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UT Interactive interdisciplinary themes illustrate diverse yet connected activities on campus

Physicist Austin Gleeson and art educator Rebecca Brooks normally wouldn’t cross paths very often on The University of Texas at Austin campus. However, lately they have been working together extensively to help create the biggest open house in Texas.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Physicist Austin Gleeson and art educator Rebecca Brooks normally wouldn’t cross paths very often on The University of Texas at Austin campus. However, lately they have been working together extensively to help create the biggest open house in Texas.

UT Interactive: A Campus-wide Exploration includes about 400 programs, activities and exhibits that illustrate the University’s educational, research and cultural resources. Designed for people of all ages, these programs will be free and open to the public on the UT Austin campus from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 6. Many of the programs relate to four interdisciplinary themes — Growing Texas and Beyond, Living Forever, Designing our World, and Transforming our Future.

“We chose broad themes so that we could encompass the incredibly complex range of activities that occur on campus,” says Michael Starbird, professor of mathematics and chairman of UT Interactive. “After all, UT Austin deals with the entire span of human thought. We have put together these 400 programs so that visitors can sample an array of interrelated activities, all of which are important to the future. In effect, it is a chance to see the fascinating future unfolding under one very large roof.”

Gleeson and Brooks are co-chairs of Transforming our Future, which includes topics such as cutting-edge research and technology, relationships between science and art, and predictions about life in the 21st century. Although they come from different disciplines, Gleeson and Brooks share a vision for a future in which art, science and society progress in unison.

“People don’t learn in discrete chunks and neither do societies. One role of universities is to encourage interdisciplinary learning because it helps people find connections and make the most of them,” notes Brooks, professor of visual arts studies and art education. “Integrated education is the foundation for a healthy, successful society.”

“We have an obligation to take advantage of new knowledge to make the world a better place,” adds Gleeson, professor of physics, “but at the same time, there’s no use coming up with new technology if society doesn’t understand it and can’t use it. Society must progress on many levels in order to improve.”

Many programs are geared to students — those who will indeed transform our future. Students and teachers from the Austin area and around the state are being encouraged to attend. “We feel that UT Interactive is the ideal opportunity to show the importance of higher education and the generation of new knowledge to the young people of Texas, and we hope that March 6 will be a transforming experience for many of them,” says Gleeson.

Faculty members from different disciplines also have come together to develop other UT Interactive themes, which encompass topics such as health, the environment, economic development, design, globalization, information technology, the arts and humanities, and emerging frontiers.

Allen Bizzell of business administration and Barbara Robles of the LBJ School of Public Affairs co-chair Growing Texas and Beyond, which incorporates a range of programs dealing with the state’s economy, economic development and economic impact in a global economy.

Creed Abell of pharmacy and Waneen Spirduso of education head Living Forever, which tackles myriad health and education issues that affect individuals and society.

Michael Benedikt of architecture and Steve Nichols of engineering lead Designing our World, which focuses on the physical aspects of creating a better world through city planning, engineering, architectural design, and art.

In addition to these interdisciplinary themes, UT Interactive offers many other programs of interest to children, students, families and adults, including hands-on art and technology activities, behind-the-scenes tours of campus facilities, ongoing music and theatrical performances, and exhibits of rare art and historical treasures.

For example, the event features the Texas debut of the world-renowned Suida-Manning collection of Old Masters’ paintings recently acquired by the University. In addition, Texans will have their first opportunity to view the Alamo diary, the memoir of Mexican soldier Lt. Col. Jose Enrique de la Pena, which gives an eyewitness account of the battle of the Alamo and the death of Davy Crockett.


UT Interactive Tip Sheet

UT Interactive is the first campus-wide open house at The University of Texas at Austin since October 1983, when the University celebrated its centennial.

Every UT academic unit and department is involved in UT Interactive, with many units joining together to develop programs that demonstrate their educational, research, and cultural resources. All 400 events will be free and open to the public.

Prospective students and their families will have the opportunity to tour facilities, meet with students and faculty, and learn about options for financial aid, housing and career planning.

UT Interactive coincides with Austin Science Fun Day, a program of the UT College of Natural Sciences and Texas Memorial Museum that bring hundreds of students to campus to team up with scientists for a day of learning and adventure.

A variety of Alamo artifacts will be displayed at UT Interactive on the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo (March 6, 1836). Significant exhibits include the memoir of Lt. Col. Jose Enrique de la Pena, a soldier in Santa Anna’s army, which gives an eyewitness account of the battle of the Alamo and the death of Davy Crockett. Also on display will be a copy of Santa Anna’s battle plan for the Alamo and a daguerreotype of the Alamo, the oldest datable photograph taken in Texas.

Many members of the prestigious Academy of Distinguished Teachers will be on hand at UT Interactive to demonstrate how they educate and inspire students on a daily basis.

A variety of programs allow visitors to create steamroller art, write Maya hieroglyphs, learn to play the piano, make their own book, sample state-of-the-art computer technology, design a concrete canoe, and experience other exciting hands-on activities.

Visitors can even apply for a job at UT Austin on this special day using one of the 16 computers made available for this event. The Office of Human Resources will provide information on the more than 200 job openings at the University and members of their staff will be on hand to answer employment questions and assist applicants.

UT Interactive representatives are available for media interviews. For information, contact Laura Tuma at (512) 471-3151 or online at lauratuma@aol.com.