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Year in Review

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences closed another successful academic year for our students and faculty with the Spring 2012 Commencement Exercises. Here’s a review of some of the outstanding achievements and events of the past year.

JUNE 2011

The Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival provided young professional musicians with a challenging musical environment from June 11 – July 2 in which to develop skills in orchestral, chamber music, and solo performance.

Texas Music Festival

Texas Music Festival

The 37th season of the Houston Shakespeare Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre presented July 29 through August 7 the Taming of the Shrew and Othello starring Seth Gilliam of The Wire fame.

Houston Shakespeare Festival

Photo Credit: Traicie Thomason and Seth Gilliamstar in Othello , the first of two plays presented in the 2011 Houston Shakespeare Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Photo: Cody Duty, Houston Chronicle

In Italy, the Blaffer Museum triumphantly debuted on June 3 “Anton Ginzburg: At the Back of the North Wind,” at the 54th Venice Biennale at the Palazzo Bollani. The innovative exhibition was on display until November 27.

Anton Ginzburg
Photo Credit: Anton Ginzburg: At the Back of the North Wind, 2011, Hyperborea series. Courtesy of the artist

JULY 2011

Dean John Roberts created the position of Associate Dean for Faculty and Research and appointed to the job Kathleen Brosnan, associate professor of history and the associate director of the Center for Public History.


The College’s Class of 2015 enrolled and began classes with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree four years after starting college and a commitment from the CLASS Office of Academic Affairs to help them get there.

Fourteen of the College’s 16 departments and schools and two of its interdisciplinary programs hired new faculty members and visiting scholars.


New Faculty Luncheon Reception
The new faculty luncheon reception. Read about the academic expertise of the new faculty members here.


The CLASS community commemorated the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 with a concert The Things We Have: In Memoriam, September 11, 2001 composed by Professor Emeritus Robert Nelson and performed by VOX/ The Rob Seible Singers with Project Divisi Orchestra in the Moores Opera House. The College also co-sponsored with Raindrop Turkish House and a panel discussion entitled “The Role of Media in Preventing Another September 11” at the Hilton University of Houston.

The Things We Have: In Memoriam, September 11, 2001
Photo credit: CultureMap Houston

Creative Writing Professor Chitra Divakaruni’s 2010 novel One Amazing Thing was honored as the inaugural selection of the regional reading initiative Gulf Coast Reads: On the Same Page sponsored by the by the public library systems in Houston and the counties of Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Montgomery.

The Blaffer Art Museum, CLASS, the Honors College and the Law Center collaborate to bring art crimes specialist and former FBI agent Robert Wittman to campus and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to present on September 8 the lecture “Pursuing the Priceless: Stolen Art, Investigation and the Law.”

One Amazing Thing     Priceless



Physician and best-selling novelist Abraham Verghese delivered on October 24 the 2011 John P. McGovern Endowed Lecture in Family, Health and Human Values. The McGovern lectureship was endowed in 1999 and allows the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to invite speakers with notable expertise in the areas of family, health and human values to campus to provide a forum for discussion on these societal issues.

Abraham Verghese
Abraham Verghese receiving the John P. McGovern Medal from Lois Parkinson Zamora, chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies.

More than 25 departments and organizations affiliated with the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences came together on October 20 during the second annual Instant CLASSic – a student-organized celebration of all that the College has to offer its students and the university community.

Instant CLASSic   Instant CLASSic

Student flash mob draws more attention to the Instant CLASSic. Photo credit: Luis Zelaya, CLASS. (left)

Sociology Students Association held a bake sale at the Instant CLASSic (right)


Smeltertown: Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community by Monica Perales, an associate professor in the Department of History, is recognized by the Urban History Association the Kenneth Jackson Award as the Best Book on North American Urban History.

The 15th season of the Living Archives Series kicked off with two conversations with Houston area natives - socialite and former diplomat Joanne King Herring and fashion designer and entrepreneur Tina Knowles. A surprise audience member at the Knowles conversation was the designer’s daughter – Grammy-award honored pop singer Beyonce. The international superstar’s presence set off a campus frenzy of fans trying to catch a glimpse of the mother-daughter duo. 

Beyonce in the audience

Beyonce in the audience at the Living Archives talk featuring her mother Tina Knowles. (Melissa Philip/Chronicle)

Students eager to see Beyonce

Students eager to see Beyonce while she was listening to her mother Tina Knowles share personal stories of success and challenges. (Associated Press)


Dean Roberts hosted the first CLASS Faculty Research and Creative Arts Reception on November 2. Each of the College’s 16 departments and several of its centers and interdisciplinary programs developed exhibits and short electronic presentations for the reception organized by Kathleen Brosnan, Associate Dean for Faculty and Research.



The College’s newest department, Comparative Cultural Studies is home to the revitalized India Studies Program


Multi-media musical display

Multi-media musical display

The Center for Mexican American Studies hosted the 15th Annual Noche Cultural Scholarship Banquet on November 3. To date, CMAS has raised in its 40 years of existence approximately $2 million for its endowment and nearly $3 million in scholarship funds through its annual banquet.

the 15th Annual Noche Cultural Scholarship Banquet

National Institutes for Health award $2.8 million in grant funds to a five-year research study on excessive alcohol use among college students led by Clayton Neighbors, a professor and director of the social psychology program in the Department of Psychology.

Associate Professor Stephanie Daniels was named a Communication Science and Disorders Fellow by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts presented the Houston debut of red, black & GREEN: a blues, a full-length, multimedia performance work designed to jumpstart a conversation about environmental justice, social ecology and collective responsibility in the climate change era. Mitchell Center Artist in Residence Marc Bamuthi Joseph wrote and starred in the performance art work that highlighted people he met and experiences he had in Houston.

red, black & GREEN: a blues
Photo credit: Bethanie Hines Photography

The Department of Health and Human Performance’s annual Graduate Student Research Day on Nov. 9 drew more than 200 in attendance in Garrison Gym. The event is an opportunity for students who have completed at least one year in an HHP graduate program to present their research to faculty, staff and other students.


The Portable On Demand Art (P.O.D.A.) Project temporary public art exhibition of portable storage units transformed into a works of art ended its sting on campus on December 15. Co-presented by Blaffer Art Museum and the UH Public Arts Collection, the P.O.D.A. Project features work by Aerosol Warfare, BOX 13 ArtSpace, Lynne McCabe, Gabriel Martinez, Metalab, and Anthony Shumate.


P.O.D.A.       Poda


A $100,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to the Texas Obesity Research Center led by Rebecca Lee, associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, supports research to establish a multinational strategy to combat physical inactivity — a breeding ground for obesity.

Fall Commencement on December 19 included three graduate students among the College's first class of Dissertation Completion Fellows to fulfill their commitments to the program.

Graduation  Commencement   Commencement

The Moores School of Music’s production of Il Postino by acclaimed Mexican composer Daniel Catán received accolades in the National Opera Association’s 2011 Opera Production Competition, earning the first prize in its division.

Il Postino

Rebeccca Heath as Matilde Neruda and Casey Finnigan as Pablo Neruda in Act One of Il Postino.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a five-year, $9 million grant to Texas Center for Learning Disabilities to conduct research on the causes and treatment of learning disabilities in children and adolescents. UH is one of four universities nationally to receive funding from the NIH for a learning disability research center.

U.S. Air Force Ret. Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, came to campus on January 26 to share memories about flying and fighting during World War II and standing up to discrimination in the military and his home country. Jefferson was thanked by Lt. Col. Aldru Aaron, commander of the Houston area Air Force ROTC, for his contributions to U.S. military history and presented with a commemorative medal.

The College’s Air Force Cadets with original Tuskegee Airman U.S. Air Force Ret. Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson.
The College’s Air Force Cadets with original Tuskegee Airman U.S. Air Force Ret. Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson.

The faculty and staff of the Department of Health and Human Performance funded the Health and Human Performance Undergraduate Student Scholarship Endowment.

Arte Público Press, the largest publisher of contemporary U.S. Latino literature, moved into a new state-of-the-art facility in the UH Energy Research Park. About the same time, two books it publishes landed on the Tucson Unified School District’s list of seven banned books and were removed from classrooms. The two books – Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales (2001) and Chicano! A History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales (1997) – are part of Arte Público Press’ Hispanic Civil Rights series.


"Untold Stories: Black Deaf Men,” the second panel discussion in the series launched last year by the American Sign Language Interpreting Program of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders was held February 25.

The full panel with moderator Assistant Professor Sharon Grigsby Hill
The full panel with moderator Assistant Professor Sharon Grigsby Hill

The Master’s of Public Administration Program honored a government worker as its first “Public Official of the Year” with an award bestowed at a February 24 luncheon. Attendees included City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker, City of Meadows Place Mayor Charles Jessup, City of Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen and Houston Community College Trustee Bruce Austin.

Public Official of the Year Daniel W. Krueger

Public Official of the Year Daniel W. Krueger

The three mayors in attendance: Annise Parker of Houston, Charles Jessup of Meadows Place and Allen Owen of Missouri City.

The three mayors in attendance: Annise Parker of Houston, Charles Jessup of Meadows Place and Allen Owen of Missouri City.

Roxana Button, B.A. in Psychology December 2011 and guard on the women’s basketball team, was named to the Capital One Academic All-America team. She is the first player in UH history to receive the honor and the fifth in Conference USA history. She graduated with a 3.87 grade point average and plans to attend medical school.

CLASS alumna Roxana Button led Conference-USA in scoring and graduated with honors. (Photo credit: Karen Warren/Chronicle)
CLASS alumna Roxana Button led Conference-USA in scoring and graduated with honors. (Photo credit: Karen Warren/Chronicle)

The 15th annual Table Talk, a luncheon that celebrates women’s accomplishments and power while raising funds to support the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and the Women’s Women’s Archive and Research Center, was held February 29. More than 500 women and men attended the event which netted more than $110,000 for scholarships, research and programming.

Table Talk 2012


MARCH 2012

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages won national funding to instruct Texas teachers on designing and implementing Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum. The Chinese Studies Program within in the department was selected to by the National Security Agency and the Central Security Service to receive a federal grant of $99,980 to launch a 2012 Summer STARTALK program.


Two CLASS professors were each awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grants – Natalie Houston, associate professor of English, and Casey Dué Hackney, professor and director of Classical Studies in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

Sandra Zalman, assistant professor of art history in the School of Art, was named a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies.

Moores School of Music faculty members Matthew Dirst, associate professor, and Alan Austin, director of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival, were among a group of musicians who performed for the pope and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Leon, Mexico on March 24, 2012.

Being Flynn, the movie adaption of a memoir by Nick Flynn, professor of Creative Writing, starring Robert De Niro opened in theaters nationwide in March 2012.

Being Flynn

“Awready!” The Houston Hip Hop Conference was held on campus March 27 – 28. The conference brought together Houston rap legends and academic scholars to explore the impact of the fourth-largest U.S. city on the musical and artistic culture known as hip hop. It was sponsored by a collaboration between University of Houston Libraries, the Houston Enriches Rice Education (H.E.R.E.) Project at Rice University, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and the African American Studies Program.

Photo credit: Ben DeSoto

APRIL 2012

Noted Medical Historian Alexandra Stern of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor delivered the 2012 John P. McGovern Endowed Lecture in Family, Health and Human Values on April 9 at the Rockwell Pavilion in the M.D. Anderson Library. She presented the lecture "Don't Reduce Me to a Label: Disability Rights, Genetic Diagnosis, and Social Values” on the origins of genetic counseling in the 1940s and how the first generation of medical geneticists stigmatized people with disabilities, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for empowerment and activism.

Alexandra Stern
Alexandra Stern, an author and historian at the University of Michigan, says ethical discussions about genetics tend to be fragmented in the U.S. Photo: Mayra Beltran / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

The CLASS Ad Hoc Committee on Collaboration and Interdisciplinarity led by Committee Chair Marjorie Chadwick hosted on April 20 “Immigration and the Immigrant Experience: Houston and Beyond,” a symposium promoting interaction and collaboration on integrative projects related to immigration.

The Department of Comparative Cultural Studies on April 19 presented The Art of Folk Spirit symposium featuring three of the nation’s most prominent folklorists and ethnography experts.

H. Julia Hannay, the Moores Professor of Psychology, has earned the 2012 Esther Farfel Award, a symbol of overall career excellence and the highest honor the University of Houston bestows on a faculty member. Dr. Hannay is the fifth woman to be recognized with the honor since it was first awarded in 1979.

Dr. H. Julia Hannay
Dr. H. Julia Hannay

MAY 2012

The College graduated its largest class of undergraduates in its history – just under 1,400. Six of those undergraduates completed their studies with perfect 4.0 grade point averages and 37 percent of the class earned Latin honors of summa, magna or cum laude.

Voice major Aaron Casey in the Moores School of Music has been filmed two appearances on the HBO series YoungArts MasterClass – the first one in 2011 with virtuoso Bobby McFerrin at Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Germany's largest opera house, and the second one in 2012 with diva Renée Fleming in Chicago and New York.

Aaron Casey
Aaron Casey was chosen to participate in HBO's YoungArts Masterclass, twice. He studied with Renée Fleming (left) and Bobby McFerrin for two separate episodes. Photo credit: Courtesy of Simon & Goodman Picture Co.

Marta Fairclough, associate professor of Spanish linguistics and director of the Spanish as a Heritage Language Program, has been awarded a U.S. Fulbright Scholar grant to research Croatian as a heritage language at the University of Zagreb in Croatia.

Dylan Paul, MFA ’12 from the School of Theatre & Dance is the recipient of a 2012-2013 Fulbright Fellowship to study dialects and accents in Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival

Carminia Martinez, who is completing a master’s degree in anthropology, is the recipient of a 2012-2013 Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year on the Yucatan Peninsula conducting ethnographic research among Mayan groups, gathering histories, oral traditions, doomsday preparations and expectations about Dec. 21, 2012.

The College announced the creation of several new degree programs and minor concentrations that respond to our students’ and prospective students’ intellectual interests and career ambitions. Classes for these new bachelor’s and master’s degree majors and minors begin in Fall 2012. 

New Programs