CLASS NEWS is brought to you by the University of Houston's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Dean Antonio D. Tillis and the CLASS Office of Communications.

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April/May 2018

‘Let’s Get Physical’: Exercise May Prove Beneficial in Reducing Influenza

UH Researchers with NIA Funding Examine How Physical Exercise May Reduce the Impact of the Virus in Seniors

This year has been described as the worst U.S. flu epidemic in nearly a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health officials say they are unable to explain why this flu season is so intense and unusually widespread, causing broad swaths of misery in 48 states and high levels of illness in 43 as of February. To help combat the flu, researchers at the University of Houston have been awarded a two-year, $100,000 grant by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), to examine a strategy to improve influenza vaccinations in older adults. News Release

Professor Lands Prestigious Award for Social Science Research

Dr. Ling Zhu, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, is one of 27 recipients presented the Awards for Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity at the Assistant Professor level for the 2017-2018 academic year by the UH Division of Research. Recipients are selected through nomination by their peers and ranked by faculty. Each candidate is rated on criteria relevant to their discipline. Dr. Zhu is the first from the department to win this award. “It is the supportive and intellectually stimulating environment in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences that makes this possible,” Dr. Zhu explains. She focuses her research on the role democracy plays in relieving social inequality and this recognition brings an awareness to social science research.

Ciszek Recognized for Research on Activism

At frank 2018, Dr. Erica Ciszek, assistant professor in integrated strategic communication at UH’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, was recognized for her research on how activists use strategic communication. The frank gathering brings together communications strategists, behavioral and social scientists, artists, funders, business leaders and advocates who “connect evidence to action for on-the-ground impact.” Dr. Ciszek was among finalists in cognitive psychology and sociology. She was awarded a $1,500 prize for securing a place in the finals. Her interest in how activists leverage communication strategies to support their mission was sparked in 2010, during a period in which four suicides by young gay teens garnered national attention. Read more

Tesh Retires and Nelms Takes the Helm

After 38 years, Joy S. Tesh recently retired from her post as director of the UH Language and Culture Center (LCC), which provides intensive English instruction for international students. When asked what she would miss the most, Tesh didn’t hesitate, “Most of all, I will miss the students,” she explains. “I will miss my colleagues and friends. I will miss the energy and excitement of an ordinary day in the LCC. I will miss the conversations, the culture festivals, the food, the music, the dance, and the laughter.” Following Tesh’s departure, Dr. Jodi Nelms, former LCC assistant director, took the helm as the new director of the LCC in January 2018.

Photo: New LCC director Dr. Jodi Nelms, left, with retired director Joy S. Tesh

After Harvey: Putting History, Disasters into Context

UH Interdisciplinary Faculty Combine Forces to Create New Course

Inspired by Houston’s recent experience of Hurricane Harvey, UH faculty combined forces to develop a new undergraduate course designed to encourage students to view Gulf Coast history from an interdisciplinary perspective and contextualize disasters such as the Galveston hurricane of 1900, Katrina in New Orleans, and Harvey in Houston, within the broader sociohistorical and political-economic landscape. Dr. Keith McNeal, associate professor of anthropology in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, and his colleagues feel it’s important for students who have just recently been through the experience of Harvey in Houston “to begin learning and thinking about it critically, not only as residents of the area but also as future professionals and citizens of the city, perhaps changing future career paths and contributions.”  News Release

‘Turn it Gold’ Documentary Shines a Light on Childhood Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14. Research aimed at preventing and curing the disease has to be funded, and funding grows from awareness. This was the impetus behind, “Realistically Ever After: A Turn It Gold Movement,” co-produced by Dr. Jill Yamasaki, associate professor of health communication in the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, along with two Emmy-award winning collaborators. The documentary profiles the efforts of a Houston-based nonprofit organization as it partners with schools, athletic teams and community members to communicate the hard facts of childhood cancer and increase funding for research. The film will be screened for the UH community this September, which is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Photo: Dr. Jill Yamasaki with co-producer Dr. Lynn Harter , professor with the Scripps College of Communication and co-director of the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact at Ohio University.

Turchi Awarded Grant for his Multi-Media Project

Peter Turchi, creative writing professor in the Department of English, has just received a $10,000 Individual Artist Grant for his project, “That is Not to Say We Have No Regrets,” which combines excerpts from a group of interrelated novellas in progress with songs and music written by Turchi and his son. The Houston Arts Alliance administers the program on behalf of the City of Houston with the goal of improving Houstonians’ quality of life and promoting cultural tourism. Individual Artist Grants support the development and presentation of new artistic works across the community. Proposed projects are evaluated through a competitive open application process by external peer-review panels.

Students Receive Nationally Competitive Critical Language Scholarships

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) is pleased to announce that two of its students will study overseas this summer in an intensive language and cultural immersion program as recipients of the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship. Through this scholarship, students spend 10-12 weeks studying “critical languages” considered to be in high demand for language professionals. Saman Essa, an Honors College student, will be studying in Jordan and Andrew Neilson will be studying in China. Read more

Grad Student Wins Trip to Study Ancient Greek Religion in Athens

Matthew Finnie, a graduate student in the UH Department of History, has been selected in a national competition to travel across the globe to attend the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. During his trip, he will be participating in the “Ancient Greek Religion in Situ” seminar course led by Dr. Irene Polinskaya. A fan of Disney’s "Hercules" since he was four years old, Finnie shares his excitement about embarking on this dream-fulfilling adventure. “The opportunity to study these sites of Greek religion and to analyze the relationship between Greeks and their surrounding environment will prove vital to the completion of my PhD dissertation on the role of hero cult in ancient Athens,” he explains.

East Meets West: Chinese Students Wrap Up UH Visit

Dr. Temple Northup, director and associate professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, is excited to have hosted six students and Professor Daniel Ng from Cheung Kong College of Journalism and Communication at Shantou University, located in southeast China. During their two-week visit, which was part of an annual exchange program, the students gained a deeper understanding of how strategic communication works by shadowing a variety of advertising, public relations and media production classes. Read more

Economics Student’s Research Draws Attention

He’s already got research fellowships and scholarships under his belt, a stellar GPA and a White House internship behind him. This undergrad’s senior honors thesis on the merits of consumption taxation vs. income taxation is expected by his professors to be an excellent piece of research, likely to be publishable in a respected economics journal. Jackson Crawford’s mentor and advisor, Dr. Kei-Mu Yi, professor and M. D. Anderson Chair in Economics, says he takes initiative and has made enormous progress in his research skills over the past two years. It seems this student is destined to set the world on fire. Read moreĀ 

CLASS Mourns the Loss of One of its Own

On Monday, March 12, Houston Council Member Larry V. Green, a graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences who earned a BA in Political Science, was laid to rest.

“I was saddened to hear the news about the loss of a man I call ‘my brother.’ Larry and I served together in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He was a great man and a kind friend who will be greatly missed,” says Dr. Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and M. D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston. Read more

Notes From Behind the Pine Curtain: UH Alum Recognized for East Texas Historical Efforts

Dr. James C. Maroney, who received a PhD from UH’s Department of History in 1975, is passionate about preserving the history of East Texas, that part of the state that’s known as “behind the pine curtain” because of its early isolation and its piney woods. Dr. Maroney was named a Fellow of the East Texas Historical Association (ETHA), which maintains a maximum of only 20 fellows at a time. Maroney also received the annual Ralph W. Steen Award at ETHA’s fall meeting in Galveston last October for his outstanding service to historical efforts in East Texas. A specialist in labor and working-class history, Maroney, who is retired from Lee College, has published numerous articles in books and professional journals, and is co-editor and contributor to "Texas Labor History," published in 2013 by Texas A&M Press.

Dr. Brandon Rottinghaus' Article Appeared in NYT

Political Science Professor Dr. Brandon Rottinghaus’ article appeared in the Feb. 21, 2018, issue of The New York Times’ column Everybody's Better Than You-Know-Who.

Dr. Elizabeth Gregory Interviewed by PBS

On International Women’s Day, March 8, Houston Matters discussed the most pressing issues facing women today with the Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program Dr. Elizabeth Gregory. She also promoted the 21st Annual Table Talk Luncheon set to take place on March 28.

March 28: 21st Annual Table Talk Luncheon

The University of Houston’s Friends of Women’s Studies (FWS) presents the 21st Annual Table Talk Luncheon on Wednesday, March 28, at the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel. FWS supports the UH Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program (WGSS), assisting the program’s research, teaching and campus and community activities through philanthropic and volunteer efforts. This lively lunch honors 50 Houston women of accomplishment from diverse industries and backgrounds.

April 4: Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the 50th Anniversary of his Assassination

On April 4, 1968, an assassin took the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most prominent civil rights leader of the 20th century. In remembrance of Dr. King’s life and work, Dr. Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and M. D. Professor in Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston, invites you to a program commemorating the acclaimed civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient on the 50th anniversary of his death.

April 19: Jazz of Physics

When director Ava DuVernay set out to bring the new Disney film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 book, A Wrinkle in Time, to the big screen, she turned to Hollywood A-list stars like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and a not-so-well-known-in-Hollywood-circles Brown University physicist, Dr. Stephon Alexander. No stranger to the intersection of art and science, Alexander helped meld the fantasy with physics for the live-action sci-fi film.

May 10: University of Houston Commencement

College commencement ceremonies are held at the end of the fall semester to recognize fall degree candidates and at the end of the spring semester to recognize spring and summer degree candidates. The procession of this ceremony will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. Guest tickets are not required for this event. Families and friends are encouraged to attend. The ceremony will be approximately 2-1/2 hours in length

Please visit the CLASS website for more upcoming events.

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