Faculty in the News: May 23, 2008

Al Armendariz, SMU School of EngineeringGeoffrey Orsak, Engineering Dean, spoke on engineers’ responsibility to society at the recent 2008 Mechatronics Expo. His keynote speech was covered in the May 16, 2008, edition of Design News.

Jessica Dixon, Law, provided expertise for a story by The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that the state agency responsible for protecting children from abuse failed to prove that the youngsters it seized from a West Texas polygamist compound were in imminent danger and overreached its authority by taking them from their families. The segment aired May 22, 2008. Listen to the interview. audio

Katherine Presnell, Psychology, and Camille Kraeplin, Journalism, discussed how the media influences eating disorders and how sufferers can get help with ABC Channel 8’s “Good Morning Texas” May 13, 2008. video

Al Armendariz (right), Environmental Engineering, talked about possible avenues of investigation into a gas leak that caused an explosion in a McKinney, Texas neighborhood with NBC Channel 5 News May 19, 2008. video

Research Spotlight: Getting real about body image

Tied to the scaleWhat factors influence a girl’s or woman’s image of her own body, and how can she learn to accept how she looks? After all, the average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 142 pounds, but the average super model – whose image appears on TV, billboards and in magazines – is about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. The difference between “the look” and reality causes low self-esteem and can lead to eating disorders.

“Think” host Krys Boyd of KERA Radio talked to SMU’s Katherine Presnell, Psychology, and Camille Kraeplin, Journalism, who are studying how the media influences body image and how cognitive dissonance exercises may help. They tell Boyd that women are influenced by the media, their peers and their families – and not always with positive results. Listen to the interview or download it to your iPod.

Research Spotlight: Saying no to thin at any cost

scaleModern culture’s perfect woman is ultra-toned and super-slender. Yet for the vast majority of women, the “thin ideal” is unattainable – and for some, it also can be destructive. Katherine Presnell, assistant professor of psychology in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, is helping at-risk teens challenge this ideal with the Body Project, an eating disorder prevention program developed with Eric Stice of the University of Texas. In their nearly 10 years of research, more than 1,000 high school and college women have completed the program, and independent studies nationwide have shown that the Body Project significantly outperforms other interventions in promoting body acceptance, reducing the risk of obesity and preventing eating disorders.

During small-group sessions with a trained leader, Body Project participants argue against the thin ideal. They write letters to hypothetical girls about its emotional and physical costs, and challenge negative “fat talk” while affirming strong, healthy bodies. “Many girls don’t question the messages we get from the media, the fashion industry, our peers and parents that it’s important to achieve the thin ideal at any cost,” says Presnell, who with Stice has published a facilitator guidebook and companion workbook, The Body Project: Promoting Body Acceptance and Preventing Eating Disorders (Oxford University Press, 2007). “We have the girls critically evaluate the ideal, and when they take a stance against their beliefs, that creates dissonance they work to resolve.” Learn more about the book.