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Octogenarian Artists, Both UA Alumni, Present Fine Art

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 1:17pm
Sheila Wilensky |

Sydney and Vince Flynn (Photo: Erica von Koerber)

Creating art has always been essential to Sydney and Vince Flynn, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on June 21.

As octogenarians, the Flynns have joined the online marketplace, launching in December, presenting their work, including acrylic, watercolor, mixed-media paintings, and pen and ink drawings.

The couple's collaboration began in 1956, when Sydney Flynn was the art editor and Vince Flynn was the fiction editor at the Arizona Kitty Kat, the now-defunct University of Arizona campus humor magazine. Sydney received her bachelor's degree in 1959 and master's in 1961, both in art, becoming the first M.F.A. candidate. Vince earned his bachelor's in 1958 and a master's in education in 1974.

Vince was a self-taught artist, but he was always dabbling. "He was known as the real artist to our friends, who would wait to receive Christmas cards he designed every year, usually portraying the three wise men," Sydney said.

She wanted to become an illustrator. "My two very different interests were cartoons in the style of Hilary Knight and Ronald Searle, and dark scenes from mystery movies and horror stories," she said.

After Sydney completed her graduate degree, she worked as an illustrator at Hallmark Cards, drawing cartoon babies, Victorian children and long Searle-style women. Everything seemed to be leading toward a career as a cartoonist-illustrator.

Instead, in 1966, the Flynns married in San Francisco, where Sydney taught K-12 art and her husband taught English.

After decades of teaching in international schools, including those in Tokyo, Vienna, Madrid and Karachi, the couple settled in Tucson eight years ago.

But retired they are not. 

Both quickly got involved in local theater. As playwrights, they are active with the Tucson Alliance of Dramatic Artists, the Community Playhouse and Old Pueblo Playwrights.

One of Vince's plays will be presented at the upcoming OPP New Play Festival.

Whether sharing their writing or offering their artwork online, the Flynns agree that the benefits of an artistic lifestyle range from creating a painting to making someone happy to own it.  

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesToday

UA Experts Address the Value of Nursery Rhymes

Tue, 06/07/2016 - 12:06pm
Rebecca Peiffer | NASA Space Grant Intern, University Relations - Communications

LeapFrog, VTech, and learning tablets and laptops for toddlers are just some of the toys designed for young children in an increasingly lucrative market for childhood educational materials and technologies.

In light of the increased accessibility of such technologies during the formative years of children, University of Arizona researchers spoke about a centuries-old resource that has proved beneficial for brain development: nursery rhymes.

Traditional poems and songs such as "Little Red Riding Hood," "Star Light, Star Bright" and "Frère Jacques" are known to serve as important tools for helping children to learn, retain information, detect patterns and learn language, aiding with early childhood development.

Answering our questions about the continued importance of nursery rhymes were:

  • LouAnn Gerken, a UA professor of psychology, linguistics and cognitive science, whose research centers on language development and its relation to learning more generally, also with a focus on what music and language learning share.
  • Dawn Corso, an instructor of music and ethnomusicology, who is also a conductor and performer. Corso, of the UA's Fred Fox School of Music, teaches courses in ethnomusicology and music in general studies, having previously taught in K-12 schools.
  • Kathy Short, a professor in the UA Department of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies, is the director of World of Words. Housed within the UA College of Education, World of Words is a unique collection of international children's books. Its mission is to integrate global literature into classrooms and libraries while challenging children and adolescents to understand and accept those different from themselves.

Q: Why do we teach children nursery rhymes?

Gerken: Nursery rhymes highlight the rhythmic nature of the child's particular language, as well as language in general. When children first learn to talk, they tend to organize their utterances into rhythmic sequences. So the rhymes we teach children can help them develop their language skills in a way that's natural to them.

Corso: I think it's important to consider whether the rhymes were created by children or adults. When they're created by adults, the goal is to teach some kind of moral to children. The hope is that they learn the lesson without even realizing it, because it becomes more fun. When children make up rhymes, they seem to have less specific purposes, but mostly just describe the world around them and experiences that are relevant to the child. 

Short: Nursery rhymes, and children's literature in general, offer empathy. I think you can learn a lot of facts about the world and other people, but that doesn't necessarily help children build empathy the same way that connecting with a character in a story or a rhyme does. Also, they're so easy for young children to memorize, because of their alliteration and musicality.

Q: How do these rhymes impact children's language development?

Gerken: Nursery rhymes might help children identify the typical stress placement in their language. I don't know if anyone has formally shown this, but rhymes often highlight the rules for stress in the child's native language. Also, rhymes tend to mirror the way children naturally speak. When children first learn to talk, they organize their utterances into rhythmic sequences. For example, English-learning children try to make words and phrases correspond to a "stressed-unstressed-stressed-unstressed" sequence. They tend to omit syllables that don't fit into this rhythmic sequence.

Short: Rhymes are an exercise in language play. They build the ability to hear phonemic differences, which is critical to becoming a reader. 

Q: Why do we remember these rhymes, even as adults?

Corso: There are several features of good rhymes that help them stay memorable. They can't be too long, or we would remember only the beginning and the end of the rhyme. That's quite typical of memory. It's why you don’t want to interview in the middle — you're less likely to be remembered. Another feature that makes them memorable is that they are what we call "strophic." This means they have the same melody and rhythms throughout, and only the words change. For instance, in "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," you see that the stressed parts kind of rhyme as well. That makes it easy to learn the musical pattern. Then, even if you forget the words, you have a chance of recovering them. Nursery rhymes are definitely tied to memory, because it's important that they be memorable and enjoyable. 

Q: What musical value do nursery rhymes have?

Corso: Nursery rhymes are very interesting rhythmically. A lot of kids remember and care more about the musical aspect than the words. You see it everywhere: Kids will continue a rhyme they really like and run out of words to rhyme, so they'll make up their own. The semantics don't matter to them, they just enjoy the rhythmic patterns. The musicality of rhymes also helps pass down cultural information. Music is interesting to study as a conveyor of culture because, unlike language, it's not one-to-one, there's not a distinct connection from song to meaning. The melodies and rhythms can convey important cultural values as well. For instance, rhythm helps convey the specific linguistic patterns of the language, especially related to stress placement.

Short: Nursery rhymes emphasize the rhythms and musicality of language. If you look at the words, they can be fairly nonsensical. But they are embedded in the language and, by extension, in the culture. The musicality, the way the language flows, the way the rhymes play with this strongly differs from culture to culture. Looking at rhymes from other cultures in other languages can demonstrate the unique musicality of languages around the world.

Q: What important cultural information can nursery rhymes convey?

Gerken: Different languages have different patterns of stress. For example, in Hungarian, stress tends to fall on the last syllable, which is quite different from English. The typical placement of stress in languages greatly influences the rhythms of nursery rhymes.

Corso: Many different factors sustain culture, including language, traditions, social codes. But music is ubiquitous. Rhymes are a specific form of that, and you can find them in every part of the world. They are usually passed orally and they contain a lot of social information. For my dissertation, I studied how rhymes in the African-American community help students learn outside of school, and what kinds of lessons they teach. These rhymes help pass down the unique social norms of the African-American community. They also present the children with some of the tougher issues that they'll face as a member of that community, but in a way that's fun and more playful.

Short: I think we need very dynamic notions of culture. Culture isn't this static box, it's continuously changing and transforming. Culture is integral to how we think about ourselves, how we think about the world, and how we create our values and beliefs. It's important for children to have this sense of how you interact with people who have different belief systems. Children's literature, including nursery rhymes, is a great avenue for this. Children are in the process of building their views about everything, so the earlier we engage them with this literature, the more they grow and those perspectives become part of their worldview. To be frank, once you're an adult, you can change your perspective, but it's harder.

Categories: Social Sciences and EducationToday

Murthy to Grads: 'Live a Connected Life'

Sat, 05/14/2016 - 12:35pm
University Relations - Communications |

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, speaks during the UA's 152nd Commencement ceremony. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

In a speech intimately aware of the University of Arizona, its graduating class and large-scale problems in the contemporary world, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, presented his hopes for the thousands of students in the Class of 2016.

"As I was thinking about you on the way to Arizona, my mind was filled with things that I wish for you in the years ahead: good health, a fulfilling career, a happy family and so much more," Murthy told the audience of more than 4,000 graduates. 

"But there is one thing I hope for you more than anything else: My hope is that you live a connected life," he said.

With more than 40,000 guests and hundreds of UA volunteers in attendance, Murthy presented in his keynote Commencement address three essential "ingredients" for such a life.

"Now, you might think to yourself: 'Hold on a minute, it’s 2016 and I feel the world is pretty connected. I’ve got thousands of followers on Instagram and Snapchat, I’m available by text 24/7 and the GPS locator on my cell phone is turned on. How much more connected could I get?' But I'm talking about a different type of connection — the kind that makes you rich in life currency, not in monetary terms," Murthy said.

Murthy presented empathy, optimism and courage as the requisite qualities. 

"Empathy feeds our desire for connection. Optimism helps us believe that connection is possible. But courage is what enables us to act and make our connections to people real," he said.

Murthy had other points of emphasis and advice for the graduating class.

About Knowing the Graduates

"I actually feel that I already know you since I’ve been there at formative moments in your life. Like the time you were standing under the bleachers in high school and someone offered you a cigarette. You politely declined because you knew that smoking causes cancer, and I was right there on the side of the cigarette box backing you up. Or remember that time, a few years ago, when you followed your friends into a bar — accidentally, of course? You were offered shots but said, 'No thanks. I'm not yet 21 and I know consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause health problems.' Well, I was there, too, on the side of the bottle, feeling so darn proud of you. So, it seems fitting that since I was there for those moments, I should be here for this one."

About the UA Class of 2016

"Your class includes a young woman who moved from halfway around the world at the age of 17 and became the first in her family to attend college. Your class includes a student who is getting his bachelor's degree at the age of 18. Your class includes a young man who turned a health scare during freshman year into a passion for using medical optics to improve the lives of others. And your class includes many other students who have pushed the boundaries of science and the arts in service of society. Yours is a class that has also mobilized efforts on campus to ensure that diversity and inclusion are not just slogans but values that are reflected in every aspect of university life. And I thank you for that."

About Diversity and Inclusion

"The great challenge that faces America is that the bonds that hold together our diverse nation are being tested. As we grow in diversity in race, religion and viewpoints, the breadth and depth of our connections must also expand and become more inclusive — but that is not always happening."

About Courage

"When the twin towers fell on 9/11 on that fateful morning 15 years ago, thousands of Manhattan residents fled south looking for an escape from the growing inferno behind them. But instead of relief, they were greeted by the unforgiving waters of the Hudson, which offered no path to safety. The panicked crowd continued to grow until the U.S. Coast Guard made a key decision: They issued a radio call to every civilian ship in the area, asking them to join in an unprecedented citizen rescue mission. The response was overwhelming. Within minutes, the Hudson was covered with scores of boats streaking toward the southern tip of Manhattan. They pierced through the dense cloud of dust and debris and brought soot-covered people on board, offered them water and ferried them to safety. In nine hours, nearly 500,000 people were rescued. The 9/11 boat lift became the largest boat rescue in the history of the world. Now, the 9/11 boat lift was powered by ordinary people. They were never trained in emergency response. They would never have described themselves as heroes. And they had every reason to flee for safety themselves. But their courage is what allowed them to act. Vincent Ardolino, the captain of the Amberjack, said his wife thought that he was a maniac for wanting to take his boat toward Manhattan that morning after the call. But he knew that he had to go. 'Never go through life saying you should have,' he said later, reflecting on that decision. 'If you want to do something, you do it.'"

About Social Isolation

"Too many of us live in big cities but find few people who really know us. We have stronger Internet connections but weaker personal connections. We have more followers on social media, but they just don’t seem to fill the void. Now, I learned early on in medicine that isolation was the most common challenge my patients faced. It has real consequences. Isolation and weakening social connections are associated with increased risk of heart disease, declining brain function and shorter life spans. They can also lead to anxiety and fear. Isolation and silos also weaken our communities. Without strong communities, we cannot pull together during times of hardship. Our diversity turns from a source of strength to a source of conflict. But when we have strong connections to each other, everything is possible."

About Opportunities the U.S. Can Provide

"My parents came to America nearly 40 years ago from humble beginnings in search of a better life for their children. They raised my sister and me to believe that America was a place where your ideas and willingness to work hard mattered more than the color of your skin or the sound of your accent. And despite all our imperfections as a nation, I stand before you fully aware that in no other country in the world could the grandson of a poor farmer from India be asked by the president to look out for the health of the entire nation. That is the power and promise of America. And I am deeply grateful for it, and I am especially thankful to my parents and sister who are, in fact, here today."

Categories: Campus NewsTeaching and StudentsToday

Our Favorite Social Posts From Commencement

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 1:39pm
University Relations - Communications |

Commencement didn't just happen in real time; it was lived online, too.

Here are some of our favorite social media posts that went out to honor graduates who received their degrees during the University of Arizona's 152nd Commencement ceremony.

4 years ago I took a chance on the University of Arizona, and today I couldn't be happier that I did. Thank you UA for giving me the best friends and college experience a girl from Lufkin, TX could have ever asked for. #gradUAtion #wildcatsforlife 

A photo posted by Lauren Hoepfner (@lohoepfner) on May 14, 2016 at 12:16pm PDT

I have an AMAZING support system. I never thought I'd get to this point. 5 years ago I thought I was done with school, done with pushing myself and fine with settling. Luckily, I have been granted a new life, new hope and new opportunities. This means the world to me, and the fact that my baby girl has watched me struggle, study, do homework, juggle life with school and so much more just makes it all the more worth it. This is for you, kid! You deserve the best mom possible and I plan to be that for you. Now let's celebrate! #classof2016 #beardownlife

A photo posted by Jennifer Munoz (@j_bomb6) on May 14, 2016 at 5:47pm PDT

Another fantastic mortar board from @thatquad. Thank you for sharing! #beardownlife

Close your eyes, think about people whose love & kindness made 2day a reality. Those are your anchors #BearDownLife

— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) May 14, 2016

My dad is graduating from #Eller today!!!! #CollegeOfBusiness #EllerCollege #EllerSeniors2016 #EllerSenior2016 #UniversityOfArizona #UofA #BachelorsOfScience #BS #Wildcats #WildcatForLife #Alumni #BearDown #BearDownLife #Asian #Vietnamese #Tucson #Arizona #ProudOfMyDaddy

A photo posted by Michelle Nguyễn-Richards (@nguyening_smiles) on May 13, 2016 at 2:07pm PDT

After a whirlwind of a weekend, I am officially a college graduate. Special thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this journey, I couldn't have done it without you! #WildcatForLife

A photo posted by Carly Monson (@carlyykayy) on May 16, 2016 at 1:25pm PDT

Officially UofA alumni #beardownlife

A photo posted by anya_3 (@anya_3) on May 13, 2016 at 11:07pm PDT

Busting w/ pride seeing daughter receive her MD, MPH last night. #beardownlife @UofA #medschool #graduation #Tucson

— Pat Johnson MS RD (@FUTP60Arizona) May 13, 2016

Graduation 2k16 #GoPro

A photo posted by Erich Harman (@eharmony4) on May 13, 2016 at 7:00pm PDT

Today we celebrate the culmination of our @UofA students' success. Congrats & good luck Graduates! We wish u all the best. @UofAZPolice

— Brian A Seastone (@UAPoliceChief) May 13, 2016

Check out this awesome #mortarboardmonday submission. Thanks for sharing, Hunter! #beardownlife

— Bear Down Life (@BearDownLife) May 9, 2016

Check out three of our four graduates at the @AZATHLETICS ceremony yesterday.


— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) May 13, 2016

About to go sing the national anthem for the big graduation in Arizona Stadium!!!! #love #graduation #2016

A photo posted by Sarah Julia Ambrose (@sambrose94) on May 13, 2016 at 7:34pm PDT

Graduating in style with Wilbur!

A photo posted by Alex Guyton (@th3pr3stig3) on May 13, 2016 at 7:13pm PDT

AND WE'RE DONE! Congrats Class of 2016! #beardownlife

A photo posted by kayla ichiba (@keepupwithkayla) on May 13, 2016 at 7:06pm PDT

Meg, congratulations on graduating last night from the University of Arizona - College of Science! I am so proud of everything you have accomplished and the obstacles you have overcome during the short two years we have known each other. Don't worry, I will make sure to have a kid before I graduate and will definitely be passing down our family traditions in ΤΒΣ. mlitb, Thomas "حالم" Noth #universityofarizona #classof2016 #beardownlife #taubetasigma #alumnistatus

A photo posted by Thomas Allen (@thomasanoth) on May 13, 2016 at 12:55pm PDT

"Nobody can tell me where I can and can't go" -Kanye West #ridersonly #damndaniel #beardownlife #cos2016 #may2016

A photo posted by Daniel Rojas (@drojos) on May 12, 2016 at 6:19pm PDT

Commencement 2016!

A photo posted by dominique cruz ☀ (@domuhfleek) on May 13, 2016 at 7:07pm PDT

Graduation Day, Victory Stance #lessgetittt

A photo posted by Perris Howard - PERR!S (@perrismusic) on May 13, 2016 at 12:21pm PDT

Thanks for everything U of A #beardownlife #wildcatforlife

— Kimberly Escarcega (@kim_escarcega) May 14, 2016

Ready for Commencement 2016 #wildcatsforlife

A photo posted by Melinda Burke (@melwburke) on May 14, 2016 at 9:51am PDT

Categories: Campus NewsTeaching and StudentsToday

A Visitor-Centered Approach to Museums, Archives

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 5:41pm
University Relations - Communications |

As museums across the nation experiment with new methods for engaging youth, and especially adults, in their spaces, Natasha S. Reid has been training students to reimagine the museum experience.

No longer is that experience about merely connecting with what is physically contained within a museum's or archive's holdings. Increasingly, museums and archives are introducing active, participatory learning activities while also rethinking how they communicate — through marketing materials and even the labeling of artwork — so that in engaging members of the public, they can capture and hold their attention.

In addition to learning the basics of museum education, including the associated theory and practice, students in Reid's "Theory and Practice in Art Museum Education" course produced and facilitated community-based projects. Students also learned about the relationships that exist between schools and museums and how emergent technologies have shifted the museum experience.

During the semester, Reid's students visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, studying the varying perspectives of attending as an educator versus a visitor, eventually producing an artistic response detailing what they had learned.

The students also worked in partnership with the University of Arizona Museum of Art, or UAMA, to engage with participatory museum activities for Friday Art Night and produce complementary labels for artwork.

"I wanted students to learn how to create labels that are engaging, innovative, critical and thought-provoking," said Reid, an assistant professor of art and visual culture education in the UA School of Art.

"It was important for the labels to be distinctly nontraditional. In other words, their creations needed to steer away from traditional didactic labels that can be loaded with historical content and jargon," Reid said. "Their works needed to incorporate a variety of intriguing methods for pulling visitors in, such as open-ended questions, embodied approaches, poetry, connections to popular culture and storytelling."

Also in partnering with the UAMA, Reid's students gave museum tours to middle school students and students in associate professor of art Lisa Hochtritt's general education course, "Engaging Visual Culture."

And during one of their later class sessions, the students spent time with archivist Jill McCleary learning about the holdings within the UAMA Archive of Visual Arts.

UA archivist Jill McCleary leads Natasha S. Reid's students in a discussion about the important role of archives, and how they are distinctively different from museums.

"It is highly important for students in this course to have opportunities to test out the theories and case studies examined in the course through hands-on, community-based learning opportunities," Reid said.

Students also learned about the profession from educators and others at UAMA, the Tucson Museum of Art, the Arizona State Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

"It is important for the students to learn about various aspects of museums' workings," Reid said. "Thus, they are offered a glimpse into real-world work situations related to our course."

Ultimately, Reid hopes that her students, if they choose to work in a museum, an archive or a school, can help support the continued evolution of museum education in ways meant not merely to help institutions but to address the social and cultural needs of communities.

This, she said, is why she keeps such an intense focus on community-based immersive experience.

"Without such community-based opportunities, the students' understandings would remain in the theoretical realm," Reid said. "Furthermore, the students become highly committed to such community-based work, as they tend to feel that they are contributing to the larger communities."

UA archivist Jill McCleary speaks with students about the nature of her work maintaining an archive and its holdings.

Students learned how archivists organize and engage with materials housed within archives.

UA archivist Jill McCleary presents the apron worn by Robert McCall, the famed artist and illustrator for NASA, national magazines and a range of Hollywood films. 

UA archivist Jill McCleary speaks about the work of Sara Wallach, who was known for her sculptural etchings, which are called "Saragraphs." In addition to Wallach's prints, the archive maintains a collection of her scrapbooks and other artwork.

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesSocial Sciences and EducationTeaching and StudentsToday

Diving Into an Ocean in a Bottle

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 3:38pm
Matthew C. Buster |

An ocean in the desert?


What for?

This sounded like a myth to me.

It all started with my final assignment for my Environmental Journalism class with Carol Schwalbe, a retired National Geographic senior text editor. I found myself with an exciting idea that allowed me to channel my interests in science, scuba diving and photography — and a concern about the current bleaching event plaguing coral reefs around the world.

Over the past few weeks, it seemed every day a new article was being published about the record percentages of coral reef systems showing bleaching — a process that was killing them. Naturally (or not so), the Biosphere 2 ocean and its researchers seemed like a good entry point for me to begin asking questions.

I first visited Biosphere 2 to meet the people behind the ocean and to get a good sense of the "desert sea" itself. I also wanted to test out an old Nikonos IV, an underwater analog film camera I would potentially be using to capture images for an infographic for my feature story assignment. It turned out OK.

Two weeks later, the day to dive arrived.

My scuba gear was packed and a roll of film loaded into the old Nikonos. Planning to photograph the long-dead coral reef on this trip, I was pleasantly surprised and extremely fortunate to learn from Franklin Lane, the Biosphere 2 ocean projects technician, that Julia Cole, the new director of research for the Biosphere 2 ocean, also would be getting into the water that same day. Not only that, but there were also going to be a slew of volunteers working on the ocean. The tide seemed just right for the project.

Suited up in my wetsuit, I stepped onto the deck overlooking the ocean, gripping my weighty gear bag in my hand and my camera in the other. The sound of the wave maker expanding and compressing resembled that of waves crashing. I slowly pulled in a deep breath of moist ocean air and felt the oxygen rejuvenate my blood as I exhaled. It was go time.

I assembled my diving gear, and got help lifting it onto my back.

My body weight went from 70 pounds extra to weightless as I sank into the water and neutralized my weight. Peering through my window into the world below, it took me back to the sensations I felt on my certification dive in the San Diego bay. The sound of pulling breaths from my respirator rang in my ears and calmed my nerves. I was free to roam the depths of this desert ocean to my liking.

I glided effortlessly over the algae-covered rocks that once boasted vibrant coral reefs. It gave me a sobering image of what might become of our ocean's reefs should they continue to bleach and die at alarming rates. But my hope was restored as Cole and Lane discussed their plans to repair this system to a healthy, subtropical ecosystem in order to better understand the global bleaching crisis happening in similar climates.

As I wrapped up my day with a terrific interview with Cole about the dire state of the world's reefs, the nervousness of working on my first big story was giving way to excitement and gratitude. The gravity of the story and the opportunity I had been afforded washed over me like one of the artificial waves of the ocean pushing me forward toward my goal of telling this story.

As we were leaving, I climbed into the car with former Biosphere 2 post doctorate Dragos Zaharescu and journalist John de Dios, a photographer with whom I have been working in Environmental Journalism. I remembered how my late grandfather had gotten me started with photography. Playing with his old Canon and Nikon cameras, I never would have thought I would be spending a warm spring afternoon photographing a dead reef in an ocean inside a bottle in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.

Photography by John de Dios

Matthew C. Buster is a sustainable plant systems major at the University of Arizona. In January, he transferred to the UA from Yuma, Arizona, after having completed his first three years of college. He became a certified diver in November 2015 to help overcome a lifetime of being afraid of the many creatures in the ocean.

Watch a behind-the-scenes video, produced by John de Dios, of Buster as he dives into the Biosphere 2 ocean:

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesScience and TechnologyTodayTags: Students

UA Student, Arizona Repertory Singers Interim Director to Graduate

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 6:21pm
University Relations - Communications |

Thomas Lerew, who will graduate in May, served as the interim music director for the Arizona Repertory Singers. 

Following the untimely death of University of Arizona alumnus Jeffry A. Jahn, who served as head of the Arizona Repertory Singers for 25 years, Thomas E. Lerew stepped in to serve as interim director of the organization.

Now, Lerew is preparing for his graduation from the UA.

During the UA's 152nd Commencement, to be held May 13, Lerew will receive his Doctor of Musical Arts with an emphasis in conducting from the Fred Fox School of Music.

As he graduates, Lerew is also completing the 2015-2016 season as conductor of the 43-member choral ensemble. Lerew plans to complete his degree and relocate away from Tucson later this spring.

"It has been my truest honor and pleasure working with the singers and leadership this year," he said. "ARS continues on a bright course and I wish them all my best for continued future successes."

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesTodayTags: StudentsAlumniEducation

UA Alumnus Shares Journalism Career Insight With Students

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 4:18pm
Lori Harwood, UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Azhar Abdul-Salam spoke about freedom of the press issues in Singapore in Nancy Sharkey's class "Principles of Journalism." Azhar Abdul-Salam, a UA journalism and communication alumnus from Singapore, recently finished a 10-day visit to Tucson, where he met with students and professors and shared his experience working in sports journalism.

Abdul-Salam graduated from the UA in 1994 and took only three years to complete his double major. After graduation, Azhar, who calls himself a "sports junkie," returned to Singapore and worked in sports journalism. He was a producer and studio director of ESPN STAR Sports, a producer and director for World Sports Group and an executive producer for Adinkrae Productions.

The jobs held a certain amount of glamour — travel, all-access passes to high-profile sporting events and interviews with sports stars.

"I had my fanboy moments, but I had to act cool," Abdul-Salam said. "It was really fun."

In 2000, Abdul-Salam earned a master's degree in mass communication from Nanyang Technological University.

Since 2003, Abdul-Salam has been a lecturer and is now the manager, which is like the "chair," of the mass media management program in the School of Business Management at Nanyang Polytechnic. The program teaches students journalism as well as marketing, because in Singapore — which has become a media hub — companies "need students who are not just adept at writing and filming but also at being able to support the business side of things," Abdul-Salam said.

Abdul-Salam uses his industry connections to get hands-on reporting experience for the students in the program. His department signed a memorandum of understanding with Fox Sports for students to write and produce stories for events such as golf championships and the Singapore Grand Prix.

Abdul-Salam credits the UA for influencing his teaching philosophy.

"The classes I took made a deep impression on me," Abdul-Salam said. "So much so that when I went into academia, I copied the way the professors taught and the passion that they had."

In 1992, Abdul-Salam was a student in the advanced reporting class taught by Susan Knight, an associate professor of practice in the School of Journalism.

Azhar Abdul-Salam met with a number of faculty from the UA. He is pictured with former classmate Sarah Tully; Jacqueline Sharkey, former head of the School of Journalism; and Susan Knight, associate professor of journalism. Azhar and Tully were co-editors-in-chief of El Independiente, a publication produced by UA journalism students during the early 1990s.

"He had a good intellect and developed excellent reporting and writing skills. We’ve been able to stay in touch as faculty colleagues for years now," Knight said.

"Azhar was generous with his time while he was here, and our students had opportunities to engage with him on so many levels, one on one, in small groups and in classes," she said. "Their conversations covered a gamut, from freedom of the press issues to sports coverage in Asia, and from UA traditions to the way Wildcat alumni network around the world."

Abdul-Salam also met John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, when Jones visited UA alumni in Singapore a few years ago. When Jones learned about Abdul-Salam's background in sports journalism, he invited him to come speak to students in the Sports and Society Program in the School of Sociology.

Abdul-Salam's trip to Tucson, sponsored by Nanyang Polytechnic, gave him the opportunity to learn more about the UA journalism program and to share his expertise with students.

"It was a treat for students in the Sports and Society Program to hear Azhar talk about his experience working in sports journalism internationally," said Al Bergesen, director of the School of Sociology.

Azhar Abdul-Salam met with J.P. Jones, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Abdul-Salam said he also learned a great deal. "It's always great to see what other people are doing and to pick up the best practices," he said.

The visit also was an opportunity to reconnect with his beloved alma mater.

"I am such a big Wildcat fan," Abdul-Salam said. "It was so hard after graduation when I went back home to get news about the Cats. But now I follow the Cats on Twitter."

Categories: Social Sciences and EducationTodayTags: AlumniStudentOutreach

Music School's String Project Returns

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 2:53pm
University Relations - Communications |

Each Saturday afternoon, children as young as 5 convene at the UA's Fred Fox School of Music to learn the violin, viola, cello and bass. Often, it is the first time they have had any immersive training in musical instruments.

And it comes at little or no cost to families. 

Youths ages 5-12 are being taught how to play the instruments through the music school's String Project, a once-defunct program that saw its reintroduction in January.

At the helm is Theodore Buchholz, an assistant professor of cello and the string area coordinator — an intense advocate of arts and music education.

Funded at $100,000 by an anonymous donor, the project once offered for years at the school re-emerged this year with 56 children enrolled — about 30 more than anticipated.

"Being a person who believes very strongly in outreach and serving underserved families, I talked to Ted about the feasibility of the project, and we decided to launch it," said Edward Reid, director of the Fred Fox School of Music, who volunteers to teach the youth each week in collaboration with Symphony Women's Association.

"All the credit goes to Ted and our anonymous donor, who gave us the financial backing we needed," Reid said. "I am so proud of the faculty, and the likes of Ted, as they understand the importance of reaching out to kids." 

Buchholz himself is a product of a youth-focused string project.

Growing up near the University of South Carolina, he became involved in that university's sponsored string project. Admittedly not the strongest student in the beginning while practicing the cello, he said his interest did not sway.

"That organization kept me on task and made a huge difference," Buchholz said, briefly leafing through practicing notes first penned during his days in middle school. Today, those notes sit on bookshelves amid the same literature and composition books that have shaped his career.

Now, as director of the String Project, he leads eight undergraduate and graduate student instructors as they facilitate group lessons and ensemble rehearsals. Informed by the Suzuki Method, youths are split into beginner and more advanced groups and trained in the basics of instrumentation and string performance.

"The bigger picture is that we are starting students earlier in getting quality instruction," Buchholz said. "I want more students playing music. I believe that this is what helps make this world a much better place."

Buchholz said he is commmitted to building future musicians and instructors through music education, especially as it is being cut from public school instruction. Despite those cuts, research consistently shows that exposure to the arts — and the challenge associated with learning and mastering a musical instrument — encourages the kind of creativity that youths need to persevere in other disciplines such as math, science and social studies.

Buchholz said such a project also is essential for university students.

"A large university music school must have some sort of outreach like this. It bolsters what we do," said Buchholz, who also serves as president of the American String Teachers Association of Arizona and director of the Tucson Cello Congress. "We have majors who will work in public schools, so it is important that they have a laboratory that will show them what it is like to manage 26 kids with noisemakers."

Enrollment for the String Project opens in August. For more information, contact Theodore Buchholz at or 520-621-7012.

To make a donation to the String Project, contact Lisa Comella at or 520-626-1512.

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesTeaching and StudentsTodayTags: FacultyStaffOutreachEducation

Giving Thanks for 'MTV,' a Pillar of Support

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 3:02pm
La Monica Everett-Haynes |Today

Maria Teresa Velez with Las Adelitas Arizona award recipients Alexandra Samarron (left) and Paola Miramontes (right) (Photo courtesy of Las Adelitas Arizona)

An advocate and an adelita, Maria Teresa Velez — known fondly as "MTV" — is estimated to have impacted the lives of thousands of students. She died on April 13.

During her tenure at the University of Arizona, Velez took it as her personal duty to carve out space within graduate programs that should have long existed for underserved students — particularly African-American, American Indian and Hispanic students — with priority placed on expanding three essential elements: financial, academic and social supports.

Read more about Velez and her impact at

Members of the UA community — students, employees, alumni and others — shared their memories of Velez, whose legacy will live on in programming but also in the lives of graduates and collaborators.

"As I progressed through the challenges of academia, I learned a few things about Dr. Velez as I stayed in close contact with her and the McNair Achievement Program family. In changing us, she also changed our families, our communities, and the lives of students that we teach and mentor. I've come a long way from the shy girl that interviewed with Dr. Velez, but to Dr. Velez, our academic mother, there was no doubt that's where I would end up. I hope she knew how much we loved her. I will continue to work hard to make her proud, but even this is not enough of a thank you for all that she has done for me."

-UA alumna Rebecca Covarrubias, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz

"Maria Teresa called us all to the better angels of our best spirits as a public university and an academy, in bringing us closer to realizing our democratic aims of better serving underserved students in the U.S. and internationally. She was so deeply dedicated to supporting students financially and emotionally in ways that enriched their lives and ours, and facilitated the fulfillment of dreams that she encouraged them to pursue and helped them realize. Her spirit lives on in the students she devoted her life to, and to all of us in the academy who were inspired by and admired her as a wonderful and wonderfully successful warrior for social justice."

-Gary Rhoades, head of the UA Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education

UA alumna Deyanira Nevarez Martinez gifting Velez a plaque after Las Adelitas Arizona established a scholarship in honor of Velez (Photo courtesy of Deyanira Nevarez Martinez)

"Dr. Velez was widely known for her passion in supporting students, whether recruiting them and letting them know they would succeed in grad school even when they didn't think they could, finding financial support for their studies, advising them through their graduate school years, insisting that they finish and graduate, and celebrating their placement and career success. She changed literally thousands of lives, and those who she touched became her extended family — a fine legacy and testament to her influence and impact on the UA."

-UA Provost Andrew Comrie

"I met Dr. Velez while working at the Native American Student Affairs Center and when I returned to the Ph.D. program in the College of Education. I remember she let me know that I could always come to her if I needed assistance. I finally took her up on that offer this past academic year. At first she told me that she didn't have any funding available, but she would look. Then, unexpectedly, I was awarded enough funding to cover my tuition and fees. She came through for me, as she always did for countless others. I'll forever be grateful for her presence, example and commitment to serve underrepresented students in graduate studies."

-UA alumna Natalie Youngbull (Cheyenne and Arapaho; Sioux and Assiniboine)

"As a non-traditional returning student to the University of Arizona in 2001, I was encouraged to apply to McNair and first met Dr. Maria Teresa Velez. Immediately, her energy was evident and how she was genuinely concerned and focused on each of her students. I left a promising career in law enforcement and was also in the process of adopting our son. My wife, Darlene, and I had so much going on, but even a phone call from Maria Teresa always put me back on track. She had a very keen sense of knowing where each one of us, both McNair Scholars, was in our academic endeavors and what she needed to say or do to provide encouragement. I was able to graduate magna cum laude in 2003 and was accepted into my master's program because of her."

-UA alumnus José Sprigg, founder of Kahuna Renovations & Home Repair LLC

"'Thank you to Dr. Maria Teresa Velez for your continued support. You knew I had it in me long before I did.' I wrote this for my dissertation acknowledgment page. She always told me, 'Vamos! Let's go after whatever dreams, projects, opportunities that come our way.' She always listened and was insightful — she read your soul and tapped into what your dreams were, and she knew how to get you where you wanted to be. 'Una mujer fuerte.' I strive to do what she did for so many deserving students. I will deeply miss her." 

-UA alumna Tanisha N. Price-Johnson, executive director of admissions, and a research assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine

Anita Bhappu (left) with Velez (Photo courtesy of Anita Bhappu)

"Dr. Velez (MTV) was a much-loved and respected mentor to scores of minority graduate students at the UA, myself included. She knew each and every one of us personally; she was our guardian angel on campus. Her commitment to us was unconditional, but firmly anchored in pragmatic honesty. She nurtured our budding scholarship and helped us to navigate the UA bureaucracy that so often felt alien and impersonal to us."

-UA alumnus Anita D. Bhappu, associate professor in the Retailing & Consumer Sciences Program and a professor in the Honors College

Las Adelitas Arizona established the Dr. Maria Teresa Velez scholarship in honor of Velez, providing financial support to students pursuing degrees. (Photo courtesy of Las Adelitas Arizona)

"When I met Dr. Velez and shared my struggle to get into graduate school with her, she asked, 'How did I miss you the first time around?,' referring to my time at the UA as an undergraduate between 2004 and 2008. I struggled to complete my degree because I was the first person in my family to go to college, and while I graduated and paved the way for my sister, I barely made it through, so graduate school seemed impossible. She immediately made it her mission to make it happen. She connected me to professors in the planning department and made sure I was on a path to success. She provided moral and financial support for me. It never crossed my mind that I would be pursuing a Ph.D., but after I completed my master’s degree at the UA in 2014, I began looking into Ph.D. program in large part because of her encouragement.”

-UA alumna Deyanira Nevarez Martinez, who is completing her first year as a doctoral student in the planning, policy and design program at the University of California, Irvine

"Maria Teresa Velez was my colleague and my friend for more than 30 years. She was a warrior whose passion and dedication to student access and success continued daily for the rest of her career at the UA. The one thing that superseded this was her love for her family, and especially her children, Mariel and Damien. I learned a lot from her about balancing work and family life, and the importance of always making family a priority."

-Sylvia Mioduski, program manager of Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science internships

"Maria Teresa believed in us from day one, both as a couple and as individuals. She was instrumental in helping us achieve the impossible dream of two tenure-track positions at the UA. We would not be where we are in our careers without her. It's difficult to pinpoint individual impacts because she was always there supporting us: showing up for dinner with a bottle of wine, playing with our son, providing a listening ear and 'consejos.' She mentored us in how to negotiate the politics of the academic empire. She had this innate sixth sense in identifying everyone's potential and unique talents — pushing us to undreamed-of heights. All of us — faculty, students, alumni and staff — felt like one of her chosen ones. We craved to get the gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, pushes to succeed, because that is how we knew she cared! We deeply miss 'nuestra grande,' and we honor her legacy by continually striving for the ultimate goal of social, environmental, and health justice. '¡Claro que si se puede!'" 

-Paloma Beamer, associate professor of environmental health sciences in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and Nolan Cabrera, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice

Maria Teresa Velez was seen as an advocate and an adelita. (Photo courtesy of Karletta Chief)

"Dr. Maria Teresa Velez helped us transition into the UA community in many ways. She definitely had a motherly sense to her approach, where there was never any judgment or hesitation about whether we would accomplish what we came here to do. Both being first-generation college students and navigating the graduate school landscape was a large leap for us. So, for someone of her stature and background to confirm our existence on campus gave us power and belief that graduate school was a place for us. 'Ahehee,' Dr. Velez. You gave us power and we want you to rest in peace knowing that we've got your back."

-UA alumni Chris (Diné and Laguna Pueblo) and Johnny (Diné) Nelson

2015 Ph.D. graduate of higher education Chris Nelson (Diné and Laguna Pueblo) with Olin, a future Wildcat; husband Johnny Nelson, who earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in 2012; and Velez (Photo courtesy of Chris Nelson)

"I want to take this opportunity to speak on behalf of two of my best friends in life, Ricardo Palos and Omar Félix. Life gave me these two friends through a research program that María Teresa created. Along with her many fights for social justice and wonderful work, Velez created connections between the U.S. and Latin America that now are hard to break. Ricardo and Omar — my best friends — and I are a nice 'product' of Velez's work. Maybe she did not mean to change our lives, but here I am, writing on behalf of one successful environmental engineering Ph.D. (Félix), and a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry (Palos). I hope I can honor her legacy through my actions and work. It is amazing how the actions of a successful social justice warrior can impact the lives of young people in many ways, from personal to professional."

-Adrián Arroyo, doctoral candiate and research assistant in the UA Office of Latin American Partnership Initiatives

"I came to the UA in 2005 as many international students — looking for an opportunity to get into graduate school. Doctora Vélez was her title for me, and we always spoke in Spanish mixing our Cuban and Mexican language. In the last years, we spent more time together and one year ago she told me 'estás lista' (you are ready). Since then, she was around but I was doing things by my own.  However, I always asked Doctora Vélez for advice and invited her to activities. One of those days, she asked me: '¿para qué me ocupas?' (Why do you need me?) and I replied, 'Because you are my mentor.' She just smiled and I told her that although she was partially retired, I will be there learning from her until the last day of her journey at the UA. Now I see that this learning journey will be continued until the last day of my life."

-UA alumna Nadia Alvarez Mexia, director of the UA's Office of Latin American Partnership Initiatives

Longtime UA Supporter Receives Honorary Degree

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 10:23am

Born and raised in Pennsylvania during the Great Depression, Margaret Richardson has transformed obstacles and adversity into opportunities.

In April, Richardson was honored by University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart with a Humane Letters Honorary Degree from the College of Medicine.

Margaret Richardson

While her parents could not afford to send her to college, Richardson started her working life at Westinghouse Electric Corporation and soon found a professional home in the automobile retail industry.

In 1947, with $200 in savings, Richardson moved to Los Angeles to seek a new life — a highly unusual move for single women at that time. She secured a position with an automobile dealership and, in 1965, married Howard Richardson at the age of 44. Soon after the marriage, she began taking college courses and attended for three years before she and Howard became entrepreneurs and started their own business.

Realizing the family's new company needed her expertise, she stopped out of college to manage all aspects of the dealership's business. She was not able to return to college, working instead in partnership with Howard to built a successful business, while also later investing time and resources in the community and institutions that contributed to their success. Richardson also served the UA as a member of the Sarver Heart Center's and the UA Health Sciences' advisory boards.

Her husband, who graduated from the UA in 1940, was one of the volunteer organizers of the University's Century II Campaign and served as a member of the Office of the Chair, later receiving the Alumni Achievement Award in 1988. After he passed in 1989, Margaret Richardson made an investment to the UA in support of cardiovascular research.

Later in 2008, after a family member's health scare with cancer, she turned to the UA Cancer Center for support, ultimately providing a donation that would establish an endowment.

In his nominating letter for Richardson, Dr. Joe G. N. "Skip" Garcia, the UA's senior vice president for health sciences, wrote about Richardson: "She is an inspiration whose legacy will transform healthcare."

Photography by Bob Demers/UANews

Margaret Richardson was honored by UA President Ann Weaver Hart with a Humane Letters Honorary Degree in April 2016.

University Relations - Communications |Categories: Campus NewsTodayTags: Commencement