Will Expand Health Services in East Austin
Huston-Tillotson University, a historically black university in Austin, and the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin announced a landmark partnership Tuesday dedicated to helping underserved residents of Austin get, and stay, healthy.
Through the partnership, the universities will work together to address mental health challenges in Austin, particularly in underserved populations. The institutions plan to hire a team that will produce combined training programs, new models of care, and research to address needs in East Austin and communities with disproportionate burdens of mental illness. A faculty member jointly appointed by both universities will manage what will be known as the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center at Huston-Tillotson, as well as the services it provides and the medical student training conducted there.
Leaders from both universities said the partnership demonstrates their institutions’ commitment to improving health and increasing access to health care in East Austin and throughout underserved communities in Central Texas, while also improving integrated behavioral and general health education on both campuses.
“This project represents an unprecedented effort by each institution,” said Dr. Larry L. Earvin, president and chief executive officer of Huston-Tillotson University. “It is a unique chance for Huston-Tillotson to scale our health services to meet our community’s needs, and it marks a big step forward in the Dell Medical School’s efforts to make a difference in the lives of all Travis County residents.”
Dr. Clay Johnston, inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School, added: “To open this entirely new, clearly needed HT Community Health and Wellness Center basically in our backyard will be good for everyone. It will give our students the chance to learn, help our neighbors to get healthy and stay healthy, and allow our universities to collaborate with our community in developing new, culturally appropriate models of care.”
The HT Community Health and Wellness Center also will help relieve the previously identified strain on Travis County’s mental health resources by adding treatment options and services that residents and taxpayers need.
By supporting the implementation of integrated behavioral and physical health care models at Huston-Tillotson, this partnership will also help further the goals of the Dell Medical School in its partnership with Central Health, the Travis County health care district, to improve the delivery of health care to uninsured and vulnerable residents across the county. Huston-Tillotson is working with CommUnityCare, which provides health services at 25 locations across Travis County, for it to potentially provide primary care services at the HT Community Health and Wellness Center. With the focus on addressing mental health needs, Austin Travis County Integral Care is anticipated to be the behavioral health provider, as it is in other CommUnityCare locations. Through their partnership, Integral Care and CommUnityCare have been on the forefront of bringing community-based integrated physical and mental health services to vulnerable populations in our community.
“National data from various sources are pointing to the prevalence of mental illness throughout communities — and a disparity in access to mental health care services for minority populations,” said Dr. William Lawson, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington D.C., who will help plan the new program with HT and UT Austin, with a role that could expand over time. “The opportunity to bring solutions to Austin through this partnership speaks to the vision of the leaders of all the entities involved to ensure that solution-based care is provided. I am pleased to be a part of this collaboration in order to address, in many instances, hidden community behavioral and medical care needs.”
The Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center is named for the late daughter of HT alumna Mrs. Ada Cecilia Collins Anderson, 92, who gave Huston-Tillotson University $3 million — the largest gift in the institution’s history. Anderson attended Austin’s two predominantly black colleges, Samuel Huston and Tillotson, before they were merged, and she received her master’s degree in 1965 from UT Austin.
Ultimately, the center is envisioned to be a $35 million complex that will help address mental health disparities and increase health and wellness across the community, increase the number of African American mental health physicians in Central Texas, and serve the medical needs of HT students and faculty members.
“Projects like this demonstrate why Travis County invested in this medical school, and we thank Huston-Tillotson for its commitment to its community and its willingness to partner with UT Austin,” said Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. “This effort will inspire many more collaborations, and the community will be better thanks to them.”
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin will break ground on an innovative office building at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus. The groundbreaking event will feature Juan Sanchez, the university’s vice president for research, and Dan Stanzione, the TACC executive director.
“TACC is a pillar of UT Austin's research capability. What's more, it helps scientists around the world push the frontier of knowledge in innumerable fields," said Bill Powers, president of UT Austin. "It needs a facility that will help keep Texas at the forefront of advanced computing, and I'm gratified that with this it will have one."
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 1:30-3 p.m.
WHERE: J.J. Pickle Research Campus, 10100 Burnet Road, Research Office Complex (ROC), Building 196, Texas Advanced Computing Center, Room 1.900.
News media are invited to attend and cover the event.
BACKGROUND: The Texas Advanced Computing Center received approval from the UT System Board of Regents last year to expand its facilities. The building is being funded by a $10 million gift from the Peter O’Donnell Foundation in Dallas and matching funds from the UT System Board of Regents.
The new TACC Office Building — a three-story, 38,000-gross-square-foot building — will be in the northeast quadrant of the J.J. Pickle Research Campus on Burnet Road.
TACC conducts research in the field of advanced computing while conducting outreach to increase the awareness of the importance of advanced computing and computational science.
More than 2,000 active, funded research projects in all fields of science are benefiting from the advanced computing resources available at TACC, which includes a comprehensive ecosystem of leading-edge resources in high-performance computing, visualization, data analysis, storage, cloud, data-driven computing, and software.
Completion is expected in January 2016.
AUSTIN, Texas — New research from The University of Texas at Austin suggests that many teenagers, especially younger teens, may not be getting the message about the risks of using alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy — but that having involved parents and being engaged academically can help.
The study, led by Assistant Professor Christopher Salas-Wright at UT Austin’s School of Social Work and published in the Spring 2015 issue of Addictive Behaviors, examines the relationship between substance use and teen pregnancy using a large, nationally representative sample.
Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) pregnant teens reported having used one or more substances in the previous 12 months, a rate that is nearly two times as great as that of nonpregnant teens (35%). Additionally, the study suggests that use of these substances continues during pregnancy for many teens, particularly younger ones. More than one third (34%) of all pregnant adolescents ages 12-14 reported having used one or more substances during the previous 30 days. The substance use, however, decreases dramatically for all pregnant youths as they progress from the first into the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, according to the study. The most commonly used substance is alcohol (16%), followed closely by cannabis (14%), and finally other illicit drugs (5%).
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study to date on the relationship between substance use and teen pregnancy,” Salas-Wright said. “Mothers’ substance use during pregnancy can have important consequences for the health and development of newborn babies. Despite efforts to prevent substance use among pregnant teens, our findings suggest that we still have a lot of work to do.”
The study was co-authored with Michael G. Vaughn of Saint Louis University’s School of Social Work and graduate students Jenny Ugalde and Jelena Todic of The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work.
“We found that the odds of substance use were roughly 50 percent lower among pregnant teens reporting consistent parental support and limit-setting, as well as those who expressed strong positive feelings about going to school,” Vaughn said. “This suggests that it makes sense to engage both parents and teachers in efforts to address substance use among pregnant teens.”
The study used data from a large, nationally representative study (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) of youths in the United States between 2002 and 2012. Their sample included 97,850 adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 17. A total of 810 said that they were pregnant.
Researchers examined the prevalence of the use of a wide array of substances including alcohol, cannabis, cocaine/crack, methamphetamine and opiates among pregnant and nonpregnant youths during the previous 12 months. Additionally, they examined the prevalence of substance use among pregnant and nonpregnant teens during the previous 30 days, and across each trimester among the pregnant teens.
MEDIA ADVISORY: Partnership between Huston-Tillotson University and Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin
AUSTIN, Texas — Huston-Tillotson University and Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin officials will announce a partnership to address mental health challenges in Austin, particularly among underserved populations.
EVENT: Huston-Tillotson University and Dell Medical School press conference
WHEN: 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17
WHERE: Huston-Tillotson University campus, 900 Chicon St., Dickey-Lawless Auditorium, Room 200
Media check-in and parking instructions at the Campus Safety booth at the Chicon Street entrance.
Of all the statistics that point to an urgent need to reform the use of solitary confinement in Texas prisons, there’s one that is most striking: The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released more than 1,200 people directly from solitary confinement back into Texas communities in 2013.
Imagine for a moment languishing alone in a 60-square-foot cell for 22 hours a day, for months or even years. Then one day, suddenly you’re left to successfully re-enter society.
This practice needs to stop.
If there were evidence that the current use of solitary confinement in Texas was serving to protect law-abiding Texans from harm and make prisons function better, then this scenario would be defensible.
The truth is that the practice serves no one. It endangers the communities into which they’re released, and it inflicts destabilizing misery on prisoners.
A report recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project found that 4.4 percent of the prison population housed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is held in solitary confinement.
The average term of solitary is almost four years. And for more than 100 Texas prisoners, solitary confinement has lasted more than 20 years.
Let me repeat that, with emphasis. The average time spent in solitary is almost four years. For more than 100 Texas prisoners, that isolated cell has been “home” for more than 20 years.
The cost of this isn’t just borne by the prisoners. It’s shouldered by Texas taxpayers, the communities into which prisoners are released, and prison staffers.
The cost of putting prisoners in solitary confinement is approximately 50 percent greater than housing them in the general population. People released from solitary confinement are more likely to commit new crimes than people released from the rest of the prison system.
Even the rates of violence against prison staff members — which solitary confinement is intended in part to reduce — seem to be increasing as a result of the practice.
In fact, the head of the largest correctional officers’ union in Texas recently testified at a federal hearing that serious assaults on correctional staffers have more than doubled during the past seven years. He attributed this rise in substantial part to the increased use of solitary confinement.
Prisoners with mental illness are especially ill-served by solitary confinement. As a psychiatrist, and the executive director of a mental health foundation, I find it hard to imagine a worse prescription for those with mental illness than to put them in the most haunting and psychologically oppressive spaces in the already destabilizing context of incarceration. It’s a recipe for further trauma and decompensation.
For too long solitary confinement has been deployed as a routine disciplinary measure, rather than as an extreme practice reserved for rare circumstances. This needs to change.
Among other reforms, we should better train our correctional officers to work with people with mental health issues. We should have an incentive program that allows prisoners in solitary to earn their way, with good behavior, back into the general population. And we should ban releasing people directly from solitary confinement back into the community.
In recent years, the Texas criminal justice system has begun to tilt the balance back toward rehabilitation for all but the most violent offenders. In the same spirit, we are overdue for a far-reaching, but entirely common sense, rethinking of the way that solitary confinement is used in our prisons.
Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. is the executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin and the chair of the Behavioral Health Integration Advisory Committee at the Health and Human Services Commission.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
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UT Austin Advances Connections with Mexico through Agreement with National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
The University of Texas at Austin has greatly enhanced its academic ties with Latin America, signing three agreements with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). These agreements, focused on student exchanges and collaborative research, strengthen a long-standing strategic relationship between UT Austin and Mexico.
The agreements will expand links between Mexico and the United States at a crucial time in the two nations’ relationship. Mexico’s energy reform in August 2014 has opened the door for UT Austin and UNAM to enhance education in engineering, geosciences and technology and bolster research on subjects of mutual interest.
“Many of our graduating international students return to their home countries and excel in government, industry and academia. The agreements signed today with UNAM create new avenues for UT faculty and students to advance major collaborations with our closest neighbor, Mexico,” said Gregory L. Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT Austin.
The agreements directly support the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, a federal initiative that expands cross-border innovation through educational exchanges and scientific research partnerships. They also reinforce other bilateral programs such as the U.S. presidential initiative 100,000 Strong in the Americas, the Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship and the Mexican initiative Proyecta 100,000.
“The UT-UNAM agreements offer a tremendous opportunity to develop science, technology and innovation together in strategic topics, so that the already strong partnership between Texas and Mexico can evolve to greater heights. Just in 2014, U.S.-Mexico trade rose to a record 534 billion USD, a 5.5 percent increase from 2013,” said Sergio M. Alcocer, Mexican undersecretary for North America in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also a UT alum. Alcocer was instrumental in linking UNAM, where he had served as provost prior to government service, and his alma mater.
The new relationship between UT and UNAM is a natural fit. More than 350 graduate students from Latin America and the Caribbean have studied at UT every year for the past five years. The university is home to more than 1 million Latin American books, magazines, journals and works of art housed within the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, Blanton Museum of Art, Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Harry Ransom Center. Most recently, the Ransom Center acquired the archive of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. In September 2014, UT established the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, the first academic department to study people’s movement along the Mesoamerican corridor.
UNAM is the largest university in Latin America, with six campuses across Mexico City and many schools across the country, and it is the oldest in North America. UNAM’s researchers are prolific, publishing articles on a vast array of topics including mathematics, physics and history. Of the scientific articles published by Mexican scholars in 2014, 30 percent of them were authored by UNAM researchers. UNAM counts three Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni: Mario J. Molina for chemistry, Alfonso García Robles for peace and Octavio Paz for literature. UNAM has already made advances toward goals established by the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, taking part in the launch of a binational Web portal to help students find educational opportunities in Mexico and the United States.
AUSTIN, Texas — Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty will leave his position at The University of Texas at Austin after 14 years to become the executive vice president and chief financial officer at the University of Michigan.
His last day on campus will be Feb. 26. He will begin at Michigan on April 6, pending approval by Michigan’s Board of Regents this Thursday.
“Few people in our university’s history have served the campus with as much dedication and honor as Kevin. He will be sorely missed and will always be a great friend,” said President Bill Powers. “Kevin’s love for the Longhorns is exceeded only by his accomplishments improving the university, making us one of the most productive and efficient campuses in the nation and leading us through very challenging budget years.”
Associate Vice President for Finance Mary Knight will serve as interim CFO.
Hegarty received both his bachelor’s degree in business administration and his master’s degree in professional accounting from UT Austin. He held leadership positions in financial affairs in the private sector, including with Dell Inc., Associates First Capital, Trammell Crow Co. and PricewaterhouseCoopers before returning to UT Austin as CFO in 2001.
Since then, he has overseen the university’s finance, budget, real estate, information technology, open records, payroll and purchasing. He has worked successfully to help faculty members obtain research grants and made strategic investments in academic and research initiatives.
Since 2013, he also has led President Powers’ efforts to improve the efficiency of administrative operations and has played a leadership role in establishing the Dell Medical School and a proposed medical innovation district in Austin. And he has presided over a major effort to modernize the university’s administrative systems.
At Michigan, Hegarty will oversee U-M’s investments, finance, human resources, facilities and operations, and information technology.
“Mr. Hegarty is strongly committed to the role of public universities and brings a valuable combination of private sector and public higher education experience to the appointment,” said Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, in his recommendation to the regents to hire Hegarty. “I am confident he will serve our university well in meeting the challenges ahead.”
This story is part of our “Eyes on Innovation” series, which explores UT’s world-changing ideas, fascinating discoveries and new ways of doing things.
Improved vaccines, nutrient-filled spice packets, the next-generation of solar panels and a way to harvest energy from footsteps are a few of the ideas being put to the test during three different entrepreneurial competitions The University of Texas at Austin is hosting this month.
In February alone, up-and-coming entrepreneurs will leave the Forty Acres with more than $120,000 in cash prizes — and invaluable advice from competition judges — to support ideas that may someday change the world.
Take a look at three business competitions shining a light on new ideas and learn how UT supports entrepreneurs.Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition The Flipped Health team poses for a picture after winning the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition on Feb. 5. Image courtesy of McCombs School of Business.
At stake: $12,000 in cash, mentoring from experts, and a spot in the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, held on campus in May and known as the “Super Bowl of Investment Competitions.”
To date, the Texas and Global Venture Labs Investment Competitions have awarded more than $1.3 million in cash and prizes to entrepreneurs.
Since 1984, teams of graduate students from across the university have pitched ideas, attracted investors and propelled businesses during the annual Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition. To give students the real-life experience of raising venture capital, the teams present business plans to a panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, accountants and lawyers.
“The heart of the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition is for companies being formed by graduate students to really flush out that idea,” says Doug Yeager, a venture partner who helps organize the competition. “It’s learning entrepreneurship through doing.”
The Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs at the McCombs School of Business hosts both the Texas and Global rounds of the investment competition, in addition to connecting the university’s business, technology and legal resources to students, faculty, researchers and local entrepreneurs.
Divided into five divisions, the competition attracts business ideas from mobile software and the I.T. field to the energy sector, social entrepreneurship and consumer products.
“This is our chance to learn,” says Cheryl Tulkoff, a master of science in technology commercialization student who won the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition with her team Flipped Health. “There’s no textbook for pitching like this — you have to be out there in the mix.”
The experience is paying off, too. The companies that take advantage of the McCombs School’s resources and participate in the competition often end up doing big business. During the past 10 years, new ventures at McCombs have raised more than $167 million, with 18 companies raising at least $1 million.
Here’s a quick look at five of this year’s competitors in the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition:
- Flipped Health is developing a better way to deliver vaccines.
- BlackBox Trainer is a website and mobile app that provides customized workouts and meal plans.
- LoBan allows small banks to simplify commercial and retail banking services.
- aNomNom is a website matching graduate students for lunch based on preferred topics of conversation.
- DraftCrunch reduces the complexity and time required to create competitive fantasy sports lineups.
At stake: $30,000 in cash, including $10,000 to an overall winner and a $5,000 prize to the first-place winners in each of four categories.
In its inaugural year, the Food Challenge Prize invited early-stage startups to pitch the next great ideas to improve the food chain.
A partnership between the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Human Ecology, The Food Lab is a “catalyst for scientific and cultural exploration, experimentation and innovation in the food system.”
“We produce so much food already, we just need to produce better food and get it to more people at more reasonable costs,” says Robyn Metcalfe, director of The Food Lab. “We’re at a point where we seem to have identified the key areas that need improvement, and now people are stepping up to solve these problems.”
Beginning in June of last year, about 120 teams from across the country submitted business ideas to the Food Challenge Prize in four main categories: inputs and production; processing, packaging and safety; storage and distribution; and healthy eating and nutrition.
In November judges cut the pool of applicants to 20 finalists, who then partnered with industry mentors for about 13 weeks. The top 10 teams pitched business ideas to a panel of judges during the Showcase Day on Feb. 14. Ten Acre Organics, co-founded by Lloyd Minick and Michael Hannan (below), walked away with the grand prize.
“We really got interested in this competition because it’s a first step in solving world hunger,” says Michael Chang, a UT chemical engineering senior who is competing with his team, Cramen, which has created a novel spice mix aimed at fighting world hunger. “We’ve really learned to compromise, put differences aside and focus on the goal at hand, which is to convince as many people as possible that our product is a good one. It’s helped to prepare me for the real world.”
Here’s a quick look at five of the 20 finalists who vied for the first Food Challenge Prize:
- SMRC uses 3-D printers to create food for NASA’s deep space missions.
- Cramen uses a cricket and algae spice mix to fight world hunger.
- Hopper Foods‘ mission is to normalize eating insects with healthy and delicious products.
- Revive Foods makes healthy preserves from fruits that would otherwise go to waste.
- Ten Acre Organics is creating model farms to replicate around the world.
At stake: $80,000 in cash prizes, plus a bundle of entrepreneurial perks, like a one-year appointment in UT’s Austin Technology Incubator.
Also in its inaugural year, the Energy Technology Competition asks entrepreneurs to develop the best ideas in three energy categories: oil and gas; clean tech; and energy, water and resource efficiency.
“These problems require new ideas,” says Jason Wible, a graduate student in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and an officer in the Longhorn Energy Club, which co-hosts Energy Week with UT’s Energy Institute. “Texas is a leading university in the world supporting new technologies in energy.”
Open to students, faculty and the general startup community, the Energy Technology Competition is part of Energy Week, a weeklong conference that takes place Feb. 16-20.
“This competition is a great way to get exposure, and we’re excited to network,” says Aaron Chockla, managing partner of Lucelo Technologies, one of the 40 teams competing this year. “It’s great to think about how what we do in the lab can impact society.”
Here’s a look at five teams competing in the Energy Technology Competition:
- Lucelo Technologies is working to make low-cost printable solar cells.
- Epi-Energy produces parts for wind turbines.
- Everywhere Energy is turning footsteps into usable electricity.
- Drinkwell promotes water filtration and business tools in undeveloped areas.
- PinkPetro is a social channel for women in the energy field.
Pitching a business idea to industry insiders can be intimidating, but their honest feedback — positive or negative — is invaluable for students trying to fine-tune plans.
“Talking with investors and judges has really helped us to change where our business plan is going,” says Darla Hollander, an electrical engineering senior who is the CEO of Everywhere Energy, a company competing in the Energy Technology Competition. “They’re the ones who say, ‘This is a good idea,’ or ‘That could be better.’”
Judges in the three new venture competitions taking place this month hail from technology incubators, small businesses, massive corporations, foundations, and government agencies and bring years of experience and industry connections.
“We get direct access to movers and shakers because I’m a student and in these competitions,” says Cheryl Tulkoff, a master of science in technology commercialization student whose team won the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition. “They’ll look at our ideas with a different perspective, and then we can fill in the gaps. It’s great help, and they’re really gurus in the field. I feel like I’ve hit the lottery.”
Of course, it’s not always easy to hear seasoned veterans pick apart your dream idea.
“You have to have a thick skin,” says Aaron Chockla, who is competing in the Energy Technology Competition with his company Lucelo Technologies. “It’s all business.”
Learn more about UT Austin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:
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AUSTIN, Texas — Experts from academia, industry, media and non-profit organizations will gather on The University of Texas at Austin campus Monday to kick off a weeklong conference featuring panels, public forums on energy and student competitions offering more than $100,000 in prizes.
Experts will examine new research findings, explore emerging trends, and discuss the latest advances in energy technologies. Panel topics include drilling in the Arctic and other frontier environments, the role of natural gas in a lower-carbon future, green building design and construction, and the impact of disruptive technologies such as distributed generation on an evolving electric utility business model.
The program includes several prominent speakers, including Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick and Doyle Beneby, president and CEO of San Antonio’s CPS Energy. Renowned UT Engineering Professor John Goodenough, widely credited as the principal inventor of the lithium-ion battery that powers cell phones, laptops and many other electronic devices, also will discuss his ongoing research into large-scale energy storage.
UT Energy Week also includes a full slate of evening events that are free and open to the public, including a town hall meeting on the impact of hydraulic fracturing on oil and natural gas extraction and a tour of UT Austin’s state-of-the art power plant and microgrid, the largest in the U.S.
View the full UT Energy Week program and register here.
Dr. Thomas F. Edgar, director of the university’s Energy Institute, said the conference aims to showcase “the tremendous depth of expertise and world-class interdisciplinary energy research” at UT Austin.
“The program we’ve assembled illustrates the exemplary work of university faculty and researchers across a broad spectrum of energy issues,” Edgar said, noting that UT Austin annually attracts $70 million or more in funding for energy-related research.
“We’re known for our oil and gas research,” Edgar added. “But we do it all.”
Margaret Cook, a graduate student in Civil Engineering and president of the Longhorn Energy Club, said student involvement in planning UT Energy Week has allowed them to collaborate closely with faculty working in a variety of disciplines.
“This has been a great opportunity for students to engage with industry and other energy experts,” Cook said. “It’s exciting to be a part of such a robust debate on issues that really matter to society.”
The Longhorn Energy Club has organized two competitions that will be judged during UT Energy Week – a student research poster contest and an Energy Technology Competition for startups that will award $100,000 in prizes.
Highlights from the UT Energy Week program include:
- Monday: “Back to the Future?” explores the role of oil and gas in a changing marketplace, with panels on energy economics and Arctic / frontier drilling.
- Tuesday: “Building Bridges to a Sustainable World,” explores the future of natural gas and nuclear energy, sustainable energy policy, and the nexus of energy, food and water.
- Wednesday: “Empowering Consumers, Reinventing Infrastructure,” showcases the impact of microgrids, energy storage, and other disruptive technologies.
- Thursday: “Regulation, Decentralization, Integration,” looks at the rapidly evolving electric utility model in the context of climate change and new technologies.
- Friday: “Geopolitics of Oil and Gas in the Americas,” features the inaugural symposium of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business and includes a panel on Mexican energy reform.
EVENT: University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers will visit Midland, Texas, to attend a panel discussion with experts from UT Austin’s William P. Clements, Jr. Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft. The panelists will discuss “The War on Terror from September 11 to Today: What It Means for American National Security and Energy Policy.”
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 19
4 p.m. Media availability with panelists
5 p.m. Reception begins
5:45 p.m. Program begins
7 p.m. Program concludes
WHERE: The Petroleum Club Ballroom
501 West Wall Street
Midland, Texas 78701
WHO MAY ATTEND: Media and invited guests. Media planning to attend should contact Jill Angelo at 512-471-2601.
BACKGROUND: The Midland host committee for this event includes Penny and Ernest Angelo, Vicky and Javaid Anwar, Michele Brock, Jill and Cary Brown, Nadine and Tom Craddick, Cherie and Terry Creech, Susie and Don Evans, Lois and Richard Folger, Paula and Jim Henry, Bob Parker, Sr., Marsha and Mel Riggs, Gwyn and Don Sparks, Jamie and Kyle Stallings and Modesta and Clayton Williams.
The panelists are:
- William Inboden, Clements Center executive director and former senior director for strategic planning on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council
- Paul D. Miller, Clements Center associate director and former director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council
- Steve Slick, Clements Center Intelligence Studies Project director and former senior officer of the CIA Clandestine Service
- Lt. Gen. Frank Kisner (ret.), former NATO special operations commander
The Clements Center draws on the best insights of diplomatic and military history to train the next generation of national security leaders. Established in 2013 with the support of distinguished policymakers and scholars, the Clements Center is a nonpartisan research and policy center uniquely positioned in the Office of the President.
The Clements Center honors former Texas Gov. Bill Clements and his leadership on national security during his service as deputy secretary of defense from 1973 to 1977.
For more information visit www.clementscenter.org
Today, the Board of Regents released the report of an investigation it commissioned to study whether UT Austin admissions are subject to undue outside influence.
I believe UT Austin’s admissions practices are motivated by fairness, the long-term interests of the University, and serving the public good. In response to the report by the firm Kroll & Associates, I would like to make six points:
1. As Kroll reported, over a five-year period, my office intervened on behalf of “a relatively small” number of students. In particular, the report cited 73 applicants who normally would not have been admitted, or fewer than one in 1,000 admitted students.
2. In every case, I acted in what I believed was the best interest of the University.
3. Our admissions practices are fully consistent with all established laws, rules, and policies.
4. I inherited this process, which was well known by regents, former chancellors, the Board of Regents Office, and UT System officials, many of whom, as the report notes, asked me to intervene on their behalf. This process, both prior to and during my presidency, was in the best long-term interest of the University.
5. As the Kroll report points out, no spots at the University were saved and no one was displaced by this practice. The students in question were simply added to the incoming class.
6. It is my observation that some similar process exists at virtually every selective university in America, and it does so because it serves the best interests of the institutions.
I am proud of our staff for the full cooperation it gave to the inquiry, as cited in the report: “The commitment, dedication, and good faith of all officials and personnel with whom we interacted were readily apparent.” The Kroll report contains many recommendations worth considering.
I thank Chancellor McRaven for his thoughtful leadership.
Valentine’s Day is a holiday that may appear light-spirited, but in reality, it is a complex event for many people buying gifts, especially young consumers.
As a consumer psychologist who completed a five-year study looking at consumer behavior in the context of Valentine’s Day, I say people, especially women, need to remember that this day is about love and affection, not the established traditions of card, candy and gifts.
Buying gifts is one way many of us show affection on Valentine’s Day. U.S. retail sales related to Valentine’s Day last year reached $17 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, with consumers spending an average $131. This gives V-Day a substantial economic significance as well as emotional significance.
Despite the romantic spirit of the mass-marketed day, the emotions consumers share online and offline, along with the ensuing decisions on what to buy, shows complexities of consumer psychology such as perceived obligations, escalating expectations and ambivalence that may turn to market resistance.
Whereas Super Bowl Sunday is often advertised as “a man’s day,” many women see Valentine’s Day as their day — a female day. It’s a holiday when gender roles are on full display along with women’s’ ritual performance of marketplace exchanges of goods and services common to many holidays and special events.
Most people would agree that relationship status influences their experiences when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Some consumers, especially women, have escalating expectations from themselves as well as loved ones when it comes to Valentine’s Day.
The escalating expectations are to themselves as givers and also to the partners as givers. Not meeting expectations produces dissatisfaction, which is an opposition to the intention of the day — love of all kinds.
These women perceive a broader gender role that transcends a romantic interest. Women especially feel responsibility and obligation to recognize their female loved ones. Women tend to include mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, girlfriends (especially single ones), and even pets.
Women have often been givers — even on this day traditionally for women to receive. The day has broadened in scope, further heightening the escalated expectations of the self and others.
I found as a way for both to give lavishly, some women share extraordinary lavishness that expands Valentine’s Day into “Valentine’s Weekend.” Lavishness is expected to escalate within a “Valentine’s Day Weekend.”
Furthermore, for some young women who have been in a relatively long-term dating relationship, they expect lavishness to escalate from year to year. Some women perceive the man’s gender role is to plan or create a day that is more lavish each year.
For men, Valentine’s Day may seem puzzling. Men need to be aware of the escalating expectations that some women, especially young women, have expressed to me over the years.
As expectations escalate, it is important for men to recognize this and not take cues from advertisers. Rather, each man should take cues from the unique woman he loves.
If the woman is also in favor of true intimacy minus the heavily advertised marketed suggestions such as greeting cards, chocolates, roses, jewelry or a lavish dinner out, then some men have had success managing expectations both ways with a mutual anti-gift mindset.
Yet some women tend to spend more time on the event and recognize more people than men tend to. Often, women see their role as to overcome mass-commercialized love and romance and find something more meaningful — such as a family bond.
In part to perhaps revalue the role of the woman as a sexual being on this holiday, some women convert the holiday from a celebration of sexual intimacy to a celebration of familial love.
It’s important for all consumers to remember the meaning of the day, or weekend as some believe, is about celebrating love — love that does not need suggested marketplace exchanges to be shown on this one specific day.
Angeline Close Scheinbaum is an associate professor in the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations at The University of Texas at Austin.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Opinion: To avoid another Ferguson, we need to start teaching tolerance — in kindergarten Students at the University of Texas Elementary School.
By age 9, children have prejudices that are “highly resistant to change.” So if we want to fight racism and violence (particularly against black men), we need to teach diversity much earlier.
Children develop their sense of empathy between ages 4 and 8. It’s this ability to see and feel something from another’s perspective that helps us choose to treat others equally and to engage rather than to act from fear.
About the Authors
Kathlene Holmes (below, left) is a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction and has trained elementary school teachers for 10 years. She is a former kindergarten teacher.
Marcus W. Johnson (below, center) is a Ph.D. student and instructor in Curriculum and Instruction and author of “B through Y: The Underdog’s Process of Seizing Opportunity, Control, and Respect.”
Jennifer Keys Adair, Ph.D. (below, right), is a professor of Early Childhood Education, a young scholar fellow with the Foundation for Child Development and a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project.
The best way to promote empathy is to provide children with quality, reciprocal relationships with people from diverse communities. But that can be difficult, as 84 percent of elementary school teachers are white. And in most major cities, the majority of public school children are not.
So, teachers need to get creative. Young children can only normalize what they experience regularly. If they only receive knowledge, insight and comfort from white people, this can have lasting effects on what they assume about people of color. It is this disconnect, as civil rights lawyer Constance Rice said, that can make police officers “kill and do things that don’t make sense to you and me.”
One effective way to help young children is to seek out diverse experts who can speak in schools about weather, food, construction, politics and electricity (all common preK – grade 3 topics).
Another way to influence young children’s racial attitudes early on are picture books. Given the particular fear toward black men, using literature to combat negative assumptions means going through classroom books and thinking carefully about how often and in what ways black boys and men are included in stories. Are there enough books with caring, compassionate and smart, black male characters? Are books in classrooms about black history balanced with those about the everyday lives of black men so that racial diversity becomes normalized for young children?
Having only a handful will not be enough to normalize positive images of black men. But although these kinds of books are still difficult to find, it’s not impossible.Read more stories in our Black History Month series.
Conversations while reading engaging picture books should be led by the children’s questions. Teachers can follow up with projects to help them learn more about the historical struggles that the books mention. We have seen children learn while creating art projects about protest signs, school integration, bus boycotts or kids having to change schools and being the only one with brown skin.
Stories like “The Snowy Day,” “Whistle for Willie,” “A Letter to Amy,” “Peter’s Chair” and “Goggles” by Ezra Jack Keats present everyday scenarios from the perspective of a young African American boy. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans” by Kadir Nelson offer cultural insights through the use of music. (The Zinn Education Project, Rethinking Schools and Teaching Tolerance have many online resources for teachers looking to improve how they talk about race with young children.)
As educators, we know this work is urgent. We work with education students along with a committed group of colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin to confront students’ often buried or at least unprocessed assumptions about race and privilege. Students take courses that push them to reflect on their own ideas about race and how to teach children to respect and support racial diversity, as well as recognize and act against discrimination.
And yet, it is simply too late in the game for some. As educators, we find too often that white students who don’t have positive, everyday experiences with the black community struggle to discuss or acknowledge their own racial prejudice.
If we’d like to keep what happened in Ferguson from ever happening again, we have to stop the fear and damaging disconnect many white people have when in the presence of black males. Helping young children develop racial empathy will have longer-lasting effects than classes or interventions for teachers and other adults who have already formed ideas about black males.
A version of this op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post as a result of The OpEd Project-Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellowship Program. The program aims to dramatically increase the influence of women and minority thought leaders to ensure their ideas shape the important conversations of our age. During the 2014-15 academic year, 20 UT Austin faculty members are participating. Learn more.
For more op-eds penned by UT Austin faculty and staff, visit Texas Perspectives, a wire-style service that provides media outlets across the state and country with meaningful and thoughtful opinion columns on a variety of topics and current events.
AUSTIN, Texas — School and district administrators across Texas will be offered training in Restorative Discipline, an alternative to “zero tolerance” methods, through a grant from the Texas Education Agency to the Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue (IRJRD) at The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.
Restorative Discipline is a prevention-oriented approach that fosters accountability and amends-making to resolve school conflict such as bullying, truancy and disruptive behavior. The $521,000 grant will be used to conduct training sessions in Restorative Discipline in 10 Education Service Centers, which provide support to school districts and charter schools throughout the state.
The training is for school administrators, who will be able to customize Restorative Discipline to their campuses, communities and student bodies, and for Restorative Discipline coordinators, who will be in charge of managing the successful implementation of the method on each campus, training teachers and staffers and collecting data to evaluate results.
“We are honored to work with the Texas Education Agency in this very important initiative,” said Marilyn Armour, IRJRD director. “We have implemented Restorative Discipline with great success in a San Antonio school, and we are excited about making this critical program accessible to hundreds of schools across the state.”
In 2012, Armour and her team inaugurated implementation of Restorative Discipline in Texas through partnering with Edward H. White Middle School, a San Antonio school with some of the highest disciplinary sanction rates in its district.
After the first year of Restorative Discipline, there was an 87 percent drop in off-campus suspensions and a 44 percent decrease in total suspensions. After the second year, the trend of lowering suspensions continued, and overall school climate improvement was reflected in student performance. Ed White Middle School ranked No. 2 for improved student progress among 40 other middle schools with the same demographics, and it earned State Accountability System distinctions for student achievement in English, math and social studies.
The success of Restorative Discipline at Ed White Middle School piqued the interest of other principals, education administrators and professional organizations, and it generated demand for training sessions and technical assistance.
“Texas is on the leading edge of a national discussion regarding effective and equitable discipline in our schools,” said Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Through our continued partnership with The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, I am confident that expanding the concepts of Restorative Discipline with more districts across our state will benefit students and educators.”
Studies have found that school suspensions correlate to academic failure, including higher school dropout rates, and that they affect minority students disproportionally. In Texas, African American students comprise 13 percent of students but are, on average, two times as likely to be suspended as white and Hispanic/Latino students.
Every spring in Texas and across America, white, middle-class parents value bilingualism enough to line up in the early morning hours to sign up their children for a spot in next fall’s dual-language kindergarten.
This is great because as a nation, we celebrate bilingualism, right? Well, sort of. Just not for those kids who already speak another language at home.
Teachers frequently emphasize the importance of English above all else when they speak with immigrant parents. Even worse, many nonnative English-speaking parents are told not to speak to their children in the language they know best, depriving them of their richest source of social, emotional and linguistic support.
The reality is that these parents who sign up their kids for dual-language kindergarten are onto something. They recognize what many teachers, principals and policymakers do not: Knowing two or more languages puts you at an advantage.
There are certainly significant social, psychological and cognitive benefits to being bilingual: higher test scores, better problem solving skills, sharper mental acuity and greater empathy. Good for the individual, good for society.
But despite all we know, in the age of accountability and English-only laws, school districts across Texas continue to cut bilingual education. Why? Because what matters most in America is the bottom line. It’s almost as if educators and policymakers are blind to the advantages of bilingualism.
Economists find little, if any, benefit to bilinguals’ earning power using census data. However, census data is too blunt and too broad to understand the nuanced relationship between bilingualism and the economy.
We now have better measures of bilingualism and individuals’ ability to read and write in non-English languages. We also have measures of employers’ preferences as they enter the Information Age.
In this era of the Internet and global communications, companies rely more frequently on bilingual and biliterate employees to serve as liaisons with clients both local and global.
Even when being bilingual is not a requirement, employers report a preference for both hiring and retaining bilinguals, all else held equal: buy one, get one free.
Currently, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population and 35 percent of Texans speak a non-English language, and many of these speakers are children.
Our schools have the opportunity to ensure that potential bilinguals grow into bilingual, biliterate adults who are able to contribute to and participate in a stronger American economic base.
Following the horrible events of 9/11, the U.S. government found itself lacking in reliable Pashtun, Farsi and Arabic translators.
Even though many U.S.-born children of immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran are educated in our schools, by young adulthood, they will lose their native languages.
Until we change how schools approach languages other than English, the state department will lose the potential of children of immigrants to translate and broker the two worlds for them.
Being bilingual doesn’t just benefit the individual; it benefits the community, the nation and ultimately, the economy.
Not only are bilingual young adults more likely to graduate high school and go to college, they are also more likely to get the job once they interview and remain employed during layoffs.
Ultimately, many of us intuitively grasp the cognitive, social and psychological benefits of knowing two languages. As a nation, we now need to recognize bilingualism’s economic benefits if we expect to remain a global leader into the next century.
Texas schools should help students maintain their home language — whether via bilingual instruction or encouraging the parents to develop their children’s home language skills.
As a K-12 educator, and now as a teacher of teachers, I assure you that immigrant children will learn English. Where we fail these children is in maintaining their greatest resource: their home language. It’s something we should cherish, not eradicate.
Rebecca Callahan is an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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