University Lecture Series

History professor Henry Brand, journalism professor Regina Lawrence, and government professor Daron Shaw spoke to an audience of freshmen on the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential election at Bass Concert Hall Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

With fewer than 50 days until the U.S. presidential election, first-year students flooded Bass Concert Hall to listen to professors from three different fields offer their take on the race.

The talk, entitled “Election 2012: History, Rhetoric, Politics,” was the second lecture in this year’s University Lecture Series, which aims to give first-year students the chance to interact with acclaimed faculty. History professor Henry Brands, government associate professor Daron Shaw and journalism professor Regina Lawrence spoke about campaign issues related to their respective fields of study.

In the lecture Tuesday night, Brands cautioned students against hoping the new president will be a hero.

“Will President Obama, if reelected, will Governor Romney, if elected, rise to the ranks of a Lincoln or a Roosevelt? You better hope not,” Brands said. “Because if either one does, what that means is that the country will experience some crisis comparable to the Civil War, comparable to the Great Depression.”

Patricia Micks, senior program coordinator for the School of Undergraduate Studies, said the University Lecture Series, which all students enrolled in a first-year signature course are required to attend, aims to promote a dialogue among students and draw their attention to what the campus has to offer.

“The hope is that each lecture will create a campus-wide conversation and will highlight some of the exciting research and scholarly work being produced on our campus,” Micks said.

With a record amount of money being raised and spent this year, Lawrence urged students to not let their voices get drowned out despite the significant and often unappealing role money has in influencing the political conversation.

“When the discussion is dominated by money and by the kinds of political negative non-factual ads that we’ve been talking about tonight, that’s not a very inviting conversation,” Lawrence said. “That doesn’t invite you to take part. Frankly, for a lot of you it’s a turn-off.”

All speakers dedicated part of their time toward encouraging student civic engagement. David Bishop, international relations and global studies freshman, said the talk could encourage students to get involved in the electoral process early.

“I think it’s important for freshmen,” Bishop said. “If they target freshmen as we come in, then we’re engaged in the political process throughout college instead of waiting until we leave to get going on it.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Faculty lecture prepares students for election season

Professor Charles Ramirez-Berg of the Radio-Television-Film department lectures at Bass Concert Hall.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

[Corrected Sept. 13: Changed who is required to attend the University Lecture Series]

When director Robert Rodriguez was a student at UT, he didn’t have the grades to get into the University’s Film 1 class. But he did create a short film called “Bedhead” that completely surprised and impressed radio-television-film professor Charles Ramirez-Berg.

Ramirez-Berg talked about his experiences working with the director of “Sin City” and “Grindhouse” in a lecture Monday evening at Bass Concert Hall.

“For the most part, I don’t teach production classes,” Ramirez-Berg said. “So I didn’t have a sense of his production talent until I saw that first film. Then it became crystal clear how talented he was.”

Ramirez-Berg recounted the conversation he had with Rodriguez before the filming of “El Mariachi,” the 1992 film that kick-started Rodriguez’s career. The budget for the film was only $7,000.

Ramirez-Berg said he was skeptical of the movie, having seen movies with twice the budget that were not very good. Rodriguez proved him wrong.

“[El Mariachi] was so compelling, so vibrant, I had to keep watching,” Ramirez-Berg said. “He didn’t have seven or 70 million. He had $7,000.”

The combination of “Bedhead” and “El Mariachi” landed Rodriguez a contract with Colombia Pictures. Rodriguez would go on to direct films like “Desparado” and “Spy Kids.” Ramirez-Berg said that students should remember to make the most out of what they have. He said that Rodriguez made a list while filming “El Mariachi” of all the things he either had or could get for free to use in the film. Those things included a bus, swimming pool, a jail and a dog. All of those things appear in the movie.

“[Rodriguez] is very bright, but he also works very hard,” Ramirez-Berg said. “He outworks everybody. He has a sense of how to use images to tell stories.”

The talk was part of the University Lecture Series. All first-year students enrolled in a signature course are required to attend one of the lectures in the series. Dean of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff said the Alumni Association thought the college should do more to create a common academic experience for students.

Another way to create this experience is to feature lectures where students can learn about a topic and network, he said.

“It’s designed to create a community for the students,” Woodruff said. “We’re trying to give them the idea that they can get involved with something, even now [as freshmen].”

Biology freshman Bridget Kajs chose the lecture because of her interest in radio-television-film.

“I hadn’t heard of [Rodriguez] before, but I’ve definitely seen his movies,” Kajs said. “I don’t think directors get enough credit for their vision. They make the script come to life.”

Printed on September 13, 2011 as: Professor recounts director's early work