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Southwestern has a received a $720,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will enable it to reshape its writing program. The initiative will be done in conjunction with the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at The University of Texas at Austin.

In 2009 Southwestern decided to eliminate its traditional first-year writing course and instead implement a concept known as “Writing in the Disciplines.” Writing in the Disciplines is an increasingly accepted approach that focuses on the progressive development of the writing skills that students need to succeed in their chosen fields. Faculty present specific vocabulary, lines of argument and research strategies that are used in disciplinary writing. Students learn to use these tools both to write for their professional peers and to inform more general audiences about the pressing issues in their disciplines.

“The idea of Writing in the Disciplines is to help students learn how experts in a field use writing in their work to offer their ideas and extend or challenge the work of others in the field,” said Davida Charney, a professor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at UT-Austin.

Read more here.


Nearly 75 local elementary students are getting a leg up on basic reading and math literacy thanks to a new program being offered by Southwestern students this semester.

The program was conceived by Brian Dawson, the former principal of Annie Purl Elementary School, and Laura Senio-Blair, head of the Spanish Program at Southwestern. It was put together by Frances Cantu, the bilingual kindergarten teacher at Annie Purl, and has been coordinated by Southwestern’s Office of Civic Engagement.

As part of the program, all Southwestern students taking Spanish III spend an hour a week tutoring students in Annie Purl’s Bilingual program – in Spanish.

“Even though Spanish is the first language for these students, they still need help speaking it,” Cantu said. “They also need help with numbers and counting.”

Cantu and the Bilingual team at Annie Purl developed a basketful of fun but educational activities the students can do together each week. The elementary school students are allowed to pick the activity they want to do from a basket outside their classroom. Activities include adding up the dots on some dominoes, practice telling time, learning the letters of the alphabet or categorizing a bag of figures by shape and size.

“The kids love having the relationship with their tutors,” Cantu said. “The program is definitely giving them motivation to do better.”

Read more here.



Southwestern University students will square off in the annual Brooks Prize Debate on Friday, April 1, at 6 p.m. in the Caldwell-Carvey Foyer of the Fine Arts Center.

The topic for this year’s debate is: “Resolved: Business-driven philanthropy in conscious capitalism is inherently unethical.” Debating the affirmative will be the team of Courtney Cockrell and Gabe Chavez. Debating the negative will be the team of Michael Robert Richard Korman and Kate Hayden.

The Brooks Prize Debate is a Southwestern tradition that dates back to 1878.


The annual SU Arts Festival will be held on Saturday, April 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at various locations around campus. The event is open to the public and will include performances by a variety of groups as well as special activities designed for children. Read more here.


A faculty and guest artist chamber music concert will be held on Wednesday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater.

The concert will feature guest artist William Pu on violin, faculty member Kiyoshi Tamagawa on piano, and faculty member Hai Zheng on cello. The program includes works by Bright Sheng and Maurice Ravel.

This performance is free and open to the public. For more information, call 512-863-1504.


The 7th annual Southwestern University Native Traditions Powwow will be held Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Robertson Center.

The event offers the public the opportunity to enjoy traditional Native American dancers, singers, drums, arts and crafts, food and storytelling. It is free and open to the public. The schedule of events for the day is as follows:

11 a.m. – Gourd Dancing
1 p.m. – Grand Entry
5 p.m. – Dinner
6 p.m. – Gourd Dancing
7 p.m. - Grand Entry

The event is sponsored by Community Chest and Southwestern’s Diversity Enrichment Committee.


The Fountainwood Observatory at Southwestern University will host its last public viewing night of the semester on Saturday, April 9, from 8-10 p.m. (note: this replaces previously announced viewing night of Friday, April 8).

The evening will begin with a waxing crescent moon in the western sky. By 9 p.m. the planet Saturn will be visible about 33 degrees above the southeastern horizon. Colorful brighter stars and multiple stars systems will also be readily viewable in the spring sky.

Fountainwood Viewing Nights are always free and open to the public. The observatory is located on the northeast side of campus adjacent to the Rockwell Baseball Field (see #6 on the campus map at 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.

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

This will be the last Fountainwood Observatory Public Viewing Night for the 2010-2011 academic year. Public Viewing Nights will begin again in September 2011.

Media Coverage

Political Science Professor Eric Selbin was interviewed by the Swiss weekly Schweizer Familie about recent events in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

The Williamson County Sun did a feature story on Physics Professor Mark Bottorff, who runs the Fountainwood Observatory.

The Austin Business Journal and Community Impact newspaper covered the announcement of the $720,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Writing in the Disciplines. Read the ABJ story here. Read the Community Impact story here.

The Williamson County Sun did a story on the students organizing the SU Arts Festival April 2.


Junior Sarah Ayers has become Southwestern’s first All-American swimmer by placing 7th in the 100-meter backstroke at the NCAA Division III championships in Knoxville, Tenn., April 23-25. Read more about her record-setting performance and listen to an interview with Sarah here.

At the national Mock Trial tournament held in Memphis March 24-26, Abbey Benold was awarded a top witness award and Chanea Wells was awarded a top attorney award. Although the Southwestern team as a whole did not place in the tournament, it performed well against some of the best schools in the nation and lost to the tournament champions by only two points.

An essay by Shana Bernstein, associate professor of history, was published in Sunbelt Rising: The Politics of Space, Place, and Region (University of Pennsylvania Press). The essay is titled “From the Southwest to the Nation: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Postwar Los Angeles.”

Research published by Reggie Byron, assistant professor of sociology, was cited in the amicus brief filed in support of the respondents on the highly publicized Wal-Mart gender discrimination case. The brief was presented to the Supreme Court by the American Sociological Association and the Law and Society Association. Byron’s research is cited on p. 41 of the document posted here.

The Austin Civic Orchestra, conducted by Lois Ferrari, professor of music, presented the 25th anniversary concert of the Pearl Amster Youth Concerto Competition and Festival on March 26. Three Austin area young musicians were featured in this concert, two of whom are cello students of Hai Zheng, assistant professor of music. Every year, this contest attracts more than 100 applicants from the greater Austin area. Three or four winners are then chosen by audition from this talented pool.

Senior anthropology major Ursula James won the Annual Student Paper Competition sponsored by the Southern Anthropological Society. She presented the paper, titled “The Emergence of Hoi An: World Heritage Status and Global Tourism in Vietnam,” at the society’s Annual Meeting, in Richmond, Va., March 24-26. The paper was based upon her honors thesis done with Anthropology Professor Melissa Johnson. The award came with a $200 prize. Also presenting papers at the Southern Anthropological Society meetings were students Sarah Wiggins and Hannah Yterdal. Wiggins presented a paper titled “Trading in Their Heritage: Lamu Town, Kenya, and Modern Port Development” and Yterdal presented a paper titled “The Horses Were Telling Me: Ableism and Speciesism in a Horseback Riding Program for Special Needs Individuals.”

Eric Selbin, professor of political science and University Scholar, co-chaired and participated in  a roundtable on “Decentering International Relations” at the 2011 International Studies Association meeting which focused on the book of the same name he recently published with Southwestern graduate and professor Meghana Nayak. Selbin also chaired the annual meeting of the series he co-edits, New Millennium Books in International Studies.  

Several sociology students and faculty members will be presenting their work at the annual meetings of the Southern Sociological Society in Jacksonville, Fla., April 7-10. Four senior sociology majors will present research done in the senior capstone seminar. Alex Brown will present “‘We`ll Do the Best We Can’: How Volunteers Overcome Frustrations to Stay Motivated and Involved in the Animal Welfare Movement.” Amy Crook will present her paper “Cultivating Change: The Complexities of Coalition Formation in the Movement for Affordable Housing.” Toni Nietfeld will present a paper titled “‘Welcome to Hell:’ The Role of Framing and Recruitment in Saving Souls,” which received an honorable mention in the Odum Award paper competition. And Megan Satterfield will present her paper titled “Just Living Our Truth: Emotion Work and Collective Identity in the Fight for Transgender Rights.” These senior capstones were done under the direction of Maria Lowe, professor of sociology, who will be presiding over a session on “Identities” at the meetings. Reginald Byron, assistant professor of sociology, will present a paper on “The Importance of Place: Predicting Discriminatory Filing Across Seven States.” He also will present “Incivility in the Workplace: Sexual Harassment, General Harassment, and the Retaliatory Link,” which was co-authored with Southwestern senior philosophy major Victoria Dominguez. Sandi Nenga, assistant professor of sociology, and senior sociology majors Mayra Garcia and Whitney R. Rominger will present their paper titled “Adding and Subtracting Cultural Capital: First‐Generation Students in a College Readiness Program.” At the same meetings, Edward L. Kain, professor of sociology, will be on a panel talking about “Keys to Understanding a Career in a Liberal Arts Setting.” He will also present a paper titled “Ways to Start the Peer Review Conversation within a Department,” and will also lead a workshop on “Preparing for a Program Review.”


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