Our faculty and staff are often sought after to provide their academic expertise, commentary and analysis on a variety of news topics and current events. From analyzing historic political news and studying air quality for government agencies to earning grants for arts and humanities studies, we invite you to read more about some of our faculty and staff who have made national and local headlines over the past year.
When it comes to Texas and U.S. politics, journalists are turning to Brian Smith, professor of Political Science and associate dean for the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, for his expertise. Whether it’s the historic impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the 88th Texas Legislative Session or tracking the 2024 presidential candidates, Smith is a key political contributor for Austin’s news stations and national outlets such as NBC News.
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Dozens of Austin journalists went on strike this year, calling for an increase in pay as the market continues to evolve. As reporters took to the streets of Austin, KXAN sought the professional opinion of Jena Heath, professor of Journalism and Digital Media and associate dean for the School of Arts and Humanities. Heath, a former journalist, discussed the importance of investing in the future of local journalism.
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W. Carsten Andresen, associate professor of Criminal Justice, provided insight on social justice issues and safety concerns plaguing communities in Austin and across the country.
Andresen spoke with KXAN about the safety of LGBTQIA+ citizens after The Human Rights Campaign and The Department of Homeland Security issued warnings ahead of Pride Month celebrations. In an interview with The Washington Blade, he discussed a Delaware bill that would ban the “gay panic defense” — a controversial legal strategy that blames victims’ sexual orientation for violent crimes made against them.
KXAN also interviewed Andresen about conspiracy theories connected to multiple deaths at Lady Bird Lake, and the impact those theories have on police investigations. Segments from Andresen’s interview were then contributed to an article published in The Daily Mail.
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Laurie Cook Heffron
During the 88th Texas Legislative Session, lawmakers reviewed thousands of proposed bills involving important topics such as taxes and higher education. And Laurie Cook Heffron, associate professor of Social Work, helped spread awareness to Texans who wanted their voices to be heard! In an interview with The Austin American Statesman, Heffron shared in-depth information regarding where and how the public could provide feedback on legislative proposals that were up for consideration.
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Earlier this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a controversial memo stating universities should stop considering diversity when hiring employees — sparking strong reactions. Kris Sloan, professor of Education, spoke with Spectrum News 1 Austin about the vital role that diversity considerations play during the hiring process, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices at universities.
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During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Forbes published a report ranking Texas as the worst state in the country for mental healthcare. In an effort to provide support for the wellbeing of the Austin community, Molly Wang, director of Counseling Services, shared self-care tips on KXAN and Spectrum News 1 Austin for their viewers.
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For nearly 20 years, research students at St. Edward’s have assisted with launching more than one thousand weather balloons to study ozone air quality. This year, Paul Walter, associate professor of Physics, received a special assignment from The National Weather Service ahead of severe weather. KXAN joined Walter and his students on the hilltop as they launched a “radiosonde” in front of the Mary Moody Northen Theatre.
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National Grant Awardees
Georgia Seminet, associate professor of Spanish, was awarded $34,903 from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a one-year project creating a certificate in “Advanced Spanish for the Health and Helping Professions.”
Seminet is one of 19 recipients nationwide to receive the Humanities Connections grant.
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Jimmy Luu, associate professor of Graphic Design, received $60,000 from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the development of a lecture series incorporating new materials and making graphic design history more inclusive.
Luu is one of 30 recipients nationwide to receive the Spotlight on Humanities in Higher Education grant.
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The Supporting Ecology and Data Science (EDS) Scholars program at St. Edward’s received a $1.5M grant from The National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program.
Beginning Fall 2023 and for six years, four-year scholarships worth up to $10,000 per year will be awarded to three cohorts of seven to 10 students majoring in mathematics, biology, bioinformatics, environmental biology and climate change or environmental science and policy.