Being Poor Can Suppress Children’s Genetic Potentials
Growing up poor can suppress a child’s genetic potential to excel cognitively even before the age of 2.
A study of 750 sets of twins by Assistant Professor Elliot Tucker-Drob does not suggest that children from wealthier families are genetically superior or smarter. They simply have more opportuni-
ties to reach their potential.
These findings go to the heart of the age-old debate about whether “nature” or “nurture” is more important to a child’s development. They suggest the two work together and that the right environment can help children begin to reach their genetic potentials at a much earlier age than previous-ly thought.
“You can’t have environmental contributions to a child’s development without genetics. And you can’t have genetic contributions without environment,” says Tucker-Drob, who is also a research associate in the university’s Population Research Center.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, was co-authored by K. Paige Harden and Mijke Rhemtulla of The University of Texas at Austin and other researchers.
New Longhorn Network to Endow Philosophy Chair
The University of Texas at Austin, ESPN and UT Athletics’ multimedia rights partner IMG College in January announ-ced the creation of a new 24-hour television network that will guarantee $300 million over 20 years to the university and IMG.
It will cover the university’s intercollegiate athletics, music, cultural arts and academic programs. This agreement provides significant new resources to enhance faculty and academic support, including the establishment of two $1-million endowed faculty chairs — one in the Philosophy Department and the other in the Physics Department.
University of Texas at Austin President William Powers said the network agreement is an example of efforts to “reinvent the model by which a public higher education institution does business.” It is an example, he said, of the university “seeking creative ways to generate new sources of revenue to achieve its mission and pursue its vision of leadership in American higher education.”
The Language of Love
They talk about love at first sight. But what about love at first speech?
A new study published in Psychological Science finds that people who speak in similar styles are more compatible with one another.
Psychology Professor James Pennebaker and graduate student Molly Ireland studied college students during speed-dating sessions and couples’ online chats. The researchers found that the speaking and writing styles couples adopt with one other predict future dating behavior and long-term relationships. The more their language styles matched, the more likely they were to continue dating.
What people are saying to each other is important, but how they are saying it may be even more telling.
“What’s wonderful about this is we don’t really make that decision,” says Pennebaker, the Psychology Department chair. “It just comes out of our mouths.”
2011 Pro Bene Meritis Awards Announced
The Pro Bene Meritis award is the highest honor bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts. First granted in 1984, it honors individuals who are committed to the liberal arts, who have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits and who have participated in service related to the college and university. This year’s honorees are:
Martin Dies III (B.A. Government, ‘71) is a partner at Dies & Hile, L.L.P, a law firm in Austin. He serves as chair of the College of Liberal Arts Building Steering Committee and the College of Liberal Arts Development Council.
Austin Ligon (B.A. Plan II Honors/Economics/Government, ‘73) (M.A. Economics, ‘78) is the founder and former CEO of Carmax. He and his wife Samornmitr “Pan” Lamsam have donated $1.2 million to the Plan II Honors Program, much of it to support study abroad.
G. Howard Miller taught popular courses on American religious history in the Department of History for more than 30 years before retiring earlier this year.
Carolyn Townsend (B.A. English, ‘66) is a civic volunteer and academic language therapist. She serves as Chair of the Liberal Arts Advisory Council.
Peyton Townsend (B.A. History, ‘62) is vice president and investment officer at RBC Dain Rauscher. He serves on the University of Texas Development Board, the Liberal Arts Advisory Council and the McCombs School of Business Advisory Council.
Living a Foreign Language
Students will be able to spend this summer learning — and living — foreign languages on campus.
The Texas Language Center is launching the 2011 Summer Language Institute, an in-residence language study program that offers students the unique opportunity to complete the two-year foreign language requirement in three months.
Students from The University of Texas at Austin and other schools may enroll in their choice of four languages: Czech, Modern Greek, Portuguese and Vietnamese. They may also choose to receive one year of credit in second-year Russian.
From June 1 to Aug. 15, students will live together on campus. They will attend daily courses and tutorial sessions led by the university’s leading scholars in language studies. The summer program will also include a variety of activities such as cooking demonstrations, museum tours, language game nights, film screenings and scavenger hunts.
Sociologist Awarded Grant to Study Generosity
Sociology Professor Pamela Paxton received a $148,000 grant from the Science of Generosity Initiative at the University of Notre Dame to study how social, economic and political structures affect individuals’ generosity toward one another.
Paxton’s study is one of 13 research projects to collect funding from the initiative, which promotes research on generosity, altruism, philanthropy and related issues and shares those findings with corporate, civic, religious and philanthropic communities.
“We are hoping to identify not only the individual characteristics associated with generosity, but also the larger social forces that shape generosity,” says Paxton, the Centennial Commission Professor in the Liberal Arts who is also an affiliate with the university’s Population Research Center.
Among other things, Paxton will examine how the social, economic and political structures of different nations affect generosity there.
Adding physical distance between people during negotiations may lead to more mutually beneficial outcomes, according to new research from psychologist Marlone Henderson.
He examined how negotiations that don’t take place in person may be affected by distance. He compared distant negotiators (several thousand feet away) with those who are nearby (a few feet away) in three separate studies. The subjects were negotiating via text-exchange.
While much work has examined the consequences of different forms of non-face-to-face communication, previous research has not examined the effects of physical distance between negotiators independent of other factors. Henderson’s findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
“People tend to concentrate on higher priority items when there is more distance between them by looking at issues in a more abstract way,” says Henderson. “They go beyond just thinking about their pursuit of the options presented to them and consider higher-level motives driving their priorities.”
Oshinsky Joins Bill Gates to Battle Polio
History Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Oshinsky joined Bill Gates and other global leaders on Jan. 31 to discuss “Polio Eradication and the Power of Vaccines.” The discussion was moderated by ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer.
The panel discussion coincided with the release of Gates’ third annual letter, which highlighted his personal commitment to the global eradication of polio.
Oshinsky won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book, “Polio: An American Story,” which chronicles the disease’s impact on American life and the efforts by scientists and doctors to create a successful vaccine. He holds the Jack S. Blanton, Sr. Chair in History and is a Distinguished Teaching Professor.
His book was an inspiration to Gates, the founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who has made polio eradication one of his foundation’s top priorities.
Language and Culture Centers Receive Federal Grants
The Center for European Studies (CES) and the Texas Language Technology Center (TLTC) have been awarded more than $3 million in federal grants to establish new language and culture centers, strengthening their role as national leaders in their fields.
CES received a more than $1.6 million grant from a Title VI Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education for 2010-2014 and has been designated a National Resource Center. CES works to promote studies of Europe across disciplines through courses on culture, history, economics, politics and foreign languages.
TLTC has won a $1.4 million grant for 2010-2014 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Language Resource Centers Program to designate a Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning. TLTC works to improve foreign language instruction by exploring the potential to use emerging technologies such as interactive, online textbooks more effectively.
Outstanding Graduates Honored
Twelve graduating students have been named Dean’s Distinguished Graduates. Each year the College of Liberal Arts honors a select group of seniors for their leadership, scholarly achievements and service to the community. The students will be honored at the College of Liberal Arts spring commencement ceremony.
Nubia Betancourt (Arabic Language and Literature)
Lindsey Carmichael (History/English)
Shelby Carvalho (Government/Humanities)
William Cochran (Plan II Honors)
Frances Deavers (Psychology)
Denisa Ganadara (Spanish and Portuguese/Philosophy)
Monica Gully (English/Plan II Honors)
Wiley Jennings (Latin American Studies/Plan II Honors)
Kathleen Kidder (Classics)
Stephen Mercer (History)
Mathew Ramirez (Latin/English)
Jessika Roesner (Linguistics/Computer Science/Plan II Honors)
This year marks the 31st anniversary of the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate program, which has yielded more than 360 alumni. In 2009 the College created the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Association in an effort to better connect alumni to one another and the college.