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UNL expert alert: As presidential debates begin, these speech and rhetoric experts can help with analysis

August 3rd, 2015

Aaron Duncan, Ph.D. Director of Speech & Debate, Assistant Professor of Practice

Speech & Debate, Rhetoric & Public Culture

Expertise Key Words:

Public speaking

Speech and debate

Political Communication and elections

Popular culture and television

Gambling

Contact information:

Emailaduncan3@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-6920

Mobile Phone: 402-450-7830

Website(s): http://comm.unl.edu/faculty/duncan.shtml

Aaron Duncan (Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is the director of the UNL Speech and Debate program, which placed seventh in the nation in 2013 out of more than 100 college and universities at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NEIT).  He has coached multiple national champions and dozens of state champions while at UNL.

Duncan’s research specializes in political communication and cultural studies. His research focus is political communication, gambling, media interpretations of political events, and popular culture.  He has published articles related to the growth of gambling in America, the changing nature of the American dream, the role of popular television shows in shaping public discourse, and the importance of video games in popular culture.

Damien Smith Pfister, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Rhetoric & Public Culture

Expertise:

Digital media

Civic discourse

Public address and argumentation

Political campaigns

Networked cultures

Contact information:

Email: dpfister2@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-0646

Mobile Phone: 412-979-2645

Website(s): http://comm.unl.edu/faculty/pfister.shtml

Damien Pfister (Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 2009) is an assistant professor in Communication Studies specializing in rhetoric and public culture. He studies the impact of digital media on public deliberation and culture. His current research projects include the evolution of the blogosphere and new technological innovations like Google Glass.

Pfister has had his research published in Argumentation & AdvocacySocial Epistemology, and Communication Studies. His current research projects include the evolution of the blogosphere and the Obama Administration’s use of digital media.

Expertise:

Politics

Poverty

Public discourse

Race

Religion

Carly S. Woods, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Rhetoric & Public Culture

Expertise Keywords:

Gender and sexuality

Communication and identity

Political communication

Argumentation and debate

History of communication

Contact information:

Email: cwoods3@unl.edu

Work phone: 402-472-0650

Home phone: 412-867-7249

Website(s): http://comm.unl.edu/faculty/woods.shtml

Carly Woods (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh) is an assistant professor of Communication Studies, specializing in rhetoric and public culture, with a joint appointment in Women’s & Gender Studies. She studies representations of gender, race, class and sexuality and how historically marginalized speakers and groups negotiate those differences in political culture. Her current research projects explore the history of women in debate and public controversies at the intersections of gender, biomedicine, and identity.

Her work has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Women’s Studies in Communication, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and Contemporary Argumentation and Debate.

Ronald Lee, Ph.D., Professor

Rhetoric & Public Culture

Contact information:

Emailrlee1@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2255

Home Phone: 402-484-8332

Mobile Phone: 402-540-0260

Website(s): http://comm.unl.edu/faculty/rlee.shtml

Ronald Lee (Ph.D., University of Iowa) is a professor of Communication Studies specializing in rhetoric and public culture. He has been on the faculty at UNL since 1991. He publishes work dealing with contemporary American political discourse.  His research projects have dealt with the rhetorical construction of presidential legacies, the discourses of poverty, the mythical use of American place in national politics, the evolving standards of journalistic coverage of religion, and the use of race in post-civil-rights era political discourse.

UNL LGBTQA advocate: Jenner case brings more trans students forward

June 3rd, 2015

Pat Tetreault, director of the LGBTQA+ Resource Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says she’s getting a lot more questions from and on behalf of transgender and transsexual people in the months since Bruce Jenner began his public transformation into Caitlyn Jenner.    Caitlyn Jenner came out on the cover of Vanity Fair this week.

Though she doesn’t have statistics  – UNL does not track whether students identify as transgender –Tetreault  said requests for resources and referrals are now dominated by transgender issues. It’s a challenging, specialized area that people know little about.

The questions aren’t so much “Am I transgender?” as they are requests of practical information, such as where to obtain hormones, how to find a friendly doctor, where to find housing and how to change records. She also is getting more requests for information from faculty, staff and advisers who are working with students who have come out to them.

She dismisses the idea that youth might be “copycatting” a celebrity’s actions.

“Changing a gender is not like going and getting a new haircut.  A lot of people get counseling first. It’s not like they just make this decision, ‘I’m going to change my gender.’” she said. “This is a big deal; it takes effort and work and there’s a lot of misunderstanding, ignorance, prejudice and discrimination.  I don’t think people jump on the bandwagon.”

Tetreault said Jenner has been a strong role model for trans youth.

“I think Caitlyn Jenner, like most trans individuals, is a brave person. I also think that her taking a public stand will help with raising awareness and can help shift attitudes,” Tetreault said.

Although Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover might reinforce some stereotypes about feminine beauty, it dispels many others, she added.

“A lot of people think of transwomen as being men in drag,” Tetreault said.  ”She looks beautiful.  Yes, she is airbrushed and has make-up on, but so are most people who appear on magazine covers.  Clearly Caitlyn doesn’t look like Bruce Jenner in a dress. She doesn’t look scary. ”

Tytus Zink, a transgender student who volunteers at the resource center, said he is inspired by Jenner’s example.

“This is a person who was considered the pinnacle of masculinity, a heart throb,” Zink said. “The fact that somebody like that could be grappling with gender issues their entire lives, it sets an example for the people who feel like they’re not the gender they seem. If somebody like Caitlyn Jenner can come out, anybody could.”

Tetreault and Zink can be reached through the LGBTQA+ Resource Center, at (402) 472-1652.  Tetreault also can be contacted at her email address, ptetreault1@unl.edu.

Expert Alert: UNL’s Hoff talks about ISIS threat to Palmyran Antiquities

May 22nd, 2015

Michael Hoff, an art and art history professor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been project director of the Antiochia ad Cragum Excavations since 2005.  At that site along the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey, he has uncovered mosaics, statues and other antiquities dating back to the Roman Empire of the first and second centuries.

He specializes in Greek and Roman archealogy.

Like other archaeologists and historians, he is concerned about ISIS’ recent takeover of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra and its threat to antiquities there. Palmyra features monumental ruins of a city that was an important cultural center in the ancient world. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In his work in Antiochia ad Cragum, Hoff has noted that Christians in the Third and Fourth Centuries destroyed pagan artifacts from the Roman Empire. Though there are some similarities, he sees key differences between what happened then and the more recent destruction of artifacts by ISIS.

Some of Hoff’s thoughts:

About the importance of the Palmyran ruins:

“Because of its location on a communications route between the Near East and the Mediterranean, Palmyra served as a trade conduit and entrepot for many cultures from earliest Mesopotamian culture through the Greek period and the Roman period and into the Middle Ages.”

“It contains an impressive set of remains that date from the Roman period. ISIS will likely destroy them.”

About Islam and antiquities:

“Anything that’s ancient and has to do with a culture that’s apart from or distinct from Islam is considered idolatrous to Islam. Most mainstream, conservative Islam people generally will just ignore things of antiquity that date to the Greek period, the Roman period or other cultures that predate Islam. Or they are protected because of their intrinsic value as  tourist attractions.”

“ISIS in fact is using them as political statements. They may say they’re destroying these antiquities because they are idolatrous. But it’s telling that they’re filming and recording what they’re doing and putting it out on the Internet.  It’s for the shock value. They’re trying to shock and disturb the people of the West. “

“It’s almost like terrorism. The whole point is to scare people, to frighten people. That’s why they behead people, not just execute them. It’s all meant to keep ISIS in the front pages.”

“These are acts of terrorism.”

About the differences between ancient destruction and current events:

“As Christianity became the dominant religion after Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion and Emperor Theodosius’ edict declaring Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire,  Christians sought to destroy and damage the monuments of past religions. “

“This happened in Antiochia ad Cragum. However, indications are there were practical reasons, too.   After granite and marble columns toppled, the marble bases were salvaged to make lime mortar, but the granite columns are still lying there.  Statues were broken up and melted to create lime. While they were getting rid of those naked statues of Aphrodite and other Gods because they no longer mattered in the Christian world, they were also doing it for a prosaic reason of getting lime mortar.  Some temples, including the Parthenon in Athens, were converted to churches.”

“While we know a great deal of very zealous Christins who did perpetrate the destruction of antiquities, they did so almost certainly with religious zeal behind them. That’s not what ISIS is doing, in my opinion. They’re playing lip service to pure Islamic values, but they’re making a political statement. “

“Why play it out before the cameras?  They’re very technology-savvy and they’re trying to get as much impact as they can out of it.  I have no doubt the buildings of Palmyra are going to be heavily damaged by ISIS.  Any major site that falls under their control will suffer the same fate.”

About looting of antiquities:

“ISIS absolutely will loot and sell some antiquities on the Black Market. That’s how they finance their operations.  But they are not the only ones who sell antiquities. Ever since the Gulf War , antiquities have been political pawns. When  the U.S. invaded Baghdad, there were thieves ready and poised to strike the Baghdad museum.  As the troops made their way to the museum, they could see the looting going on, but could not intervene.   The Baghdad Museum was totally looted and carted off.”

“There was no policy about antiquities. That has changed since then. Many of the objects were returned but many more were not.”

“Antiquities are among the first casualties of war.”

Where no one has gone before: UNL researchers explore astronauts’ psychological wellbeing and resilience

April 1st, 2015

Contact: Peter Harms, UNL assistant professor of management, 402-472-9171 or pharms2@unl.edu

Adam Vanhove, post-doctoral research associate of management, avanhove2@unl.edu

With a manned mission to Mars contemplated within the next 25 years, NASA is launching new research efforts to learn how lengthy space flight affects the human body and mind.

Last week, astronaut Scott Kelly departed for a year-long stay on the International Space Station. The mission’s key goal is to study how prolonged space flight affects the human body. Kelly’s  twin brother, Mark, a retired astronaut, will serve as a baseline for comparison.

Meanwhile, a team of organizational psychology researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, including Management professor Fred Luthans and assistant professor of Management Peter Harms, recently completed technical reports for NASA on how to select and train astronauts with the mental toughness to survive lengthy space flights.

“Increasing emphasis is being placed not only on selecting candidates with the ‘right stuff,’ but also on preflight training aimed at improving crew members’ ability to effectively manage the stress that will inevitably arise,”  wrote lead author Adam J. Vanhove, a postdoctoral fellow in Management.

NASA assigned the UNL team two tasks: to sum up existing research and to identify priorities for future research.  NASA sought out the UNL researchers because Luthans is a nationally recognized expert in psychological capital, a way to evaluate mental wellbeing in the workplace. Luthans enlisted Peter Harms, an assistant professor of management; Mitchel Herian, a faculty fellow with the UNL Public Policy Center; and Vanhove because of their experience in studying wellbeing and mental resilience among military personnel. The team worked on the project from January to August 2014, with NASA publishing the resulting reports in February.

The UNL team called for additional study to develop and test measures of wellbeing specifically for space missions as well as other isolated, confined and extreme environments. They propose training programs to enhance wellbeing and resilience among crew members in space, mission control and crew members’ families.

The researchers examined previous studies of polar explorers, soldiers and submariners, simulated space expeditions – including the Mars 500 simulation where a six-person international team lived in isolation for 520 days in 2010-11 – and actual space flights, including Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov’s 14-month stay on the Mir space station in 1995.

They also interviewed three current or retired astronauts, two NASA psychologists, a NASA flight surgeon, a NASA flight director, a NASA flight instructor, an Antarctic scientist, and a veteran of a long-term Arctic expedition.

They found relatively few findings about how psychological wellbeing and resilience affect explorers’ performance in isolated, confined and extreme environments.  That’s because previous studies tended to look for signs of dysfunction, rather than positive psychological traits.

A manned trip to Mars poses dangers and challenges not previously faced by human explorers, the UNL researchers say. Not only would the trip’s length far exceed any previous missions, the crew would experience significant communication delays; endure lengthy periods of inactivity punctuated by crises,  and they would lose sight of the Earth as they journey outside the Earth’s orbit toward Mars.

“The effects of these unique circumstances on crew members are currently unknown, but they will likely test individual limits like never before and the importance of maintaining psychosocial health and functioning to mission success is an issue that cannot be overstated,” Vanhove wrote.

NASA estimates it would take six months to travel to Mars and six months to return to Earth.  Before making the return trip, however, Mars explorers likely would have to wait 18 months until the two planets returned to the right orbital positions.

Age, experience, social skills and a low need for affection are among the traits previous research has found among successful polar explorers and astronauts.

Conscientiousness and extroversion – typically traits for success in most workplaces —  are less helpful in extreme environments. Conscientious people find it frustrating when they can’t complete tasks as expected. Extroverts dislike the limited social interaction.

In Mars 500, the longest Mars simulation to date, relatively few members of the crew successfully weathered their nearly 18-month stay in a capsule in Russia without experiencing some sort of physical or psychological problems, Harms said.  For example, crew members suffered sleep problems and agitation to various degrees.

And in a 105-day simulation of an International Space Station flight in 1999, Vanhove reported, a physical fight broke out among crew members, sexual harassment was reported and one crew member withdrew from the study in protest. That’s an option that’s unavailable once in space.

“These are all people you would pick to go to Mars,” Harms said. “They didn’t completely lose control, but they weren’t flourishing. To me, it’s illustrative of how little we know and how hard this is going to be.”

Here are links to two technical reports prepared by the UNL team:

  • Vanhove/Luthans: Examining Psychosocial Well-being and Performance in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme Environments
  • Vanhove/Luthans: Resilience and Growth in Long-duration Isolated, Confined and Extreme (ICE) Missions

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Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban: NU law professor Eric Berger can help interpret forthcoming federal court ruling

February 20th, 2015

Eric Berger, associate professor of law at the University of Nebraska, is available to assist reporters after U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon rules in a ACLU challenge of Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage.  At a hearing Thursday, Bataillon asked attorneys to submit briefs by Monday (Feb. 23), and said he would rule “expeditiously.”

Berger, who specializes in constitutional law, has studied legal developments regarding same-sex marriage for a number of years, both as a practicing attorney and as a legal scholar.  As an associate with Jenner & Block in Washington D.C., he worked on litigation involving same-sex marriage.  He also has authored law review articles and made presentations on same-sex marriage and constitutional interpretation.

Here is a link to Berger’s bio:

http://law.unl.edu/eric-berger/

To reach Berger, call 402-472-1251 or email at eric.berger@unl.edu (preferred).

Space law professor available to discuss Bigelow decision

February 4th, 2015

Matthew Schaefer, director of the Space, Telecommunications and Cyber Law program at the University of Nebraska, says the FAA’s recent decision in favor of Bigelow Aerospace is an “important first step”  toward encouraging private investment in new space endeavors, such as asteroid mining, private space research facilities, space hotels and the like.

“To be sure, it is certainly not the final step required, not quite a watershed moment . . . but it is a sign of considerable momentum to establish a more certain investment environment for companies interested in new space activities,” he said, saying the decision could create a snowball effect.

After consulting with the State Department, the Defense Department, NASA, NOAA and other authorities, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, inidicted that the FAA will leverage its launch licensing authority to protect commercial space ventures by ensuring zones of non-interference with commercial operations.

Professor Schaefer is able to discuss the significance and impact of the decision, the possible reaction by other countries with space programs and the potential response of the other U.S. companies  launching commercial space businesses.  He also is able to discuss the advantages of a “light” regulatory scheme for space business versus a more restrictive approach.

If you would like to interview Professor Schaefer, he is available at  402-472-1238 or mschaefer@unl.edu.

If you are on a tight deadline, please contact Leslie Reed at lreed5@unl.edu or 402-677-0853 for assistance in contacting Professor Schaefer.

Nebraska law professor: Lethal injection changing; Supreme Court could set new rules

January 27th, 2015

Eric Berger, a University of Nebraska law professor who has litigated and studied  lethal injection, says the U.S. Supreme Court may use a new case arising out of Oklahoma to clarify the legal standard governing challenges to lethal injection procedures.

Because of several botched executions and difficulties in obtaining drugs, many states, including Oklahoma, have changed execution protocols since 2008, when the Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees upheld lethal injection.   Some states have gone to only one or two drugs. Others are trying new drug combinations and refusing to identify their suppliers of execution chemicals.

“Several states, if not all have changed procedures since the Baze decision,” Berger  said. “The question presented in the new Supreme Court case is how the Baze standard should apply in procedures different than the one at issue in Baze.”

Further compounding the problem, many states conceal crucial details of their execution procedure. In a paper recently published in the Boston College Law Review, Berger discusses the due process implications of states’ secrecy over lethal injection protocols.

“Without this information, inmates cannot protect their Eighth Amendment right against an excruciating execution because the state can conceal crucial details of its execution procedure, effectively insulating it from judicial review.”

On Jan. 23, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Glossip v. Gross,  a case contending that  Oklahoma’s current lethal injection procedure violates the  Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The case involves three inmates who argue that Oklahoma’s three-chemical procedure posed a significant risk of terrible suffering. One of the three was scheduled to be executed Thursday, but Oklahoma’s Attorney General has requested a delay while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the case.

A fourth inmate involved in the case, Charles Warner, was executed Jan. 15.  The Supreme Court declined to delay his execution just days before announcing it was granting review in the case.  A case can be accepted with the vote of four justices, but it take five to delay an execution.

As a private practice attorney, Berger was involved in two death penalty cases, one of which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In Hill vs. McDonough, a Florida case decided in 2006, the Supreme Court confirmed that inmates may challenge the constitutionality of lethal injection using a civil rights statute. Berger also worked on Taylor vs. Crawford, which challenged the constitutionality of  Missouri’s lethal injection procedure. The court in that case became the first trial court to hold unconstitutional a state’s lethal injection procedure.  The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently reversed that decision and upheld Missouri’s procedure in 2007.

Berger has continued to study lethal injection since joining the UNL faculty in  2007. He can be contacted at eric.berger@unl.edu or 402-472-1251.

Expert alert: Would President Obama’s community college proposal accomplish its aims?

January 16th, 2015

The success of President Obama’s proposal to provide two free years at community college depends upon whether it will truly eliminate the barriers that keep students from attending, says Brent Cejda, a former community college administrator who serves as chairman of the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“It all boils down to one thing: What can the money be used to pay for?”  Cejda said.

Cejda (pronounced Shay-duh) developed and implemented UNL’s community college leadership certificate program and served for nine years as executive director of the National Council of Instructional Administrators, an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges.

He is a past president of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, which recognized him in 2002 with an emerging scholar award and in 2014 with a senior scholar award. He is principal investigator of a National Science Foundation grant, “Developing Undergraduate Research at Community Colleges: Tapping the Potential of All Students,” which has involved more than 100 community colleges in designing research experiences for community college students.

He is available to discuss the implications of President Obama’s proposal, part of the State of the Union address to be delivered Tuesday.

“Education, everyone understands, is the key for success for our kids in the 21st century,” President Obama said when he announced the proposal earlier this month. “It’s not just for kids. We also have to make sure everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better pay, better jobs, better benefits.”

The proposal calls for the federal government to pay 75 percent of the average cost of community college, with states providing the remainder . The cost to the federal government is projected to be more than $60 billion over 10 years.

Obama said his proposal, if implemented in all 50 states, would save full-time community college students an average of $3,800 per year in tuition. IT would benefit about 9 million students per year.

Cejda said that for most low-income students, federal Pell grants pay for most or all of community college tuition.

Transportation and child care expenses are the two major barriers that prevent students from being able to go to community college, he said.

“Unless it helps in that regard, the program may not provide additional benefit to low-income students,”  he said.

Cejda said other challenges arise because of the differing financing systems for community colleges. In about half the states, including Nebraska, property taxes or other local taxes help support community colleges, thus lowering tuition costs.

Legislatures in those states may be more willing to sign up for Obama’s program because the price tag for the required 25 percent state match would be smaller.

However, states where community colleges rely more heavily on tuition would have to pay more to participate.

Cejda’s community college experience began as an instructor at Butler Community College in Kansas. He later became an administrator at Butler and held administrative appointments at Edison State Community College in Ohio and Highland Community College in Kansas.

He can be reached for interviews at 402-472-0989 or 402-525-3352 (cell).  His email is bcejda2@unl.edu.

Historic comet landing highlights Space Law mission

November 13th, 2014

The Philae probe’s touchdown Nov. 12 on the surface of a comet more than 300 million miles away gives heightened purpose to the mission of the University of Nebraska’s space law experts.

“It is the first time a space agency has successfully landed on a small asteroid or comet-type of celestial body,” said Frans von der Dunk, an internationally recognized space law expert and faculty member in the University of Nebraska’s Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program.

With the landing, long-debated questions about the legal status and property rights for celestial bodies move from hypothetical to reality.

After 10 years of travel across the solar system, the 220-pound Philae lander separated from its Rosetta mother ship at about 2:30 a.m. central time to begin a seven-hour descent to Comet 67P. It landed at about 10:05 a.m. central time. The probe is to photograph and test the comet’s surface, measuring its density and thermal properties, as well as identifying any complex organic chemicals that might be present. Other tests will measure the comet’s magnetic field and its interaction with solar wind.

Von der Dunk, who divides his time between his native Netherlands and Lincoln, was to appear Nov. 12 on the Dutch public radio program De Kennis van Nu (Knowledge Now) to discuss the Philae landing.

As an intergovernmental organization, the European Space Agency is a public body. Yet the successful landing on a comet makes it more imperative that the international community resolve how to handle commercial mining of materials found on comets and asteroids, as well as the potential for near-Earth objects to threaten the Earth, he said.

Both questions have been the subject of in-depth study by von der Dunk and other space law experts at UNL. The ASTEROIDS act, a current bill before the U.S. Congress, is a unilateral initiative to address asteroid resource exploration and utilization. In addition, there are largely U.S.-led activities of the Association of Space Explorers to address potential threats by near-Earth objects. The United Nations has become involved in those efforts.

Contact von der Dunk at (402) 472-1240 or fvonderdunk2@unl.edu

For general legal analysis on space property rights and Near Earth Objects, visit:

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/25/

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/15/

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/57/

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/spacelaw/49/

Poker players: American heroes for the 21st Century?

November 6th, 2014

Nine players players from six countries are to battle over a $28 million pot in the Main Event of the Word Series of Poker beginning Monday Nov. 10 in Las Vegas.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s  Aaron Duncan, a communication studies lecturer and the director of the speech and debate program, can offer insights about why the World Series of Poker resonates so deeply with Americans.  The author of an upcoming book, tentatively titled “Gambling with the Myth of the American Dream,”  Duncan has studied the imagery and mythology of poker and how it fits with the American ideal of the “self-made man.”

He has analyzed in-depth how ESPN’s sports-style coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker transformed the image of the gambler and poker player to become an heroic figure for the 21st Century.

For a more detailed description of Duncan’s thoughts:

Poker: Gambling with the myth of the American Dream? | UNL Newsroom | University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Duncan is available for interviews at 402-450-7830 or at aduncan3@unl.edu