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Carbon Mineral Discovery Program Invites Public

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 12:35pm
Extra Info: 

Carbon Mineral Challenge

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

UA Department of Geosciences

RRUFF Project

Deep Carbon Observatory

Story Contacts: 

Researcher contact:

Barbara Lafuente

UA Department of Geosciences

Media contact:

Alicia Saposnik

UA Department of Geosciences


UA geoscientists are part of the hunt for new carbon-containing minerals and will be at the Carbon Mineral Challenge booth this week at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

University of Arizona geoscientists are part of the Carbon Mineral Challenge, which calls on amateur and professional mineral collectors to hunt for new carbon-based minerals.

To help mineral enthusiasts from the community get started in the challenge, UA geosciences researchers will join their Carbon Mineral Challenge colleagues at the program’s booth at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The booth will be at the Tucson Convention Center, Thursday through Sunday.

"We encourage anyone interested to come to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show to talk to us and pick up some free materials that will help them get started on the challenge," said Barbara Lafuente, UA geosciences doctoral candidate and Carbon Mineral Challenge team member. "We’re excited to connect with the mineral collecting community and discover some new minerals together."

Lafuente works on the UA Department of Geosciences’ open-access mineralogical database, the RRUFF Project. Data from the project was used to predict that there are 145 yet-undiscovered carbon minerals.

The graphite used as pencil lead, the calcite that makes up sea shells, and diamonds are some of the 406 carbon minerals currently known to mineralogists.

Scientists are particularly interested in carbon minerals, because carbon is necessary for life on Earth. Any new carbon minerals people discover will expand our understanding of Earth’s unique composition.

Up until now, minerals have been discovered primarily by chance. The Carbon Mineral Challenge’s targeted search is an entirely new approach to mineral discovery. The challenge is sponsored by the Deep Carbon Observatory based at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

"There is the potential to find carbon minerals as interesting or even more interesting than the ones we know," Lafuente said. "We hope that we’ll discover a few carbon minerals we didn’t predict that will surprise us and tell us something new about the chemistry of carbon and the array of environments possible on Earth."

Robert Downs, UA professor of geosciences, curator of the UA Mineral Museum and member of the Carbon Mineral Challenge advisory board, said, "With the data we have from the RRUFF Project, we started seeing statistical trends. The first thing we realized is that minerals have a distribution that is mathematically similar to the distribution of words in a book."

Statistics-based prediction models already are used for things such as predicting or identifying words that are used by a particular writer. Until now, these models have not been applied to mineralogy.

"Part of the Carbon Mineral Challenge is to put this predicting to the test," said Downs, lead investigator on the RRUFF Project. "Can we find things that we otherwise didn’t know we’d find?"

UA Department of Geosciences researchers, laboratories and the department’s UA Mineral Museum are providing expertise in analyzing samples submitted during the challenge.

Daniel Hummer of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and principal investigator of the challenge, said, "To find, characterize and verify the minerals, we want to be able to do a variety of tests in an efficient and conclusive way. Robert Downs’ lab is perfectly set up for this: That’s what they specialize in.

"If we find carbon in combination with different elements or bonding in ways that we hadn’t known of before, that will tell us something more about the Earth and how it has evolved over time," Hummer said.

The Carbon Mineral Challenge will continue until September 2019. The Deep Carbon Observatory will publicly recognize each discovery as it happens and celebrate the final suite of newly discovered carbon minerals at the culmination of its program in late 2019. 

Category(s): Science and TechnologyAlicia Saposnik February 8, 2016UA Department of Geosciences

Valentine's Day Plus Shakespeare Equals Love, UA Style

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 12:18pm
University Relations - Communications |Today

William Shakespeare gave the world some of its most lasting love stories. 

This Valentine's Day, as the University of Arizona prepares to offer public access to view Shakespeare's First Folio, we asked students, employees and alumni to share their own love stories, and here are six of them:

Dove Mittelman Buppert and Matthew Buppert

Photo: Ryanne Bee Photography

The now-Bupperts were working at the UA Bookstores when they met. Dove Mittelman Bupperts tells the story that, at the time, Matthew Bupperts was considering work elsewhere, but a friend told him to stay at the bookstore, expecting that the two would grow closer.

He recalled: "The first words she ever said to me were, 'You're Matt? I hear we're going to be best friends forever.'"

The first time Matthew took Dove to Santa Barbara, California, to meet his parents, she said she thought: "We are definitely getting married here." At the time, the two had been dating for four months.

After graduating from the UA (Matthew in 2007 from the Eller College of Management, Dove in 2008 with a degree in communication), they moved to Phoenix and have since supported each other "through big moves, new jobs, ice cream flavor selections and Friday night Netflix movie picks," Dove said.

Eventually, Matthew proposed. The Bupperts have been together for nine years and were married on Sept. 19, 2015, in Santa Barbara.

Chris Sogge and Eddie Soto

Sogge and Soto met about four years ago during what was then an LGBTQ campus social club called SPRITE.

The two had been friends for five months "and fell into a relationship naturally," said Sogge, a graduate student in the UA's Center for the Study of Higher Education.

One of Sogge's favorite memories of the two came during a trip to Flagstaff to visit his family.

"After a nice hike in Sedona and some local dinner, we drove up to the top of Mars Hill to watch the stars. Flagstaff is where Pluto was discovered, so the skies are incredibly pristine and awesome," Sogge said. "We stayed in the car with the hatch open, listening to music, and watching falling stars until I lost track of time. Seeing the sky makes me feel so small compared to the infinite vastness of the universe, but I also felt infinite with Eddie by my side."

Sogge graduates from the UA in May; Soto graduated last year from the UA with a degree in neuroscience.

"Here is to four years of support, love, challenging me to grow, and to many, many more years to come," Sogge said.

Ginger Hunt and James Hunt

In March 2016, Ginger and her husband, James, will celebrate their 15-year anniversary.

The two met nearly 30 years ago in Huntsville, Alabama, at the U.S. Space Camp while in the eighth grade.

"It was love at first sight," said Ginger, an instructional designer in the UA Office of Digital Learning. James was from Boston and she was living in Des Moines.

"The day I left Space Academy broke my heart. Over the next year, we saw each other once. We spoke on the phone once a week. We mailed actual letters to each other via USPS. The relationship lasted one year. It disappeared due to distance. We sent a few letters during college, but the circumstances weren’t quite right. 

"In 2000, as a K-12 teacher, I was preparing to chaperone eight of my middle-school students to Space Academy. I wondered what happened to that boy I couldn't forget from Boston. At the same time, my now mother-in-law suggested he call that girl from Iowa. He did."

It had been 12 years since the two had spoken. The first conversation lasted four hours.

"We never missed another day with each other," Ginger said. Today, the couple have two children, two pups "and an amazing life."

Photo: The Zimmers

Carrie Hardesty and Matt Johnson

At the end of a workday in August 2015, Johnson picked up Hardesty from her UA office, where she works as a health educator for Campus Health Service, telling her that had heard about an evening at the McKale Center. He coaxed her into attending.

After parking near the facility, they walked toward McKale, hearing the Pride of Arizona practicing in the distance. As season-ticket holders, the two were regulars at the facility. Johnson led Hardesty through the same doors they went through during the basketball season. 

He began talking about what a special place McKale was to both of them, and how it held so many memories of their six-plus years together. He then turned his attention to her, expressing his love and appreciation.

"He then got down on one knee," Hardesty recalled. "He pulled a black box out of his boot and opened it to reveal a beautiful ring."

Stunned, Hardesty did not know what to say. Johnson pulled her into a hug.

"Carrie, you haven't said anything," he said, to which she responded with a "yes." Hardesty recalls that, at that moment, the Pride of Arizona coincidentally erupted into a cheer.

Hardesty graduated from the UA in 2010 with a degree in health education. Johnson graduated in 2011 with a degree in public management and policy. The two will wed in Tucson in September 2016.

Shelly Black and Chris Black

Shelly and her husband, Chris, fell in love through a shared appreciation for the Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67 by Dmitri Shostakovich, a Russian composer.

"I met my significant other at a gig where he was performing on violin," said Shelly, an associate marketing specialist for UA Libraries. "After it ended, we began chatting, and discovered that we both had a current fascination with the piano trio. It was serendipitous."

The two married about six months later, "and my husband rearranged that Shostakovich piece to be played at our ceremony."

Heather Ballard and Dan Ballard

The Ballards met at the UA in 1997 while both were working as lifeguards at the Student Recreation Center.

"Ever ambitious, she quickly became my boss," said Dan, who graduated from the UA in 1999 with a degree in accounting.

"We became great friends," he said.

Although they dated other people for a while, Dan said, "I think that we always knew deep down that if we ever got together, we would end up getting married. At least I did."

Heather graduated in 1999 with a degree in molecular and cellular biology, and they married in 2001. They now have four children — or future Wildcats, as Dan likes to say.

"She's my best memory from the UA, and the best thing that ever happened to me," he says. "I am forever grateful to the University for bringing us together."

UA Libraries also is collecting narrations of love, with readers sharing their favorite quotes from Shakespeare:

Study Debunks Notions About Native Americans, Alcohol

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 9:28pm
Extra Info: 

The Native American Research and Training Center was established in 1983 to serve as a resource in health-related research and training for Native American communities nationwide. Because of the center’s commitment to the realization of self-determination, one of the primary objectives of the center is to promote active participation and partnership with Native communities in all of the center’s activities. For more information:

Story Contacts: 

Jane Erikson

UA College of Medicine – Tucson


Native Americans are more likely to abstain from alcohol than whites are, and heavy drinking and binge drinking rates are about the same for both groups, according to a UA study.

In contrast to enduring stories about extraordinarily high rates of alcohol abuse among Native Americans, University of Arizona researchers have found that Native Americans’ binge and heavy drinking rates actually match those of whites. The groups differed regarding abstinence: Native Americans were more likely to abstain from alcohol use.

The UA study, published online Monday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was conducted by James K. Cunningham, lead author, a U.S. Fulbright scholar and social epidemiologist with the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine and the UA Native American Research and Training Center; Teshia A. Solomon (Choctaw), director of the Native American Research and Training Center; and Dr. Myra Muramoto, head of Family and Community Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. The survey, called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The UA study also used another nationally representative survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to measure how often Native Americans and whites engaged in excessive drinking in the past month. Again, findings for the two groups were comparable.

About 17 percent of both Native Americans and whites were found to be binge drinkers, and about 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one to four days in the past month. Heavy drinking was five or more drinks on five or more days in the past month. Sixty percent of Native Americans reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.

"Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn’t mean that alcohol problems don’t exist," Cunningham said. "All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.

"But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors."

Solomon noted that comparable rates of alcohol use do not necessarily result in comparable rates of alcohol-related health problems. "Native Americans as a group have less access to medical care, safe housing and quality food, which can amplify health problems connected to alcohol," she said.

"Negative stereotyping of groups of people who have less access to health care creates even more health disparities," Muramoto said. "Based on a false negative stereotype, some health care providers may inaccurately attribute a presenting health problem to alcohol use and fail to appropriately diagnose and treat the problem."

The researchers feel that their study could impact beliefs about Native Americans’ alcohol use.

"It’s our hope that the media — movies, television, newspapers, radio, Internet — will represent Native American alcohol use more accurately," Cunningham said. "It’s time to let the myths about elevated drinking fade away."

A summary of the report, "Alcohol use among Native Americans compared to whites: Examining the veracity of the 'Native American elevated alcohol consumption' belief," can be accessed here.

Category(s): HealthJane EriksonFebruary 8, 2016UA College of Medicine – Tucson

UA Awarded $1.5M Grant to Improve Rural Hospitals

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 12:44pm
Extra Info: 

What Is a Critical Access Hospital?

A Critical Access Hospital, or CAH, is a rural acute care hospital having no more than 25 inpatient beds. The CAH must not exceed a 96-hour length of stay and will have agreements, contracts or affiliations for transfer and services. CAHs also must offer 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency care and must be located more than a 35-mile drive from any other hospital or CAH (in mountainous terrain or in areas with only secondary roads available, the mileage criterion is 15 miles). For more information about Arizona CAHs, visit

About the Center for Rural Health

The Center for Rural Health at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health serves Arizona through its mission to improve the health and wellness of rural and vulnerable populations. Established as the Rural Health Office in 1981 with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it coordinates statewide rural health initiatives. Center staff, faculty and collaborators have expertise in population, rural and border health; rural and critical access hospitals; community health centers including rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers; health workforce assessment, planning and policy development; community engagement; service-learning training; practice-based research; and rural health policy development, implementation and assessment. For more information:

The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health's Center for Rural Health will use the funding to provide training and information to 14 Critical Access Hospitals, 21 Rural Health Clinics, and a statewide network of primary care, trauma and EMS workers.

The Center for Rural Health, or CRH, at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has been awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration to support the Arizona Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program. AzFlex provides quality, operational and performance improvement in Arizona’s rural hospitals and affiliated outpatient services.

Arizona’s 14 Critical Access Hospitals and 21 Rural Health Clinics play crucial roles in assuring access to quality health care, improving population health outcomes and contributing to a community’s overall economic health and development. The AzFlex program provides technical assistance, training and information resources for Arizona’s Critical Access Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics and a statewide network of rural primary care, trauma and emergency medical services providers.

The AzFlex work plan for the next three years has four program areas: quality improvement; financial and operational improvement; population health management and EMS integration; and Critical Access Hospital designation in Arizona.

"The Center for Rural Health is ideally suited to carry out this important work in Arizona’s rural communities," said Dr. Daniel Derksen, director of the CRH and principal investigator for the grant.

The CRH also houses the Navigator Consortium, the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program and the State Office of Rural Health.

"While our Critical Access Hospitals’ fiscal performance improved in 2014, we face new threats," said Jill Bullock, CRH associate director and AzFlex program manager.

Some of the threats Bullock cites include the 5 percent Medicaid hospital payment cut; lower participation rates in Medicaid and Marketplace coverage in rural, Hispanic and American Indian populations served by Arizona’s CAHs and RHCs; new state and federal regulations; and requirements to report on quality, satisfaction and other performance measures.

"Those threats are ominous. Over the last five years, 58 rural hospitals have closed, including one in Douglas where 70 people lost their jobs," said Derksen, who testified on the issues challenging rural hospitals and health services before the health subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means last July.

Category(s): HealthGerri KellyFebruary 5, 2016UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

UA Ranked Highly by Princeton Review

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 11:17am
The publication "Colleges That Pay You Back" places the University among the top 200 for return on investment.

The University of Arizona is one of the nation's top 200 colleges and universities for students seeking a superb education with great career preparation and at an affordable price, according to The Princeton Review.

The education services company features the UA in the 2016 edition of its newly published book, "Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck." The company posted its school profiles for this book and the book's seven categories of ranking lists on its website at

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on return-on-investment ratings it tallied for 650 schools last year. The ratings weighted 40 data points that covered everything from academics, cost and financial aid to graduation rates, student debt, and alumni salaries and job satisfaction. Princeton Review editors culled data from the company's surveys of administrators and students in 2014-2015 and from surveys of school alumni conducted through April 2015.

"Since UA lists co-curricular activities like leadership and club experiences on academic transcripts, employers and graduate schools get a clear picture of students’ skills and levels of engagement on campus," the publication's profile of the UA says.

Category(s): Campus NewsFebruary 3, 2016University Relations – Communications

UA Professor: Independent Voters Hide Partisan Disdain

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 3:59pm
Extra Info: 

In March, Samara Klar will be at two events at the Tucson Festival of Books, speaking about her new book and the state of American politics:

  • "Race in America: Changing Cultural Landscapes," Sunday, March 13, 2:30 p.m., Student Union Gallagher Theatre
  • "The Direction of Democracy, " Sunday, March 13, 4 p.m., Student Union Gallagher Theatre
Story Contacts: 

Samara Klar

UA School of Government and Public Policy


The popularity of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and the rise in independent identification reflect the frustration of the American electorate, says Samara Klar, co-author of a new book.

People who are surprised at the rise of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders shouldn’t be, according to Samara Klar, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy.

Trump, a Republican, and Sanders, a Democrat, are both anti-establishment candidates who appeal to voters tired of the machinations of political parties, even their own.

This frustration with politics as usual also is reflected in the fact that more Americans now identify as independents than as either Democrats or Republicans. The Gallup Organization tracks independents at 42 percent — the highest percentage in more than 75 years of polling.

In their new book, "Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction," Klar and Yanna Krupnikov, assistant professor of political science at Stony Brook University, delve deeper into the identity and motivation of independents.

The media tend to describe independents as pivotal for electoral outcomes, as if the independent voter is carefully weighing the pros and cons of the candidates in both parties.

However, although some independents (around 13 percent) won’t express a preferred party — these people are usually disenfranchised and often don’t vote — the rest are actually closeted partisans.

"We started to think, 'Why?'" Klar said. "Why does someone who is voting for the same party every year say they are independent? There has to be something that is motivating them to do that."

Embarrassed by Party Affiliation

Through experiments and large-scale surveys, the researchers discovered that many Americans are embarrassed by their political party and do not wish to be associated with either side. Instead, they intentionally mask their party preference, especially in social situations.

Klar and Krupnikov found that Americans view independent voters as more likeable, trustworthy and physically attractive than Democrats or Republicans. They are preferred over partisans as discussion partners and workplace colleagues.

"Much of what people see in the news about the parties is ugly," Klar said. "Candidates are angry, and party activists often seem stubborn and aggressive. As a result, it makes sense to tell people you are independent."

They found that the more that people hear about disagreements between Democrats and Republicans, the worse they feel about the parties. They also found that people are just as frustrated with partisan disagreement among voters (rampant on social media platforms such as Facebook) as they are with partisan disagreement among politicians.

In one experiment, subjects were randomly assigned to read an article about political discord or bipartisan agreement. Those who read about political disagreement were more likely to say they were independents.

In another study, which was designed by students in Klar’s spring 2014 course "Methods of Political Inquiry," students went around Tucson and randomly assigned respondents to complete one of three surveys. The only difference between the surveys was the introduction: One commented on the battling between the parties (negative statement), one commented on how both parties were presenting their issues (positive statement) and one had no introduction. At the end of the survey, participants were offered an eagle sticker, a Democratic Party sticker or a Republican Party sticker. 

"Students found that when subjects read a sentence about parties fighting, they became significantly more likely to select the eagle sticker," Klar said. "When they read the survey that began with the positive sentence, they became more likely to take either the Democratic or Republican sticker."

Political scientists actually discovered in the 1990s that most independents are really partisans and wrote them off as inconsequential. Klar and Krupnikov, on the other hand, believe they are very important and that they impact the outcome of elections in unanticipated ways.

Reluctant to Declare, Volunteer

According to Klar, the same motivation that leads people to identify as independent also diminishes their willingness to engage in any form of political action, such as putting up yard signs and volunteering for campaigns. Although such independents may vote for their preferred party, they will most likely stay mum on political candidates and issues.

"As a result, elections become saturated with the voices of those who have no problem proclaiming their partisanship loudly, which in many cases are the people with the most extreme positions," Klar said.

Fueling the growth in independents is the increasingly negative focus of news coverage, created in part by the 24-hour news cycle.

"Of course, the media isn’t pulling this ugly image from thin air — the parties provide ample fodder for all the drama," Klar said.

Indeed, the researchers found that the language used by presidential candidates during debates has become more antagonistic over time.

At the same time, Klar said that political parties are more polarized than the actual population.

"I do an exercise with my students every semester where I ask for their party identification and their position on various issues," she said. "We see Democrats and Republicans tend to agree on a lot of things. They are much closer than they think they are. And this is something we see nationally, not just with college students.

"The fact that so many Americans are ashamed to admit their partisanship says something important about the state of American politics and should give both parties a reason to do some serious soul searching."

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationLori HarwoodFebruary 2, 2016UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Haury Grants Aim to Strengthen Community

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 3:01pm
Extra Info: 

The finalists for the Haury challenge grant are Karletta Chief, Soil, Water and Environmental Science, and Paloma Beamer, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, for their project, "K’é bee da’ahiiniita: Strength Through the Navajo Clan System to Respond to the Gold King Mine Spill"; Sallie Marston, School of Geography and Development, for "Sowing Social and Environmental Justice Through School Gardens"; and Ann Marie Wolf for "Promoting Social Equity Through Community Energy Projects."

The grant will fund one project at $200,000 per year for three years. The recipient will be announced during a presentation of the three proposals on April 19.

Story Contacts: 

Anna Spitz

UA Institute of the Environment


The first round of competitive grants awarded by the UA’s Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice recognizes projects that answer specific problems with inspiring solutions.

Four teams of University of Arizona researchers and community partners have received seed grants to help people marginalized in society adapt to environmental threats, including climate change and food insecurity.

In addition to announcing its seed grant awards, the UA’s Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environmental and Social Justice also named three finalists for its challenge grant, which calls on interdisciplinary teams of researchers and community members to create systemic and transformational changes for society and the environment. The challenge grant will fund one project at $200,000 per year for three years. The selected team will be announced during a presentation of the three proposals on April 19.

"We are very excited about the quality of the UA-community team projects the Haury program is funding this year," said Anna Spitz, who directs the program. "The four seed projects will contribute to solutions in areas of food security, resilience to climate change and increasing the voice of underrepresented communities. The challenge grant finalists focus on programs that tackle 'wicked' problems facing underserved communities in the Southwest."

Seed Grants Germinate New Solutions

The grant applications underwent a rigorous review process; each proposal was evaluated for evidence of a relevant, applicable and socially just solution to environmental problems. The proposal teams needed to demonstrate authentic UA-community partnerships and the potential positive impact for the community. The seed grants range from $25,000 to $30,000 per year for up to two years.

Stephanie Buechler and Daoquin Tong, both faculty members in the School of Geography and Development, were awarded nearly $50,000 for their two-year project, "Greening the Food Deserts of Tucson, Arizona."

Buechler describes a food desert as an area located more than a mile from the nearest grocery store. With food-stamp beneficiaries at their highest level in history, and Tucson ranked as the sixth-poorest U.S. metro area, the city is especially vulnerable to health and well-being issues associated with food, she said.

"Our project will examine how community gardens can address these food access and security problems," Buechler said.

The team plans to work with local organizations to provide necessary technologies for a new community garden for the low-income disabled, bolster resources for existing community gardens and create a network among these organizations in support of the gardens.

The project also seeks to "green" Tucson in the face of climate change. The gardens will work to combat the urban heat island effect, in which areas with dense concentrations of asphalt and buildings are warmer than surrounding areas with more natural landscapes.

"For us, a greened food desert is multidimensional. It will include the planting of native plants, installation of rainwater harvesting systems and the organization of gardens and gardeners around the sharing of labor, knowledge and produce so that no food goes to waste," Buechler said.

Supporting Health and Heritage

The Sonora Environmental Research Institute Inc. was awarded $25,000 to increase community resilience and raise awareness about climate change and sustainability in underserved neighborhoods. The project, led by Ann Marie Wolf, will develop a certificate program on climate change for promotoras, trained Hispanic or Latino community members who visit homes, schools and businesses to provide health and environmental education.

“We have been working in southern metropolitan Tucson for over 10 years and have conducted over 4,000 home visits," she said. "Unfortunately, many of the families we visit lack knowledge regarding climate change and have pre-existing vulnerabilities, including poor housing, environmental conditions and economic instability."

The seed grant funding will help the promotora program expand to fill these needs and also will fund the installation of a community rainwater harvesting demonstration site.

Other seed grant awardees include Maribel Alvarez, an associate researcher in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Southwest Folk Alliance. Her Yaqui Ancestral Wheat and Foodways Project will build cultural, economic and environmental strength around Yaqui heritage foods such as white Sonora wheat, provide cooking workshops and help build an artisanal market around traditional Yaqui food.

The UA Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center, working with the Ak-Chin Indian community, Tohono O’odham Nation and Baboquivari High School, also has been awarded $60,000 over two years to develop Engaging Indigenous Voices, a program that publishes an educational magazine on environment challenges and solutions faced by indigenous communities. The magazine is distributed to tribes around the country and includes articles from tribal high schools.

"These first competitive grant awards are a milestone for the Agnese Nelms Haury Program," Spitz said. "They launch our annual process of grant making with an emphasis on university-community partnership as the best investment we can make to create a just and sustainable society."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyPaulina JenneyFebruary 2, 2016UA Institute of the Environment

With UA Grass, Golf Courses Could See 2 Kinds of Green

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 2:52pm
Story Contacts: 

Dave Kopec

UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


A new turfgrass is being tested that would retain its color longer — and potentially keep courses from having to perform costly overseeding procedures in the fall, enhancing their bottom line.

Dave Kopec places a blade of grass between his teeth while he contemplates a question from a visitor to the University of Arizona's Karsten Turfgrass Research Facility. The guest is asking about the care and feeding of turf, the kind that carpets golf courses throughout the Southwest, including Tucson.

Kopec, a turfgrass specialist at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, grew up decades ago in New York City public housing, where signs implored him and his friends to stay off the grass. As it turns out, Kopec has spent his life doing anything but that. 

Recently, Kopec has been on the hunt for a type of grass that will stay green longer than those now in use. That is, he has been looking for a type of turf that will retain its color into December, so golf courses and other sports facilities might not have to overseed in the fall.

"This way the (golf course) superintendents would have a green surface that avoids overseeding the Bermuda grass in the fall," Kopec says. "That’s the time of year they have to slow down the Bermuda grass, prepare it to receive seed, put rye grass on top of it, germinate it, and have a growing period when you can’t walk on it. So there’s down time."

Kopec strolls across a patchwork of 36-square-foot sodded squares, each an experimental plot containing a specific species or experimental line of grass. Half the squares are the color of straw; the others are assorted shades of green. This is the grasses’ third year at the station, with two years to go.

"The straw-colored ones are the predominant grass we use in the summertime," Kopec says. "They’re asleep this time of the year when the temperatures drop below 50 at night, and below 40, and lately below 30. They turn to straw color because the leafs have stopped photosynthesizing, and the sugars inside the leaves turn to starch. People think these grasses are dead, but they’re not."

Kopec gestures toward two of the squares, both the color of sage. "These are Zoysia grasses," he says.

So far, the Zoysia, which originates from East Asia and the South Pacific, is staying greener longer than most of the station’s Bermuda grasses. What’s more, these same grasses are being tested in a half-dozen other locations to give researchers more information about where the grasses do best.  

"If we could find a grass that lasts into December and goes to sleep at that point, we would only have four to six weeks of down time, especially in the Phoenix area, where it’s warmer and these grasses could be green 48 weeks of the year," Kopec says. "So far, some of the grasses are holding their color even after the very low temperatures in the 20s during the last five days. So, if we had a grass that stayed green for 46-48 weeks of the year, that might be an attractive alternative to overseeding."

Overseeding is costly, time consuming and labor intensive.

Wally Dowe knows firsthand about that. Dowe is director of golf course maintenance at The Lodge at Ventana Canyon. 

"If someone could create or find a grass that did not require winter overseeding, it would greatly save facilities money and resources as well as water," Dowe says.

"A general cost for us is somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000 to $300,000, and that includes rye-grass seed, the labor and water. And if you took into account the (lost) revenue because we obviously have to close, that could probably add another $75,000 to $100,000." 

The Karsten facility is recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Turf grass Evaluation Program, or NTEP, which sponsors trials for different species across the country. Tests last five or six years because the grasses have to be established and tested to see if they can tolerate the constant mowing stress and diseases that can develop. These effects typically don’t show up for three or four years, Kopec says.

"Also, they’re a perennial crop, so you can’t look at them for just one year to figure out if something is going to work," he says. "These tests are designed to address the needs of using less water under very special soil and weather conditions for the people who grow turf in Arizona."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyRobin TricolesFebruary 3, 2016University Relations - Communications

UA Extends Its Reach Into Tucson Community

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 11:45am
Extra Info: 

UA Libraries has partnered with Pima County Public Library to present an outdoor screening of "Herb and Dorothy 50x50" at Bike-In Movie Night, a film about a couple who built a world-class art collection on their humble salaries and would eventually donate a total of 2,500 artworks to museums in all 50 states. Attendees are encouraged ride bikes to Jacome Plaza, in front of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library. The family-friendly event is being offered as part of 2nd Saturdays Downtown Tucson.

When: Feb. 13, 6-7:30 p.m. Where: Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave.In addition to UA Downtown, Studio 44 and La Búsqueda are among the University's new spaces and programs in the city's center.

While the University of Arizona's main campus is the undisputed hub for the plethora of research and teaching that anchor its mission, numerous units are extending into downtown Tucson, maintaining a more regular and — in some cases — permanent presence in the city's center.

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is reaching further into the community, not just to provide lectures but also to collaborate and work on solutions to regional and global problems.

Other units, including the UA Libraries and College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, are among those introducing programming and educational and social spaces downtown.

The UA Libraries has partnered with the Pima County Public Library to present an outdoor screening of "Herb and Dorothy 50x50" at Bike-In Movie Night, chronicling the lives of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, who built a world-class art collection on their humble salaries, eventually donating thousands of artworks to museums in all 50 states.

The screening, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, is the UA Libraries' first time participating in Tucson’s 2nd Saturdays Downtown. The family-friendly event will be held at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave., and is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to ride their bikes.

"It's a perfect Tucson partnership, bringing the Pima County Public Library and University of Arizona Libraries together," said Amy Rusk, library services manager for Pima County Public Library. "This community and its libraries thrive because of the support for art, education and collaboration."

Also downtown is the Sustainable City Project, an interdisciplinary collaboration among the UA's Institute of the Environment, the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Based at UA Downtown, located in the Roy Place Building, the Sustainable City Project is a hybrid think tank, urban design studio and community forum designed to develop community-based solutions to urban challenges, such as renewable energy, economic development and affordable housing, among other pressing issues.

And, thanks to donor support, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences now has properties that will help expand its outreach, research and teaching capabilities: Studio 44 and La Búsqueda.

"The College of SBS has expanded into downtown Tucson because we believe the UA should play an important role in developing a vibrant city core," said John Paul Jones III, dean of the college. "This expansion would not be possible without the generous donations of community members who latched onto our vision for a downtown hub that would expand our educational outreach and help strengthen partnerships with the community."

Studio 44 will serve as a short-term residential space for visiting faculty and also be the site for seminars and Downtown Lecture Series receptions and a location for donor, faculty and staff meetings. It is located at 44 E. Broadway.

La Búsqueda ("the search" in Spanish) will serve as a space to host scholars, visitors and members of the community engaged in Southwest-focused studies in the humanities, while also creating solutions to humanistic problems.

"La Búsqueda will provide the physical and intellectual space for thoughtful critical inquiry and discourse," said J.C. Mutchler, an associate research historian at the UA Southwest Center, who received a $500,000 National Endowment of the Humanities challenge grant to establish the center.

The UA is raising $1.5 million in matching non-federal funds for La Búsqueda, and the Southwest Center already has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars toward that end.

"I believe it will catalyze Southwest-focused humanities research relevant to both academics and the public for decades to come," Mutchler said.

Lori Harwood, director of external relations for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Jane Prescott-Smith, special assistant to the dean of the UA Libraries, contributed to this article.

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationFebruary 8, 2016University Relations - Communications

Women in Shakespeare: It’s Complicated

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 9:48am
What:  Meg Lota Brown on "Shakespeare’s Women"When: Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. Where: UA Libraries, Special Collections, 1510 E. University Blvd.If you were planning to ask UA professor Meg Lota Brown about whether Shakespeare is a feminist, don’t. The answer is as complex as the society he lived in.

In William Shakespeare's "As You Like It," Rosalind famously cross-dresses as a man to learn more about the man she loves, to teach him how to be a better lover and to protect herself from other males. She's smart and subversive, like many of the women in Shakespeare's 36 First Folio plays.

But if you were to ask University of Arizona English professor Meg Lota Brown if Shakespeare was a feminist, don't.

"That's a weirdly uninteresting question," she says with a smile.

"To ask if he's a feminist is to say, 'Which toggle switch is it? Yes or no?' Shakespeare was less interested in 'yes or no' than he was in the vast area in between. He was fascinated with the messiness of human nature and the variety of human potential — whether man or woman. His characterization was always multifaceted, and poignant, and insightful."

Basically, he's complicated, and so was the society he lived in.

Shakespeare's original works, preserved in the 1623 First Folio, will be on exhibition at the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona from Feb. 15 to March 15, and Brown will give a talk on Tuesday about Shakespeare's women. 

According to Brown, in many ways the Renaissance was not all that different from 2016: "As is the case now, the Renaissance was a time of incredible instability: social, economic, religious, political, scientific. Just cultural instability."

Women had the legal status of property. "Like tables and pigs," Brown says.

They were defined by the man they belonged to. For unmarried women, this was their father; for married women, their husband. In courts, they had the same status as children, imbeciles and peasants.  

And yet, women such as Desdemona in "Othello," Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" and Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" — and numerous other women Shakespeare depicted — were significant.

"In a culture that legally defined women as property on the grounds of their inferiority, many of Shakespeare’s most vividly complex, powerful, subversive and intelligent characters were women," Brown says.

However, "there are many ways to read his work," she adds. "It's like the Bible. You can find evidence to support contradictory positions in the Bible."

And while some call Shakespeare a radical feminist and others a sexist pig, to Brown it’s the way Shakespeare engages the contradictions that’s so interesting.

"It's not that women are simply an ideological petri dish," she says. "(Shakespeare's women) couldn't have the depth and the range that they do if they were just an intellectual arena for investigating an idea."

Shakespeare, she argues, both reinforces (by marrying and killing off some of his most powerful female characters) and subverts (by creating powerful women in the first place) his culture's assumptions about gender.

"We are all untidy — not just one thing or the other — and Shakespeare was very good at exploring the three-dimensionality of people as well as culture," Brown says.

Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesEmily LitvackFebruary 5, 2016UA Office of Research & Discovery

Sundance Participants Include UA Faculty, Alumnus

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 9:48am
La Monica Everett-Haynes |Today

"The Bad Kids," edited by University of Arizona faculty member and award-winning film editor and producer Jacob Bricca, was among the documentaries to have a world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving multiple screenings with wait lists.

Bricca, an assistant professor in the UA School of Theatre Film & Television, served as the primary editor for the documentary film by directors Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe. The film follows the lives of impoverished students attending a progressive program at a high school in California's Mojave Desert whose principal, Vonda Viland, has the philosophy that at-risk youth can be academically successful when they receive love and compassion.

The film was one of 16 documentaries selected for the U.S. Documentary Competition.

"This is a big honor, as this list of films often has strong overlap with the short list of documentaries selected as nominees for the Best Documentary Oscar the following year," said Bricca, who was in attendance at Sundance and has edited more than a dozen feature films. It is his first experience attending Sundance as an exhibiting filmmaker. "It was terrific."

Jacob Bricca with his assistant editor, Bill Hilferty, at Sundance. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Bricca)

Bricca, who lives in Tucson, worked mostly remotely on the film with the Los Angeles-based directors. As the primarily editor, Bricca worked with editor Mary Lampson, whose credits include the Academy Award-winning "Harlan County, USA."

"When I started work on the project, the directors built several weeks into the schedule for me to simply watch and digest the footage. This is a crucial first step in a project like this, which is at least as much about themes and tones as it is about narrative development," said Bricca, whose credits include the international theatrical film "Lost in La Mancha" starting Terry Gilliam and Johnny Depp, and also "Pure," which premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival. 

Bricca noted that empathy, family, poetry, triage and moasic were some of the main concepts that came to define "The Bad Kids."

Related to the theme of the mosaic, he said the team "wanted to build a tapestry that showed the experience of many, many students, rather than focusing exclusively on the stories of a few."

While the stories and experiences carried tremendous emotion and depth, Bricca said that, ultimately, the best scenes turned out to be the most simple and helped contribute to the uniqueness of the film.

"The approach of the filmmakers was a very pure one. They wanted to build a portrait of a place, and so they confined their shooting almost exclusively to Black Rock High School," he said. "They worked in the true cinema verité tradition, in which you immerse yourself in a community and find the story with footage of the human interactions around you, rather than relying on interviews to explain things to an audience.  This was tremendously exciting."

The Egyptian Theatre, one of the venues at Sundance. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Bricca)

"Intimate vérité camerawork and poetic, stylized sequences create an immersive, emotional experience that gives way to not just information, but also insight about America’s most pressing education problem: poverty," the Sundance Institute noted in its assessment of the film. "'The Bad Kids' is that rare documentary whose power emerges as much from its exquisite artistry as its crucial content."

In addition to his film work, Bricca teaches classes on editing and documentary and narrative filmmaking, and he is currently working on a book, "Documentary Editing: Concrete Strategies for Building Structure in Non-Fiction Films," to be released by Focal Press in 2017. The book will detail strategies for editing toward the completion of a full documentary.

Also at Sundance this year was UA alumnus James J. Jefferies, who was there for the first time. 

Since graduating from the UA in 2011 with degrees in political science and media arts producing, Jefferies covered local happenings for Downtown Tucson Partnership, a nonprofit. He also co-directed, wrote and produced an animated pilot for cable television's popular show, "Adult Swim." He also produced a Foto-Kem New Filmmaker Award-winning thesis film after receiving the UA School of Theatre Film & Television's Outstanding Senior award.

Jefferies is serving as an industry guest, scouting for short and feature-length narrative films and also documentaries to be shown at Aspen Shortsfest (North America's premier shorts-only festival, also an Academy Award-qualifying festival) and Aspen Filmfest.

"The thrill of discovery, and knowing you found something special that you think will entertain, enlighten or educate an audience you've come to know, as I have over the last 18 months, is definitely an addictive thing for a cinephile," said Jefferies, currently a programmer and programming coordinator for Aspen Film, having joined the organization in 2014.

"The sheer variety of films on display is very, very impressive. I saw everything from heart-wrenching docs to skillfully made teen LGBT indie romances to completely crazy midnight genre films and everything in between at Sundance," he said. "The technical quality of the presentation and the intensity of the rapt audiences here, amid the snow-capped beauty of Park City, is definitely special." 

Anticipation Builds for OSIRIS-REx Launch This Year

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:20pm
Story Contacts: 

Erin Morton

UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory


The UA's leading-edge work in space exploration will come into sharp focus as final preparations are made for the September launch of NASA's asteroid sample return mission. The UA-built camera suite, OCAMS, sits on a test bench that mimics its arrangement on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The three cameras that compose the instrument — MapCam (left), PolyCam and SamCam — are the eyes of the mission. They will map the asteroid Bennu, help choose a sample site and ensure that the sample is correctly stowed on the spacecraft. (Photo: Symeon Platts/UA) PLANETARY SCIENCE

What does OSIRIS-REx stand for?
Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.

What do we hope to learn from the mission?
Clues to the origin of the solar system and the possibility of life beyond Earth. “The most fundamental questions we ask ourselves are: Where did we come from? And are we alone?” says the mission’s principal investigator, Dante Lauretta.

Where is a good place to learn more about OSIRIS-REx and follow the mission’s developments?
The best Internet sites are or

Dynasties are built by sustained success, which in turn creates a lasting reputation for excellence. Their greatness is measured in decades. They are not one-hit wonders or flashes in the pan.

Some require minimal introduction: The New York Yankees. The Rockefellers. MGM.

Of a lower public profile is the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, a dynasty in the exploration of that which lies beyond us. Few outside of Tucson and the planetary science community are aware that LPL has had a hand in nearly every interplanetary spacecraft sent from Earth. From its founding in 1960 by Gerard Kuiper to its growth into a research powerhouse under Michael Drake to the present day, LPL has had a steady stream of successes, including:

  • The detection by Kuiper of carbon dioxide on Mars and methane on Saturn’s moon Titan. The Kuiper belt, home to three dwarf planets, including Pluto, bears his name.
  • The role played by Drake in the Cassini mission to explore Saturn, the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Phoenix Mars Lander mission.
  • The leadership by Peter Smith of the Phoenix mission, the first to be entirely controlled by a university.
  • The discovery by UA graduate student Lujendra Ojah of proof of liquid water on Mars, which made headlines around the world in September.

The new year marks another milestone for the lab — and, by extension, the UA — with the scheduled September launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, a highly anticipated event that will command international attention from media and scientists. It is expected to be the UA’s biggest story of 2016.

The mission’s principal investigator, UA planetary sciences professor Dante Lauretta, is a Tucson native who was a NASA Space Grant intern during his undergraduate years at the University. He later worked as a young assistant professor under Drake’s tutelage, and he has a keen appreciation of what he has inherited.

"A lot of what we do is in his honor," Lauretta says of Drake, who died of cancer in 2011. "He was really dedicated to the science and to student involvement and the inspiration of the next generation.

"This (mission) establishes a range of new capabilities for the University of Arizona."

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to rendezvous with near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 2018 and to return a sample of at least 2.1 ounces of surface material to Earth in 2023.

If that seems like a long time to wait, you don’t know the half of it.

"My journey began back in 2004 when Michael Drake invited me to be the deputy principal investigator," Lauretta says. "We worked together for seven years on proposals and had several rejected before we were accepted in 2010 for a concept study and in 2011 for flight."

The mission is "building on a long legacy of successes in exploring the solar system by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory," he says. "(LPL has) led the scientific exploration of every planet in the solar system. OSIRIS-REx is fortunate to have that expertise to build on."

The spacecraft, now fully assembled, is in the final stages of environmental testing by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, where Lauretta has been spending half of each month. Testing will be completed in March. In mid-May, an Air Force C-17 cargo plane will transport the spacecraft to Cape Canaveral, Florida, in preparation for launch.

Although the mission’s spacecraft operations will be based in Denver, its science operations will be housed at the UA’s Drake Building, whose interior is being remodeled to accommodate an additional 300 people for a period of about 17 months. The team involves scientists from the U.S., Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.

The launch is only the start of a seven-year rocket ride that represents career-defining work for Lauretta, a tribute to his mentor, and a star turn for LPL and the UA.

"It’s an honor and a privilege to lead a program like this," Lauretta says. "This is history in the making. We have a fantastic team that makes me proud every day. I’m passionate about my science and my team."

LPL director Tim Swindle, who knew Drake and works alongside Lauretta, says the lab is up to the challenge — as it always has been.

"LPL has a long history of patience in developing and flying instruments and missions, and OSIRIS-REx is a spectacular example of that," Swindle said. "Mike Drake and Dante Lauretta began working on this mission a dozen years ago, and it will be at least seven more years before the samples return.

"The baton has passed to Dante as PI, and many other key positions have, or will, change personnel before it's all over. But it's a tribute to all of those people that this mission is running smoothly so far, and this year's launch will be one of the most exciting moments of the project."

UANews is exploring six stories to watch as 2016 begins. Previously in this series:

Health & Medicine: The asthma research of Dr. Fernando Martinez 

Big Data: The UA's expanded role in turning data into discovery

Humanities: In February, a visit from Shakespeare's touring First Folio

Environment: UA at the forefront on climate change 

Athletics: Rio Olympics present the ultimate goal for swimmers 

Category(s): Science and TechnologyDoug CarrollJanuary 27, 2016University Relations – Communications

2 Engineering Students Receive Churchill Scholarships

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 10:06am
Extra Info: 

The UA's Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships facilitates the application process for UA students applying for national fellowships and scholarships. To learn more, contact Emily Kotay, scholarship advisor for the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, at 520-621-0162 or

The UA's previous Churchill Scholars were Daniel Fried, a 2014 alumnus who majored in computer science, information science and technology and mathematics and is now pursuing his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, and Diane M. Thomson, a 1994 graduate majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, now associate professor of environmental science at Claremont McKenna College.

Story Contacts: 

Jill Goetz

UA College of Engineering


Karna Walter

UA Honors College


UA students Jeannie Wilkening and Travis Sawyer have been named Churchill Scholars for the 2016-2017 academic year, each receiving one of 15 scholarships awarded nationally.

Two University of Arizona seniors have won prestigious Churchill Scholarships to complete a one-year master's degree program at the University of Cambridge in England.

UA College of Engineering majors Travis Sawyer and Jeannie Wilkening, both students in the Honors College, are two of only 15 Churchill Scholars selected in 2016-2017 for outstanding academic achievement and proven research talent in science, engineering or mathematics. Both are the third and fourth UA students to receive the award since it was first granted by the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States in 1963.

The UA is able to nominate only two students to apply for the Churchill Scholarship each year, and this year is the first time that both UA nominees have been awarded the scholarship.

"It's incredible that both Jeannie and I have received Churchill Scholarships this year," Sawyer said. "I think it speaks to the quality of the engineering program at the UA. I'm looking forward to sharing this experience with a fellow Wildcat engineer."

Churchill Scholarships range from $50,000 to $60,000 and cover a year of tuition and fees at Cambridge University's Churchill College. Scholars also receive travel and living allowances and may get additional funding for presentations at international conferences and visits to other universities.

"Jeannie Wilkening and Travis Sawyer are exceptional, not only for their academic and research achievements, but for their contributions to the UA as College Ambassadors and student chapter leaders," said Jeff Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering. "I have no doubt their future contributions will extend much farther. I am extremely proud of them."

Capturing Magic From Van Gogh’s Paintings

Sawyer is majoring in optical sciences and engineering, a program jointly administered by the College of Optical Sciences and College of Engineering. He is developing visual recognition software using different wavelengths, such as infrared and X-ray, to help scientists capture more detailed images for making discoveries in fields as different as art preservation, astronomy and medicine.

He served on a research team, led by former UA engineering professor Robert Erdmann, which gained worldwide attention in 2014 for using image-processing techniques to help authenticate "Sunset at Montmajour," a long-lost painting by Vincent van Gogh.

Sawyer is particularly interested in biomedical optics. For his master of philosophy, or MPhil, degree in physics, he will conduct research on applying hyperspectral imaging for detecting early-stage cancer with Cambridge scientist Sarah Bohndiek, whose lab is affiliated with the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

"Hyperspectral imaging has the potential to greatly improve our ability to find cancer in its early stages," Sawyer said. "There is still some way to go before it finds clinical application, a crucial step for it becoming a new biomedical technology. I’m hoping to make a significant contribution toward making this happen.”

An Optics Ambassador with a 4.0 grade-point average throughout college, Sawyer came to optics in an unusual way. He was misdiagnosed with leukemia his freshman year and became fascinated with the optical instruments doctors used to examine him and, ultimately, ensure he was healthy.

"Hopefully, I can make a contribution or invent a technology that helps someone in the same way optics helped me," he said.

Sawyer's rising stardom was recognized in 2014 with a $10,000 Astronaut Scholarship, which he won again in 2015 — a first-ever feat at the UA. In 2015, he also won a Goldwater Scholarship, and his UA student team won the Robert S. Hilburn Memorial Optical Design Competition for its camera system to be sent to Saturn’s moon Titan.

Sawyer credits his research mentors for their guidance.

"I was extremely lucky to have several wonderful mentors as an undergraduate, who shaped me into the person and student that I am today. Specifically, Dr. Mahmoud Fallahi, Dr. John Greivenkamp, Dr. Robert Erdmann and Dr. Mike Nofziger have been huge influences in my development as an engineer and researcher," Sawyer said. "My education at the College of Optical Sciences and the research opportunities that I have been afforded have given me a comprehensive understanding of both the physics and engineering involved in developing optical technology, which has prepared me to make an immediate impact."

After Cambridge, Sawyer plans to pursue doctoral and postdoctoral work and establish his own research lab as a university professor.

Engineering for a Healthier Planet

Chemical engineering student Wilkening studies how human activity affects biogeochemical cycles, the movement of water and other compounds through the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. She is particularly interested in how these processes relate to climate change and in developing models for more environmentally sustainable technologies.

As a student researcher in the department of chemical and environmental engineering, she studies how microbes can be used to recover tellurium, a mildly toxic but highly valuable chemical, from industrial waste streams.

For her MPhil in earth sciences, she will conduct research with Cambridge scientist Alexandra Turchyn on carbon, sulfur and iron cycling in marshes and climate implications. 

The Churchill Scholarship is the latest in a string of top honors and internships for Wilkening. She entered the UA as a National Merit Scholar and Flinn Scholar and, like Sawyer, won a Goldwater Scholarship in 2015.

She won a NASA Space Grant and interned at Princeton University and the University of Michigan through the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program. She belongs to the Tau Beta Pi and Omega Chi Epsilon engineering honor societies, is an Ambassador for both the Honors College and the College of Engineering and is president of the UA chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

"Since I was a child, I have been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by great female role models who instilled a passion in me for science and engineering," Wilkening said.

One of them was her mother, Betsy Wilkening. After earning her own bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the UA in 1982, she became a popular science teacher at Richard B. Wilson Jr. Middle School. Two of her students there were Wilkening and Sawyer.

After Cambridge, Jeannie Wilkening plans to return to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and then an academic career, teaching and conducting research.

"The Churchill Scholarship and the opportunity to study at Cambridge is an incredible step forward on my path to pursue these goals," Wilkening said. "As someone who is interested in working on environmental problems, I think this international experience is particularly important and valuable. Problems such as climate change aren't limited by borders. To be truly effective as scientists and engineers in fixing problems affecting our planet, we need to work collaboratively as an international community."

Category(s): Teaching and StudentsJill Goetz, Karna Walter and Emily KotayJanuary 27, 2016UA College of Engineering and Honors College

UA-Built App Tackles Concussion Issue Head On

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 9:10am
Story Contacts: 

Ricardo Valerdi

UA College of Engineering


Jason Sweet

UA Athletics

Sports-related concussions are now part of the national conversation, and a team of UA researchers — including football players Jason Sweet and Scooby Wright — is teaching athletes to recognize and report the signs.

Despite new concussion-management protocols in the NCAA and NFL, many athletes still don't recognize concussion symptoms or won't report them if they do.

The University of Arizona creators of BrainGainz, a virtual-reality app that allows users to experience the symptoms of concussion, hope to change that.

Ricardo Valerdi, associate professor of systems engineering at the UA, was joined by Hirsch Handmaker and Jonathan Lifshitz at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix in developing the app for the NCAA's Mind Matters Challenge, part of a $30 million joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Defense to educate athletes and soldiers on concussion.

As one of four finalists in the Mind Matters Challenge, the BrainGainz team will present its prototype to NCAA officials in Indianapolis on Friday. If the app is selected as the winner, it will be made available to some 400,000 NCAA student-athletes across the country.

The BrainGainz prototype is compatible with iPhone and Android and uses Google Cardboard, a foldout virtual-reality headset with a $10 price tag.

With smartphones slipped inside of the cardboard headset, users of BrainGainz find themselves standing on the field in Arizona Stadium, a likeness of which was carefully captured by strapping cameras on a drone and taking aerial shots.

Users first practice punt returns with a virtual teammate. Their response time and vision are normal. Later, after being "tackled" by Arizona linebackers Jason Sweet and Scooby Wright, users have a choice to make: Recover or get back in the game.

Sweet, a molecular and cellular biology major, and Wright, who recently announced he will enter this year's NFL Draft, have collaborated on the app since its inception.

Sweet said athletes instinctively "want to compete and stay in the game." To change that, he said, the app must not only be educational — it has to be cool.

The stakes are high. A stay-in-the-game mentality "results in underreporting of head blows, which can lead to serious short- and long-term consequences from a second concussion — known as secondary impact syndrome, or SIS — before the brain has been allowed to heal," Handmaker said.

Said Valerdi: "A concussion can change your life, and this is a public health issue. We need to better inform athletes, coaches, trainers and parents how to identify a concussion."

Category(s): Science and TechnologySportsEmily LitvackFebruary 3, 2016UA Office for Research & Discovery

'Hack Arizona' Delivers Apps and Sustainable Projects

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 10:19am
January 25, 2016

Hundreds of students spent 36 hours at Hack Arizona developing design hacks and vying for prizes and the attention of representatives from sponsoring companies such as Amazon, Cisco, Intuit, Raytheon and State Farm. 

The second-year competition for building software and hardware projects was hosted by the University of Arizona. 

The grand prize went to UA computer science and electrical engineering major Mark Omo and collaborator James Rowley. Omo and Rowley produced "Hack Drone Flight Area Control," a scalable drone management system allowing users to efficiently delegate tasks to fleets of varied unmanned aerial vehicles.

"Getting the system working in the short time we were allotted was the biggest achievement in my eyes, along with keeping the server thread safe and eliminating the possibility of the threads tripping on one another," Omo said.

The team also won the award for best software, and prizes included Apple watches, a Dell Android Tablet, and a Chromecast and Nexus player. 

"I'm definitely proud of getting the whole thing to run smoothly and interact with the DFAC back end, while being able to handle hundreds of tasks and drones scalably," Rowley said. "Also, I'm pretty happy with the overall look and feel, as well as the drone and marker graphics."

Other prize winners included:

  • The "Oculus Rift Controlled Laser Turret," which won for best hardware. The model uses 3-D printed parts to enhance drone safety and improve laser accuracy.
  • "Midi Recyclable," which won the prize for sustainability. The interdisciplinary team of electrical engineers, a mechanical engineer and a biomedical engineer built the musical instruments using aluminum cans gathered during the hacking competition. Team members were Scott Marshall, Nick Copic, Davis McGregor and Sajani Jivan.
  • The "UMC Pediatrics App," which won the health category. The app provides reliable, timely and relevant diagnostic information to children who are receiving care, and their families. Team members were Kristoffer Cabulong, Trevor Fasulo, Karyn Vo and Sydney Warner.
  • "My Little Package," an enhanced mailing package management system meant to improve the ways of receiving packages, specifically at campus residence halls. 
Category(s): Science and TechnologyTeaching and Students

GCC Reunion Discusses Diversification, Innovation

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 9:02am
DP World, a Dubai-based company led by UA alumnus Mohammed Sharaf, has entered into an agreement with Eller Executive Education for a leadership program.

The recent plummet in the price of oil, to below $30 a barrel, did little to alter the perspective of a panel at the Gulf Cooperation Council alumni reunion on the University of Arizona campus last week.

A discussion on trade and business quickly zeroed in on the need for a "post-petroleum" economy in the Persian Gulf — and the implications of such an economy for the rest of the world.

"Diversification is vital," said David Gantz, a professor in the UA’s James E. Rogers College of Law. "There is cause for optimism if governments continue what they’ve been doing over the last few years."

UA alumnus Mohammed Sharaf, CEO of Dubai-based DP World, provided a succinct history lesson while looking to the future.

"In the early days," Sharaf said of the gulf's oil-producing nations, "we were told, 'The good news is that you have oil, but the bad news is that it won’t stay forever.'… In 2050, we want to celebrate the last barrel of oil."

Also on the trade and business panel were Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president of the UA Office for Research & Discovery; Paul Melendez, assistant dean of executive education, UA Eller College of Management; and professor Larry Head of the UA College of Engineering. David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, served as moderator.

The marriage of technology and renewable energy is of critical importance to what's next, Sharaf said, and so is interdependence among nations.

"The world is becoming a small village where you know every minute, every second, what’s happening and what the opportunities are," Sharaf said. "In this world, you can’t do things on your own."

He said information technology is playing an increasingly significant role in the transportation industry. DP World, which owns port terminals around the globe, has entered into an agreement with the UA’s Eller Executive Education for a leadership development program for 17 of the company’s senior executives.

"I want them to network with other industries," Sharaf said. "This industry has been very closed for 50-60 years. I want them to think out of the box.

"If you don’t change, you will be changed," he said. "There are successful players (in the industry) who aren’t around anymore. Leaders must accept change — and change with it. The status quo is not an option."

The Advanced Leadership Development Program in which DP World will participate is an 18-month program. It has been designed for the company’s leaders to join the ranks of executives at Fortune 50 Most Admired companies.

The program helps executives develop global leadership skills as well as an ability to master innovation and market volatility. As part of the program, participants will learn alongside their Fortune 50 peers through lectures, business gaming, executive coaching and in-market visits to global innovation hubs.

"DP World sees the value of innovation," Melendez said. "Innovative organizations are unique and distinct. Innovation is a skill that can be taught."

The UA has a particularly strong alumni presence in the Middle East. For the past three years, the University has sent representatives to the region for the GCC alumni reunion. GCC member nations include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This year, the reunion group came to Tucson, and the UA Office of Global Initiatives scheduled events and lectures designed to strengthen the academic, business and research ties between the UA and its alumni.

A second agreement, between the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Emirates Group Security, will develop security training and education for Emirate Airlines. UA alumnus Abdullah Al Hashimi is a divisional senior vice president for Emirates Group Security.

Category(s): Business and LawJanuary 25, 2016University Relations – Communications

Academic Game Show Funds Collaborative Project

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 3:08pm
Extra Info: 

The Playground Games audience provided input via cheers and applause while the judges made the final decision on which UA team was funded. The judges included: UA researcher Maribel Alvarez, director of the Southwest Folklife Alliance; Dr. David Armstrong, director of the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance; Vincent Del Casino, the UA's vice provost for digital learning and student engagement; and Ken McAllister, associate dean of research for the College of Humanities.

Story Contacts: 

Jamie Manser

UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry


"Playground Games" enabled strangers to quickly become colleagues and collaborators in a competition to win funds to implement an idea that incorporated arts, humanities and social sciences that would hold sway with judges and an audience.

With only 45 minutes to do so, a University of Arizona team came up with a grand-prize-winning idea to document the experiences of refugees who have resettled in Tucson.

The team of four was competing in the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry's "Playground Games," a live game show competition and speed networking event in downtown Tucson. All told, 16 UA faculty members participated, having met for the first time to conceive and pitch a project on the theme of "Sense of Place: Creatively Shaping Our Community." 

Tying into the Confluencenter's mission of collaborative endeavors, "Playground Games" brought together faculty of various disciplines from the colleges of fine arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences and also the College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture and UA Libraries. The contestants were randomly placed on interdisciplinary teams of four, on the spot, and each team was assigned a color: silver, gold, blue and red.

Players had less than an hour to meet, plan and present an interdisciplinary project to win the $3,000 prize for funding.

In the end, the judges and audience chose the silver team's project, "Beyond Fear: Tucson Refugees Tell Their Stories," as the winner based on its interdisciplinary orientation, local resonance and feasibility.

"The project's aim to counter the current negative public discourses about refugees by showcasing stories of shared humanity amongst refugee communities and the wider Tucson populace is a perfect example of the type of collaborative, creative inquiry Confluencenter is proud to invest in," said Javier Durán, director of the Confluencenter.

The winning team's members are: Orhon Myadar, assistant professor in the School of Geography and Development; Lisa Hochtritt, assistant professor in the School of Art; Stephanie Troutman, assistant professor in the Department of English and director of the Southern Arizona Writing Project; and Maliaca Oxnam, associate librarian in the Office of Digital Innovation and Stewardship.

Reflecting on the event, Hochtritt said she enjoyed the "festive, fun, fast-paced and supportive atmosphere," along with meeting people from across campus.

Myadar, who said signing up was an impulsive decision, is the project's primary investigator. 

"The project's main goal is to raise awareness of the plight of refugees who have resettled in the city of Tucson and provide a public platform for their voices," Myadar said.

The team aims to digitally record and archive the stories of individuals who are part of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, creating an opportunity for families to tell their stories through various mediums. The team then will make these stories available to the public.

In the project description, Myadar further explains that the idea was inspired by a UA student who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing civil war in Somalia when he was a little boy. 

"He fled his home country for survival, yet he spent long years in what he called an 'open prison.' According to him, he was one of the fortunate ones to have fled the refugee camp and was given a chance to resettle in Tucson," Myadar explained, also noting that he has since graduated from the UA with honors.

"His story, among hundreds of refugees' stories, is a unique story of struggle, endurance and ultimately survival. Yet, hostile political discourses continue to belie refugees' fight for survival and their struggles to build a sense of home in our city."

Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesJamie ManserJanuary 26, 2016UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry

Eyes on Rio: UA Athletes Hope to Make a Splash

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 8:43am
Swimmers Bonnie Brandon and Emma Schoettmer know the competition will be fierce — and that's just to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. ATHLETICS

When are the 2016 Olympic Games?
The Games will be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Paralympic Games also will be held in Rio (Sept. 7-18). The Olympic Trials for the U.S. swimming and diving team are June 26 through July 3 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Who were the UA’s medalists in the 2012 Olympic Games?
There were five with UA affiliation: Alyssa Anderson (gold), Matt Grevers (two golds, one silver) and Nick Thoman (gold, silver) in swimming; Andre Iguodala (gold) in men’s basketball; and Brigetta Barrett (silver) in women’s track and field.

Will the UA have athletes in the Paralympics?
Jennifer Poist, who competed in 2012 in London, already has made the U.S. women’s basketball team. Bryan Barten and Dana Mathewson are likely to compete in tennis and Shirley Reilly in track and field.

  The UA's Emma Schoettmer will try to make the U.S. Olympic team in the 200-meter breaststroke. (Photo: Arizona Athletics) Bonnie Brandon Emma Schoettmer

The huge panels along the north wall of the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center tell the distinguished history — in names, events, times and years — of the University of Arizona swimming and diving program.

One of the eight panels is devoted to Olympians of all nations that the UA men’s and women’s teams have produced. Among the 50-plus names are those of Amy Van Dyken (1996, 2000) and Amanda Beard (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008), former gold medalists for the U.S. In the 2012 London Games, 22 athletes claimed UA affiliation, including 13 swimmers.

Many schools would be over the moon to have just one swimmer qualify for the U.S. Trials, the hypercompetitive meet in late June at which the American Olympic team is selected by performance. But not the UA, where only a few members of the women’s team haven't already secured a spot in the Trials.

"Most swimmers just want to go to the Trials, to have a chance (to make the team)," says UA backstroke star Bonnie Brandon.

That happy-to-be-there mindset may have described Brandon and UA breaststroke ace Emma Schoettmer four years ago, but no longer. Both are focused on making the team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro in August. The quadrennial quest of current and former UA athletes to become Olympians and Paralympians will be one of the biggest stories of 2016.

If Brandon and Schoettmer make the American team, it won’t be a fluke. As usual, Team USA will be loaded with world-class competitors.

"The U.S. Trials is the fastest meet in the world, faster even than the Olympics," says Brandon, 22, a senior from Denver. The U.S. has "so many good swimmers, it’s incredible," she says.

Brandon and Schoettmer, 22, a senior from Indianapolis, mark their own interest in the Olympics by who was swimming in the Games.

The 2004 Games featured Ian Crocker of the U.S. and Ian Thorpe of Australia. Michael Phelps’ breakout year came in 2008, and 2012 is remembered for Phelps, Missy Franklin (a high school rival of Brandon’s) and the UA’s Matt Grevers, one of three Wildcat swimmers to win a gold medal in London (he won two).

An Olympic year, Schoettmer says, "is the only year people really notice our sport. They keep track of it. They know who I am and who the other swimmers are."

Brandy Collins, a former UA swimmer who is now an assistant coach for the Wildcats, says the vibe is unmistakable, in and out of the pool. 

"Olympic years are unbelievable for swimmers," she says. "Everyone gets on their game and becomes more professional to try to make the team."

Brandon and Schoettmer have in mind what it will take. Brandon, a veteran of two previous Trials, says 2 minutes, 7 seconds should be good enough in the women's 200-meter backstroke. Schoettmer says 2:23 should get it done in the 200-meter breaststroke. Only two swimmers will make the team in each event.

For now, they are focused on their UA season and the NCAA meet that will follow, in Atlanta at the end of March. Afterward, training for the Trials, which are held in Omaha, Nebraska, will begin in earnest.

The electric atmosphere at the Trials, both say, is incomparable — "like having a pool in the McKale Center," Brandon says. UA swimmers, who compete as the club team Ford Aquatics in the offseason, brought a huge contingent of fans to the meet in 2012, when the Wildcat baseball team won the College World Series, also in Omaha, at the same time.

That "family" feeling is something swimmers take away from their time at the UA.

"I loved it here," Brandon says, recalling her first visit to campus. "It was relaxed and comfortable and everyone wasn’t freaking out about swimming. It was normal.

"The Arizona team at meets was so unique. They were relaxed, not nervous. They were cool and confident. They were a unit and they sat together. They were very much a team."

Says Schoettmer: "Team USA is so dominant because we all learn in college how to be a team."

Games on.

UANews is exploring six stories to watch as 2016 begins. Previously in this series:

Health & Medicine: The asthma research of Dr. Fernando Martinez 

Big Data: The UA's expanded role in turning data into discovery

Humanities: In February, a visit from Shakespeare's touring First Folio

Environment: UA at the forefront on climate change 

Category(s): SportsDoug CarrollJanuary 22, 2016University Relations – Communications

Jim Kolbe's Papers Now Open to the Public at UA

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 1:10pm
Story Contacts: 

Jane Prescott-Smith

UA Libraries


The former congressman from Tucson previously donated his papers to the University and, after processing, they are available to the public.

The public now has access to documents detailing the 22-year congressional career of former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, who recently donated his papers to the University of Arizona.

Kolbe attended the Jan. 21 reception celebrating the opening of the Kolbe Papers at UA Special Collections, which also holds major collections from former elected officials such as Morris Udall, Stewart Udall and Dennis DeConcini.

The collections contain manuscripts, photos, correspondence, schedules, memorabilia and other materials.

"The holdings in Special Collections are rare, in fact sometimes one-of-a-kind, items which serve as primary research resources for scholars at the University of Arizona and beyond," said Karen Williams, dean of the UA Libraries. "Special Collections is an important driver of our overall vision to enable innovative interdisciplinary research, scholarship and creative endeavor."

One of the cases in the Congressional Papers room will permanently display materials from Kolbe's collection.

Williams said the Congressional Papers collections are among our most frequently requested items.

"Congressional papers include not only legislative files but also personal and administrative files that can provide additional context for what was happening in the public eye," Williams said.

"I also want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Jim Kolbe for entrusting his papers to our care," she said. "We take this responsibility seriously and are honored to be the stewards of the Kolbe Papers."

Kolbe served 11 consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1985 to 2007. He represented the Eighth (previously designated the Fifth) Congressional District, comprising the southeastern part of Arizona with Tucson as the main center of population. Prior to Congress, he served for six years in the Arizona State Senate.

Kolbe serves as senior trans-Atlantic fellow for the German Marshall Foundation, advising on trade matters, issues of effectiveness of U.S. assistance to foreign countries, U.S.-European Union relationships, and migration and its relationship to development.

In addition to his work with the foundation, Kolbe serves on the board of counselors for McLarty Associates and is president of JTKConsulting, which represents the interests of Arizona clients to Congress.

He has received numerous awards and tributes, including the George Marshall Award for Distinguished Service from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Order of the Aztec from the president of Mexico and the lifetime achievement in trade award from the Washington International Trade Association.

Kolbe also serves as vice chairman of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute, and he is a member of boards of directors for Freedom House, the Institute for Science and Global Policy, and the Project on Middle East Democracy.

In Arizona, Kolbe serves on boards of directors for the Community Food Bank and Critical Path Institute. He also is co-chair of the Governor’s Transportation and Trade Task Force and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

A graduate of Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in political science, Kolbe also received a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in economics from Stanford University.

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationJanuary 25, 2016University Relations - Communications

Black History Month at UA to Honor Spoken Word, Action

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:37am
Extra Info: 

For more information on event dates, times and locations for events hosted by African American Student Affairs or other departments and groups, visit

Numerous units on campus have organized events, ranging from poetry readings to a symposium.

Black History Month events at the University of Arizona in February include poetry readings, a block party and a major symposium exploring themes related to promoting diversity and intercultural competence in the wake of the Paris attacks and international refugee crisis.

The African American Students Association in partnership with numberous collaborators will open the month with "Finding Community Welcome," with a keynote address by U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Cultural Agent Jess Solomon, addressing ways to enact positive change for a more equitable future.

The free, open-to-all Feb. 1 kickoff event, to be held 4-5 p.m. in the Tucson Room of the Student Union Memorial Center, was organized "in light of the history of activism, advocacy and social justice that is the foundation of the work of many of the great black historical leaders," said Isoken P. Adodo, coordinator for African American Student Affairs.

"Jess Solomon is a creative facilitator and initiator of social change projects, and is recognized nationally for her leadership in the use of art, culture and design in community cultural development," Adodo said. "All are invited to attend to learn about using different mediums in the movement for change, diversity and inclusion."

Also in February, the UA Poetry Center is hosting four acclaimed poets: 2014 MacArthur Genius award winner Terrance Hayes; 2014 Leslie Scalapino Award winner Khadijah Queen; American Book Award recipient Kimiko Hahn; and Adrian Matejka, a finalist for both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.

The four poets will present on Thursdays at 7 p.m. — beginning with Hayes' talk on Feb. 4 — during the center's new series "Spectacular Poetics: The Poetry of Spectacle," which mirrors the center's historic drive to host statewide and nationally known poets, including Pulitzer Prize recipients and National Book Award winners.

"The range in these four writers is huge in terms of what their writing ends up sounding like," said Hannah Ensor, the Poetry Center's program coordinator.

The Spectacular Poetics series is free and open to all, presented with support from the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and the Africana Studies Program. The series is part of a broader new initiative at the Poetry Center to annually offer a thematic series of investigative readings that respond to critical social, cultural, environmental or political concerns. 

"We'll ask poets — really, really good poets — to come to Tucson to share their work and think aloud about a set of big topics that will hopefully alter our course of thinking, possibly even our course of living," Ensor said.

"If there's any difference at all between poets and the rest of us, it's that poets have chosen as their job and as their way of life to demand of themselves that they see clearly, think critically and creatively, synthesize the world wildly, and deeply feel the world in which we live," she said. "Above all else, we have faith in and excitement around what they’ll be bringing together for us to think about, respond to and hear."

Then, on Feb. 6, "Selma" will be screened at 7 p.m. at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., with a talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Diane McWhorter. The event is supported by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the School of Journalism, The New York Times and other sponsors.

Throughout the month, Arizona Public Media will feature an extensive lineup of special programming, to include the Feb. 8 showing of "Independent Lens: A Ballerina’s Tale," which tells the story of Misty Copeland. Copeland made history as the first African-American female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theater.

Other segments during Black History Month will explore B.B. King's challenging life and career through candid interviews; explorations into the lives and work of Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and Thurgood Marshall; a retrospective piece on the turbulent 1960s, when a new revolutionary culture emerged with the Black Panther Party; and a piece on AIDS, one of the leading causes of death for black women in the rural South. Full details on the Arizona Public media segments are available online.

Then, on Feb. 20, African American Student Affairs will host a health fair in conjunction with the local Juneteenth​ committee. The 1-3 p.m. health fair will be held at the Boys and Girls Club, 2585 E. 36th St.

And on Feb. 21, African American Student Affairs will host its "Black Consciousness" Spoken Word Competition in collaboration with Tucson Unified School District. College students will compete to win the title of "AASA Spoken Word Artist of the Year," while TUSD middle and high school students will compete to win the "Oratorical Speech of the Year." Both groups will speak on the theme of blackness in the 21st century. The 2:30 p.m. event is free and open to the public, and will be held in Room 350 of the Modern Languages Building.

And following Grandmaster Flash's 1980s-era lyrical message, "Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge," the UA Africana Studies Program is presenting "The Human Rights: Borders & Barriers Symposium" Feb. 22-24

The symposium will feature speakers discussing topics such as human rights; migration flows in the U.S., Europe and Africa; terrorism; war conflicts; and freedom of expression.

Events will be held each night at 6 in the Dorothy Rubel Room of the UA Poetry Center, 1508 E. Helen St., and are free and open to the public.

"My colleagues and I are very excited to co-sponsor this timely symposium featuring several renowned scholars as well as eminent members of the Tucson's community," said Alain-Philippe Durand, the Africana Studies Program director.

"More than ever, looking at recent events, one can see the critical importance of the studying and understanding of the human's soul, spirit, emotions and the promoting of diversity and intercultural competence on the widest global scale,” said Durand, also head of the School for International Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Presentations will focus on contemporary national and transnational issues such as Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore, Charlie Hebdo, the Paris attacks and the global refugee crisis.

In addition to Durand, opening remarks on Feb. 22 will be provided by Mary Wildner-Bassett, dean of the College of Humanities, and UA Provost Andrew Comrie.

Events include:

  • Feb. 22: Keisha-Khan Perry, an associate professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, will present "The Gendered Racial Frame of Land and Housing Rights as Human Rights Issues."
  • Feb. 23: Lionel Cuillé, assistant professor of French at Webster University and the founder and director of the Centre Francophone, will present "The Frontier of the French Republic: The Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan Affairs."
  • Feb. 24: David Stovall, professor of Educational Policy Studies and African American Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, will present "Engineered Conflict: School Closings, Public Housing, Law Enforcement and the Future of Black Life."

The three-day symposium is also sponsored by the UA Department of French and Italian and the College of Humanities.

Adodo noted that Black History Month, recognized by every U.S. president since 1976, and having grown out of "Negro History Week" celebrations during the 1920s, is an important, though not exclusive, time to celebrate black culture and history.

Adodo said: "Black History Month is designated to acknowledge the people and events that have greatly impacted not just African-Americans, but people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds in this country which, as such, should be taught, discussed and celebrated every day."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsJanuary 27, 2016University Relations - Communications