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UT News

In the Know

The May 11 weekly roundup of campus kudos and press mentions.

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Campus Kudos

Creative writing grad wins Keene Prize for Literature
Nora Boxer, a graduate of the Creative Writing Program in the English Department, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for her story “It’s the song of the nomads, baby; or, Pioneer.” The Keene Prize is one of the world’s largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists. Boxer’s story was chosen from 61 submissions in drama, poetry and fiction. Laconic in style, it unsentimentally evokes the artistic, old hippy, new punk eco-lifestyle in New Mexico.

Center for Women’s and Gender Studies receives grant
The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWGS) has received a $450,000 grant from the Embrey Family Foundation to develop a Women’s Human Rights Initiative that will promote teaching, research and activism in the areas of women’s rights and human rights. The five-year grant will allow CWGS to develop new courses for students, develop a curriculum and teacher training program for high school classes around the state, and host an international women’s rights conference in May 2012.

Academy for Rising Leaders pilot program created
A new academy called Subiendo: The Academy for Rising Leaders, has been created at the university to prepare new leaders to address the needs of the next generation, including a growing Hispanic population that has become the largest and youngest minority group in the United States.The 2010 pilot program, developed by the university’s Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Texas Exes, will be held on campus July 18-21. The academy, funded by private philanthropy, is free for participating students, who will stay in Jester Center at the university during the program.

Shell Oil gives $313,500 to support business, science, engineering
Shell Oil Co. has contributed $313,500 to support academic programs at the university. The grants benefit undergraduates and graduate students in the university’s McCombs School of Business, Cockrell School of Engineering and Jackson School of Geosciences. A large component of the donation is designated for the GeoFORCE Texas Program, which rewards outstanding low-income students from diverse South Texas and Houston school districts with the chance to travel the country and learn about opportunities for careers in the geosciences.

Undergrad wins $20,000 academic excellence award
John Meyer, a senior majoring in English and government, has won the $20,000 grand prize in the 11th annual University Co-op George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence for undergraduate students. James Hammond, English and psychology senior, received the $5,000 second prize. The five winners of the $2,000 awards were Grace Eckhoff, biology and Plan II senior; Keeley Steenson, radio-television-film and Plan II senior; Kathleen Skinner, English and history senior; Anthony Wright, anthropology senior and Om J. Neeley, business honors, corporate finance and Plan II senior.

Press Mentions

The Wall Street Journal: State of job market for M.B.A.s
May 11

In late April, Anthony Laurino graduated from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management with an M.B.A., five years’ experience in risk analysis, a semester in Brazil and an internship at Coca-Cola under his belt. But graduation came and went, and like many graduating M.B.A.s this year, he still didn’t have a job.

Overall, for business-school students in the class of 2010, finding a job has been a mixed experience.

Others, like University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and New York University’s Stern School of Business, say the situation is about the same as last year — in other words, not great. At NYU, 76 percent of grads had a job offer at graduation in 2009; at Texas, that figure was 70 percent. In non-recession years, it’s not uncommon for more than 90 percent of students to have job offers by graduation.

Bloomberg: Banks move faster than Congress on loopholes
May 10

Commentary by Angela Littwin, assistant professor in the School of Law
The passage of the U.S. health care legislation was an unqualified political and substantive victory for progressives, even though the final product was weaker than many of them had hoped. If a similar fate awaits the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, it will be a disaster.

The history of health care laws has been that they are almost impossible to pass, but that once in place, they get better over time. The history of consumer financial regulation is the exact opposite. The books are filled with laws that look effective at first glance, but that have been undermined by government-agency inaction, strategic manipulation by financial institutions, and loopholes large enough to swallow a big bank.

The New York Times: New Nigerian president sworn in
May 6

Nigeria swore in a new president and buried its old one on Thursday, sealing the transition from its long-ailing leader to his successor and quelling some of the political uncertainty that had loomed for months.

Goodluck Jonathan, a mild-mannered academic, formally took over the presidency in the capital, Abuja, just hours before his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, was buried in the northern stronghold of Katsina to chants of “God is great” from the crowd.

But hurdles remain, not the least of them an entrenched political culture that may leave the new president with few good options. “His choices are just two,” said Toyin Falola, a Nigeria historian at The University of Texas. “He uses what his predecessors have done, corruption, to gain leverage. Or he uses accountability and gets into trouble.”

The New York Times: States vary on how to deal with youth sex offenders
May 6

When Ricky Blackman was 16, he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, and an Iowa judge ordered him to register as a sex offender.

But if Blackman had lived in at least a half-dozen other states, his name would never have appeared on a registry because states are deeply divided on how to deal with the nation’s youngest sex offenders.

The confusing array of rules for juvenile sex offenders persists despite a vast overhaul that was adopted four years ago to bring clarity and consistency to the nation’s sex offender registration laws.

“It’s a real bind for the states,” said Michele Deitch, an attorney who teaches criminal justice policy at The University of Texas. “Do you want to comply with what could be poor public policy or risk not complying with the federal law? And there’s no easy answer.”

Nature: Review prioritizes NASA’s astrophysics missions
May 6

Bigger is better, according to NASA’s latest rankings of its astrophysics satellites.

The assessment gave the three missions with the biggest budgets the highest ratings, and deemed them most deserving of continued funding. Planck, which maps radiation left over from the Big Bang, the Chandra X-ray observatory and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope were judged to be the best of the 11 missions considered (see table). The external ‘senior review’ of astrophysics missions based on science return per dollar takes place every two years.

In estimating ‘science per dollar’, the review committee looked at the quality and quantity of science publications and the numbers of astronomers wanting to use the telescopes. It also tried to gauge the capabilities of the satellites for the next two years. “This sort of process of peer review is not perfect, but like democracy, it’s a heck of a lot better than the next best thing,” says J. Craig Wheeler, an astronomer at The University of Texas at Austin and chairman of the 12-person committee.

The Wall Street Journal: Bar raised for law-grad jobs
May 5

Fabian Ronisky thought he was on track last summer to become a high-powered corporate lawyer. He was an intern at a leading firm in Los Angeles, earning about $3,000 weekly. But the firm didn’t offer him a permanent job.

Ronisky is one of about 40,000 law-school students who will graduate this spring and enter one of the worst job markets for attorneys in decades.

The University of Texas School of Law, long regarded as among the nation’s top 20, estimates the employment rate for 2010 graduates is down about 10 percent to 15 percent from last year.

The Christian Science Monitor: Bah humbug, say Mexicans about Cinco de Mayo
May 5

Susana Osneya woke up today and, like any other day, she took her dog Sabrina for a walk in the park in Mexico City. She is not attending any parades, not cooking any special meals, and not attending any holiday activities with her grandchildren.

And she’s certainly not drinking any margaritas.

But wait a second. It is Cinco de Mayo. Despite popular misconception in the U.S., today is not Mexico’s Independence Day.

“It has been vastly commercialized on the [US] side of the border,” says Oscar Casares, who authored the novel “Amigoland” and teaches creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. “They created this mythology of what it means to Mexicans when it is really a minor [holiday]. It is acknowledged but it certainly is not celebrated.”

Read last week’s In the Know.