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Aging Couples Connected in Sickness and Health

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:46pm

As the world's population of older adults increases, so do conversations around successful aging — including seniors' physical, mental and social well-being.

A variety of factors can impact aging adults' quality of life. Two big ones, according to new research from the University of Arizona, are the health and cognitive functioning of a person's spouse.

Analyzing data from more than 8,000 married couples — with an average age in the early 60s — researchers found that the physical health and cognitive functioning of a person's spouse can significantly affect a person's own quality of life.

The findings have implications for how to most effectively address quality-of-life issues in people's later years.

"When we think about quality of life for older adults, and improving quality of life, it seems like targeting the individual is only part of the story, and our findings suggests that for older adults, a larger part of individual well-being is defined by our partner's health and cognitive functioning as well," said UA psychologist David Sbarra, a co-author of the paper, which will be published in Psychology and Aging, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

The population of Americans age 65 years or older is expected to double during the next 25 years to about 72 million, as baby boomers age and people live longer. By 2030, older adults will account for roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population and health-care spending will increase by 25 percent, largely because of the aging population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"As we build public health interventions for our aging population when it comes to quality of life, we need to take a more dyadic approach, looking at both partners," said Sbarra, an associate professor in the UA Department of Psychology with joint appointments in Family Studies and Human Development and the Evelyn F McKnight Brain Institute.

The study was based on analysis of data from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe, or SHARE study, of adults age 50 and older. The data was collected at three intervals over a six-year period, between 2004-2005 and 2010-2011.

UA researchers considered survey respondents' self-reports of physical health and quality of life, as well as their scores on cognition tests measuring verbal fluency, word recall and delayed word recall. The UA study looked at health and cognition across a normal spectrum, rather than focusing on clinical cognitive disorders or chronic illnesses.

The findings support existing research on the interdependence of older married couples, and they extend that research by identifying cognition and physical health as two specifically important factors that influence spouses' quality of life.

Kyle Bourassa, a UA doctoral student in clinical psychology and the paper's lead author, said husbands' and wives' quality of life appears to be equally impacted by their spouse's physical health, with no differences across gender lines. In other words, a wife's physical health impacts her husband's quality of life as much as a husband's physical health affects his wife's quality of life.

"If you have people whose physical health is low — maybe they're suffering from an illness or unable to walk — those kind of physical health issues not only impact the individual but the person they're married to as well," Bourassa said. "Their husband or wife is the one who may have to adjust and help with their partner's new lifestyle."

With regard to cognition, wives' cognitive functioning appears to have as much of an effect of husbands' quality of life as husbands' own cognitive abilities. Wives' quality of life was not as strongly affected by their husbands' cognition, but there was a measurable impact, Bourassa said.

Finally, changes in participants' self-reported overall quality of life at the three intervals in the SHARE survey varied similarly between husbands and wives, suggesting that change in one spouse's life quality over time parallels change in the other's.

As adults age, changes in physical health can be a natural part of the process, as can cognitive decline, which can range from normal change in cognition to the onset of disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease. As this change can vary dramatically between different people, it makes sense to look at both physical health and cognition as they relate to quality of life for both partners, Bourassa said. Additional research is needed to determine how changes in these two areas can change quality of life over time, he said.

"The population of aging adults is going up drastically, and as we have more and more people who are living longer and longer it's really important to understand successful aging," said Bourassa, whose co-authors on the paper included Sbarra and UA psychology doctoral students Molly Memel and Cindy Woolverton.

Said Bourassa: "You could extend these findings to think about interventions targeting cognition and physical health to improve quality of life not only for the individual, but also for their partner."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA researchers examined the quality of life of married couples with an average age in their early 60s.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA to Host Latino Group's Summit

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:06pm

Latinos in Heritage Conservation, a new group aimed at promoting Latino leadership and engagement in historic preservation, will hold its inaugural national summit on Friday and Saturday at the University of Arizona.

The gathering will bring together more than 60 preservationists, scholars and community advocates from across the country to discuss key issues in the field and set the course for the budding organization. The purpose of the event, which will take place on the UA campus and at the Pima County Housing Center, is to establish a clear vision to advance efforts to recognize, protect and support Latino cultural heritage in communities throughout the country.

The summit will open with a roundtable discussion moderated by renowned Chicana historian Antonia Castañeda about the state of Latino heritage conservation in the United States. Additional speakers include: Yolanda Chavez Leyva, Museo Urbano, University of Texas, El Paso; Sarah Gould, Institute of Texan Cultures and the Westside Preservation Alliance (San Antonio); Lydia Otero, UA Department of Mexican American Studies; Julianne Polanco, Lend Lease and the California State Historical Resources Commission; Raymond Rast, Department of History at Gonzaga University and American Latino Scholars Expert Panel; Daniel Serda, inSITE (Kansas City); and Edward Torrez, BauerLatoza (Chicago).

Members of the Latinos in Heritage Conservation organizing committee will present a draft mission, vision and goals for the organization. Maribel Alvarez of the Southwest Center at the UA will guide summit participants through a series of sessions to help determine organizational priorities for the next three to five years.

On Saturday, Otero and Marc David Pinate, executive director of the Tucson-based Borderlands Theater, will present a lunch keynote. They will share information about a new place-based play produced by Borderlands, titled "Barrio Monologues." The production is based on Otero’s book, "La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City."

Summit attendees will have the opportunity to visit and learn about Tucson’s Latino heritage during a guided tour of Barrio Viejo, including a stop at El Tiradito Wishing Shrine, and Mission San Xavier del Bac.

Local sponsors and partners include the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation; the Drachman Institute and the Graduate Certificate Program in Heritage Conservation of the UA's College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; and the Pima County Housing Center.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations — CommunicationsExtra Info: 

For more information about Latinos in Heritage Conservation, visit

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The two-day gathering will convene preservationists, scholars and community advocates from across the country for a discussion of heritage issues.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Giant Mirror Presents a Unique, Oversize Load

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 4:54pm

The only telescope mirror ever made that combines two mirrors in one piece of glass left the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab on Monday, where it had spent the past seven years in various stages of production.

At 7 a.m., the lab's hangar-like gates slid open and made way for the 27-foot mirror, tucked away inside a custom-made steel crate, suspended from a crane. Over the course of an hour, employees of the Phoenix-based company Precision Heavy Haul lowered the crate and mirror, with a combined weight of 56 tons, onto a flatbed trailer-truck that would haul the $20 million payload to a storage facility close to the Tucson airport in the wee hours of the next morning.

The mirror will form the centerpiece of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST, a revolutionary observatory slated to go up in Cerro Pachón in Chile. After the National Foundation approved funding for the LSST last year, the telescope will see first light in 2019 and begin full science operations in 2022.

The LSST is designed to scan large swaths of night sky quickly and repeatedly to capture what astronomers call "variables," which are exploding stars, passing asteroids and other highly variable, dynamic or short-lived phenomena in the universe. Equipped with a 3-billion-pixel digital camera — the largest to date — the LSST will provide time-lapse digital imaging of faint astronomical objects across the entire sky, promising a deep and changing view of the cosmos.

In the past, people looked at the heavens as something that never changed, hence the name "firmament," explained Dennis Zaritsky, deputy director of the UA's Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory.

"Now we know that the LSST will discover millions of variable objects and cosmic events every single night," he said. "Some are stars that get brighter and dimmer. Others will be new things that we don't even know about yet — in the thousands — and we'll have to figure out how to decide which ones to go after."

One such program, ANTARES, is currently underway. In a joint effort between the UA's Department of Computer Science and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, scientists are developing computer algorithms capable of monitoring the flood of incoming data, flagging events and observations that could be of special interest to astronomers.

"The LSST touches on a wide range of fields, not just astronomy," Zaritsky said. "It will enable us to do completely new astronomy, new computer science and new data science."

The data generated by the LSST will be made publicly available, allowing professional and amateur astronomers to quickly follow up on discoveries made by the scanning telescope with other instruments for more detailed study. UA astronomers have an edge over colleagues elsewhere in the world because they have access to other telescopes, such as the Large Binocular Telescope in southeastern Arizona and planned new ones such as the Giant Magellan Telescope that will enable them to follow up the most interesting discoveries from the LSST.

The LSST mirror is expected to remain in storage for about two years before it will be sent on its journey to Chile. To protect the one-of-a-kind dish against bumps during transport, it is mounted to an inner frame that is connected to the outer crate through "air springs," which resemble glorified tires, and other shock absorbers.

Cast in 2007, the LSST mirror is the latest of 18 large mirrors produced by the UA's lab. The mirror consists of a specially formulated and extremely pure variety of borosilicate glass, which — similar to the familiar Pyrex glassware of household use — stands out for its resistance against swings in temperature. Because of their special honeycomb design developed by UA Regents' Professor and Mirror Lab director Roger Angel, the UA's mirrors can be extremely lightweight relative to their large size. This allows for smaller and more lightweight supporting structures, keeping down the construction and operating costs of the observatories in which they work. 

Zaritsky is convinced that the LSST will revolutionize the way we look at the sky.

"There are a few programs that use small telescopes to find variables, but those don't cover the whole sky and they don't operate as systematically as the LSST will, all night long and all the time," he said. "With the LSST, we will be able to do truly systematic, comprehensive studies of those phenomena on scales from seconds to decades. There is nothing else like that."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: After years of polishing to perfection, the mirror slated to form the heart of the Large Synaptic Survey Telescope, expected to revolutionize our view of the cosmos as a place of constant change, has left the UA's Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: The story include video

Program Builds Resiliency in Veterans

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 4:10pm
Date of Publication: Thursday, May 21, 2015

Graduate Fellows Receive Thousands in Funds

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:59am

Nine University of Arizona students representing the fine arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences have been named Graduate Fellows.

In its fifth year of advancing interdisciplinary research, the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry has awarded the students a total of nearly $45,000 for the 2015-2016 academic year.

"In almost five years, the Confluencenter has become a superconnector: a force in bringing people and ideas together," Javier Durán, director of the Confluencenter, said during a joint presentation of the Graduate Fellowships and Faculty Collaboration Grant awards.

"The creative research, collaboration, interdisciplinary inquiry and community engagement projects that we support are changing the academic landscape at the University of Arizona," Durán said. "It is an honor and a privilege as director to witness and facilitate the research efforts of my colleagues as they dispel the myth of the rigid, siloed institution."

The center also unveiled the 2015 Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, which bridges the arts, social sciences, humanities and science through the showcase of students' interdisciplinary work.

Among the fellows are Anabel Galindo, a doctoral student in the Department of History, who is mapping the historical movement patterns and settlements that Yaquis have followed since the last decades of the Spanish rule and into the mid-20th century. Her project is titled "Mapping Yaqui History: Mobility, Labor and Identity."

Christina Greene, a doctoral student in the UA School of Geography and Development, explores the physical and social dimensions of drought through the words and images of people living and working in drought-impacted central California. Greene's project, "Drought, Livelihoods and the Food System: Exploring Drought Narratives in California," uses Web-based storytelling to share new perspectives about drought impact and relief.

And in the School of Anthropology, doctoral student Angela Storey traces how residents of informal settlements narrate their struggles to secure access to basic services. Storey's project, "Everyday Infrastructure: Documenting Struggles for Water, Sanitation and Electricity in Cape Town's Informal Settlements," highlights the experiences of people trying to secure basic necessities.

Other fellows, and their projects, are:

Gabriel Higuera, a doctoral student of Mexican American Studies, is organizing an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional event: the "UA High School Student Symposium on Ethnic Studies."

Carolina Kitagawa, through "Como 8 Horas," is composing a time-based performance art piece that examines underrepresented voices in Tucson and Los Angeles. Kitagawa is a Master of Fine Arts student.

William White is a doctoral student in anthropology and his project, "Archaeology at the Confluence of Race: The River Street Public Archaeology Program," explores the remains of a working-class, interracial neighborhood in Boise, Idaho.

Jeffrey Wilson, a doctoral student of geography and development, is creating "Geography and the Graphic Novel," which explores the experiences of Detroit residents battling Type 2 diabetes and housing insecurity.

Christopher Yutzy, a doctoral student in anthropology, has created a communications nexus involving a magazine, "Revista PROVOZ," a website for digital content and also WhatsApp groups. The resources enable residents of the Grande Bom Jardim slum in Brazil to share information and establish avenues for free speech. Yutzy's project is titled "Improving Information Access in Urban Slums: Social Technology as a Practical Alternative to Clientelism."

Manuel Martín Barros and Joaquin Perez-Blanes, doctoral students of Spanish and Portuguese, will visually and textually narrate the experiences of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the role amulets have played in their journeys. While the migrants' identities remain anonymous, an examination of objects they carried for good luck will be exhibited to build a better understanding of how migrants maintained hope in their crossings.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry is funding several Graduate Fellowships during the 2015-2016 academic year. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Polishing Off a Mirror

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 5:47pm

The only telescope mirror ever made that combines two mirrors in one piece of glass departed the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab on May 18 after spending seven years in various stages of production.

The mirror will form the centerpiece of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST, a revolutionary observatory slated to go up in Cerro Pachón in Chile. After the National Foundation approved funding for the LSST last year, the telescope will see first light in 2019 and begin full science operations in 2022.

The LSST mirror is expected to remain in storage for about two years before it will be sent on its journey to Chile. To protect the one-of-a-kind dish against bumps during transport, it was mounted to an inner frame connected to an outer crate through "air springs," which resemble glorified tires, and other shock absorbers.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Science and TechnologyYouTube Video:  LSST Mirror Transport Video of LSST Mirror Transport Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: It's no small triumph shipping a 20-ton telescope mirror, which recently was completed at the UA's Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab and loaded for transport. See how it was done.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, May 27, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

New Insights Into Drivers of Earth's Ecosystems

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 5:11pm

Hidden among Earth's vast oceans are some of the most vital organisms to the health of delicate ecosystems. Tiny ocean microbes produce half of the oxygen we breathe, and they are important drivers in chemical reactions and energy transfers that fuel critical ecological processes.

Much like other organisms, marine microbes are susceptible to viral infections that can alter their metabolic output, or even kill them. For example, certain ocean viruses invade algae and take control over the photosynthetic process, which replenishes the oxygen we breathe. Others simply kill off vast amounts of organisms, putting a cap on the biomass that can support food webs in the world's oceans.

A new study from an international team led by UA scientists Matthew Sullivan, Jennifer Brum, Simon Roux and Julio Cesar Ignacio Espinoza draws on viral genome data to explain how oceanic viral communities maintain high regional diversity on par with global diversity. The findings may help researchers to predictively model the virus-microbe interactions driving Earth's ecosystems.

The paper is one of five landmark studies borne from the Tara Oceans Expedition featured this week in a special issue of the journal Science. Sullivan is scheduled to discuss the work this week on the National Public Radio program "Science Friday."

"We established a means to study viral populations within more complex communities and found that surface ocean viruses were passively transported on currents and that population abundances were structured by local environmental conditions," said Sullivan, associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a member of the BIO5 Institute. The work was completed with the assistance of a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator grant, a highly prestigious award given to researchers focused on environmental science and conservation.

Sullivan's work is part of the Tara Oceans Expedition, a global effort to understand complex interactions among ocean ecosystems, climate and biodiversity. For the past 10 years, the Tara Oceans research vessel has traversed more than 180,000 miles across all of the world's oceans, collecting biological samples and information about the oceans' physical parameters such as depth, temperature and salinity.

"The Tara Oceans expedition provided a platform for systematically sampling ocean biota from viruses to fish larvae, and in a comprehensive environmental context," Sullivan said. "Until now, a global picture of ocean viral community patterns and ecological drivers was something we could only dream of achieving."

To assess geographical diversity in marine viral communities, Sullivan and his team looked at double-stranded DNA viral genomic sequence data, or viromes, and whole viral community morphological data across 43 Tara Oceans expedition samples. The samples were globally distributed throughout the surface oceans (only one deep-sea sample) and represented diverse environmental conditions.

Specifically, Sullivan and his team were interested in the previous observation that the diversity of ocean viruses at any given site was as high as that observed globally. Such high local and low global diversity had been observed a decade ago, and scientists proposed a seed-bank hypothesis to explain it. This hypothesis suggests that high local genetic diversity can exist by drawing variation from a common and relatively limited global gene pool. Local-dominant communities consist of viruses that are influenced by environmental conditions, which affect their microbial hosts and indirectly alter the structure of the viral community. These communities serve as the low-abundance "bank" for neighboring locations, as they are passively transported by way of ocean currents.

Since viruses lack universal genes that could be used to identify global community patterns, Sullivan had to employ different techniques to study viral communities. The first approach involved looking at viral particles themselves, and comparing morphological characteristics such as capsid size and tail length.

"This is the low resolution way to do things — viruses that appear identical may have completely different genomes," Sullivan explained. "The fact that all viruses don't share a single common gene calls for some clever approaches to investigating viral diversity."

Next, the researchers cataloged viral populations in terms of the proteins they shared in common, in a process called protein clustering. This allowed them to establish core genes that were shared across the viral communities studied. Finally, Sullivan and his team looked at the distribution of viral populations, the majority of which had not been previously characterized, across all of the Tara Oceans sample sites.

When they investigated the distribution patterns, they found that the directionality of viral population flow closely corresponded to that of ocean currents, affirming the seed-bank hypothesis.

"Ocean virus-microbe interactions have a huge impact on global biogeochemistry," Sullivan said. "As they destroy microbial cells, they change the forms of nutrients available to other, larger organisms in ocean ecosystems. This recycling of nutrients through viral lysis is an important pathway that regulates how the oceanic ecosystem functions. Viral infections simultaneously reduce the amount of nutrients and materials available to larger organisms by killing microbial cells, but also stimulate microbial activity through the release of organic matter and nutrients, which provides increased biomass available for larger organisms including fish."

Sullivan's findings stem from key advances in methodology, including the ability to systematically collect biological samples on a global scale and pushing the analysis of marine viral characteristics into the realm of the quantitative.

"Up until recently, the methods used to study virus-microbe interactions were often qualitative," Sullivan said. "With this study, we have made great quantitative advances. The goal now is to determine how our quantitative estimates can be used to build predictive models."

Sullivan emphasized the uniqueness and importance of working with the Tara Oceans team.

"This is an incredible new way of doing science," he said. "At Tara Oceans, we are united by a common goal rather than a common funding source. These first papers show the world that we're capable of doing science at this scale, and yet they represent just the tip of the iceberg of what is hidden in these vast data sets. We've got years of work ahead of us."

Sullivan and his lab also contributed to three other papers in the special issue. Those three papers explore the global ocean microbiome and plankton interaction networks, as well as how plankton communities change across a key ocean circulation choke point off South Africa.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Raymond SanchezByline: Raymond SanchezByline Affiliation: NASA Space Grant Intern, University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A UA-led international team has uncovered new information about the ways marine viruses and microbes interact on a global scale.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Go Backstage at Commencement

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 7:01pm

There's nothing quite like the way the UA does Commencement, and UANews videographer Bob Demers distills the best of the big day into three minutes of fun and fireworks at Arizona Stadium.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsYouTube Video:  UA 2015 Commencement Video of UA 2015 Commencement Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: In case you missed the festivities, and even if you didn't, we went behind the scenes at Arizona Stadium to capture the setup, the show and (of course) the pyro.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, May 18, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

Graduation a Major Milestone for NFL Player

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:11pm

It’s a long way from the streets of Houston to the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center at the University of Arizona, but Earl Mitchell prepared for the trip.

He prepared for it back when he played school in the summer with his older sister, using textbooks from their real school. She was the "teacher" and their grandmother was the "principal."

He prepared for it in return visits to the UA campus long after his time as a football player for the Wildcats had ended. There was unfinished business — six classes toward a degree in social behavior and human understanding — and he is the type who sees things through to completion.

And he prepared for it in one small but significant way, buying a frame for a diploma and a graduation photo that would sit empty in his home, a constant reminder of his final destination.

Mitchell crossed his own goal line last week to the surprise of no one who knows him, walking across the stage at Thursday night’s convocation for the UA’s Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science before a capacity ballroom crowd. He also participated in Saturday night’s Commencement at Arizona Stadium.

With his muscular, 310-pound athlete’s body shrouded by a blue gown, he blended in with the rest of the graduates and received relatively little fanfare — which is just the way he likes it.

"He’s really, really regular," says his sister, Sekeyla Watts, on hand to witness her little brother’s big occasion along with their mother, Lisa Mitchell.  "It comes from us. We’re a plain family. Simple people."

There’s nothing plain, however, about the line of work Earl Mitchell is in. This fall, he will begin a sixth season of collision-filled Sunday afternoons in the National Football League — high-risk, physically demanding labor for which the Miami Dolphins are compensating him well at the age of 27. He was excused from the team’s offseason workouts to attend graduation.

Mitchell, a defensive tackle who began at the UA as a tight end, signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Dolphins a little more than a year ago, with $9 million of it guaranteed. After being selected in the third round of the 2010 player draft, his first four seasons in the league were with his hometown Houston Texans.

Two Ambitions in Mind

It’s safe to say that he has one of the highest-paying jobs in the Class of 2015. But Mitchell insists he came to the UA out of high school with no designs on a pro career, wanting only to play major-college football and earn his degree. He says he never envisioned doing one without the other.

Although he was a co-captain of the 2009 team as a senior, his sincerity won people over long before that.

"Earl is one of those guys everyone has been rooting for since he got here," says Marisol Quiroz, who has seen 12 years’ worth of student-athletes come and go at the UA as a learning specialist and assistant director for CATS Academics.

"In our office, everyone is so excited for him. He’s the same guy he was as a freshman. He’s humble, grounded and hardworking. He’s respectful of everyone, and he’s appreciative of those who worked with him. He’s grateful for this."

Before the second semester of his senior year at the UA, Mitchell made what he describes as one of the hardest decisions of his life, leaving school to begin training full time in preparation for the NFL Draft. He was "on a roll" with his studies, he says, and it wasn’t easy to walk away.

He knew even then that many players in those circumstances never return to college to finish their coursework. He resolved to be one who did, no matter how challenging and inconvenient it might be for him.

"The very first time I came back (on campus), that’s when I realized how tough it is," Mitchell says. "You don’t have the academic tutors like you used to. You don’t have the services you had as a student-athlete, and you have to push yourself to do well in your courses."

From his childhood in Houston, he was familiar with tough. At the age of 10, he and a cousin were witness to the robbery of a store.

"It was tough in our neighborhood," Lisa Mitchell says. "Ever since then, he said, 'I’m going to do better than that.'"

Then, at 14, he lost his 77-year-old grandmother, Narnie Mitchell, to heart failure. She was the one who was certain from the size of little Earl’s hands that someday he would be a football player, and she presciently sewed an NFL quilt for him. The two of them were very close.

"She just wanted me to be successful, that's the only thing she ever preached to me, just to be a man," Earl says. "That's how I try to approach every situation. I try to take ownership and make sure I do everything the right way.

"She was an amazing woman, and she's a lot of the reason I am the way that I am."

Learning to Keep Going

His mother was no slouch as an encourager, either. Lisa recalls a youth league football game in which Earl had taken an especially hard hit.

"He just laid there on the bench," she says, "and I asked him, 'You still want to play football?' He didn’t say anything. He just laid there. Then he jumped back up and ran out on the field."

There will come a time when he won’t go out on the field anymore, and Earl Mitchell knows this. Already, his preparation for that day has begun.

"Everyone says the NFL stands for Not For Long," he says. "So you want to make sure that you have something you can rely on and say that you accomplished when the game is done. When you get the opportunity to get your degree, you should take advantage of it.

"I wanted my younger family members to see this. There are a lot of players in the league right now who are constantly thinking, 'Should I finish or not finish?' I kind of wanted to encourage them, too.

"It was definitely worth it. It always was a dream of mine to graduate with a college degree."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Doug CarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: More than five years after leaving the UA, Earl Mitchell returned to campus with his mother and sister for Commencement, celebrating the completion of a longtime goal.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

A Celebratory Night for Graduates

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 1:22pm
Date of Publication: Monday, May 18, 2015

UA Poll: Arizonans Concerned About Global Warming

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 12:58pm

A large majority of Arizona residents believes the world’s temperature has been rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the nation if nothing is done to curb it, according to a survey conducted by the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment and Stanford University.

The survey also found that more than 70 percent of Arizonans support government action to reduce global warming, and a majority of state residents believes people are at least partly to blame for the planet’s warmer temperatures. 

"The survey findings show that the people of Arizona are aware of and interested in climate change and that they understand there are policy decisions that can be made to address it," said Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment and a co-author of the survey.

According to the poll, more than half of Arizonans believe global warming has caused more droughts and storms around the world, and more forest fires and heatwaves in the state.

The survey of 803 adult Arizona residents was conducted by telephone in November and December 2014 by the independent polling company Abt SRBI to better understand Arizonans’ views on climate change and how those views vary depending on age, gender, ethnicity and political affiliation. The goal, the researchers said, is to use the information to better tailor UA research and outreach to the concerns and needs of Arizona residents.

"There have been quite a few national surveys on climate change, but their samples have been too general to provide detailed results on attitudes within Arizona," said Diana Liverman, who also co-directs the Institute of the Environment and co-wrote the survey with Jon Krosnick, professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford University and an expert on such surveys.

"We were able to ask questions specifically relevant to Arizona to examine responses from different groups within the state, and we provided the option to respond in English or Spanish," Liverman said.

The survey shows that Arizonans’ views on global warming generally are not substantially different from those of the rest of the nation, although state residents are more concerned than the American public that the impact of climate change will hurt them personally.

"As a scientist and extension specialist who is asked to give many talks to Arizonans on the topic of climate, I have wondered what they know and think about the issues," said Gregg Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach at the institute. "This survey shows the majority of Arizonans seem to be concerned about climate change, which is pretty much in line with the majority of U.S. residents."

Most Arizona residents believe action by the state to reduce global warming will help the state economy or have no effect, and 23 percent believe it will hurt it. An overwhelming majority of Arizonans favor the federal government giving companies tax breaks to produce more electricity from renewable sources such as water, wind and solar power.

"The University of Arizona has done a great service by using the science of survey research to give state residents an opportunity to express their beliefs about what has been happening to the Earth and what they want government to do and not do on this issue," Krosnick said.

There are some significant differences in views among different populations in Arizona. Compared to other ethnic groups, Hispanics are more concerned about the impact of global warming, and they more heavily favor policies such as cap and trade and government action to limit emissions. More women than men support government action to prepare for the effects of global warming, and 97 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 35) support government laws or tax incentives to reduce power-plant emissions.

More agreement was found across political parties than might be expected. Democrats and independents (82 percent and 76 percent) are more likely than Republicans (59 percent) to believe the Earth’s temperature has been going up over the last century.

In addition, 91 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans believe the federal government should limit greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. businesses, and they express similar views about whether the Arizona government should limit greenhouse gas emissions from state businesses.

For more information, go to

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Stephanie DosterByline Affiliation: UA Institute of the EnvironmentHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Results of independent survey will be used to tailor UA research and outreach to the concerns and needs of the state's residents.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Class of 2015, You Will Be Missed

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:28am
Date of Publication: Monday, May 18, 2015

Commencement Was a Family Affair

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:17am

There are countless proud moments in a parent's life.

From a child's first steps to the first day of school and beyond, these moments compose the richly rewarding experience of parenthood.

On Saturday, the families of more than 5,600 University of Arizona students celebrated another major milestone at the University's 151st Commencement. Thousands of families gathered from near and far to honor the new graduates and help them commemorate their accomplishments.

"There are a lot of beaming moms and dads and grandparents in the audience," said keynote speaker Jon Huntsman Jr. during his speech. Huntsman is the former Utah governor who now runs a nonpartisan organization, No Labels, which works to address the country's most pressing problems.

He also is a father to seven children and said he understands the love, support and pride associated with being a parent. To the family members in the audience, Huntsman said, "It's your day, too."

"It's days like today when you see your child growing into the person you always hoped they'd become that make it all worthwhile," he said.

About 30,000 people attended the festivities, filling the stands in Arizona Stadium to cheer on the graduates.

Although they were born three years apart, brothers Christopher Real and Stephen Real both graduated from the UA on Saturday. Christopher earned a degree in journalism, Stephen a degree in history. Their family, including a grandfather who came from California to attend Commencement, was excited to help the brothers celebrate.

"I'm just very proud," said their mom, Cindy. "I think that's what makes this so special — seeing them both graduate together."

Nathaniel Hamilton, who graduated from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences with a degree in public administration, had several members of his family fly to Tucson from the East Coast to celebrate.

"We're just a proud family from Maryland," said his mother, Tracey Gray.

Hamilton's father, Levent Gray, said he was proud to see his son's dedication to his schoolwork pay off, calling the occasion "phenomenal."

Yvonne Ng's mother said she was happy for her daughter, who graduated with honors from the College of Pharmacy.

"It's one of the biggest accomplishments in her life," she said. "I'm very proud."

Alexandra Caplan's family also was excited to see her put on a cap and gown to receive degrees in physiology and Middle Eastern studies from the UA.

"It's just wonderful," said her mom, Leslie. "Especially after seeing her put in four years of a lot of hard work — a lot of blood, sweat and tears."

Caplan's father, David, added that he is pleased his daughter will be a Wildcat for life.

"We're very proud of her," he said. "We think she made a great decision to come to the UA."

Photos by John de Dios/UANews

Categories: Campus NewsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: Student LifeStudentsAlumniByline: Amanda Ballard |UANow Image: Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Monday, May 18, 2015Medium Summary: Families came from near and far to celebrate with the new graduates, using words such as "special," "phenomenal" and "wonderful" to describe the occasion.Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: Families came from near and far to honor the new graduates at the UA's 151st Commencement.Send to Never Settle Site: 0UA in the News Spotlight: Includes video: 

UA's Miller to Coach U19 Team for US

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 12:39pm

Sean Miller, the head coach for men’s basketball at the University of Arizona, has been selected as head coach of the 2015 USA men’s U19 team.

Miller replaces previously announced USA U19 head coach Billy Donovan, who withdrew after accepting the head coaching position with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Miller’s assistant coaches will be Providence head coach Ed Cooley and Miller’s brother, Archie Miller, head coach at Dayton and a former UA associate head coach. 

The USA will defend its gold medal at the U19 World Championships, which will be held June 27 through July 5 in Greece.

Sean Miller and Cooley were on the U.S. sideline as assistant coaches at the 2014 Americas U18 Championships, where the USA qualified for the 2015 U19 World Championships. USA Basketball has age-group teams at 16, 17, 18 and 19, in addition to the national team of NBA players that competes in international competition including the Olympic Games.

"The appointments of Sean Miller, Ed Cooley and Archie Miller to lead the USA Basketball men’s U19 team gives that group of players three of the most successful teachers in college basketball," Jim Boeheim, chair of the USA Basketball Junior National Team Committee, said in an announcement about the appointments. "All three coaches have taken their respective programs to an elite level, and now they will combine their talents to have the U19 group prepared for a gold-medal run."

In 11 seasons as a college head coach, Sean Miller has compiled a 283-99 career record for a .741 winning percentage. In six seasons at the helm of the UA program, he has posted a record of 163-52, including 79-29 in Pac-12 Conference play.

In 2014-15, Arizona finished 34-4, winning the second-most games in program history, and captured Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles en route to a second successive NCAA Elite Eight appearance — a feat accomplished only once before in program history.

Prior to the UA, Miller spent five seasons as head coach at Xavier. He also was part of USA Basketball as a player. As a member of the 1991 World University Games team, he averaged 5.3 points and 2.5 assists per game in winning a gold medal.

"I am honored to be named head coach of the USA men’s U19 team," Miller said. "It is exciting to be coaching such a talented group of young players, as well as working alongside a great coaching staff. I look forward to the responsibility and challenges that lie ahead in our journey to win the gold medal at the 2015 U19 World Championships."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: USA Basketball's team will defend its gold medal at the World Championships this summer in Greece.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Video Highlights UA-Led Research on Human Evolution, Climate

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 8:22pm

A new documentary provides insight into how ancient climate affected human evolution. The video, available on YouTube, focuses on the research conducted by the University of Arizona-led Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project, an international collaboration of geologists, anthropologists and climate scientists.

UA Distinguished Professor of Geosciences Andrew Cohen and his colleagues have been studying the connections between climate and human evolution in Africa’s Rift Valley for more than a decade.

"Of the more than 10 species of hominins that have existed on Earth, all have gone extinct except ourselves," said Cohen, director of the project. "Some of these extinctions may have been due to climate change, and this may have important implications for the future of our own species."

More than 100 scientists from 11 countries are part of this unprecedented project to understand the environmental context of human origins, he said.

"A Human Climate," the documentary made in 3-D by Earth Images Foundation, tracks the scientists as they investigate the climate that prevailed when key hominin fossils such as Lucy and Turkana Boy were alive. Hominins are the group of organisms that includes humans and our fossil near-relatives and ancestors.

The researchers extracted sediment from dry lake beds near important ancient hominin fossil and archaeological sites in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Lake beds can supply a record of the past environment, because a variety of environmental materials, including pollen and animal remains, are deposited on the bottom of lakes year after year. 

To obtain ancient sediment from the depths of dry lake beds, the scientists used a drill rig that collected continuous sediment cores in 10-foot segments, from as deep as 940 feet below the Earth’s surface. Some of the cores contain lake sediments as much as 3.5 million years old.

The scientists are using data from the sediment cores to reconstruct climate and ecological changes in eastern Africa.

The documentary, which features interviews with many of the researchers, shows the researchers drilling for sediment in Kenya and Ethiopia and also collecting hominin fossils near the drill sites.

By analyzing fossil pollen, charcoal and lake organisms in the cores, the team is reconstructing the ecosystems that early humans lived in and depended upon. UA geosciences faculty member Owen Davis and several UA graduate and undergraduate students are some of the researchers analyzing the cores.

"We’re just starting to analyze the drill cores," Cohen said. "We expect the drill cores are going to provide us with a lot of new information about African climate over the last 3.5 million years of human evolution."

In addition to the field team, the project includes researchers who can model the region’s paleoclimate and environment. The international modeling team, led by Joellen Russell, a UA associate professor of geosciences, also includes UA geosciences faculty members Jon Pelletier and Jianjun Yin.

The computer models will reveal the atmospheric and landscape processes underlying past environmental change in Africa and how the resources early humans relied on would have responded to those climate changes.

The researchers anticipate their findings will transform our understanding of how environmental and climate change affected the evolution of our ancestors and also have implications for humans today.

The National Science Foundation, National Environmental Research Council of the U.K., the International Continental Drilling Program and DFG (Germany Research Foundation) funded the research. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Alicia Saposnik and Mari N. JensenByline Affiliation: UA Department of Geosciences and UA College of ScienceExtra Info: 


"A Human Climate"

Documentary about the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP)


Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project


Andrew Cohen


Earth Images Foundation

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: "A Human Climate," a 14-minute documentary about research in Africa's Rift Valley, can be seen on YouTube. The film was made in 3-D and will be shown at several museums in the U.S., Ethiopia and Kenya. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Old Main Wins State, Regional Awards

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 6:03pm

The planning, design and construction team responsible for the most comprehensive renovation of Old Main in the building's history received four awards during May.

On May 15, the team was presented with a 2015 Governor's Heritage Preservation Award, which is granted in partnership by the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office and the Arizona State Parks in recognition of those that "represent outstanding achievements in preserving Arizona's prehistoric and historic resources."

"Whenever you produce a project, you always hope for the best and strive to complete all of the goals. Old Main is the oldest University building and an icon. To be honored is gratifying," said Rodney Mackey, associate director of Planning, Design and Construction at the UA.

"We wanted the building to be beautiful, and we wanted people to be proud of it," Mackey said. "All of that is demonstrated through these awards."

During the awards ceremony, which was held during the annual Arizona Historic Preservation Conference, it was announced that Old Main also had won the Grand Award.

"The beautiful restoration of Old Main has allowed it to reclaim its rightful place as the hub of the UA campus and as a source of pride to everyone in our community," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "Rodney Mackey, Corky Poster and the many other people who helped make their vision a reality richly deserve accolades for the building’s preservation and design."

Earlier in the month, the team received the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission's Historic Preservation Award. The award recognized the team's exceptional work on the building's shell, exterior, verandas and central hallways. The commission praised the team's work in bringing the building to its original grandeur, while also incorporating 21st-century standards of energy efficiency.

Also, the Old Main project won a Design Build Award granted by the Design-Build Institute of America's Western Pacific region, which encompasses Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. The team will be honored Thursday at a banquet to be held in Newport Beach, California.

"All members of the project team should be very proud to have been a part of such an exemplary project," the institute noted in its congratulatory letter.

Mackey also credited the work of Lorna Gray, who served as construction project manager for Planning, Design and Construction. 

"We partnered up from the very beginning to deliver the project, and the project would not be what it is without her involvement," said Mackey, who served as the design project manager.

"It was a fantasy project for every single one of us, like a culmination of an entire career," Mackey said of working on the restoration. "We are very gratified that the building is being recognized. That's pretty powerful."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The iconic campus building received several honors during May in acknowledgment of its renovation and restoration. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Giffords, Kelly to Speak at Law School Graduation

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 3:03pm

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, will be featured speakers at the centennial commencement of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

The ceremony will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 1 and the public is invited. Parking on the UA campus during graduation weekend is free.

Student-elected speakers include Trevor Hill and Heather Goodwin, members of the Class of 2015. 

At total of 183 degrees will be conferred to graduating law students, with 149 students earning the Juris Doctor degree. An additional 27 will receive advanced law degrees in the specialty areas of indigenous peoples law and policy, or IPLP, or international trade and business law, or ITBL. Seven will receive the new Master of Legal Studies diploma, a degree intended for those who do not need to practice law but want to advance professionally with foundational legal education. Four undergraduate students — the first to graduate with the nation’s only Bachelor in Law degree — will be recognized at the ceremony and formally receive their degrees at the UA’s Commencement on Saturday evening.

"As we observe the law college’s 100 years of public and professional service, it is a special honor to welcome Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly," said Marc L. Miller, dean of the law school. "They are both models of what it means to serve, and even in the face of daunting challenges they continue to serve and inspire us."

As the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, Giffords represented her Tucson community in the Arizona Legislature from 2000 to 2005, and then in Congress from 2006 to 2012.

In Congress, she worked extensively on issues of border security, energy independence, and the needs of military families and veterans. She consistently was ranked as one of the most centrist legislators in Congress.

On Jan. 8, 2011, at an event in Tucson with her constituents, Giffords was shot in the head from close range and critically injured. In stepping down from Congress in January 2012, she said, "I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country."

A third-generation Tucsonan, Giffords holds a master’s degree in regional planning from Cornell University and a bachelor's from Scripps College, where she was awarded a William Fulbright Scholarship to study for a year in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Kelly is a retired Navy combat veteran, test pilot and NASA astronaut. As a naval aviator, Kelly made two deployments to the Persian Gulf on the aircraft carrier USS Midway and flew 39 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm. He attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, has logged more than 5,000 hours in more than 50 different aircraft, and has over 375 carrier landings.

Kelly is the winner of several awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and flew his first of four missions in 2001 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, the same craft that he commanded on its final flight in May 2011. Kelly has spent more than 50 days in space and is one of only four individuals to have visited the International Space Station on four different occasions.

He received a bachelor's degree in marine engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a master's in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

In 2013, Giffords and Kelly founded Americans for Responsible Solutions as a way to encourage elected officials to stand up for safer communities. They maintain a busy schedule of public appearances and speaking engagements, and are involved with several national and community organizations.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: UA James E. Rogers College of LawHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: College will confer 183 degrees in its centennial commencement, and the class includes the first four students to receive the nation's only Bachelor in Law degree.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Finals Survival Week

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 2:28pm

There's no shortage of seriousness on a college campus when it's finals week. In fact, the University of Arizona has taken to calling it Finals Survival Week, with administrators pitching in (and even serving pancakes and sausage) to help take the edge off. UANews videographer Bob Demers explored campus one evening and found plenty of studying going on. But there were some breaks from the books, as well.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsHealthTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  Finals Survival Week Video of Finals Survival Week Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: At the UA, students give new meaning to Bear Down during a pressure-packed week of exams. But there are some less serious moments, too. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, May 13, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

Goodbye 'Mad Men,' Hello Grief

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 6:33pm

When the show "Mad Men" airs its final episode on Sunday after a run of seven seasons on the AMC cable network, millions of fans across the country will grieve one of the most acclaimed TV series in recent history.

Similar to what fans experienced when "Parks and Rec" and "Glee" ended recently, it’s the end of an era — but to marketers, it’s the death of a brand.

Millions in future revenues could hinge on whether it’s "a good death" in the public eye, and research by Hope Schau of the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management is helping business leaders better understand exactly what that means.

Working with fans of four popular TV series, Schau and co-investigator Cristel Russell of American University found that fans experience multiple dimensions of loss when a series ends. Many are left wondering "what happens next" for characters they’ve come to know. Some miss those characters as if they had been real social connections, and others do miss real connections: friends and family from social rituals formed around the shows, such as weekly viewing parties.

Schau and Russell also found that fans cope with series endings in ways that parallel common responses to interpersonal loss, including:

  • Collecting paraphernalia and mementos for a continuing emotional connection
  • Trying to recapture the lost experience, perhaps by watching the series on DVD or in reruns
  • Refusing to accept the loss by holding out hope the characters will return in a movie or by demanding reinstatement of a canceled show
  • Blaming people to make sense of the loss, such as lazy writers or pound-foolish executives looking to cut costs

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of hours of interviews and extensive "netnography" data from online fan forums illuminated factors that differentiate people’s responses to their losses. Anger was common when fans felt a series’ potential stories hadn’t been exhausted. But fans were more positive about the loss when they felt a series ending came at a good time — not too soon, but also not after a show had been milked for all it was worth.

"Television, books and movies today are much more embedded in our social lives and how we tell the world who we are," said Schau, an associate professor of marketing in the Eller College. "Now, when a series ends, not only do we experience that loss of story and fictional friends, we often feel some unraveling in our real-world connections and even our sense of self."

Beyond TV shows, it’s a widely accepted marketing axiom that people choose brands to experience their implied or explicit stories, whether buying a sofa or booking a cruise. Thus, a central question in brand management is how best to manage the trajectories of product lifespans, yet there has been little research on the end-phases of a brand-consumer love story.

This study on the "sudden death" of four narrative brands establishes a framework for exploring how managers might respond to other consumer stressors, Schau said, such as perceived betrayals or transgressions (think iPhone’s 2010 "Antennagate" or Jim Beam’s short-lived 2013 decision to lower the alcohol content of Maker’s Mark). At the same time, it lays a foundation for tackling some of the most important questions corporations face: How long should brands live? How can a dying brand be revived? And if it has to happen, what’s the best way to pull the plug?

Schau and Russell analyzed data spanning seven years from fans of "All My Children," "Entourage," "Outrageous Fortune" and "The Sopranos." Their findings were published in the April 2014 issue of Journal of Consumer Research under the title, "When Narrative Brands End: The Impact of Narrative Closure and Consumption Sociality on Loss Accommodation." 

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Liz Warren-PedersonByline Affiliation: UA Eller College of ManagementHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Research by Hope Schau of the UA's Eller College of Management could help businesses understand what a "good death” looks like for their most valued brands. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Mindfulness Practices Help With Focus

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 5:27pm

In a world that embraces instant gratification, working at breakneck speed and the myth of multitasking, George Mumford presents a different approach to life: using mindfulness to focus on one thing at a time, and as a means to cultivate trust, wisdom, energy and poise.

Mumford, a sports psychologist who has worked with NBA coaches and players, spoke on "Pursuing Excellence With Grace and Ease" recently on the University of Arizona campus, in a talk hosted by the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry. He explained that the power of mindfulness is in "bringing awareness to the process of hearing on purpose in the here and now" and listening without an agenda.

"Mindfulness is a way to allow yourself to hear as if you are hearing it for the first time, creating space to hear as if you haven’t heard it before," Mumford said. "That’s a challenge because the mind has a mind of its own.

"Listening entails vulnerability because it means that we can be influenced," he said.

Mumford said such practices can give people the capacity to "be still" amid an inner hurricane.

"If you look at the hurricane, there is all of this turmoil going on, but in the middle of it, there is this silence, this stillness, this ease," he said. "We have that ability to rest in that place. We can have this quiet, relaxed receptivity, allowing things to come and go and not getting stuck in the story of it, and the views and opinions about what happens.

"It’s understanding mindfulness as a way of creating space from stimulus response. So if somebody says something to you, instead of a knee-jerk reaction, you can just say, 'OK, how do I want to answer that?'" 

Alfred W. Kaszniak, a member of the Confluencenter’s Contemplative Traditions Working Group and an Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute professor who also holds faculty lines in psychology, psychiatry and neurology, said Mumford's visit was "to help make mindfulness practice more accessible to a wider range of individuals at the UA and in the wider Tucson community." 

Javier Duran, the Confluencenter’s director, said that one of the center’s goals is to sponsor engaging and free programming that examines humanity’s grand challenges. 

"The eclectic nature of Mumford’s talk, which included elements of cognitive science, sports medicine and Eastern philosophy, represents the innovative and interdisciplinary work in which the Confluencenter invests," Duran said.

Garry Forger, also a member of the Confluencenter’s Contemplative Traditions Working Group, said that Mumford’s visit was something new and different for Tucson.

"It’s a great outreach to the community, and I think something that people might not necessarily associate with the UA," Forger said. "I think it gives the UA another boost and people realize that the UA isn’t just about optics and science and all the things that get the big publicity. We’re also doing this other stuff that’s really cool and also has an impact."

George Mumford’s book "The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance," was released by Parallax Press on May 12. His talk on "Pursuing Excellence with Grace and Ease" can be viewed here.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Jamie ManserByline Affiliation: UA Confluencenter for Creative InquiryHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Sports psychologist George Mumford tells a UA audience that sharper listening skills can "create space" in life, giving people the capacity to withstand the storms within. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: