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Notable nationals in ‘10

You know it’s the week before Christmas when there are more cats on campus than actual human beings. They’re probably getting more work done, too. In the middle of desk-cleaning and post-break-interview-arranging and holiday-message-sending, it’s worth looking back at the year that was on the national news front.

UNL was the subject of some big headlines in 2010 — at least two of them being at the intersection of academics and athletics. In April, all-everything defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh gave $2.6 million back to the university before he was even drafted by the NFL. The story was the subject of glowing coverage by everyone from jaded sports columnists to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was great publicity for the university and, in particular, the College of Engineering, of which Suh is an alumnus.

Two months later came the Big Ten maelstrom. It’s a fairly safe bet to say that we’ll never see a story like that again in our lifetime. The university’s move from the Big 12 to their more prestigious and competitive league not only generated a flurry of headlines from around the country and world, but allowed us an opportunity to show how ready UNL was to step onto a bigger, grander stage in both an academic and athletic sense. Chancellor Perlman’s op-ed directed at Big Ten audiences, circulated the week after the Big Ten decision became public, helped solidify our main message that UNL was a natural fit with its new league brethren.

There were plenty of other notable appearances in the last year, too. A running tally of 2010’s UNL national media appearances can be found here, of course. But what follows are some of the more notable appearances of the last calendar year that come to mind.

In no particular order:

Philip Schwadel’s research into how  and why Americans worship. Phil’s research strikes at the core of American identity, which is why we had a lot of success in promoting it. From studying the modern role of southerners, women and Catholics in today’s churchgoing America to comparing the differences in religious loyalty between Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Schwadel’s work has been worthy of discussion at many a kitchen table in the last year.

Ken Kiewra’s focus on how we study. An educational psychologist, Kiewra is well-known as a studier of studying. This year, his innovative SOAR studying technique was featured by USA TODAY. Also, a study he conducted involving student cheating also went far and wide. Finally, the New York Times tapped his expertise on note-taking for a story in their annual fall education supplement.

Namas Chandra and the College of Engineering’s project to build a “blast tube” — and, eventually, more effective armor for the troops. The project’s goal is to better protect those who protect us. It got some good play this fall, as well, including in National Defense Magazine.

Susan Swearer’s expertise on bullying. One of UNL’s “perpetual placements,” Swearer is sought for comment regularly and by a range of media outlets. Besides penning an op-ed for Newsweek, she also was interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning.

Julia McQuillan’s research into the sociology of motherhood. Much of McQuillan’s recent work comes from the national survey of fertility barriers, a huge linear study that parses women’s attitudes and statuses on a number of motherhood issues. We had particular success on her May study about U.S. women’s attitudes on motherhood. Here’s a roundup of how that story took off.

Dave Specht’s innovative course on family entrepreneurship. One of the most interesting additions to UNL’s College of Business Administration is Specht’s course on family businesses. By tying the course to the economy, we were able to secure coverage in Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the New York Times. Specht has been a great advocate for family-run businesses in Nebraska and we’re pleased he’s gotten some much-deserved recognition.

Peter Harms’ research into leadership styles. When his study  on how some “dark side” leadership traits might actually be good things for leaders hit CNN, The Associated Press and especially the Telegraph of London, CBA’s Harms suddenly found himself making a virtual media tour across North America, Europe and parts of South America. He took all the media requests, many in English as a second language, in stride and with good humor.

Nicole Narboni’s cool Piano-in-Tow tour. The UNL School of Music professor loaded up a U-Haul and toted her 1,000 baby grand across the prairie twice this year, playing concerts in tiny towns on the map. A story from The Associated Press on “Dr. NAN’s” tour went national, leading to a number of interviews after she returned, including with Westwood One Radio and NPR affiliates in Texas.

Mike Dodd, Kevin Smith and John Hibbing’s work on the politics of attention. Lots of discussion at year’s end about this study. TIME, ABC News and AP picked up the story, which naturally was subject to a fair amount of spin on both sides.

Rhonda Garelick’s efforts to bring cutting-edge arts to UNL. The International Arts Symposium was featured by the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Alexander Kafka in October, recognizing Garelick’s work on bringing world-class artists to Lincoln around a singular theme. You may recall at the time it being an example of the London-Paris-Rome-Lincoln pitch.

Linda Major’s leadership on UNL’s efforts to curb binge drinking. Another “perpetual placement,” Major’s 2010 in the media was often in the role of wise counselor for campuses struggling with student-alcohol issues. Both former conference sister school Kansas and future conference sister school Iowa spent a lot of time in Lincoln and with Major looking at how UNL has become a leader in this realm.

Marvin Ammori and the ever-relevant world of telecommunications law. The year started with a flurry of appearances in the Washington Post, then led into an appearance on C-SPAN, a quote in the New York Times, then a pair of op-eds in the Times, and a Christmas-week live appearance on MSNBC. Other than that, our resident internet law and net-neutrality expert hasn’t been doing too much. :)

Eric Thompson’s thoughts on regional economies. Thompson’s work is precisely relevant in an era where the economy is being watched very, very closely. From his regional economic forecasts going far and wide via AP to his thoughts on Lincoln’s low unemployment rate in USA TODAY to his research on eco-tourism being highlighted in Audubon magazine, Thompson has been an invaluable resource for business reporters around the country this year.

Wheeler Winston Dixon on all things entertainment. The film studies guru was tapped regularly by national media on everything from his Oscar picks to the Conan/Jay flap to whether a real Russian spy ring being busted would help Angelina Jolie’s spy thriller “Salt.” In between that, he wrote a new book and appeared in a new documentary on horror films. A pretty good year, in all.

And some who are primed to go big in 2011:

Mike Wagner’s research into congressional redistricting. An early indicator of the relevance of Wagner’s work occurred Tuesday, when Ed Hornick of CNN cited it in a story about congressional reapportionment. Wagner is looking at how effective “new” representatives following redistricting are. The expected answer? Not very. Should be fun to see political pundits chew on that one.

John Hibbing’s study of the role of politics in choosing your mate. As it turns out, physical and personality traits often take a back seat when choosing one’s spouse to … you guessed it, political persuasion. This one is likely to make some noise in 2011.

Sarah Gervais’ examination of the consequences of objectifying looks. As it turns out, women who get “checked out” by someone in authority tend to perform less well on mathematical tasks, which has all kinds of ominous implications. Interestingly, those women also tended to seek more interaction with the person who “objectified” them. Gervais, a leading researcher in this area, should see some headlines as a result of her work early next year.

Emily Kazyak’s in-depth look into the lives and identities of rural gays. A new addition to the sociology department, Kazyak’s work focuses on breaking down stereotypes — both external and internal — regarding gays and lesbians who do not live in cities. Interesting stuff.

Dennis Molfese’s study of the brain. Another faculty member new to UNL, Molfese brought his years of research and multimillion-dollar lab to Lincoln last fall. An expert in brain imaging, Molfese will be a big part of a number of lines of research in the coming years. Stay tuned.

Have a great holiday. See you in 2011 — it should be a good one.

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