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In Focus: 2/16/2012

A weekly newsletter published by the Communications Office

Top News

JOE AUSTIN NAMED NEW HEAD FOOTBALL COACH

Joe Austin, a coach with a 13-year history of successfully building college football programs from the ground up, has been named the new head football coach at Southwestern University.

Southwestern announced in October 2011 that it would reinstate football in the 2013-2014 academic year after a 62-year hiatus.

Austin was hired to launch the new program after a nationwide search. He will start at Southwestern Feb. 27.

“Building this program at Southwestern is an exciting opportunity that I couldn’t possibly pass up,” Austin said. “Southwestern is a school with a great academic reputation that is excellent in placing their graduates in jobs and graduate schools. It is in a great location, both in terms of quality of life and quality of football, and the school is making a first-class commitment to reinstituting collegiate football.”

Austin is currently the head coach at Hanover College, a liberal arts college in Hanover, Ind. In his four years at Hanover, he has taken a program that was in a rapid downward spiral and transformed it into a strong program that has finished second in its conference in the past two years. This success has carried to areas off the field as well, with the team GPA rising .5 during his time at Hanover.

Read more here.

NEW SOFTWARE ENABLES SPECIAL COLLECTIONS TO MAKE THE TEXT OF AN 1846 MEXICAN WAR DIARY AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC

A tiny, faded diary from the U.S-Mexican War of 1846 that is very difficult to read is now accessible to the public thanks to a pilot project undertaken by Special Collections in Southwestern’s A. Frank Smith Library Center.

The diary was the first Special Collections put online for transcription using a new software program that enables the public to participate in transcribing history.

The software, called FromThePage, was developed by Austin resident Ben Brumfield to enable his family to jointly transcribe his great-great-grandmother’s diary. It is now available free to others who want to transcribe handwritten documents online – a new trend known as “crowdsourcing transcription.”

In addition to enabling users to transcribe documents, FromThePage enables volunteers to add footnotes and discuss difficult passages that might need refinement. The resulting text is hosted on the web along with images of the original handwritten pages.

“The value comes when transcribers are knowledgeable and add notes and commentary,” said Kathryn Stallard, head of Special Collections.

Southwestern was fortunate to find an extremely knowledgeable volunteer to take on the project of transcribing the 1846 Mexican War diary and papers of Zenas W. Matthews, who served as a private under Captain Christopher. B. Acklin’s Company B of Colonel John C. Hays’ First Texas Mounted Riflemen.

Scott Patrick, a retired Texas history enthusiast who is president general elect of the San Jacinto Descendants, said he undertook the project to repay Southwestern for providing him with a document he wanted related to the Battle of San Jacinto. 

“When I began, it seemed as if it was more than I could handle due to the poor condition of the diary,” Patrick said. “Then after several visits to the site, it seemed as if I could read Zenas’s handwriting much better. I even began revisiting earlier pages that I had transcribed and found many new facts that I missed the first time around.”

Read more here.

Events

OBSERVATORY TO HOST PUBLIC VIEWING NIGHT FEB. 24

The Fountainwood Observatory will host a public viewing night Friday, Feb. 24, from 8-10:30 p.m.

The viewing will begin with a thin crescent Moon and the planet Venus low in the southwestern sky. While these will set relatively early in the night, Jupiter (further to the East and higher in the sky) will remain visible throughout the viewing. With limited moonlight, bright winter star clusters and the Orion nebula will be viewable in fine detail. By the end of the evening, Mars will appear above the eastern horizon.

The observatory is located on the northeast side of campus adjacent to the Rockwell Baseball Field (see #6 on the campus map at http://www.southwestern.edu/map). Faculty members from the Physics Department at Southwestern as well as observers from the Williamson County Astronomy Club will be on hand to guide viewing. The viewing nights are free, but donations are encouraged to help maintain the observatory.

For weather-related updates about viewing nights, call the observatory hotline at 512-863-1242.

JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR TOM FRIEDMAN TO GIVE THE 2012 SHILLING LECTURE

Southwestern’s 2012 Shilling Lecture will feature Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times. The lecture will be held Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. in the Robertson Center.

Friedman will speak about “That Used to be Us,” which is the topic of his latest book, co-written with Michael Mandelbaum − That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World We Invented and How We Can Come Back.

Friedman is the author of several bestselling books, including Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolutionand How It Can Renew America, The World is Flat, Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism, The Lexus and the Olive Tree and From Beirut to Jerusalem, which serves as a basic text on the Middle East in colleges and universities nationwide and won the National Book Award.

This year’s lecture is being made available to the public at no charge thanks to a grant from Southwestern’s food service provider, Sodexo. Tickets for the general public may be reserved at http://www.southwestern.edu/about/shilling/request.php and may be picked up at the box office on the evening of the event. The box office will open at 5 p.m. with the doors for the lecture opening at 6 p.m.

Read more here.

‘THE BEGGAR’S OPERA’ OPENS MARCH 1

The Theatre Department and Music Department are collaborating on a production of “The Beggar’s Opera” that will be presented March 1-4 in the Alma Thomas Theater.

Written by John Gay and adapted by Benjamin Britten, “The Beggar’s Opera” brings to life the greed, lust and corruption of 18th century London. Guest director for the production is Ronald Ulen, who has appeared with opera companies from around the world in nearly 2,000 performances. Ulen recently joined the voice faculty at Texas State University.

Performances will be given at 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $14 - $20 and may be purchased online at www.southwestern.tix.com or by calling the Box Office at 512-863-1378.

Media Coverage

The United Methodist Reporter did a story on the fundraiser Southwestern student Allie Klein did for Kamina Methodist University in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Read the story here.

Southwestern is mentioned in an Inside Higher Ed story about a new digital humanities press co-sponsored by NITLE. Read the story here.

Science Daily and several other electronic media outlets published the results of a research project that Chemistry Professor Maha Zewail Foote conducted with researchers from UT-Austin. Read the story here.

Notables

Eight Southwestern students performed at the Texas Music Educators Association conference in San Antonio Feb. 9. The students performed in the SU String Quartet directed by Eri Lee Lam, associate professor of music, and the SU Trombone Quartet directed by Eileen Meyer Russell, associate professor of music. The SU String Quartet members are Emilio Alvarez (cello), Katie De La Vega (viola), and Marie Smith and Erin Weber (violins). The SU Trombone Quartet members are Benjamin Bracher, Allison Lingren, Michael Martinez and David Vaden. Each quartet performed a 30-minute concert at the conference.

Reggie Byron, assistant professor of sociology, co-authored an article titled “Workplace Racial Discrimination and Middle Class Vulnerability” that will appear later this year in the journal American Behavioral Scientist. The article is available online now here.

Lois Ferrari, professor of music, conducted the Austin Civic Orchestra in its Winter Concert in the Alma Thomas Theater Feb. 4. Guest artist Thomas Burritt performed a movement of the Ewazen Concerto for Marimba. Also on the program was the rarely performed King Lear Variations by David Amram, Rimsky Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, and the powerful Beethoven Symphony No. 7. The ACO’s next concert will feature winners of the Pearl Amster Youth Concerto Contest as well as Bernstein’s West Side Story Dances. Details may be found at http://www.austincivicorchestra.org.

Alisa Gaunder, associate professor of political science, had a book review of Japan Transformed: Political Change and Economic Restructuring by Frances McCall Rosenbluth and Michael F. Thies published in the Winter 2012 issue of The Journal of Japanese Studies.

Laura Hobgood-Oster, professor and holder of the Paden Chair in Religion and Environmental Studies, has been invited to speak at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina Feb. 21 as part of the Staley Distinguished Christian Scholar Series. Hobgood-Oster will present two lectures on the topic of animals and Christianity – a lecture titled “Ox, Ass, Arf: Animals in Christian History” and another lecture titled “Animals Return to the Sanctuary: The Re-emergence of Animals in Christian Practice.”

Ken Roberts, professor of economics and holder of the Cullen Chair in Economics, recently had an article published in the Journal of Contemporary China. The article is titled “The Role of Children in the Migration Decisions of Rural Chinese Women.” Roberts co-authored the article with Rachel Connelly of Bowdoin College and Zhenzhen Zhen of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Kathryn Stallard, head of Special Collections in the A. Frank Smith Library Center, had an article on the library’s crowdsourced transcription of an 1846 U.S. Mexico War Diary (see story above) published in the Feb. 12 issue of The Southwestern Archivist