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November 28, 2001
Vol. 28, No. 13


A Class Act: Informal Classes marks 30th anniversary

Director of Health & Safety says to exercise caution, but keep things in perspective

UT Press offers scholarly books about Middle East

UT and LULAC develop Austin Youth Leadership Academy

Advancements in disease research, mathematical theory take honors at Siemens competition

$7.2 million grant funds medical research

Marketing professor's research blends expertise in music industry, electronic commerce

New division to enhance teaching effectiveness, learning opportunities

Four teams to compete in MOOT CORP finals

Eckhardt continues to safeguard campus history six years after his death

Norma Cantú brings expertise into classroom

$2.15 NSF grant to improve production of oil, gas

Research team discovers mechanism regulating plant growth

Engineers harness "quantum dots" for neurological research

Orange Santa program makes season brighter

Readership Survey

Anti-terrorism expert calls for increased steps to combat terrorism

Arete: Jessica J. Summers

School of Social Work gets funding for substance abuse research

A salute to military veterans, POWs, MIAs




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ON CAMPUS is published by the Office of Public Affairs for The University of Texas at Austin community. Publication is monthly during the academic year, except holiday periods. Text from On Campus may be reprinted as long as credit is given.

A Class Act: Learning doesn't stop at 30Informal Classes marks three decades of unique offerings aimed at enhancing personal growth, quality of life

Some of the most unusual and lively classes in Austin — in fact it's entertaining just to read the catalog — are celebrating 30 years of teaching everything from kickboxing to finding your own guardian angel.

the horse-whisperer class is one of the most popular
Photo courtesy of the Texas Union
Established in 1971 with a few courses in wine-tasting, photography and foreign car repair, Texas Union Informal Classes now offers 2,400 different classes a year.  The Horse Whisperer course is among the most popular classes for the 25,000 people who enroll annually. With annual revenues of $500,000 to $750,000, the program breaks even financially without any subsidy from the university.

Established in 1971, The University of Texas at Austin Informal Classes provides a variety of short non-credit courses and workshops for the entire Austin community.

The classes, which are run by the Texas Union, are designed to give the most information in the least amount of time.

Want to learn how to write a modern mystery, buy a house, create your own funeral, start your own record label, do the South African Can and Gumboot dance, play the didgeridoo (ancient Aboriginal wind instrument), fight fair, hang glide, belly dance, make tamales, or perhaps learn how to be a shaman, a horse whisperer or a weatherman — Informal Classes will come to the rescue every time.

"It's important for our personal growth and our quality of life to continue learning, and we've got something for everyone," said Emily Speight, who has been program coordinator of Informal Classes since last January. "People enroll just because they're interested in a subject, and with a room full of students who feel this way, it turns out to be a wonderful experience for everyone."

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Exercise caution, but keep things in perspective, university official says of campus safety concerns

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the phone rings at a steady pace in the office of Erle Janssen, director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at The University of Texas at Austin.

Many of the calls express concern about suspicious letters, white powder and anything and everything related to anthrax contamination. Janssen, who has been studying issues related to nuclear, biological and chemical threats since 1983, usually disarms the fears of panicked callers with the most effective weapon available — information.
"It is important that we keep things in perspective," Janssen said. "There has been no contaminated mail sent to Texas or any university in the United States that we know of. Whoever is behind this has targeted high-level media representatives and federal government officials — not universities. All told, there have only been three letters that have tested positive for anthrax. About 30 people have been exposed, and four have died."

While any loss of life is regrettable, Janssen said widespread panic over the anthrax incidents should be tempered by facts. About 20,000 people die each year in the United States from the flu, while 114,000 are hospitalized. About 76 million people suffer food poisoning each year, requiring 325,000 hospitalizations and causing 5,200 deaths. "Again, perspective is the key," he said.

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UT Press offers scholarly books about Middle East

The University of Texas Press is collaborating with the Association of American University Presses to make scholarly books about the Middle East more readily available to readers, journalists, teachers and scholars in response to the events of Sept. 11.

A Web site called "Books for Understanding" has been created in response to the sudden need to access information. It provides a listing of books on relevant topics or pertaining to recent events.

Subject areas include "Responding to tragedy," "Islam: Religion and Culture," and "The Middle East: Politics and Culture."

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University students benefit from lessons learned, taught by former civil rights head Norma Cantú, an expert in education litigation

After spreading the pages of the local Spanish-language daily neatly on the scarred kitchen table, Rosa Cantú patiently began teaching her precocious granddaughter to read about the Cold War in the late 1950s.

The child learned quickly. First, El Heraldo de Brownsville in Spanish, then the English version of the Brownsville Herald. By kindergarten, she devoured scarce books in both languages.

Dr. Norma Cantu

Decades later, the granddaughter, Norma Cantú, who had become a nationally known litigator, would remember her abuela's legacy as she worked at the same table preparing court documents for a famous lawsuit, Edgewood vs. Kirby, which finally narrowed the spending gap between rich and poor schools in Texas.

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