Moody College of Communication

Students play “The Calm Before” at a release party hosted by The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication. “The Calm Before”, a first-person shooter computer game, was created by a team of 20 video game students from across the country.
Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

The one-year-old Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication released its first video game Friday.

The academy, composed of 20 video game students from across the country, hosted a release party during which attendees could play the game “The Calm Before.” The game took nearly seven months to develop, according to academy participant Zachary Lubell.

“The Calm Before” is a first-person shooter computer game inspired by the games “The Legend of Zelda” and “Deus Ex,” according to the game’s website. Players must fight beasts and solve puzzles to save an island from an impending storm. 

Academy students pose with Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication. Chris Foxx | The Daily Texan

The academy focuses on teaching leadership and management skills within the video game industry because the participants already understand the basics of development, according to program coordinator Joshua Howard.

“The participants experienced going through the process of concept and pre-production green light, presenting to potential clients or a board of directors, then journeying though the different phases of game production, all while building an actual product for release,” Howard said. 

Howard said graduates of the academy will have an advantage over video game developers who follow traditional career paths.

“Having the simulation of a working studio allows us to pull the participants out of difficult situations as they are happening [and] then examine the circumstances, repercussions and solutions from both the inside out to see what they can learn from it,” Howard said. “The results leads to graduates of the program having knowledge and experiences that it would take years to develop in a traditional career path.”

Lubell said presenting the game in March at the Game Developers Conference, the largest event for video game developers, proved to be the toughest challenge in the development process.

“We had to make some really tough decisions in that very short window to prepare and to polish and to do all sorts of things that we would not have traditionally done during the middle of development just to prepare for [Game Developers Conference],” Lubell said.

A student plays "The Calm Before." Chris Foxx | The Daily Texan

Gerard Manzanares, an employee at Cloud Imperium Games, said “The Calm Before” has some impressive qualities but could use additional features that would help improve its overall quality.

“The art style and environment is great, and there was no lag at all,” Manzanares said. “[The game] has a good basis but needs something more like a compass, or objective marker, or any type of direction.”

“The Calm Before” is free to download on the game’s website, www.thecalmbeforegame.com

I am saddened by the passing of Richard Finnell, mentor, friend*, possessor of grizzled wisdom, proponent of no bullshit, long caretaker of, adviser to and tireless advocate for The Daily Texan.

Richard didn't teach me how to write a lede, or how to edit a news story, but I learned more from him about the ineffable qualities that make a good journalist than from pretty much anyone else I ever worked with in the field. He encouraged me to run for editor of the Texan. He encouraged me, once editor, to pick my battles and to fight like hell to win them. He encouraged me not to fear authority, but to always conspire against it.

When last I spoke to Richard, in the late summer of 2009, he was on the verge of retiring from Texas Student Media, a place that he somehow seemed to love just about as much as it infuriated him. Richard saw and railed against the mismanagement that turned the once profitable Texan into a shadow of its former self. In 2009 he aptly described TSM as “absurd and tragic.”

As the Moody College of Communication takes the lead in saving TSM from itself, I do hope they honor Richard's legacy by granting the Texan the autonomy it has so long deserved. Nothing would be a better tribute to Richard than to resolve the bureaucratic dysfunction that brought him such angst.

*I am using “friend” a bit ironically here because one of the last emails I ever received from Richard was back in August of 2009 and titled “Facebook signups." That email read, in full: “There has been a flood of people signing up to be my ‘friend’ on Facebook. Do you know why this flurry has occurred right now?” For Richard, there always had to be a motive.

— A.J. Bauer, Daily Texan Editor, 2005-2006

TSM Board President Mary Dunn speaks at the TSM board meeting Friday afternoon in the Belo Center for New Media. This is the first time the organization will not have to dip into its reserves since 2007.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time since 2007, Texas Student Media (TSM), now under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, will not have to pull from its reserves at the end of the fiscal year. 

TSM, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.  

In a TSM Board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from the office of President William Powers Jr. to help cover anticipated deficits in the next three years. The allocation, which Johnson called a “budget mitigator,” will come at the end of the fiscal year. 

“The collective financial assistance that we’re being given really stops the organization from having to continually pull from our reserves at the rate we’ve previously had to do every year,” TSM Board President Mary Dunn said. “It allows us to focus more on innovation and creating a better educational experience rather than focusing on stopping the financial bleed that was potentially going to kill the organization.”  

Dunn said TSM’s reserves, or savings, are currently sitting at under $200,000. If TSM is under budget at the end of the fiscal year, then the organization can pull from the budget mitigator allocation. In recent years, TSM has had to withdraw close to $200,000 annually from its reserves. 

“It’s definitely not all solved,” Dunn said. “This is the very crucial first step, and it’s a significant first step in the right direction. So going forward, it’s imperative that we continue to figure out the most effective and efficient way of spending money and making money.” 

Johnson also announced utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save TSM an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.” 

Additionally, in a few years, TSM will begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from a $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart, according to Johnson. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road that, if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Arjun Mocherla, vice president of the TSM Board, said the $1 million endowment and financial support from the Office of the President could be the end of TSM’s financial woes.

“I think this is a good year for TSM,” Mocherla said. “It pretty much signifies the beginning of upward momentum for Texas Student Media.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

More than a year after Texas Student Media moved under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, the organization is projected to profit in its first quarter.

TSM, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.

In a TSM board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from President William Powers, Jr.'s office to help cover anticipated budget deficits in the next three years.

Johnson also announced that utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save Texas Student Media an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” board president Mary Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.”

Additionally, TSM will eventually begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road, that if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosales and Partners

Last month, the Moody College of Communication announced the designs for a new bridge to connect the CMA, CMB and the Belo Center for New Media. The costs of the bridge will be paid by a portion of an endowment of $50 million provided by the Moody Foundation last year. This endowment is the largest given to a public university for the study of communication in the nation. In addition to helping pay for the bridge, it will also establish a fund for departmental development ideas, as well as help pay for graduate student recruitment and retention, and department endowments.

While I am not a student of the college and will have graduated by the completion of the bridge next fall, I believe the connecting of the three communication buildings is an excellent idea.

During the cold winter months and blazing hot summer months, standing at the red light waiting to cross Dean Keeton isn’t fun, but it is necessary. Being able to simply cross a bridge above street level makes for a safer and faster alternative. Pedestrians walking or bicycling are normally safe, but being hit by a vehicle does occur around our campus. 

I’ve looked at the location that the bridge will span, and it almost appears the designers of the Belo Center planned for this bridge from its inception. The buildings align perfectly, and are high enough for traffic to pass through.

Some have argued the bridge will not be visually appealing, but in all honesty, nearly any bridge will look more appealing than the one down the road near Dean Keeton and Speedway currently connecting two engineering buildings. I do agree, however, that an enclosed walkway similar to the one connecting CMA and CMB would better suit this bridge, and be a more visually appealing design than the open-air design currently slated.

At this point, campus is surrounded on all sides, leaving little room for additional development. Additionally, buildings on campus are already closely concentrated. There simply is very little room for new construction of any sort, and money is constantly a topic of discussion.

Regardless, with the completion of the new bridge, students will have a safer, quicker and more efficient route between the communications buildings. Unfortunately, the only students who will really benefit from this construction are communication students. Perhaps there is another place on campus that can be connected via bridge to make crossing the street safer and quicker. While it may be impossible, I would love to see a bridge crossing the Drag for students coming from West Campus.

Daywalt is a government senior from Copperas Cove. 

Advertising assistant professor Kate Pounders’ research was recently published in an August online issue of the “Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.”
Photo Credit: Cristina Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Clothing stores that hire similar-looking employees may alienate customers, according to a study conducted by professors from the Moody College of Communication.

Advertising faculty — assistant professor Kate Pounders, associate professor Angeline Close and Barry Babin, a Louisiana Tech University professor — published their research on an August online issue of the “Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.”

According to Pounders, clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch’s specific “look policy” initially inspired the research. She and her team wondered if this had a positive or negative impact on their sales and if their customers felt comfortable when visiting their stores.

“We found that this is not a good strategy,” Pounders said. “If customers see that they don’t fit, they feel uncomfortable, and there’s not a lot of purchase attention.”

However, Babin said this look policy has both positive and negative effects. He said, if the service provider, such as the store or restaurant, seemed as if it was forcing people to look a certain way, they would have bad feedback, but, if the employees were genuine and looked happy altogether, they would have positive feedback.

“A lot of different places have some policies that requires their employees to have a certain look,” Pounders said. “Even store headquarters ask for mug shots of prospective employees to see if they are a good fit.”

Despite having the research based on Abercrombie & Fitch, Pounders said they also found there were other companies following this look-policy, such as some airlines and restaurants.

Researchers found there should be a certain awareness to the practice of aesthetic labor, which is when workers are employed by a company for their appearance. Pounders said the appearance stores want includes not only clothing style, but also physical features such as height, hair and eye color.

“We found that the policy was created to reinforce a brand,” Pounders said. “However, stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch are not doing very well on the market.”

Pounders said the research is the first piece of marketing literature, and the researchers have been recently contacted by MarketWatch. 

Babin said the team discovered consumers tend to compare themselves to employees, and, if they cannot relate to them, they start to feel inferior.

“I hope this research would get service providers thinking on the issue because some people can see the look policy as discrimination,” Babin said.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of Q-and-A’s with the deans of the University’s 18 schools and colleges. Roderick Hart has served as the dean of the College of Communication, recently rechristened the Moody College of Communication following a large donation from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, since 2005.

 

The Daily Texan: It was recently announced that you’ll be stepping down from the deanship at the end of the academic year. Could you tell us why?

 

Roderick Hart: I’ve been in the job 10 years, and I was an accidental dean. I agreed to do it for one year as an interim, and we had a national search, and we brought 10 people to campus and not all of them turned out to be what the University wanted, and so they put some polite pressure on me. So I eventually decided to do it because I thought, I’d been here for, at that time, 25 years, and I thought, well, I’ve been here. I know the culture, I know the student body, I know the state. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to be able to find someone to help us build a building. And we did. So it’s been a good 10 years, but I got into this business because I love teaching and writing, and it’s what I want to do. So I still want to teach; I still want to write. And I’ve kind of done everything I can do. We’ve got the building. We’ve named the college. We’ve got the ... endowment. It’s now time for someone else.

 

DT: How do you think that the communication school prepares journalism students for the workforce?

 

Hart: We’ve got a good number of them out there, and a great many of them have been very successful, so I guess I am pretty confident that we’ve done a good job, but one thing that we know is that the workforce is changing. So part of what the School of Journalism has done in the last couple years is to really revisit the curriculum — the journalism curriculum — and now they train people across platforms. We used to have magazines and newspapers and broadcast, and we still have some of that, but now pretty much any journalism student that graduates is going to have a range of skills that we didn’t have to do in the past, so I think they’re working hard to keep current, as you know, but the business keeps changing. The modalities change all the time, so we have to keep figuring out where things are going and try to get students there before that happens. But I think we’re still regarded as one of the very best programs in the country.

 

DT: How has the relationship between the Moody School and Texas Student Media (which oversees The Daily Texan) evolved over your tenure as dean?

 

Hart: I didn’t have to pay very much attention to it for the first eight-and-a-half years. Obviously very supportive ... A lot of our alums are products of Texas Student Media, and I would meet them at receptions, events across the country and they would always ask about [TSM], and in some ways, I wasn’t always up to date on what was happening ... I was approached by the Vice President for Student Affairs, and Charles Roeckle, assistant to the president, asked if I was willing to come to a meeting and would I be open to [taking it on]. The question was, “Can it be done, and could I get some help from the president during the transitional period?” So then I got to know a lot more about Texas Student Media than I ever had, particularly the financial procedures ... [If I had a time machine,] I would have started fundraising 40 years ago for Texas Student Media, because as time goes on and people become wealthier, they still talk about their days on the Texan or on the TV station, the radio station. They still talk about it even though they’re now 50, 60 years old, as they do about Plan II. But Plan II , they’ve been raising money all that time, and we have not ... Particularly in today’s media environment, you have to have multiple ways of advertising. The way it has been done in the past, it’s just not alone going to be enough, and that’s true of corporate journalism as well, so philanthropy has to be part of it. I think it should be.

 

DT: How will the health communications center collaborate with the med school?

 

Hart: I hope it will be an intimate connection. Our message is that AIDS in Africa is not going to be cured by medicine. It’s going to be cured by communication. Getting third world people to understand and embrace first world medicine, and that’s a cultural communication issue. You can’t get better unless you have the medication; you won’t take the medication unless you believe that it is culturally and intellectually acceptable...

 

DT: We heard a story on the radio the other day. It was talking about the changing environment of journalism employment and how it’s moving from a less stable environment to more freelance work. Do you have any advice for graduating students on how to adjust to this less secure employment environment?

 

Hart: All of that is true and not true at the same time. In all of human history, there have never been more job openings for people with professional communication skills. In all of human history. The difference is, in the past, most of the jobs would be headquartered in big buildings and big companies, like CBS or the Dallas Morning News or these large places that held large numbers of people. These days, however, it’s really important for people to understand that if they have a skill level, that there are more jobs than ever before in human history. It just means they have to think more creatively. So the question is really more of a finance question. Who will pay for the kind of information that journalists provide, which is tested, reliable and dependable evidence. And someone will pay. Figuring out how and when is the question. So I think there will always be jobs. I can’t imagine a field that has a greater upside ... It’s an exciting time, but it’s a little crazy too. Great time to be a student.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Many students who spend time around the Moody College of Communication or West Campus are familiar with Allie and Gabby Byers, although they probably don’t know their names.

The Byers are identical twins who don’t leave home without wearing the same outfit, down to the buttons on their backpacks. What they leave home for is also identical — they take every class together and work the same internship. Both public relations students, the Byers schedule all of their classes together. 

“We like what we do,” Allie Byers said. “It’s our identity, together, and we enjoy it.”

The twins have spent all their time together since birth, and are identical except for a birth mark below Allie’s right eye. They complete each other’s sentences and have dressed identically for as long as they can remember, though their parents made it clear it wasn’t required by the time they were old enough to dress themselves. 

“They’ve sat us down and told us that we don’t have to dress alike or take the same classes,” the Byers said. “And we’ve always said, ‘No, we’re functional doing that.’”

After trying once before to have different schedules and dress independently in high school, they agreed that living in sync was the easiest option.

“It just turned into a lot more fighting over who gets to wear what,” the Byers said. “We just decided that it was a lot easier if we just wear the same thing.”

Every article of clothing the Byers own has a duplicate, neither of which are owned specifically by one sister or the other. One twin decides what to wear each morning, and the other matches the outfit.

This policy of sharing isn’t limited to their wardrobe.

“We split all of our meals,” the Byers said. “Even coffee. We just share, which helps a lot with funds.”

Questions such as “What is your favorite band?” are answered in unison, making the twins feel like one person. But, the more time spent with them, the more opportunity their idiosyncrasies have to surface.

“We eat our Oreos differently,” Gabby Byers said. “Allie likes to do the twist-and-lick, and I just go straight for the kill.”

Rachel Childress, longtime friend of the Byers, sees differences in the twins beyond their method of cookie consumption.

“When I first met them, it was hard to meet them as two separate people because they are so alike,” Childress said. “When I got to know them, though, I realized they are really different people. Gabby is more up-front about what she’s saying, and Allie is a little less in-your-face.”

Gabby also hates to drive, and Allie has a much stronger affinity for peanut butter. Allie takes great pride in being one minute older than her sister, though Gabby doesn’t let her forget that she stands a half inch taller at 4-feet-11-inches.

These subtle differences are not easily seen by passerby, leaving only their visually striking similarities to stir up attention on campus. This attention sometimes turns into criticism toward the sisters’ decision to live their lives conjunctively.

“People say ‘you need to grow up, you’re not in kindergarten anymore,’ and just hearing a lot on campus, ‘you’re in college, you need to grow up and be your own person,’” Allie Byers said. “Sometimes that hurts us because they just don’t understand.”

One student went as far as to take a photo of the twins and post it on Facebook with the caption “dressing alike in college, cool or not?” By the time a friend informed the Byers of the post, it had acquired over 50 likes and almost 40 comments.

“What we don’t understand is why people get so worked up about it and have to call us out,” Gabby Byers said. “I don’t understand how it’s hurting anyone. We definitely see it as, 'This is our identity and we’re just living it up.’”

Along with their efforts to dress alike, the functionality of their dating life is also a prevailing subject when peers scrutinize the Byers’ lifestyle.

“I think, because we have each other, we’re not looking for a companion right now,” the Byers said. “Also, we never really have much time to date, with work, school, and an internship.”

Many of these criticisms come to the Byers’ attention through street-side comments. Friends walking with the twins witness the negative attention.

“It happens a lot when people don’t really know that I’m with them, like if I’m walking behind them, and people start making fun of them,” Childress said. “[Allie and Gabby] are people, and sometimes people don’t realize that when they want to make fun or assume there’s something wrong with them to be so attached.”

As far as the sisters are concerned, the positive effects of their decisions outweigh the negatives, and they have been able to shrug off the criticism through the strength they gain from their bond.

“We have been together since before we were born, and we didn’t know any different,” the Byers said. “When we tried individualization, we didn’t feel like we were being ourselves. When we are together, when we dress alike and we take the same classes, we just enjoy the closeness. We’re actually more productive that way. We’re kind of one brain.”

Set to graduate in May 2015, Allie and Gabby have plans beyond college to start a public relations firm called Byers Partners. They plan to use their bond to their advantage until life manages to pull them apart.

“We definitely know it’s coming, and it’s always kind of a funny and scary thought for us because we wonder what will happen when one of us gets married or someone decides to move away,” Allie Byers said. “We’ll just deal with it when we get there.”

The new Center for Health Communication at the Moody College of Communication recently named its founding director, Jay Bernhardt, a former marketing director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bernhardt said he is enthusiastic about how the position will allow him to work closely with the new Dell Medical School.

“It’s a really exciting time at UT now with the new college of medicine coming online as well as the new Center for Health Communication,” Bernhardt said. “There’s a lot of increase, advancement and emphasis on health at UT. I fully expect for there to be very close collaboration between the new Center for Health Communication and the new [medical school].”

Bernhardt said the expanding field of health communication comes down to how information about medicine and health is shared at a personal and national level.

“Health communications is an area of practice and research that’s been around for several decades, but it’s really been growing rapidly in recent years,” Bernhardt said. “In essence, it involves everything from how doctors communicate with patients, to people looking up health information on the Internet, to developing national campaigns to help kids not smoke.”

Moody College Dean Roderick Hart said health communication is becoming an important factor in medicine, which may intrigue students.

“You can’t really talk about health and medicine anymore without featuring communication,” Hart said. “The most important thing [for students] to realize is ‘Oh my gosh, I thought I knew what the college of communication does: it’s journalism and film and all these other things…’ [But health communication] is an area that’s so important. I hope [students] turn around and say, ‘Hey, wow, I never thought of that.’”

Associate advertising professor Lee Ann Kahlor said the health communication center will help the University benefit from experts in both health and medicine who will join the program. Kahlor said communication is becoming an important factor in medicine.

“One of the key things we are gaining with the center is presence as a group of scholars and practitioners who can and will impact health care practice and health outcomes locally and nationally,” Kahlor said. “Communication has the potential to improve health care, whether it’s by helping practitioners to overcome barriers in patient communication or finding ways to harness mass communication to change harmful behaviors.”

In this week's podcast, Jacob Kerr, Amanda Voeller and guests Jordan Rudner and Bobby Blanchard discuss the latest news surrounding Texas Student Media's move to the Moody College of Communication and the inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School. They also discuss gubernatorial campaign donations from UT faculty, staff and regents.