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UNL Expert Alert: Psychology Professor Dennis Molfese served on national committee on sports-related concussion and youth

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Attention: News, Education, Sports Editors

Contact: Leslie Reed, National News Editor, University Communications, 402-472-2059, lreed5@unl.edu; Steve Smith, News Director, University Communications, 402-472-4226, ssmith13@unl.edu

Editors note: Molfese is traveling out of state Oct. 30 and will have very limited availability. Interview requests can be made via the contact information above.

News release website: http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases

UNL’s Molfese among national panel studying youth sports concussions

Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 30, 2013 – Dennis Molfese, director of the new Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is one of 14 authorities who served on a National Academy of Sciences committee that investigated sports-related concussions in youth.

The Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth released its report Wednesday morning at an event in Washington D.C. Citing a “culture of underreporting,” the committee called for a national surveillance system to monitor how often sports-related concussions occur in youth ages 15 to 21; longitudinal studies of the short-term and long-term consequences of concussion; and more research into equipment improvements and rules changes that could reduce the risk of concussion among young athletes.

The report is available at http://go.unl.edu/y6f9.

The committee’s most sobering finding, Molfese said, is that much remains unknown about concussions, their diagnosis and treatment.

“Many policies surrounding concussion are not based on scientific research,” Molfese said. “We need a great deal more information before conclusions can be reached” about how to prevent and treat concussions, he said.

For example, rest is commonly prescribed to recuperate from concussion, Molfese said. But no research definitely indicates how long a student-athlete ought to stay off the field or out of the classroom. In fact, staying out of the classroom could slow the brain’s recovery and result in an academic setback.

Another common yet unsubstantiated belief is that helmets protect against concussion, he said. Helmets protect against skull fractures, but not against the whiplash effect that causes concussion.

“Hit counts” – tracking how often a young athlete experiences a blow to the head – aren’t useful predictors of future concussions, though the risk of long-term disability increases with each concussion and it is believed that “sub-concussive blows” may increase the risk of brain damage.

Concussions today are diagnosed through symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, disorientation, gait and balance problems, Molfese said. CT and MRI scans don’t detect damage to the brain from concussions.  It is not clear whether a person “recovers” from a concussion. Instead of returning to its previous function, the concussed brain may have restructured itself to compensate for the damage, he said.

Molfese said the committee’s investigation makes it clear that concussions should not be taken lightly.

“Concussion is a serious injury. Concussion is brain damage,” he said.

In addition to Molfese, members of the Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth include Robert Graham, George Washington University, chair; Frederick P. Rivara, University of Washington, vice chair; Kristy Arbogast, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; David A. Brent, University of Pittsburgh; B.J. Casey, Weill Cornell Medical College; Tracey Covassin, Michigan State University; Joe Doyle, USA Hockey; Eric J. Huang, University of California, San Francisco; Art C. Maerlender, Dartmouth College; Susan Margulies, University of Pennsylvania; Mayumi L. Prins, University of California, Los Angeles; Neha P. Raukar, Brown University; Nancy R. Temkin, University of Washington; Kasisomayajula Viswanath, Harvard School of Public Health; Kevin Walter, Medical College of Wisconsin; Joseph. L. Wright, Children’s National Medical Center.

Good Will Husker: Matt Damon attends New Student Enrollment at UNL

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Pat McBride is always on his game when it comes to delivering New Student Enrollment presentations. But the UNL associate dean of admissions felt some added pressure as he stepped to the podium on July 10.

“I kept thinking ‘Matt Damon is here, sitting in the back of the room. I need to give a really good presentation,’” McBride said. “It’s not that often you have a guy like that sitting there listening to you.”

The Hollywood actor/director attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s New Student Enrollment event with a student he referred to as “a nephew.” McBride said university officials were unaware Damon would be on campus until he registered Wednesday morning.

“Our student worker who registered him didn’t realize who he was until he heard the voice. Then he knew,” McBride said. “The worker was busy registering others attending and couldn’t get away to let anyone know (Damon) was here. We found out about it about ten minutes later.”

McBride said NSE administrators decided to not give preferential treatment to Damon and let him experience the registration experience like any other parent, guardian or student guest.

“We wanted to just treat him like any other guy,” McBride said. “That’s how he acted when he registered and that’s how we felt he wanted to be treated.”

Damon attended morning NSE sessions, sneaking away once to go get a coffee. During that trip, people in the Nebraska Union recognized Damon and sightings started popping up via social media channels.

Armando Becerril, an NSE student worker (pictured with Damon, above), led the campus tour group for Damon’s nephew. Becerril said he tried to keep the identity of the student’s famous uncle from spreading, but soon students in the tour group started to ask if they could get photos and/or autographs.

The student agreed, called Damon and set up an impromptu photo opportunity outside the Nebraska Union shortly after noon.

“Mr. Damon was great. He took time to pose for a group and individual photos,” Becerril said. “There were about 50 people wanting photos. He agreed to all of them and even signed a few autographs.”

McBride said that overall, Damon’s appearance on campus was positive. He said faculty, staff, students and the public handled the surprise situation well. McBride also said Damon’s attendance did not appear to overshadow the experience of others attending New Student Enrollment on Wednesday.

“In the end, that was our goal,” McBride said. “We wanted everyone to walk away having a very positive experience. We wanted it to be just another day at New Student Enrollment.”

– Troy Fedderson, University Communications

It’s official: CB3 gains final approval of postsecondary commission

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

The Coordinating Commission on Postsecondary Education on March 14 gave final approval of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior as an interdisciplinary research center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The center is a key component of an emerging collaboration between athletics and academics at UNL. Known as CB3, it will be located this summer in half of a 50,000-square-foot research area in the East Stadium addition to Memorial Stadium.

The vote by the commission was the final step in making the center official. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents also had given unanimous approval for the center in January.

“We are very pleased to have received the commission’s support and to know we have met all the requirements for its approval,” said Dennis Molfese, Mildred Francis Thompson Professor of Psychology at UNL and director of the center. “Now we can turn our attention toward final preparations for this cutting-edge center.”

CB3 will house a radiology unit and a state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) magnet, which will enable faculty and students from a wide spectrum of disciplines to conduct research related to behavior and performance, including the study of concussions.

The center will integrate the disciplinary building blocks of genetics, neuroscience, physiology, affect/emotion, cognition, socio-political attitudes and behavior. Research includes areas ranging from the heritability of social attitudes to the neurological basis of human decision-making to the study and remediation of brain concussion in athletes.

CB3 will occupy space in the south half of the East Stadium addition, while the north half will be dedicated to the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab. The research facility also will provide shared space, including 48 laboratories and a common area large enough to accommodate 40 to 50 people.

The CCPE is a state constitutional agency whose mission is to promote sound policies for Nebraska’s state and community colleges and the University of Nebraska. The CCPE balances the best interests of taxpayers, students and Nebraska’s postsecondary institutions. The Coordinating Commission’s responsibilities include authorizing academic programs such as CB3.

The laboratory and office space in Memorial Stadium is on schedule to open this summer.

UNL in the national news: February 2013

Monday, March 4th, 2013
National media outlets featured and cited UNL sources on a number of topics in the past month. Appearances included:
Wheeler Winston Dixon, film studies, was quoted extensively throughout February on a variety of topics, including the Academy Awards. Appearances included a half-hour discussion on Film Buff’s Forecast with Paul Harris on Triple R Radio in Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 16; a live-chat panel for Canada.com on Feb. 22; in Patheos.com on Feb. 14; in PBS NewsHour on Feb. 24; and in the Christian Science Monitor on Feb. 24.
http://go.unl.edu/dh8
http://go.unl.edu/47h
http://go.unl.edu/2di
http://go.unl.edu/h3i
Gwendolyn Foster, film studies, was quoted Feb. 25 by The Christian Science Monitor about the surprises in this year’s telecast of the Academy Awards.
http://go.unl.edu/nqp
Brian Fuchs, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, was quoted in the New York Times on Feb. 22 about the lack of snowpack in the west and what it might portend for the summer drought. He and other Drought Center climatologists were quoted regularly in February in outlets ranging from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to The Associated Press to United Press International to USA TODAY.
http://go.unl.edu/svo
http://go.unl.edu/4bi
http://go.unl.edu/u7a
http://go.unl.edu/ggg
http://go.unl.edu/vwf
Bridget Goosby, sociology, had her research into the pathways from childhood conditions to adult health outcomes featured by a number of media outlets in late February, including Yahoo! News, Psych Central and Science Daily.
http://go.unl.edu/mym
http://go.unl.edu/8ni
Richard Graham, University Libraries, had his 2011 anthology “Government Issue: Comics for the People” cited in a Feb. 28 Reason Magazine article on how the government turned comic books into propaganda.
http://go.unl.edu/93d
Ronnie Green, IANR vice chancellor, and Ron Yoder, IANR associate vice chancellor, were quoted in a Feb. 15 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education featuring IANR’s new plan to hire 36 new tenure-track faculty.
http://go.unl.edu/avm
John Hibbing, political science, was quoted by CNN on Feb. 2, the day Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy abruptly stepped down, about what the resignation meant for the upcoming governor’s race.
http://go.unl.edu/in7
Jinsong Huang, mechanical and materials engineering, had his research into producing efficient, affordable, flexible solar energy materials featured Feb. 22 by the National Science Foundation’s Discovery News.
http://go.unl.edu/ses
Matthew Jockers, English, had his text-mining-of-books research featured Feb. 3 by the Sunday Times of London. Later in the month, the Associated Press wrote about his leadership of a new research collaboration with private company BookLamp to text-mine data from 20th century books. The story ran in dozens of media outlets around the country.
http://go.unl.edu/kmc
http://go.unl.edu/3zn
Allan McCutcheon, survey research and methodology, was quoted in an Associated Press article on Feb. 23 about how polls are used to predict elections, in advance of an event at the UNL Great Plains Art Museum. The story appeared in dozens of media outlets around the country.
http://go.unl.edu/0jo
David Moshman, educational psychology, published an opinion column about anti-censorship resources for educators Feb. 8 in the Huffington Post.
http://go.unl.edu/nu8
Eric Thompson, economics, was quoted by The Associated Press in early February after Nebraska economic forecasters predicted modest economic growth in 2013. The story appeared in dozens of media outlets around the country.
http://go.unl.edu/wxh
Matthew Waite, journalism, was quoted regularly in February as national debate over the role of domestic drones began to heat up. Appearances included the Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Fast Company and US News & World Report.
http://go.unl.edu/smu
http://go.unl.edu/kch
http://go.unl.edu/t0f
http://go.unl.edu/bu2
This is a monthly column featuring UNL faculty, administrators and staff in the national news. National media often work with University Communications to identify and connect with UNL sources for the purpose of including the university’s research, expertise and programming in published or broadcasted work.
Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at http://newsroom.unl.edu/inthenews/
If you have additions to this list or suggestions for national news stories, contact Steve Smith at 402-472-4226 or ssmith13@unl.edu.

UNL in the national news, January 2013

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

National media outlets featured and cited UNL sources on a number of topics in the past month. Appearances included:

Grace Bauer, English, was quoted Jan. 9 by TIME about the selection of Richard Blanco as President Obama’s inaugural poet.
http://go.unl.edu/pf8

Charlyne Berens, associate dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, was sought out regularly in early January following the nomination of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Berens, Hagel’s biographer, wrote columns for TIME and Foreign Policy and was quoted by numerous outlets including The Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times and many others.
http://go.unl.edu/s8p
http://go.unl.edu/hzn
http://go.unl.edu/rx9
http://go.unl.edu/2qv

Wheeler Winston Dixon, film studies, was quoted Jan. 11 by Reuters about the persistence of horror films despite violent national tragedies. On Jan. 10, he participated in an online chat for Postmedia News of Canada on the year’s Oscar nominations.
http://go.unl.edu/d7p

Beth Burkstrand-Reid, law, was quoted Jan. 22 by Scripps-Howard News Service about the legacy of Roe v. Wade on its 40th anniversary.
http://go.unl.edu/d86

Lisa Kort-Butler, sociology, had her research into the content and messages of superhero cartoons featured in USA TODAY, the Today Show, Fox News, Canada.com and a number of other media outlets in early January.
http://go.unl.edu/5gq
http://go.unl.edu/0ea

James LeSueur, history, was quoted Jan. 17 by Bloomberg News on the geopolitical ramifications of a hostage crisis in Algeria.
http://go.unl.edu/rx6

Adam Liska, biological systems engineering, spoke Jan. 16 with NPR News about land use and whether Midwest land could support new biofuel refineries.
http://go.unl.edu/fd0

Richard Moberly, law, did a Q&A on Jan. 14 on the complexities of the Obama administration’s whistleblower policies.
http://go.unl.edu/7as

David Moshman, educational psychology, wrote a Jan. 6 column for The Huffington Post about the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding schools and intellectual freedom.
http://go.unl.edu/k9r

Karl Reinhard, Earth and atmospheric sciences, had his and his students’ research into intestines featured on Jan. 28 by National Geographic News.
http://go.unl.edu/08j

Philip Schwadel, sociology, had his research into support for school prayer among various U.S. religious dominations over time featured by several outlets in early January, including U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo! News and NBC News.
http://go.unl.edu/hcb
http://go.unl.edu/p6p

Susan Swearer, school psychology, was quoted by a number of outlets in mid-January as part of her counseling role with Lady Gaga’s traveling Born Brave Bus Tour. Appearances included Q13 Fox News in Seattle and Rolling Stone.
http://go.unl.edu/u2d
http://go.unl.edu/twx

Matthew Waite, journalism, was quoted Jan. 13 by the New York Times in a column about guns, maps and data that disturb. On Jan. 15, the Times quoted him in a story about the New York State Legislature restricting access to gun permit data in the state.
http://go.unl.edu/78n
http://go.unl.edu/mde

Donald Wilhite, founding director of UNL’s National Drought Mitigation Center, appeared on C-SPAN on Jan. 16 as part of a panel discussion on the consequences of aridity and drought.
http://go.unl.edu/gig

This is a monthly column featuring UNL faculty and staff in the national news. National media often work with University Communications to identify and connect with UNL sources for the purpose of including the university’s research, expertise and programming in published or broadcasted work. Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at http://newsroom.unl.edu/inthenews/

To offer suggestions regarding potential national news stories or sources at UNL, contact Steve Smith at ssmith13@unl.edu or 402-472-4226.

Catching up with: Abby Miller, ‘03

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Abby Miller, a 2003 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, has seen her acting career take flight with her portrayal of Ellen May on the critically acclaimed FX drama “Justified.” We checked in recently (as in, one day after her character narrowly escaped a permanent exit from the series) with Miller, a native of Clay Center who now calls Los Angeles home, for a quick chat about the show, her character’s future, and what we can expect next from the actress.

UNL News: What a wild season for your character so far on “Justified.” In Tuesday’s episode, it was looking like Ellen May was done for. So we’re glad she’s still kicking so we can continue to see your work on screen. But it’s got to be stressful working on a show where your, um, time could come at any moment, doesn’t it?

Abby Miller: Yeah….I don’t think there’s been a single episode where I haven’t worried about Ellen May’s safety. This one was super exciting to work on though because we knew the audience was truly gonna think ’she’s a goner.’ It was so much fun to play those happy moments. For example, the scene in the car with Colt, because you knew the audience was in on the secret: Ellen May was gonna die. But then she didn’t! And that made me happy. This show definitely keeps me on my toes.

UNLN: Can you give us any hints of what happens next with Ellen May? Or will we get you in trouble with your show? We don’t want you to get written out because of something we said …

AM: Ha…well…eek! I really can’t say much without spoilers. And I wouldn’t want to reveal too much, so you’ll just have to watch! One thing I can say, though, is Ellen May is alive. And … nope, that’s all I’ll say. She’s alive and … she’s alive.

UNLN: OK, you can’t blame us for trying, though, can you? You’ve appeared in some notable shows – Gilmore Girls, Mad Men – but is this role the most fun you’ve had as an actress? Why?

AM: This is the most fun I’ve ever had as an actress — because, well, this experience is unlike anything I’ve done before. I love the crew, the cast, all the directors and writers. I feel as though I’m part of the family on this set. And that’s such a gift. Also, Ellen May is a character in the truest sense of the word. I get to play with her accent, the way she moves. She doesn’t feel like me, you know? Like, I’m playing Abby every day. And that’s really fun and exciting.

UNLN: We’re also big fans of your musical work as one-half of the group Jen & Abby. We’ll still hear people talk about that awesome Nebraska Rep concert the two of you gave back in July 2011. Any plans to get the group back together in your spare time?

AM: Not at the moment, unfortunately. Jen is doing some touring in Asia right now with another project, and — well, you know, I’ve got “Justified.” Maybe someday, but not right now.

UNLN: Hey, when’s the next time you think you’ll make it back to Nebraska? We think maybe Ellen May should take that car she stole at the end of the last episode and just drive up here to the Cornhusker State.

AM: Ha! We’ll see about that. That would be fun to see, though, huh? But in all seriousness, I come back to Nebraska at least once a year to see my parents and the rest of my family. I haven’t been back to Lincoln in a couple years, though. Hopefully soon.

UNLN: Do you still keep in touch with the gang at Hixson-Lied?

AM: I do! I’ve known Paul Steger for years. A lot of my professors are still there, like Virginia Smith and Harris Smith … my friend Todd who works in the office. It’s great. Feels like coming home.

UNLN: What would you say to a theater student on campus today? Got any advice for the next generation of Husker actors and actresses?

AM: Probably the biggest advice I’ve got, in this present moment, is just to have fun. It’s really that simple. If you focus on having fun you’ll be more relaxed, which will lead to more play time, and then more choices. It’s like following the rule of improv “say yes”…plus, you’ll remember why you fell in love with performing in the first place. It should be fun. Always…your life and your livelihood will be so much easier. I promise you.

UNLN: It seems like the sky’s the limit for you, Abby. In what roles can we expect to see you turn up next?

AM: I honestly don’t know. I did some wonderful indie features this past year that should premiere soon. I’d love to continue focusing on character work. All of my biggest actor influences are character actors. So we’ll see! I’d love to venture outside of Ellen May’s world for a bit. Hopefully revisit her next season? We’ll see. I have to survive this one first. :)

UNL’s Swearer on the road with Gaga’s Born Brave Bus Tour

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

University of Nebraska-Lincoln school psychology professor Susan Swearer is riding the bus to work this week.

That’s normally not very big news — unless the mode of transportation is Lady Gaga’s Born Brave Bus, that is. And this week, the UNL professor is rolling with the bus alongside the U.S. leg of the pop icon’s current concert tour, which kicked off Monday evening in Tacoma, Wash.

Parked outside venues during Gaga’s new tour, the bus provides a space for 13- to 25-year-olds to learn more about local resources on anti-bullying, suicide prevention and mental health services.

BTWF co-founder Cynthia Germanotta (left) and Swearer on Monday.

Swearer, who co-directs the Bullying Research Network headquartered at UNL, was chosen to head the Research Advisory Board for Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation in October. In a Monday interview with Seattle FOX affiliate KCPQ, Swearer said that she hopes the bus tour can provide resources for and help reach struggling youths.

“Being brave is recognizing your strengths,” Swearer told KCPQ. “It’s about recognizing your limitations or things that you need to work on, knowing where to get help, helping others, bravery really encompasses not only your own self development, but being brave in terms of helping others who may need some support.”

Swearer also is tweeting about her experiences this week and sharing photos from the tour. The Born Brave Bus will continue to make stops across the country through the end of the Born This Way Ball tour in March.

Contact: Susan Swearer, professor of school psychology, sswearernapolitano2@unl.edu.

UNL nets 300+ positive national news appearances in 2012

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln made its way into national news headlines regularly in 2012. National media outlets, often working with the Office of University Communications, featured and cited UNL research and programming and sought out UNL faculty expertise on a wide range of topics.

More than 310 positive national media appearances, which translated into thousands of news headlines and articles in media outlets across the nation and globe, were registered last year. In 2011, UNL had just over 200 appearances; in 2010 it logged roughly 155.

The following highlights of national news placements and appearances for UNL in the past year. This collection is maintained by University Communications and includes print, broadcast and online media. It was assembled throughout the year with the assistance of multiple information sources, including Universal Information Services.

To look back on complete lists of media appearances for each month of 2012, click on the links at the end of this post.

Innovation, discovery, impact and reputation

Innovation Campus continued to create headlines in 2012. The university’s January announcement on saving the Industrial Arts Building resulted in Associated Press coverage that appeared in dozens of media outlets around the nation; in February, director Dan Duncan was quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an article that examined how universities and developers find common ground on campus building projects; and a November announcement of a new collaboration between NIC and ConAgra Foods received wide coverage, including from The Associated Press.

A UNL archaeological team led by professor of art and art history Michael Hoff unearthed a massive Roman mosaic in southern Turkey in summer 2012. In September, the work was featured in dozens of national media outlets including The History Channel, Der Spiegel (Germany), The New York Times, The Associated Press, United Press International, The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Mail (UK), The Register (UK) and NBC News.

In late February, Ross Secord, assistant professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, had his research into how prehistoric global warming affected the evolution of equine ancestor sifrhippus covered by scores of media around the world. Highlights included articles in The New York Times, TIME, Scientific American, Science Magazine, Popular Science, US News & World Report, Reuters and Bloomberg News. The article was translated into dozens of languages and appeared in media outlets across the globe.

Susan Swearer, professor of school psychology, helped launch Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation in February – which led to coverage from The Associated Press, Slate and Yahoo! News, The San Jose Mercury News, The Huffington Post and many others. In March, she appeared on “Anderson,” a daytime syndicated talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper, to discuss anti-bullying efforts. The Associated Press also featured her in October after she was named chairwoman of the Born This Way Foundation’s new Research and Advisory Board.

In April, the latest addition to UNL’s digital Civil War Washington project – hundreds of newly digitized compensation petitions submitted by District of Columbia slave owners after the city declared slaves free in early 1862 – was featured by several media outlets including The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post. The stories coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Washington, D.C., Compensated Emancipation Act. The project was headed by Kenneth Winkle, professor of history; Kenneth Price, professor of English; Susan Lawrence, associate professor of history; and Elizabeth Lorang, research assistant professor of English.

The New York Daily News featured Kwame Dawes, professor of English and editor of Prairie Schooner, in July in a story about the newly formed African Poetry Book Series. Dawes also was a daily contributor to The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy weblog during the 2012 Olympic Games, posting daily poems about each day’s developments in London.

UNL’s High-Energy Physics Team – including Ken Bloom, Dan Claes, Aaron Dominguez, Ilya Kravchenko, Greg Snow and others – received recognition from a number of media outlets in July as scientists around the world hailed the “discovery” of the long-sought Higgs Boson particle. Bloom, who live-blogged the event for the weblog Quantum Diaries, also was mentioned a column in The Courier and Mail of Brisbane, Australia.

The University of Nebraska Press was featured in an April story in The New York Times about its well-earned national reputation for publishing high-quality baseball books.

Reliable expert sources for national media

As an historic, fast-moving drought took hold across the United States in 2012, climatologists Mark Svoboda, Brian Fuchs and Michael Hayes of UNL’s National Drought Mitigation Center regularly lended their expertise to print, online and broadcast journalists from around the world. Highlights included regular appearances in USA TODAY, the New York Times, BBC News, CBS News, ABC News, CNN, MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, US News & World Report, NPR, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press.

Wheeler Winston Dixon, professor of film studies, was often cited by national media on issues surrounding the motion picture industry, both past and present. He was interviewed for NPR’s All Things Considered about the art of the modern movie trailer, was cited by Slate about advance advertising in Hollywood, by E! Online about Hollywood’s recent fascination with fairy tales, by the Boston Globe on celebrities facing public-relations crises and by Gannett News Service on the hallmarks of Quentin Tarantino’s films, among other appearances.

Matt Waite, professor of practice of journalism, appeared regularly in the news as the rise of drone journalism spurred questions about journalistic ethics and privacy. Appearances included the NPR program On The Media, The Associated Press, The Australian Broacasting Corporation, the Kojo Nnamdi Show (Washington DC), The Washington Times, American Public Media’s Marketplace, The Times of London (UK), the Daily Mail (UK), The Globalist (Italy), The Guardian (UK), and NBC News.

Christal Sheppard, assistant professor of law, was often quoted this year on issues of patent law, highlighted by interviews in The Wall Street Journal about Apple Inc.’s legal victory over Samsung in a much-watched patent case and by The Dow Jones Newswire about the International Trade Commission’s finding that Apple did not violate Google’s patents. The Journal also tapped her for comment in December after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a preliminary ruling against Apple’s “pinch-to-zoom” patent.

The so-called “fiscal cliff” discussions in Washington prompted journalists to seek out Seth Giertz, assistant professor of economics, for insight. In late November, Giertz penned an op-ed on the fiscal cliff, policy uncertainty and tax reform for The Hill; a week later, he appeared in an ABC News story about the notion of eliminating the charitable deduction and what it might mean to universities.

Ari Kohen, associate professor of political science, appeared often in news outlets in 2012, often cited by prominent political bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast for his commentary at his popular weblog, Running Chicken. He was quoted in March by The Christian Science Monitor about why a good public apology is so difficult to find; in December, he was quoted in a Los Angeles Times column on the same topic.

Timothy Wei, dean of the College of Engineering, appeared in a video produced by NBC News and the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the 2012 Summer Olympics about fluid dynamics and the sport of swimming. The segment ran on dozens of NBC affiliate stations around the country. In July, he appeared in a Fox News story on the same topic.

William G. Thomas, professor of history, wrote a February New York Times opinion piece on the role of African-Americans in building railroads in the Civil War era. In October, he co-authored a column on humanities in the digital age for Inside Higher Ed. And in December, he and associate professor of history Patrick Jones appeared in a Chronicle of Higher Education feature article about the “History Harvest” digital history project they oversee at UNL.

Research and scholarly activity

Mike Dodd, assistant professor of psychology; and Kevin Smith and John Hibbing, professors of political science, had their research into the physiological and cognitive differences between the political left and the political right featured widely in January and February. Appearances included Discovery News, Wired, The Economist, Huffington Post, The Guardian (UK), the Telegraph (UK), and BBC News, CNN, The Daily, ABC News and the Huffington Post.

Matthew Jockers, assistant professor of English, had his unique text-mining method that plotted the hidden relationships between more than 3,500 18th- and 19th century novels featured by several media outlets in mid-August, including New Scientist, WIRED, NBC News and Smithsonian Magazine. He also co-authored an October opinion piece in Nature explaining why humanities scholars have pitched in to the Authors Guild vs. Google lawsuit.

UNL’s Bureau of Business Research, directed by assistant professor of economics Eric Thompson, appeared regularly in the national news in 2012. Its twice-annual economic forecasts for the region were the subject of stories by The Associated Press, and its annual State Entrepreneurship Index was featured in several media outlets, including The Boston Herald, Business News Daily (NY), The Oregonian, Mashable, Bloomberg Businessweek, CNBC, CNN, the Bismarck (ND) Tribune and the Union Leader (NH).

Ann Mari May, professor of economics, had her research on the gender gap in policy views among economists that she co-authored with Mary McGarvey featured in a number of national media outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY.

J. Allen Williams Jr., professor emeritus of sociology, had his research analyzing the decline of the natural world and wild animals in children’s illustrated books featured in a number of outlets in February, including USA TODAY, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! News, the Globe & Mail (Canada), GOOD Magazine and The Associated Press.

Michael Fromm, professor of agronomy and horticulture and Director of UNL’s Center for Biotechnology, had his and colleagues’ research into plants’ ability to remember drought featured by The Associated Press and United Press International. The work appeared in dozens of media outlets around the country.

Sarah Gervais, assistant professor of psychology, had her research into the differing cognitive processes our brains use to perceive men and women covered by several dozens of media outlets around the world in July and August, including NBC News, CBS News, Scientific American, the CBC (Canada), Forbes, The Daily Mail (UK), United Press International, Huffington Post and Jezebel.

Jason Head, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, was featured in an April 1 special on the Smithsonian Channel, “Titanoboa: Monster Snake.” Associated coverage appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, The International Business Times, USA TODAY and The Associated Press, among others.

Peter Harms, assistant professor of management, had his research into how narcissists tend to thrive in the context of job interviews widely covered by the media in April. Coverage included articles in Forbes, MSNBC, Nature, The Huffington Post and dozens of media outlets around the country.

Karl Reinhard, professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, had his research into the link between ancient Natives’ diets and their modern susceptibility to diabetes featured by a number of national outlets in late July, including NBC News, The Huffington Post, Discovery News and The International Business Times.

Athletics, academics and the Big Ten

Chancellor Harvey Perlman appeared regularly in coverage this year on topics ranging from compensation for head football coaches, reform of the NCAA rulebook, the process to determine a new college football playoff, the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten and the growing gap between the top five major football-playing conferences and other schools. His comments appeared in USA TODAY, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, ESPN.com, The Washington Post and The New York Times, among other national outlets.

Josephine Potuto, professor of law, appeared in a July story by Yahoo! Sports about potential NCAA punishment at Penn State. She also penned an op-ed for The Chronicle of Higher Education in reaction to the severe penalties handed down on Penn State by the NCAA.

Dennis Molfese, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, appeared in numerous media outlets in June when the The Big Ten Conference and the Ivy League, in conjunction with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, announced it would engage in a cross-institutional research collaboration to study the effects of head injuries in sports.

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media dating back to 2009 are logged at http://newsroom.unl.edu/inthenews/. Ideas for potential national news stories can be sent to National News Editor Steve Smith at ssmith13@unl.edu or (402) 472-4226.

UNL’s national media appearances as they appeared by month, and links to associated stories, can be found at the following links:

January: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/981/5766

February: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1079/6435

March: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1172/7036

April: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1268/7622

May: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1339/7849

June: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1417/8056

July: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1462/8245

August: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1568/8812

September: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1676/9443

October: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1783/10020

November: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1876/10507

2012’s historic ‘flash drought’ will continue into 2013

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The drought that swept across wide areas of the United States in the past year was historically unusual in its speed, its intensity and its size, climatologists at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said this week.

And, they said, those dry conditions are expected to last at least through winter: Forecasts show little hope of quick improvement, deepening the negative effects on agriculture, water supplies, food prices and wildlife.

“We usually tell people that drought is a slow-moving natural disaster, but this year was more of a flash drought,” said Mark Svoboda, a center climatologist and an author of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. “With the sustained, widespread heat waves during the spring and early summer coupled with the lack of rains, the impacts came on in a matter of weeks instead of over several months.”

The result, according to year-end Drought Monitor data: More than 60 percent of the contiguous 48 states and 50 percent of the entire country was in severe to extreme drought for significant portions of 2012, Svoboda said. This year marked the first occurrence in the 13-year history of the monitor that all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico experienced drought. In the past few months, it has receded slightly in the Midwest but remains entrenched in the Great Plains.

‘Almost the perfect storm’

While the current drought has been brutal, it has been short from a historical perspective, said Brian Fuchs, also a monitor author and center climatologist. But unique conditions earlier in the year set the stage for the unusually intense and widespread drought.

“It was almost the perfect storm this year, a mild winter without much precipitation and with early green-up, so plants were using moisture a month or more earlier than usual,” Fuchs said. “Then we had the heat of the summer, plus the fact that it was dry from mid-May onward.”

Earlier this year, forecasters expected an El Nino weather pattern would be in place, bringing rain to the southern United States. But the pattern fizzled, leaving North America with neutral — neither El Nino nor La Nina — conditions, making it difficult to anticipate a single large-scale weather pattern for this winter.

Neutral conditions indicate a lack of an established weather pattern, likely meaning big swings in temperature and precipitation across the country through the winter, Fuchs said. Many parts of the country would need a tremendous amount of snow and a very long winter to start putting a dent in this year’s moisture deficits. The odds for that type of winter to occur are roughly two in 10 at best, according to Al Dutcher, Nebraska state climatologist. (For more on how the drought is affecting Nebraska, click here).

Effects of this year’s — and next year’s — drought

The first wave of drought impacts has been agricultural: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency said Dec. 10 indemnity payments for 2012 were at nearly $8 billion. The winter wheat crop outlook across the Great Plains has been reduced, and ranchers are scrambling to find feed for cattle. Hay prices have risen, likely meaning bigger grocery bills as meat and dairy prices climb in response.

The second wave of impacts is often hydrological: Lack of water flowing down the Missouri River is prompting states along the lower Mississippi to challenge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ river management, anticipating hardships for the river navigation industry and all who depend on it to deliver commodities to markets, and some of the Great Lakes are at or near record lows. Fuchs said it is likely those basins are going to be fairly dry through winter and into next year.

As of late December, 82 percent of the Missouri River basin and the upper Mississippi basin and a third of the lower Mississippi basin were in moderate drought or worse, drought center data showed.

Fuchs said that while severe hydrologic drought hasn’t yet hit the majority of the country, those who depend on older or single wells should check reliability now, before hot weather and the growing season increase water use. Farmers and ranchers may also consider potential savings from using better irrigation technology and no-till practices.

“In the Southeast and southern Plains, multiple years of drought have resulted in widespread hydrological drought issues with water supply and water quality as well as with declining storage and water tables,” he said. “In areas where the drought has been shorter, such as in the Midwest and Plains, there are some water systems that are already under stress and more impacts related to hydrologic drought will develop as the drought continues.”

New UNL study examines diversity of gays and lesbians in rural areas

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

At a time of dramatic change in attitudes towards gays and lesbians in the United States, a new study released this month in Gender & Society highlights the diversity of gay and lesbian experiences in America.

“Midwest or Lesbian? Gender, Rurality, and Sexuality,” by UNL sociologist Emily Kazyak, puts the lives of rural gays and lesbians under the microscope. Almost 10 percent of gays and more than 15 percent of lesbians in the United States live in rural areas — and while 25 percent of same-sex couples are raising children, same-sex couples in rural areas are even more likely than their urban counterparts to have children.

As University of Massachusetts sociologist Joya Misra, editor of Gender & Society, puts it: “The rapidity of changes in attitudes toward gays and lesbians has been stunning. Kazyak’s article helps bring into focus how greater acceptance of gays and lesbians is not simply a phenomenon of big cities but reflects changes and opportunities in rural communities as well.”

How much change? Researchers at Sociologists for Women in Society and the Council on Contemporary Families recently surveyed how much and how rapidly gays and lesbians have been integrated into mainstream life. Consider these changes in the past year alone:

– In November, for the first time, three U.S. states approved same-sex marriage by popular vote. Just three years ago, Maine voters defeated same-sex marriage by a margin of 53 to 47 percent. This year they reversed themselves, approving it by 53 to 47 percent. Maine joins a growing list of rural states including Iowa and Vermont that recognize same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Minnesota defeated the same kind of anti same-sex marriage measure that had passed everywhere it was introduced in the previous 15 years.

– While California defeated same-sex marriage in 2008, a February poll indicated that if the measure were submitted again, it would win. Today a record 59 percent of registered voters in California approve same-sex marriage.

– In numerous public opinion surveys, including one from November 2012, the past decade’s rise in approval for same-sex marriage in all regions of the country is evident: Even the Midwest and the South, where gay and lesbian rights are less popular, have seen a 14 percent increase in approval for same-sex marriage.

– In 2009 Hispanics opposed same-sex marriage by a large margin. In 2012 exit polls, 59 percent of Hispanics supported it. In just the four months between July and October 2012, the number of African Americans opposing same-sex marriage fell from 51 percent to just 39 percent.

– On Dec. 6, a new poll by USA TODAY found that almost three-quarters of Americans 18 to 29 years old support same-sex marriage, while more than a third of Americans say their views about same-sex marriage have changed significantly over the last several years, with approval rising in every age group.

Are these changes significant for gays and lesbians living in rural areas? Kazyak’s study offers answers based on her examination of the experiences of gays and lesbians who live in rural areas (with populations as small as 2,500 people).

Kazyak, focusing on rural areas in the Midwest, found that rural gays and lesbians enjoy more acceptance than stereotypes about rural life would suggest, and that lesbians in rural areas can pick and choose from a wider range of gender behaviors than their urban counterparts.

Largely because of the tradition of shared labor in farm families, behaviors and activities that would be considered unfeminine among urban women are more widespread and meet greater approval in rural areas, the study suggests. This flexibility allows lesbians who are drawn to masculine activities or who dress in masculine ways to find more acceptance than they might in an urban or suburban setting.

On the other hand, Kazyak found that gay men felt required to appear more masculine than their urban counterparts. One man she interviewed commented on how few rural gay men display the mannerisms that are sometimes associated with gay life in metropolitan areas.

He noted how surprised he initially was by “getting flirted with what I thought were straight men….they weren’t straight men, they were gay men, but they looked very straight, they acted very masculine…. It was, like, this wasn’t what I thought of as a gay man. So being in this town really changed how I thought of myself and the gay community.”

Both rural gays and lesbians thought their lives and identities were much different than their urban counterparts, the study found.

“My research on rural gays and lesbians shows us that the lives, behaviors and self-presentations of gays and lesbians are more varied and complex than portrayed on TV, even in shows such as ‘Modern Family,’ where one of the gay characters grew up on a farm,” Kazyak said.

“The rural Midwest is not a place we typically associate with gay and lesbian life, but my research shows us how gays and lesbians are increasingly out and accepted in small towns across the country.”

– by Virginia Rutter, Gender & Society

Contact: Emily Kazyak, assistant professor of sociology, 402-937-9057 or ekazyak2@unl.edu