Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


In Focus: 2/20/2009

A weekly newsletter published by the Communications Office

Top News


A time-honored tradition will be returning to Southwestern this spring: The Brooks Prize debate. The debate, as well as an oratory competition, will get under way with preliminary rounds Feb. 23-27 in the Mood-Bridwell atrium. The final round will be held March 31 at 4 p.m. in the McCombs Ballrooms.

Junior political science major Matthew Maschino began work to revive this lost tradition with the help of junior English major Sarah Gould.

Over the summer, Maschino spent hours researching in the Special Collections section of Southwestern’s A. Frank Smith Jr. Library. He especially looked into the literary societies, which were the focus of social life at Southwestern in its early years. Four literary societies - two male and two female - were established in the late 1800s.

In 1878, the two men’s societies - the Alamo and the San Jacinto - established a grand tradition by organizing a championship debate between the two societies to be held during commencement week. Within 10 years, it was the most significant event of the year on campus and eventually came to include all students. The societies sought to choose topics consisting of prevalent, controversial issues.

Read the rest of the story here


Of the more than 400 pieces written by 19th century German composer Felix Mendelssohn, only about 150 survive today in published form. A hundred of his pieces are believed to be completely lost, and the rest are missing.

Michael Cooper, an associate professor of music at Southwestern University, was browsing through an auction catalog in 1997 when he found a reference to one such missing piece at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. However, at that time the curators of the Conservatory’s music library were still hesitant about sharing their manuscripts with Westerners.

Cooper persisted, though, and in January 2003 the Conservatory finally sent him digital scans of the piece he was interested in. The piece, titled Fantasy and Variations for Two Pianos and Orchestra on the Gypsy March from Weber’s “Preziosa,” was jointly composed by Felix Mendelssohn and Ignaz Moscheles, a German pianist and composer who was a friend of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Central Texas residents will get the opportunity to hear the full version of the piece for the first time since 1833 when the Austin Civic Orchestra performs it at Southwestern on Saturday, Feb. 21. The piece will be performed as part of the orchestra’s winter concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater.

Read the rest of the story here.



The Cage Percussion Players will perform at Southwestern University on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater. The program will include works by William Russell, Johanna Beyer, Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell and the ensemble’s namesake, John Cage.
The Cage Percussion Players are based in Austin perform original parts on authentic instruments. For more information on the group, visit

The performance is sponsored by the Department of Music in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts.


The Southwestern University Theatre Department is presenting performances of the Rocky Horror Show Feb. 25-March 1 in the Jones Theater. Performances will be given

Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and midnight, Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Cost for the Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday performances is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for youth/students. The Friday and Saturday performances are $18 for adults, $14 for seniors and $12 for youth/students. The special midnight performance is $20 for adults and $15 for students. Discounts are available for groups of 15 and more.

Those attending the special midnight performance on Friday are invited to dress up like one the characters, play along with the actors on stage, and possibly win two Easter New York Theater Tour packages, which include airfare, hotel and tickets to three Broadway shows!  

Tickets are available at or by calling the SSFA Box Office at 512-863-1378 Monday through Friday between 1 and 5 p.m.


The Peabody Trio will perform at Southwestern on Sunday, March 1, at 7 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater. The program will feature works by Leos Janácek, Charles Ives and Franz Schubert. It is free and open to the public.

The Peabody Trio is the resident faculty ensemble of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Trio members include Violaine Melançon, violin; Natasha Brofsky, cello; and Seth Knopp, piano.

The concert is sponsored by the Sarofim School of Fine Arts. For more information, call

Media Coverage

The Austin American-Statesman and the Williamson County Sun ran stories about Michael Cooper’s reconstruction of a missing Mendelssohn piece. Read the Statesman story here.

The Voice of America and KUT also interviewed Cooper about his work on the Mendelssohn piece. Read the Voice of America interview here.

The Austin American-Statesman covered President Schrum’s signing of the American College and Universities Climate Commitment. Read the story here.


Senior sociology major Nicole M. Powell is receiving the 2009 Odum Award for best undergraduate research paper from the Southern Sociological Society. Powell wrote a paper titled “Little Gay Gandhis: Providing a Safe Space and Empowering Sexual Minorities” for her capstone class last semester under the direction of Maria Lowe, professor of sociology. Powell will receive the award and a $200 cash prize at the Southern Sociological Society meeting in New Orleans, La., April 1-4.    

Four Southwestern students presented papers at the Western States Communication Association convention in Mesa, Ariz., last weekend. Nadia Alareksoussi presented a paper titled “Maintaining and Resisting the Sex Binary: Intercultural Conflicts Between Medical Communities and FTMs.” Brooke Arnold Calder presented a paper titled “All About Eve: Hillary Clinton and the Lapsarian Subconscious.” Erika Kleinschmidt
presented a paper titled “Injustice and Student Civic Engagement: Communicating Alliances During Campus Conflicts About Diversity.” And Sally Spalding presented a paper titled “The Feminine Ideal: A Rhetorical Analysis of Biblical Texts and the Constraints Placed on Women within the Christian Tradition.”

At the same convention, Julia Johnson, assistant professor of communications, presented a paper she co-authored with Alison Kafer, assistant professor of feminist studies. The paper was titled “Pedagogies of Social Justice & Civic Engagement: How Students Know Themselves, Others, and Professors Through Service Learning Initiatives.”

Six faculty members have been named to lead Paideia cohorts in 2009-2012. They are Don Gregory, Hal Haskell, Michael Kamen, Francis Mathieu, Scott McLean, Helene Meyers, Katy Ross, and Desi Roybal.