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Archive for September, 2011

Report projects record Nebraska farm income, steady job growth for state

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Though the nation’s economy faces prospects of anemic progress, Nebraska will see all-time record farm incomes this year along with steady employment and income growth in most industries over the next two years, forecasters said.

In its latest report, the Nebraska Business Forecast Council called for solid employment and income growth in the state for 2011 as a whole. While job growth will slow in late 2011 and early 2012, it should accelerate again in the second half of 2012 and in 2013. Farm income this year is forecast to reach a record $5.4 billion — up 35 percent from 2010 — and should remain strong in 2012 and 2013.

“As has often been the case when comparing the national economy with Nebraska’s in recent years, (the state) will be better off,” said Eric Thompson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist and director of UNL’s Bureau of Business Research, which publishes the report. “Even a mediocre U.S. economy usually meant a decent economy in Nebraska. As long as the nation stays out of a recession, the state should be all right.”

Nebraska’s total income growth, which includes both farm and non-farm income, will be strong in 2011, with moderate growth in 2012 and 2013, the report projects. It also forecasts overall non-farm employment in Nebraska growing 1.2 percent in 2012 and 1.8 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, the council is projecting jumps of 5.4 percent in non-farm personal incomes for 2011, and 3.9 percent increases for both 2012 and 2013.

The record in farm income is the result of good crop and livestock seasons, as well as long-term  economic changes in Nebraska’s ag production sector, the report says. Nebraska farms have gained from rising commodity prices, increasing cooperation of key crop and livestock sectors and producers’ state-of-the-art management skills.

High commodity prices reflect a long-term trend of growing incomes in the developing world, shifting the “terms of trade” in favor of U.S. agriculture, according to the report. Another reason is the preference for distiller’s grain in feedlots, which has made Nebraska an attractive location for feeder cattle operations. Also, Nebraska’s large farms and flat landscapes have made it an ideal location for precision agriculture equipment and techniques.

While the state’s farm incomes will likely dip below 2011’s expected record levels in 2012 ($4.8 billion) and 2013 ($4.7 billion), the council projects Nebraska farm incomes to remain consistently higher than a decade ago.

Other segment-specific forecasts in the report:

  • The services sector, which makes up 38 percent of Nebraska employment and includes large industries such as health care, professional and scientific jobs, and arts, recreation and entertainment businesses, will see 2.3 percent employment growth in 2011, 1.8 percent in 2012 and 2.4 percent in 2013. Those growth rates amount to between 6,000 and 9,000 new jobs per year in Nebraska.
  • Nebraska’s manufacturing industry should be especially solid, given its links to agriculture, and its employment growth should outperform the nation in 2012 and 2013 as the demand for food, food products and ag machinery around the world continues to grow. Durable goods employment should rise 4.1 percent in 2011, and 2.1 percent in both 2012 and 2013.
  • Financial services — including finance, insurance and real estate — will continue to recover more slowly. Housing-sector losses outweighed other improving sectors of the industry in 2010 and 2011, but in 2012 incremental improvements in housing should help spur new employment growth. The council forecasts that financial services employment will dip 0.5 percent in 2011, but grow 0.5 percent in 2012 and 1.5 percent in 2013.

Members of the Nebraska Business Forecast Council are John Austin, Department of Economics, UNL; Chris Decker, Department of Economics, University of Nebraska at Omaha; Tom Doering, Nebraska Department of Economic Development; Ernie Goss, Department of Economics, Creighton University; Bruce Johnson, Department of Agricultural Economics, UNL; Ken Lemke, Nebraska Public Power District; Phil Baker, Nebraska Department of Labor; Franz Schwarz, Nebraska Department of Revenue; Scott Strain, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce; and Thompson.

When it comes to college ‘hookups,’ more is said than done

Monday, September 12th, 2011

College students talk about hooking up – a lot. In fact, they talk about it much more than it actually happens, and they believe other students are having the encounters more often than they actually are, as a new study shows.

The research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, released this month, examined how college students’ social networks often lead them to define, perceive and participate in “hookups” – the slang term for casual intimate encounters outside of dating or exclusive relationships. The study also looked at the extent to which those networks influenced risky sexual behavior.

In the study, 84 percent of students said they had talked with their college friends in the previous four months about hookups. But when asked how many hookups they had had during the school year, students reported far fewer for himself or herself than what they assumed a “typical student” had experienced.

Yet, the study found, such regular talk about hookups had a “normalizing” effect on students’ views about the practice. That led to a more approving attitude toward hookups and, often, riskier sexual behavior, researchers said.

“We were interested in how communication about hooking up with friends and family may justify or normalize a potential risky behavior,” said Amanda Holman, a graduate student in UNL’s Department of Communication Studies and the study’s lead author. “Students with strong ties to peers and frequent peer conversation about sex were more strongly related to participation in hookups and more favorable attitudes towards hooking up.”

Holman said that rather than unearthing a uniform campus “hookup culture,” the study found students had varied definitions of hookups, ambivalence toward them and moderate participation in the activity. But among students who participated in hookups, the most common definition was unplanned, inebriated sex. In most student accounts, the hookup also originated in social contexts in which friends were initially present.

The study also found that the more frequent peer communication there was about such non-relationship sex – particularly among close college friends – the greater chance those students would participate in sexual hookups.

“Students who engage in hookups may find encouragement in the belief that the practice is widespread, as suggested by the observed association between self-reported hookups and the estimated hookups for the average student,” the study said.

Among the study’s findings:

- Ninety-four percent of participating students had heard of the phrase “hooking up” in reference to sexual activities. Slightly more than half described a hookup as involving sex, 9 percent roughly described it as not having sex and about one-third indicated that the term was ambiguous.

- Fifty-four percent reported having participated in a sexual hookup during the school year. A greater number of males (63 percent) reported engaging in a sexual hookup than females (45 percent).

-Thirty-seven percent of students reported two or more hookups during the school year. But 90 percent of the participants assumed that a “typical” student had been involved in two or more hookups.

“This demonstrates the diversity of students’ sexual goals and experiences,” Holman said. “Second, it highlights the influence communication has on students’ attitudes and behavior towards non-relationship sex. Interpersonal communication is a powerful influence, especially in peer networks.”

The study, which was co-authored by Dr. Alan Sillars of the University of Montana, drew its findings from a nearly 300-student sample at a large public university. Holman’s and Sillars’ work is in the current edition of the journal Health Communication.

Contact Amanda Holman: amanda.holman@huskers.unl.edu or (402) 472-3348.

‘Flippin Project’ to honor UNL’s first African-American student-athlete

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, George Flippin was a large man for his day. That, along with his hard-running style, helped him to become one of the University of Nebraska’s very first football stars.

But in the course of his lifetime Flippin became a man of great stature in many other ways. As the university’s first African-American athlete, he saw success on the field despite enduring racial bigotry from opposing teams and fans. He excelled in the classroom, completed medical school in three years, practiced medicine in Illinois and Arkansas, then returned to Nebraska to establish a hospital in Stromsburg in 1907.

A world traveler, Flippin often studied advances in Europe and brought them back to his well-respected practice in Nebraska. When he died in 1929, his funeral was said to be the largest Stromsburg had ever seen.

On Friday, Sept. 16, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will honor Flippin’s legacy with the unveiling of a new art project bearing his likeness at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. The event begins at 7:15 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The iconic, four-by-six-foot mural-style portrait of Flippin standing proudly in his Nebraska football uniform – a white sweater emblazoned with a red ‘N’ – was the culmination of the work of a dozen student volunteers.

The Flippin Project, as it has become known, provided an opportunity to transcend cultural boundaries through art by enlisting the talents of the volunteers from Prof. Aaron Holz’s advanced painting class in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. Holz and Jon Humiston, creative director at UNL’s Office of University Communications, divided a black-and-white photo of Flippin into 24 equal-sized squares, then asked each student to paint two of them. No other creative instruction was given, so students could interpret and paint their slices of the overall portrait in whatever manner they chose.

The result is a fascinating patchwork of styles, colors, effects and interpretations that reflect the students’ diversity while unifying to form the iconic image of the university’s pioneering student-athlete.

Students worked independently, researching Flippin’s life and his contributions to the university, before putting brushes to canvas.

“One of the most amazing things about George Flippin’s story was that despite being the first free-born generation in his family, he was able to use his incredible talent to rise beyond the racial obstacles of the time,” said Kyren Conley, a senior from Alliance who participated in the project. “I was also proud to learn that despite the times of widespread segregation and racism, his team supported and respected him.”

Crystal Sanders, another of the student artists, painted the panel depicted above. Sanders, who graduated in August, said she was pleased with how the mural came together and that like in football it required a team effort by the student artists. In the end, she said it will help to preserve Flippin’s legacy at UNL. The mural will remain on permanent display at the Center.

“I am very proud to be a part of the history of the school I graduated from and I am proud of the school for acknowledging art as having importance,” she said.

In addition to the mural’s unveiling, several speakers during the event will discuss Flippin’s life, his impact on the university and his contribution to the state.

The Gaughan Center, linked to the east side of the Nebraska Union, opened in 2010. It features 30,000 square feet of space, including student offices, tutoring rooms and areas for faculty, staff and students dedicated to diversity and multicultural programming.

For more on The Flippin Project, contact Jon Humiston, Creative Director, University Communications, (402) 472-7026 or jhumiston2@unl.edu.