Dedman Law’s Beth Thornburg named next CTE director

Elizabeth Thornburg, SMU professor of lawElizabeth Thornburg, professor in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, will serve as director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence effective June 1, 2012. During Spring Term 2012, she will begin work with current CTE Director Ron Wetherington to become familiar with the Center’s activities, according to an e-mail announcement from Provost Paul Ludden dated Nov. 17, 2011.

Wetherington, professor of anthropology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will return to full-time teaching.

“Professor Thornburg takes over a Center that for years has been ably managed by Professor Wetherington, and we thank him for his many years of service and leadership in promoting teaching excellence at SMU,” Ludden wrote. “Professor Wetherington has earned our thanks and applause, especially from those who have begun their teaching careers at SMU.”

Thornburg teaches and writes in the area of civil procedure and alternative dispute resolution. Her scholarship focuses on the procedural fairness of the litigation process, especially at the pleadings, discovery and jury charge stages. She has taught in the Law School since 1988 and served as its associate dean for academic affairs from 1996-98. She has received the Law School’s Don M. Smart Teaching Award and has served on the Provost’s Commission on Teaching & Learning. She also participated in a Common Law Countries Project on Teaching Civil Procedure.

Common Reading 2011: The price of immortality

Book cover of 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors. She died of cervical cancer in 1951, at age 31. Yet her cells – taken without her knowledge, from the tumor that killed her – are still alive today.

Bought and sold by the billions, HeLa cells have played a crucial role in developing the polio vaccine, uncovering the secrets of cancer, and revealing the effects of the atomic bomb, among other medical milestones. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown and for decades was buried in an unmarked grave. And even though her immortal cells launched a multimillion-dollar industry, her family never saw any of the profits.

SMU has named The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot as the class of 2015’s Common Reading Experience – the book all incoming first-year students will read and discuss together.

Skloot, a science journalist writing her first book, “tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society’s most vulnerable people,” according to a starred review from Publishers Weekly. National Public Radio called the book “one of the best conversation starters of 2010.”

The Common Reading Selection and Implementation Committee hails Skloot’s work for raising “thought-provoking questions in areas as disparate as medical ethics and the tension between a writer’s compassion for her subject matter and her insistence on telling the truth,” said Associate Provost Harold Stanley in a Feb. 7 e-mail announcing the selection.

In anticipation of the student discussions next fall, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence and moderator Ron Wetherington will host a series of reading circles during Spring 2011.

The reading circle discussions are scheduled as follows:

  • Monday, March 21 (section 1)
  • Monday, March 28 (section 2)
  • Monday, April 4 (section 3)

All CTE discussions will be held noon-1 p.m. in the Texana Room, DeGolyer Library. Register online at the CTE homepage to participate.

All faculty and staff members who agree to host a Common Reading student discussion in August will receive a free copy of the book. To volunteer, contact Diana Grumbles, senior lecturer in English and director of first-year writing.

> Watch for more information at the Central University Libraries’ Common Reading page

For the Record: Feb. 18, 2010

Brent Sumerlin, Chemistry, Dedman College, has been selected as a 2010-2012 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The award carries a grant of $50,000 to support his research. The Sloan Research Fellowships “seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise,” according to the foundation’s website. The 2-year fellowships are awarded annually to 118 researchers “in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field.” More than 30 Sloan Research Fellows have won Nobel Prizes later in their careers.

Ron Wetherington, Anthropology, Dedman College, has been selected to receive a “Friend of Darwin” award from the National Center for Science Education. Wetherington, who also serves as director of SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence, was honored for his advocacy on behalf of science by the NCSE, which supports the teaching of evolution in public schools. Read more.

Ron Wetherington named a ‘Grassroots Hero’ by Texas Freedom Network

SMU Anthropology Professor Ron WetheringtonRon Wetherington, professor of anthropology in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, has received the 2009 Grassroots Hero Award from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN). Wetherington will accept the award April 16 at a ceremony in Dallas.

TFN presents the award each year to “a dedicated individual who exemplifies our work to stand up for science.”

An expert in evolutionary theory, Wetherington’s research interests include population genetics, human paleontology, science pedagogy and the historical archaeology of the U.S. Southwest. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in human evolution and forensic anthropology, as well as a noncredit required course for departmental graduate students, “Learning to Teach – Teaching to Learn.” He is the author of Understanding Human Evolution (West Publishing, 1992) and 4 other books on anthropology and archaeology.

The TFN award citation points to Wetherington’s service during 2008-09 as an expert reviewer appointed by the Texas State Board of Education to evaluate new science curriculum standards.

“Whether working behind the scenes to patiently educate board members or in front of the cameras making a vocal case for science standards free from creationist ideology, Dr. Wetherington has worked tirelessly to ensure Texas students have a rigorous science curriculum that will prepare them for the 21st century,” TFN states.

Calendar Highlights: Oct. 12, 2007

Peruna ad from catalogTile while you can: Only a few more days to see “Tile Design in Valencia” in Meadows Museum – the exhibition closes Oct. 21. Check the Museum Web site for hours.

Wish books: Browse through hundreds of catalogs, most from the period 1865-1965, in “Merchandise for the Millions: American Trade Catalogs,” on exhibit through Feb. 15 in DeGolyer Library. The catalogs include merchandise ranging from machinery to kitchen appliances to fashion to medicine. Highlights include catalogs from JCPenney, Neiman Marcus and The Horchow Collection – as well as a catalog for Peruna (top left), which from 1880-1920 was a popular patent medicine before it became synonymous with SMU’s popular mascot.

High tech for teaching: The Center for Teaching Excellence presents a roundtable discussion on “Games, Sims and Other Software: Virtual Reality in the Classroom” 3-4 p.m. Oct. 15 in 323 Fondren Library. Read more and sign up online.

Say hey to Willie: Baseball legend and 24-time All-Star Willie Mays speaks at the Guaranty Bank SMU Athletic Forum at noon Oct. 17 in the Khmer Pavilion, Hilton Anatole Hotel. Find more information (and the 2008 schedule) at the Athletic Forum Web site.

C.S.I.: Archaeology: SMU Ph.D. candidate Catrina Whitley, Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology/Archaeology and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, talks about what ancient skeletal remains can tell researchers about how people of the Southwest lived and died. “The Study of Death: Revealing Life Stories in the Rio Grande del Rancho Valley” take place at noon Oct. 17 in the Texana Room, DeGolyer Library, and is part of the Clements Center Brown Bag Series. Bring your lunch. (Left, a young male victim of violence from Pot Creek Pueblo, 1250-1320 AD, photo by Catrina Whitley.)

Editor’s choice: “Editorial Leadership on The Dallas Morning News” will be the topic as Robert Mong, the newspaper’s president and editor, holds forth in a Faculty Club Distinguished Luncheon event at noon Oct. 17 in the Faculty Club. For more information, contact Dee Powell at 8-3012 or visit

Annie LennoxLearn to fly: SMU’s Outdoor Adventures program offers “Try Hang-Gliding,” an Oct. 27 instructional trip to Lawton, Oklahoma. The $120 cost includes transportation, ground school, equipment rental and lunch. Sign-up deadline is Oct. 19.

In McFarlin Auditorium:

Oct. 14: British pop/soul diva and Eurhythmics cofounder Annie Lennox (bottom left) in concert – doors at 6:30 p.m., Carina Round opens at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.

Oct. 19: Alt-country rockers Ryan Adams and the Cardinals in concert at 8 p.m. (doors at 7). Tickets available through Front Gate Tickets.

Calendar Highlights: Sept. 20, 2007

tiledesign-150.jpgShaping up: The Meadows Symphony Orchestra opens its 2007-08 season with Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer (featuring international opera baritone and SMU alumnus Donnie Ray Albert) in “New Shapes.” Performances take place at 8 p.m. Sept. 21 and 3 p.m. Sept. 23 in Caruth Auditorium, Owen Arts Center. For tickets, call 8-2787 (8-ARTS).

Art, family style: Enjoy hands-on activities, gallery games and films for all ages – as well as current exhibitions “Tile Design in Valencia” (top right) and “A Tribute to Texas Art” – at Super Saturday Family Day, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 22 in Meadows Museum. Free and open to the public.

Faculty roundtable: SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence presents “Evidence, Facts and Opinion: Teaching Students to Tell the Difference” at 3 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Texana Room, DeGolyer Library. Register online.

jennie-finch-150.jpgThere’s the pitch: Olympic softball gold medalist and NCAA College World Series champion Jennie Finch (middle right) speaks in the 2007 Guaranty Bank SMU Athletic Forum, noon-1:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. For ticket information, call 8-4314.

Know your world: Dawn Youngblood, curator of SMU’s Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, discusses “Terra Cognita: Living in a Google Earth World” at an SMU Faculty Club wine and cheese reception, 4 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Faculty Club. For more information, contact Dee Powell at 8-3012.

Rediscovering Latino history: SMU’s Gilbert Lecture Series, Ethnic Studies Program and Clements Center for Southwest Studies present “Challenges in Searching for the Lost or Buried Heritage of Latinos in the United States” by Nicolás Kanellos, Brown Foundation Professor of Spanish at the University of Houston and founding publisher of The Americas Review (formerly Revista Chicano-Riqueña) and Arte Público Press. The event begins with a 6 p.m. reception followed by a 6:30 lecture and book-signing Sept. 27 in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room, DeGolyer Library. The event is free; registration is required. Register online or contact Leslie Reid.

momix-150.jpgIn the mix: TITAS presents a “best of” show by legendary modern dance ensemble MOMIX (bottom right), featuring excerpts from their most groundbreaking works, at 8 p.m. Sept. 29 and 3 p.m. Sept. 30 in McFarlin Auditorium. For tickets and more information, call the TITAS Box Office at 214-528-5576.