Texas Tech Creative Media Industries Alumna Turns Passion for Video into Potential Career

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For most students, watching a movie is a great way to take a break from studying and relax for a few hours. For recent graduate Anwen Pope, it’s a passion. She started taking audio/video production classes in high school and quickly fell in love with being behind the camera and creating stories through videos. This led her to Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication where Pope was a creative media industries major.

In her time at Texas Tech, Pope became involved with a number of organizations that allow her to showcase her production skills and strong leadership abilities. She was the president of the Tech Creative Media Association (TCMA) as well as an organizer for Campus Movie Fest. Pope also worked with the Department of Transition and Engagement, helping create photos and videos for the department’s social media and marketing materials.

Pope’s love for video and filmmaking shined through in the work she did for these organizations, as well as in the classroom. One of her projects was accepted to the Flatland Film Festival, and she always was willing to help classmates and friends when it comes to video.

Her involvement in multiple areas across campus helped her receive one of this year’s Student Academic Leadership Awards.

How are you a leader in the classroom?

I have a dedication to my studies and make sure to show up to class on time, take notes and actively participate in class discussions and opportunities. I aim to get good grades in my classes, which has resulted in me being awarded Dean’s or President’s List every semester I have been at Texas Tech. I try to get the most out of my classroom experiences. For example, one of the films I worked on in a features and documentary class went on to be accepted into the 2019 Flatland Film Festival.

How are you a leader outside the classroom?

Outside the classroom, I am currently the president of TCMA and have been actively involved in the organization since my freshman year. I also have helped organize the Campus Movie Fest, a nationwide student film festival, which was brought to Texas Tech for the second time this year. Additionally, I often help in the creation of various video projects outside of schoolwork with my friends and peers.

Why did you select your major?

In high school, I took two years of audio/video production classes, which introduced me to film as a potential career field that I truly enjoyed working and participating in. This led to me searching for colleges with majors related to video production and ultimately led to me choosing Texas Tech and the creative media industries major.

How do you intend to use your education in the future?

I intend to use the education I have obtained at Texas Tech to go out into the workforce within the field of video production. The education I have received will give me an edge against other potential employees and a more solid foundation in the skills and nuances of video production.

How has Texas Tech helped you along the path to those goals?

Texas Tech, specifically the College of Media & Communication and the Honors College, has given me so many opportunities to grow my skills, knowledge and experiences in a productive manner. They also have encouraged me to keep growing my abilities and to keep excelling at a higher level.

Who has had the biggest impact on you, and why?

There have been a lot of people who have impacted me during my time at Texas Tech. One of the biggest reasons I ended up coming to Texas Tech and continue to be presented such great opportunities are the professors I’ve had. In particular, Todd Chambers has been an influence on my time at Texas Tech as he pushed for me to get involved my freshman year. This led to me joining TCMA. He also recommended me for my current job as the videography intern in the Department of Transition and Engagement at Texas Tech. I also have been able to learn a lot from professors like Robert Peaslee and Jerod Foster, who led the study abroad trip to New Zealand I participated in during the summer of 2019. I also got to take the Adventure Media course led by Dr. Foster and Justin Keene. All these experiences have really set in motion my creative abilities and experiences as they are very hands-on courses.

Angelo State Will Not Require ACT or SAT Test Scores for 2021 Admissions

Giving at Angelo State University

Angelo State University has announced that it will not require ACT or SAT scores for freshman applicants for the spring, summer and fall of 2021.

The ASU Office of Admissions implemented test-optional admission reviews for students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic for the fall 2020 class and will extend this option for the 2021 classes.

ASU is actively working on application review processes, which may include, but are not limited to, the demonstrated academic rigor, leadership, dual credit course completion, college readiness criteria, or any other consideration of applicants, as allowed by state statute, to ensure their success and persistence to graduation.

“We made this decision based on closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our prospective students’ ability to submit currently required national testing scores,” said Sharla Adam, director of admissions. “With the reduction of ACT/SAT tests and the uncertainty associated with those tests being readily available, Angelo State has chosen to provide a test-optional admission opportunity. We will continue to accept ACT/SAT test scores, as well. Students will indicate on their application which admission review they prefer to use.”

More details will be forthcoming on the myfuture.angelo.edu website. Applications are already being accepted for the spring and summer 2021 semesters. Applications for the fall 2021 semester will open August 1.

UT-Arlington Students with Public Health Degrees Look to Help Others as They Pursue Second Career

Sofia Alcasey, Berford Moncriffe and Laud Dei ." width="1920" _languageinserted="true" src="https://cdn.web.uta.edu/-/media/project/website/news/releases/2020/06/public-health-students.ashx?la=en

Sofia Alcasey, Berford Moncriffe and Laud Dei are different ages and come from different professional backgrounds. But they all share a passion for improving health outcomes in their communities.

That passion inspired them to pursue public health degrees at The University of Texas at Arlington.

After graduating high school, Alcasey (’19 BS, Public Health), knew she wanted a career in the health field. She just wasn’t sure which route to take.

“I took several health certifications, including a pharmacy technician class, in preparation for the health care career I expected to have,” she said. “While working at a pharmacy, I enrolled as a pre-med student at UTA and later decided to switch my focus to public health.”

Alcasey, now a UTA graduate and in her sixth year as a pharmacy technician, said she hopes to use the skills learned in both disciplines to impact her community.

Moncriffe is also familiar with pharmacy work.

“I’ve been a practicing pharmacist for the last 18 years,” said Moncriffe, a Master of Public Health (MPH) student. “As I practiced my profession and gave patients individual attention, something was missing. I felt the need to help the community at large. After that realization, I began researching public health careers and found myself gravitating toward the field.”

Moncriffe decided to continue his education at UT Arlington.

“What made UTA’s MPH stand apart from other programs was its focus on urban health,” he said.

UTA offers the only MPH concentration in urban health in Texas and one of the few in the U.S. Moncriffe expects to earn his MPH degree in 2022.

Dei, also a Master of Public Health student, was attracted to urban health as well, although he was no stranger to the field of public health.

He received his undergraduate education at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He continued his graduate education at the University of Aberdeen and Brunel University in the United Kingdom, where he earned postgraduate degrees in global health and health services research, respectively.

In 2018, Dei decided to join his wife in the United States.

“When I arrived in the U.S., I wanted to get into my field of expertise,” he said. “I realized there were some basic public health modules that I did not do in the United Kingdom that were required here before I could get into the system. I decided to enroll at UTA to do the entire MPH program instead of doing only the modules I was missing.”

Dei expects to earn his MPH degree in 2021.

“I believe completing the entire degree program will allow me to be more in tune with the American public health system,” he said.

UTA’s Bachelor of Science in Public Health program provides students multiple coursework and practice-based learning opportunities to explore the effects of urbanization on population health. UTA’s MPH degree is a student-centered, practice-focused program for the working professional that builds their skills and enhances their practice.

Both of UTA’s programs are dedicated to teaching applied skills and their curriculums are designed around the skills most used in real-world public health practice by integrating classroom learning with real-life community-based projects.

“UTA’s public health students have extensive opportunities to practice and master the skills required for success in today’s workforce as a professional in the field of public health,” said Erin Carlson, associate clinical professor and director of graduate public health programs. “Our students come from all types of backgrounds, and that is one of the aspects that makes our programs truly special. Our students’ passion for service and their dedication to our community is truly inspiring.”

Texas Tech University Named Top 2020 Chess Program

Chess graphic

Since 1946, collegiate chess teams from across the Western Hemisphere have gathered in December to compete in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships (Pan-Ams). Texas Tech University’s Knight Raiders dominated the 2019 tournament, winning with a rare, 6-0 perfect score and qualifying for the President’s Cup, also known as the Final Four of College Chess, to be held in April in New York City.

The team spent the following months preparing for the President’s Cup, which the Knight Raiders won in 2011 and 2012. They had no idea they wouldn’t get their chance at a third title. The President’s Cup, like so many other events in 2020, was canceled due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

But now, the team has something else to celebrate. The US Chess Federation (US Chess), the governing body of U.S. chess competition, recently named Texas Tech the 2020 Chess College of the Year, recognizing Texas Tech’s dedication to the chess community.

“In addition to the numerous titles and accolades they have earned throughout the years, the members of the Texas Tech Chess Program have been a source of pride and inspiration for students at Texas Tech and in communities across the state,” said Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec. “This award recognizes the talents and efforts of these students, but also the university’s commitment to outreach and engagement. The Red Raider family is proud of the Knight Raiders and look forward to their successes in the future.”

Established within the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DDEI) in 2007, the Texas Tech Chess Program is well known within the world of chess. Head coach, program director and chess Grandmaster Alex Onischuk has led the Knight Raiders since 2012. The team also won the Pan-Ams in 2015, and has qualified for the President’s Cup nine of the last 11 years. Texas Tech previously was named Chess College of the Year in 2014, the same year US Chess named Onischuk Grandmaster of the Year.

The program also is recognized for its extensive outreach and engagement initiatives. Each year, team members spend hundreds of hours leading K-12 after-school chess classes and hosting monthly “Check with Tech” scholastic chess tournaments and summer chess camps for many of these same students. In recent years, the university has hosted numerous events including the 29th NATO Chess Championship in 2018, which brought 76 players from 10 countries to Lubbock and marked the first time the tournament had been held in the U.S.

“We thank the members of the US Chess Federation for this incredible recognition, which is an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication of our distinguished coach and program director, Grandmaster Alex Onischuk, and his incredible team of players and staff,” said Carol A. Sumner, chief diversity officer and vice president of DDEI. “Their championship titles are but part of their commitment to excellence. Their work in community-based programs and work with underrepresented children allows them to know that they, too, can be chess players.”

Kelly Bloomfield, chair of the US Chess College Chess Subcommittee, said the vote for Texas Tech was unanimous, citing the university’s support and service to the chess community and to US Chess and the chess team’s performance at the Pan-Ams.

“The Texas Tech Chess Program is advancing the US Chess mission to empower people, enrich lives and enhance communities through chess,” Bloomfield said. “Texas Tech went a perfect 6-0 at the 2019 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Championships, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, from Dec. 27-20, a feat which has not been done in many years. Out of five Texas Tech players on the winning team, only one came to the university as a Grandmaster, making the accomplishment that much more remarkable.”

Onischuk said he has never been prouder of Texas Tech than he is now. He is confident the program will come out of the current crisis even stronger than before.

“Being named Chess College of the Year is a well-deserved accomplishment,” Onischuk said. “Although the Chess Program gets more visibility due to competition, outreach is also very important. Our students and staff work hard organizing scholastic and collegiate chess events. The Texas Tech Chess Program also is continuing to organize online scholastic chess tournaments and camps. Such events allow us to go beyond Lubbock and Texas and share the experience of being a Red Raider around the world.”

As the summer begins, chess team members are looking back at an award-winning season cut short while also looking forward to a future that will now include new ways of playing chess.

After failing to qualify for the President’s Cup in 2018, the Knight Raiders of Texas Tech’s A-Team arrived at the Charlotte Chess Center for the 2019 Pan-Ams ready to win.

“The competition is getting tougher every year, and we were definitely the underdogs,” said World Junior Champion Evgeny Shtembuliak, a junior marketing major from Odessa, Ukraine. “Winning the Pan-Ams has been one of my biggest goals since I came to Texas Tech in 2017.”

Schools competing at the tournament often bring multiple teams, and Texas Tech is no exception, bringing three teams to compete in 2019, including an all-women team who placed first among the female teams.

The difference is in the rankings of the individual competitors. While some schools already have multiple teams filled with Grandmasters – the highest ranking a player can achieve aside from World Champion – many of the Knight Raiders are still working towards the title.

“Some of our competitors could easily fight for the top places in the Chess Olympiad tournament,” said Shtembuliak. “I feel like it made our success even sweeter. We won every single match we played. It is hard to describe what I felt like after the tournament ended. I was simply happy for myself, the team and our coach, Alex. Everyone gave their maximum effort. We have worked hard for the last couple of years, and we finally got it. I really think hard works always pays off.”

International Grandmaster Pasha Vorontsov said the win was one of the most remarkable moments in his chess career. Vorontsov, who graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, said he plans to pursue a master’s degree at Texas Tech and continue his involvement with the chess program.

“I have dreamed about winning this title with Texas Tech ever since I joined the program in 2016,” Vorontsov said. “Crushing the field with a perfect 6-0 score made this experience even more extraordinary. Obviously, after such a success the plan was to continue training and, hopefully, dominate the President’s Cup.”

In the weeks leading up to the President’s Cup, originally scheduled for April 3-5 at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City, the team remained optimistic that they still would be able to compete somehow.

“With the pandemic developing rapidly, in the middle of March, it became clear we would not play the President’s Cup in New York City,” said International Grandmaster Andrii Baryshpolets, a doctoral candidate in agricultural and applied economics from Kyiv, Ukraine. “However, we had serious hopes to play the tournament online, and we know the head coaches and the organizers did their best to make this idea work.”

Ultimately, conducting the tournament online was not a feasible option.

“We had a team meeting with Alex on Zoom,” Shtembuliak said. “I figured something was wrong because Alex looked quite upset. He told us the tournament was canceled. This is like a nightmare for any competitor. You dedicate most of your time to training to show your best performance, and then you are told you will not even get a chance to perform. It still makes me sad. We had the big plans for the President’s Cup. It could have been an excellent opportunity to show Texas Tech’s dominance in American chess again.”

By the time the team members got the news, the Texas Tech campus was also in distance mode, with all in-person classes and campus events canceled until further notice.

“Moving the tournament online was almost impossible because not only was our campus closed, but all the campuses of the teams that qualified for the President’s Cup were also closed,” Onischuk said. “So, unfortunately, we couldn’t do it this semester, and since the fall is already part of the next season, it was decided to cancel it instead of rescheduling.”

Receiving the Chess College of the Year award helped the team deal with the loss of the tournament.

“I’m happy about it, of course, and I feel we deserve this award,” said FIDE Master Aleksei Sorokin, a foundational engineering major from Barnaul, Russia. “Our team showed incredible results at the Pan-American Championships, thanks to the great support of our program and all the excellent opportunities to train and practice.”

“At this point, I can just study hard and keep working on chess,” Sorokin said. “I hope someday life will go back to normal and face-to-face classes and chess tournaments will resume.”

Baryshpolets said as a doctoral student, he feels his day-to-day life hasn’t changed quite as much as some of his team members.

“Most of the time, I work on my research, and I just had to organize a working place at home instead of coming to my department’s office,” he said. “But I really miss in-person trainings and meetings with my teammates and friends. It’s really great to be named the Chess College of the Year. It was a collective success, and I want to thank all our chess team members, our coach, Alex, and the Chess Program staff for being one big chess family here at Texas Tech.”

Vorontsov said it’s important to stay healthy and be ready for life post-pandemic.

“In terms of chess preparation, our team has been doing a lot of activities to maintain good physical shape, which is quite important for chess players,” Vorontsov said. “Retreats to Buffalo Springs Lake used to be a weekly thing. Last year, Coach Alex and I ran the full Lubbock Mayor’s Marathon, which, unfortunately, was canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, in the future, we are planning to do a biking trip together as a team. Once the pandemic is over, we will be even stronger and ready for new successes.”

While competing at the 2020 President’s Cup is out of the question, Onischuk said other upcoming tournaments have the potential to be held virtually.

“We are going to stay busy; chess can be played online,” Onischuk said. “Right now, the US Chess College Committee, along with chess directors and coaches, are developing new regulations including eligibility and fair-play rules for online chess. I expect Texas Tech to play in three big tournaments this fall, the U.S. Collegiate Blitz and Rapid, the Texas Collegiate Super Finals and the Pan-American Championships online.”

Locally, the Knight Raiders have started hosting online K-12 tournaments, with the first two held in May.

“In the first one ever, we had exactly 125 kids online,” Onischuk said. “The majority of the kids were from Lubbock, Plainview and other areas around here, but we also had quite a few kids from other parts of Texas, even California and Oklahoma. We’re still doing outreach; the interest is very high and I think we can actually grow from this.

“Hopefully, when we get back to normal, we’ll still keep the momentum. Our kids from Lubbock, our scholastic players, they get to play against the international players or against kids from other parts of the country. We get to promote Texas Tech and then people outside of Texas or outside of the U.S. learn about our program and about Texas Tech. I think it’s pretty cool.”

Texas A&M Remembers Juneteenth as a Day of Liberty, Remembrance

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After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved Africans on January 1, 1863, life seemed to go on as normal in Texas. By the time it took the news to make its way to the westernmost state of the Confederacy, 2 1/2 years had passed.

Rebecca Hankins, a Texas A&M University professor and Africana Studies specialist at Cushing Library, said many slave owners fled to Texas when they saw the Union was winning the Civil War, seeing it as a sanctuary and place where they could maintain their social status. It was not until Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas that these slaves learned they had been freed years earlier.

Beyond geographic factors, the Emancipation Proclamation had not been enforced in Texas because there was a lack of Union soldiers in the state to enforce the order, Hankins said. Thousands of slaves finally learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865 when Granger read General Order No. 3 declaring that “all slaves are free.”

Scores of white slave owners abandoned their land to Union soldiers, Hankins said. Many of the newly-freed dragged their cabins away from their former slave quarters and into fields in celebration. The women no longer were reduced to field labor, she said, allowing them to devote time to childcare and their own homes.

One-hundred and fifty-five years later, Juneteenth is observed as a day of shared prayer, food and celebration. And while it is still celebrated today, largely by African Americans, it’s often viewed as a Texas-centered event and not taught in history textbooks across the United States.

Hankins said this was largely due to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was founded in 1894 to commemorate the Confederacy by erecting monuments and memorials. The group was successful in working with legislatures and school committees to change the narrative of the Confederacy to focus on states’ rights, the “Lost Cause” ideology and heroism, she said.

“They pushed to erect statues of Confederate symbols and generals all throughout the country, and pushed to change textbook portrayal of enslaved Africans as happy and docile in plantation life, but savage and immoral as freed people,” Hankins said.

Juneteenth was made a state holiday in Texas by a bill authored by African American State Rep. Al Edwards in 1979. Many other states also now recognize Juneteenth – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced earlier this week that he was making it holiday in the state that once was home to the capital of the Confederacy – but is not a national holiday.

In the corporate world, a growing number of companies including Twitter, Uber and Nike recently announced they will observe June 19 as a company holiday amid the recent nationwide demonstrations for racial equality.

Of the current protests surrounding racial justice following the death of George Floyd, Hankins said what most sets apart this movement from those of previous decades is the large participation by non-black Americans.

“I think that’s a really significant development that I think will maintain the momentum, and I am really proud to see that there are people educating themselves and understanding that racial injustice is a terrible thing and we need to make changes,” she said.

And while there’s growing recognition of the historic moment, Hankins said, it’s important to push for structural changes rather than leaning on platitudes when observing Juneteenth.

“Where are the reparations for the descendants of those Africans who endured slavery and received nothing in return? These are the issues that we should be reflecting on this holiday,” Hankins said. “How can we make amends and right all of the wrongs inflicted on African American citizens?”

University of Houston Seeks to Honor Victims of Santa Fe High School Shooting with Memorial

HONORING THE SANTA FE TEN

Anguish and grief gripped the country on May 18, 2018 when eight students and two teachers at Santa Fe High School were killed. With many still reeling today, the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design is working hand-in-hand with the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation to design a memorial commemorating the lives lost.

The Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation consists of victims’ loved ones, community members and Santa Fe High School teachers and counselors who share a common mission – to design and build a memorial on the high school campus remembering, honoring and celebrating those who died, as well as all individuals impacted by the tragedy.

“Our intention is to develop a community memorial for all that incorporates symbolism and artistry and demonstrates our unwavering commitment to honor and value human life,” said Megan Grove, chair of the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation. “We are deeply grateful for the collaboration and support we have received from the participating families, Santa Fe community, UH leaders, faculty and students to design a memorial that is unlike any other.”

“This has been a transformative experience…”

Students in the UH Graduate Design/Build Studio led by professors Patrick Peters and Jason Logan spent seven weeks working on the design symbolizing the everlasting strength and spirit of the Santa Fe Ten. On June 15, the Santa Fe Independent School District (SFISD) Board of Trustees unanimously approved their initial concept design and praised the joint effort between foundation members and UH.

“Collaborating with our communities is core to our mission,” said Patricia Belton Oliver, FAIA, dean of the UH Hines College. “This has been a transformative experience for our students and faculty who have worked alongside community leaders and families of the victims to design a lasting and inspiring memorial for the Santa Fe community.”

A Space for Healing, Honoring ‘Our Angels’

Since the devastating loss more than two years ago, Santa Fe community members have needed a space for healing and as Robin Treat, mother of Angelique Ramirez put it, “… to honor the angels and remember them for generations to come.” Treat wants visitors to remember her daughter the way family and friends do. “I want them to be encouraged by the way she lived her life and be inspired by her compassion and love for everyone.”

Gail McLeod says she wants everyone to know her son Kyle was a talented and caring young man who was taken from this world too soon. But she also wants to make sure people who visit the memorial feel a sense of peace.

“We are humbled and forever touched by the family and committee that allowed us to work with them.”
Hannah Hemmer, UH architecture student
Guided by the vision of the victims’ family members and taking inspiration from other memorials across the country, UH Master of Architecture students aimed to design a memorial appropriately representing the profound impact of the tragedy on the tight-knit city. For the UH students, it was a tremendously eye-opening, emotional and transformative experience.

“There are moments in our history that are difficult to honor in design,” said UH architecture student Hannah Hemmer. “Though the tragedy that inspired the memorial for the Santa Fe Ten is something one would hope never happens again, we are humbled and forever touched by the family and committee that allowed us to work with them.” rendering of the entrance to the memorial from the community parking lot will be marked with identity bend on the left and donor bench on the right.

“We Come Here to Remember”

The memorial design encompasses two main areas – the Meditative Grove and the Sacred Space within it. An infinite loop forms the Meditative Grove symbolizing the everlasting legacy and spirit of the Ten and also allows for reflection and preparation for encountering the Sacred Space.

Upon entering the Sacred Space, an open room created in the natural earth, the inscribed quote, “We Come Here to Remember,” invites visitors to reflect on the Ten through uniquely shaped feather monuments. Each feather is folded by age and coordinates of the birthplace or hometown of the victims. The center stone will say, “Defined not by a day, but instead by the strength within us.”

Personal memories provided by families adorn the monuments, giving visitors insight into each individual’s life and how they impacted others with their kindness, compassion and courage.

Chris Stone demonstrated courage beyond his years while saving the lives of other students and sacrificing his own that tragic day. His mother, Rosie Stone, said “he is a hero to many.” She would like for those visiting the memorial to get a glimpse of the amazing individual her son was. “His love and compassion should be shared with the world, it’s something we need more of in this day and time.”

Shannan Claussen, mother of Christian Riley Garcia, wants people to know her son was a true hero in every sense of the word. “He always valued others and went out of his way to make others feel loved, special, safe and accepted. He knew how to put God first and others above himself. His selflessness, even with his last breath and action earned Christian a Congressional Medal of Honor Young Hero Award,” Claussen said.

“I commend the strength of these parents and families. As a parent myself, I could not imagine the range of emotions they felt during this process,” said UH architecture student Courtney Warren-Williams. “Although challenging, I enjoyed the opportunity to work creatively alongside my peers, as well as the foundation members. Creating a space for these families who are forever connected was a truly humbling and rewarding experience.”

In this sketch, UH student Courtney Warren-Williams worked with the idea of a double infinity loop that symbolized an infinite connection between those lost with their families, survivors and community. The infinity loops would allow families to visit their loved one with privacy while also still being visible from the main highway.

Each feather is folded by age and coordinates of the birthplace or hometown of the victims. The center stone will say, “Defined not by a day, but instead by the strength within us.”

The memorial’s center stone will be inscribed with the phrase, “Defined not by a day, but instead by the strength within us.”

Rice Looks to Enrich Students’ Lives with Center for African and African-American Studies

Upon its introduction last November, Rice’s Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) made two big promises: Within a year, the center would create a new minor expanding on the previous African Studies minor and develop an introductory African and African American studies (AAAS) course to anchor it.

Less than a year later, the new minor and new intro course have already arrived.

The minor and “Knowing Blackness: Introduction to African and African American Studies” will be available to undergraduates starting in the fall 2020 semester. Composed of 18 credit hours, the minor covers a broad spectrum of AAAS topics, from African prehistory to African American-Jewish relations.

But that’s not all. CAAAS has also developed a new graduate certificate program that will equip students with the expertise to teach and perform further research in African and African American studies by placing students within a larger national conversation.

Anthony Pinn, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of religion, is also the founding director of CAAAS. The joint venture between the School of Humanities and the School of Social Sciences was able to hit the ground running, Pinn said, thanks in large part to the amount of coursework already being produced between the two schools and their faculty.

“We had an existing arrangement of courses that cut across the humanities and the social sciences that really gives students some interesting topics to think about,” Pinn said of the coursework under the previous African Studies minor. The new AAAS minor includes 72 different classes across 10 departments and programs.

“We had so much rich material to pull from it wasn’t a matter of having to start from scratch,” Pinn said. “So what we really needed was an opportunity to think through how to best arrange those courses and then develop an intro course.”

That intro course will be taught by Alexander Byrd, associate professor of history and associate dean of humanities, a multiple-award-winning educator and Rice’s newest Piper Professor. Additional courses will be taught by Rice’s ever-growing staff of Africanists and expand into such important areas as the intersection of race and medicine, feminist and queer theory in the African diaspora, and Francophone African cultural studies.

“I think one of the things we learned through putting this minor together was that we have a rather significant group of faculty doing some really interesting things in the classroom,” Pinn said.

The graduate certificate is another way for students to take advantage of those courses while offering significant funding for future AAAS work.

Graduate students who successfully complete the certificate program receive a one-time stipend in the amount of $5,000. And grad students participating in the program are eligible to apply for travel and research grants of up to $1,000 per calendar year to defray costs related to African and African American studies.

As with the minor, the graduate certificate requires students to take coursework across multiple departments and two schools.

“For some of the students, it’s confirmation of the kind of intellectual work they’ve been interested in since arriving at Rice, if not before,” Pinn said. “So it’s a way for them to value that and to connect beyond their individual silos, right? We tend to do graduate work within the context of departments — and within those departments, within small cohorts of students.”

Through required colloquiums — three will be held each semester, with six required for the certificate — and other opportunities to present their research, grad students will be able to connect beyond their departments and find commonalities across divisions. Pinn anticipates the certificate program will be yet another valuable contribution to the close-knit graduate student community at Rice as well as the world at large.

“I think what graduate students at Rice often do is to reach out and form community around social and cultural issues, to find folks who are not simply like-minded, but who also look like them, have experienced the world like them, are dealing with the same sort of race and gender and class issues,” Pinn said.

“And so, this certificate adds another layer to that,” he said. “And does it in an intentional way that expands beyond connecting with folks who get your social circumstances or who get your cultural background, but it’s also offering the ability to connect with folks around longstanding and deeply important intellectual endeavors.”

Beetle That Can Survive in Volcanic Areas Inspires New Cooling Materials

Photograph of a longhorn beetle-2 (1)[2] copy

A type of beetle capable of regulating its body temperature in some of the hottest places on Earth is the centerpiece of new research with major potential implications for cooling everything from buildings to electronic devices in an environmentally friendly manner.

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, with teams from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, have discovered new information about a species of longicorn beetle that can cool its body enough to survive in volcanic areas in Southeast Asia. They used that information to create a photonic film based on the beetle’s wing structure using common, flexible materials that are mechanically strong and can be manufactured on a large scale. The film passively cools, meaning it doesn’t take up energy like the systems we use to keep temperatures down in our cars and buildings.

The findings were published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Anywhere that needs cooling, this can help,” said Yuebing Zheng, an associate professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Refrigerators, air conditioners and other methods consume large amounts of energy, but this is cooling by itself.”

The team found that its film reduced temperatures of items in direct sunlight by as much as 5.1 degrees Celsius, more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

The film, which would work as a coating on top of objects, could have a wide array of uses. It could be put on top of windows in office and apartment buildings to reflect sunlight and keep energy bills down. It could protect solar panels from being degraded by constant sunlight exposure. It could be wrapped around cars to keep them cool while parked. And it could be a key ingredient in novel cooling fabrics, wearables and personal electronics.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects a significant jump in air conditioning consumption by 2050 — a 59% growth in the residential sector and a 17% increase in commercial use. As the need for more cooling rises, so does the necessity for a new solution that doesn’t consume mass amounts of energy or put a strain on the environment.

The cooling prowess of the beetle was previously known, but what made it so effective at regulating its temperature remained a mystery. The team found that the triangular “fluffs” on its wings play an important role, reflecting sunlight while helping shed internal body heat at the same time.

Longicorn beetles, also known as longhorn beetles, stand out because of their long antennae, sometimes three times the length of the rest of their bodies. There are more than 26,000 species of longicorn beetles.

This research focuses on a specific species of the beetle, Neocerambyx Gigas. It can survive in scorching hot climates near active volcanoes in Thailand and Indonesia, where summer temperatures frequently top 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit), and the ground heats up to 70 C (158 F). When it gets hot, the beetles remain still and stop foraging to avoid taking on any excess heat from movement.

The film the team created is made of PDMS, a flexible, widely used polymer, along with some high throughput ceramic particles. Because of the common materials used and the simple process for manufacturing the film, known as micro-stamping, Zheng believes the project will succeed where some other research seeking to replicate biological effects has failed.

“A lot of time, mimicking the biology doesn’t work at a larger scale because of high costs and stringent manufacturing requirements,” Zheng said.

Going forward, the research team is working to further optimize the manufacturing process for large-scale production. They will also seek commercialization opportunities in several areas, including energy-efficient buildings, water cooling systems, thermal fabrics, desert dew water harvesting devices and supplemental cooling systems for power plants.

UT Researchers Find Egg Could of Belonged to Extinct Sea Lizard

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In 2011, Chilean scientists discovered a mysterious fossil in Antarctica that looked like a deflated football. For nearly a decade, the specimen sat unlabeled and unstudied in the collections of Chile’s National Museum of Natural History, with scientists identifying it only by its sci-fi movie-inspired nickname – “The Thing.”

An analysis led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin has found that the fossil is a giant, soft-shell egg from about 66 million years ago. Measuring in at more than 11 by 7 inches, the egg is the largest soft-shell egg ever discovered and the second-largest egg of any known animal.

The specimen is the first fossil egg found in Antarctica and pushes the limits of how big scientists thought soft-shell eggs could grow. Aside from its astounding size, the fossil is significant because scientists think it was laid by an extinct, giant marine reptile, such as a mosasaur — a discovery that challenges the prevailing thought that such creatures did not lay eggs.

“It is from an animal the size of a large dinosaur, but it is completely unlike a dinosaur egg,” said lead author Lucas Legendre, a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. “It is most similar to the eggs of lizards and snakes, but it is from a truly giant relative of these animals.”

A study describing the fossil egg was published in Nature on June 17.

Co-author David Rubilar-Rogers of Chile’s National Museum of Natural History was one of the scientists who discovered the fossil in 2011. He showed it to every geologist who came to the museum, hoping somebody had an idea, but he didn’t find anyone until Julia Clarke, a professor in the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, visited in 2018.

“I showed it to her and, after a few minutes, Julia told me it could be a deflated egg!” Rubilar-Rogers said.

Using a suite of microscopes to study samples, Legendre found several layers of membrane that confirmed that the fossil was indeed an egg. The structure is very similar to transparent, quick-hatching, eggs laid by some snakes and lizards today, he said. However, because the fossil egg is hatched and contains no skeleton, Legendre had to use other means to zero in on the type of reptile that laid it.

He compiled a data set to compare the body size of 259 living reptiles to the size of their eggs, and he found that the reptile that laid the egg would have been more than 20 feet long from the tip of its snout to the end of its body, not counting a tail. In both size and living reptile relations, an ancient marine reptile fits the bill.

Adding to that evidence, the rock formation where the egg was discovered also hosts skeletons from baby mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, along with adult specimens.

“Many authors have hypothesized that this was sort of a nursery site with shallow protected water, a cove environment where the young ones would have had a quiet setting to grow up,” Legendre said.

The paper does not discuss how the ancient reptile might have laid the eggs. But the researchers have two competing ideas.

One involves the egg hatching in the open water, which is how some species of sea snakes give birth. The other involves the reptile depositing the eggs on a beach and hatchlings scuttling into the ocean like baby sea turtles. The researchers say that this would demand some fancy maneuvering by the mother because giant marine reptiles were too heavy to support their body weight on land. Laying the eggs would require the reptile to wriggle its tail on shore while staying mostly submerged, and supported, by water.

“We can’t exclude the idea that they shoved their tail end up on shore because nothing like this has ever been discovered,” Clarke said.

The study’s other co-authors are Clarke, Jackson School graduate students Sarah Davis and Grace Musser, and Rodrigo Otero and Alexander Vargas of the University of Chile. Rubilar-Rogers led the expedition organized by the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH) in the Antarctic Peninsula, where he and Otero discovered the fossil.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Program and the National Research and Development Agency of Chile funded the research.

UT-Arlington on Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

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Juneteenth, a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” has been a day of celebration for more than 150 years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The University of Texas at Arlington hosted online events to celebrate its significance.

The day commemorates June 19, 1865, when news of the federal order ending slavery in the United States reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas—more than two months after the end of the Civil War and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January 1863.

Pamela Safisha Hill, adjunct professor of social work and faculty affiliate with the Center for African American Studies, led a discussion on UTA’s School of Social Work Facebook page.

“Juneteenth is the official Independence Day for black people,” Hill said. “It started out as small community gatherings, and as people migrated from Texas to other parts of the world, they took the celebration with them. This year is historic, though, because everyone on the planet who watches the news has heard the word Juneteenth. This year will mark the year that the masses of black folk will celebrate Juneteenth.”

The Facebook discussion encompassed both distant and recent history, beginning with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and continuing to current events, including the Black Lives Matter movement and issues in higher education.

In a separate commemoration, the Office of Multicultural Affairs held an online trivia and paint night. The virtual event also explained the significance of Juneteenth and celebrated by painting the Juneteenth flag and playing trivia.

“While as a nation we have come so far since June 19, 1865, we have so much farther to go,” said Melanie Johnson, Multicultural Affairs director. “As a community we are committed to become educated and action-oriented to create inclusive and equitable change.”

The original Juneteenth flag, a unique symbol of American freedom and black history, was created in 1997 by the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation founder, Ben Haith. It uses the colors of red, white and blue—present in the flags for both the United States and Texas—to symbolize that enslaved Africans were in fact Americans. The flag includes an exaggerated star of Texas with a zig zag—“a burst of freedom,” Johnson explained.

Exclusive historical artifacts and photographs about Juneteenth and Texas history are available through the UTA Libraries and its Special Collections. One example is an engraving from the Dec. 16, 1865 edition of the popular New York illustrated newspaper Harper’s Weekly. It depicts Elizabeth Street in Brownsville, Texas, and was based upon a photograph taken just after the end of the Civil War.

“The image is a reminder that Texans of all races today should embrace Juneteenth not only as a time to celebrate the end of slavery in Texas, but also as a time to reflect upon the long and continuing struggle for racial harmony in America,” said Ben Huseman, cartographic archivist for the UT Arlington Libraries.