Associate dean for General Education addresses questions about UC-2016

SMU Daily Campus

Originally Posted: April 16, 2016

By: Peter Moore, associate dean, General Education

Let me take a moment to address the issues Noah Bartos raised in his editorial regarding UC-2016.

Noah is rightly concerned about the potential headaches various groups will face regarding two very similar curricula (UC-2012 and UC-2016). We are too. He notes the increase in paperwork. That comes in three forms: 1) course proposals that faculty must write; 2) assessment; and 3) student petitions.

He is right in pointing out that in the near-term faculty will have some additional work to do. A significant portion of that has already been completed this spring and I hope that most of the rest will be finished by December. There is a sense of fatigue, but this is offset to some extent by the improvements he notes in the structure which allow for new opportunities for participation. Regarding assessment, my expectation is that this will actually decrease initially (while eventually returning to the current level).

My biggest concern is with student petitions that will arise through confusion between the two curricula. Noah notes this problem as well regarding the mixture of requirements in the same course. This mixture does not involve Proficiencies and Experiences which are identical in both curricula. We are aware of the problem regarding pillars (UC-2012) and breadth and depth (UC-2016) and will be working to mitigate the headaches that are bound to result.

Noah also raises concerns with the new STEM requirements which he believes have the potential to unduly impact Meadows’ students. With regard to the lab-based portion (PAS under UC-2012) of this requirement the revision in UC-2016 is closer to the original intent of the UC adopted in 2010, that students complete two lab-based courses. The TM requirement, however, should not be an additional burden for most Meadows’ students who will be able to complete it in the major (e.g., Theater Lighting).

Noah notes the advantages from the simplified Second Language requirement which should prove beneficial across all majors. The changes in UC-2016 are designed to lessen the need for double-counting pillar courses by opening up courses in the major.

For example, I expect Cox majors to benefit when ITOM 3306 (a required course for all Cox students) satisfies the TM requirement. In this case the number of UC requirements met in the Cox major will increase from two to three. The modifications introduced in UC-2012 were designed to address high-credit majors and enhance students’ ability to double major. Students should find the same advantages in UC-2016 along with a simplified structure.

Finally he argues that the language of the proposal does not provide an adequate description of content. The descriptions match the information provided in the original UC and are augmented by the Student Learning Outcomes. Together these do provide a good basis for determining what the new breadth and depth requirements are all about.

Nearly two years ago the University Curriculum Council responded to concerns about the original UC and introduced key modifications. Those modifications have helped the class of 2012 to graduate on time. However, the modifications led to some unintended consequences which UC-2016 addresses. We expect that our efforts this time around will be even more beneficial. READ MORE

Congratulations Dedman College Dean’s Research Council Award Recipients

March 18, 2016

Dallas Hall4

Congratulations to the the recipients of this year’s Dean’s Research Council grants. The Dean’s Research Council provides competitively awarded seed funding for faculty research and allows them to compete for larger grants and fellowships outside SMU.


Peng Tao

Department of Chemistry
Extending the Protein Evolution Paradigm to Combat Antibiotic Drug Resistance

Karen Lupo
Department of Anthropology
Exposing the Myth of the Pristine Rain Forest: Building the Case for the Cultural Landscapes in the Tropical Forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Jingbo Ye
Department of Physics
Developing an Integrated Circuit that Drives Arrays with Ultra Low Power


Phillipe Chuard
Department of Philosophy
Time Consciousness: The Lockean View



Dedman College experts: Supreme Court battle focuses on Garland

SMU News

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU experts are available to discuss the evolving fight over President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.



Engel minced few works when discussing Republican obstructionism to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee – calling it unethical and unconstitutional.

“The constitution gives Republicans the right to not vote for a candidate, but it doesn’t give them the right to ignore the president,” Engel says. “Our first African American president getting to have three-fifths of a presidency is reprehensible.”

Engel also says the Republican argument for letting the American people decide the spot in the coming election sets a dangerous precedent.

“There is no guarantee Republicans or Democrats couldn’t say even after the election that they think the American people should get four years to decide who should pick the next nominee – it’s the same exact logic,” Engel says. “They’re playing with really dangerous things here.”

But no obstructionist draws more ire – and flirts more with violating the spirit of the constitution, says Engel – than Ted Cruz.

“The thing that gets me most furious is that when a political candidate or actor who simultaneously says they believe in the constitution and but that Obama should not have nominated someone – they are either willfully stupid or willfully lying, and I’m looking at you Senator Cruz,” Engel says. “The Constitution says if you’re going to vote the guy down you have to stand up and do it.”

Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History.



With the Supreme court split evenly between liberal and conservative justices and a number of America’s most salient political issues likely to be argued in front of the court in the years ahead, Kobylka says the impact of Merrick Garland, if appointed, would be huge.

“If the appointee were to join the so-called liberal block, you could see changes in issues with affirmative action, campaign finance, abortion rights and questions of federal power like Obamacare,” Kobylka says. Garland’s nomination, he says, is likely more politically significant than legally significant because there’s a danger of his becoming a political pawn.

“Garland has been on the court of appeals for years,” Kobylka says. “He’s 63 years old, which is older than most nominees. I think Roberts was 50 and Kagan was 50 – so that might be to appeal to critics and show Obama’s not stacking the court for the next 30 years. The problem with Garland is he clerked for Brennan, who was a liberal, and Garland was a Clinton appointee, so this is a traditional democratic pick.

“In a sense, Garland could become a sacrificial lamb and a political whipping post,” Kobylka adds.

Kobylka is an associate professor of political science.



Stepping into trenches that were dug the moment Justice Scalia died, Republicans and Democrats are likely to become even less productive in Washington D.C. as the debate over Garland blocks out all other issues, says Wilson.

“It shows what sad point we’ve reached in politics where everything becomes a titanic battle and a huge conflict and it reflects the Supreme Court has become a more politicized institution and people are clearly recognizing it as such,” Wilson says. “It will dominate the political coverage of Washington for the next several months because there is no pending legislation, so this is the only game in town right now.”

That said, Wilson cautioned Republicans might be setting themselves up for trouble by arguing the next president should be allowed to pick the nominee.

“Republicans better be careful what they wish for,” Wilson says. “With the Republican Party barreling toward Donald Trump, the likely outcome in November is catastrophic losses and Hillary Clinton becoming the next president. They have a chance to appoint a nominee who is relatively moderate and somewhat older, which might be the best deal they get. If they don’t confirm Garland, they may end up wishing they had compared to the alternative.”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science.



Grad student discovers river in Peru so hot it boils animals alive

Tech Insider

Originally Posted: February 22, 2016

Deep in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, an anomalous and perplexing natural wonder lies: A raging river that boils.

Once just the stuff of folklore, geophysicist Andrés Ruzo, a PhD student at Southern Methodist University, set out to find the legendary waterway himself.

He not only found it, but he confirmed that it does, in fact, surge at a scalding 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It feels like I’m in a sauna inside a toaster oven,” Ruzo said sitting on the bank of the river in his new book, The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in the Amazon. (Ruzo also discussed his quest to understand its puzzling features in a recent TED talk.) READ MORE

LISTEN: Creating A Healthy City with guest Dr. Eric Bing, professor of global health


Originally Posted: February 18, 2016

How do cities contribute (or detract?) from the health of the people who live in them? This hour, we’ll explore the question with Dr. Eric Bing, professor of global health at SMU; and John Siburt, president and CEO of CitySquare. They’ll take part in a panel discussion about healthy cities moderated by KERA’s Lauren Silverman on Saturday – part of the 2016 Dallas Festival of Ideas. LISTEN

Congratulations to the Dedman College Research Day Winners

SMU graduate and undergraduate students presented results of ongoing and completed SMU-based research on February 10. Dedman College students received an impressive 20 awards.

Research Day aims to foster communication between students in different disciplines, give students the opportunity to present their work in a professional setting, and share the outstanding research being conducted at SMU with their peers and industry professionals from the greater Dallas community.

CLICK HERE for a full list of Research Day winners


Spanish missions triggered Native American population collapse, indirect impact on climate


Originally Posted: January 26, 2016

New interdisciplinary research in the Southwest United States has resolved long-standing debates on the timing and magnitude of American Indian population collapse in the region.

The severe and rapid collapse of Native American populations in what is now the modern state of New Mexico didn’t happen upon first contact with Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, as some scholars thought. Nor was it as gradual as others had contended.

Rather than being triggered by first contact in the 1500s, rapid population loss likely began after Catholic Franciscan missions were built in the midst of native pueblos, resulting in sustained daily interaction with Europeans.

The indirect effects of this demographic impact rippled through the surrounding forests and, perhaps, into our atmosphere.

Those are the conclusions of a new study by a team of scientists looking for the first time at high resolution reconstructions of human population size, tree growth and fire history from the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.

“Scholars increasingly recognize the magnitude of human impacts on planet Earth, some are even ready to define a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene,” said anthropologist and fire expert Christopher Roos, an associate professor at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and a co-author on the research.

“But it is an open question as to when that epoch began,” said Roos. “One argument suggests that indigenous population collapse in the Americas resulted in a reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because of forest regrowth in the early colonial period. Until now the evidence has been fairly ambiguous. Our results indicate that high-resolution chronologies of human populations, forests and fires are needed to evaluate these claims.”

A contentious issue in American Indian history, scientists and historians for decades have debated how many Native Americans died and when it occurred. With awareness of global warming and interdisciplinary interest in the possible antiquity of the Anthropocene, resolution of that debate may now be relevant for contemporary human-caused environmental problems, Roos said. READ MORE