Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights Program, receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Originally Posted: December 1, 2015

Congratulations to Rick Halperin, Director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program

Dr. Halperin will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his Human Rights work at the Annual Peace & Justice Maker Awards Dinner on Thursday, December 3.

CVKCFY9UkAEv2t8Dr. Rick Halperin has spent his entire life defending and advocating the idea that there is no such thing as a lesser person, and that all persons, regardless of whatever they have done, still have and remain worthy of their inherent dignity and must not, for any reason, be tortured or be put to death. Rick began teaching human rights courses in 1990, and serves as the Director of the Southern Methodist University Embrey Human Rights Program. During his more than 40-year affiliation with Amnesty International USA, Rick served as chair of its board of directors three times. He has also served on the boards of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Center for Survivors of Torture, the International Rescue Committee and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

More on the Embrey Human Rights Program

More on Rick Halperin

More on the Peace & Justice Maker Awards Dinner

Dr. Jie Sun, Dedman College staff, receives 2015 Charles F. Elton award for Best Paper

Congratulations to Jie Sun!

Dr. Sun’s co-authored paper, House Divided? STEM and Non-STEM On-Campus Student Retention Factors, has been awarded as the 2015 Charles F. Elton Best Paper by the Association for Institutional Research (AIR). More below.Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.06.40 PM

Sheri Kunovich, Sociology, Kids, Christmas and the Materialism Conundrum

DFW Child

Originally Posted: December 2015

Sharon Alderton, 34, avoids her kids’ playroom. That’s because it’s already packed with toys for her two young boys — many that they don’t play with much — and with the holidays and one son’s Christmas Eve birthday quickly approaching, the Prosper mom knows the stuff is just going to multiply. “It’s too much of a good thing,” she confesses. Alderton is grateful for the generosity of others but wishes they wouldn’t give so much. “I don’t want my boys to be ungrateful, take it all for granted or think that getting toys is what matters most in life.”

Like many parents, Alderton struggles to find balance between wanting her children to have what friends have and keeping them from becoming materialistic.

Gifts Gone Wrong

Alderton isn’t alone. Associate Professor Sheri Kunovich is the head of the sociology department at Southern Methodist University. In her class Wealth and Consumption, she compares global patterns of consumerism and says the United States is unique in our spending habits.

In 2013, the United States had a total annual average expenditure of $371 per child on toys, the second highest amount per child after the United Kingdom, Kunovich explains. READ MORE


‘Celebration of Lights’, a holiday tradition for nearly 40 years

Preston Hollow Advocate

Originally Posted: November 27, 2015

photosSMU’s “Celebration of Lights” has been a tradition since 1977. Find out why Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.

Community members are invited to gather in the main quad to hear SMU President R. Gerald Turner read from the New Testament. Afterwards, student musicians will perform seasonal songs during the lighting of the campus Christmas tree. To conclude the festivities, attendees will light candles and sing “Silent Night.”

If you’re unable to attend, don’t worry. Dallas Hall will be aglow through Jan. 3. Click here for details.

Research co-authored by Karen Lupo, Anthropology, finds early Native Americans raised turkeys for feathers, not food

Discovery News

Originally Posted: November 25, 2015

Early Native Americans Raised Turkeys, But Not to Eat

There is little doubt that Native Americans at a Utah site appropriately called Turkey Pen Ruins raised turkeys, but new research concludes that they rarely ate them, and instead raised the large birds for their coveted feathers.

The study involved extensive analysis of amino acid signatures resulting from diet that can be detected in human hair. The research, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, represents one of the first analyses of human hair from the American Southwest.

The findings indicate that Native Americans from the Ancestral Pueblo Tradition (also sometimes known as the Anasazi) heavily relied upon corn, showing that “about 80 percent of the calories and protein came from maize,” co-author R.G. Matson from the University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology told Discovery News. READ MORE

SMU to send psych team to Pakistan

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: November 27, 2015

Two professors and a clinical graduate student from Southern Methodist University’s Department of Psychology will head to Pakistan Dec. 12 for an international psychology conference hosted by the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University of Peshawar.

Called “Advancing Women Issues: Local and Global Directions,” the conference will feature 55 speakers and 400 participants. It’s the result of a three-year partnership between SMU and SBBWU supported by a $1.2 million U.S. State Department grant.

At the conference, SMU Psychology Department Chair George Holden will present joint research on trauma in Peshawar, where the threat of terrorism is constant. SMU psychology professor Lorelei Rowe and graduate student Rose Ashraf will also present research. Other participants will focus on topics such as promoting the well-being of women and children in Pakistan and the impact of Nepal’s earthquake on women and children.

The SMU-SBBWU partnership is one of 20 funded by the State Department. The partnerships connect American universities with universities in Pakistan or Afghanistan. SMU’s grant also brought SBBWU students and faculty to SMU. READ MORE

Listen: Alexis McCrossen, History, Wasting time in America

BYU Radio

Originally Posted: November 24, 2015

Alexis McCrossen, a professor of U.S. social and cultural history, recently talked with “Top of Mind” host Julie Rose on BYUradio about time, including how we spend our leisure hours and how it influences our perception of others.

From the show: “Our relationship to time in America is complicated. It’s immensely valuable to us – ‘time is money,’ right? So we punish people by forcing them to spend time locked up. And we brag about how many hours we work and scoff at the Europeans who put in only 35 hours a week. Yet, we also spend massive amounts of money and time on leisure activities.”

McCrossen is the author of Marking Modern Times: Clocks, Watches and Other Timekeepers in American Life.


Event: Is Forensic Science an Oxymoron?

Event date: December 7, 2015

Event time: 12:15 p.m.

Location: Heroy Hall 153

An Event with Jonathan Koehler, Professor of Law, Northwestern University

koehler_JJ_PicIn recent years, forensic scientists in some areas have been taken to task for over claiming, failing to test their assumptions, and neglecting to explain to judges and jurors how the risk of error affects the value of reported matches. Jurors also have some misconceptions about forensic science evidence and misunderstand the meaning of the statistics they hear in cases involving DNA evidence. Solutions will be explored.

Lunch Provided. RSVP at

Contact for more information:


Meet the SMU professor and students behind the irreverent ‘Moby-Dick’ inspired card game ‘Dick’


Originally Posted: November 24, 2015

Admit it: When reading or discussing the classic novel Moby-Dick in high school or college, your mind went places. Maybe you vocalized the inappropriate jokes you were thinking of, getting an easy chuckle from your nearby friends. Or maybe you kept your thoughts to yourself, thinking that surely such lowbrow humor was not good enough for literature as great as this.

But Tim Cassedy, an English professor at SMU, thinks it’s OK to laugh at Moby-Dick. In fact, he thinks that’s the intent of the name.

“I genuinely believe that on some level there is a dick joke in the title of the book — hidden in plain sight,” Cassedy told me via e-mail. “I think the book frequently plays around with that meaning of ‘dick.’ Sperm whales really are named that because they have a white, waxy substance in their head that early mariners mistook for semen. They called that substance ‘spermaceti’ (which means whale sperm) or just ‘sperm.’ (It turns out to make excellent candles.) The book is full of moments where the whale meaning of sperm starts to blur over into the reproductive meaning — sometimes just to play with words, sometimes for comic effect, and sometimes as part of straining to articulate ideas that are difficult to put into words. Relevant chapters include 81, 94, and 95. The entirety of chapter 95 is about making a smock out of the foreskin removed from a sperm whale’s 6-foot-long penis. So.” READ MORE

Cal Jillson, Political Science, comments on article: Hillary Clinton Distances Herself From Obama on ISIS


Originally Posted: November 24, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is taking a different stance than President Obama on issues such as national security and terrorism, even if that means offending members of her own party, The Hill reports.

In an effort to combat ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group, Clinton said in a speech last week that the United States needs to “break the group’s momentum and then its back.”

The former secretary of state added that no-fly zones should be imposed over parts of Syria — a move that the Obama administration has refused to take.

Just one day ahead of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, President Obama said that ISIS was “contained,” and has since received a vast amount of criticism.

In response, Clinton has not only drawn a sharper wedge in between herself and the president, but declared that ISIS “cannot be contained, it must be defeated.” READ MORE