Know Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:14:37 +0000 en hourly 1 Looking for a Job? Having Too Many Contacts on LinkedIn May Backfire Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:14:37 +0000 mp35922 What should you do when you get an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn who you’ve never met? I say ignore it. It may seem counterintuitive, but that’s the take-home message from our ongoing research at The University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University. If you’re unemployed and turning to a site such as LinkedIn to search for jobs and referrals, the size and strength of your network directly affects your ability to find new leads, get peer recommendations and land a job offer.

Online social networks on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn have, on average, about 150 connections, and many users have networks that exceed 500, but we can usually only recall how we connected with about half of them. Even so, many people are tempted to build a large professional network that they can turn to one day for help finding a new job — but doing so warrants caution. If your online social network is mostly made up of people you barely know or have never even met, it won’t help you land a new job. In fact, it could backfire.

You might assume that having a larger network is the key to finding a new job; more contacts at more companies means more open doors. However, if your network is composed mostly of “weak ties” — people you never met or met once but never contacted again — you may have increased access to job leads, but not to the referrals that turn leads into interviews and job offers.

We tracked 109 unemployed LinkedIn users and found that those with the highest number of weak ties had an easier time finding jobs to apply for, but they had a significantly harder time securing interviews and, subsequently, offers. On the other hand, those LinkedIn users who had more “strong ties” — close friends they knew well and have maintained relationships with — didn’t find as many new job announcements, but when they did apply for an opening, they were more likely to get an interview, and more of those interviews resulted in job offers.

We believe that having a large network made up of predominantly weak ties can backfire when viewed by a recruiter. If you and a recruiter have someone in common, the recruiter will probably contact that person. If your shared connection is strong and can recommend you, you’ll get an interview or an offer. If that person is a weak tie and says, “Sorry, I don’t know her well. We’re just connected on LinkedIn,” then your entire network is suspect, and you’ve probably just lost that interview. In fact, you would have done better without a shared connection.

So job seekers, don’t just “connect” with people. “Know” people. Maintain stronger ties by staying in contact. Build relationships with weak ties by meeting for coffee and catching up when possible. When you meet people at a conference or workshop, don’t just add them to your LinkedIn list. Follow up afterward. Build a network of people who can advocate on your behalf and who would be happy to do so.

Everyone has weak ties, and we understand that those loose connections are valuable because they bring us more leads. But if you don’t have enough strong ties who can apply for a job internally for you or give a recommendation directly to a hiring manager, then those leads are as helpful as finding a “Help Wanted” ad in a newspaper.

Rajiv Garg is an assistant professor of information, risk and operation management in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. To learn more about this research, click here.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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How Ethical Are You? Put Your Decision-Making Skills to the Test Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:14:58 +0000 Nicholas Persac

Illustration from Ethics Unwrapped video

Two far-reaching programs at the forefront of higher education — Ethics Unwrapped and the Ethics and Leadership Flag — are giving students at The University of Texas at Austin, and people beyond the Forty Acres, the ability to live ethical lives and set the example for others to follow.

[Read how ethics education helps students navigate dilemmas.]

Professor Robert Prentice, the faculty director of Ethics Unwrapped, put together this quiz to test just how ethical you actually are:

Answers are available both at the end of this post and by hovering your mouse over each question.

1. True or False: Most adults have solid, well-founded ethical beliefs that can be changed only by new evidence or reasoned arguments.

Hover your mouse over the question, and the answer will appear.

2. True or False: I am more ethical than my peers.

3. John is the captain of a submarine. An explosion has caused the sub to lose most of its oxygen supply and has injured a crewman who is bleeding badly and is going to die from his wound no matter what happens. The remaining oxygen is not sufficient for the entire crew to make it to the surface. The only way to save the other crew members is for John to shoot dead the injured crewman now. Then there will be just enough oxygen for the rest of the crew to survive. Is it morally acceptable for John to shoot the injured crewman?

4. True or False: Sally is a tourist in New York City. Late at night she is confronted by a vicious mugger on a side street. Sally starts screaming for help. Sally is better off if there are 20 bystanders close by rather than only one.

5. True or False: If you were in a job interview and an interviewer started asking you sexually inappropriate questions, you would stand up and walk out of the interview.

6. True or False: You are driving and come upon a terrible collision between two cars that just happened. Both cars are on fire and will soon be consumed with flames, killing the occupants. You realize with horror that your brother is unconscious in one of the cars, while two strangers are unconscious in the other. You have time to save the occupants of only one of the cars. The moral thing for you to do is to save the two strangers.

Don’t panic if you didn’t correctly answer all six questions. Prentice says we all tend to overestimate our ability to act ethically, and the good news is that studying ethics education — like watching nearly 50 Ethics Unwrapped videos that anyone, anywhere can use for free — will help you find your ethical bearings.

“The big picture is that everybody…tends to think of themselves as good people with the confidence they’ll make ethical decisions. But we aren’t realistic about the pressures we face,” Prentice says. “The best way for us to prepare students is to explain how hard it will be to live up to their own standards.”

Quiz Answers

1. False. Most people’s ethical judgments are easily manipulated by simply changing contextual factors. By telling them that their boss has a certain view, that their peers have a certain view, or even just by spraying the room in which they make the decision with “Fart Spray”(yes, there is such a product), psychologists can alter people’s ethical judgments. Because people generally do not realize how easily their ethical judgments are manipulated, they are prone to making poor ethical choices.

2. Who knows? You may be more ethical than your peers. But 85% or so of Americans also believe that they are and that is simply not mathematically possible. This and the fact that 92% of Americans are satisfied with their moral character illustrate the point of Ethics Unwrapped’s video on The Overconfidence Bias that most of us tend to be overly confident in our own morality, which can lead us to make ethical decisions without being sufficiently reflective.

3. There is no incontestably right answer here. But by giving subjects brain-teasers that tempted them to quickly choose obvious answers that turned out to be wrong, psychologists prompted them to be more thoughtful in answering this question. When they did, subjects tended to answer ‘yes’ at a meaningfully higher rate than did people who answered with their gut. When people answer ethical questions spontaneously, they tend to be more deontological (rule-based) in their responses (“Thou Shalt Not Kill”). With more reflection, they tend to take a more utilitarian (consequences-based) approach (taking one life to save many).

4. False. Because of the “bystander effect”-the tendency of people to take their behavioral cues from those around them–Sally may be better off with only one person nearby because that person will know that unless he or she helps, Sally will be in big trouble. If there are many people around, they may all look to each other to see what to do and if no one takes the lead, they may all end up doing nothing. Ethics Unwrapped’s video on The Conformity Bias illustrates how this human tendency can cause bad ethical decision making.

5. False. Probably anyway. In one study, when a group of young women were asked individually what they would do in this situation, virtually every one predicted that she would walk out of the interview or protest in some other fashion. But when other young women were actually put into what they thought was a real job interview, not a single one protested. They all wanted the job so much that the ethicality of the situation just faded away. The Ethics Unwrapped video on Framing illustrates that the kinds of ethical decisions you are likely to make has a lot to do with how you look at the issue. For example, if you see it as an ethical issue you will tend to make different (and more ethical) decisions than if you look at it as simply a business decision.

6. Again, there is no incontestably correct answer here. Most people believe that the right thing to do is to save your brother, even though two people will die instead of one. Many psychologists believe that our tendency to favor in-group members (friends and family) in this way is evolutionarily based and helped our ancestors improve the chances that their genes would be passed down. There is quite a bit of evidence that our moral sense evolved to help us live together cooperatively in groups.

Preparing Leaders graphic

This story is part of our “Preparing Leaders” series, which explores how students are learning valuable leadership lessons.

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Everyday Ethics Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:00:41 +0000 Nicholas Persac Vanessa Chorush sometimes finds herself in a hurry, running a few minutes late to class.

But she doesn’t always just step on the gas, breeze through yellow lights and weave past traffic. Instead, she tries to follow the law.

“I am not the exception to the rule — there’s a law for a reason,” says Chorush, a 21-year-old public relations senior from Sugar Land, Texas. “I imagine what would happen if everyone decided to speed?”

Chorush is among the many UT students who have taken a course where participants discussed how to make ethical decisions every day. They’re important lessons for a generation of students that has seen myriad ethical scandals in the media — from Enron’s collapse and steroid use in pro sports to an impeachable presidential lie and questionable police actions — their whole lives.

In more than 100 degree programs at UT, students in different majors not only examine specific instances they may face in their respective fields but also build a foundation of broad approaches to ethical behavior that apply in any profession or stage of life.

Causing Harm - Ethics Unwrapped

In a video about “Causing Harm,” Ethics Unwrapped — an online ethics teaching program developed at the McCombs School of Business — explains how emotional harm is a short-term feeling, like being offended, embarrassed or humiliated. But instances of emotional harm can evolve into more longer lasting physiological harm, which makes us feel unsure of our worth and lose confidence in ourselves.

Those courses fall under the Ethics and Leadership Flag, which ties ethics education into existing courses across the undergraduate curriculum.

In Megan Seaholm’s U.S. history course, for example, students don’t just learn when certain events happened, they discuss the factors that caused leaders and followers to make certain decisions and study conflicting influences shaping the nation’s past.

“Students are seeing the relevance of moral issues that recur throughout history,” says Jess Miner, coordinator for the Ethics and Leadership Flag in the School of Undergraduate Studies. “They are stopping to ponder why these issues were important in the past and why they are still important today.”

The Ethics and Leadership Flag courses are setting the pace for the future of higher education. In the coming years, all undergraduate students will be required to complete this flag through courses where at least one-third of the final grade comes from work in practical ethics, or the study of “what is involved in making real-life ethical choices.”

[How ethical are you? Click here for our ethics quiz and put your decision-making skills to the test.]

“UT is trying to graduate students who will go out into the world and be leaders in their fields, regardless of where they go and what they do,” Miner says. “It’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t leave a hole in their education as far as ethics is concerned.”

Wheel of Misfortune - Ethics Unwrapped

The “Causing Harm” video uses a “wheel of misfortune” to illustrate that ethical people won’t cause harm unless 1) there is legitimate justification that can be explained to the public and 2) everyone else is equally justified in causing the same kind of harm — even to yourself.

Ethics Unwrapped Expands Beyond UT

Ethics Unwrapped isn’t stopping with the foundation of behavioral ethics. Upcoming videos will include discussion of general ethics concepts “like the ethics of representation, legal rights vs. ethical responsibilities, causing harm and so on,” according to program director Cara Biasucci.

The Ethics Unwrapped videos have racked up more than 100,000 views and have been shown in more than 150 countries across the globe. The videos are being used to teach ethics not only in courses at the university but also at businesses and more than 100 other colleges and universities, including 45 different disciplines or departments and several dozen business schools.

Ethics Unwrapped isn’t only preparing tomorrow’s leaders — it’s also transforming education.

The program’s international influence coupled with the resources’ easy access have garnered financial support from both the Office of the Provost and The Teagle Foundation, which supports “new thinking in higher education.” The Teagle Foundation awarded Ethics Unwrapped a $150,000 grant — the largest grant the foundation has ever given to the university — in a gesture that validates the program’s efficacy.

“We’re offering stuff nobody else is offering,” says Biasucci, MFA ’99. “In 10 years, we want to be the go-to resource — if anybody around the world wants to teach ethics, they come to us.”

Learn more about Ethics Unwrapped and see the teaching notes developed for each video series.

Many courses with the Ethics and Leadership Flag focus on practical ethics, which can vary by discipline. Some courses also explore a more traditional approach to ethical reasoning based on principles of philosophy. Still others tie in behavioral ethics education by using materials developed right here at UT as part of an initiative called Ethics Unwrapped.

“The big picture is that everybody — and I mean everybody: teacher, engineer or Wall Street banker — tends to think of themselves as good people with the confidence they’ll make ethical decisions. But we aren’t realistic about the pressures we face,” says professor Robert Prentice, the faculty director of Ethics Unwrapped.

“The best way for us to prepare students is to explain how hard it will be to live up to their own standards and show them the pressures they’ll face from their bosses, peers and goals not to live up to their own standards,” he explains.

The Ethics Unwrapped initiative, housed in McCombs School of Business since it launched in 2012, started with a focuses on behavioral ethics, or “how and why people make the ethical decisions they do,” says Prentice, who also serves as chair of the Department of Business, Government and Society. The program centers around nearly 50 videos on ethics education that anyone, anywhere can use for free.

“We try to get people to practice how they go about making arguments that support their ethical decision making,” says Minette Drumwright, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations and chair of the Ethics and Leadership Flag committee. “The first step is seeing and recognizing the problem.”

The videos aren’t boring, talking heads rambling about conceptual ethics — they’re lively, colorful and entertaining pieces that include creative animations.

In one video, the businesspeople standing under a “MegaCorp” sign begin to grow pointed devil ears and red tails until the entire group no longer looks like one made of typical professionals. The metaphor illustrates the problem of conformity bias, or the tendency to mimic the behavior of those who surround us rather than following internally held beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong.

The videos also feature frank feedback from university students who share their experiences with ethical dilemmas.

“I thought it was important for students to relate to themselves and see some of their own experiences reflected back at them,” says Cara Biasucci, the Ethics Unwrapped Program director who uses her filmmaking background to create the pieces. “Ethics doesn’t have to be a standalone course. It can be a component of any course.”

Mixing specific career-oriented ethics education with broader approaches to handling ethical dilemmas through these teaching tools is also helping professors who may not specialize in ethics education to strengthen the ideals of students — from dancers and musicians, future doctors and lawyers, to businesspeople, architects, engineers and everything in between.

“Teachers, architects and engineers all face different ethical issues, but they tend to make the same mistakes,” Prentice said.

Ellen Lobb, a public relations alumna who graduated this past summer, finds herself thinking about the lessons she learned in a course on ethics in the field of advertising and PR.

Lobb says materials from that course are helping her in the post-college workforce — and sparking conversations as she analyzes commercials she sees on TV.

“Ethics are involved no matter what you do,” Lobb says. “After taking the course and seeing how much speaking up about ethics can be for the better, I see the importance. It’s important for UT students to figure out their ethics and morals before they leave the college environment because you can very easily be swayed.”

“If we can reach every undergrad and make them aware of ethics,” Miner says, “the hope is that it will be impossible for them not to think about it when they come to a tough decision.”

Preparing Leaders series graphic

This story is part of our “Preparing Leaders” series, which explores how students are learning valuable leadership lessons.

You might also like:

Behind the Scenes with Ethics Unwrapped Director Cara Biasucci (McCombs Today)

Answering an Ethical SOS (McCombs Today)


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Spanking, Whooping, Beating – It’s All Hitting Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:41:58 +0000 mp35922 There is now a national conversation about the difference between spanking and physical abuse. Many Americans are uncomfortable about physical punishment that injures children, but still favor milder forms such as spanking. In accepting spanking as a form of discipline, we, as a country, are condoning violence against children.

Spanking is hitting, plain and simple. Think about it. Spanking involves a big, powerful person hitting a smaller, less powerful person. Just calling it “spanking” instead of “hitting” does not change that fact. Children are the only group of people whom it is legal for adults to hit. Across all states in the U.S., parents have the right to hit their children in the name of discipline, and in 19 states including Texas, school personnel have the right to hit children in schools. Indeed, school disciplinarians typically use large wooden paddles to strike children when they administer corporal punishment. If an adult were to hit another adult with such a paddle, it would be considered a weapon, and the act would be considered assault.

It is time for parents and educators across the U.S. to rethink our use of spanking as a form of discipline. Research clearly shows that spanking is ineffective at teaching children how to behave appropriately in the future. In fact, spanking actually increases children’s disobedience, problem behavior and aggression. It also increases their likelihood of developing mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. When parents spank often, they increase the likelihood they will injure and physically abuse their children. There is no research evidence that spanking is necessary or effective at correcting misbehavior, regardless of the age of the child.

Yet parents continue to spank despite this growing evidence of its ineffectiveness and harm, primarily because they were spanked by their parents when they were children. Adults throughout America are repeating the phrase, “I was spanked and I turned out OK,” and using that as justification for spanking their own children. Those statements are wrong on two grounds.

First, everything we know about how children learn tells us that hitting does not teach children how to behave. Rather, when parents teach lessons to their children, lead by example, praise children when they behave appropriately, and serve as a source of love and support for children, children learn what behavior is expected of them. Spankings are memorable because they hurt us both emotionally and physically. It’s harder to remember all of the talks, hugs and compliments our parents gave us over the years, but it is those acts, not the spankings, that helped us become who we are as adults.

Second, just because our parents did something to us does not mean we should repeat the same behavior. In my generation, our parents smoked or drank while pregnant and drove us in cars without car seats or even seatbelts. We now know that each of these behaviors is potentially damaging if not life-threatening to children, even though they were “normal” at the time and what everyone did. We can learn from the mistakes of previous generations and from the benefit of years of research by using more effective and less harmful ways of raising our children.

Those of us who were spanked by our parents and “turned out OK” were lucky — lucky that our parents did all the other things that help raise well-adjusted children and adults. It is time to flip the adage on its head to say, “I turned out OK — not because I was spanked, but in spite of it.” Current and future generations of parents can break the cycle and raise confident, well-behaved children without hitting them.

Elizabeth T. Gershoff is an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and an expert on the effects of spanking on children.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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Black Women are Already Dead in America Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:59:57 +0000 mp35922 A mix of outrage, horror and despair probably best describes many people’s responses to the recent coverage of and reactions to the violent assault of black women. It raises questions about how race may have factored in. Would Ray Rice have been dropped from the Ravens faster if the first video showed him dragging face down a white woman he beat unconscious from an elevator? Would we have needed to see the second video? Would media outlets have used the second video sparingly, out of consideration for the victim, if Janay Rice was white?

But let me also ask this: how different might media coverage be of Daniel Holtzclaw, a police officer from Oklahoma City who faces 16 charges for allegedly raping several black women while on the job, if he was a black officer accused of the rape and sexual assault of eight white women? The answers lead to one cold, hard conclusion: black women’s lives do not matter. They simply do not matter. Not in mainstream America at least, and not in black America either.

For those who disagree, I suspect they would say the NFL has been roundly criticized for its handling of the case – both for initially only giving Ray Rice a slap on the wrists and then waiting until the knockout video surfaced to enact harsher punishment. But it has taken months for the NFL to change its policies and to finally suspend Rice indefinitely. Each step of the way both Rice and the NFL have had their defenders, from people pointing out that Rice is hardly the first player to assault a woman, to others, including many in the black community, suggesting that Janay invited the assault by slapping Ray Rice. Simply put, an unarmed 115-pound woman posed no threat to the NFL player who takes hits from men three times his size for a living. Those who disagree are also willfully ignoring the fact that the number two cause of death for black women and teenage girls is homicide, primarily intimate partner violence. Clearly the NFL, and the NBA for that matter, should have an absolute zero tolerance policy on violence against women but also it cannot just be a room full of men deciding on these policies and evaluating the evidence when cases arise.

With the Holtzclaw case, the relative silence surrounding it coupled with the low-profile media coverage is appalling, and not only because an officer allegedly targeted poor black women for sexual assault, women who ranged in age from 34 to 58 years old, but also given the massive response to the officer involved shooting of unarmed black teenager, Mike Brown. Adding insult to injury would be the crowd funding effort on behalf of the accused and the fact that Holtzclaw has been released on bail, which was reduced from $5 million to $500,000. While there is a petition on calling for his bail to be revoked, little else on a national level is happening. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should be fast on their way to insist that the governor revoke Holtzclaw’s bail. The National Organization of Women, at a minimum, should be putting out a statement denouncing the rape of black women and girls. Even if we ignore black women’s grinding poverty, the sky-high rates of HIV infection, and the disproportionate incarceration, the fact is nearly half of all black women have been sexually coerced by the age of 18. The government should roll out an initiative for young black girls now or amend My Brother’s Keeper to include them. And I wonder: will the DOJ launch a probe into the track record of the judge who released an officer accused of targeting impoverished black women for rape and other forms of sexual terrorism, particularly given the current DOJ investigation into the Ferguson Police Department?

Perhaps they should. Maybe things would be different if Holtzclaw had shot and killed his alleged victims, granted they would be dead, but it seems most black women are already dead anyway.

Kali Nicole Gross, associate professor and associate chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at The University of Texas at Austin and she is author of the award-winning book, Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910.

A version of the op-ed appeared in the Huffington Post, The Oklahoman and the Houston Chronicle.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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Want Job Security? Jobs of Tomorrow will be in Service, Applying Manufacturing Technologies Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:19:57 +0000 mp35922 The world of work continues to change in the United States as brains replace muscle. Nearly 200 years ago, half of all workers were engaged in agriculture jobs; yet today those workers are more productive with less than 5 percent of the jobs. As Texas went from reliance on cattle and cotton, manufacturing rose. But Texas reflects national trends today with no relative growth of jobs in manufacturing for decades.

Population goes where the jobs are, and that is the service category. This includes moving manufactured products arriving from low-wage nations such as China via ships at Gulf ports to rails and highways supplying the nation’s interior. College majors such as “supply chain management” reflect the globalization of manufacturing. The best example is the retailer Wal-Mart, with stores filled with products from across the world maintaining low store inventories through regional warehouses and tight control of supply chains into Asia.

The most significant manufacturing growth that affects Texas occurs, in fact, in Mexico. Now, 1 in 5 of every auto manufactured in North America is made in Mexico. With labor costs as low as $2.50 per hour, auto manufacturing from Canada and the United States will transplant to Mexico. In Texas, jobs will continue to develop to handle the ordering and movement of goods from Mexico into the United States. Service jobs will develop near the Mexican border, mainly in the Valley and a small bump in El Paso. Meanwhile, manufactured goods arriving at Gulf ports will decline as increases in the cost of oil nullify the lower labor cost advantages of Asia. The trend is clear: We will transport more and manufacture less.

There are three basic sectors of the economy: extractive (mining, lumbering, agriculture), manufacturing and service. Service is a broad category including sales, hospital work, insurance, teaching, law, accounting, transportation, public safety and government.

Service is the largest job category in Texas and in the nation. It accounts for more than 80 percent of jobs. In the coming decades, Texas jobs will continue to migrate to services, with no job growth in the other two sectors, extractive and manufacturing. Job content in these two sectors will change, but relative numbers will not increase. Two important developments serve to prevent decrease, and these are the continuing growth of robotics appearing in agriculture, warehouse and medical care; and the ever more sophisticated manufacturing processes, including 3-D or additive manufacturing. The promise of 3-D manufacturing combining computers, the Internet and dimensional printing is to create products at-site and one-at-a-time, thus removing the advantage of low-cost labor far away. If promises are met, this will lead to the decline of Wal-Mart-style enterprises, including global shipping, supply chain management, business travel, etc.

Job creation that includes growing the number of jobs will continue to be in services and applying new manufacturing technologies. Service jobs are flexible and more amenable to innovation than traditional jobs. However, regions of low-cost labor with unskilled and semi-skilled workers will suffer severe job declines. Texas and even more so, Mexico, must increase educational levels or suffer high unemployment as the march of technology continues. Educating brains creates new jobs, and that is the future of jobs!

We are seeing a century-long emerging pattern in the changing character of jobs. One aspect of that pattern is the ever-increasing role of technology. Policymakers must create funding and incentives to push organizations and employees to avail themselves of education. Persons in charge of organizations must work to create continuous learning cultures. Honda received much favorable press years ago for the enthusiasm of its workforce and the power that line employees had to stop the assembly line if they spotted some manufacturing flaw. Those employees that found problems and worked on solutions were celebrated by peers and the corporation.

Parents also play a critical role in preparing their children to succeed at school and at work. Parents must make certain that their students are taking coursework in science, mathematics and technology. Writing and speaking are critical skills as well, and are developed through courses in English, history and the social sciences.

The jobs of tomorrow will continue to change, and we must be ready to harness the potential that tomorrow brings.

Michael Lauderdale is the Clara Pope Willoughby Centennial Professor in Criminal Justice and chair of the clinical and administrative leadership concentration at The University of Texas at Austin. Noel Landuyt is the director of the Institute for Organizational Excellence and a research associate in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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Tower Shines Orange for UT Austin’s 131st Birthday Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:35:27 +0000 Cory Leahy

On Monday, Sept. 15, the university celebrates its 131st birthday. Monday night, the university’s Tower will glow burnt orange to celebrate our 131st year as a “university of the first class.” Learn about UT Austin’s history from UT History Central: A comprehensive guide to University of Texas history.

What’s your favorite UT memory? Let us know in the comments and share your answer on social media using #UTat131.

Related Links:
About UT
Tower Lighting Configurations
UT History Central

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The Other Rankings Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:37:42 +0000 Tracy Mueller The University of Texas at Austin is routinely lauded as an elite university in well-known academic rankings like the U.S. News and World Report survey, which places UT as the #17 public university and names 30 graduate programs to the top-15 nationally.

But UT is about more than just academic rigor. Student life, the Austin community, cultural resources, athletics and health and wellness all contribute to the university’s character.

And because people can’t seem to get enough of lists, there is a ranking out there for just about every aspect of college life. We rounded up some that show what UT offers outside the classroom. Click on the headlines for more information about each ranking.

#9 Happiest College

According to College Prowler, 9.7 out of 10 UT students said they would enroll all over again, reports the Alcalde blog.

University of Texas students happiness ranking

#10 Student Health Services

According to a University Health Services survey, 88 percent of University Health Services (UHS) patients report that their UHS visit helped prevent their health concern from becoming a barrier to their academic performance. There were 37,509 student interactions with the Health Promotion Resource Center in 2012-13.

University of Texas Health Services

Healing work being done at the University Health Services clinic. Image credit: Marsha Miller.

#10 Most Intelligent College Town

“Possibly the hippest, most intelligent town in the southern U.S., Austin is very notable for being a hot center for students and young professionals in their 20s and 30s,” writes the website ZoomTens. “The University of Texas at Austin has not only many of the brightest young students throughout the entire state and country, it also graduates thousands of people with diverse training skills, including engineering and computer science. … Previously ranked as the no. 1 overall college town by The Travel Channel, Austin is also known as being the premiere hotspot for intellectual young entrepreneurs. Indeed, young graduates of UT Austin and other residents of the town are consistently starting up some of the most successful businesses nationally and internationally.”

#21 Best Value Among Public Universities

Fiscal year 2012-13 undergraduate resident tuition and fees at UT Austin ranked second-lowest out of a 12-institution national comparison group.

Top 11 Coolest College Recreation Centers

According to a Recreational Sports survey:

  • 89 percent of students participate in at least one aspect of Recreational Sports
  • 92 percent of students say Recreational Sports contributed to their quality of life

University of Texas student recreation center

#8 Gluten-Free Accommodating Universities

Gluten-free friendly options are available at all Division of Housing and Food Services dining and market venues on campus — and students take notice. Sophomore Cailin Rosborough actually met with DHFS registered dietitian Lindsay Wilson to discuss her gluten intolerance and food allergies before deciding to attend UT.

“She sat down with us and answered any and all questions that we had,” says Rosborough. “She worked tirelessly to help me finalize a diet plan that suited my needs, as well as providing me with a ‘normal’ college dining experience.”

UT was also named one of the 25 healthiest colleges in the U.S. by

University of Texas student recreation center

#10 University Worldwide for Producing VC-Backed Entrepreneurs

The PitchBook blog reports that from 2009 through July 2014, 150 UT undergraduate alumni company founders received more than $1.2 million in venture capital funding, placing the Longhorns in the top-10 with Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT and Harvard.

#20 for Civic Engagement, Social Mobility and Research

#1 Campus in Texas Worth Traveling For

The FlipKey blog, by TripAdvisor, named UT as the university in the State of Texas to visit, picking the Harry Ransom Center as the must-see attraction on the 40 Acres.

The Ransom Center was selected because it “advances the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving and making accessible original cultural materials. It also features the world’s oldest photograph.”

#1 Most Influential University on Twitter

Top 20 Coolest College Radio Station

Writes Men’s Health, “Playing host to major festivals like Austin City Limits and South By Southwest, Austin is a music lover’s town. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that it’s also home to one of the best college radio stations in the country. KVRX is candid about what to expect—’none of the hits, all of the time.’”

#17 Worldwide for Producing Millionaires

#8 Most Engaged College Football Fan Base

University of Texas football fans

Image credit: UT Athletics

#1 Logo in College Football

#3 (Among Large Schools) Best & Most Collaborative College

And finally, it’s worth pointing out that UT has been receiving kudos for more than a century. A recently discovered U.S. Bureau of Education report from 1911 classified the university as “Class I,” the highest ranking available.

1911 university rankings

Via the Library of Congress.
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It’s Time You Get Up to Speed on Hydraulic Fracturing Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:51:33 +0000 mp35922 Have you heard about the energy transition underway in the United States? My guess is probably not.

More than half of Americans are unfamiliar with the words “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking,” according to the most recent University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll. Among the 40 percent who recognize these terms, just 42 percent say they support the use of this technology to extract fossil fuels.

Yet despite being largely unaware of this technology, hydraulic fracturing has been reshaping the global energy landscape around us. In fact, just this July advances in horizontal drilling deep underground enabled the United States to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas (and oil), surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The surge in domestic production has helped the U.S. finally achieve a bipartisan goal of the White House that has persisted for the past 40 years. Every one of the past eight presidents pledged to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Yet every administration departed with higher oil imports than when they began. Times have changed. When President Barack Obama leaves office in 2017, oil imports will finally be lower than when he arrived. It is not the result of his administration’s work alone, but rather the cumulative effect of decades of events that set the stage for our current natural gas boom — the same one that many Americans have not heard about.

Government policies that began in the 1970s funded technological advances in drilling technologies. At the same time, high gas prices provided market incentives to look for new wells on private lands. More recently, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that set injection regulations did not include hydraulic fracturing. As energy expert Michael Webber explained, “It’s a rare instance in which markets, government and technology worked together with a common goal. And succeeded.”

And there’s good news. U.S. dependency on foreign oil has been decreasing. And another thing that most Americans don’t realize is that much of what we do import comes from our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. This trend is projected to continue thanks to the rise in domestic natural gas production, improvements in energy efficient technologies and reduced demand due to high prices.

The U.S. is looking more energy independent in the years to come, which raises a new question: If we have all of this natural gas available, should we export our now abundant natural gas? This possibility has turned more serious in recent months because of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Since then, the international news media have focused on the European Union’s energy insecurity. The EU is currently extremely vulnerable to Russia’s strategic interests. In recent years, Moscow has turned off the oil pipelines passing through Ukraine to the EU twice.

Just as hydraulic fracturing has enabled the United States to have the capacity to be a net exporter, Europe is looking to find the means to decrease its dependence on Russian energy.

An energy trade between the United States and the European Union seems like it would benefit both, but can it happen? That will be complicated. Current U.S. law does not allow us to export our abundant energy supply to the EU, but negotiations are now underway to change the current agreement. Still, even if the U.S. is able to benefit economically while helping the EU achieve a short-term energy security solution, that is not enough. We need to work together toward becoming less dependent on fossil fuels on both sides of the Atlantic.

Hydraulic fracturing is not a long-term energy solution, but rather a means to help us to transition away from carbon-based fuels toward alternatives. Improving efficiency while developing renewable energy technologies will ultimately improve global stability, reduce emissions and ensure a sustainable future.

Policy discussions regarding the export of natural gas and the construction of related new infrastructure are underway in Congress. Yet the public has been largely left out of the conversation. If we hope to advance our economic and foreign policy goals through the current U.S. natural gas boom, it’s time to get the public up to speed on hydraulic fracturing.

Sheril Kirshenbaum is the director of The Energy Poll at The University of Texas at Austin.

Texas Perspectives disclaimer

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There She Is: Longhorn Competes for Miss America Crown Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:23:12 +0000 Nicholas Persac

University of Texas at Austin student and reigning Miss Texas Monique Evans leaves her autograph on a map at the arrival ceremony for the 2015 Miss America pageant.

University of Texas at Austin student and reigning Miss Texas Monique Evans leaves her autograph on a map at the arrival ceremony for the 2015 Miss America pageant.

The famous Miss America song describes beauty queens “who are more than pretty.”

Monique Evans, a University of Texas at Austin student who is competing for the crown as the reigning Miss Texas, is a nutritional sciences senior and is applying to medical schools to become an osteopathic physician in preventative and integrated medicine.

Being Miss America:
Behind the Rhinestone Curtain

The University of Texas Press published Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain by Kate Shindle

The University of Texas Press published this month Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain by Kate Shindle, who earned the Miss America title in 1998 after competing as Miss Illinois.

Shindle’s book “illuminates both the challenges and the opportunities that keep young women competing to become Miss America” while exploring the pageant’s balance between “beauty and brains as it tries to remain relevant to women who aspire to become leaders in the community, not hot babes in swimsuits.”

The New York Times profiled the book, which has a nearly 4.5 stars ranking on Amazon, and praised it for being “a history and analysis of the Miss America Organization, for better and for worse.”

The pageant recognized Evans’s academic ambitions and named her one of 10 finalists to receive a $5,000 scholarship to continue education in STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields.

[Learn about programs for future health professionals at UT Austin.]

Evans, a 22-year-old from Austin, decided to pursue a STEM career in preventative medicine after her father survived a heart attack he had while jogging. That incident, along with her brother’s being born with a heart condition, prompted her to fight for heart-healthy lifestyles.

Under her “Remember Your Heart: One Beat at a Time,” campaign, Evans encourages people to exercise, eat better and learn about both risks and preventative measures. She’ll take that message to the national stage during the pageant, making it her platform issue alongside her talent, ballet en Pointe.

Evans promises to “show a Hook ’Em sign loud and proud” during the pageant, and Longhorns faithful can help Evans be a finalist for the crown by voting for her to be America’s Choice before the poll closes Thursday at 10:59 p.m. (Texas time).

The Miss America 2015 competition airs Sunday, September 14, live on ABC at 8 p.m., when the eyes of the country — and not just Texas — will be upon Evans.


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