On Campus: Campus News

NITLE: Innovation at Home at SU

Over the summer, Southwestern became the new home for the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE—pronounced “nightly” by those in the know), a technology initiative that serves more than 130 colleges in the United States and abroad.

NITLE was established in 2001 with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide small liberal arts colleges with enhanced technological solutions. NITLE has operated through a network of centers and regional offices, with staff in nine states.

W. Joseph (Joey) King ’93, a Southwestern graduate who holds a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction from the University of Washington, was named the new executive director of NITLE when Jo Ellen Parker left to become president of Sweet Briar College in Virginia on July 1. He has also been named vice president for innovation at Southwestern.

“I am tremendously excited about the future of NITLE,” King says. “Our goal is to provide participating institutions with technological solutions that add to their effectiveness in teaching. Being campus-based will allow NITLE to develop best practices and both test and demonstrate them in a real world learning environment.”

Southwestern was one of the first institutions to participate in NITLE and currently serves as a regional host campus for NITLE staff who design and deliver professional development and networking programs for faculty, technologists and librarians from participating campuses.

The Mellon Foundation played a critical role in the transition of NITLE to Southwestern, including the transfer of $4 million in existing grants and operating funds.

“When NITLE’s full team of distributed experts is marshaled under Southwestern’s innovative and efficient leadership, valuable synergies are sure to emerge,” says Philip E. Lewis, vice president for the foundation’s Liberal Arts Colleges Program.

Southwestern President Jake B. Schrum ’68, says the move should greatly raise Southwestern’s visibility within the liberal arts community. He described it as a “watershed event” that resulted from the quality of Southwestern’s faculty, students, staff and academic programs.

Environmental Studies Program Unique in Texas

Southwestern’s environmental studies program has received a major boost thanks to $1.3 million in funding from three recent grants.

Laura Hobgood-Oster, chair of the environmental studies program, says the new additions the funds will provide to the program will give Southwestern “a unique approach to environmental studies that no other school in Texas has and few others in the country have.”

A $750,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is designed to expand the global emphasis of Southwestern’s Environmental Studies Program.

A portion of the funds will be used to develop a new course titled “Introduction to Cultural Studies” in collaboration with the Modern Languages and Literatures Department. “Unless we understand the cultures that are engaging in environmentally destructive practices, we can’t begin to change the way we live,” says Hobgood-Oster.

It will also enable Southwestern to hire its first full-time tenure-track faculty member dedicated to environmental geography, which is a branch of geography that offers tools for measuring human impact on the environment.

“An environmental geographer will bring critically important analytical tools to our program,” Hobgood-Oster says. “Students will learn skills that will translate into better research design and into more informed and measurable sustainability and advocacy projects.”

To go along with the grant, Southwestern will create a new Mellon Environmental Fellows program. Five students a year will be offered a $5,000 fellowship to participate in a study abroad program that has an emphasis on environmental issues.

The Mellon Environmental Fellows will provide key student leadership to the new Center for Social and Environmental Justice, which will facilitate environmental research projects on campus and in the community. A major goal of the Center will be to help students integrate their study abroad experiences into local projects.

A $436,000 gift from the Kendeda Fund will be used to buy the equipment for the Geographic Information Systems lab as well as support various sustainability projects on campus such as the Environmental Fellows program.

An additional $129,000 grant from the Associated Colleges of the South has enabled the Environmental Studies Program to hire Jinelle Sperry, a postdoctoral fellow who recently completed a Ph.D. in conservation biology at the University of Illinois. She began teaching a biodiversity course this fall.

Lucas Adams

The new Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Center is beautiful, practical and green.

Admission Goes Green

Southwestern’s new admission center opened this spring to positive reviews from visitors and employees alike.

The new Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Building is located behind the original Cullen Building, and enables all of Southwestern’s admission counselors and financial assistance staff to be in the same area.

Tom Oliver ’98, vice president for enrollment services, says the new building gives his staff the space they need to accommodate the growing number of visitors to campus. This year campus visits were up 15 to 20 percent. The new building has three to four times the reception space of the old admission office on the first floor of the original Cullen Building.

“The admission office is where first impressions are made,” says Oliver. “The new building is definitely one of the nicer facilities of its type in the region. It’s hard not to be impressed.”

The new building is a “green” building, and was designed to earn Gold LEED certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. At least 20 percent of the materials used in the building were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. All paints, finishes, adhesives and sealants used on the interior of the building had low VOC content. The building is also surrounded by landscaping that uses native plants. Construction was funded by the Cullen Trust for Higher Education of Houston.

Shelley Dormont ‘11

Students debate in hopes of receiving the Brooks Prize.

It’s 1905 All Over Again

A lost tradition returned to Southwestern this spring as students revived the Brooks Prize Debate as well as an oratory competition.

Matthew Maschino ’09, a political science major, brought back the debate with the help of Sarah Gould, who is now a senior English major.

Last summer, Maschino spent hours doing research in the Special Collections section of Southwestern’s A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center. He especially looked into the four literary societies—two male and two female—which were the focus of social life at Southwestern in its early years.

In 1878, the two men’s societies began holding a debate with each other during commencement week. Within 10 years, it was the most significant campus event of the year and eventually came to include all students. The debates focused on prevalent, controversial issues of the day, such as women’s suffrage and the future of telegraphs and railroads. Local and state leaders attended, as well as nationally recognized guests and speakers.

In 1904, Southwestern named the event the Brooks Prize Debate after 1884 graduate Richard Edwards Brooks. As a student, Brooks had been a debater and helped establish the campus literary magazine. After graduation, he provided funds for a gold medal and book scholarships for the winners of the debate.

The 2009 debate was won by Alex Caple, a senior communication studies and political science major, and Brian Tidwell, a junior anthropology major. Both received $2,000 as well as a medal that was specially designed for the occasion.

Gould says the Student Foundation is considering taking over the coordination of the Brooks Prize Debate, with hope that it will continue for many years to come.

Andrew Loehman

Southwestern: Environmental Leader

Southwestern President Jake B. Schrum ’68, furthers the University’s commitment to environmental leadership by signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment as internationally known environmental activist, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and 2009 Shilling Lecturer, Wangari Maathai, looks on. For more information on the Presidents Climate Commitment, visit www.presidentsclimate commitment.org.

More Students Than Ever Say Yes! to SU

In a year when the economy hit record lows (Are you there 401k? It’s me, Retirement…) the Office of Admission had more than a few families ask, “Is a Southwestern education worth it?” Judging by the numbers, the answer is a definitive, “Yes!”

Southwestern received a record number of admission applications for the 2009-10 academic year—nearly 30 percent over the previous year. The strong applicant pool translated to more acceptances and 2009-10 enrollment is tracking to be one of the largest in SU history.

Of the incoming class: 49 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Out-of-state students account for 11.8 percent of the incoming class and 23.8 percent are from minority populations. Both overall SAT and ACT scores are up from last year.