executive director

The Division of Student Affairs selected Hemlata Jhaveri, who currently serves as director of administrative services for the Division of Housing and Food Service, to be executive director of DHFS.

Jhaveri will take over for Floyd Hoelting, who is retiring after serving 20 years as executive director. Jhaveri will take up her post June 1, according to Tom Dison, who oversees housing and food services as senior associate vice president.  

“What stood out [about Hemlata] was her spirit of collaboration that she’s already demonstrated her past five years on campus,” Dison said. “When I talked to students, time after time they were very high on her. I think she’s got a very real commitment to both student and staff success.”

Jhaveri was hired after a months-long process that included a national search, a screening committee and extensive input from administration, student-body representatives and faculty, according to Dison.

For the 2014–2015 school year, the the University was unable to accommodate 2,380 of the 9,743 students who applied for housing, according to Alison Kothe, communications and marketing coordinator for DHFS.

Jhaveri said meeting student demands for housing is one of her top priorities, along with addressing diversity issues on campus.

“The first task will be to talk to students and get their feedback [on housing and food],” said Jhaveri. “Balancing the demand of what students want will be crucial, especially because the student population changes.”

About 63 percent of on-campus student residents are first-time students, according to Jhaveri.

“Housing and food plays such an important role in connecting students to the University,” Jhaveri said.

Many high school students in Texas are concerned about keeping their grades up and getting into college. They know that a low GPA or standardized test score could have a negative impact on their future. What they may not realize, however, is that their school attendance (or lack thereof) could hit them even harder.

Texas is one of two states in the U.S. that charge students in adult criminal court for continuously missing class, according to a Houston Chronicle article. Students can be charged when they are as young as 12 years old, and they can be fined up to $500. The records of these charges are confidential, but they can have a harmful impact later on when potential schools or employers perform background checks.

These practices were spotlighted in a March 5 report released by Texas Appleseed, an advocacy group that fights against social and economic injustices. According to the report, 115,000 students in Texas were charged in accordance with truancy laws in 2013. This is twice as many cases as the other 49 states have combined. The Houston Chronicle also reports that “80 percent of the children sent to criminal court on truancy charges were economically disadvantaged, defined by their eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch.”

“These children are least able to afford steep fines typically levied in response to truancy charges,” said Deborah Fowler, executive director of Texas Appleseed. “Failure to pay fines, which can run as high as $500, can result in an arrest warrant and even incarceration,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Obviously, students of all incomes should go to school, but slapping lower-income students with a potentially unaffordable fine or an arrest warrant would only make matters worse. A child may have extenuating circumstances that could be handled in a far less dramatic way. Also, charging a student for missing school only exacerbates the problem, as they would be missing more school to appear in court. If their parents are called in, they would miss work, thus putting an even greater strain on many lower-income households.

According to the San Antonio Current, a school must file a Failure to Attend School Class C Misdemeanor charge if a student misses 10 days in a six-month period without approval. Schools may also file a Parent Contributing to Nonattendance against one or both of the student’s parents. 

Texas Appleseed argues against these measures, saying that children who are prosecuted on truancy charges have a higher chance of dropping out and later going to prison.

“In the vast majority of cases, the school, working with the student and family, could address the truancy problem if it made meaningful attempts to do so,” said Mary Schmid Mergler, director of Texas Appleseed’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Project. “Instead, schools often pass the responsibility to courts that are not designed, equipped or trained to provide meaningful assistance to students and their families.”

The Texas Appleseed report recommends that students who face truancy charges should not be tried in adult criminal court and that both students and parents should not be hit with misdemeanor charges, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Texas Appleseed is right to try and soften the blow of truancy charges against students and parents. Schools should, in many cases, have the opportunity to attempt to resolve truancy issues with students and parents before being forced to file charges against them. There will always be cases that need to be handled more aggressively, but the law should provide room for parents and students to discuss the issue with school districts.

Perhaps soon there will be some change. According to the Houston Chronicle, David Slayton, executive director of the Texas Judicial Council, agreed with Texas Appleseed, saying, “They have to deal with the issues. What is causing the child to miss school?”

Perhaps if schools are allowed to “deal with the issues,” students will be able to go back to worrying about tests and grades, not criminal charges.

Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow Dolan on Twitter @mimimdolan.

It’s been a year since UT launched its first massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and, despite low completion rates, Steven Mintz, executive director of the UT System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, said they are part of building a learning platform for the future.

After looking at data from the University’s first eight MOOCs from the fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters, Mintz said a total of about 281,000 people from all over the world enrolled in the courses. Of this number, only about 1-13 percent complete the MOOCs.

Mintz, who is also a history professor at the University, said there might be several reasons for the low completion rates, including the age of MOOC students and their motives for taking the free online courses.

“Your parents aren’t paying $10,000 for you to be sitting in a class, and they expect you to finish,” Mintz said. “It’s a very different experience. Also, most MOOC students are older. They often have degrees. They’re doing it either out of interest or because of professional credentialing. They’re not there to get a BA for the most part.”

In 2012, the UT System invested $5 million into edX, an online learning platform and provider of MOOCs and allocated an additional $5 million to be used for course development. Only $1.5 million of the additional funds have been used for course development. Founded in 2012, edX first offered MOOCs created by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before expanding to offer content from other universities.

Mintz said UT is increasing the spread of its international image, and its ability to compete with other top colleges by being one of the first universities to use MOOC technology.

“We play football in the big leagues, and, academically, we need to be in the big leagues,” Mintz said. “Faculty members of the caliber that UT-Austin has need to feel that they have exactly the same opportunities as a Princeton professor or a Harvard professor, and I want to make sure they have those opportunities.”

Engineering associate professor Michael Webber, who taught the “Energy 101” MOOC, said teaching these free courses is beneficial for the University because professors become better at teaching through learning how to internationalize their content and prepare it for a digital format.

“It forced me to think about how the course I taught works around the world,” Webber said.

While University students don’t directly benefit from MOOCs unless they take the online course, Mintz said materials are currently being developed for MOOCs that can be used in UT classrooms.

“Instead of having a textbook, the MOOC might be the textbook,” Mintz said. “A lot of money is being spent to create interactives, virtual laboratories, virtual reality environments and immersive learning experiences. Even if you never take a MOOC, some of the materials we have developed for the MOOC will be used in classes you will take.”

Mintz said there is also potential in the future for MOOCs to be offered for credit, but Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and research, said there are still problems to be worked out before this can happen.

“One of the problems with offering MOOCs for credit center around being able to authenticate who is taking the MOOC,” Keller said. “You don’t know if it’s the same person every time.”

In addition to making sure the person who registers for the MOOC is the same person taking their exams, Webber said MOOCs are bad at being able to see whether students have mastered the material.

“I don’t think MOOCs should be offered as course credit until assessment in general gets figured out,” Webber said. “This is a solvable problem. We’re just not there yet.”

Editor's note: Mintz's comments and the amount the UT System has dedicated to the program have been updated for accuracy.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

The University appointed Dan Stanzione as executive director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center, or TACC, July 1 and ahead of what is expected to be a busy year for the center.

Stanzione has served as TACC’s deputy director for more than five years, and his recent appointment to the executive director position comes after serving as acting director since January. The center’s stated mission is to design and provide extremely powerful computing capabilities for use by the open scientific and engineering research community.

Stanzione has supervised the creation and implementation of multiple of TACC’s computing systems in the past, and, in addition to his new direction duties, he will serve as principal investigator for the execution of Wrangler, the center’s upcoming data analysis management system. Wrangler’s primary focus will be memory and data-intensive applications.

“We want to let people solve their problems and solve these problems faster,” Stanzione said.

Santiago Sanchez, a biochemistry and Plan II junior in the Freshman Research Initiative, said he has used TACC resources to streamline computational problems in his research. Sanchez said some simulations the group has run would be too large in data size for the initiative’s internal computers to run efficiently.

“TACC allows us to supercharge our simulations and then transfer the vitally important information to our own disks,” said Sanchez.

Charles Jackson, a research scientist at the UT Institute for Geophysics, said TACC resources have allowed him to run a variety of experiments simultaneously and scale up his climate models, which produce huge terabyte-scale data sets.

“TACC is really good at running hundreds of experiments at a time,” Jackson said.

Large bodies of data and their consequential bearing on the STEM fields, as well as other areas such as the social sciences and business, are not lost on Stanzione and TACC. Stanzione also stresses the importance of large data sets, or "big data," in the future, saying big data represents a conglomeration of problems and technologies people will need to solve in all areas of life in coming years.

“There has been an explosion of data in science, as well as outside of science,” Stanzione said

Sanchez said big data has the potential to become central to decision-making in multiple fields, including business analytics and healthcare. 

“I feel we’re moving into an era where no decision will be made without petabytes of information behind it,” Sanchez said. 

At the helm of TACC, Stanzione has an expansive plan for growing TACC’s technology and ubiquity.

“My main goal is to diversify what we do,” Stanzione said of his concept for TACC’s future.

Stanzione’s plans for the close future include expanding staffing, launching Wrangler next January, creating event space for public exhibitions, and opening up a new building that will include more meeting areas for groups of scientists and engineers utilizing TACC resources in their work.

Elliott McFadden, Austin B-Cycle Executive Director, addresses Austin’s new Bike Share program outside City Hall on Wednesday morning. Austin’s $2 million bike sharing program opens Dec. 21. 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Austin will add three new bike kiosks near campus to its bike sharing program, but the additions may conflict with an existing student-run bike-rental program.

B-cycle manages the Bike Share of Austin, an Austin government-sponsored program that began in December. The program allows users to pay a day rate or buy an annual membership to rent a bike, which can be returned to any of 11 bike kiosks throughout the city.

By Sunday, B-cycle will construct 15 additional kiosks, two of which will be located on Guadalupe near 21st Street and the West Mall. One other will be built near the Blanton Museum of Art.

B-cycle’s executive director Elliot McFadden said the bike share program allows people to more easily travel throughout Austin and avoid traffic congestion.

“It’s a great way to get around and make short trips if you’re worried about a bike getting stolen or having to take care of a bike,” McFadden said.

Sam Cortez, bicycle coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services, said transportation services and the city have not yet agreed to merge the city’s program and the Orange Bike Project, the University’s bike-sharing program. Cortez said the city’s program may not integrate well with the University’s program, and transportation services is considering other bike-sharing platforms.

“Most of these bike share programs are more successful in downtown business districts,” Cortez said. “We’re not necessarily sure that’s the right model for the University campus.”

Cortez said students on campus typically want to use a bike long-term, so the cost of the city program’s membership may not be feasible for students.

“Depending on how long you kept your bike out, you could theoretically buy a bike for that price,” Cortez said. “We’d have to have kiosks everywhere — if they live in Jester and want to go to RLM, their rental would be active the whole time they were [in class].”

Victor Harris, director of the Orange Bike Project, said demand for the University’s bikes is high and students must be added to a lengthy wait list to obtain them.

“Most people usually wait about a semester or longer to get a bike,” Harris said.

According to Harris, at least 60 percent of the Orange Bike Project’s funding comes from the Office of Sustainability’s $5 fee, which is added onto students’ tuition payments. Harris said the organization obtains additional funding through an annual bike auction and bike sales.

B-cycle’s executive director McFadden said the demand for B-cycle’s bike rentals exceeded its estimate but did not exceed the program’s capacity. According to McFadden, 95 percent of members and 40 percent of daily users are local.  

“We’re just thrilled that we’re getting higher-than-expected usage,” McFadden said.

According to McFadden, Bike Share of Austin received a $1.5 million federal grant and $500,000 from local companies and organizations. He said the overall projected annual budget is about $700,000 to run 40 stations.

Harris said he thinks that as the city’s bike share program expands its presence around campus, students will transition from its short-term rentals to longer-term rentals with the University’s Orange Bike Project.

“I think it’ll open people’s eyes,” Harris said. “It’ll be more permanent instead of a one-day thing. … That’s where we would step in.”

Watch a Daily Texan videographer evaluate the bike share program in this video column.

Editor’s Note: This is one story in a series of features on external UT foundations that will end Wednesday. 

When former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin was hired to a prominent position at the LBJ School of Public Affairs earlier this year, an external foundation played a critical role in her employment. 

The Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values chair at the school is one of many financial incentives the LBJ School is able to offer because of contributions from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, said Robert Hutchings, dean of the school. 

“We wouldn’t have the faculty support we have without those chairs,” Hutchings said. “We wouldn’t be able to recruit the students we have without that support.” 

Despite accumulating a $157 million endowment, the most of any external foundation linked to UT, executive director Mary Herman said many people still don’t even know it exists. 

“I think the LBJ Foundation has kept a low profile so a lot of people don’t even know we exist, or what we do for the library and the school,” Herman said.

The LBJ Foundation formed in 1969 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson and friends decided to raise money for an endowment that would benefit the public affairs school and presidential library that were being constructed in his honor. A board of directors that meets biannually includes members of the Johnson family, their friends and younger members who have experience in public affairs. The board helps keep the foundation going, Herman said.

Herman said the foundation’s next big plans include events in Washington, D.C., and Austin in 2014 to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed and signed by Johnson.

The foundation gave more than $4.2 million to the LBJ School in 2011, according to IRS documents. Most of the funding is earmarked for endowed chairs for professors and graduate student fellowships, Hutchings said. 

“Although we continue to raise funds for the school and the library, the majority of our funding comes from the endowment,” Herman said. “We’ve been in existence for a while, so we’ve really been able to earn a lot of money on funds that were there in the beginning. We’ve added to that over time, but it’s certainly built on that over time.”

The foundation’s eight employees work closely with the school, said Larry Temple, chairman of the board of directors. 

“From the standpoint of the school, we just try to provide scholarships and fellowships that will help attract the best students and the best faculty,” Temple said. “We don’t get into the business of trying to run that school at all. We try to work to provide the best financial resources available so the school can reach its ambitions.”

The foundation also works with the LBJ Presidential Library to direct funds to a variety of projects, including providing research grants to the LBJ School, administering the Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Awards and redesigning the library — which reopened in December after an $11 million renovation. The foundation contributed more than $2.5 million to the library in 2011, according to IRS documents. 

“Having so many balls in the air at one time, you’ve really got to be proactive and respond quickly and be really nimble in managing all these different interests,” Herman said.

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Printed on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 as: Foundation maintains LBJ funding

This article was corrected after its original posting. The LBJ Foundation was formed in 1969.

Sources of revenue on University Lands are well developed today and include successful business ventures in the energy, beverage and agriculture industries, but the pathway to creating that network of income has been riddled with interesting experiments and proposals, university officials said.

For every successful business venture proposed on University Lands, there’s another long list of failed ideas that never amounted to much, executive director James Benson said.

“We’ve had tons of crazy ideas proposed over the years,” Benson said. “Most of the time they just show up at the door. People look for large blocks of land, so we’re a target because we have those large blocks of land. It’s in the desert, so no one thinks it has value. They just believe we would welcome anything.”

Ideas are proposed by both academics and entrepreneurs, Benson said.

“Some are just plain crooks,” he said.

Others ideas are not economically feasible, Benson said.

“My favorite one was called EnviroMission,” Benson said. “The guy wanted to build a tower in the middle of the desert that would be as tall as the empire state building.”

He said the tower would be hollow and have a greenhouse umbrella to generate a convection current that would turn wind turbines to generate electricity.

“Now, we’re talking millions of dollars to generate about 100 megawatts of power — which would be very expensive per kilowatt hour,” Benson said. “I thought we should get a bungee jumping concession to make some money off that.”

There is a delicate balance the managers of University Lands have to strike when considering ideas, Steve Hartmann, former University Lands executive director, said. Hartmann said juggling the various interests on University Lands involved a lot of decision making during his 35 years of director, but was also enjoyable.

“It was always interesting,” Hartmann said. “One of the things I always enjoyed was that you were always having to learn something new for the things we got involved with. By the time you thought you had seen everything, you’d find out you haven’t.”

Timeliness can be a factor to the viability of a proposed University Lands project. Although Hartmann and Benson both recall failed negotiations with companies interested in growing native guayule on University Lands for rubber production in recent years, the plant was successfully marketed by the University System a century ago.

Regent George W. Brackenridge was praised in the April 15, 1910 edition of the University of Texas Record for his work in facilitating the sale of $30,000 of guayule that grew on University Lands. Maximum annual revenue for the University Lands during Brackenridge’s tenure was $120,000, the publication said. The UT Board of Regents in their 1908 biennial report called the sale of the guayule a “windfall” that helped raise funds for a University power plant and library. On Oct. 21, 1943, the Tulia Herald also reported a purchase of guayule from University Lands by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For an undisclosed amount of money, the USDA purchased guayule shrubs on 176,000 acres of University Lands according to the report.

“We try a lot of different things in terms of trying to find the best use of the land,” Hartmann said. “One of the goals is always to diversify the revenue stream. Over the years we’ve tried to grow a number of different crops. That’s how we got the vineyard.”

What started out as a research experiment involving grapes in 1974, transformed one patch of University Lands into Texas’ largest vineyard. Other attempts to grow almonds, pistachios, algae, olive trees and jojoba beans didn’t succeed, Hartmann said.

He said finding the space to accommodate new projects on University Lands can be difficult.

“There is not a single acre that is not leased,” Hartmann said. “In many cases it’s leased for multiple purposes. You have a lot of people out there. When someone comes in with an idea, generally it’s going to move someone else out of the way. It’s got to have significant merit before we tell someone else to get out of the way.”

Limited space was a problem when UT Austin researchers approached Hartmann about testing a rail gun invented by the Center for Electromechanics. The gun used electromagnetic force, rather than chemical energy to fire projectiles.

“This thing would shoot a projectile at phenomenal speeds and phenomenal distances,” Hartmann said. “We were looking for a place to shoot this thing for a number of miles and we couldn’t have any power lines in the way. We couldn’t have any oil wells nearby or any pipelines. I looked for many days and there wasn’t a single place on the 2.1 million acres where there was a place to test the rail gun.”

Just because an idea doesn’t have a future on the University Lands doesn’t mean it is without merit, Hartmann said. Some of the projects find success elsewhere. The rail gun eventually was tested in the early 1990s at the Pickle Research Campus, where it propelled a projectile into the ground according to Lori Moore, administrative manager of the Center for Electromechanics.

“We haven’t used it since the end of the project, but we still have a rail gun pointed into a 150 [foot] hole in the ground,” Moore said.

Hartmann said profitability and feasibility factor in with potential impact on the land.

“A lot of these things produce a lot of long-term changes on the land that you might not even think of, so you have to be pretty judicious about how you do it and where you do it,” Hartmann said.

More than two years after a controversial recommendation to close down the Cactus Cafe & Bar, University Unions executive director Andy Smith will retire from his position on Aug. 31 after 27 years with University Unions.

“I have great hopes for the new executive director,” Smith said. “[University Unions] will be left in good order. Our budget is in pretty good shape after taking cuts like everyone else.”

Smith said the position is an opportunity to help build on University Unions’ student life centers and its recent expansion.

University Unions recently overtook the management of the Student Services Building and Hogg Memorial Auditorium. University Unions already oversees the Texas Union, Student Activity Center and the Student Events Center.

Smith said the University hopes to hire a new executive director during the summer months to ease the transition.

In 2010, Smith was criticized for a proposal to close the Cactus Cafe & Bar, a historical live music performance venue opened in 1979 in the Texas Union.

The University Union Board of Directors supported Smith’s proposal to phase out the cafe and the UT Informal Classes program to save around $122,000 for a 2 percent staff pay increase during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 biennium.

Students, members of the Austin community and musicians opposed Smith’s recommendations and formed the Save the Cactus Cafe campaign, which garnered more than 8,500 supporters in a Facebook group created by UT staffer Wiley Koepp, who served on the nonprofit’s board of directors.

The University eventually announced Cactus Cafe would remain open in partnership with KUT Radio, which would financially support the venue. KUT hired a new manager to run the cafe, replacing former manager Griff Luneburg.

UT alumna Hayley Gillespie, a critic of Smith’s recommendation, was a graduate student in 2010 and said she worked with the Graduate Student Assembly and Save the Cactus Cafe to attempt to maintain the venue.

Gillespie said Luneburg dedicated his life to the venue only to be replaced after Smith’s proposal.

“I wish the people who made it a better place would get the retirement benefits Smith is going to receive,” Gillespie said.

Despite criticisms, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly, who oversees UT student life, said Smith was a leader who fulfilled his responsibilities during his time at the University.

Reagins-Lilly said the executive director is required to make many budgetary recommendations, and Smith worked very closely with the Dean of Students office when recommending the closing of Cactus Cafe.

“You never know, with any decision, how people will react,” Reagins-Lilly said. “[That year] is not central to his success.”

Responsibilities of the executive director include managing University Unions’ “student-centric business and service enterprise,” according to the job listing for the position posted on UT’s website.

Candidates for the position should have a master’s degree and 10 years of experience in a director role at a student facility.

Reagins-Lilly said the hiring committee, which will include student leaders, will consider internal and external applications.

Printed on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 as: University Unions director retires 

Suzi Sosa of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs continues to influence the world of social innovation as executive director of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, a contest designed to find the answers to pressing social and environmental issues all over the globe.

Young adults from 105 countries entered socially and environmentally innovative ideas into the Dell Social Innovation Challenge last year. The competition challenges students to develop solutions to pressing global issues, including lack of electricity in developing countries. After a series of evaluations, one finalist or group of finalists is granted $50,000 to further develop their project. Sosa, associate director for programs at the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, was named executive director of the competition last year.

Sosa worked in the private sector before volunteering for three years as a judge in the final round of the Dell challenge. After the close of the competition in 2011, Dell granted an additional $5 million to expand student participation in the challenge to more countries.

Sosa said her goal is to transform students into social innovators and empower those students to make their ideas happen. There are many ways to get involved in the innovative process that students have not been educated about, Sosa said.

“All you need in order to get started changing the world is passion. You don’t even really need an idea,” Sosa said. “This challenge is about becoming an entrepreneur and an innovator.”

The grand prize winners of the Dell challenge in 2011, TakaTaka Solutions, developed a method of environmentally responsible waste management for rural communities. The Humanure Power Project won the popular student vote for the 2012 challenge with a design to harness human waste to produce electricity. 

One of Sosa’s former students, nursing sophomore Kruti Patel, said Sosa’s Undergraduate Studies class on social innovation changed the way she views an individual’s potential to change the world.

“Every time she spoke, you could hear how passionate she was about getting all of us to think of the problems in the world differently,” Patel said.

John Doggett, McCombs School of Business senior lecturer, collaborated with Sosa on the competition after she was named executive director.

“She really cares about students and has created an amazing new opportunity with Dell. I wish we had a thousand more Suzi Sosas,” Doggett said.

Printed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as: Dell competition fosters innovation

Brewster McCracken, Executive Director of Pecan Street Inc., speaks Tuesday evening about the preliminary results of research on a Smart Grid. The smart grid can highlight areas where energy is being wasted.

Photo Credit: Philip Hutchinson | Daily Texan Staff

Austin-based smart grid researchers conducted field trials in the North Austin Mueller neighborhood and found more efficient ways to place solar panels and measure energy consumption.

The preliminary results of Pecan Street Inc.’s research on smart grid technology present ways to boost energy efficiency in residential and commercial appliances. At the Austin Forum presentation on June 5, Brewster McCracken, executive director of Pecan Street Inc., said his team noticed interesting patterns in consumer energy use during the two-year study of Mueller.

“We’re not yet sure about everything that could be done with all this data that we’ve collected, but already we have noticed important trends,” McCracken said. “One of which is that west-facing solar panels almost supply the total energy demands of consumers during peak times.”

McCracken said there are certain times of day that have peak energy demands, differing between weekdays and weekends.

“With the data acquired from smart grids, you can see the exact time that electricity consumption is at its highest,” McCracken said. “And even more importantly, you can see what devices are using what amount of electricity.”

Collecting data on every appliance in a household isn’t without its risks, McCracken said.

“Of course, privacy with [large amounts of] data is also a big concern,” McCracken said. “With access to that data, the wrong person could tell when you’re not home and then rob it, or an insurance company could figure out if you have become liable because you are using some kind of medical device.”

Because of this, it would be difficult to make the data open source, but there is still room for application developers to figure out how to manipulate the data to make life easier for everyone, McCracken said.

Ross Baldick, electrical and computer engineering professor, said the current state of electrical grid technology applies to energy usage monitoring and how energy goes from production to transmission.

“Smart grid means different things to different people,” Baldick said. “Arguably, the generation and transmission part of the grid, together with the system operator, is already quite smart.”

Baldick said smart grid technology could be used to save consumers money on their electrical bill by targeting inefficient appliances.

“Often, people also include home energy management as an example of smart grid [technology], although I’m not sure I would strictly consider my home as part of the grid,” Baldick said. “The benefits of automating your home energy could be increased ability for consumers to keep track of energy usage, like receiving an email when your AC is performing less efficiently than it should, and helping improve [power stability].”

Juan Ontiveros, executive director of Utilities and Energy Management at UT said the University uses smart grid technology to monitor and manage its energy use.

“We have been using the smart grid approach as it applies to our total energy production for about seven years,” Ontiveros said. “We have installed a real time digital control system to manage the electrical distribution from our power generation and back up power from Austin Energy to our campus buildings.”

Ontiveros said UT’s energy management system can intelligently manage power outages without causing disruptions on campus.

“Shutting down chilled water production has thus far been sufficient to sustain our power production when [there are shortages],” Ontiveros said. “Normally we can do this without the campus even knowing we had an issue. We have not had to shed other campus facilities thus far. We work hard to avoid this issue.”

Ontiveros said UT’s system has proved effective for decades and the University hopes to add to their smart grid capabilities.

“Campus reliability is one of the primary benefits [of the smart grid] and this has served us well for 40 years since we have only experienced three campus-wide power outages in this period,” Ontiveros said. “The University is already expanding the digital power management grid to import facility electrical information to indicate and diagnose problems in the facilities faster.”