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 When Chemistry Professor Kerry Bruns was developing a new First-Year Seminar class about water issues to teach this fall, he never imagined how timely the topic would turn out to be.  

As students met for the first week of class, Georgetown had not had rain for more than a month and a half.  

Bruns is teaching a new First-Year Seminar this fall titled “Water in the West: A Sprinkling of Problems Close to Home.” Students taking the class will read classics such as John McPhee’s Encounters with the Archdruid and visit the nearly dry San Gabriel River in Georgetown to see how water issues hit close to home.

Read more here.


Alex Gartman didn’t spend her first day at Southwestern getting unpacked and exploring the campus. Rather, she spent it visiting the 911 call center in Georgetown, touring the Scott and White Hospital in Round Rock, and visiting the new Texas A&M Health Science Center in Round Rock.

Gartman was one of about 40 first-year students who took advantage of a special program designed to help them get acquainted with their new community and with each other.

It’s called the SU Road Trip program and this was the fifth year Southwestern has offered it to incoming students. Students who sign up for the program get to move into their residence halls a day early. The night before the trips, all the participants meet at the Howry Center for dinner with Southwestern staff and student Road Trip leaders.

Derek Timourian, director of intramural and recreational activities, said he started the Road Trip program to help students assimilate into campus and meet other students who share their same interests.

“It’s a good way to get a jump start on their time at Southwestern,” Timourian said. The first year of the program, only one trip was offered, but that has since grown to three or four different trips. This year, students had three options for trips.

Read more here.


If you’ve ever stopped to think about your brain, you’re in good company.

Americans have spent billions of dollars on various forms of popularized neuroscience, or everyday applications of the latest scientific discoveries about how our brains function. The health-care industry, self-help books, and advice on parenting are but a few places you can look to see examples of brain science working at the cultural level. But while the desire to improve our brains and those of our children may seem like an admirable goal, it is important to understand how we really think about our brains.

In her recent book, Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media, Davi Johnson Thornton, assistant professor of communication studies at Southwestern, closely examines the ways that neuroscience and popular media contribute to an ongoing dialogue about the inner workings of our brains.

Read more here.



Guitarist David Asbury and baritone Bruce Cain will give a faculty recital on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theater.

Asbury and Cain will perform selections from a newly composed group of songs for baritone and guitar titled “A River of Words, Song Cycle.” The songs, all of which have an environmental theme, were written by seven different composers, including Jason Hoogerhyde from Southwestern University, Terry Vosbein from Washington and Lee University, John McGinn from Austin College, Brad Osborn from Rhodes College, Daniel Crozier and Susan Cohn-Lackman from Rollins College, and Brian Nelson, formerly of Trinity University. Hoogerhyde, Vosbein and Nelson will be at the performance to speak about their compositions.


An exhibit titled “Lifeboats” by Heather Carter will open in the Fine Arts Gallery Aug. 31 and run through Sept. 29, Carter is a 1994 graduate of Southwestern and has become well known for her public art installations. These works are designed to recall our close connection with nature through their varied patterned forms and textures. Carter has numerous works in a variety of public spaces such as libraries, hospitals and outdoor gardens. To see more of her work, visit

A reception for Carter will be held in the Fine Arts Gallery on Thursday, Sept. 8, from 4-6 p.m.


Southwestern will host a screening of the 2011 film “Rebirth” on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 4 p.m. in the Mood-Bridwell Atrium. The film profiles a decade in the lives of five people who were directly affected by the 9/11 attacks. The film incorporates images from Project Rebirth, which is using time-lapse photography to document the ongoing reconstruction of the World Trade Center site. The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Bob Bednar, associate professor of communication studies; Ken Mello, assistant professor of religion; and Judith Sonnenberg, director of Counseling and Health Services.

The film screening is the first in a month-long series of events at Southwestern that have been planned to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. For the complete listing of events, go here .


The Fountainwood Observatory at Southwestern University will host its first public viewing night of the semester on Friday, Sept. 2, from 8-10 p.m.

The viewing will begin with a waxing crescent Moon in the southwestern sky. Constellations containing the band of the Milky Way will wheel high overhead, allowing open star clusters in the plane of the Milky Way and globular star clusters straddling the Milky Way to be viewed. Colorful brighter stars and multiple stars systems also will be viewable.  

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.

Media Coverage

The Atlantic magazine printed a review of Communication Studies Professor Davi Thornton’s new book on Brain Culture. Read the review here. Wired magazine also did an interview with Thornton about her book. Read that interview here.

Inside Higher Ed did a story on research conducted by Sociology Professors Maria Lowe and Reggie Byron, along with two students. Read the story here.


Three current students, one recent graduate, and two faculty members in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology presented their research this week at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association. 2011 graduate Toni Nietfeld and senior Whitney Rominger presented their research as participants in the ASA Honors Program. Nietfeld’s paper, “‘Welcome to Hell’: The Role of Framing and Recruitment in Saving Souls” was also recognized at the meetings as the third place winner in the national Undergraduate Paper Competition of Alpha Kappa Delta, the national sociology honors society. This work was developed in her capstone course under the direction of Maria Lowe, professor of sociology. Junior Griffin Ferry and senior Melissa Garcia presented a paper titled “White University Students’ Perspectives on Race and the Value of Racial/Ethnic Diversity” that was co-authored by Lowe and Reginald Byron, assistant professor of sociology. The paper resulted from collaborative research funded by the Mellon Foundation. Ferry, Garcia, Byron and Lowe also presented a second paper titled “Race and Frequency of Interracial Dining Experiences on Students’ Perceptions of the Campus Racial Climate.”

The Southwestern volleyball team received a 2010-2011 Team Academic Award from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. To qualify for this award, the entire team had to have a cumulative GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale. Read more here. The AVCA has ranked the team 17th in Division III as they begin their 2011-2012 season. Read more here.

Shana Bernstein, associate professor of history, chaired and commented on a panel titled “Race, Labor, and Politics in Post-World War II California” at the American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch conference in Seattle Aug. 13.

Lois Ferrari, professor of music, has been appointed music director of the Austin Civic Orchestra for the 10th straight year. Ferrari plans to celebrate her first decade with the orchestra with performances at the Long Center, Bates Hall at The University of Texas, and in the Alma Thomas Theater at Southwestern. Programming highlights for the season include Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, the Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony, and Bernstein’s “Dances from West Side Story.” Guest soloists will include Eri Lam, associate professor of violin at Southwestern; Thomas Burritt, professor of percussion at UT; jazz singer Suzi Stern; and Michelle Schumann, director of the Austin Chamber Music Center. For more information, visit

David Gaines, associate professor of English, and Southwestern graduate Deann Armstrong have essays published in a new book titled Dylan at Play published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Gaines’ essay is titled “Transnational Dylan: Bob Dylan and Some Thoughts about Homes and Homelessness, Nations and Borders, The Whole Wide World, and What’s Real Forever.” Armstrong’s essay is titled “Look Out Your Window and I’ll Be Gone: Dylan’s Art of Abandonment” and is an extension of work she began in Gaines’ class on Bob Dylan. Read more about Gaines and his teaching and research on Bob Dylan here.

Traci Giuliano, professor of psychology, and 2007 graduate Sarah Gomillion recently had a paper titled “The influence of media  role models on gay, lesbian, and bisexual identity” published in the Journal of Homosexuality. Giuliano and 2009 graduate Jenny Howell recently had a paper titled “The effects of expletive use and team gender on perceptions of coaching effectiveness” published in the Journal of Sport Behavior.

Shannon Mariotti, assistant professor of political science, was invited to speak at a conference on American democracy and popular sovereignty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison May 25. She presented a paper titled “Adorno and Democracy in America: Countertendencies and Democratic Pedagogy.”



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