Al Armendariz named to Environmental Protection Agency

Al ArmendarizAl Armendariz, SMU associate professor of environmental and civil engineering, is President Barack Obama‘s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Region 6, which includes Texas – the nation’s largest producer of industrial air pollution – and four other southwestern states.

“I look forward to working closely with Al Armendariz on the range of urgent environmental issues we face, in region 6 and across the nation,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who announced the appointment. “At this moment of great challenge and even greater opportunity, I’m thrilled that Al will be part of our leadership team at EPA. He will certainly play an instrumental role in our Agency’s mission to protect our health and the environment.”

Regional EPA administrators promote state and local environmental protection efforts and serve as a liaison between Jackson and state and local government officials. Armendariz takes the helm at Region 6 at a time when the EPA has made it clear that Texas pollution enforcement standards are not high enough and must meet federal Clean Air Act requirements followed by other states.

“I think it’s fair to say that the new administration, the President and Lisa Jackson have put EPA on a new course to better protect the environment and I’m happy to be part of the team,” Armendariz said. “I think it’s pretty obvious to the regulated industries and the environmental groups and the politicians that what EPA is doing now is a big departure from what EPA has been doing for a number of years. It’s an exciting time.”

Region 6 includes the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, as well as 66 Indian tribes. While on leave, Armendariz will retain his appointment with SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

“We are thrilled that Al Armendariz’ work in improving our living and working environments has been recognized by the President and EPA Administrator,” said Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the Lyle School. “Al is an extraordinarily talented, insightful and balanced engineer who will make a significant contribution to our nation and region.”

“I am very excited and I’m looking forward to joining the administration,” Armendariz said. “I’ve greatly enjoyed being at SMU. It’s been a fantastic place to work and I’ve had the support of Dean Orsak and Dr. (R. Gerald) Turner for all my activities. It’s been a great place to teach and do research, and I look forward to continuing my association with SMU for years to come.”

Armendariz joined SMU in 2002 after receiving his Ph.D in environmental engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. He worked as a research assistant at the MIT Center for Global Change Science at their Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory in Massachusetts, and at the Radian Corporation in North Carolina as a chemical engineer, before joining the SMU faculty. He also spent a summer on special assignment to EPA’s Dallas office as an environmental scientist.

Learn more from SMU News

Robert J. Norrell joins SMU experts for Common Reading discussion

Cover of 'Dreams From My Father' by Barack ObamaAuthor and historian Robert J. Norrell, professor of history and Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee, will join SMU experts in a panel discussion of the University’s 2009 Common Reading at 4 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

Three SMU professors, all from Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will participate in the discussion of Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance:

  • Angela Ards, assistant professor of English
  • Kenneth Hamilton, associate professor of history
  • Harold Stanley, Geurin-Pettus Professor of American Politics and Political Economy

Norrell writes about race relations and southern history and is the author of The House I Live In: Race in the American Century (2005, Oxford University Press). His book Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1986.

The event is sponsored by the Gartner Honors Lecture Series, the University Honors Program and the Office of the Provost. For more information, visit SMU Central University Libraries’ Common Reading homepage.

Calendar Highlights: Aug. 25, 2009

'Dreams From My Father' book coverCommunity reading: Faculty, staff members and incoming first-year students will take part in the 2009 Common Reading discussion beginning at 2 p.m. Aug. 25 after the mandatory residence hall meetings. Learn more about the 2009 Common Reading, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama.

Welcome, class of 2013: Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship Jeffrey W. Talley, founding director of the Lyle School of Engineering‘s Institute for Engineering and Global Development, will give the address in SMU’s 95th annual Opening Convocation at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 in McFarlin Auditorium.

Fall General Faculty Meeting: The first day of class brings the first general faculty meeting of the 2009-10 academic year, at 4 p.m. Aug. 26 in the Hughes-Trigg Theater. The meeting is preceded by a reception at 3 p.m. in the Theater foyer.

Everyday magic: Czech housewife and self-taught artist Anna Zemánková developed a lyrical and highly original style when she took up drawing in 1960, at age 52. A new SMU exhibition pays tribute to her talent – By Magical Means: Drawings by Anna Zemánková will be on display Aug. 31-Oct. 10 in the Pollock Gallery, Hughes-Trigg Student Center. Admission is free.

Common Reading 2009: A future president’s personal journey

'Dreams From My Father' book coverIn 1982, Barack Obama Jr. – then an undergraduate at Columbia University – received word that the father he had barely known had died in a car accident in Nairobi. For the younger Obama, this sudden tragedy motivated a journey that took him from Kansas to Kenya and points beyond to learn the truth of his father’s life and reconcile the disparate elements of his own family experience.

The story that sprang from that journey prompted SMU’s Common Reading Selection Committee to choose Obama’s 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, as the book every member of the University’s Fall 2009 incoming class will read and discuss.

The themes and topics in Obama’s book – written years before he entered public life – have “great relevance for college students,” says Tom Tunks, SMU’s associate provost for educational programs. He calls the book “a powerfully written coming-of-age story, humorous and wise,” in which the future president reveals “both the instability and the deep love of what was, even at best, a ‘nontraditional’ family.”

Tunks also cites the “remarkable candor” with which Obama describes the allure of partying, and with which he tells how his undergraduate years “brought him to a discipline and a sense of purpose in public service.”

“The Committee members were aware in making this choice that it might seem a controversial pick,” Tunks adds. “However, the book is not political in nature and is not meant to appear as such. Rather, the hope is that Dreams will encourage students, those new to the University and those continuing, to reflect upon their own choices and goals – those already made and those for the future.”

Watch for more information at Central University Libraries’ Common Reading homepage.