Know Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:17:28 +0000 en hourly 1 What You Accomplish When Discovery is in Your DNA Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:20:22 +0000 Tracy Mueller

Hans Mark University of Texas

Hans Mark, center, with fellow aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics professor Wallace Fowler and a student at a system engineering design class fly-off.

Why do we explore space?

Hans Mark says it’s because “discovery is in our DNA.”

The legendary aerospace engineering professor knows a thing or two about discovery.

He was in mission control for the first moon landing (45 years ago on July 20) and the first space shuttle launch, taught Carl Sagan, pushed President Ronald Reagan to adopt the Space Station program and is still pushing to this day for a manned mission to Mars.

“To explore is an essential part of life, and a great nation has the obligation to explore,” Mark said in an in-depth story about his legacy on the Cockrell School of Engineering website.

After a distinguished career that spanned six decades and placed him on the front lines of technological revolutions, the beloved engineering professor will retire from the university this summer.

In honor of his extraordinary career, we’re looking back at 10 of his most monumental accomplishments.

Hans Mark Scholars Endowment in Engineering Honors

Former students and friends are working to raise $1 million to establish the Hans Mark Scholars Endowment in Engineering Honors to provide full tuition to the best and brightest undergraduate students. Visit the endowment page for information about making a gift to the Hans Mark Scholars Endowment.

Escaped Nazi Germany

Mark’s remarkable journey began long before he cracked open his first science textbook.

He was born in 1929 in Mannheim, Germany, and as a young boy he witnessed violent clashes between fascist and communist gangs and saw his Jewish father imprisoned for advocating Nazi resistance. A bribe and his father’s expertise in synthetic chemistry (he is now known as the father of polymer science) secured him and his family a home in the U.S.

Mark would later earn physics degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and MIT.

Served as Director of NASA Ames Research Center

After an early career in academic nuclear research and teaching posts at Berkeley and MIT, Mark shifted to government aeronautics and space development.

At Ames Mark managed the center’s research and applications efforts in aeronautics, space science, life science and space technology and broadened the center’s influence within NASA and the wider aerospace community. The position also earned him a seat in the mission control room during Apollo 11′s historic moon landing.

(Related: UT Prof Says Moon Landing Anniversary Shows Us that NASA and Space Exploration are Worth Their Costs)

Oversaw Development and Launch of the First Manmade Object to Leave the Solar System

Pioneer 10 was a space probe that the NASA Ames lab designed to fly past the asteroid belt, Jupiter and Saturn to collect data and images.

With a little help from famed astrophysicist and Mark’s former student, Carl Sagan, Mark secretly attached a message onto Pioneer 10 to introduce the human race to any extraterrestrials that may encounter the probe.

Listen to Hans Mark tell the story of the plaque he and Sagan sneaked onto the Pioneer 10.

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions bestowed upon an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education.

Named Secretary of the U.S. Air Force by President Jimmy Carter

“I had some misgivings because my [previous] job as under secretary permitted me to exert considerable influence on the management of the nation’s space program,” Mark wrote in his autobiography, “The Space Station: A Personal Journey.” He decided to accept because “the opportunity to learn something about the broader issues related to our national security was enough to override my doubts. In addition, as secretary, I would have greater influence on the development of the appropriate organizations within the Air Force concerned with the development and operation of space systems.”

Served as Deputy Administrator of NASA

In addition to being a key player in the push to develop the Space Station, Mark oversaw 14 space shuttle flights.

Hans Mark Deputy Administrator of NASA

Hans Mark in NASA’s Mission Operations Control Center at the Johnson Space Center.

Joined the University of Texas System as Chancellor

Chancellor Mark had three big goals: to increase research funding, attract economically lucrative technology companies to Austin, and reach out to Texas’ booming Hispanic population. By the time he left the position in 1992, Mark had doubled the UT System’s research budget, helped bring microchip consortium SEMATECH to Austin and established The University of Texas-Pan American on the Texas-Mexico border.

Became Professor of Aerospace Engineering at UT Austin
1988-1998 and 2001-2014

Mark divided most of his remaining career between teaching and consulting in Washington, D.C. Since 2001 he has been a consistent part of UT’s aerospace undergraduate experience, having made teaching an introductory aerospace class his main objective. It’s many students’ first taste of the field.

“I teach them aerospace and then I tell them jokes,” Mark says.

In honor of his retirement, former students and friends have launched an effort to raise $1 million to establish the Hans Mark Scholars Endowment in Engineering Honors, which will provide full tuition to the best and brightest undergraduate engineering students.

Hans Mark University of Texas

Mark in his office.

Served as Director of Defense Research and Engineering in the U.S. Department of Defense

During his time at the Pentagon, Mark was responsible for developing policies, providing guidance and managing atomic energy, chemical, and biological defense plans and programs.

Inducted into Air Force Space and Missile Pioneer Hall of Fame

Mark was recognized for his advocacy of the establishment of an Air Force major command for space operations, initiating plans for a new military control facility and fostering military orbital missions using the space shuttle.

Reporting contributed by Monica Kortsha and Cockrell School of Engineering staff.

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Anniversary Shows Us that NASA and Space Exploration are Worth Their Costs Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:48 +0000 mp35922 Sunday, July 20, marked 45 years since the United States put the first two astronauts safely on the moon. The cost for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs was more than $25 billion at the time — more like $110 billion in today’s world. The ensuing U.S. space efforts have cost an additional $196 billion for the shuttle and $50 billion for the space station. NASA’s total inflation-adjusted costs have been more than $900 billion since its creation in 1958 through 2014 (more than $16 billion per year). Looking back, have we gotten our money’s worth from the investment? I say yes.

Some argue that spending money on space is not a good investment, or that it is a luxury that we cannot afford. I believe that space exploration is a very sound investment. NASA’s 2015 budget is $17.5 billion. It is estimated that the total economic benefit of each dollar spent on the space program has been between $8 and $10. Compare that to Americans spending more than $35 billion a year on pizza or the national total annual economic cost of tobacco exceeding $250 billion and you can see that our return on our NASA investment is rather high.

The space race was technological focus that accelerated advances in multiple areas of science, technology and medicine without a shooting war. This is almost without precedent in history. We have recently created a unique international research facility, the International Space Station. It’s hard to put a monetary value on international cooperation, but the space station has recently been the focus of a nomination campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Technologies have been driven by space exploration as well. For space equipment, mass is paramount. Putting a kilogram of payload (instruments, astronauts, supplies) in Earth orbit is costly, and sending it beyond Earth orbit is even more expensive. In the 1960s, there were two options, miniaturize or create huge boosters. The U.S. chose to miniaturize wherever possible while the Russians focused on huge boosters. The Apollo guidance computer was the great grandfather of the microcomputer. It weighed 70 pounds, required 55 watts of power, and had less than 40 KB of memory in a day when most computers weighed tons, filled rooms and needed their own air-conditioning systems. It had less capability than many of today’s electronic wristwatches, but it took us to the moon and back. Its descendants are today’s laptops, tablets, GPS receivers and cellphones. Today, the trend for such devices is to make them ever smaller, ever more capable — a trend driven by the space program.

Almost every area of technology has benefitted from space research. Clothes and vehicle interiors are more fire resistant because of research after the Apollo fire. Weather forecasting is much more accurate because of satellite monitoring. Monitoring from space can detect forest fires, oil spills, aquifer depletion, downed aircraft, etc. We have recently watched the World Cup matches from Brazil in near real-time via satellite feed. We can surf the Internet with laptop or tablet while flying in an airplane almost anywhere in the world. We are more connected than ever, both in our everyday activities and in emergency situations.

Medicine has been revolutionized by the space program. We learned to monitor orbiting astronauts — pioneering telemedicine and leading to unprecedented improvements in patient monitoring, in and out of hospitals. Research into astronaut bone calcium loss has led to better understanding and treatment of osteoporosis. Digital mammography is a direct application of space data reduction processes. Baby foods are more healthful because of astronaut food research.

There are few other public activities with such a sustained level of performance and impact. Why? Because the space race was a unique event in history. However, in order to remain relevant, NASA needs to have a driving focus — a mission. The space around Earth contains a huge number of asteroids. We are very much overdue, at least statistically, for a large asteroid to strike the planet. The last large asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Would protecting Earth and saving civilization be a sufficiently important mission?

Wallace Fowler is the director of the Texas Space Grant Consortium and a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Alcalde, Houston Chronicle, Austin American Statesman, The Monitor and the Corpus Christi Caller Times.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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The New Orphan Trains Are Bringing Children to the U.S. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:30:53 +0000 mp35922 Like the 19th Century Orphan Trains that carried abandoned and homeless children out of Eastern cities west to waiting adoptive families in America’s heartland, today’s Orphan Trains are ferrying tens of thousands of children up from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border. And like that earlier great migration of children, these Central American children are coming out of impoverished, violence-riven communities in hopes of a better life. However, the analogy breaks down quickly beyond this point. Most of the Central American children are not orphans at all; typically they are children whose parents are already in the U.S., long rendered inaccessible to them by distance and their parents’ illegal status. The present humanitarian crisis on our border is only the most recent indication that the nation can ill afford to turn a blind eye on comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, the crisis is directly rooted in Congress’ failure to take action.

In 2008, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Humanitarian organizations working with unaccompanied minors considered it a victory because it directed the Border Patrol to transfer immigrant children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement if they came from countries whose borders were not contiguous with the United States. The vast majority of these children were released into the care of a parent, relative or family friend while they awaited their legal proceedings, whereas unaccompanied children from Mexico (Canada has never been a factor) were typically deported immediately. The Orphan Trains from Central America are carrying children whose families have become aware of this provision. In 2008, unaccompanied children from Central American countries were a mere trickle. Now, nearly 50,000 minors have been detained in the last eight months alone resulting in a significant humanitarian crisis. Guided by their understanding of the laws, they turn themselves in to U.S. authorities at the first opportunity after crossing the border. According to the Border Patrol, three out of four of the current unaccompanied children are from three countries: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The wave of these unaccompanied children have overwhelmed our resources. Border Patrol stations typically accustomed to processing detainees within 12-48 hours are presently holding them for as long as ten days in cramped, overcrowded facilities that lack basic necessities such as showers, recreation areas, and adequate bedding. In fact, military installations are being marshaled to help provide temporary shelters for unaccompanied minors. President Obama recently described the circumstance as an “urgent humanitarian situation,” deploying the Federal Emergency Management Administration to orchestrate the multi-agency response.

The new Orphan Trains (they typically make their way over land to the Guatemala-Mexico border, where they catch the trains heading north) are carrying minors who come from poor communities, where gangs are predatory and violence a staple of daily life. These are the same conditions that drove their parents to migrate to the U.S., often catching the same trains that are now ferrying their children north, victimized by the same criminals along the way. For many of these children, the experience is both harrowing and profoundly traumatizing. Weeks of uncertainty and brutalizing danger are the defining features on the new Orphan Trains.

Dangers notwithstanding, the majority of these parents believe this to be their only hope for reuniting with their children; they’ve made the calculus that the risks are worth it. As a result, the wave of unaccompanied children continues unabated for the present and the humanitarian crisis that they represent becomes more acute with every day that passes. President Obama is asking Congress to provide $2 billion in new funds to manage the influx as well as expanded powers to accelerate the deportations of unaccompanied children. But these are stopgap measures. What the nation needs more than ever is well thought out, comprehensive immigration reform.

Ricardo Ainslie is a professor of educational psychology in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin. He is an expert in the psychological experience of immigration.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and the Corpus Christi Caller Times.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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From Rituals to Geopolitics: Navigating the World Cup Fri, 11 Jul 2014 22:23:03 +0000 Cory Leahy The FIFA World Cup is a monthlong celebration of fútbol, rituals and even international geopolitical relations. As the Brazil World Cup draws to a close, we’ve got a couple of experts to help us navigate what’s happening off the field.

To start, the FIFA World Cup, perhaps more than any other sporting event except the Olympic Games, is rife with rituals. From the way the teams walk on to the field holding the hands of children to the post-game shirt exchange, international soccer is as much ceremony as sport. Psychology professor Cristine Legare explains how today’s soccer customs tie to a long history of ritual in sport.

The Argentine national soccer team on the field with children before a match at the 2014 World Cup

As part of international soccer tradition, schoolchildren escort the players onto the field before each match of the World Cup. Here, the Argentine national soccer team lines up with their little buddies on the field to sing their national anthem before a match at the 2014 World Cup. “Soccer is a game of theater and pageantry as much as any other sport. And ritual,” former U.S. national team defender Alexi Lalas said in an Associated Press story in 2010. [Image courtesy FIFA World Cup.]

The 2014 World Cup isn’t just an outlet for showcasing national pride, indulging in international competition, and showcasing athletic talent. It also illustrates one of the most curious and pervasive aspects of human behavior — ritual. Even the best soccer player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, performs pre-game rituals. Not only does he insist on being the first member of the Portuguese national team to enter the field, he also insists on getting his hair cut right before every game.

If the illusion of control rituals provide give athletes more confidence and reduces anxiety, they may provide a competitive edge.

It may be hard to imagine why either of these behaviors has any bearing on whether Portugal defeats their opponents, but the lack of a transparent cause-and-effect explanation simply doesn’t prevent people from engaging in rituals. In fact, the lack of a logical rationale behind these odd, seemingly idiosyncratic behaviors is part of the point. Rituals provide a socially sanctioned opportunity to exert personal control in the face of uncertainty.

The curious pre-game rituals in sport culture are nothing new. Anthropologists have long noted that the use of rituals is often linked to conditions of risk and uncertainty, conditions that high stakes, highly competitive World Cup matches meet. When anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski visited the Trobriand Islands of New Guinea, he observed that Trobrianders rarely relied on ritual when fishing in a reliable and safe lagoon; they described their successes and failures in terms of skill. In contrast, extensive ritual preceded the uncertain and dangerous conditions of deep-sea fishing.

Assistant professor of psychology Cristine Legare

Cristine Legare

The Trobriand fishermen are not alone in their use of ritual to restore feelings of control when confronted with uncertainty. On college campuses, for instance, up to 70 percent of students employ such strategies to assist with performance on exams and in athletic competitions.

Rituals provide a means for coping with the negative feelings caused by uncertainty due to the belief that there is a relationship between the behavior (Ronaldo’s pre-game haircut) and the desired outcome (Portugal’s victory in the World Cup).

In 2012, my colleague Andre Souza and I studied Brazilian ‘simpatias,‘ ritualistic remedies that are meant to ward off bad luck and solve problems. We found that the more people perceived randomness or lack of control, the more effective they expected the simpatia rituals to be.

From a psychological perspective, whether or not there is evidence that rituals actually result in a desired outcome isn’t driving the behavior. Confidence is often the single most important factor in winning a closely matched game. And if the illusion of control rituals provide give athletes more confidence and reduces anxiety, they may provide a competitive edge.

Cristine Legare is an assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the director of the Cognition, Culture, and Development Lab, where she studies cognitive development, cultural learning and cognitive evolution.

The Hook: The Other Football

Next up, John Hoberman, professor of Germanic Studies, offers his take on the political and economic implications of international sporting competitions. (And you thought it was all just a soccer tournament!) Hoberman appears on The Hook, the weekly news show produced by the Texas Exes.

You may also like…

Who Benefits from Mega-Events Like the World Cup? (Texas Perspectives)

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Why Every American Should Worry About the Hobby Lobby Ruling Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:13:33 +0000 mp35922 The country rounded a new and dangerous corner with the recent Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. By holding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) excuses for-profit employers from providing contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the court has given businesses a presumptive right to disregard laws that conflict with their religious beliefs.

For 125 years the court has resisted the notion that religious individuals are entitled to disobey laws that everyone else is obligated to follow. The court has taken a “hands off” approach to churches and other religious congregations, and sometimes used broad language in its effort to protect minority faiths; but in the end, the court has emphatically affirmed what good sense, constitutional tradition and justice among a religiously diverse people, unite in demanding: Religious conviction does not entitle believers to disobey democratically enacted laws that bind the rest of society.

RFRA overturns this understanding, giving “any person” a right of exemption from any law that “substantially burdens” that person’s exercise of religion, unless the government can prove that the law “is in furtherance of a compelling government interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.” The court has now employed RFRA to give for-profit businesses such as Hobby Lobby the right to deny insurance to employees for medical prescriptions and procedures that offend the owners’ religious convictions. For the first time in U.S. history, the Supreme Court has endorsed the principle that for-profit businesses may be excused from obeying laws and regulations to which they or their owners object on religious grounds.

The majority opinion principally relies on an existing accommodation created for nonprofit religious employers such as religious hospitals and universities that relieves them of the obligation to cover contraceptives to which they object and imposes it instead on their health-plan insurer or administrator. The court determined that this narrow accommodation of indisputably religious organizations can simply be extended to for-profit employers such as Hobby Lobby, with little cost to the government and no cost to anyone else. It gave no serious consideration to cost or feasibility, let alone to the many current lawsuits contending that this accommodation also violates RFRA.

Although the court gestures at limiting its decision to the facts at hand, its opinion will reach far beyond Hobby Lobby’s opposition to a few contraceptives. Religious business owners who object to all contraception can now successfully seek relief under RFRA. Likely to follow are religious objections to covering other prescriptions, treatments and procedures such as mandatory immunizations. Some state courts will undoubtedly be influenced by the court’s expansive interpretation of federal RFRA in applying the “little RFRAs” that many states have adopted. In fact, lawsuits have already been brought by closely held for-profit businesses claiming that their religious beliefs require discrimination against employees or customers on grounds of sexual orientation in violation of state law. Nothing in the majority opinion explains why these claims are materially different from the RFRA exemption it has granted to Hobby Lobby, and the lower courts will soon be bogged down in the impossible task of weighing when the religious owners of closely held businesses must be excused from obeying laws that bind everyone else in the workplace.

The Supreme Court did not “restore” religious liberty by granting Hobby Lobby an RFRA exception, but dealt it an unprecedented blow in a 5-4 decision with uncertain ramifications. After Hobby Lobby, believers and unbelievers alike must bear the workplace costs of someone else’s religious convictions. Protecting the liberty of all Americans requires the limitation or repudiation of this approach.

Lawrence Sager is Alice Jane Drysdale Sheffield Regents Chair in Law at The University of Texas; Frederick Mark Gedicks is Guy Anderson Chair and Professor of Law at Brigham Young University. The opinions expressed above are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their respective institutions.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Austin American Statesman.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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Texas Black-Owned Enterprises Must Meet the Challenges for Growth Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:59:11 +0000 mp35922 Following the economic difficulties of 2001-2009, Texas has provided a fertile atmosphere for business prosperity and overall economic growth. As researchers who are close to the entrepreneurial process and have owned businesses ourselves, we understand that developing entrepreneurial firms, and the perceptions of their owners, may not be in synch with the larger economic picture. The priorities of entrepreneurs are often more fundamental, the urgency is often greater, and the observable opportunities differ based on the lens through which a business owner sees the world. We wondered how the black business community views the Texas business landscape overall today. To find out, we surveyed Texas black-owned businesses, including many in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and asked owners about themselves, their businesses and their perceptions of other firms in their industries. What became clear is that black owners perceive significant hurdles in growing their businesses and achieving the profitability levels of their industry peers.

Among the survey responses, we observed many of the same issues entrepreneurial businesses generally face, as well as a number of challenges to growth previously identified in the research literature on minority-owned small businesses and the overall research literature on all firms. Our survey, sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, in cooperation with the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce, polled 914 black-owned businesses across Texas about a variety of business-related issues.

We found that most Texas black-owned businesses in our survey are similar to the businesses we ourselves have owned: firms that provide a professional service and are owned by an individual with at least a bachelor’s degree and who started that business himself or herself. Furthermore, the vast majority of these black-owned businesses have no paid employees other than the owner. The median age of the firms among our respondents is 10 years, a healthy number that points to significant longevity in business. Overwhelmingly, these business owners assess themselves as proficient at a range of professional skills, including analysis and problem solving, written and oral communications, team building and management, the ability to motivate, and the ability to develop relationships.

And yet, despite confidence in their skills as business people and relatively high levels of educational attainment, black owners of businesses in our survey still perceive significant barriers. More specifically, a majority of the business owners responding to the survey agreed that black-owned businesses, in general, have less access than other firms to government decision makers for the purposes of procurement opportunities and that black-owned businesses are unfairly excluded from participating in both government and private-sector contracting opportunities. In addition, when we asked them an open-ended question about their top three training needs and to rank these training needs in order of importance, survey respondents identified accounting/finance topics more often than any other response (16 percent), followed by technology (10 percent) and management/leadership training (10 percent). Similarly, when we asked survey respondents to list the top three major challenges facing their businesses, the most frequently mentioned topic was funding/cash flow/finance (26 percent). Fully half of the survey respondents had never applied for a business loan.

To overcome these challenges and address these training needs, and to ensure that entrepreneurial opportunities are shared across the board as the Texas recovery strengthens, policymakers and business leaders should focus on improving access to financial capital and financial training for black entrepreneurs. In addition, because research on black business has shown that firms that start with employees are more likely to grow faster and survive longer than those that are sole proprietorships, more should be done to encourage black entrepreneurs planning new businesses to start with a level of capitalization and scope that allows them to start their businesses with employees, if they chose to do so.

John Sibley Butler is the Herb Kelleher Chair in Entrepreneurship and the J. Marion West Chair for Constructive Capitalism in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, where he holds joint appointments in the Departments of Management and Sociology. He is on the Board of Glofish, where he was the first investor. Matt Kerwick is a research scientist at the Bureau of Business Research, IC2 Institute, The University of Texas at Austin. He is also founder and president of Visionary Research Inc., a research and strategy consultancy.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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Employers Should Give Prospective Hires More Space, Anonymity Online Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:45:11 +0000 mp35922 If you have ever ridden a crowded subway or bus at rush hour, you have likely noticed that when strangers encounter each other, they briefly exchange eye contact before looking away. In densely shared spaces, choosing to look away is neither rude nor unusual. Rather, such looking away respects people’s need for space and anonymity in public. Erving Goffman, a prominent sociologist, referred to such behavior as civil inattention.

These days, people do a lot of important things online. Certainly, unimportant things can happen when we get sucked into the Internet’s vortex. But the Internet is the place where we stay connected with friends and family who often live far away. It is where we find romantic partners. Where we get support in times of crisis. Where we share our expertise. The Internet is where we grow up and try on new identities. Where we advocate for particular political parties and platforms. And perhaps, it is where we find a place to finally belong. In other words, the Internet does more than help us get ahead in our careers. For most of us, what we do online affects many — and perhaps all — aspects of our lives.

So what happens if most of us — or enough of us — focus our digital energies on maintaining our ideal work persona online? What if most of us take the common career advice to manage each piece of online information as if future employers might see it? We may lose more than we will gain.

Certainly there could be short-term gain for early masters of online professionalism. But if more and more people brand and polish their online personas to meet these new expectations, such information will no longer give promised access to “the real person.” What then? Employers will still expect us to keep up with our professional personas online. It will become the new normal. Yet it will cost us in terms of the other life goals we pursue online — goals that are not just about work.

Although employers may have good reasons for looking online, like people sharing a crowded subway, they should choose to look away in order to respect people’s online lives. Let’s find alternate ways to fulfill our organizational obligations without exploiting the information made visible by growing up, learning, engaging, debating and connecting online.

Choosing to look away is not new to business contexts. This is one of the things professional standards and ethics are about: Even though we are able to do something, we choose not to do it. Or we choose to do it in a different way that serves the greater good. Take insider trading for example. Insider trading happens when people use access to confidential or nonpublic information to trade a company’s stock to their advantage. Many countries prohibit insider trading because it is considered unfair. Insider trading shows how we establish rules for what information we collect, and whether and how we can use that information. It shows that even when we have the privilege of knowing something, we may choose not to use it for our own gain because of a higher standard.

Such looking away is not always legislated. For example, when human resource personnel in the United States receive an application with a personal photo on it, they often remove the photo or discard the application. They do so because even though the applicant made the information available, removing the information helps human resource personnel avoid the chance of unintended bias by the managers and others reviewing résumés.

So let us be intentional in where we look and where we don’t look. Let us not allow our organizational need to identify red flags to undermine people’s online lives. Let us find ways to fulfill our organizational due diligence while also respecting that people — including ourselves — have lives outside of work.

Brenda Berkelaar is an assistant professor in communication studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Her expertise is in the ways technology affects work, careers and personnel selection.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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On Civil Rights Anniversary, Educational Opportunity Gap for Young Men of Color Needs More Attention Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:33:19 +0000 mp35922 This week, we celebrate 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Since that time, we certainly have overcome many hurdles in our effort to achieve equality, but gaps remain, particularly when it comes to education. The opportunity gap for young men of color is one of the biggest crises of our time.

Only 5.4 percent of students enrolled at two- and four-year colleges and universities in Texas in the fall of 2012 were African American males; 4.1 percent were Hispanic males. If we are to increase the number of African American and Latino males entering college, we must increase high school graduation rates first. It is up to all of us to make sure that happens, because raising graduation rates and improving educational attainment must begin on a local level in elementary and secondary schools. As the vice president of diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, I can assure we are willing leaders in this effort.

At UT Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, we fund initiatives that address the unique problem of young men of color to the tune of $750,000 annually. Like the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative recently launched by the White House, our commitment involves academic initiatives and partnerships with community and philanthropic organizations in order to reach out to young men beyond our university. In doing so, we are able to engage men of color across the entire educational spectrum, from pre-K through graduate school.

Two programs key to our work are Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) and the African American Male Research Initiative. Project MALES conducts research about male educational experiences and includes a mentoring program for male students of color across Texas. The program has spawned the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color, which includes six community college districts, five universities and three school districts in the state (Austin, La Joya and El Paso ISDs) committed to enhancing Latino and African American male student success.

The faculty-led African American Male Research Initiative (AAMRI) is designed to increase the four-year graduation rate for African American males. AAMRI faculty members and staffers also mentor young black men through graduate school and research the best practices for them to achieve excellence. Mentoring is essential to these programs to ensure young men graduate from high school and college.

Mentoring initiatives, with the opportunity for young men to develop relationships with professionals and men of color already in college, will help break the school-to-prison cycle and keep young men on the path toward high school graduation. At its most basic level, the school-to-prison cycle removes students from classrooms and sets them on a path leading into the criminal justice system. The African American Youth Harvest Foundation, which started as one of our community incubator projects, heavily supports in-school suspension programs in order to break that cycle. Youth Court, a program through another one of our partners — The University of Texas Law School — has been successful in turning around students at risk of being suspended. Law students and staff members from the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law run the program, training the middle school students to serve in a number of roles.

In order to circumvent the school-to-prison pipeline, the students at the greatest risk need the opportunity to see themselves as something other than troublemakers or bad kids; they need to see themselves in mentors who have successfully navigated the education system and who are on a path of excellence. The African American Youth Harvest Foundation and Youth Court provide students the opportunity to transcend those negative labels, as do mentoring programs such as Communities in Schools’ X-Y Zone and our cascade mentoring programs through Project MALES and AAMRI.

As the Texas population becomes more diverse, we cannot continue to waste the incredible talent of millions of young Texans by allowing them to remain academically unsuccessful and on a path to poverty, prison or both.

Gregory J. Vincent is vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram , Austin American Statesman and the Corpus Christi Caller Times.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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Around the World Tour: Longhorns Play Asia, London Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:51:05 +0000 Cory Leahy Summertime is world tour season for big-time musicians: Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, the University of Texas Wind Ensemble.

That’s right, our own 62-student symphonic band just wrapped an epic four-week around-the-world tour that took them to three continents, performing to adoring crowds in Honolulu, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing and London, among other stops.

The trip took three years to plan and was unprecedented in scope. “It was my third time overseas in 26 years here,” says Professor Jerry Junkin, the director of the ensemble.

Flying to Hawaii the day after providing the rousing soundtrack for Spring Commencement in May, the group visited Pearl Harbor, taught master classes with schoolchildren, and explored cities in Japan and China before finishing with a final show in London. (In September the members will reunite to make a recording of their tour program. Look for it in stores sometime in 2015.)

Watch a video produced by the Longhorn Network about the UT Wind Ensemble, as they prepared for their Around the World Tour. Then read on for a travelogue, adapted from their tour blog, and relive some of the highlights from the Summer 2014 Around the World Tour.

Arrival in Honolulu followed a sleepless night, a four-hour plane ride, a five-hour layover and another six-hour plane ride. After sightseeing at Pearl Harbor, rehearsal began at Pearl City High School.

The Pearl Harbor memorial

For clarinet master’s student Pam Wilkinson, learning that military musicians perished in the bombing at Pearl Harbor was a surprise. “I have been reflecting since our visit on the purpose of those musicians,” she wrote on the tour blog. “The various military branches employ hundreds, possibly thousands, of musicians…. I doubt their presence is merely for entertainment…. Music can revive our spirit, give us hope, and heal brokenness in the face of tragedy. This is what I took from the musicians on the USS Arizona.”

While most of the complex travel logistics — it’s not easy moving 70 musicians, their luggage and all the instruments across the Pacific Ocean — went smoothly, one of the flights from Honolulu to Japan was diverted to Wake Island in the Pacific due to a mechanical problem. Everyone arrived safely a few hours later, but the luggage — including some instruments and concert dress — did not make it for the concert in Okazaki City, Japan.

No worries: their Japanese hosts rounded up instruments, and dark tee shirts and pants filled the bill for one engagement. “Half the group looked like they were on their way to the gym, the other half looked like they were playing at a concert,” Junkin says. “It all worked out.”

Modified concert dress - dark tee shirts instead of tuxedos

Dark tee shirts made for modified “concert dress” after luggage arrived too late for the concert in Okazaki City, Japan. Fortunately, the group’s Japanese hosts rounded up instruments to replace those stuck in transit.

“It’s worth mentioning what a long day any one concert date entails for the band,” wrote College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster on the tour blog. He traveled with the group through parts of China. “The entire company is over 70 strong. All need to be transported by bus, or train, or ferry. A large variety of instruments need to be shipped by truck or scavenged from the local musical countryside. (The program repertoire calls for harp, piano, celeste, double bass, bass clarinets, contra bassoons, and a huge variety of percussion instruments from tympani to a vibraphone.”

The second concert in Japan was at the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music. It was held in beautiful Madea Hall, where the ensemble shared the concert with the White Tie Wind Ensemble, the premiere wind ensemble in the Japanese college of 1,600 music majors.

The UT Wind Ensemble on stage at the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music

At the conclusion of the concert at Senzoku Gakuen, the Wind Ensemble was visited on stage by the college’s vice president (pictured in the gray jacket) who shared his gratitude for the performance.

Junkin had put together an ambitious concert program of four contemporary pieces for the tour. Frank Ticheli’s clarinet concerto completed the first half, which began with two compositions by UT composers Dan Welcher and Donald Grantham. Clarinetist and Butler School of Music faculty member Nathan Williams was a featured performer during the tour. A number of encores were performed at the end of each program from the 12 or so pieces that made up the repertoire, including “Stars and Stripes” and “The Eyes of Texas.”

Texas Exes in the audience did Hook 'em Horns when the band played The Eyes of Texas

Taiwanese Texas Exes got their horns up during “The Eyes of Texas.”

“In the audience were many of our Texas Exes that live in Taiwan. It was exciting to see so much burnt orange in the audience at this performance, and our encore of ‘The Eyes of Texas’ was very well received!” wrote Ryan Kelly, an assistant conductor of the UTWE, who managed the tour blog.

The brief stay in Taipei was highlighted by a concert at Soochow University, presented in conjunction with the 90th Anniversary of the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture.

A member of the UT Wind Ensemble shares his French Horn expertise with a young Chinese student.

A member of the UT Wind Ensemble works on the vibraphone with a young student in Shenzhen.

Before their concert in Shenzhen, China, the UT ensemble members gave master classes with young musicians from area bands.

The afternoon in Shenzhen started with master classes, where the UT students worked with students from the area bands. After the concert it was time for a dumpling party. During the meal, area musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments treated the ensemble members to performances.

In Beijing, Sergeant Zhang, a local composer and commander of the People’s Liberation Army Band, guest-conducted the rehearsal. Some unique percussion instruments, including Chinese drums, were used for the concert held at the beautiful PLA Band Concert Hall.

A member of the UT Wind Ensemble rehearses with a traditional Chinese drum before their concert in Beijing.

A member of the UT Wind Ensemble rehearses with a traditional Chinese drum before their concert in Beijing at the People’s Liberation Army Band Concert Hall.

Several days later, after a flight over seven time zones, ensemble members landed in the British Isles with just one night to recover from jet lag before they performed the grand finale of the tour at beautiful Cadogan Hall in the London borough of Chelsea. As in every city the ensemble visited, the audience had been warm, welcoming and appreciative.

The UT Wind Ensemble on stage at Cadogan Hall in London.

On stage at London’s beautiful Cadogan Hall.

“While our performances have been special, played for large appreciative audiences, it has been countless other moments that have helped us to understand other cultures and allowed them to know us in ways that they might not have imagined before,” Junkin reflected in a blog post. “Whether it was the simple wave back at the local citizens of Okazaki City who came out of their houses to see who the young Americans were walking down their residential street, or the joining of an in-progress soccer game with young children in Tokyo, or letting our Taiwanese students proudly show their colleagues their wonderful city, or the opportunity to perform alongside Chinese students in Shenzhen as well as to work with those students for an hour before the performance, somehow all of these things have combined to make the world a better, and smaller, place.”

A Chinese audience shows its appreciation for the UT Wind Ensemble with Chinese and American flags.

The enthusiastic audience in Shenzhen showed its appreciation for their American guests, waving Chinese and American flags.

“This tour and everything surrounding it is inspiring,” wrote Corey Pompey, doctoral student in conducting. “How can one not be inspired by this incredible experience?”

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The Dog (and Cat) Days of Summer at Blanton Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:40:50 +0000 Tracy Mueller The new exhibit, “In the Company of Cats and Dogs” opened at UT’s Blanton Museum of Art this week, putting the world’s two most beloved pet species front and center.

Covering 33 centuries of art, the exhibit includes works by well-known and influential artists such as Pablo PicassoFrancisco Goya, Edward Hopper, Louise Bourgeois, Jan Weenix and Andrew Wyeth. And when you’ve had enough of the masters, you’ll find a handful of YouTube cat clips on display — because what’s a 21st-century feline event without a video of Nora the Piano Cat?

Curator Francesca Consagra gave us the story behind the exhibit.

What can visitors expect when they view the exhibition?

The works cover ancient Egypt to the present and are divided into themes: religion, mythology, hunting, herding, literature, morality, abandonment, aggression and domesticity. I hope that we may surprise our visitors, so I won’t reveal too much about how the experience will unfold for them.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec L'Artisan moderne In the Company of Cats and Dogs

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. “L’Artisan moderne, 1896.” Crayon brush and spatter lithograph with scraper, printed in four colors, 35 7/16 in. x 25 in. Blanton Museum of Art Gift of John S. and Patricia A. Corcoran, 2000.

Alice in Wonderland engraving

John Tenniel, English (1820-1914) and text by Lewis Carroll. Cheshire cat, p. 91, from “Alice in Wonderland,” 1865. Wood engraving. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

Can you shed light on the role of pets in art? It’s not just about cute furry faces.

Artists are superb observers of life, and they have been depicting our relationships with cats and dogs for millennia.

The exhibition offers a glimpse into social changes that have occurred over time. For instance, while cats and dogs were prominent in ancient Egypt and in Greco-Roman culture as hunters and pets, the rise of Christianity ushered in an era of unusual suspicion and maltreatment of these two animals, especially cats. By the 14th century, due to new Christian teachings and the revival of classical texts, dogs began to appear more frequently and favorably in art. They are seen as loyal companions, healers and signifiers of a person’s high moral and social status. Cats, on the other hand, remained mostly symbols of evil, cruelty and sin in European art well into the 18th century.

The cat’s rise in status evolved partially because pet-keeping became increasingly common in European households during the Enlightenment, a cultural movement that emphasized reason and individualism over tradition. People made room for pets in households, allowing them to connect with nature and to teach children about kindness and responsibility.

Marco Benefial Portrait of a Lady with a Dog In the Company of Cats and Dogs

Marco Benefial. “Portrait of a Lady with a Dog,” 1730s. Oil on canvas, 45 1/2 x 33 7/8 in. Blanton Museum of Art. The Suida-Manning Collection, 41.1999

Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei) Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant In the Company of Cats and Dogs

Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei), Published by Fusui Gabo. “Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant,” 1931. Woodblock print, 20 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Gift of Stephanie Hamilton in memory of Leslie A. Hamilton

The current Internet obsession with cats seems somewhat frivolous, but could it be seen as a modern-day version of this centuries-old tradition that was embraced by master artists?

We have five cat videos near the entrance of the exhibition, presenting the cat’s role in contemporary culture. Some people think that cat videos provide a space for cat owners to share their cats’ personalities and temperaments with other cat lovers for the first time. It’s been suggested that the Internet is the cat owner’s version of the dog park.

Lewis Carroll Wilfred Dodgson's Dog- Dido In the Company of Cats and Dogs

Lewis Carroll. “Wilfred Dodgson’s dog- Dido,” 1856-1857. Albumen print. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

Did any UT faculty participate in the making of this exhibition?

I started the project by contacting Sam Gosling, a psychology professor who researches personality and temperament in non-human animals. He not only recommended the exhibition’s title, but an influential book by Hal Herzog, a renowned anthrozoologist, whose writings helped me better understand human-animal relations. Two of Gosling’s graduate students, Stephen DeBono and Jamie Fratkin, were especially helpful and provided further readings and insights.

Janet M. Davis, an associate professor of American studies who is writing a book on the growth of the animal welfare movement in the United States, informed our approach to the American works in the exhibition. She assigned students in her Signature Course to research and write about these works.

Other faculty (including Edward Chambers, art history; Philippa Levine, history; and Amon Burton, law) kindly recorded their thoughts about particular works of art for our audio guide.

Sandy Skoglund Radioactive Cats In the Company of Cats and Dogs

Sandy Skoglund. “Radioactive Cats,” 1980. Cibachrome print, 29 11/16 x 37 3/16 in. Radioactive Cats © 1980 Sandy Skoglund.

John Sargent Noble Otter Hunting On the Scent In the Company of Cats and Dogs

John Sargent Noble. “Otter Hunting (“On the Scent”),” 1881. Oil on Canvas, 41 x 60 in. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Funded by “One Great Night in November, 2006.”

While You’re There

Check out the Blanton’s new WorkLAB Satellites – art-making stations that double as contemporary art installation (read about them in the Austin American-Statesman).

WorkLAB station at the Blanton. Photo by Deborah Cannon, Austin American-Statesman

WorkLAB station at the Blanton, created by Assistant Professor of Art Leslie Mutchler. Photo by Deborah Cannon, Austin American-Statesman.
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