For one special day during each legislative session, alumni volunteers from Texas’ two great flagship universities converge on the Capitol to encourage our elected representatives to support higher education in general and to support our state’s Tier-One research universities in particular. Today is “Orange & Maroon Day” at the Capitol. I look forward to joining with Texas A&M Interim President Mark Hussey and alumni leaders of both universities in getting our message to lawmakers.
UT Austin and Texas A&M combined teach more than 100,000 students, and each year 24,000 students graduate from these two schools and enter the workforce. Put simply, these young people are the future of our state — leaders in education, in business, in government, in the arts, and more. When you look at these Longhorns and Aggies, you’re looking at the future of our state and our nation. Together our two institutions have 875,000 alumni.
But of course the significance of these universities is not merely in the number of students they educate; it’s in the kind of education those students get. Texas and Texas A&M are partners because we share a model of education that is highly productive and deserves additional support. Undergraduate students, graduate students, and professors make up the ecosystem that produces both the kind of knowledge that moves society forward and the kind of leaders society needs.
The immediate payoff to Texas is enormous: together, UT Austin and Texas A&M attract $1.5 billion in research funding back to the Texas economy annually. But the long-term payoff is immeasurably larger because these universities produce the critical thinkers and leaders who will guide our future prosperity and civil society.
What starts here changes the world.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering have created the first transistors made of silicene, the world’s thinnest silicon material. Their research holds the promise of building dramatically faster, smaller and more efficient computer chips.
Made of a one-atom-thick layer of silicon atoms, silicene has outstanding electrical properties but has until now proved difficult to produce and work with.
Deji Akinwande, an assistant professor in the Cockrell School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his team, including lead researcher Li Tao, solved one of the major challenges surrounding silicene by demonstrating that it can be made into transistors —semiconductor devices used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power.
The first-of-their-kind devices developed by Akinwande and his teamrely on the thinnest of any semiconductor material, a long-standing dream of the chip industry, and could pave the way for future generations of faster, energy-efficient computer chips. Their work was published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Until a few years ago, human-made silicene was a purely theoretical material. Looking at carbon-based graphene, another atom-thick material with promise for chip development, researchers speculated that silicon atoms could be structured in a broadly similar way.
Akinwande, who also works on graphene transistors, sees value in silicene's relationship to silicon, which chipmakers already know how to work with.
“Apart from introducing a new player in the playground of 2-D materials, silicene, with its close chemical affinity to silicon, suggests an opportunity in the road map of the semiconductor industry,” Akinwande said. “The major breakthrough here is the efficient low-temperature manufacturing and fabrication of silicene devices for the first time.”
Despite its promise for commercial adaptation, silicene has proved extremely difficult to create and work with because of its complexity and instability when exposed to air.
To work around these issues, Akinwande teamed with Alessandro Molle at the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems in Agrate Brianza, Italy, to develop a new method for fabricating the silicene that reduces its exposure to air. To start, the researchers let a hot vapor of silicon atoms condense onto a crystalline block of silver in a vacuum chamber. They then formed a silicene sheet on a thin layer of silver and added a nanometer-thick layer of alumina on top. Because of these protective layers, the team could safely peel it of its base and transfer it silver-side-up to an oxidized-silicon substrate. They were then able to gently scrape some of the silver to leave behind two islands of metal as electrodes, with a strip of silicene between them.
In the near-term, Akinwande will continue to investigate new structures and methods for creating silicene, which may lead to low-energy, high-speed digital computer chips.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Army Research Office, the Cockrell School's Southwest Academy of Nanoelectronics and the European Commission's Future and Emerging Technologies Programme funded Akinwande’s research.
UT’s Innervisions Gospel Choir performs at the 2015 MLK rally on the East Mall of campus. Photo: Jessica Sinn.
On a sunny winter morning last month, nine University of Texas at Austin students gathered on the East Mall to sing before a massive crowd celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They sang for King’s fight for equality and justice. They sang for solidarity. They sang for another quiet revolutionary who years ago on the Forty Acres helped lay the foundation for their own success.
From 1956, when the university first integrated, to 1980, Almetris Marsh Duren gave black female students a place where they felt safe and welcomed. Affectionately known as “Mama Duren,” she comforted and inspired students as a housemother in off-campus co-op housing and in her job as a university student development specialist and resident fellow in Jester Dorm. Duren was also integral in founding Project Info, the university’s first program focused on recruiting students of color.
And in 1974, after watching students gather around the Jester Center piano to sing and dance together, Duren helped form the Innervisions of Blackness Choir. Today the choir, now called the Innervisions Gospel Choir, performs on campus and throughout the state — including outreach events like the MLK Day rally.Archival photo of the Innervisions Gospel Choir. Source: The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
When the members perform there is a palpable sense of camaraderie in their smiles and powerful voices. Ask any member in the group and they’ll tell you that it’s about so much more than singing.
“It has been wonderful being a part of Innervisions,” says Allison Stinnett, a senior majoring in health promotion. “When I joined, it became kind of my refuge. When I was feeling worn out or tired of my classes, I’d come to choir, sing and blow off some steam. It’s like being with family who support you and push you through hard times. I love my choir, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”Almetris Marsh Duren, aka “Mama Duren,” was a housemother and student adviser who helped found Innervisions in 1974. Source: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.
Cherise Lee says that when she joined the choir, it immediately felt like a home away from home.
“With UT being such a large campus, having a smaller group of people to surround myself with has given me a sense of belonging, instead of just being one among thousands,” says Lee, a junior who is double-majoring in physical culture and sports and journalism. “Beyond that, the choir has given me the opportunity to meet so many people on this campus and beyond. With each performance I’m given the opportunity to meet and interact with people that I might not have had the chance to meet by just socializing with my group of friends.”
As a testament to the community Mama Duren began fostering more than 40 ago, the choir remains a vital social and spiritual outlet for its members.
“It’s the one place where I can just sing, laugh and release the stresses of school,” says Valencia Campbell, a social work senior who directs the choir. “Being a part of this choir has not simply benefitted my UT experience; it has molded it and made me who I am today. Without the Innervisions Gospel Choir, my college experience would have been completely different.”
Share this story on Twitter:February 5, 2015
This story is part of our series “The Creative Campus,” which showcases student creativity. Learn more about the Creative 40 Acres program, which supports student artistic expression at the university.
Texas Instruments Gives $3.5 Million for Project-Based Learning at the Cockrell School of Engineering
The Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has received a $3.5 million gift from Texas Instruments (TI) to develop state-of-the-art teaching and project labs for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The TI Laboratories will be located in the Cockrell School’s Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC), set to open in 2017.
The EERC will feature 430,000 square feet of open and flexible space for multidisciplinary learning and student projects. The center will also be the new home of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Cockrell School’s largest department.
“TI understands the value of a well-rounded workforce and has been a long-standing partner in our efforts to bolster hands-on learning opportunities for our students,” said Ahmed Tewfik, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Thanks to TI’s extraordinary support, our students will be well positioned for the engineering jobs of the future.”
One of the Cockrell School’s primary initiatives is to provide engineering students with multiple opportunities to engage in hands-on projects. Inside the TI Laboratories, electrical and computer engineering students will work together to build devices such as sensors, drones and wearable technologies, gaining technical and project management skills for career success.
The TI Laboratories will house project-based undergraduate systems, analog and communications classes, while also providing much-needed space for senior design project classes. A portion of the gift will be used to equip the labs with the latest TI technologies. The company will conduct annual reviews to ensure equipment is current, optimally used and meeting the needs of students and faculty members.
“Students are critical to creating innovative solutions for the world’s biggest challenges,” said Greg Delagi, senior vice president and general manager of embedded processing for Texas Instruments and member of the Cockrell School’s Engineering Advisory Board. “By putting TI technology into the capable hands of these future innovators, we hope to accelerate their work and help professors address the ever-evolving needs of engineering.
A longtime supporter of the Cockrell School and UT Austin, TI is a partner in several research efforts and provides numerous student internships that often turn into successful careers. Since 2010, more than 70 electrical and computer engineering students have received TI scholarships and fellowships. Of the more than 500 UT Austin alumni currently working for the company, approximately 300 are graduates of the Cockrell School.
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.
Mackenzie Love saw his mother’s frustrations when her cell phone wouldn’t fit comfortably on her nightstand. With Christmas approaching, he went to the Longhorn Maker Studio with plans for the perfect gift in hand.
In the studio, Love, a mechanical engineering freshman from Waco, designed and then used a 3-D printer to build a custom phone holder.
“She was ecstatic,” Love says of his mother’s response. “The first thing I did was take other people’s designs and learn how to use these printers. But after I got accustomed to it, I started designing my own and printing my own work, like the phone holder.”
Across campus, students like Love are using maker spaces filled with cutting-edge technology to build, create and invent for class assignments and personal education. These maker spaces inspire students, expand courses, provide hands-on learning opportunities and spur both innovation and entrepreneurship.
The university has “championed a ‘Maker culture’ for more than three decades” and continues to make significant investments in maker spaces while “developing 21st century tools that empower student entrepreneurs and propel the Maker Movement,” executive vice president and provost Gregory L. Fenves wrote in a June 2014 letter to President Barack Obama.
“Across UT Austin, students have become passionate participants in the Maker Movement, and faculty, researchers and industry partners have established Texas as a destination for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Fenves wrote to Obama. “We look forward to continuing to play an integral part in the manufacturing economy by inspiring and educating the next generation of Makers.”
From art to engineering, these five maker spaces help carry out the university’s commitment to creating, building and inventing.
[Providing students and faculty with cutting-edge tools and top-notch maker spaces is only one way The University of Texas at Austin is at the forefront of higher education. Check out these Five UT Programs Changing Education.]Longhorn Maker Studio Students in the Cockrell School of Engineering use the Longhorn Maker Studio at its grand opening during the fall 2014 semester. Photo courtesy of the Cockrell School of Engineering. What is it?
The Longhorn Maker Studio, housed in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Mechanical Engineering Department, opened in September, and about 2,500 students in eight courses have already used its 3-D printers, laser cutters and other tools.
“Our goal is really hands on. We want people to make things for themselves,” says Desiderio Kovar, a mechanical engineering professor and faculty director of the Longhorn Maker Studio. “It’s really a better way to teach. Rather than lecturing on some theoretical topic, now we start with a problem, and then you can work in the theory.”Tell me more
Kovar says the Longhorn Maker Studio not only allows students to learn how to use machines that will be part of their experience after graduation, it also enables students to complete some projects in hours rather than weeks. In turn, students are using the saved time to add new levels of detail, he says.
Kovar says students in a robotics class used the studio’s resources to build parts for robots that can slice the crust off a piece of toast, sort coins in a piggy bank and even walk like a human.
Wesley Hejl, a biomedical engineering senior, says he went to the Longhorn Maker Studio to print a model of a human heart. He is an intern at the Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center and says the model “gives patients something to hold and look at” when talking with doctors.
“In the classroom setting, you learn a lot about how things work and the theory behind things,” Hejl says. “But for engineering, you want to make and build something. The maker studio supplies a lot of great tools to do that. It gives you experience solving problems with hands-on situations.”
[In the mid-1980s, faculty members at UT Austin invented one of the first types of 3D printing and manufacturing, called Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS. Learn more about that process and other Great UT Ideas.]
Launched in the spring of 2014, the Digital Fabrication Lab provides undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Art and Art History in the College of Fine Arts with tools to find inspiration and create art in all types of media.
“This is the leading edge of fabrication techniques in many disciplines but especially in the creative fields,” says Jack Risley, chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “It’s important our students not only have access to but also a familiarity with these techniques. These tools are becoming ubiquitous and will be part of the landscape of our students’ lives and professional careers.”Tell me more
R. Eric McMaster, a lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History and manager of the Digital Fabrication Lab, says about 200 students from 10 courses use the lab for classwork each semester.
McMaster says both Studio and Design students create art and products using the 3-D printers and scanners, CNC routers and other machines. The lab, he says, supplements coursework and studio practice while making work more efficient and detailed, giving students “new ways of working.”
“We have graduate students using the lab in a more independent fashion, using the machines to work toward their thesis,” McMaster says. “And then we have freshmen coming for a class assignment to get them used to how the machines work.”
Aaron Meyers, a master of fine arts candidate in the Studio Art program’s sculpture and extended media area of study, says he uses the Digital Fabrication Lab to create an array of art, from building proportionally scaled models to 3-D printed hamster wheels.
“Not only do the tools I have access to change how I solve problems, but they also change how I perceive them,” Meyers says. “The Digital Fabrication Lab has been extremely generative for me because it has changed how I look at things.”WorkLAB Satellites Visitors to the Blanton Museum of Art use mobile workstations, called WorkLAB Satellites, to create art and find inspiration. Photo courtesy of the Blanton Museum of Art. What is it?
“Traditionally a viewer walks through galleries and museums, at a slow pace, to stop and engage with the art. But WorkLAB Satellites offers a point of refuge where one can spend time and interact,” says Leslie Mutchler, the artist who designed the WorkLAB Satellites. “Satellites is designed so that someone with a strong arts background won’t be bored by the materials and prompts, and also for the non-artist to come and feel comfortable making and exploring.”Tell me more
More than 6,000 museum visitors used the WorkLAB Satellites to create art this summer. The blank-slate approach invites visitors to find a deeper understanding of the art they see in the museum while challenging themselves to create art of their own.
Simple instructions in English and Spanish help visitors create paper sculpture, make collages, weave and work with everyday materials like tape, paper, pencils, stencils and chipboard.
The WorkLAB Satellites often function independently, but the spaces sometimes supplement and connect to exhibitions, like with the upcoming “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” show. During the James Drake exhibit, “Anatomy of Drawing and Space,” or “Brain Trash,” museumgoers gained new understanding of the art by using paper, stencils and collage materials to create pieces with similar colors and subjects to Drake’s work.
The satellite workstations supplement the Blanton’s WorkLab program, a series of open studio experiences for children and families. Mutchler created the stations, which are themselves discrete works of art, using tools in the Department of Art and Art History’s Digital Fabrication Lab.
“This isn’t a craft station. This is an art-making space,” says Monique O’Neil, a museum educator who oversees family and community programs at the Blanton. “You can understand the process and technique and be inspired by the precious works of art around you.”
[Maker spaces across The University of Texas Austin’s campus help students and faculty create art, learn new skills and even fine-tune inventions. See how the university’s Inventors of the Year are transforming the medical field.]School of Architecture Students in the School of architecture used the Vertical Design Studio to create models of a primary school in Africa. Photo by William Niendorff. What is it?
Students in the School of Architecture use many of the same tools founds in maker spaces across campus — like CNC routers, laser cutters and 3-D printers and scanners — to prototype, model and build class assignments.
“Making creates better designers,” says Eric Hepburn, the School of Architecture’s information technology director who also manages the school’s digital fabrication efforts. “Having access to these tools lets students engage with real materials, take on real projects and make real things.”Tell me more
Though the School of Architecture doesn’t have a single workspace labeled as a maker space, several labs across the school provide students with the same learning opportunities as the dedicated maker spaces elsewhere on campus.
Hepburn says the school’s faculty realized in the 1970s that students learn best with more than just the traditional architectural drawings and decided to begin using different materials to build models with wood-shop tools.
By the 2000s, the school began training students to use 3-D printers, and, now, a fourth generation of 3-D printers will soon be available to students, Hepburn says. All of the school’s approximately 650 design students will have hands-on experience with digital fabrication techniques and use the tools for coursework before graduation.
“Our students,” Hepburn says, “are getting access to a variety of cutting-edge tools they can use.”Creativity Commons The University of Texas Libraries recently hosted a maker demonstration event at the The Perry-Castañeda Library on campus. Photo courtesy of University of Texas Libraries. What is it?
An upcoming centralized maker space operated by the University of Texas Libraries in the Fine Arts Library will allow students across disciplines to work on interdisciplinary projects both for class assignments and personal interest.
The UT Creativity Commons space will include maker workshop tools found in colleges elsewhere on campus, like 3-D printers and shop tools, in addition to game development, recording and video production studios.
“There’s a real lack of these spaces where people can learn how to make a game or design a 3-D object or practice and record a song,” says head librarian Laura Schwartz. “This maker space will be a place where people can be creative in ways not necessarily tied to the curriculum.”Tell me more
Officials are working to secure grants to fund the Creativity Commons, but Schwartz says the workspace could open as soon as fall 2015. She envisions some courses tying curriculum material into the Creativity Commons’ resources.
“If we can provide all these different experiences for people — these learning experiences taking place outside the classroom in areas they may be interested in — it will make students more well rounded,” Schwartz says. “We’ve seen this real interest in going back to the physical, this idea of people actually wanting to make something, and there’s a huge creative class in Austin that’s feeding into this creative economy.”Future Teachers Learn Maker Education at UTeach Conference
Teaching in K-12 maker spaces isn’t necessarily intuitive for new teachers. It’s crucial to integrate the maker experience throughout the entire curriculum. For UT students who are looking to become teachers, UTeach incorporates maker education into its instructions for future teachers.
Established in 1997, UTeach expanded nationally in 2006, with the model now being used at 43 other universities. Representatives from those universities will gather at an annual conference this year and spend a day discussing maker education and how to prepare future teachers to use the workspaces.
Michael DeGraff, the instructional program coordinator for the UTeach Institute, says high schools across the country are, like universities, incorporating maker spaces into students’ education. Preparing future teachers to be comfortable with those workspaces, he says, is vital to ensuring schools make the most of the resources.
“The fear is these spaces will become silos, like the computer labs of the 1990s, where instead of being integrated across the curriculum, you go there just to do work for an hour,” DeGraff says. “UTeach is going to be able to provide the teachers for these new maker spaces.”
Share this story on Twitter:February 4, 2015
Naval Adm. William McRaven, a UT alumnus, addresses the UT Class of 2014. Photo: Marsha Miller.
The University of Texas at Austin has been home to some of the most influential figures in science, politics, sports and film, among other fields. And those influencers have a habit of delivering memorable speeches full of inspiration, wit and rallying cries to change the world.
We’ve gathered five of our favorites below, plus two extra not-quite-a-speech clips that just couldn’t be ignored.
And while these individuals each made their own way, we hope their time on the Forty Acres helped shaped their story. After all, it was Congresswoman, UT professor and incredible speaker Barbara Jordan (included below) who once said:
“I get from the soil and spirit of Texas the feeling that I, as an individual, can accomplish whatever I want to, and that there are no limits, that you can just keep going, just keep soaring. I like that spirit.”Kevin Durant Accepting the NBA Most Valuable Player Award “Basketball is just a platform for me to inspire people.”
The NBA called it “one of the greatest MVP acceptance speeches of all time.” In his tearful address, Durant, who played one season at Texas before entering the NBA draft, thoughtfully calls out each of his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates and the specific ways they make him a better player. He also thanks the coaching staff for helping him “grow as a man first and a basketball player next.” But it’s the tribute to his mom — who became a single mother at age 18 — that brings the house down and the crowd to its feet. “You’re the real MVP,” he tells her.
“[Durant's] sincerity was felt by anyone who viewed his speech,” says Daron Roberts, B.A. ’01, director of UT’s new Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation, which supports coaches in helping young athletes to succeed on and off the field as responsible citizens. “Our alum recognizes the visibility of his persona and has chosen to use that influence for good.”
Roberts adds that Durant’s appreciation for being coached as both a man and an athlete reveal the enormous influence coaches can have on an athlete’s life. Stories like Durant’s are a big part of why the new center was created. ”We recognize the unique position that coaches have in our society,” Roberts says. “At our core, we are here to help coaches fulfill their mission of transforming lives for the benefit of society.”Naval Adm. William McRaven Addressing the UT Class of 2014 “Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and — what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.”
In May, McRaven, B.J. ’77, a former Navy SEAL and the new University of Texas System chancellor, delivered one of the year’s most popular commencement speeches (nearly 3 million YouTube views and counting). His 10 life lessons to change the world — drawn from the grueling experience of SEAL training — have been praised not only as spot-on advice for recent graduates to follow but also as words by which everyone should live. Inc. magazine named it the year’s best commencement address.
[Related: Five Great UT Ideas and Five UT Programs Changing Education]
Barbara Jordan Delivering the Keynote at the 1976 Democratic National Convention “A spirit of harmony will survive in America only if each of us remembers … when bitterness and self-interest seem to prevail, that we share a common destiny.”
Before spending 17 years teaching at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan captivated the country with her oratory and devotion to civil rights. She was a woman of many firsts: the first African American since Reconstruction to serve in the Texas Senate and the first African-American woman from the South to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1976 she became the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention. In her opening remarks she tells the convention, “I feel that, notwithstanding the past, that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.”
Her speech, which addressed the themes of unity, equality, accountability and American ideals, was considered by many to be the highlight of the convention and helped rally support for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign.
In 2014 McConaughey, B.S. ’93, won the Best Actor Oscar for his dramatic turn in the film “Dallas Buyers Club,” but his acceptance speech was more akin to the folksy philosophy he spouted in “Dazed and Confused,” the film that launched his career two decades ago. (McConaughey was still a student when he was discovered for the film, which was shot in Austin by 2015 Oscar nominee and Austinite Richard Linklater.) His final line in the speech even quotes the movie directly, specifically his own character.
McConaughey, a longtime UT football supporter delivered another memorable speech last year when he stopped by the Longhorns football practice in September to share a few words of wisdom with the team.Neil deGrasse Tyson Testifying in the U.S. Senate about Funding NASA “How much would you pay for the universe?”
Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, M.A. ’83, is director of the Hayden Planetarium and perhaps the country’s most well known scientist. He was a favorite guest of Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report,” named People magazine’s “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive,” and in 2014 he hosted the reboot of Carl Sagan’s 1980 science documentary television series “Cosmos.”
Tyson is known for his ability to captivate audiences, discussing the poetry of science, explaining the compatibility of science and faith, and contemplating the wonder of the universe.
He even manages to be charismatic when testifying before Congress. In this 2012 testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Tyson argues that funding space exploration is key to fueling the U.S. economy and advancing the country’s overall scientific achievements.
“When a nation permits itself to dream big, those dreams pervade its citizens’ ambitions,” he says. Calling for an increase in NASA’s budget, Tyson declares, ”Epic space adventures plant seeds of economic growth, because doing what’s never been done before is intellectually seductive (whether deemed practical or not), and innovation follows, just as day follows night.”
Finally, these two moments from a pair of legendary Longhorns prove that you can deliver a big message even without a big speech.Lady Bird Johnson Quieting Protesters “My friends, this is a country of free speech, and I respect your opinion. But this is my time to speak my mind.”
In 1964 Lady Bird Johnson, B.A. ’33, B.J. ’34, hit the campaign trail in support of her husband’s presidential bid. She set out on a four-day, eight-state whistle stop train tour to try and win back Southern voters who were angry about LBJ’s recently passed civil rights legislation. At each stop, Mrs. Johnson addressed the crowd from a platform on the last car of the train, dubbed the “Lady Bird Special.”
One of the most notable moments from the tour, however, came at the stop in Columbia, South Carolina, when Lady Bird went off script in response to people protesting the Civil Rights Act. In the clip, she begins speaking at the 12:35 mark and graciously but powerfully responds to the protesters at 17:30.
Known as “the most trusted man in America,” CBS News anchor and UT alumnus Walter Cronkite famously criticized continued U.S. military action in Vietnam during his broadcast on February 27, 1968.
Having recently returned to the U.S. after reporting from Vietnam, Cronkite tells the nation, “It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”
President Johnson is said to have remarked afterward that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost the country. A few weeks later Johnson announced he would not run for reelection.
—Additional reporting by Nicholas Persac and Megan Scarborough
A new multi-university program, Peers Against Tobacco, aims to reduce use of tobacco and alternative tobacco products among one of the country’s heaviest user groups: college-age students.
Overseen by the Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team at The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, and funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the project is being implemented at 20 Texas colleges and universities this semester.
“Almost all lifelong tobacco users start prior to the age of 26, and these college-age young adults have the highest rates of tobacco use among all age groups,” said Alexandra Loukas, director of the Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team and Barbie M. and Gary L. Coleman Professor in Education. “Granted, cigarette use has declined over the past 20 years, but alternative tobacco products like e-cigarettes and hookah have become increasingly popular.”
According to Loukas, both the flavors and marketing of these alternative products target a young audience.
“The users think they’re enjoying something harmless and aren’t aware of the health consequences,” said Loukas. “They become – and often remain – addicted to nicotine through this avenue.”
Universities participating in Peers Against Tobacco selected two student leaders and a supervising university administrator on each campus to carry out the project’s goals. The new volunteers received three days of training in Austin.
Each campus was given free media campaign materials such as fliers, posters and shareable social media content and access to an interactive online tobacco prevention curriculum created specifically for Texas college students by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Public Health.
Volunteers also have access to an electronic environmental scan tool they can use to assess tobacco products and advertising on and around their campuses, and a step-by-step guide that explains how students can work with administrators to change existing tobacco policies.
At the end of this semester, students on the participating campuses will be surveyed to assess changes in their attitudes about and use of tobacco. The results will be shared with students and administrators to help inform future tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.
“Our Texas college initiative is the first of its kind in the U.S.,” said Shelley Karn, a program director with the Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team. “It’s a comprehensive approach to preventing tobacco product use, with the components of the project giving students the information they need to educate their peers and improve the general health of their campuses.”
The Department of Kinesiology and Health Education is part of the university’s College of Education.
AUSTIN, Texas — A new network of underground sensors in the Texas Hill Country will arm those responsible for managing the state’s finite water supply with vital information for determining the chances of drought and dangerous floods.
The Texas Soil Observation Network (TxSON), run by the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, is connected to NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, which was launched Jan. 31.
For Texas, a big payoff will be a solid estimate of how much water is stored in the soil. For NASA and the scientific community, the payoff will be the ability to predict weather on a global scale days or weeks ahead of time. NASA hopes to use the data to foretell drought and the potential for floods, wildfires and severe weather.
Soil is like a sponge — it can soak up a lot of water before rains recharge groundwater or run off into lakes and rivers. For regions experiencing extreme conditions, this means water may not make it into an increasingly strained water supply that is tapped by farmers, ranchers, fast-growing municipalities, power plants, oil refineries and natural gas drillers. Questions for Texas water planners include: How much rainfall will get sucked up by the soil, and how much will actually refill reservoirs? Or conversely, when there is heavy rainfall, what’s the chance it will turn into a dangerous flood?
TxSON will help answer those questions, said Todd Caldwell, a research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology and the project’s leader.
“It’s now raining as it normally does in Texas, but the reservoirs aren’t filling up,” Caldwell said. “The soils are so thirsty that nothing is getting to the reservoirs.
As of January, lakes Travis and Buchanan, the major water reservoirs for Austin and most of Central Texas, are about a third full, and reservoirs throughout the state are about 65 percent full.
Even when it has rained during the past few years, the soil has been so dry that very little has made it to the lakes. Knowing how dry the soil is will be a vital piece of information, said Ron Anderson, chief engineer of water resources with the Lower Colorado River Authority, the agency that manages much of the water in drought-prone Central Texas.
“Do you know how many measurements we have for soil moisture and runoff? Zero,” he said. “There’s a huge gap between the rainfall measurement and the runoff measurement. The soil moisture monitoring allows us for the first time to maybe fill in that gap.”
Until now, when making flood forecasts and water supply projections, water managers have had to rely on their best guesses about what percentage of rainfall will replenish reservoirs.
“That means farmers downstream don’t know whether they’re going to get their water,” said TxSON project manager Michael Young of the Bureau of Economic Geology. “But we think we can predict what the reservoir storage will be a couple months ahead of time.”
Floods are also common in Texas and can be caused both by extreme wetness, when soil is oversaturated, or extreme dryness, when water flows over the ground as if it were concrete.
TxSON’s new soil monitors — which take a reading every five minutes — can help predict flash flooding. And they might even help water managers anticipate catastrophic floods such as the Onion Creek flood that killed five people in Central Texas on Halloween night in 2013.
Caldwell and his team installed 39 soil moisture stations in four months, a tight schedule necessitated by the Jan. 31 launch of NASA’s SMAP satellite. The $900 million satellite will measure the planet’s soil moisture every three days.
TxSON is among 30 contributing partners worldwide that will verify what is detected from orbit. The groundwater monitors will help calibrate SMAP’s measurements, said Simon Yueh, a SMAP scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The satellite will measure water in the top 2 inches of soil using two microwave devices — a radar sensor that sends pulses to the ground and measures the returning echo, and a radiometer that measures radiation emitted by the soil.
The key is collecting that information and making it useful to people who make decisions. TxSON and SMAP are vital tools for doing just that. Experts call soil moisture a thermostat for the climate.
“When you heat up the Earth’s surface, you cause the air to flow, and that’s when you get more turbulent weather,” said Caldwell.
The Super Bowl has come and go, and watchers were treated to some of the best commercials of the year. Once again, among the ads’ sponsors were producers of alcoholic products who many times make some of the highest rated commercials of the game.
But this year, something new happened – an increase in regulatory pressure on alcohol advertising. As a researcher who studies advertising, particularly alcohol advertising, I think this increase in regulatory pressure doesn’t make much sense.
The Los Angeles City Council recently passed a ban on alcohol advertising on municipal property, substantially reducing the number of outdoor advertising locations available to alcohol advertisers.
Philadelphia already has in place a similar ban, and in San Francisco alcohol advertising is not permitted on any public transportation.
Around the world, Turkey recently enacted restrictions prohibiting not only the advertising, but also the sale of alcoholic beverages in certain settings such as sponsored activities and festivals. Even the placement of alcohol logos was restricted to only certain establishments.
Russia banned alcohol advertising on television, radio, the Internet, public transportation, billboards and in all print media in an attempt to affect that country’s high level of consumption.
All of these restrictions and bans on alcohol advertising come at a time when total per capita consumption of alcohol in the U.S. has remained mostly constant during the past 40 years, and worldwide consumption has been stable since 1990.
So why the most recent concern regarding alcohol advertising?
Research studying the impact of alcohol advertising bans on the reduction of alcohol consumption has provided conflicting results.
For example, a comprehensive study in 17 countries for the years 1977-1995 showed that advertising bans did not decrease alcohol consumption or abuse.
However, in a similar study that examined data from 20 countries over 26 years, researchers concluded that alcohol advertising bans decreased alcohol consumption during the period they examined.
So it appears that ad bans are a potential solution for policymakers interested in reducing alcohol consumption, although the evidence shows inconsistent results. But this doesn’t take into account a more important issue.
With per capita consumption remaining mostly constant during the past 100 years, it seems clear that in the established, mature marketplace for alcohol, competition for a greater share of sales is intense and constant.
Advertising has become the most visible ingredient of the overall marketing strategy. Companies try to increase their revenue through stronger, more innovative marketing efforts.
For example, liquor brands that took advantage of the recent ability to advertise in the electronic media saw market share gains as a result.
Permitting the market to operate freely encourages competition not only among brands but among categories of alcoholic beverages as well.
Published studies have provided evidence of consumption changes not only between brands but also across categories of alcoholic beverages during the past 40-plus years.
All of this has taken place without much change in per capita consumption for more than a century.
Proposals to restrict or curtail truthful, commercial messages about a legal product work against rational public policy.
By limiting restrictions and allowing the market to function freely, companies can compete using advertising and media strategies while not affecting the total amount of alcohol consumed. Consumers are given the choice of what products to buy and the ability to decide based on competitive product offerings.
Although criticisms of alcohol advertising and promotional methods abound, implementation of only remedies that would restrict or overly regulate such communication activities usually do not have the desired effect of reducing consumption.
Instead, such restrictions would only serve to limit a company’s ability to employ marketing communication strategies as a means to gain market share.
A more logical alternative is to get as much information as possible out to the public about the problems of alcohol abuse and misuse.
The way to get that information out to the society is to get rid of restrictions or bans on communication about alcohol and encourage all viewpoints to communicate so our society makes an autonomous, rational choice on alcohol.
Bans on alcohol advertising simply don’t make a lot of sense.
Gary Wilcox is the John A. Beck Centennial Professor in Communication in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Texas at Austin.
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New TP op-ed: Keep the alcohol advertising flowing...http://t.co/dukN4Kq55W— Texas Perspectives (@TexPerspectives) February 2, 2015
More students from underrepresented minority groups will be encouraged to pursue academic careers thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to The University of Texas at Austin.
Renewable every four years, the grant will support the establishment of a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies (MALS), a new department established last summer in the College of Liberal Arts. The first class of five Mellon Fellows will begin the program this summer.
“We are delighted that the Mellon Foundation identified UT Austin as one of the select public universities to be awarded this prestigious undergraduate fellowship program,” said department chair Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández. “By offering early research opportunities to the most qualified students—those with outstanding academic records who might not historically consider the pursuit of a Ph.D. and a faculty position—we can transform higher education institutions so that they more directly reflect the populations they serve.”
“We are poised to train the best researchers and future leaders for the U.S. academy and beyond,” Guidotti-Hernández said, citing the launch of the new department and the diversity of UT Austin’s student body, which is more than half non-white.
The grant program seeks to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority groups, such as African Americans and Hispanics, in Ph.D. programs that prepare students for faculty-level careers in U.S. colleges and universities. The program is not intended to support students who intend to go on to medical school, law school or other professional schools.
“This grant reinforces our commitment to fostering academic excellence and building diversity,” said Richard Flores, senior associate dean for academic affairs in UT Austin’s College of Liberal Arts. “Our commitment to both of these principles is extremely strong and central to the mission of this institution. Partnering with the Mellon Foundation to host this program allows us advance our shared goals in the building of the 21st century professoriate.”
The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program began in 1988 as the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship, created by the Mellon Foundation to help remedy the shortage of faculty of color in higher education. Since its founding, the program has produced more than 500 Ph.D.s from institutions such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard and Rice.
Dr. Yanis Varoufakis, a visiting professor at UT Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, has been named finance minister of Greece as part of the cabinet of newly-elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and was sworn in on Jan. 27. Varoufakis was elected to the Greek Parliament on Sunday, Jan. 25 as the leading vote-getter in Athens' 2d constituency, which is one of the largest in Greece.
A distinguished economist, game theorist and analytic philosopher, Varoufakis has been a leading voice of opposition to the policies conducted since the start of the financial crisis in Greece and throughout Europe by the European Union and its allied institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
The program of SYRIZA, the party of Prime Minister Tsipras and now the governing party in Greece, calls for a write-down of the Greek debt and an end to the policies of cuts, privatizations and tax increases that have been imposed on Greece as conditions for extending and easing the terms of the debt. But Varoufakis also sees a broader mission:
“As the next finance minister, I can assure you that I shall not go into the eurogroup seeking a solution that is good for the Greek taxpayer and bad for the Irish, Slovak, German, French and Italian taxpayer,” said Varoufakis.
In November 2011, Varoufakis first came to Austin to keynote a conference on the Crisis in the Eurozone, presented by the LBJ School, UT’s Center for European Studies and EU Center for Excellence. (Tsipras was a featured speaker at the follow-up conference in November 2013, Can The Eurozone be Saved?) Since joining the LBJ School in January 2013, Varoufakis has taught courses in microeconomics and economic policy.
Varoufakis is the co-author, with Stuart Holland of the University of Coimbra and James Galbraith of the LBJ School, of the Modest Proposal to Resolve the Crisis of the Eurozone, a four-part proposal to address debt, banking, investment and human needs in the crisis countries of Europe, all within the current framework of European treaties and charters.
Previously, Varoufakis was a professor of economics at the University of Essex, the University of Sydney and the University of Athens where he continues to hold the oldest chair in political economy in the world. He is the co-author of Modern Political Economics: Making sense of the post-2008 world, and in 2014 the author of Economic Indeterminacy, A personal encounter with the economists' peculiar nemesis. He is an expert on electronic currencies and the monetary instability of artificial worlds.
Civil rights activist and former Georgia state Sen. Julian Bond will deliver remarks at the 19th Annual Barbara Jordan Forum at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, highlighting contemporary civil rights issues facing America today.
Bond’s life work offers numerous lessons on bringing about and leading social change for generations to come. His experience leading college students in the 1960s in engaged activism and nonviolent protests during a period of unrest remains relevant today as the nation faces new challenges.
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 4, noon to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, 2315 Red River St. Austin, Texas 78712
WHO MAY ATTEND: The event is open to the public; admission is free, but a ticket is required. Visit Julianbond.eventbrite.com to register.
University of Texas at Austin students, faculty members and staffers do not have to register for this event and may pick up tickets at the Student Activities Center (SAC) ticketing office.
BACKGROUND: This spring, the LBJ School is initiating a series of events designed to inform issues at the heart of public debate by showcasing a diversity of voices including practitioners and academics.
In hosting Julian Bond as the 2015 Barbara Jordan Forum keynoter, the school will kick off the series with one of the most formidable figures in modern history. Beginning as a college student with a powerful message of equality, freedom and justice, Julian Bond has spent five decades as a key voice in fulfilling the principles of American democracy, establishing himself as a renowned professor, statesman and activist. Founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the first African American to be nominated for vice president of the United States, he continues to propel the message for civil rights into the future.
The Barbara Jordan Forum, in its 19th year, is designed to highlight Jordan’s lifetime of significant contributions to society as a politician, policymaker, activist and educator. Jordan joined the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1979 as a faculty member and remained a beloved teacher and mentor until her death in 1996. That same year, students created the forum in her honor.
MEDIA ATTENDANCE/INQUIRIES/EVENT INFORMATION: News media are welcome to attend and cover the event. Please contact Holli Nelson, LBJ School of Public Affairs, 512-232-4054 or firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements for coverage of the lecture and/or interest in attending a post-event presser with Mr. Bond, immediately following the event.
FORT DAVIS, Texas — A five-year analysis of an event captured by a tiny telescope at McDonald Observatory and followed up by telescopes on the ground and in space has led astronomers to believe they witnessed a giant black hole tear apart a star. The work is published this month in The Astrophysical Journal.
On Jan. 21, 2009, the ROTSE IIIb telescope at McDonald caught the flash of an extremely bright event. The telescope’s wide field of view takes pictures of large swathes of sky every night, looking for newly exploding stars as part of the ROTSE Supernova Verification Project (RSVP). Software then compares successive photos to find bright “new” objects in the sky — transient events such as the explosion of a star or a gamma-ray burst.
With a magnitude of -22.5, this 2009 event was as bright as the “superluminous supernovae” (a new category of the brightest stellar explosions known) that the ROTSE team discovered at McDonald in recent years. The team nicknamed the 2009 event “Dougie,” after a character in the cartoon “South Park.” (Its technical name is ROTSE3J120847.9+430121.)
The team thought Dougie might be a supernova and set about looking for its host galaxy, which would be too faint for ROTSE to see. They found that a sky survey had mapped a faint red galaxy at Dougie’s location. They used one of the giant Keck telescopes in Hawaii to pinpoint its distance: 3 billion light-years.
These deductions meant Dougie had a home — but just what was he? To narrow it down from four possibilities, they studied Dougie with the orbiting Swift telescope and the giant Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald, and they made computer models. These models showed how Dougie’s light would behave if created by different physical processes. The astronomers then compared the different theoretical Dougies to their telescope observations of the real thing.
"When we discovered this new object, it looked similar to supernovae we had known already,” said lead author Jozsef Vinko of the University of Szeged in Hungary. “But when we kept monitoring its light variation, we realized that this was something nobody really saw before.”
Team member J. Craig Wheeler, leader of the supernova group at The University of Texas at Austin, said they got the idea they might be witnessing a “tidal disruption event,” in which the enormous gravity of a black hole pulls on one side of a star harder than the other side, creating tides that rip the star apart.
“These especially large tides can be strong enough that you pull the star out into a noodle” shape, said Wheeler. The star “doesn’t fall directly into the black hole,” Wheeler said. “It might form a disk first. But the black hole is destined to swallow most of that material.”
Astronomers have seen black holes swallow stars about a dozen times before, but this one is special even in that rare company: It’s not going down easily.
Models by team members James Guillochon of Harvard University and Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz of the University of California at Santa Cruz showed that the disrupted stellar matter was generating so much radiation that it pushed back on the infall. The black hole was choking on the rapidly infalling matter.
Based on the characteristics of the light from Dougie and their deductions of the star’s original mass, the team has determined that Dougie started out as a star like our sun before being ripped apart.
Their observations of the host galaxy, coupled with Dougie’s behavior, led them to surmise that the galaxy’s central black hole has the “rather modest” mass of about a million suns, Wheeler said.
Delving into Dougie’s behavior has unexpectedly resulted in learning more about small, distant galaxies, Wheeler said, musing “Who knew this little guy had a black hole?”
The paper’s lead author, Joszef Vinko, began the project while on sabbatical at The University of Texas at Austin. The team also includes Robert Quimby of San Diego State University, who started the search for supernovae using ROTSE IIIb and discovered the category of superluminous supernovae while a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin.
Images to accompany this text are available online at: http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/news/releases/2015/0126.html
January 31 marks the 75th anniversary of the first benefit check provided by the Social Security System, a $22.54 payment made to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont.
The milestone is cause for celebration, but future retirees must also raise their voices for reform.
Social Security has to be deemed one of the most successful federal programs in history. In 2013 the program provided benefits to about 41 million retirees and their dependents, 6 million survivors of deceased workers and 11 million disabled workers and their dependents.
It would be a rare politician who would call for its abolition, and for good reason. For an alarming number of Americans, Social Security is the only resource standing between what should be their golden years and a retirement of dross.
Social Security provides at least half of total income for approximately 52 percent of aged beneficiary couples and more than 90 percent of income for 22 percent of such couples.
And don’t look for a lessening of need in the future.
Only about 45 percent of workers of ages 26 through 61 participate in any employer-based retirement plan. Of workers who actually have some sort of pension plan, 78 percent have 401(k) accounts or are members of comparable plans that rely for retirement income on the resources accumulated in his or her own personal account.
Regrettably, the median balance in such accounts for workers approaching retirement is a measly $111,000, barely enough to provide for even basic necessities for a person who might live 30 years past the typical retirement age of 65.
By default, these future retirees will have to rely heavily on Social Security for their livelihood.
But despite the fears of many young people today, Social Security is not at risk of an early fiscal demise.
Assuming a modicum of political responsibility on the part of Congress and the president, even the youngest of workers can be reasonably confident that both they and even their children and grandchildren will be program beneficiaries after they retire, IF appropriate reforms are made now.
Currently, by law, Social Security payroll taxes must be placed in dedicated trust funds and benefits can only be paid out of those funds. Since 2010, outflows for benefit payments have exceeded the inflows from payroll taxes, and the projected funds will be depleted by 2033.
The ongoing income of the funds would be sufficient to pay only 77 percent of scheduled benefits. Whereas Congress could change the law to permit the shortfall to be made up with general tax revenues, in light of the long-term deficits facing the federal government, it is highly unlikely that it will do so.
To ensure that trust funds are not emptied out, we must increase revenues or decrease benefits.
Raising the payroll tax by 1.5 percent on both employers and employees, and raising the cap on earnings subject to the tax, currently $118,500, to say $220,000 would go a long way in ensuring those revenues are increased.
On the flip side, policymakers could consider reducing benefits by increasing the age at which retirees receive full benefits, from age 67 to age 70.
They could also eliminate or modify the automatic cost of living increases, or apply means testing to the benefits so that higher income retirees receive reduced payments.
Each of these changes will obviously be painful to some but are made necessary by the changing demographics of our society. Life expectancy has obviously increased during the past 75 years. In 1945, there were 7.25 people of working age for every person over 65.
By 2090, that number will shrink to only 2.29 workers.
When Fuller died in 1975 at age 100, she had collected $22,288.92, compared with her total contributions of $22.75. Social Security cannot ensure that other Americans will enjoy such a spectacular return on investment. What it can provide in the future (with wise reforms made now) is a basic standard of living for the most vulnerable of our citizens.
Michael Granof is the Ernst & Young Distinguished Centennial Professor of Accounting and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Business and Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.
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Share this story on Twitter:January 27, 2015
AUSTIN, Texas — Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at San Francisco have revealed how a type of cancer-causing virus called Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) outwits the human body's immune response. By helping explain why some cancer therapies fail, the discovery might lead to more effective treatments.
EBV, a virus of the herpes family, causes an estimated 200,000 cancers every year, including lymphomas, nasopharyngeal cancers and some stomach cancers. Better anti-viral drugs could help thousands of people suffering from these cancers.
Many viruses, including EBV, carry small molecules called microRNAs that they use to hijack natural processes in a host's cells during an infection. Viral microRNAs are known to prevent host cell death, promote host cell growth and dampen the host cell’s viral defenses. However, scientists don't yet know which viral microRNAs perform which functions.
Jennifer Cox, a graduate student working with Associate Professor Chris Sullivan at The University of Texas at Austin, identified microRNAs made by several herpes viruses that block a component of a human's innate immune system called the interferon response. Immune cells within the body release interferon to prevent viral replication, and this often results in slower growth or death of infected host cells. The researchers found that several herpes viruses have independently evolved similar mechanisms to block the host's interferon response.
"I was actually surprised that all these different viruses had converged on the same mechanism for blocking the body's defenses," said Sullivan. "As a biologist, I see this as evolutionary gold."
Interferon is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy to treat lymphomas. Although it is an effective treatment for some cancers, it does not significantly affect others. This latest research has demonstrated that EBV lymphoma cells are less susceptible to interferon therapy.
"This could explain the variability seen in the success of previous interferon-based cancer treatments,” said Cox. “While this work does not immediately identify new drugs, the fact that such different tumor viruses have converged on the same strategy makes this an exciting pursuit for future therapies against viral cancers."
This work appears online in the Jan. 26 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to Cox and Sullivan, co-authors of the study are Lydia McClure at The University of Texas at Austin and Andrei Goga from the University of California at San Francisco.
This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
This story is part of our “Preparing Leaders” series, which explores how students are learning valuable leadership lessons.
We live by the belief that what starts here changes the world, and Longhorns prove that every day. But the world also changes us.
With more than 2,800 Longhorns traveling to more than 80 countries each year, The University of Texas at Austin now ranks second in the nation for the most students studying abroad, according to the Institute of International Education’s latest annual report.
Studying abroad enriches academics and transforms students’ lives by giving them the opportunity to explore the world and interact with different cultures. The top 10 most popular Longhorn destinations include Spain, United Kingdom, France, China, Brazil, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, South Africa, Australia and Mexico. Other Longhorns seek out unique destinations like Zambia, Yemen, Armenia, Nepal, East Timor and Serbia.
Longhorns are everywhere, and the International Office is committed to increasing access to international education to students, especially underrepresented groups. In 2014, UT Austin was recognized by NAFSA for innovation in study abroad programming that increases access to first-generation college students.
In addition to sending off Longhorns across the world, UT Austin also welcomes a large diverse population of international students, ranking in the top 25 for the international student enrollment with more than 6,000 students, scholarsand researchers from more than 120 countries. The largest proportion of international students come from China, Korea, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, Iran, France, Australia and Turkey.
The many ways in which the world impacts us is chronicled in stories by international students and about students who have been abroad. The images below depict these unique and rich experiences through the lenses of Longhorns throughout the world.The Highlands of Scotland (Photo: Blake Lueder)
“I had the opportunity of interacting with people I never would have met otherwise, both from UT and from other countries. I gained a new understanding of just how different every single country really is. For instance, I never thought the United Kingdom was that different from the U.S. culturally, but I was shocked when I discovered how different we can be,” says business honors junior, Blake Lueder.Namche Bazaar, Nepal (Photo: Mark Bowers)
“This photo was taken during a three-week trek through the Khumbu region in Nepal on my way to base camp at Mount Everest. It was the beginning of an amazing opportunity my wife and I had to travel Southeast Asia, and the experience gave us an enriched understanding of life and how we are all connected in way or another,” says Mark Bowers, a staff member in the International Office. “Working at the IO has allowed me to interact with students who aspire towards this experience as well, and I enjoy helping them discover something that will possibly transform their future.”Interlaken, Switzerland (Photo: Saurabh Thakur)
“Switzerland is full of breathtaking countryside and enchanting summer landscapes,” says Saurabh Thakur, MBA ’13. “There is so much more about all of us, which we can only realize by traveling and meeting other people.”Vernazza, Clinque Terre, Italy (Photo: Katy Schaffer)
“Studying abroad enhanced my plans for the future because it opened my eyes to the rest of the world. Living in another city, interacting with different people, eating new foods — all of that made me realize I wanted to travel the world, to experience newness, for the rest of my life. I plan to be an international freelance photographer after I graduate,” says photojournalism senior, Katy Schaffer.Jerusalem, Israel (Photo: Marisa Elms)
“Studying abroad brought my major to life,” says religious studies and biochemistry senior, Marisa Elms. “While in Israel, I had the chance to visit the places, meet the people and participate in the religious events that I study in class. These experiences ignited my passion for scholarly research and affirmed my devotion to increasing religious understanding through teaching.”Berlin, Germany (Photo: Daniel Wang)
“Studying abroad through the Normandy Scholars Program deepened my understanding of the human condition,” says biology and Plan II honors senior, Daniel Wang. “Having studied World War II during the spring  semester, I explored London, Normandy, Berlin and Warsaw with the understanding that these places had seen far worse days. These cities each possessed a unique, vitalizing energy that contrasted sharply with the scenes depicted by the pictures, films and documents I studied, which all underscored the ubiquity of human suffering during the War. As for its effect on my future goals, studying abroad gave me the confidence that I would be able to relate to patients of any cultural background. Furthermore, I want to ensure that my medical practice serves all types of people equally.”Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (Photo: Karina Pieratt)
“Participating in Projects for Underserved Communities undoubtedly changed my life. Not only did it allow me to do hands on engineering work internationally, broadened my horizons and enhanced my education, but this experience was so enriching and one that I will always look back on fondly. Because of this experience I plan to applying my engineering knowledge through Engineers Without Borders once I graduate,” says mechanical engineering senior, Karina Pieratt.Istanbul, Turkey (Photo: Selma Chang)
“As I was observing this majestic sunset, my curiosity was awaken. How many wonders are out there waiting for me to discover? Infinite amount, and therefore I decided to study the world to better understand it, and embrace all its beauty.” says international relations and global studies junior, Selma Chang.Shangri-La, Yunnan, China (Photo: Samin Huque)
“As a management information systems major it was awesome to be able to participate in a hackathon while I was studying abroad in Hong Kong. My teammates included a previous investment banker and students from mainland China, India and Finland,” says management informations systems senior Samin Huque. “There is something unifying seeing rural kids from a completely different part of the world play the same sports as back home. Seeing them play with the mountains, Tibetan prayer flags and architecture behind them is what is really captivating.”Schwangau, Germany (Photo: Shane Kok)
“Studying abroad really taught me a lot outside of the classroom. I became more independent, started living life more fully and learned to appreciate everything more. I matured as a person and had an amazing experience. I also made a group of best friends that I share unforgettable adventures with. Always live life happy and make memories along the way,” says business honors junior Shane Kok.New Delhi, India (Photo: Pulkit Gupta)
“I’ve really enjoyed my time at UT so far, with lots to do and warm people who make me feel welcome. This picture was taken during Diwali last year I cherish it, because it is a memory of spending the festival with my family, and I will not be able to do that again for a while.” says computer science graduate student Pulkit Gupta.Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: Cathryn Walker)
“Studying photojournalism in Prague not only provided me with a unique and advanced portfolio, but I also learned how to find beauty in the most unexpected places. Castles and waterfront views are beautiful, but there’s something very alluring and authentic about capturing locals going about their everyday, vibrant lives,” says Cathryn Walker, B.J. ’14.
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As one of the nation’s leading public universities, The University of Texas at Austin prepares its students to become competent global citizens. The International Office advances the critical priorities of the University by creating access to international and cultural exchange. As the university’s home for Study Abroad, International Student & Scholar Services, English as a Second Language instruction, Global Risk & Safety and Global Initiatives, the International Office provides opportunities to learn about the world through education.
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address provided a list of things that “will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families.”
Items included on the list were child care, equal pay, higher minimum wages and lower mortgage premiums.
Obama reported that the Federal Housing Administration will reduce its mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5 percent and that this reduction should make it easier for Americans to buy homes.
Obama’s address to the nation, like most addresses in recent history, essentially ignores renters, who receive no benefits from current policies such as the mortgage interest deduction or housing tax deductions.
Most taxpayers, including Texans, do not itemize their tax deductions. Data from the Joint Committee on Taxation and other tax policy groups consistently show that only one-third of taxpayers itemize, and that only 25 percent claim the mortgage interest deduction.
Although providing economic relief to middle-class households is, of course, a good thing, the speech never mentions the importance of helping folks find affordable housing regardless of whether it’s rented or owned. Simply put, renters are largely invisible in federal housing initiatives.
Americans who are fortunate enough to have high-paying jobs can save for a down payment, qualify for low-cost mortgage loans and reasonably assume they will be able to repay their mortgage loans.
For them, homeownership remains a wealth-building device, especially since the mortgage interest deduction subsidizes their housing costs by letting them deduct their mortgage interest.
Most middle- and lower-income workers are not so fortunate.
Although parts of Obama’s middle-class economics plan should help them “feel more secure in a world of constant change,” this housing initiative fails to respond to the primary reasons they are not buying homes.
Americans are not buying homes because they cannot afford to buy homes. Wages for all but the highest earners have been stagnant for years.
Housing affordability is particularly acute for Texas workers who earn the federal minimum wage, even though Texas is generally a low tax state. A recent report placed Texas on the “Terrible 10” list of states where the bottom 20 percent of wage earners pay up to seven times as much of their income in state and local taxes as the ultra-wealthy pays.
Middle-income households do not need to hear another speech that proposes relief for homeowners. They need a speech that announces a plan to help improve their housing security by providing more affordable housing, whether rented or owned.
Policymakers need to develop housing policies that make the middle-class visible. In particular, we need to reform the mortgage interest deduction because it disproportionately benefits higher-income homeowners.
Homeowners who do not itemize and instead take the standard deduction on their taxes do not benefit from the mortgage interest deduction. Renters don’t either.
Texans, in particular, derive relatively few benefits from the mortgage interest deduction because Texas does not have a state income tax, which makes Texas taxpayers more likely to take the standard deduction. In fact, a 2014 report that analyzed the geographic distribution of the mortgage interest deduction ranked Texas as one of the 10 states whose residents are least likely to claim it.
A middle-class economics housing policy should also consider ways to develop housing tax deductions or credit for middle-class renters, or tax subsidies that encourage Americans to own homes communally, jointly, or cooperatively.
More inclusive housing policies that are designed to help middle- and lower-income Americans might also help resolve some of the housing challenges owners and renters of properties continue to face.
Finally, we need housing policies that help Americans save for a security deposit for a rental home, just as state and federal programs provide down payment assistance to help renters buy homes.
For instance, because the Austin area has a higher percentage (55 percent) of renter households than the U.S. average (35 percent), the affordability concerns of more than half of the residents are essentially disregarded in current federal housing discussions.
We have not achieved the goal that congress set forth 50 years ago when declaring national housing policies. And if housing policies continue to ignore why middle-class Americans cannot and will not buy homes, we will never achieve those goals.
A. Mechele Dickerson is a professor of law at The University of Texas at Austin and is the author of “Homeownership and America’s Financial Underclass: Flawed Premises, Broken Promises, New Prescriptions.”
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Share this story on Twitter:January 23, 2015
AUSTIN, Texas — Scientists using ice-penetrating radar data collected by NASA’s Operation IceBridge and earlier airborne campaigns have built the first comprehensive map of layers deep inside the Greenland Ice Sheet, opening a window on past climate conditions and the ice sheet’s potentially perilous future.
This new map allows scientists to determine the age of large swaths of the second largest mass of ice on Earth, an area containing enough water to raise ocean levels by about 20 feet.
“This new, huge data volume records how the ice sheet evolved and how it’s flowing today,” said Joe MacGregor, the study’s lead author, a glaciologist at The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), a unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences.
Greenland’s ice sheet has been losing mass during the past two decades, a phenomenon accelerated by warming temperatures. Scientists are studying ice from different climate periods in the past to better understand how the ice sheet might respond in the future.
Ice cores offer one way of studying the distant past. These cylinders of ice drilled from the ice sheet hold evidence of past snow accumulation and temperature and contain impurities such as dust and volcanic ash compacted over hundreds of thousands of years. These layers are visible in ice cores and can be detected with ice-penetrating radar.
Ice-penetrating radar works by sending radar signals into the ice and recording the strength and return time of reflected signals. From those signals, scientists can detect the ice surface, sub-ice bedrock and layers within the ice.
New techniques used in this study allowed scientists to efficiently pick out these layers in radar data. Prior studies had mapped internal layers, but not at the scale made possible by these newer, faster methods.
Another major factor in this study was the scope of Operation IceBridge’s measurements across Greenland, which included flights that covered distances of tens of thousands of kilometers across the ice sheet.
“IceBridge surveyed previously unexplored parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet and did it using state-of-the-art CReSIS radars,” said study co-author Mark Fahnestock, an IceBridge science team member and glaciologist from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF-GI).
CReSIS is the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, a National Science Foundation science and technology center headquartered at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.
IceBridge’s flight lines often intersect ice core sites where other scientists have analyzed the ice’s chemical composition to map and date layers in the ice. These core data provide a reference for radar measurements and provide a way to calculate how much ice from a given climate period exists across the ice sheet, something known as an age volume. Scientists are interested in knowing more about ice from the Eemian period, a time from 115,000 to 130,000 years ago that was about as warm as today. This new age volume provides the first data-driven estimate of where Eemian ice may remain.
Comparing this age volume to simple computer models helped the study’s team better understand the ice sheet’s history. Differences in the mapped and modeled age volumes point to past changes in ice flow or processes such as melting at the ice sheet’s base. This information will be helpful for evaluating the more sophisticated ice sheet models that are crucial for projecting Greenland’s future contribution to sea-level rise.
“Prior to this study, a good ice-sheet model was one that got its present thickness and surface speed right. Now, they’ll also be able to work on getting its history right, which is important because ice sheets have very long memories,” said MacGregor.
This study was published online on Jan. 16, 2015, in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. It was a collaboration among scientists at UTIG, UAF-GI, CReSIS and the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. It was supported by NASA’s Operation IceBridge and the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Natural Sciences.
For more information on Operation IceBridge, visit: www.nasa.gov/icebridge.
For a video of the project, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0VbPE0TOtQ&feature=youtu.be
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently came out with a study that found six Americans die every day on average from alcohol poisoning.
Perhaps more surprising is that it turns out that most deaths from drinking too much involve middle-aged adults, not teens or college students.
The study doesn’t point at causation, but the CDC did raise new questions for further research. Although more research is always a good thing, it’s unwise to think that we don’t already know a lot about drinking and alcoholism. For example, “drinking too much” is not always “alcoholism.”
Breakthroughs in genetics, neurobiology and neuropharmacology have led scientists to know that some people who drink harmfully may develop a full-blown disease, leaving them unable to stop drinking without help.
Many people drink too much to get high, to celebrate, or to overcome anxiety or depression and never have any long-term negative effects. However, 10 to 15 percent of people who use alcohol develop the disease of alcohol dependence.
People who argue about whether “alcoholism” is a disease are like blind persons examining an elephant — they believe only the parts they touch.
If someone is familiar with the part of alcoholism that is the pain caused by an abusive alcoholic parent, her belief is shaped by that experience.
If they have been touched by their own alcohol use, that will define their belief about whether they have a drinking problem.
But alcohol dependence, the brain disease, is a definitive, diagnosable, brain pathology in the realm of epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
This means that one of the causes of what is popularly called “alcoholism” is a neuropsychiatric problem in which something has gone wrong in specific parts of the brain, mostly in the brain’s “reward pathway.”
The brain disease is similar to a schizophrenic person losing the ability to dampen “internal voices.” People who are alcohol dependent require powerful intervention and intensive treatment that can be expensive and prolonged.
Problem drinking, on the other hand, is a self-controllable condition that may be reduced by education, punishment, maturity, will-power or simply learning from an embarrassing or costly experience.
Research that has helped clarify the differences between alcohol dependent and problem drinkers has been massively underreported.
For instance, the long-awaited connection between neuroscience and psychological counseling has now been discovered. Recent brain scan studies show clearly that counseling methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) change brain function in a positive way.
This strongly suggests that 12-step programs and other “talk therapies” normalize the brain’s reward pathway, likely involving a change in reward pathway neurotransmitter systems that have gone wrong.
Anti-craving and abstinence-enhancing medications are sufficiently effective that they have helped significant numbers of dependent drinkers stay clean and sober, especially by preventing relapse. Continuing genetic studies are expected to provide even better reward system-targeting medications.
And finally, studies on 12-step programs themselves have now reached the point at which some alcohol researchers are calling them “evidence based” or research-proven. They recommend that such programs when used in the best holistic treatment centers should be reimbursed by insurance companies.
So what can we do when so many middle-aged Americans are dying from alcohol poisoning? We must educate everyone that some people can moderate their drinking through a simple understanding of the dangers of alcohol poisoning, while other people cannot control their drinking without effective treatment of their disease.
More funding available for research on more effective alcohol intoxication prevention methods is badly needed.
Such knowledge is huge for anyone suffering from alcoholism or other drug addictions, and for those worried about the future of a loved one’s drinking and drug use.
Carlton K. Erickson is a Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and director of the Addiction Science Research and Education Center in the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin.
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The tower of The University of Texas at Austin will be illuminated in orange tonight, Jan. 20, in honor of the swearing in of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
Governor Abbott is a 1981 graduate of the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin. Tower lightings commemorate significant achievements by members of the UT community and recognize extraordinary events.
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