Life & Letters Living Off His Mind P.23 Dell Medicalâ€™s First Class P.26
Why are African Americans Leaving Austin? P.18
Joseph Schooling, a UT Austin economics junior, won Singaporeâ€™s first-ever Olympic gold medal beating Michael Phelps in the Menâ€™s 100m Butterfly Final at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016. Photo: Francois-Xavier Marit/Getty Images
Contents Fall 2016
Leaving Home Austin’s Declining African American Population
UT Austin researchers deconstruct the reasons so many African Americans are moving away.
2 Dean’s Message 3 Knowledge Matters
A look at the college’s top news, research and achievements.
12 The Cost of Crime
The Future of Crime and Punishment author William Kelly lays out a plan for fixing a broken criminal justice system. FEATURE STORY
Living Off His Mind
Angelbert Metoyer’s Patient Pursuit to Understand Artist-in-residence mounts a solo exhibition in the Warfield Center’s Christian-Green Gallery.
14 Books 16 Events
A sampling of notable happenings in our campus community.
32 Pro Bene Meritis
Q&As with our 2016 recipients of the college’s highest honor for outstanding service and contribution. FEATURE STORY
First Class Rethinking Health Care Through the Liberal Arts
Three liberal arts alumni begin their journey as part of Dell Medical School’s inaugural class.
ON THE COVER: Illustration by Jun Cen. BACK COVER: Prayer flags hug the cliffs at Taktsang Monastery, or Tiger’s Nest, in Paro, Bhutan. Photo by Alison Simerly, Geography and Plan II ’15, who received honorable mention in the Geography Awareness Week Photo Contest, sponsored by the Department of Geography & the Environment.
38 We’re Not Going to Eat It
Researchers suggest channeling teens’ appetite for rebellion to improve nutrition.
40 Transforming the World Through Trade
The Acapulco-Manila: The Galleon, Asia and Latin America, 1565–1815 exhibit explores 2½ centuries of trade between the Americas and Asia during the rule of the Spanish Empire.
Life & Letters
DE ANĘźS MESSAGE
The College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin publishes Life & Letters for its community of scholars, alumni and friends. College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy L. Diehl Director of Public Affairs David A. Ochsner
Commitment to Serve the Greater Good
During my 41 years at The University of Texas at Austin, Iâ€™ve had the good fortune to teach and work with many talented and dedicated students who have not only gone on to rewarding careers, but have also generously given back to society. Two of our students, Danielle Brown and Olivia Migacz, were selected as the first recipients of the new Randy Diehl Prize in Liberal Arts because of their commitment to serve the greater good. The generosity of five anonymous donors helped to establish this prize, which I believe really speaks to the core mission of our college and the university: to transform lives for the benefit of society. The Diehl Prize encourages liberal arts graduates to use their communication skills and their knowledge of other cultures, histories, philosophies and literature to effect a positive change in the world. It supports a graduating senior who commits the year after graduation to serving the greater good by either creating or working for a nonprofit organization or by working in a for-profit organization that benefits the work of nonprofits. Although the award is intended for one student each year, Danielle and Olivia so inspired the donors that they elected to contribute additional funds to award two $13,000 prizes. Olivia is an English and UTeach-Liberal Arts alumna from Grand Prairie, Texas, who has committed to Teach for America for two years and is now teaching English language arts and social studies at a charter school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Danielle is a Rhetoric & Writing alumna from Austin who moved to Bangkok, Thailand, in September to work as a volunteer and teacher for the nonprofit organization Courageous Kitchen, which aids asylumseekers in the country. I am sure all of you share my pride in the commitment of these two students, as well as the many other graduates of the College of Liberal Arts who work daily to improve lives in communities around the world.
Editor Michelle Bryant Art Direction & Design Allen F. Quigley Copy Editor Adam Deutsch Contributing Writers Victoria Davis Rachel Griess Emily Nielsen Contributing Photographers Hakeem Adewumi Brian Birzer Wyatt McSpadden Marsha Miller Emily Nielsen Contributing Illustrators Jun Cen Valerie Lopez Eric Moe George Wylesol Visit us online at lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Postmaster Send changes of address to: Life & Letters College of Liberal Arts 116 Inner Campus Dr., Stop G6000 Austin, TX 78712-1257 Follow us facebook.com/UTLiberalArts twitter.com/LiberalArtsUT youtube.com/LiberalArtsUT
Randy L. Diehl, Dean David Bruton, Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts
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Solving an Ice-Cold Case How Lucy Died Anthropology By Rachel Griess
Sharp, clean breaks on the right arm of the oldest, most famous fossil of a human ancestor reopened the coldest cold case in human evolution. Lucy, a 3.18-million-year-old specimen of Australopithecus afarensis — or “southern ape of Afar” — is among the oldest, most complete skeletons of any adult, erectwalking human ancestor. Since her discovery in the Afar region of Ethiopia in 1974, two questions remain: Did her species spend any time in trees, and how did she die? During her U.S. exhibit tour in 2008, Lucy detoured to the High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility in the Jackson School of Geosciences — a machine
UT Austin professor John Kappelman with 3-D printouts of Lucy’s skeleton, illustrating the compressive fractures in her right humerus that she suffered at the time of her death 3.18 million years ago.
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Lucy’s distal radius undergoes computed tomographic scanning.
“When the extent of Lucy’s multiple injuries first came into focus, her image popped into my mind’s eye, and I felt a jump of empathy across time and space.” John Kappelman
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designed to scan through rock-solid materials at a higher resolution than medical CT scans can. For 10 days, anthropology professor John Kappelman and geological sciences professor Richard Ketcham carefully scanned and created a digital archive of Lucy’s 40-percent-complete skeleton. Studying the CT scans years later, Kappelman noticed something unusual: The end of the right humerus was fractured in a manner not normally seen in fossils, preserving a series of sharp, clean breaks with tiny bone fragments and slivers still in place. Kappelman, whose findings are published in Nature, identified the damage as a textbook case of a four-part proximal humerus fracture — a “compressive fracture [that] results when the hand hits the ground during a fall, impacting the elements of the shoulder against one another to create a unique signature on the humerus,” says Kappelman, who consulted and confirmed his hypothesis with Dr. Stephen Pearce, an orthopedic surgeon at Austin Bone and Joint Clinic, using a modern human-scale, 3-D printed model of Lucy. Her skeleton contained similar but less severe fractures at the left shoulder and other compressive fractures, including a pilon fracture of the right ankle, a fractured left knee and pelvis, and even more subtle evidence, such as a fractured first rib — “a hallmark of severe trauma” — all consistent with fractures caused by a fall. Without any evidence of healing, Kappelman concluded the breaks occurred perimortem, or near the time of death. The question remained: How could Lucy have achieved the height necessary to produce such a highvelocity fall and forceful impact? Kappelman argued that because of her small size — about 3 feet 6 inches and 60 pounds — Lucy probably foraged and sought nightly refuge in trees. In comparing her behavior with average chimpanzee nesting and foraging heights, Kappelman suggested Lucy probably fell from a height of more than 40 feet, hitting the ground at more than 35 miles per hour. Based on the pattern of breaks, he hypothesized that she landed feetfirst before falling forward, bracing herself with her arms, and “death followed swiftly.” “When the extent of Lucy’s multiple injuries first came into focus, her image popped into my mind’s eye, and I felt a jump of empathy across time and space,” Kappelman says. “Lucy was no longer simply a box of bones, but in death became a real individual: a small, broken body lying helpless at the bottom of a tree.” Kappelman conjectured that because Lucy was both terrestrial and arboreal, features that permitted her to move efficiently on the ground may have compromised her ability to climb trees, predisposing her species to more frequent falls. Using fracture patterns when present, future research may tell a more complete story of how ancient species lived and died.
Sociology, Population Research Center and Women’s & Gender Studies
Gotta Hook ’em All
Plan II Honors
The Pokémon Go app is the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, reaching more than $500 million in revenue and more than 500 million downloads in its first 63 days, according to market researcher App Annie. So what is it about the game that has millions of people around the world hooked? “Real-life stuff,” says John Hanke, a Plan II alumnus (ʼ89) and CEO of Niantic, the game’s developer. In the location-based augmented reality game, mobile users interact with other players to search, catch, battle and train virtual Pokémon. In an interview with Business Insider, Hanke said the Niantic team had three main goals when building the game: to promote exercise, to encourage people to explore their surroundings and to meet new people. As a Plan II student, Hanke completed a challenging interdisciplinary arts and science honors major. The Plan II program teaches students to solve problems and to write and think critically and analytically — skills applicable to any game developer with a goal to create something new and different.
Education leaders have clashed over how to prepare high schoolers for jobs in the 21st century, debating whether curricula should focus more on college preparation or vocational training. In a study published in the American Sociological Review, sociology alumna April Sutton, Ph.D. candidate Amanda Bosky and professor Chandra Muller considered whether high school graduates in blue-collar communities — and particularly those in the top 25 percentile — benefit from an emphasis on vocational training in high school. Researchers found that blue-collar training without a strong college-preparatory curriculum reduced students’ likelihood of enrolling in a four-year college and increased gender disparities among millennials in this labor market. In the sample, male students enrolled in greater numbers of blue-collar-related vocational courses in high school, had higher rates of blue-collar employment, and earned comparable wages relative to men who attended high school in non-blue-collar communities. Women in the sample, however, were less likely to be employed, let alone work in professional occupations, and earned far less than their female counterparts from non-blue-collar communities. Among female high school graduates ages 25-28 in blue-collar jobs, the hourly gender wage gap was 22 percent, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar men earn — a striking disparity for a millennial cohort of women for whom the average pay gap has substantially narrowed, Sutton says. “We rarely see such a clear snapshot of how gender differences emerge and are linked to what high schools teach,” says Muller, research associate in the Population Research Center and associate faculty member in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
Social Activism Inspires Truman Scholar Liberal Arts Honors, Humanities Program
A passion for learning and public service inspires Zoraima Pelaez, a Liberal Arts Honors (LAH) and humanities senior who was named a 2016 Truman scholar. Pelaez is a first-generation American and the first in her family to attend college. After high school, she excelled as a hair and makeup artist before enrolling at Austin Community College, then transferring to UT Austin in spring 2015. She joined the Humanities and LAH programs — allowing her to design her own major, which emphasized public policy, communication studies and women’s rights — and became heavily involved on campus with Texas Freedom Network, Junior Fellows, Texas Policy Evaluation Project and the Archer Fellowship Program, a full-semester internship in Washington, D.C. “What impresses me about Zoraima as a student is her drive and steely determination,” says LAH director Larry Carver. “She has worked hard to get to UT Austin, knows what a privilege it is to be here and wants to take advantage of every opportunity.” Off campus, Pelaez volunteers for a variety of community organizations and political campaigns. She plans to apply the Truman scholarship to law school expenses after graduation. “As someone who never expected to even attend college, winning the Truman scholarship has emboldened me to continue my work fighting for the rights of others, so that they too may be able to overcome barriers to their success, however they so choose to define it,” Pelaez says. Congress created the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation — a living memorial to the 33rd U.S. president — in 1975 to identify and support the next generation of public service leaders and “change agents.” This year, the foundation awarded 54 students nationwide with a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and professional development opportunities.
Sharing the Load
Psychology, Population Research Center
8 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
All students face challenges transitioning to college, whether struggling in a class or making friends. Students of color and first-generation students, however, often enter college facing negative stereotypes and knowing that their peers have historically been less successful in college. This can seed “toxic” worries, lessening their chances of collegiate success, researchers say. In a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, psychology assistant professor David Yeager suggests that incoming students who are exposed to common and improvable challenges become more likely to get involved on campus, build relationships and ultimately succeed at a higher rate. Researchers exposed 9,500 incoming college students at three institutions to stories from upperclassmen describing common social and academic challenges they faced coming to college that improved with time. Participants then reflected on why early challenges are routine, and what they expected to experience in their transitions. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds who completed the exercise online during the summer before their first year were more socially and academically integrated in college, more likely to complete the first year enrolled full time, less likely to fall into the bottom of the class and earned higher grades. “These studies provide an unparalleled test of the replicability and policy-relevance of such exercises to help students anticipate common challenges in the transition to college,” Yeager says.
Breaking Their Silence Women’s role in early American cinema is often overlooked, but English assistant professor Donna Kornhaber — recently named a 2016 Academy Film Scholar —hopes to change that with her research on female writers who shaped the American silent film industry. Kornhaber received a $25,000 grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Educational Grants Committee for her research proposal and forthcoming book, Women’s Work: The Female Screenwriter and the Development of Early American Film, which she says “will build on the remarkable efforts of recent feminist film historians in rewriting the history of early American cinema.” “While women contributed to nearly all aspects of the early film industry, they were a particularly powerful force in the creation of the scenarios and screenplays that fueled the development of Hollywood,” Kornhaber says. “A full half of all the films copyrighted in the United States between 1911 and 1925 were written by women.” She says women developed screenplays for various genres including the Hollywood epic. Anita Loos cranked out the scenario for D.W. Griffith’s 1916 Intolerance, and June Mathis, who discovered and launched the career of Rudolph Valentino, wrote the screenplay for 1925’s Ben Hur. Cecil B. DeMille, whose name is synonymous with epic filmmaking, relied on Jeanie Macpherson to write many of his silent features, including 1923’s The Ten Commandments. “A lot of content came from women of diverse backgrounds who brought their life experiences to the screen,” says Kornhaber. “It was more open in the early days. The levers of power hadn’t been established yet. They were simply looking for talent.” She adds that filmmaking changed with the advent of sound movies, which helped transform studios into major businesses. “By the 1930s, you begin to see complaints about ‘the tyranny of the woman writer,’ and many of the women screenwriters who had been so prominent in the decade before begin to lose their influence as the industry shifted around them.” Kornhaber joins 14 Academy film scholars who are currently working on projects and 15 other scholars whose works have already been published. Established in 1999, the Academy Film Scholars program is designed to support significant new works of film scholarship.
“She has written a brilliant, prize-winning book on Charlie Chaplin, she has just finished a new book on film director Wes Anderson, and now she has won a scholarly Oscar for her next project on female screenwriters: a truly amazing achievement,” says Elizabeth Cullingford, chair of the Department of English. “She embodies the kind of all-around scholarly and pedagogical excellence we most treasure in the English Department.”
Anita Loos and John Emerson reviewing an intertitle in 1919, the year they married.
“A lot of content came from women of diverse backgrounds who brought their life experiences to the screen. It was more open in the early days. The levers of power hadn’t been established yet. They were simply looking for talent.” Donna Kornhaber
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Deaths in Custody Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis
Sociology, Population Research Center
A new interactive online database provides the public full access to records on 6,913 deaths that have occurred in Texas state custody since 2005. The 11-year data set includes information about deaths in police interactions, jails and prisons, along with the deceased’s name, demographic information, time and place of death, cause of death, length of time in custody and a narrative submitted by a local custodian such as a sheriff or prison director. The database, texasjusticeinitiative.org, was launched by IUPRA postdoctoral fellow Amanda Woog and is designed to bring transparency to the state’s justice system and inform public policy. The interactive site allows users to filter through categories, such as demographics or cause of death, and isolate data sets. The California Attorney General’s Office debuted a similar site last year, but the Texas Justice Initiative site is unique in including both identifying and narrative information for each death to encourage research into complexities in the criminal justice system, Woog says. “The unprecedented compilation of data will, for the first time, permit comparison among jurisdictions’ incidents of custodial deaths over time,” says UT law professor Jennifer Laurin. “Combined with a readily usable format, these contributions put the Texas Justice Initiative on the national vanguard of open data and build accountability and trust between law enforcement and the communities they police.” Laurin is a member of the project’s advisory committee along with Michele Deitch, senior lecturer in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Kali Gross, a former UT Austin professor now at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Total Deaths in Custody Since 2005
Most homicides by police were categorized as “justifiable homicide.”
Natural Causes/Illness 70%
Source: Texas Justice Initiative Note: The numbers do not add up to 100% because they are rounded to the nearest percentage point.
Accidental Injury 2% Alcohol/Drug Intoxication 4% Justifiable Homicide 8%
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Communities of gun owners may be reshaping democracy, according to ongoing ethnographic research by sociologist Harel Shapira, one of 33 scholars nationwide to receive the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. Shapira, an assistant professor of sociology, was selected for his research that explores the ideas, lifestyles and experiences of people in gun-owning communities. He began his research in gun schools, which he regards as educational entities that socialize people into gun culture. Shapira investigates what drives people to join these gun-owning communities and how these communities not only shape and transform individuals drawn to gun culture, but also society at large. “We are seeing individuals taking on the roles of government when it comes to self-defense and issues of enforcement of the law,” Shapira says. “What does an armed society hold for the future of America’s democracy?” Each year, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awards fellows with up to $200,000 for scholarly research and writing aimed at addressing some of the world’s most urgent challenges to democracy and international order. “It’s a tremendous honor. The most valuable thing you can give a researcher is time to do research and write,” says Shapira, who will publish a book on his research. “It provides me with a sense that people care about this topic and want me to do this kind of research.”
“What does an armed society hold for the future of America’s democracy?” Harel Shapira
New Provost Joins American Studies American Studies
Maurie McInnis, a renowned scholar in the cultural history of American art in the colonial and antebellum South, became UT Austin’s new executive vice president and provost in July and also received a faculty appointment in the Department of American Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. McInnis’ scholarship focuses on the relationship between politics and art in early America. Her most recent book, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade, was awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Book Prize from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as the Library of Virginia Literary Award for nonfiction. Her work engages with public history, and she has
worked regularly with museums and historic sites. “I was attracted to the university because of its commitment to excellence in research, scholarship and teaching, and because of the dedication of its world-class faculty, staff and students,” says McInnis, who previously served as vice provost for academic affairs and as a professor of art history at the University of Virginia. “I look forward to listening, to learning and to working with my colleagues to build on our many strengths as we work together in support of President Fenves’ vision for an ever bigger and brighter future for The University of Texas.”
“I was attracted to the university because of its commitment to excellence in research, scholarship and teaching, and because of the dedication of its world-class faculty, staff and students.” Maurie McInnis
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Smart Move Sociology, Population Research Center
Major Launch College of Liberal Arts
The College of Liberal Arts has launched two new undergraduate degrees this fall that focus
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on the environment and on the human and social aspects of organizations. The new majors, Sustainability Studies and Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO), will be interdisciplinary, with students taking courses from various departments in the College of Liberal Arts and from other campus
Sociologist Chandra Muller argues that migration shapes the national landscape — sometimes at the expense of equality of opportunity across labor markets. In a working paper presented at the American Sociological Association’s 111th Annual Meeting, Muller and her team of researchers analyzed the evolution of spatial inequality by examining the role of high school curriculum and performance in an individual’s decision to move by midlife. Using data from the High School and Beyond sophomore cohort — a nationally representative sample of 14,825 sophomores in 1,015 U.S. high schools initially surveyed in 1980 and surveyed again in 1984, 1986, 1992 and 2014 — researchers found that 36 percent of people moved across labor markets between high school and midlife, migrating an average distance of 676 miles. More specifically, high school students who completed higher levels of math, performed better academically, and had a greater sense of control of their future were more likely to migrate and work in labor markets with larger shares of college-educated workers. In the sample, individuals who had earned at least a bachelor’s degree lived in areas with larger shares of college-educated workers by midlife than their high school classmates who had not graduated from college. Having college-educated parents also predicted who lived in areas with a larger share of educated workers by midlife. “Indeed, the educational gradients in employment, health and many indicators of well-being have become steeper, and opportunities for intergenerational social mobility have declined,” says Muller, a research associate in the Population Research Center. “Although the data do not allow us to establish whether early skills and education cause migration and living in a labor market with a better economy, the evidence is consistent with the possibility.”
units. Sustainability Studies will focus on areas ranging from weather and climate to anthropology and urban studies, while HDO students will study how the liberal arts and social and behavioral sciences can address practical problems facing organizations. “Along with our recently established degrees in Health
and Society and in International Relations and Global Studies, these new majors put the College of Liberal Arts at the forefront of advancing curricula designed for students of today and tomorrow,” says Richard Flores, the college’s senior associate dean for academic affairs.
Pattons ‘Invest’ $20 Million in the Liberal Arts By David Ochsner
Sherri and Bobby Patton Jr. at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, prior to a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers on June 15, 2015.
Bobby Patton Jr. enjoyed matching wits with some of the university’s top professors when he was a Plan II Honors student back in the early 1980s, but after two years in the program he switched his major to business administration, perhaps thinking he needed a more career-oriented education. What he didn’t realize at the time was that Plan II was preparing him for a successful career as an investor in oil and gas, ranching, insurance, and even major league sports when he became part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. It was Plan II — a four-year interdisciplinary arts and science honors major in the College of Liberal Arts — that Patton says taught him how to be successful because it taught him how to think. “When I first came to UT, I thought being accepted into Plan II was the accomplishment. Liberal arts was not necessarily my focus,” says Patton. “But after I left UT I realized just how important liberal arts were to my life. They taught me how to learn and how to keep on learning.” That is why Patton and his wife, Sherri, are giving $20 million to the College of Liberal Arts to support faculty and graduate student endowments, as well as excellence funds to support priority programs and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates in research, leadership, study abroad and internship programs. “Since I’ve been able, I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful for The University of Texas. I like to call this an investment rather than a gift,” says Patton, whose mother, Nola Mae, was also in Plan II Honors. He said three or four of his professors also taught his mother, including the late Thomas Whitbread, who was an English professor. “I was a college baby — Mom was in college, Dad was in law school, so I guess I kind of attended Plan II twice,” he says. “UT was the only school I applied to, and I only applied to Plan II at her urging. Plan II was very inspirational in making this gift, so it is
“You could say I run a liberal arts business.” Bobby Patton Jr.
as much in her memory as it is in mine.” Patton says there is too much focus today on learning a vocation, and he wishes all college classes would be more like Plan II. He says he still has vivid memories of his Plan II classes and professors and the lessons he learned from them. If a student today asked his advice on a major, Patton says he would recommend history. “History gives us the benefit of hindsight; we learn lessons from the past that can be applied today. We can learn from our mistakes,” he says. “It is something you can apply throughout your life.”
He says studying English is also important, not only in developing reading and writing skills, but also in learning how to weigh opposing ideas and consider consequences rather than simply jumping to conclusions. “You can’t just state something and say that it’s true. That’s why you read history and literature — you read to support your arguments. Otherwise it’s just conjecture.” He added that the study of liberal arts is important because it “teaches us to be more than followers, to be more than a bunch of lemmings. It teaches us how to think.” Patton says he applies what he has learned in the liberal arts to how he conducts business. “I focus on buying good companies, but I’m not so much interested in what they do as how they do it,” he says. “Sometimes older companies just keep adding layers instead of solving the underlying problems. You need responsibility and accountability — you need to have a standard — and that’s something I demand because of my liberal arts education. You could say I run a liberal arts business.”
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The Cost of Crime By Michelle Bryant Illustration by Eric Moe
Despite crime rates being at a historic low, the United States is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve an 80 percent recidivism rate. We’ve spent $1 trillion during the past 40 years on criminal justice, not including $1 trillion more on the war on drugs. William Kelly, a professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, lays out a plan for fixing a broken criminal justice system illustrated by real-world examples in his latest book, The Future of Crime and Punishment: Smart Policies for Reducing Crime and Saving Money. “At the end of the day, I don’t see us making the kind of changes we need to make unless there is broad public support for it,” 12 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
says Kelly, who wrote his book to be accessible to a general audience of informed and interested readers. His book covers an array of issues that are interrelated to the bigger picture of crime — mental illness, substance abuse and public health —and what we can do about it.
Why Punishment Doesn’t Work for Everyone If you take a quick look at some of the prevalent characteristics of offenders who are in the criminal justice system, 40 percent have a mental illness and nearly 80 percent have a substance abuse disorder. Moreover, 60 percent of people in U.S. prisons have had at least one traumatic brain injury, which has
profound neurocognitive implications that bear directly on behavior and criminality. “The failure to appreciate all of that has lead us to unacceptably high recidivism rates,” Kelly says. “The reason punishment doesn’t work is because punishment does nothing to fix bipolar disorder. It does nothing to fix addiction. You can’t punish behavior out of people who don’t respond to punishment the way folks without those impairments and disorders do. “The unfortunate thing is this is not new,” Kelly says. “We’ve known this for some time now, but we still keep crossing our fingers and sending people up the river and assuming that’s going to make things better.” In fact, the deeper someone goes into
the criminal justice system or juvenile justice system, the higher the likelihood they will recidivate. Kelly recommends minimalizing contact with the justice system by addressing the reasons they are there in the first place by taking a more balanced approach: supervision and risk management on one hand, and treatment and intervention on the other. Another factor to consider is that the punishment continues well after release, because criminal offenders are faced with restricted access to housing, health care, employment, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and education. “One thing I want to be really clear about: I’m not apologizing for criminal offenders,” Kelly adds. “I’m not saying these are excuses. These are reasons, and in many situations these are correctable reasons.”
Tough on Crime Kelly writes in The Future of Crime and Punishment that our imprisonment rate of 716 per 100,000 U.S. residents far exceeds that of all other nations, including many that we probably consider rather punitive — Russia, China, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Singapore and South Africa. There are currently 10.1 million individuals incarcerated worldwide. If the rest of the world imprisoned people at a rate similar to that of the U.S., the world’s incarcerated population would increase fivefold to more than 53 million. Tough talk and tough language boil down to a focus on retribution and anger-based decision-making, says Kelly, who observes that when offenders do things that make us angry, we then respond with actions that are punitive. He doesn’t see the utility in this approach. “In my mind it makes a lot more sense to determine who we are truly afraid of, not just those who make us mad, and use expensive things like incarceration only for those who are realistically at risk of committing a serious crime,” Kelly says. The concept of being “tough on crime” is largely a function of our own personal experiences or the personal experiences of policymakers and elected officials for whom punishment generally works. “This is how we
“In my mind it makes a lot more sense to determine who we are truly afraid of, not just those who make us mad, and use expensive things like incarceration only for those who are realistically at risk of committing a serious crime.” William Kelly
Rowman & Littlefield, July 2016 By William R. Kelly, professor, Department of Sociology
are socialized by being corrected by parents, school teachers, church,” Kelly says. “And there is a lot to that logic except that it is applied to a population that is quite different from the policymakers who are making those decisions about punishment.” The political rhetoric and action during the past 50 years has been to be “tough on crime.” Sentencing reform dating back to the Nixon administration accelerated how many people go to prison and for how long. That included a move to limit the discretion of a judge in sentencing offenders and increase the amount of mandatory sentences and prescribed sentences. The sentence is attached to a charge, which in turn is attached to the control of a prosecutor. Kelly’s book includes real-world examples such as Travis Bourda, whose quarter of a pound of marijuana landed him a life without parole sentence due to Louisiana’s three-strikes law; or a 15-year-old girl Kelly interviewed in Brownwood, Texas, who had been repeatedly sexually abused by males in her extended family and was officially placed in juvenile prison due to truancy and minor property crimes. “When Nixon kicked this off, we were having historically high crime rates,” Kelly says of sentencing reform. “That has all gone
away. We now have historically low crime rates, but we are on that same trajectory of tough on crime.”
Who Is Ultimately Responsible? “All of the major decisions are made by prosecutors,” Kelly says. “I think most judges would tell you these days they don’t have nearly as much influence, discretion or power over things as prosecutors do.” Kelly describes a very disjointed system and culture within that system. There are too many silos between prosecution, courts and corrections. A judge can impose a sentence with a certain intention and whether that is ever carried out at the level of corrections is out of that judge’s control. Ultimately, Kelly says those silos lead to a gap in terms of responsibility. “If you have a gripe with the criminal justice system, who are you going to call? Who is in charge? Who is responsible for all this? I think the answer would be they’d be pointing fingers at each other,” Kelly says. “We don’t have those broad collective agreements about what we are trying to accomplishment here,” he concludes. “They will all say ‘public safety,’ but no one is willing to be the person who is ultimately responsible for making sure that it gets done.” lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 13
A sampling of new and forthcoming titles from our college community. Read more about books at UT Austin’s book blog: ShelfLife@Texas
Science, Culture and the Search for Life on Other Worlds Springer Publishing, Sept. 2016 By John Traphagan, Professor, Department of Religious Studies Traphagan considers the junction of science and culture with a focus on two main themes: the underlying assumptions — many tacitly based on common American cultural values — that have shaped the ways researchers in astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence have conceptualized their endeavor and represented ideas about the potential influence contact might have on human civilization; and the empirical evidence of the social impact that contact with alien intelligence might have for humanity.
Sustainable Security Rethinking American National Security Strategy Oxford University Press, Nov. 2016 Edited by Jeremi Suri, professor, Department of History and LBJ School of Public Affairs; Benjamin Valentino, associate professor of government, Dartmouth College As the world shifts away from the unquestioned American hegemony following the Cold War, the U.S. may face new threats and sharper resource constraints. However, the country’s alliances, military institutions and national security strategy have changed little since the Cold War. American foreign and defense policies, therefore, should be assessed for their fitness for achieving sustainable national security amid the dynamism of the international political economy, changing domestic politics and even a changing climate.
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The General vs. the President Doubleday, Oct. 2016 By H.W. Brands, professor, Department of History From master storyteller and historian H.W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the riveting story of how President Harry Truman and Gen. Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America’s future in the aftermath of World War II.
Eugenics A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press, Dec. 2016 By Philippa Levine, professor, Department of History Early in the 20th century, the new science of eugenics set out to improve and strengthen humankind. Eugenicists claimed their methods would result in healthier, fitter babies, prevent or discourage the weak and sick from reproducing, and dramatically limit human suffering. In reality eugenics targeted those with little power or influence, whose lives were sometimes dramatically shaped by eugenic policies. This book traces the history of eugenics and asks whether it still influences reproductive and genetic science today.
The Seven Keys to Communicating in Brazil An Intercultural Approach Georgetown University Press, Nov. 2016 By Orlando R. Kelm, associate professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese; David A. Victor, professor of management of international business at Eastern Michigan University The authors provide a guide through Victor’s LESCANT model (Language, Environment, Social Organization, Context, Authority, Nonverbal and Time). Each chapter addresses one of these topics and demonstrates how they come into play when dealing with Brazilians. Numerous photographs provide visual examples, and their descriptions focus on how to avoid common communication mistakes. The authors complete the book with a case study, in which various U.S. and Brazilian professionals provide insights about the cultural vignette.
Tense Bees and ShellShocked Crabs Are Animals Conscious?
Freedom from Work Embracing Financial Self-Help in the United States and Argentina
Oxford University Press, Dec. 2016 By Michael Tye, professor, Department of Philosophy
Stanford University Press, Nov. 2016 By Daniel Fridman, assistant professor, Department of Sociology and LLILAS Benson
Do birds have feelings? What about fish? Can fish feel pain? Do insects have experiences? Can a honeybee feel anxious? Are caterpillars conscious? If trees aren’t conscious but fish are, what’s the objective difference that makes a difference? How do we decide which living creatures have experiences and which are zombies? Can there be a conscious robot? These are among the questions that this book addresses.
Fridman paints a vivid portrait of Americans and Argentinians who practice the advice from financial success bestsellers. The author delves into a world of financial self-help in which books, seminars and board games suggest that there’s something fundamentally wrong with participants and that they must struggle to correct it. Popular resources that transform the people trying to survive — and even thrive — have accompanied the global economic transformations of the past few decades.
Brain Briefs Answers to the Most (and Least) Pressing Questions about Your Mind Sterling Publishers, Oct. 2016 By Art Markman, professor, Department of Psychology; Bob Duke, professor, School of Music Why do we love kitten videos? Does time speed up as we get older? Should we play brain games? Can we make ourselves happy? The authors, hosts of the popular Austin-based KUT radio show and podcast Two Guys on Your Head answer questions about how the brain works and why we behave the way we do. Featuring the latest empirical findings, this is science served up in fun and revelatory bitesize bits, along with references for further study.
Words Matter Communicating Effectively in the New Global Office University of California Press, Oct. 2016 By Elizabeth Keating, professor, Department of Anthropology; Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa, professor, McCombs School of Business Two professors, one anthropology and the other business, traveled together to four continents to research communication problems that reduce profitability and job satisfaction in cross-cultural work settings. Technology allows people to instantly share information across the world, but it can hide critical variations in belief systems and behavior expectations. Trusting another’s judgment and finding their claims believable, which is facilitated by face-to-face observations, is made difficult and risky in technologically mediated interactions, making cross-cultural communication skills even more critical.
Sleeping Mask Fictions Bellevue Literary Press, Jan. 2017 By Peter LaSalle, professor, Department of English LaSalle’s tantalizing “fictions” are evocative of many of the great innovators of postmodern literature, from Borges to Nabokov, while charting a path entirely their own. Through all of their stylistic pyrotechnics these stories never forsake rich characterization and plotting to probe the deepest parts of the contemporary human condition, such as the nature of erotic desire, the legacy of art and artistry, the power of grief and fear, and the horror of war and violence.
The Price for Their Pound of Flesh The Value of the Enslaved, from the Womb to the Grave, in the Building of a Nation Beacon Press, Jan. 2017 By Daina Ramey Berry, associate professor, Departments of History and African & African Diaspora Studies This book is the first to explore the economic value of enslaved people through every phase of their lives — including from before birth to after death — in the American domestic slave trades. Covering the full “life cycle” (including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years and death), historian Daina Berry shows the lengths to which slaveholders would go to maximize profits.
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1 Keene on Writing
Nouri Zarrugh was awarded the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for his story “The Leader,” which gives a voice to Libyans repressed by the reign of Muammar Gaddafi. Additionally, three finalists each received $17,000. Established in 2006 by liberal arts alumnus E.L. Keene (’42), the award is given annually to a student who creates “the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.” From left, Michener Center fellows Tanya Ponton, Samantha Karas and Nouri Zarrugh; and Theatre and Dance graduate student Joanna Garner.
College of Liberal Arts
Lessons for First-Time Voters
3 The Future of Black Scholarship and Activism African & African Diaspora Studies, the John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies, Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis Political activist Angela Y. Davis delivered the keynote address at “Black Matters: The Future of Black Scholarship and Activism,” the first international black studies conference hosted at UT Austin, at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium on Sept. 30. Other keynoters included musician and spoken word artist Saul Williams and Lezley McSpadden, whose son, Michael Brown was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in 2014. They joined black studies scholars from across the country to discuss a range of topics involving the black diaspora, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the role of the arts, public education and policy.
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Texas Secretary of State and UT Austin government alumnus (’74) Carlos Cascos kicked off his #VoteTexas campaign during professor H.W. Brands’ freshman history lecture on Aug. 31. The bilingual voter education campaign highlighted the importance of first-time voters participating in this year’s election and advised voters on the state’s photo ID requirements, as well as additional information on voter registration and casting their official ballots.
4 4 Medical Humanities at UT
Todd Bogin, Humanities Media Project
Humanities Institute, English, Texas Institute for Literary & Textual Studies Dr. Rita Charon, the Humanities Institute’s ninth C.L. and Henriette Cline Centennial Visiting Professor in the Humanities, delivered a public lecture, “The Shock of Attention: Bodies, Stories, and Healing,” at the Student Activity Center Auditorium on Sept. 21. Dr. Charon’s visit kickstarted a yearlong program that examines the intersections of health and the humanities and introduces students and faculty members to a novel approach to medical humanities using storytelling to improve communications, physician and patient relationships and overall care.
5 Joyride with Will & Jane English
A double-decker bus drove through Washington, D.C., touting the first-ever Folger Shakespeare Library exhibit to pair William Shakespeare with another writer, curated by UT Austin English professor Janine Barchas and Carnegie Mellon University literary and cultural studies professor Kristina Straub. Displayed August to November 2016, Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity unveiled “surprising parallels” between the works and legacies of Shakespeare and Jane Austen.
6 Eula Biss
Mother Knows Best Plan II Honors National Book Critics Circle award winner Eula Biss discussed her latest collection of essays, On Immunity: An Inoculation, as part of the Plan II Literary Speakers Series at the Joynes Reading Room on Oct. 4. Biss says she wrote primarily for new mothers facing difficult health care decisions they must make for their children. The book addresses myths about the dangers of vaccines, but also acknowledges the legitimate discomfort and distrust parents might feel toward health care professionals.
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Leaving Home Austin’s Declining African American Population By Victoria Davis Illustration by Jun Cen
In December of 2015, author and former Austin resident Ellen Sweets wrote a farewell letter to Austin that was published in TribTalk: Ever since I decided to leave Austin, I’ve tried to write a farewell devoid of anger and frustration, and every time I’ve had to move on to writing something else. A Facebook post. An email. A grocery list. I’d rather write about the vestiges of the Austin I once loved. The man in a Santa suit riding a horse along Montopolis. Or the person pushing the “walk” button at a heavily trafficked East Side intersection — there was nothing special about him except he was dressed in a chicken suit, head to clawed toe. I’d rather write about what I will miss, those glimpses of the funky Austin I used to know. Instead, she wrote about a state, and a city, with a “pervading atmosphere of racial and religious bigotry.” Maybe it’s Austin’s open secret, but most people who have lived here for any length of time notice that for a city that prides itself on its progressive nature, there’s a notable lack of diversity. Specifically, there’s been a marked decline in the African American population. This anomaly is so obvious yet so unexplored that KUT’s ATXplained focused on this issue for the first episode of the series in January 2016 asking, “why is Austin the only city in the country that’s experiencing a percentage decline of our African American population?” To be more specific, Austin is the only major growing city in the United States that is losing African Americans. Eric Tang, associate professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, was intrigued by this fact as well as the ways in which Jim Crow segregation and neo-liberal gentrification converge here in what he describes as a “unique and intense” way. As he explains in an interview with Caroline Pinkston for an upcoming episode of the Humanities Media Project lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 19
podcast Life of the Mind: There is a way in which Austinites kind of know what’s happening, but no one really knows … Everyone kind of knows that there [was] Jim Crow in this city [and] that it was quite profound, if not always statutory, but they don’t really fully know. People kind of know that there is an area of the city cemetery that was designated for the burial of African Americans … Everyone kind of knows that, but no one really confronts these issues, and there’s no recognition. Tang’s background in activism and his academic focus on underresearched communities and their relationship to larger issues of race, immigration and population, helped him formulate East Avenue, a close collaboration between scholars, community leaders and community members to document and analyze racial and economic segregation in Austin, Texas, and its effects on the city’s African American community. The goal of East Avenue is to provide research that will help shape initiatives to bring greater equality to the city.
A Brief History of Segregated Austin The heart, or better yet spine, of the East Avenue project is the downtown section of Interstate 35, which was once known as East Avenue. In recent history, I-35 has been unofficially known as the dividing line between white Austinites, who until recently tended to live west of this section of highway, and nonwhite Austinites, who tended to live east
of it. This designation is itself problematic because, as Dr. Joseph C. Parker Jr., pastor of Austin’s David Chapel, explains in a recent interview for an upcoming episode of the Humanities Media Project’s Homelands series, it means that the phrase “East Austin” is code language for black and brown people, a terminology that needs to change. This wasn’t always the case, however. Prior to 1928, African Americans lived in various neighborhoods throughout the city, including Wheatville and Clarkesville. In that year, the City Plan Commission of Austin wrote up “A City Plan for Austin, Texas,” which institutionalized racial segregation. The plan explicitly stated that one of its leading goals was to compel African Americans to leave their homes and remove themselves to a “Negro District” containing all of the city’s black schools, black parks and black facilities, ostensibly in order to reduce racial friction and other issues caused by segregation. By 1930, 80 percent of Austin’s African American community was on the east side, and throughout most of the 20th century this area remained home to the city’s largest concentration of African Americans. Efforts to maintain this segregation also continued. In 1975, a battle waged over whether the full span of 19th Street from its easternmost end at Ed Bluestein Boulevard to its westernmost at North Lamar Boulevard would be named Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A group named the West 19th Street Association fought the extension of the name change west of I-35, claiming that it would cost businesses too much to change their signs, letterhead and advertising. Additionally, they claimed, it would impinge on property rights. Interestingly, 19th Street had historically been a connector of east
Top Reasons for Leaving Austin
Top Reasons for Leaving Austin Top Reasons for Leaving Austin 56% 56%
Higher quality of life
Better schools 24% Better schools
Higher quality of life
Surveys were conducted at three historic churches in East Austin and one church in Pflugerville between October 2015 and February 2016 with 100 African Americans who shared their top reasons for relocating outside of Austin. Source: The Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis
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9% Quieter 7%
“... African Americans who moved out of the city still feel an ineluctable bond with their historic communities — there’s this sense of historical, cultural and social rootedness that one can’t easily replace, no matter where one moves.” Eric Tang
and west, and this group wanted to literally stop that by having Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard end abruptly at I-35. Until the late 1880s, 19th Street was known as Magnolia Street, and it supported businesses on both sides of East Avenue. Although it was not as active as East 11th or 12th streets, 19th continued to intersect the 6 square miles of the city’s “Negro District” as laid out in 1928, serving as a physical connection to West Austin. Representatives from the Austin Black Assembly, including Dr. Freddie B. Dixon Sr., former minister of Wesley United Methodist Church, eventually persevered, and the city named the whole of 19th Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. This victory was a symbolic beginning to the inclusion that needs to happen, according to Parker, but not an end. In the 1990s, East Austin became a primary site for gentrification, and by 2010, the African American population was no longer a majority, as many longstanding residents had sold their homes to higher-income buyers before moving out to the suburbs. The precursor to the East Avenue project was a 2014 Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis issue brief authored by Tang and institute postdoctoral fellow Chunhui Ren that explored this phenomenon. “Outlier: The Case of Austin’s Declining African American Population” drew upon U.S. census data to reveal Austin’s rapid decline in African American residents between 2000 and 2010, despite its position as the nation’s third-fastest growing city. The brief postulated that the declining number of African Americans in Austin was the result of persistent structural inequalities. That is, African Americans did not choose to leave Austin so much as they were compelled to leave by historical, economic and governmental forces that continued to create inequalities in their lives. These forces included segregation followed by gentrification, policing, educational disparities and a lack of economic opportunity. According to Tang, the East Avenue project was inspired by the passionate public discussions that attended the findings of this brief. Many people, “including journalists,” he said, “questioned whether or not African Americans were really being ‘pushed out’ of Austin,” wondering whether they left for better opportunities elsewhere. Tang’s response was simply to ask people why they left.
Take Me to Church So, in Tang’s words, “they went to church”; many African Americans who left the city limits for surrounding suburbs still came back to East Austin for church on Sundays. Working with church leaders to identify congregants who had moved to the suburbs, he and his team surveyed individuals, asking them not only to describe why they moved, but also to evaluate their quality of life since moving. The responses showed that the majority moved because housing was unaffordable within the city; they felt that Austin schools were too racially segregated; and they were feeling the “gentrification squeeze” in soaring property taxes. Ironically, changes that might be seen as improvements, such as sidewalks and pocket parks, also served to drive people out, as these fueled more gentrification and thus higher property taxes and less money to spend on necessities such as health care. Additionally, others pointed to racism they had experienced in the city. Sometimes this took the form of negligence. Parker says people are moving into these neighborhoods with skills and experience, but they are using these to benefit only themselves, not the community lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 21
they have joined. In his Life of the Mind interview, Tang says that up to 30 percent of respondents in the open-ended section of the survey expressed frustration with how new arrivals to the neighborhood focused more on walking their dogs than on getting to know their neighbors. They treated the streets as a dog park, and this became a sort of unofficial symbol of gentrification. The respondents’ stories held a few revelations for Tang and his team. They expected that affordability would be a popular reason for people to leave, but they were interested to see how many African American parents were dissatisfied with the Austin public schools and moved based on a desire to place their kids in better school districts. Tang says that the biggest surprise for him was the number of people who said they would move back to Austin if they could. This included the people who moved north, who gave high marks to their current quality of life outside of Austin, including better food stores, better parks and better access to health care. As he states, “this suggests that African Americans who moved out of the city still feel an ineluctable bond with their historic communities — there’s this sense of historical, cultural and social rootedness that one can’t easily replace, no matter where one moves.” Perhaps most importantly, these respondents missed their spiritual community. As Tang points out, they were hearing those stories in a church, on a Sunday, in a place to which they had returned.
Beyond East Avenue Bisola Falola, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography and the Environment, and Chelsi West Ohueri, a research project manager in the Dell Medical School, helped Tang create and administer the surveys, collect and analyze data and complete the final report, “Those Who Left: On Austin’s Declining African-American Population.” Tellingly, they both heard about Tang’s work through community events. Falola saw how the work in East Austin fit with her research interests in its focus on issues related to place, race and access to opportunities. Ohueri also saw her research and her concerns in her new position as a cultural and medical anthropologist overlapping with Tang’s work in terms of housing, space and relocation issues. Initially Falola expected that some factors, such as access to education, would probably have improved as a result of the respondents’ move to another area. Both she and Ohueri were curious about what Falola called “the starkness of geographic differences” between those who moved further east and ended up with less access to social resources, and those who moved north and ended up with more access. In short, residents who left central East Austin with fewer financial resources did not escape the legacy of resource discrepancies, including health care, that had shaped their previous community. Ohueri and Falola found that most of the people they approached wanted to tell their stories and to keep up with the project. Falola specifically said that there was a need to have these stories about leaving Austin, not necessarily by choice, in the public consciousness. “There was a recognition that this form of public sharing — that was research-based, tied to policy, and would appear in informal channels such as the media — could help raise meaningful awareness to the gentrification that has and continues to be taking place in East 22 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
Austin,” says Falola, who notes that public scholarship can be very effective in communicating more information to more people who can then advocate for social change. In other words, Tang and his team have put hard numbers behind what African Americans in Austin have known for decades: that the combined effects of historical racial segregation and current gentrification have led to their displacement from the city. “Our research isn’t revelatory, but only an affirmation of the local knowledge and grounded theory of those who have experienced these issues directly,” he says. He elaborates on this point in his interview with Life of the Mind, referring to himself as just “some guy from UT carrying some numbers and saying, here they are” and with those numbers spurring a new level of surprise that shouldn’t have been. “It is, to me, kind of sad that it’s a UT professor to finally get people to listen, but that’s the way it works, I guess.” In addition to continuing work in the community, Tang and his team are about to release a companion report to “Those Who Left,” titled “Those Who Stayed.” This report will be based on the findings from surveys of African American residents who refused to move from their historical neighborhoods in East Austin, or as Tang describes them, those who “decided to weather the gentrification blitz.” Tang believes projects such as East Avenue are immediately relevant to communities that are dealing every day with problems that scholars are addressing. They exemplify the value of public scholarship — that is, mutually beneficial partnerships between higher education and various groups in the public and private sectors. At the very least, these projects can inspire public discourse that can lead to change. Tang says he has noticed a shift since he arrived several years ago. Once where there was a lack of robust discussion, researchers such as Tang have shed light on Austin’s segregation and have brought it to greater public attention. Additionally, the monthly Front Porch Gatherings sponsored by the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement and organized by the center’s director, Virginia Cumberbatch, and Suchitra V. Gururaj, assistant vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, connect the resources of the university with underserved Austin communities to foster long-term collaboration. Tang notes that Austin’s recently implemented 10-1 plan — in which each of the city’s 10 council members represents a geographic district — has helped to shed light on the issue. “The fact that you have not just people of color but white residents in neighborhoods outside of Central Austin who are also feeling like the city is unaffordable, has shifted the discussion.” More and more people are talking about issues of economic segregation, racial segregation and inequality, but the question remains: Can these trends be reversed? For that to happen, we need to change our thinking about Austin as even having an east side or a west side. As Dixon explained in an interview for the Homelands series, East Austin is Central Austin, and we all need to think more inclusively about the city and its communities. Recalling his role in the naming of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Dixon says we all need to think more as Dr. King did. To him, “the whole world was the parish.”
Living Off His Mind
Angelbert Metoyerâ€™s Patient Pursuit to Understand By Rachel Griess
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FE ATURE STORY
Metoyer says. “Obsession is subconscious, while passion is more intellectual. My art doesn’t come from painting every day, but rather, what I’m experiencing while I’m painting. My thoughts create all these little images that soon connect to offer new understandings.” The “little images” add an incredible amount of detail and depth to his finished artwork. Some pieces have equations scribbled on the edges; others layer glittering gold dust between sheets of glass. Much larger sculptures arrange tchotchkes from Metoyer’s past next to cultural totems, and splashes of color or chunks of charcoal draw attention and bring new meaning to otherwise simple objects. “It’s just like a human body,” says Metoyer, explaining the complexity of each piece. “All of your interests are stored in a small space above your eyes, and the volume of electricity your brain produces is overwhelming. All of my thoughts and interests make up what I am and what I create.”
A Journey of Dis/covery Metoyer’s ideas about religion, philosophy, quantum physics and astronomy color the walls and floor of the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies’ Christian-Green Gallery, in an exhibit on display through the fall semester: Wrestling History: Points Along a Journey of Dis/covery Hidden in the Temple, curated by Rice University religious studies professor Anthony B. Pinn. “The theme is transformation on both the individual and collective level. It’s about identity formation and processes of transformation,” says Pinn, who met Metoyer at an exhibit in Houston a
When he was 7 years old, Angelbert Metoyer had his first art show in his father’s office. His father had adorned his office walls with a collection of his son’s drawings and invited his colleagues in to appreciate the artwork and purchase their favorite pieces. It was a simple gesture he arranged to help Metoyer earn money to buy his mother a special gift for Mother’s Day, but an influential moment that led Metoyer to the epiphany that he could create for a living. “I found out later that he gave everyone $5 to come buy my work,” laughs Metoyer. “I don’t know why he did it, but it changed everything for me. He taught me that I could live off my mind, my effort, and the things I feel and believe. He brought another layer to it.” The Houston-born artist’s career took off after his first official solo exhibition in 1994, when he was just 17, at Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses, a community-based arts and culture nonprofit in Houston's northern Third Ward. Since then, Metoyer’s work has been prominently displayed in exhibitions around the world, in places such as Paris, Lima, Venice and Shanghai. Art critics agree his work offers profound artistic commentary on the human experience. Metoyer, however, doesn’t call himself an artist. “Art is the way I engage with who I am through a human act,” says Metoyer. Creating, he says, is his religion; it’s where his passion lies. His patient pursuit to understand his work is his doctrine. “If all of your passion goes into what you’re doing, that is your religion; and if you don’t recognize that, it becomes your obsession,”
[Above] Angelbert Metoyer (left) visits with a guest during the Wrestling History: Points Along a Journey of Dis/ covery Hidden in the Temple opening reception and artist talk May 12 at the Christian-Green Gallery.
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few years ago. “It encourages people to wrestle with certain questions about identity, history and race in a way that words fail us.” In 2015, Metoyer was invited by the Warfield Center to mount a solo exhibition in the Christian-Green Gallery — which opened in February 2016 — and participate in an eight-week residency program during the summer. Metoyer’s work is the second exhibition featured in the space and has been on display since May. During his summer residency, Metoyer was able to use an on-campus studio and university resources to further his creative practice. He worked with students and recent graduates to photo-document his time in the studio, which Metoyer plans to culminate into a unique art piece in the form of a book. “The Christian-Green Gallery is a space for creativity and social expression,” says Lise Ragbir, director of the Warfield Center Galleries. “It is a space where visitors are encouraged to contemplate notions of social justice, identity and collective memory. Angelbert’s bold work accomplishes this. It’s not often art, math, science and religion are used in an interpretation of social history.” All of the works displayed in the exhibition have been loaned from generous art collectors in Houston and Austin, apart from one piece that Metoyer created for the gallery, Untitled 123 and 4. The work, he says, is a reflection of his thoughts about landing and producing in a new environment. It’s a message about reflection, which is symbolized through his use of 3-dimensional space, cultural imagery and mirrorprinted photographs. It now hangs in the corner of the exhibit, drawing visitors in with its vivid hues and unique use of materials and space.
[Above] Untitled 123 and 4, 2016 by Angelbert Metoyer, created for the Christian-Green Gallery during Metoyer’s Warfield Center artist-in-residency. [Left] The Book I Will Never Write, 2009 (foreground); from the exhibition Wrestling History: Points Along a Journey of Dis/covery Hidden in the Temple at the Christian-Green Gallery.
[Opening page] Everyone Who’s Had a Brick Break a Window, 2014 (foreground); Remorial, 2005 (background) by Angelbert Metoyer; from the exhibition Wrestling History: Points Along a Journey of Dis/ covery Hidden in the Temple at the Christian-Green Gallery.
Pinn, who plans to include a chapter on Metoyer in a forthcoming book that explores the “quest for complex subjectivity” as a black religious impulse, was struck by Metoyer’s philosophy of art and life, how his art challenges viewers to recognize and engage with the tensions in life, to be comfortable with discomfort. “I find in general his technique and philosophy compelling,” Pinn says. “There isn’t a particular piece that speaks more profoundly than others. Each piece deals with notions of identity and history in their own way. They are compelling in light of what they bring to that conversation.”
The Medium is the Message The message, Metoyer says, can be found in the materials he uses. He works across all mediums – drawing, painting, sculpture, performance, and video and sound art. While his use of multiple mediums makes his work interesting, the way he combines them makes it captivating. Simple objects become heavy with themes of waste and destruction when covered with gold dust or charcoal, materials he describes as “excrements of industry.” Other objects, such as African figurines, become spiritually symbolic when dipped in Metoyer’s unique indigo pigment, which he says is representative of the sky and religion, as well as ancestral memory. He began using indigo as a child because he was told it was one of the crops his historically Creole family grew. “But now I’m adapting an indigenous pigment and giving it my own meaning. It’s been an experiment making it my own, mixing a blend of materials. I find meaning in the formula,” Metoyer says. “If the medium is the message, then create the medium.” He chooses his materials based on images, thoughts and objects that “strike” him, noticing that if it evokes an emotion, it’s worth exploring why. Metoyer says he looks for things that have their own potency, or a meaning he can learn and build on. His collection of materials — or his “research”— is available at his fingertips during his studio practice, which he refers to as an “undisturbed incubation.” Metoyer’s process is simple: “If I’m thinking about something as I’m pouring paint, that’s what’s going into it. I’m not trying to make something. I’m not doing anything but waiting and tending to what I’ve already created,” he says. It’s “tending” as one would do in a garden, he explains. Each piece takes time, thought and care. Nothing goes to waste —pieces that don’t turn out are recycled into new works. “I go into my space, and I tend to it — water it, paint it, glue drawings down, until I slowly build this garden and plant possible compositions in place,” Metoyer says. “I’m strategic in how I use it because I am thinking about the end result.” He’s quick to add that he doesn’t overthink the end result; rather, he allows his thoughts to guide him. Metoyer’s artwork teaches viewers as much about the human experience as it teaches him about his “personal dwell,” his physical and thoughtful presence inside of his studio space. “Sometimes you see things and you’re not ready to understand it. It’s your brain processing something that it cannot add to your reality,” he says. “I’m working beyond the physical place, and my images begin to converse in different ways. Then I wait to understand.”
Photo: Hakeem Adewumi
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Rethinking Health Care Through the Liberal Arts By Emily Nielsen Photography by Wyatt McSpadden
The doors of the Dell Medical School have opened for its first class of future doctors, and they are on a mission to get the training they need to make a difference in the lives of future patients, their communities and even medicine itself. Of the 50 members in the school’s inaugural class, three graduated with degrees from the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. Garrett Johnson, Pooja Parikh and Cierra Grubbs were selected for the perspectives they bring to Dell Medical School’s vision of rethinking health care, including the value that studying the liberal arts would bring to them as physicians. Their individual journeys have brought them to the same place as the first class of students representing a historic moment for UT Austin.
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When Garrett Johnson was born, his throat was almost completely closed off, a condition known as subglottic stenosis. That led to nine reconstructive and corrective surgeries, all before the age of 2. It also left him with a voice that leaves him sounding a little under the weather – “I do not have a sore throat, and no, it doesn’t hurt to talk — I get asked that question all the time.” During his senior year of high school, anatomy class sparked Johnson’s interest in medicine, bringing a passion for science and the study of the body that his earlier biology and chemistry classes hadn’t ignited. Thinking back on his first years of life helped to finalize his decision to become a doctor. “Reflecting on these events led me to the conclusion that I want to spend my life giving others the gift that has been given to me,” Johnson says. When it came to selecting an area of study for his undergraduate education, Johnson decided that philosophy was the right path for him as both a student and future physician. “Early in my college career, I realized if I wanted to become a doctor, I would be studying sciences for the rest of my life,” Johnson says. “I came to see college as an opportunity to educate and expose myself to topics and subject matter that I may not be able to in the future. Being a philosophy major has changed the way I approach, view, analyze and remember information and situations. “Aristotle said, ‘It is the mark of an
FE ATURE STORY
Tuscola, Texas Philosophy B.A., 2015
Philosophy alumnus Garrett Johnson in the Dell Medical School’s Health Learning Building.
educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.’ This is the major lesson I learned through philosophy,” Johnson continues. “As a doctor, I will keep an open mind when considering everything from differential diagnoses for a patient to proposed changes in the health care system.” As an undergraduate, Johnson was involved in planning the Dell Medical School, serving as a member of the Building Design Committee with the SLAM collaborative architecture firm, fellow students and faculty
members including Dr. Sue Cox, the school’s executive vice dean of academics and chair of medical education. The committee deliberated on how to create a building that would not only function well as a medical school, but would also have a positive impact on the mental health of the students. “We discussed how to match the school design to the curriculum, which promotes collaboration, teamwork and group problem solving — exactly what happens in hospitals,” Johnson says.
He also worked with two assistant professors of medicine in the Department of Women’s Health, Dr. Alison Brooks Heinzman and Dr. Whitney Keller, as an undergraduate student representative on the Reproductive Mechanisms of Disease Task Force. Members of the group weighed in on the Reproductive Mechanisms of Disease course, which will be taught at Dell Medical School this spring. Johnson gave feedback on how to make the course as interactive and engaging as possible while covering all of the necessary material. “My exposure to these wonderful people gave me an inside look at the mission of Dell Medical School and the dedication its core members have,” Johnson says. “That vision inspired me and made me want to be a part of it.” After graduating with his degree in philosophy in 2015, Johnson took a gap year and got a glimpse of what health care is like from a health professional’s perspective by working as an emergency room scribe at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital-Dallas. Johnson would spend seven- to 12-hour shifts with an assigned physician, seeing every patient and documenting their interactions. The experience of “charting” has helped Johnson become familiar with medical terminology and understand the ins and outs of taking medical histories. Along with his work as a scribe, on his year out of school Johnson began the arduous process of medical school applications. “It involved lots of frustration and writer’s block — you have such a limited amount of space to mold a portrait of yourself that you don’t want to waste a single character,” he says. “And it doesn’t help that it’s quite literally the most important application you will ever do in your life.” Luckily, all the time and effort paid off. When he received the phone call letting him know he’d been accepted, Johnson was overwhelmed. “I didn’t know what to say,” he remembers. “You work so hard for a dream and then the dream is handed to you. It was a feeling of affirmation to have the faculty of Dell Medical School look at who I am and what I’ve done and say they want me as a part of their team.” lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 27
FE ATURE STORY
Pooja Parikh has wanted to be a doctor for as long as she can remember. She comes from a long line of doctors — her father, both grandmothers and her maternal grandfather were practicing physicians. However, something far more serious cemented her decision. When she was 5 years old, Parikh and her brother were playing with her grandfather, Ramdas Mojilal Parikh, when he suffered a cardiac arrest. Witnessing the death of her grandfather, whom Parikh calls her best friend, had a profound effect on her decision to study medicine. “I believe that the conscious and unconscious decision to become a doctor was made by me at that early age,” Parikh says. “My parents once told me as a child, ‘If you judge people, you have no time to love them.’ This is something Mother Teresa once said and something that I strongly believe in,” Parikh explains. “As a future physician, graduate of UT Austin and student of Dell Medical School, I hope to embody this teaching of hers as we strive to improve the health and well-being of the patients and community.” Parikh visited Mother Teresa’s orphanage, Asha Daan, in Mumbai, India, when she was 16. The orphanage cares for children who have severe disabilities and diseases, and Parikh says witnessing the selfless work of health care providers there touched her deeply. “I can still remember stepping though the double doors of the orphanage, the sight of 30 cradles, the strong odor of antiseptic and the hot air blowing through the wooden windows,” she says. “During my time there I had the privilege of assisting in the care of a little girl who, as a result of her illness during infancy, was unable to speak. It was truly a memorable experience, and it gave me a sense of responsibility that comes with caring for someone who is so innocent, helpless and trusting in me to take care of them.” When she came to UT Austin, Parikh 28 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
Victoria, Texas Psychology B.S., 2016
Psychology alumna Pooja Parikh in the Dell Medical School’s Health Learning Building.
“I feel my education through the College of Liberal Arts has prepared me to overcome obstacles, be an effective leader who can negotiate challenging situations, be a patient listener and an empathetic doctor.” Pooja Parikh
knew she wanted to study psychology and the liberal arts as a way to gain perspective and experience that would make her a better physician. “The knowledge and skills I have gained from liberal arts courses, I believe, will be instrumental to my future career as a doctor,” Parikh says. “Taking a course in leadership and ethics gave me the foundations required to be a constructive leader and team player. Setting a moral example and dealing with ethical issues are things that every physician faces, and I feel my education through the College of Liberal Arts has prepared me to overcome obstacles, be an effective leader who can negotiate challenging situations, be a patient listener and an empathetic doctor.” In December 2013, during the winter break of her sophomore year at UT Austin, Parikh volunteered at an Indian Medical Association medical camp that was providing annual check-ups to children at a school called Ashram Shala. The school is a refuge to children of the Adivasi tribe, who live and attend school there while their parents are in other towns working in factories, often for months at a time. Ashram Shala educates 1,100 students but is struggling to make ends meet with its funding. After witnessing these issues, particularly the substandard meals provided to students and unhygienic conditions of the girls’ bathroom facilities, Parikh was determined to help and founded the nonprofit Organization for Hygiene Academic and Nutritional Awareness (OHAANA). “ ‘Ohana’ in Hawaiian means ‘family,’ ” Parikh explains. “I believe that as a member of a family, no one should be forgotten or left behind. Every child is entitled to the right to good health so that they have the chance to strive and fulfill their dreams.” Since its founding, OHAANA has successfully provided five sanitary toilets to girls living at Ashram Shala. OHAANA isn’t the only extracurricular project Parikh has focused on. She’s been volunteering in hospitals since she was in secondary school and says she cherishes the experiences visiting with patients and their families.
While in college, Parikh got her first experience in medical research through a study on bladder cancer at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. After that, she spent a summer conducting research at the Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine. “While I was fascinated learning about the etiologies of various tropical diseases, I also became aware of the huge financial burden and human suffering as a consequence of these diseases,” Parikh says. “These experiences, along with my prior volunteering work, have taught me a lot, not only in the field of medicine and the sciences, but also about human suffering and the societal aspect of medicine.” After all the work Parikh put into earning a place at the Dell Medical School, the moment she learned she had been accepted was made even more meaningful by sharing it with family. “I was in my dorm that morning talking on the phone with my dad, while at the same time trying to see where I had matched,” she says. “As soon as I saw the acceptance email, I remember just jumping up and down and telling my dad, ‘Dell! It’s Dell! I got accepted to Dell!’ I heard him on the other end informing my mother at the top of his voice, ‘Pooja got into Dell!’ “At that moment I was thrilled for two reasons: one, because I was going to be a part of the inaugural class and participate in their mission of rethinking health care; and second, the realization of how proud I had made my parents, and that to me meant everything.”
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FE ATURE STORY
Cierra Grubbs’ mother, Barbara, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and along with all of the fear and turmoil cancer brings to a family, for Grubbs it was also a “transforming experience that brought both clarity and passion” to her life’s purpose — medicine. “Since the days of administering pretend shots via mechanical pencils and prescribing ‘Kool-Aid’ medicine to my little sisters, the dream has always been present,” Grubbs says. “But my mother’s illness gave me direction. “In particular, her breast cancer illustrated the current shortcomings in the American health care system,” Grubbs continues. “It quickly became apparent that my small town lacked an abundance of resources to fight her potentially fatal tumor. Fortunately, we had the insurance and finances required to fund travel expenses and treatments from MD Anderson. However, most locals from my area cannot afford this investment or standard of care.” Barbara had a double mastectomy and has been cancer-free ever since. But her experience and the stories of others who were not as fortunate have given Grubbs a mission to analyze the way health care is practiced in the United States. Grubbs is Native American on her father’s side, and her visits to Choctaw tribal grounds in Oklahoma also inspired her to think about the way health care systems should function. 30 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
Union Grove, Texas Psychology B.S., 2015
“We treat disease when we should be focused on promoting health. To understand health, we must understand humanity.” Cierra Grubbs
“I have learned how the tribe-funded hospital and clinics have monumentally improved life expectancy and decreased birth defects for American Indians,” Grubbs says. “Many disadvantaged Indian families who rarely visited physicians can now receive routine preventative health care. Simple access and counseling monumentally improved the life quality of so many Choctaw Indians, and yet there is still so much more to achieve.”
When she enrolled at UT Austin, Grubbs decided that studying psychology as an undergraduate would be a good fit for her interests. “My psychology degree married my favorite topics, enabling me to explore the intricate relationship of science to humanity,” Grubbs says. “In the fast-paced world we live in today, it is extremely important to not lose sight of either piece of this puzzle. Scientific discoveries can bring us to amazing new heights as a society, but without the understanding of what makes us all human — our tendencies, personalities, perspectives, feelings, motivations — the full scope of possibilities enabled by technology will never be reached. “The U.S. health care system is the perfect example,” she says. “We treat disease when we should be focused on promoting health. To understand health, we must understand humanity.” Grubbs says her psychology degree brought to light the complexity of relationships that influence human beings: Power of belief and state of mind can even push the body beyond its biological limits. “Channeling thoughts or using personalized uplifting activities to create mental environments conducive to healing are inexpensive methods to improve the success rates of medical treatment,” she says. “Health care still has much to learn about the interactions between the mind, the environment and the biological mechanisms that create an individual.” Grubbs’ experience as an undergraduate student athlete tested her resolve and adaptability. A walk-on to the UT Austin NCAA soccer team, she played eight games as a defender during her sophomore year before being benched for the rest of the year and most of her junior year. Unable to gain a second chance with her coach on defense, Grubbs decided to make the switch to forward her senior year and played in nearly every game, including starting against No. 1 ranked and defending national champion UCLA. Soccer also influenced Grubbs in her medical school aspirations. She developed a rapport with the team’s physician, Dr.
Psychology alumna Cierra Grubbs and her dog, Koda, in the Dell Medical School’s Health Learning Building.
Timothy Vachris, while she was on the team. When he discovered her interest in medicine, Vachris offered to let her shadow him at his practice, Texas Sports and Family Medicine. He also helped her prepare for medical school and wrote her a letter of recommendation. “Shadowing him the summer after my sophomore year confirmed my career choice,” Grubbs says. “I really loved the coaching aspect of medicine, which ties into my sports background.” Following graduation, Grubbs accepted a job as a program management analyst with Accenture, a role that allowed her to experience the intricacies of the health care system first hand. She was involved with the Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership, which administers Medicaid on behalf of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and also worked with the Department of Aging and Disabilities Services and the Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program. Her job gave her insight into the size and scope of Texas health care and opened her eyes to the difficulties and nuances in administering health care. It also allowed her to see the system from all perspectives — from the patients, to the providers, to the government and administering vendors. Because Grubbs wants to be involved in improving the way U.S. health care operates, this inside experience was invaluable. “Health is something so many of us take for granted, but the masked reality is that there are numerous populations throughout the United States who struggle daily through health care issues because they have no insurance, can’t afford either treatment or travel, can’t take time off work or do not understand the severity of their situation,” Grubbs says. “Countless people are being robbed of an opportunity for a better life. Unlike discovering a cure for cancer, this is a fix already within our grasp if we choose to address it. I aspire to continue the improvement of medicine within various underserved populations by creating additional accessible and affordable health care options for all citizens so every individual has the opportunity for a better life.” lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 31
Pro Bene Meritis Interviews by Rachel Griess Photography by Brian Birzer
The Pro Bene Meritis award is the highest honor bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts. Since 1984, the annual award has been given to alumni, faculty members and friends of the college who are committed to the liberal arts, have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits or have participated in service related to the college.
A Stand Up Longhorn Stephen Ballantyne
Education: B.A. Economics ’72 and MBA Finance ’74, The University of Texas at Austin; J.D. ’77, Southern Methodist University Hometown: Minot, North Dakota Stephen Ballantyne is a practicing attorney and president of Ballantyne Oil & Gas and Verde Oil Company. He has strongly supported the liberal arts and UT Austin through numerous scholarships across campus and his involvement as a lifelong member of the Liberal Arts Advisory Council, the Advisory Committee for the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas and a founding member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education. His leadership in connecting San Antonio with the college continues to foster a robust relationship with the university and its alumni. 32 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
PRO BENE MERITIS
What makes you most proud to be a Longhorn? We are truly a university of the first class. Our academics, athletics program and alumni association are the envy of every other university. We aren’t just good in one area; we are at the top or near the top in all areas. We stand for integrity and excellence in all areas. You can wear Longhorn apparel anywhere in the world and someone will recognize it, giving you a “Hook ’em.” Who at UT was most influential to your success? Former professors in the Graduate School of Business, Isabella Cunningham, George Kozmetsky and Eugene Konnici — each in their own way — encouraged me to stretch beyond my safe zone and develop as a student, citizen and contributor to society. What’s your favorite memory from UT Austin? I had a lot of fun while on campus and developed many great and lasting personal relationships through my involvement with the Texas Cowboys and Alpha Tau Omega. We also won two football national championships while I was in undergraduate school. Why do you keep a close relationship with your alma mater? We all have a vested interest in maintaining and improving the value of our degrees from the university. I feel it is every graduate’s duty to help the university improve its academic standing and enhance the prestige of our degrees. We can do this by being involved with the alumni association, the colleges we attended and other events concerning the university. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment? Meeting my wife in my cost accounting class and eventually marrying her. Who knows what path I would have taken if I had not met her. All my successes and accomplishments would not have happened without her love and support. How do you hope your scholarship support benefits students? I think every scholarship donor’s first concern is to ease the financial burden of attending college. Then, I think they are hoping to help a student learn and develop the area of interest to which their scholarship is dedicated. I have very mixed emotions on how much help should be given. I worked all through college at many different jobs, and I think the learning experience from these jobs, as well as learning time management with my studies and other activities, were probably the most important education I received in college. lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 33
PRO BENE MERITIS
People, Places and Pages of Influence Elizabeth Cullingford
34 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
Education: B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature ’66-’78, University of Oxford Hometown: Born in England, raised in Trinidad, educated at Oxford, ended up in Austin Since arriving at UT Austin in 1982, Elizabeth Cullingford has published widely in British literature and poetry and has won several teaching awards, including membership in the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. She has held the Jane Weinert Blumberg Chair in English for 10 years. Ranked in the top 20 graduate programs, the English Department has flourished under her leadership with the creation of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and the first advisory committee, which is working toward establishing graduate fellowships, an inaugural Plan II professorship in English, and scholarships for the Oxford Program.
Which book or play has been most influential to you? When I read Jane Austen, I wish I could write sentences like her. When I see Shakespeare, I am amazed by how much he understood human nature. Dickens, as a social critic, is perennially relevant. But recently, the books that have influenced me are not literary. They are about climate change and overpopulation: Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate, and Alan Weisman’s Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life? Many people have influenced me, beginning with my mother. I always admired her energy, curiosity, humor and absolutely indomitable
“Traveling showed me that my assumptions about how life should be lived were often one-dimensional. I learned from the French that leisure time cannot be neglected, and that you can never put too much garlic in your salad dressing. I learned from the Irish that conversation is an art and drinking a science.” Elizabeth Cullingford
spirit. I hated her politics though, and we were always arguing. The nuns at my convent school taught me the importance of social justice. Sister Margaret Helen saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself: intellectual potential and a talent for writing. She challenged me to read difficult books, including Shakespeare’s plays and modern novels. She inspired me to go to university, and most importantly, she corrected my grammar more sternly than anyone else has ever done. My teachers at Oxford were all about close reading and historical context, and my Texas colleague Jane Marcus inspired me to become a feminist. I became an environmentalist on my own through reading and observation of nature. My husband, Alan, never procrastinates and seldom moans about the work he has to do. I have tried without success to emulate him, so I suppose you could say I wish he had influenced me more than he has.
How have extensive travel and living in so many places influenced your life? Traveling showed me that my assumptions about how life should be lived were often one-dimensional. I learned from the French that leisure time cannot be neglected, and that you can never put too much garlic in
your salad dressing. I learned from the Irish that conversation is an art and drinking a science. The Trinidadians taught me to love blue skies and sudden rains, spicy food and the sound of a steel band. In England, I came to understand the importance of civility and the virtues of apology. I also became addicted to beautiful old buildings, even if they were cathedrals. I made friends whom I still see often. What did I learn in Texas? That a friendly smile and a warm, if transient, connection with people you meet goes a long way toward having a good day. That feminism is essential. And that administration can be vastly entertaining.
What do you hope your students gain from taking your class? I’d like to convey the joy of reading deeply and carefully, of using books, plays and movies to develop empathy with other people who lived in other times and other places. I want them to develop imagination and judgment at the same time. I hope they will continue reading and asking themselves difficult questions long after they leave UT. The College of Liberal Arts is a hotbed of serious intellectuals (my son assures me that it leaves Yale and Berkeley in the dust), and I feel proud to be a part of such a lively group. lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 35
PRO BENE MERITIS
Sylvia & Max: Religious studies crosses all lines, technical or otherwise, and we see that the department and the Institute for the Study of Antiquities and Christian Origins are a means to reach numerous students that may never have had opportunities to be exposed to religion, let alone its study by some of the world’s finest teachers.
Sylvia, what made you interested in studying history?
Helping Students Set Sail Max & Sylvia Miller
Education: Max Miller, B.S. Physics ’57, B.A. Math ’57, M.A. Math ’63 and Ph.D. Math ’66, The University of Texas at Austin Sylvia Miller, B.A. History ’60, State University of California at Long Beach
Hometown: Alvarado, Texas (Max); and Centerville, Texas (Sylvia) As director and national vice president of the Navy League National Board, and as the chairman of the Midshipmans Foundation, Max Miller has dedicated his life to providing support and scholarships for Navy ROTC students. Both Max and Sylvia have been active leaders in establishing the Department of Religious Studies and the Institute for the Study of Antiquities and Christian Origins, comprising some of the foremost scholars in the country.
How did you two meet? We met at the University Avenue Church of Christ in 1956. We were both students at UT Austin, and two years later we were married and moving to Long Beach, California, where 36 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
I’m a direct descendant of Mayflower passengers, and my great-great-grandfather was an original member of the Old 300 — the families that came with Stephen F. Austin to create the first colony in Mexico in 1825, an area that now makes up Texas. On top of that, my daddy was a lawyer — he graduated from the UT Law School in 1927 — and his interest in history was passed on to me. I think we all should study history to learn about the past in order to make better decisions and judgments about the future.
Max, what advice would you give an NROTC senior who is about to graduate and serve active duty for the first time? Max had been stationed in the Navy. We just had our 58th anniversary on September 13.
What’s your most cherished memory from UT Austin? Sylvia: Football games. My daddy held the record for the longest continuous attendance at UT versus A&M games from 1921 to 1959. Max and I have had the same season tickets to the football and basketball games since the 1970s. We’ve been big supporters and enjoyed traveling to games in cities across Texas. Sylvia & Max: We are also forever grateful for the lasting friendships made at UT, but perhaps the most cherished memory we have is the effort that went into helping establish the Department of Religious Studies.
Why do you support the liberal arts? Max: I was a member of the Naval ROTC and struggled financially as an undergraduate, so Sylvia and I established two endowed scholarships for NROTC students through the Midshipmans Foundation.
I tell all graduating NROTC midshipmen this: You will immediately be put in decision-making roles you never dreamed could happen. Enjoy the moment, have fun, do the right thing and learn from your experiences. You will always have fond memories and create lasting friendships.
How do you hope to see the college flourish in the coming years? We think very highly of Dean Randy Diehl and believe the college is in good hands. We hope to expand the field of donors so that the Department of Religious Studies will have finances to hire top faculty and attract the best students in order to further enhance its academic recognition worldwide.
How do you spend your free time? We spend most of our time with our two rescue dogs, Lizzie and Dolly. We found them at the Austin Lil’ Paws Maltese Rescue. They were a disheveled mess when we first met them, covered in fleas, but they won our hearts. Now they’re our alarm clock every morning, reminding us that it’s time for breakfast and their walk.
â€œWe are also forever grateful for the lasting friendships made at UT, but perhaps the most cherished memory we have is the effort that went into helping establish the Department of Religious Studies.â€? Max & Sylvia Miller
lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 37
We’re Not Going to Eat It
Channeling Teens’ Appetite for Rebellion By David S. Yeager and Cintia Hinojosa Illustration by George Wylesol
38 Life & Letters | Fall 2016
During this school year in Texas we’re likely to see between 15 and 20 percent of teens with obesity, and more than 15,000 cases of preventable forms of youth diabetes. We simply can do better and it starts with the messaging teens receive. Schools administrators and parents currently try to explain to teens how their food choices now could have harmful consequences later. But this approach is not the best way to address teen health. Teens do not value future outcomes the same way adults do. What’s more, the standard methods of promoting school health — the all-school assembly, the health class lessons — can feel to teens like adults are telling them how to make their personal choices. The more adults try, the more teens want to do the opposite. What if there were ways to channel teens’ natural rebelliousness into a force for good? Many adults know that food companies target kids and try to get them hooked from a young age. For instance, they make food addictive by combining crunchy with soft
“If you want to be controlled by rich company execs who make money getting children addicted to soda and junk food, but won’t eat it themselves, then go ahead and eat those foods. However, if you want to make your own decisions, and fight back against injustice and hypocrisy, then drink water or eat healthier food.” Cintia Hinojosa
textures, or by increasing sugar and salt content. Their scientists specifically aim to make foods “craveable” — difficult to resist, regardless whether you’re hungry. They create cartoons to make kids ask for junk before they know any better, and they use labeling to make foods appear healthier than they really are. Bottom line: Big Food is, in many ways, the new Big Tobacco. Take, for example, the chocolate milk sold in Texas public schools. They make the chocolate milk have lower fat content than regular milk so they can label it “low fat.” But they add lots of sugar, making it much less healthy. It trains kids’ palates to expect more sweetness than is natural in most foods, all the while making them think it’s the healthy option. We conducted a study in which we simply asked some teens to reflect on such facts and found that it had clear implications for their diets: If you want to be controlled by rich company execs who make money getting children addicted to soda and junk food, but won’t eat it themselves, then go ahead and eat those foods. However, if you want to make your own decisions, and fight back against injustice and hypocrisy, then drink water or eat healthier food. It’s the kind of message that resonated with teens. We called it the “harnessing adolescent values” approach. We evaluated it in a randomized experiment with approximately 500 eighth graders in Texas. The results were striking: after the principal offered students a choice between junk food or healthy food, the group who received our new approach showed a 9 percent reduction in junk food calories. What’s more, another group who received more traditional health educational materials, like diagrams from a textbook, looked no different from a group who received no nutritional information.
Simply put, the traditional approach to nutrition education did nothing. Could this new approach be the way to move forward? Perhaps. If so, then schools and districts not only could improve health, but also it could feed into schools’ bottom line. Students with good nutrition learn more and have better behavior. But because scientifically addictive junk foods are everywhere, it will also be necessary to connect a new approach with proven methods to change the environment. For example, some researchers have advocated making small changes such as rearranging the salad line so teens have to walk past it, or putting the sugary juice at the back of the fridge, to nudge students away from poor food choices without stepping on their autonomy. And policymakers can help too by targeting detrimental practices, such as preventing soda companies from creating “pouring rights” contracts that put these sugary drinks in low-income schools. Teens need to feel respected and admired. Living in line with values like making the world a better place helps them feel that way. Just explaining basic health information to them, much of which they already know, doesn't. As a society, we should give teens the health information they need, but in a way that lets them feel like the kind of person who wants to put it into action.
“Bottom line: Big Food is, in many ways, the new Big Tobacco.” David Yeager
David S. Yeager is an assistant professor of developmental psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and the co-chair of the Mindset Scholars Network. Cintia Hinojosa is a 2014 “Dean’s Distinguished Graduate” of The University of Texas at Austin and works at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Christopher Bryan was the lead author on the research described in this article. lifeandletters.la.utexas.edu | 39
Transforming the World Through Trade LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Through a rich display of rare maps, diaries, books and royal decrees, the Benson Latin American Collection explores 2½ centuries of trade between the Americas and Asia during the rule of the Spanish Empire in the exhibit Acapulco-Manila: The Galleon, Asia and Latin America, 1565–1815, on display through January 2017. The age of the Manila Galleon brought an exchange of goods and cultural practices, as well as global contact and disruption, catalyzing the transformation of territories and cultures.
A 19th-century reproduction of Dutch engineer Adrian Boot’s 1628 drawing of the port of Acapulco. Italian traveler Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Carreri, arriving in Acapulco in 1697, noted that the famous port was merely a tiny, sparsely populated village during most of the year. However, when the “Nao de China” (the Galleon) docked at the bay, Acapulco transformed into a lively town buzzing with merchants who arrived from inland Mexico and from Peru.
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The College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin publishes Life & Letters for its community of scholars, alumni and friends....
Published on Nov 22, 2016
The College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin publishes Life & Letters for its community of scholars, alumni and friends....