Palaeobotanist Bonnie Jacobs spent 15 years studying ancient plants to help predict future climate change


Originally Posted: September 16, 2015

Professor recounts adventure and discovery in Ethiopia

DALLAS (SMU) – In the movies, the adventure begins when the sinister industrialist abducts Harrison Ford to plan a hunt for lost treasure.


For Bonnie Jacobs, it started with a phone ring.

In the late summer of 2000, the SMU palaeobotanist was working in her office on the third floor of the University’s Heroy Science Hall when an old colleague called with exciting news about Ethiopia. He’d just returned from a dig site where he’d expected to find fossils from eight million years ago. Instead, he’d found fossils from 27 million years ago – mostly plants. He thought it was a job for Jacobs, one of the premier palaeobotanists of African flora.

Although Jacobs had just recently returned from field research in Tanzania, “There is something about Africa that keeps people coming back again and again,” she says. “Much of tropical Africa’s ancient plant history was a mystery, so that’s what attracted me. Not just the romance of exploration, but also because so little was known.”

Africa called, Jacobs answered, and a 15-year adventure in Ethiopia was born. READ MORE

Matthew Wilson, Political Science, Six things to look for in tonight’s GOP debate

Originally Posted: September 16, 2015

The second Republican presidential debate, airing on CNN Wednesday night, promises to bring more drama and conflict to an already-unpredictable race. Here are six key things to watch out for (and one not to) as the candidates crowd the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

The Fiorina Factor

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was already one of the most buzzed-about participants in Wednesday’s debate even before front-runner Donald Trump appeared to insult her looks in a Rolling Stone article. After Trump’s comments, and Fiorina’s super PAC response, the prospect of the two candidates facing off on stage has become highly anticipated.

“I’m hoping to see if Carly can tame Trump,” Dr. Allan Louden, professor and chair of the communications department at Wake Forest University, said. “Because I think that Trump gets away with being Trump because it’s kind of entertaining.”

The other candidates may approach Fiorina cautiously to avoid appearing anti-female, but Trump has shown little interest in holding back and she likely will not either.

“It’s a big deal for Trump because of the way he’s perceived to have treated women in general, and the thing he said recently about Fiorina, for him it makes a big difference for her to be on the stage,” explained Dr. Matthew Wilson, an associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist University.

“I’d expect she’s pretty willing to throw a punch,” Alan Schroeder, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, said. READ MORE

Watch: WFAA, Tower Center forms strategic academic partnership with Latino Center for Leadership Development


Originally Posted: September 16, 2015

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SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies has formed a strategic academic partnership with the Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD). The new Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will identify and implement policy-focused solutions to the Latino community’s most pressing concerns, from educational and economic opportunities, to voting rights and immigration reform, to the under-representation of Latinos in elected and appointed roles at the federal, state and local levels, as well as corporate boards.

SMU Tower Center, Latino Center For Leadership Development Create Strategic Policy Institute

September 15, 2015

SMU-LCLD Sept152015_HJ
SMU’s John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and the Dallas-based Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD) announced a strategic new academic policy institute at SMU Sept. 15, the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Speakers at the kickoff event were, from left, Thomas DiPiero, dean of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Jorge Baldor, Latino CLD founder and SMU alumnus (’93); Joshua Rovner, acting director of SMU’s Tower Center; and Miguel Solis, Latino CLD. [PHOTO CREDIT] Hillsman S. Jackson / SMU
DALLAS (SMU) – On the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies announced it has formed a strategic academic partnership with the Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD). The new Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will identify and implement policy-focused solutions to the Latino community’s most pressing concerns, from educational and economic opportunities, to voting rights and immigration reform, to the under-representation of Latinos in elected and appointed roles at the federal, state and local levels, as well as corporate boards.

As part of this unique partnership, the Latino CLD will provide SMU’s Tower Center with $900,000 over five years. The funding will allow the new policy institute to attract and engage scholars and thought leaders in an interdisciplinary think-tank, creating a framework to analyze and develop policy priorities, provide public forums and outreach, and support greater understanding and influence for the Latino community.

“America is in the midst of a fundamental, Latino-driven demographic shift,” said Latino CLD founder and SMU alumnus Jorge Baldor ’93, citing Pew Research Center reports that Latinos will represent about 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2060. “With the growing number of Latinos comes a reciprocal responsibility to lead,” he said, adding, “Latino CLD is focused on developing the next generation of those leaders.” (For additional relevant data, see accompanying “Key Research Findings Underscore Need for Forward-Thinking Policy Planning Work.”)

“I’m pleased the Latino Center for Leadership Development and SMU are joining forces for a premier Latino policy institute. The research it produces will be an asset for policy makers, allowing for in-depth analysis and creation of policies that will improve the lives of people across Texas and throughout the nation.”

– Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will work in three major areas:

  • Provide influential voices and data to support research on policy issues
  • Offer two-year appointments for postdoctoral scholars who will research and publish their findings on public policy issues
  • Provide research grants and public seminars to promote stronger community understanding and dialogue about key societal issues

The relationship between the new SMU policy institute and Latino CLD also will allow promising leaders, such as those within the Latino CLD’s new Leadership Academy, “to develop as individuals and hone network skills necessary to assume positions of influence” while focused on policy and politics to help people from all spectrums of society, Baldor said.

“The Latino CLD-SMU Tower Center Policy Institute will provide an excellent opportunity to combine our expertise to focus on contemporary policy matters of major interest to this country’s diverse, growing Latino community,” said Joshua Rovner, director of studies at the Tower Center in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities
and Sciences

“As a hub for social-scientific issues, we will play a major role in cutting through the cacophony of numbers related to the Latino community, letting us take big issues and quickly drill down to ideas for thoughtful solutions and policy implementation,”
Rovner said.

The announcement of the new policy institute follows on the heels of the Tower Center’s Sept. 8 launch of its new Texas-Mexico Program during Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s historic visit to Mexico.

“SMU is becoming a major presence in Latino-focused research and education,” said Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College. “It’s also a propitious moment to bring new expertise and scholarship to bear both nationally and locally,” he said, noting that the Dallas-Fort Worth region, with 7 million people, is the nation’s fourth-largest population center, and growing rapidly.

“Looking ahead, the success of this institute will allow SMU and the Latino CLD to contribute vital public policy research while based in DFW — a U.S. political and economic center of gravity with strong global connections,” DiPiero said.

# # #

Click here for the full press release and key research findings.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

In the spirit of John Tower’s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, as well as the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center pursues its mission in a non-partisan manner.

Latino CLD is a privately funded foundation with a vision of developing future leaders with an understanding of Latino-focused policies and actionable items for solutions resulting from such partnerships as the Latino CLD–SMU Tower Center Policy Institute.

The three pillars of Latino CLD involve the annual Leadership Academy, which brings together national future leaders; a policy institute; and ongoing strategic initiatives to address critical current topics, including, which led bi-partisan efforts to preserve in-state tuition at Texas universities for all of the state’s residents.



Cal Jillson, Political Science, Rick Perry suspends 2016 presidential campaign

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: September 13, 2015

Some candidates flare and fade. Others never catch fire.

Rick Perry has now done both.

His swift demise in this campaign sent no tremors whatsoever through the GOP presidential field. But it should put several contenders on notice: Experience of the sort voters used to demand — running a state, for instance — no longer counts for much.

Perry was one of seven current or former governors running for the GOP nomination. Together, they barely muster support from 1 in 4 voters in national polls.

That’s not what Perry expected. From the outset of his comeback bid, he pitched voters on the need for seasoned, proven gubernatorial leadership. READ MORE

Joshua Rovner, Tower Center, Searching for strategy in Putin’s Russia

War on the Rocks

Originally Posted: September 14, 2015

Putin may be good at sticking his thumb in America’s eye, but no matter how you cut it, he has led his country down the road of decline.

Critics of Vladimir Putin charge him with serious strategic blunders. Russia is paying a high price for annexing Crimea and intervening in the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. The Russian economy, already in shambles from mismanagement and corruption, can hardly afford such costly gambles. Putin’s military adventurism also puts at risk his ambitious plans for military modernization. Worse yet, he has alienated the countries he needs most to rescue Russia’s economy. Instead of cultivating European leaders, he caused them to rally around the NATO flag. A leader who weakens his own economic and military power while uniting his adversaries qualifies as a bad strategist. READ MORE

Three drug-like compounds may offer better odds of survival to patients with prostate cancer, find SMU researchers

News Medical

Originally Posted: September 9, 2015

Researchers at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, have discovered three new drug-like compounds that could ultimately offer better odds of survival to prostate cancer patients.

The drug-like compounds can be modified and developed into medicines that target a protein in the human body that is responsible for chemotherapy resistance in cancers, said biochemist Pia D. Vogel, lead author on the scientific paper reporting the discovery.

So far there’s no approved drug on the market that reverses cancer chemotherapy resistance caused by P-glycoprotein, or P-gp for short, said Vogel, a biochemistry professor at SMU. One potential drug, Tariquidar, is currently in clinical trials, but in the past, other potential drugs have failed at that stage.

“The problem when a person has cancer is that the treatment itself is composed of cellular toxins — the chemotherapeutics that prevent the cells from dividing. Usually upon the first chemo treatment the cancer responds well, and initially goes away. Ideally it doesn’t come back,” said Vogel, who is director of SMU’s Center for Drug Discovery, Design, and Delivery. READ MORE

“SMU’s seismology team stands by its research and does not comment on public policy.”

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: September 10, 2015

Five months ago geologists from Southern Methodist University identified two wells used to store wastewater from natural gas drilling as the likely cause of a series of earthquakes around the North Texas town of Azle in late 2013.

Now the Texas Railroad Commission is questioning whether they had enough evidence.

In preliminary findings released Thursday, examiners with the commission said there was not sufficient proof the injection well operated by EnerVest, a Houston-based oil and gas company, caused the seismic activity. They recommended the well be allowed to continue operating.

That followed on from a finding last month that another injection well operated by XTO Energy, a subsidiary of oil giant Exxon Mobil, was also not to blame for the earthquakes.

“SMU’s seismology team stands by its research and does not comment on public policy,” a spokeswoman for the university said in a statement. READ MORE

Caroline Brettell, Anthropology, comments on study that finds immigrant teens less prone to violence and crime

Mineral Wells Index

Originally Posted: September 8, 2015

AUSTIN – There’s no doubt that some Americans link immigrants with crime, violence and drugs.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave voice to that view in a speech at Trump Tower earlier this summer when he described Mexicans arriving in the Untied States: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

A new study shows the opposite is true of immigrant teenagers who are less likely to commit crime, engage in violence or use drugs than their American-born peers, according to a team led by Christopher Salas-Wright of the University of Texas’ School of Social Work.
“To assume immigrants are bringing crime to the United States is not backed up by research,” said Salas-Wright. His team’s findings appear in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Salas-Wright and others found that immigrant children ages 13 to 17 are half as likely to report binge drinking, drug use or selling drugs than their American-born teenagers.

Those who arrived in the United States at age 12 or older are one-third as likely to have sold illegal drugs or used cannabis as youths born in the United States. The odds of being involved in serious violent attacks or carrying handguns are one-third lower for immigrants ages 15 to 17.

Researchers studied national data collected from 2002 to 2009 among students who were not asked for their names or immigration status.

Among immigrants, about half identified themselves as Hispanic.
David Córdova, of the University of Michigan, a co-author of the study, said family dynamics play a key role in youth behavior. READ MORE

Dean Dipiero discusses new Harper Lee novel

SMU Daily Campus

Originally Posted: September 10, 2015

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, dean Thomas DiPiero of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences hosted a lecture discussing Harper Lee’s newest novel “To Go Set A Watchmen.”

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of her Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Lee released the story’s ‘prequel’ in July. The 1960’s classic is one of the most influential American novels of its time; it has sold over 40 million copies and has been translated into 40 different languages.

The cultural and social issues that create Lee’s first novel lead experts like DiPiero to believe that it is important to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” again as an adult. Although it is a required reading in nearly 70 percent of our country’s junior high and high schools, he says that, “the simplicity in how Scout explains such complex issues such as racism and murder is what makes Lee’s novel so brilliant, but also much more complicated than we may first understand.”

In “To Go Set A Watchmen,” Scout returns as the narrator, but is 20 years older and has moved from the small southern town to New York City. Although it was one of the most highly anticipated book releases of all time, many readers have criticized “Watchmen” for destroying so many aspects that made Lee’s first novel so brilliant.

DiPiero argues that “Watchman” is not a failed attempt to recapture the essence of “Mockingbird,” but rather a depiction of how times have changed in the characters’ lives and in the society in which we live.

DiPiero adds that “To Kill A Mockingbird” was written in first person, from the ironic perspective of a child who knows more than she should, leaving us as readers to fill in the gaps.”

Contrastingly, “To Go Set A Watchman” is written from the third person perspective, which DiPiero believes “is a voice that tells us, rather than shows us how characters think and act.”

So, even though “Watchman” may not become the groundbreaking book that “Mockingbird” is, DiPiero acknowledges Harper Lee’s ability to challenge her readers to question what we know and who we think we are, as every good author should. READ MORE