Stanford University

The University installed a solar-powered charging station outside the Art Building and Museum in June. The station can charge up to six cell phones, laptops or electrical bikes at a time.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

After four years of preparation, the University installed two solar-powered charging stations, one outside the Perry-Castañeda Library and the other outside the Art Building and Museum, in June.

While other campuses such as Stanford University and Hampshire College have introduced similar charging stations, these stations are the first solar-powered, permanent fixtures on the UT campus. Powered through a roof composed of three solar panels, each station can charge up to six cell phones, laptops or electrical bikes at a time, among other electronics. Each station's six batteries allow users to charge their electronics at nighttime and on cloudy days.

The Green Fee Committee, an on-campus organization made up of students, faculty and staff members, decided in 2010 to fund the student proposal for the charging stations as part of its mission to support environmental-conscious campus initiatives. Karen Blaney, program coordinator of the Green Fee Committee, said while the stations may not significantly offset the use of fossil fuel-based energy on campus, they can teach students and community members about solar energy in an interactive way.

“It reminds people that solar energy is an option and that it’s a growing technology,” Blaney said.

During her freshman year, Megan Archer, environmental and biological sciences senior, pushed the original proposal for a solar-power project on campus as part of a class assignment with now-alumni Eric Swanson and Austin Jorn. She said her team originally had proposed solar panel roofs on University buildings, but budgetary restraints stood in the way. They decided to stick with their idea of solar-powered technology because they wanted to see solar energy on campus for the first time.

“We liked the idea of how restrictive [working with solar power] was,” Archer said. “UT didn’t have anything that was solar-powered then.”

Archer collaborated with Beth Ferguson, a UT alumna and founder of Sol Design Lab, a design company that has helped create solar charging stations at other universities, to rent a temporary charging station for the PCL plaza in 2012. During workshops, students in environmental science classes contributed ideas for the final model

During workshops, students in environmental science classes contributed ideas for the final model.

“Solar power is hard to understand, so we wanted the project to be hands-on,” Archer said. “We wanted students to have that hands-on experience with our solar station to create their own and modify [their stations] to meet their needs.”

With funding from the Green Fee Committee and the Science Undergraduate Research Group, the customized charging stations, which cost about $60,000 each, were constructed.

Nicholas Phillips, mechanical engineering senior and president of student group Engineers for a Sustainable World, said he hopes the demand for renewable energy products increases on campus.

“The main hindrance with renewable energy advancements is the lack of awareness of the current technologies that are available,” Phillips said in an email. “By having more projects on campus, we are making sustainability become a staple in our campus and by extensions our lives.”

The final phase of the charging station project will include a customized touch screen device, which will display the station's available stored energy, according to Blaney. Students are working on a mobile feature, such as a website or phone application, that will allow users to check the station's available energy, Blaney said.

The University will celebrate the installation of the charging stations on Sept. 19 outside the Art Building and Museum with a series of solar energy workshops.

Stanford psychology professor Laura Carstensen speaks to an audience at the O’Donnell Jr. Building on Friday afternoon. Carstensen’s lecture, “Exploding the Misery Myth,” dealt with the emotional effects of aging in older populations.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

While, for young adults, negative stigmas may surround growing old, a visiting professor said there are misconceptions about misery of aging in a lecture at the University on Friday.

In her lecture titled “Exploding the Misery Myth,” Laura Carstensen, Stanford University psychology professor, said some assume older people are more depressed because they are closer to death.

“When I entered this field, about 30+ years ago, at that time there was very little research on emotion and aging, or well-being and aging,” Carstensen said. “It was mostly on biological and cognitive changes with age. The idea was, of course, emotion follows the same course and people are getting increasingly vulnerable— increasingly frail. They get increasingly depressed, sad and anxious. After all they’re coming closer and closer to the end of their lives, so why wouldn’t that be?”

Carstensen said, as people get older, their social circles get smaller, and they do not interact with as many people, which allows for more meaningful relationships with the people with whom they do interact.

“It turns, and many people began to find that older people are not sad and anxious and lonely,” Carstensen said. “In fact, they have lower rates of every known form of psychopathology except for dementia, which is by definition a disease by old age and a brain-based disease by old age.”

Carstensen said young adults, not older people, experience the highest rates of depression.

“People keep telling people your age this is the best time in your life,” Carstensen said. “I think, knowing that emotionally speaking, that’s not true. That in fact, it’s the flip — that this is probably the worst time in your life — [that] can help people think about the future more easily.”

According to Carstensen, research on older populations should not focus on the size of social circles.  

“At one point we decided we should not simply be looking at how large or small social networks are but who are in those networks,” Carstensen said. “We don’t believe this is about age as much as it is about time, future time.”

Karen Fingerman, psychology and human studies and family development professor, used the example of college freshmen attending parties to meet new friends, hoping to increase the size of their social circle.

“It was adaptive when you were a freshman to go to a lot of parties so you could get the friends you need,” Fingerman said. “We are adjusting our behaviors at all stages in life to fit our goals, and so each of those behaviors is adaptive for that goal.”

Eden Davis, human studies and family development graduate student, said that getting older should be looked at as a chance for strengthening relationships.

“Aging is not a process of deterioration,” Davis said. “There are gains in life. There are gains in emotional experience and relationships, and that’s something really positive to focus on.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

R.B. Brenner, deputy director of the journalism program at Stanford University, will be the new director of the School of Journalism in the Moody College of Communication starting in August, according to Moody college dean Roderick Hart. 

In May 2013, the journalism school’s current director Glenn Frankel announced he would retire to work as an author full-time. Hart said Brenner’s official paperwork was signed Wednesday. “We had a search committee that had a bunch of people on it,” Hart said. “When they said he was an applicant, I was very pleased. When he came to campus he just kind of wowed everybody.”

Brenner, who worked in a number of editing positions at The Washington Post, said one of the biggest challenges facing modern journalism is the rapid development of new technology. 

“The more technology speeds us forward, the more you also have big issues between some of the real traditional values of journalism,” Brenner said. “You’ve seen that in the last few years, in the coverage of the Newtown shooting and the Boston Marathon bombings, with this constant competition between speed, accuracy and credibility. News outlets have to ask themselves, ‘How important is it to be first if it ends up damaging your reputation?’”

Brenner said he has ideas for potential changes at the journalism school in mind, but he is not ready to share them until he has a chance to familiarize himself with the school.

“I think it’s premature,” Brenner said. “I am a journalist and reporter at my core. The way I think about anything is, ‘Would it be smart for a reporter?’ I think it would be bad for me, from several miles away, to make claims on best practices for the school.” 

Frankel, who also worked at The Washington Post and Stanford before joining UT, said Brenner’s academic and professional experience will be valuable when he becomes the director. 

“I think that people felt strongly that we needed someone with a real solid grounding in professional journalism because of the huge changes transforming news at every level,” Frankel said. “He’s just a very warm, communicative person who listens carefully, who respects students, who really loves students and then is collaborative.”

In January, The Daily Texan reported Texas Student Media, the umbrella organization that manages a number of student-produced media properties, including Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX and the Texan, would be moving under the domain of the Moody college. According to Hart, this move has not yet officially taken place. 

Brenner said he is unsure of what role Texas Student Media will play in the journalism school moving forward. 

“What’s really important for student media, first and foremost, is for it to be independent, that students are running student media,” Brenner said. “I don’t think the days of anything being print alone exist anymore. It’s essential for [publications] to understand the specific needs and wants of their audience.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Cobler.

Clarification: This story has been updated from its original version. Brenner was an editor at The Washington Post.

UT is one of two universities in the nation participating in a new campus initiative called The Creative Activist Network, sponsored by Participant Media and Austin-based nonprofit, Students of the World.

The Creative Activist Network (CAN), which was also launched at Stanford University, is a new organization on campus providing students with opportunities to improve their multimedia skills while creating a portfolio dedicated to a pressing social issue. Students of the World works to assist student-geared causes through social media participation while Participant Media uses social media and media to enhance awareness of real world issues.

“CAN provides creative students the opportunity to build their portfolios, whether in video, writing, photography or graphics,” said Melissa Reese, communications and media manager for Students of the World. “CAN also gives students the chance to create work about causes and issues that they are passionate about, as well as collaborate with other creative students who care about the same things.”

This semester, in addition to creating work for the chapter’s portfolio, students will compete against Stanford for the chance to have their work distributed on Participant Media’s social action website, 

Shea Flynn, advertising and allied health professions senior, said she has been overwhelmed by the initiative and passion she’s seen in the members so far. 

“All of our projects this semester are pretty incredible,” Flynn said. “They all have big ideas that I think are going to contribute to an outstanding portfolio to represent the Creative Activist Network here at UT.”

Radio-television-film junior Minerva Zapata and her team are working on a project that will portray the issue of hunger. Zapata described this year’s members of the organization as “guinea pigs” for the network, but said she is confident that all of the members will create meaningful work.

“I feel like the group that we have right now is pretty good,” Zapata said. “The future for this organization seems pretty bright because the students involved in the group provide creative and unique talents that will allow this program to grow.” 

According to Reese, two more chapters at universities on the East Coast are in the process of becoming officially recognized.

“Our hope is that the UT chapter of CAN becomes a long-term role model for new CAN chapters across the country,” Reese said. “The creative talent at UT is really strong, and we would love to see UT’s chapter leading the pack in innovative, creative media about issues and causes.

Printed on Thursday, February 14, 2013 as: Media group presents social issues 

The Texas Exes joined the ranks of supporters of a local initiative that would increase property taxes in Travis County to help fund a new UT medical school and teaching hospital.

The UT alumni association officially launched the UT M.D. campaign Wednesday in support of Proposition 1, an initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. The proposition calls for a five-cent property tax increase to be allocated to Central Health, Travis County’s health care taxing authority.

The proposition would increase the county property tax rate by 63 percent from 7.89 cents to 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The increase is expected to raise an estimated $54 million to be used to fund various health services, including $35 million a year toward the proposed UT medical school and teaching hospital.

Texas Exes president John Beckworth said the association’s board of directors voted to support a UT medical school earlier this year after the UT System Board of Regents and the Seton Healthcare Family of Hospitals committed to providing funding for the school in May.

“There are compelling reasons to support the medical school, including the research and teaching opportunities that could come from it,” Beckworth said. “The medical school would also provide health care services needed in the community and a positive economic impact for the region and the state.”

The UT regents voted unanimously in favor of committing $25 million annually to operate the medical school and $5 million per year for eight years to cover laboratory equipment at their May meeting. Seton pledged $250 million to fund a teaching hospital to accompany the medical school. The UT system already boasts six health institutions in Dallas, Galveston, Houston, San Antonio and Tyler.

The Texas Exes is comprised of more than 99,000 members, and 80,000 alumni reside in Travis County.

Dennis McWilliams, UT alumnus and member of the association’s board of directors, said a UT medical school would not only benefit medical students but also impact students majoring in related fields like pharmacology and medical engineering.

McWilliams, who is also CEO of medical device company Apollo Endosurgery, said he attended graduate school at Stanford University because UT’s lack of a medical school did not allow him to adapt his degree to his chosen field.

“It’s easier to tailor a degree in the medical engineering field, for example, if you have access to a medical school,” he said.

Texas Exes spokesperson Tim Taliaferro said the association hopes to educate alumni about the transformative impact a UT medical school could have on the community.

The Texas Exes operates from the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on campus but is not directly affiliated with UT. Taliaferro said the campaign is a Texas Exes initiative rather than one from the University.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Texas, said the Texas Exes’ support for the proposition demonstrates the impact a medical school could have on the University and the community. Watson said it is the first time the Texas Exes have supported a local proposition.

Watson has played an integral part in the push to establish a medical school and modern teaching hospital in Austin, leading the initiative through his “10 Goals in 10 Years” vision.

“The Texas Exes have a unique love for their university and a strong sense of how transformative a medical school could be,” he said. “Proposition 1 will cement a new, vital partnership to help keep Austin and Central Texas healthy, and the Texas Exes’ historic support shows how important that is. The medical school needs this funding source, just as Travis County families and individuals need these services.”

Other Proposition 1 supporters include the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Some community members, such as the Travis County Taxpayers Union, oppose the proposition because it will increase property taxes.

Earlier this month the Austin City Council approved a budget including a separate property tax increase, which became effective Oct. 1. The tax hike increased the tax rate 2.18 cents for every $100 of assessed property.

Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: Alumni back new medical facilities

The University’s chief commercialization officer resigned after he followed University advice to avoid conflict of interest when licensing UT technology. His resignation left an empty role in the Office of Technology Commercialization during a time of attempted growth.

Problems arose for the former chief commercialization officer, Richard Miller, when he planned to license UT technology to companies in which he held stock, associate vice president for research Robert Peterson said.

Miller divested his shares in the three companies to avoid conflict of interest issues, but he ultimately resigned. Miller did not return requests for comment.

Peterson said he became aware of Miller’s resignation at the end of November after Miller approached University officials about the issue. Miller’s resignation became effective Dec. 31.

“He resigned because he was told that he could not negotiate with himself,” Peterson said. “He would have had a tremendous conflict of interest.”

As chief commercialization officer, Miller worked with University faculty to turn their research into commercial products and startup companies. Miller received a salary of $310,000 per year at the University.

Miller hailed from Silicon Valley, and once hired at the University, it seemed as though Miller never turned his attention away from the tech industry in California, Peterson said. Miller remains an adjunct professor at Stanford University, a private college known for its success in technology commercialization.

Based on revenue generated and the number of companies created through each university, Stanford University ranks ninth in technology commercialization across the nation and UT ranks 17th, according to a report from the Association of University Technology Managers.

Peterson said Miller’s experience at Stanford may not have prepared him to work under the conditions of a public university, which Peterson said has very different rules about startups than private universities.

Miller considered licensing UT technology to the Ultimor, Graphea and Wibole companies, Peterson said, all of which Miller previously owned shares in.

Miller spoke to The Daily Texan in September and said he patented faculty ideas more selectively than UT previously did.

“We used to file almost everything that walked in the door,” Miller said.

Miller said technologies are now judged on potential for profit and market demand.

In a letter to University faculty, Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez said Miller advanced efforts to commercialize faculty ideas over the past 18 months.

“In his heart, though, Dr. Miller is still an entrepreneur and wants to work directly with startup companies in Austin and elsewhere,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said Dan Sharp, director of the office of technology commercialization, will lead the University through this transition and continue to help faculty members turn their research into products and startups.

Peterson said the University will conduct a national search for a chief commercialization officer with a skill-set similar to Miller’s.

Printed on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 as: Conflict of interest leads to resignation

As the week winds to an end here in Austin, it’s just getting started for the Longhorns in California. Texas, currently ranked ninth in the nation by GolfWeek, started its third tournament of the season today at the Stanford Intercollegiate. The Longhorns just came off a fifth place finish in the Windy City Classic where they leaped seven spots on the leaderboard in the last round. Their play in Chicago wasn’t what was expected; however, they have another chance to prove themselves this weekend.

The Stanford Intercollegiate, hosted by Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., is a 54-hole event played at the Stanford Golf Course. This par-71 course is the host to the three-day tournament played through Sunday. There are 16 teams in the field including No. 1 UCLA, No. 6 Arizona State, No. 7 Southern California, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 9 Vanderbilt.

The last time Texas competed in this event was 2009 when the Longhorns finished fourth out of 15 teams with a final score of 864 (+12). The Longhorns’ lineup will consist of freshman Bertine Strauss, juniors Haley Stephens, Madison Pressel, Desiree Dubreuil and Katelyn Sepmoree and senior Nicole Vandermade. Dubreuil is expected to lead the Longhorns for a third time in a row. She finished 2nd individually in their first tournament while finishing 25th last week in the Windy City Classic, both times leading the Longhorns in scoring. Texas is paired with a mix of teams including Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State and San Jose State in their six tee times.

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: Debreuil leads experienced squad

As students continue to log on, update and check in, some UT system administrators want to take that connectivity one step further.
Emails obtained by the Texas Tribune last week reveal that one of the major “reforms” being pushed by new UT regent Alex Cranberg and recently unemployed adviser/researcher/shapeshifter Rick O’Donnell is the expanded use of online classes.

In emails between regents, system staffers and O’Donnell, Cranberg writes, “There should be some kind of online learning excellence institute at UT” in reference to an online graduate engineering program in use at Stanford University. Additionally, the Board of Regents has created a “task force” to study how to implement “online learning.”

The idea isn’t entirely new to the debate over the future of Texas higher education. Last year, a 20-member panel on higher education created by Gov. Rick Perry recommended students be required to take at least 10 percent of their coursework outside the classroom such as through online classes. Bernie Francis, a member of the panel, said “If the University of Phoenix can be successful, the question needs to be asked: can the public sector do the same?”

Yes, we should really try to emulate the University of Phoenix.

Online classes offer some advantages in certain areas where they complement existing curriculums. Such courses give students flexibility in scheduling, which can be especially important for nontraditional or part-time students.

As cited by the regents in their emails, Stanford offers several online engineering programs via its Center for Professional Development for post-graduate professionals to take continuing education courses.

UT already uses online classes as part of the UT extension program, whereby individuals can take certain courses online for credit.
Both examples are of optional classes offered to students and nonstudents alike, who for one reason or another are not able to attend in a traditional classroom setting. They are not, as proponents have tried to imply, an adequate substitute for either lecture or discussion-based classes.

Thousands of students in this country are currently enrolled in online classes, many through for-profit universities such as Kaplan and the University of Phoenix. Most of those students will either not graduate, or if they do, face high rates of unemployment as employers perceive their degrees to be of inferior quality than those from traditional universities. Those graduates are also twice as likely to default on their student loans.

What it boils down to is that physically sitting in a lecture hall or classroom is not the same as reading a powerpoint or watching a webinar.

Proposals such as the aforementioned rule requiring 10 percent of courses be taken online would do nothing but force students out of a classroom and onto a computer, an unprecedented step in the wrong direction. Furthermore, there is no proof that online education would do anything to alleviate the financial burden on Texas colleges and universities. UT-San Antonio provost John Frederick told the Houston Chronicle last summer that implementing online learning curricula can actually be more expensive than classes in a traditional setting.

Online materials should be incorporated into a curriculum when such materials substantially improve the quality of the education offered by that curriculum. They should not be forced onto students or faculty out of consideration for financial costs.

There may be colleges and universities in Texas where implementing more online learning is an effective and viable alternative to a traditional classroom setting, especially those schools that serve a more diverse constituency than UT. This University is not one of those schools. Forcing students out of the classroom is an ill-conceived proposal that would degrade the quality of education offered and do further irreparable damage to the University’s reputation.

It would be best for our Regents to remember that their responsibilities to the UT system include maintaining a “University of the first-class,” and not converting the Forty Acres into the Austin branch of the University of Phoenix.


After a recent visit to California, Gov. Rick Perry came back to Texas an enlightened man.

While meeting with deans from Stanford University’s business and engineering schools, Perry had something of an epiphany: UT can help make Austin the next Silicon Valley.

“I can tell you there’s not been anything that I have done in my public life that I found more intriguing and more exciting than the potential of that becoming a reality,” Perry told the Austin American-Statesman on Thursday. “This has pumped me up as much as anything.”

There is one problem with Perry’s vision, however: Silicon Valley 2.0 would require research. Lots and lots of research.

This is a striking development from the recent handwringing over the excess of research at UT and the supposed dearth of teaching. It was only a few weeks ago that the Board of Regents hired a new special adviser and paid him an eye-popping, recession-defying salary of $200,000 to have him suggest that UT abandon its focus on academic research.

The adviser, Rick O’Donnell, outraged alumni everywhere and has since been “reassigned,” but for a moment there, it looked as though government bureaucrats wanted to turn UT into a degree factory.

Instead of addressing the issues brought up by O’Donnell’s appointment, Perry is distancing himself from research-gate, calling the whole fiasco a “distraction.”

O’Donnell’s appointment was more than a distraction — it was a profoundly disturbing development that showed a tremendous lack of judgment on behalf of the Board. Perry should, at the absolute least, acknowledge the philosophical missteps of the Board of Regents.

We’re fairly certain the deans at Stanford, who clearly don’t have a problem with tenured faculty teaching and conducting research, would do as much.

Perhaps even more frustrating, Perry is brushing off the concerns of President William Powers Jr. and scores of perturbed alumni.
“I’m not going to get in a rock-throwing contest with Bill Powers or the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association,” Perry told the Statesman. “It’s just not constructive.”

Rock-throwing contests aside, Perry absolutely does need to engage with Powers and address the concerns of alumni. If Perry has grand visions for UT, he needs to make sure they align with the visions of those who are the most invested in the academic quality of the University.

We would go further and suggest that Perry explicitly address how he views the role of research at UT as a whole. We have a feeling he’s not as keen on research that’s not as financially lucrative.

In his statements about biotechnology, Perry acknowledges the potential of research — albeit a very specific, capital-driven form — to benefit the University as well as the city. We hope he realizes the importance of all research fields at UT, even those fields which are not obvious financial boons. Silicon Valley was a locus of innovation because it operated within a culture of intellectual rigor and curiosity, a culture that UT should strive to maintain. 

The U.S. Supreme Court began to hear a case Monday that could change the rules governing the intellectual property rights to inventions from University research.

Intellectual property licensing brought more than $14 million to the University in 2010, according to the Office of Technology and Commercialization’s statistics. Based on a 1980 law — known as the Bayh-Dole Act, which sets rules for intellectual property ownership in federally funded research — the University can hold licensing rights to any inventions or technologies resulting from research done by its professors.

Stanford University filed suit against Roche Molecular Systems, a biotechnology company which sold AIDS test kits. The kits used technology a Stanford professor developed, and the company did not pay the university. The professor had signed an agreement with a company that Roche later bought.

UT Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez said because of the University’s contracts with faculty, the case has little impact on research. He said UT did not feel the need to change its contract with professors as many schools did after the Stanford case began, because UT’s contract does not leave room for the ambiguity in assignment of intellectual property rights like Stanford’s did.

“There was no need to change because the policy is explicit in the contract with the faculty that they assign all [intellectual property] to the [UT System] Board of Regents,” Sanchez said.

He said even when UT faculty consult with outside firms, specific guidelines ensure the Board of Regents retain intellectual property rights.

Earl Swartzlander, UT electrical and computer engineering professor, said whatever the ruling, the motivations for choosing research topics likely will not change.

“In my experience at the University, the idea of profit is not a significant factor in the selection of research topics,” he said. “That is probably different in most outside firms. Most firms seem to be focused on research that will lead to a profitable product.”

He said one potential benefit of the current Bayh-Dole law is it offers an incentive for the research system to pick out commercially viable discoveries.

“I started at the University in 1990, so I don’t know what it was like before Bayh-Dole, but now there is an incentive to identify potential [intellectual property] that arises in the course of research,” Swartzlander said. “I suspect that the current system results in more disclosure of [intellectual property] than what was done in the past, and that provides broader dissemination of knowledge than might otherwise be the case.”

The current system for taking inventions from the University to private industry depends largely on market forces, said Hall Martin, director of the Austin Entrepreneur Network. He said because of market forces, the implications of the case — how private industry attracts new inventions from universities — are minimal.

“I think market forces will come to bear on this so it’s not going to throw anything really out of whack,” Martin said. “I don’t think startups would pay any more that they are now because they just can’t afford it.”