Faculty in the News

SMU, LIFT team in semifinals for $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

 

An SMU and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) team has been named one of eight semifinalists advancing in the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications designed to increase literacy skills in adult learners.

> Learn more about the semifinalists at the Adult Literacy XPRIZE website

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Guildhall graduate video game development program are working with LIFT to design an engaging, puzzle-solving smartphone game app to help adults develop literacy skills. The SMU and LIFT team, People ForWords, is one of 109 teams who entered the competition in 2016.

Drawing upon the education experts at SMU’s Simmons School, game developers at Guildhall and adult literacy experts at LIFT, the team developed Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis. In the game, players become archaeologists hunting for relics from the imagined once-great civilization of Atlantis. By deciphering the forgotten language of Atlantis, players develop and strengthen their own reading skills. The game targets English- and Spanish-speaking adults.

> Learn more about the Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis team at PeopleForWords.org

Students at LIFT, a North Texas nonprofit adult literacy provider, have tested and provided key insights for the game during its development. According to LIFT, one in five adults in North Texas cannot read, a key factor in poverty. Dallas has the fourth highest concentration of poverty in the nation, with a 41 percent increase from 2000 to 2014.

Testing of the eight semifinalists’ literacy software begins in mid-July with 12,000 adults who read English at a third grade level or lower. Selection of up to five finalists will depend on results of post-game testing to evaluate literacy gains among test subjects. Finalists will be named in May 2018, and the winner will be named in 2019.

> See the full story at SMU News

> Download the Codex: The Lost Words Of Atlantis app for Android at Google Play

Check out the Codex gameplay with this gallery of screen captures:

Four distinguished SMU scholars named 2017 Ford Research Fellows

Four outstanding SMU professors were honored for their scholarship and research with 2017 Ford Research Fellowships. The awards were presented during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 4.

This year’s recipients are Stephanie Al Otaiba, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development; Jeffrey Kahn, Dedman School of Law; Zhong Lu, Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Bruce Marshall, Perkins School of Theology.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Stephanie Al Otaiba is the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include school-based literacy interventions, response to intervention, learning disabilities, diverse learners, and teacher training. She has published more than 110 journal articles and book chapters and has also developed reading curricular materials. Her research has been supported by several federally funded grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and Office of Special Education Programs, and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Jeffrey Kahn is a professor in Dedman School of Law whose areas of expertise include U.S. constitutional law, administrative law, Russian law, human rights and counterterrorism. His latest research focuses on the right to travel and national security law; his most recent book, Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, critically examines the U.S. government’s no-fly list. Professor Kahn’s work on Russian law has been noted by name by the editors of The New York Times and published in various law reviews, as well as the peer-reviewed journals Post-Soviet Affairs and Review of Central and East European Law. Professor Kahn is a founding member of the Advisory Board of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Education Program and a Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

Zhong Lu is the Shuler-Foscue Endowed Chair and director of graduate studies in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His geophysics research focuses on the use of satellite-borne radar to detect subtle changes in the earth’s surface preceding volcanic eruptions. He also researches volcano deformation, earthquake deformation mapping, fault geometry and modeling, and ground-water basin analysis. His work with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) includes underground nuclear explosion monitoring, landslide monitoring and water-level changes of wetlands. Professor Lu has been awarded more than $3 million in grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Geological Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Bruce Marshall is the Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine in Perkins School of Theology. He ranks among the top scholars in the world who conduct research and write about the most enduring and debated of Christian beliefs – namely, the doctrine of the Trinity. His research and writing focus on this doctrine, as well as the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. He is also an expert on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and has lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad on topics ranging from Trinitarian theology to Christology. Professor Marshall has written two books and more than 90 articles, book chapters, and reviews, and is a frequent speaker in both national and international venues.

SMU law students to spend Spring Break 2017 representing detained immigrant women, children in Karnes, Texas

Karnes City Family Detention Center

Detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center (Photo by Eric Gay of The Associated Press courtesy of National Public Radio)

About an hour outside of San Antonio, hundreds of undocumented immigrant and refugee women and children who fled violence in their home countries are detained at the Karnes City Family Detention Center, faced with the threat of deportation from an administration that wants them gone.

Starting Sunday, March 12, 2017, a team of eight SMU Dedman School of Law students (led by professor and immigration law expert Natalie Nanasi) will spend their spring break providing pro bono legal services to these undocumented immigrants, hoping to win them asylum in the United States.

The Karnes City center, operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been open since 2014, housing women and children who have crossed the border into the South Texas.

“A majority of the Karnes City detainees are coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and fleeing gang violence, family violence or some combination thereof,” Nanasi said. “Their trip is supremely dangerous. Many don’t make it, and that’s something important to remember; these people flee because they know that if their daughters stay there, it’s certain they’ll be raped, and if their sons stay there, it’s certain they’ll be kidnapped by gangs.”

— Kenny Ryan

> Read the full story from SMU News

Research: New SMU study connects running motion to ground force

SMU researchers have developed a concise new explanation for the basic mechanics involved in human running. Their research has immediate application for running performance, injury prevention, rehab and the individualized design of running shoes, orthotics and prostheses.

The work integrates classic physics and human anatomy to link the motion of individual runners to their patterns of force application on the ground – during jogging, sprinting and at all speeds in between.

The approach could enable the use of individualized gait patterns to optimize the design of shoes, orthoses and prostheses according to biomechanics experts Kenneth Clark, Laurence Ryan and Peter Weyand, who authored the new study.

The ground force-time patterns determine the body’s motion coming out of each step and therefore directly determine running performance. The impact portion of the pattern is also believed to be a critical factor for running injuries.

“The human body is mechanically complex, but our new study indicates that the pattern of force on the ground can be accurately understood from the motion of just two body parts,” said Clark, first author on the study and currently an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

“The foot and the lower leg stop abruptly upon impact, and the rest of the body above the knee moves in a characteristic way,” Clark said. “This new simplified approach makes it possible to predict the entire pattern of force on the ground — from impact to toe-off — with very basic motion data.”

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

$2 million gift establishes William F. May Endowed Directorship in SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility

Rita Kirk, William F. May Endowed Director, Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, SMU

Rita Kirk is the first William F. May Endowed Director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

A $2 million gift from SMU trustee emeritus and longtime benefactor Cary M. Maguire will endow the directorship of the University ethics center that bears his name in honor of the center’s founding director, ethicist William F. May.

Each director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility will now carry the title of William F. May Endowed Director, beginning with current director Rita Kirk.

“Cary Maguire’s gifts to SMU always have been transformative,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His commitment to the William F. May Endowed Directorship will position the Maguire Center for future excellence while permanently linking Bill May’s name with both the center he founded and the field to which he devoted his illustrious career.”

“SMU is committed to the teaching of ethics throughout its curriculum, and to promoting dialogue on important issues with the surrounding community,” said Steven Currall, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Cary Maguire’s latest act of generosity will ensure that this dialogue continues in perpetuity with a talented, equally committed faculty member leading the way.”

> Read the full story from SMU News

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