interim director

Kay Bailey Hutchison, former senator and president of the Texas Exes, spoke at the KBH Center Symposium Friday. The symposium offered an interdisciplinary take on Mexican energy issues, exploring UT’s potential role in drilling opportunities in Mexico.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

UT energy researchers and students will help discover new drilling opportunities in Mexico when the country opens up its industry to foreign investment in June, according to Jorge Piñon, interim director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy.

Piñon spoke at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business Symposium on Friday. The symposium involved representatives from geology schools across Texas, executive boards of energy companies, the U.S. government and Mexican environmental organizations.

UT’s legal agreements with Mexican universities will help fill the gaps in energy expertise that could stifle the success of the energy reforms, Piñon said.

“About two weeks ago, Provost Fenves was in Mexico City, and UT did sign three agreements with the National Autonomous University of Mexico,” Piñon said. “One agreement was a cooperation agreement on energy between the Cockrell School, the Jackson School and UNAM. We, the University of Texas, [are] moving forward in trying to establish academic bridges.”

Reforms in the past two years mark a stark shift in Mexico’s previous energy policies, which allowed only the national oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos, to drill in Mexico, according to Darcia Datshkovsky, public affairs and energy and earth resources graduate student.

“Until the reforms happened, Mexico had the most closed energy market in [the] whole world — more closed than even North Korea and Cuba,” Datshkovsky said. “Everywhere from production to distribution to refineries, there was absolutely no private investment. It was not just that it was not happening; it was forbidden by law.” 

Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, said opening energy investment to foreign companies holds promise because Mexico has the third largest reserves of shale oil and gas in the world, and most of it remains unexplored.

“In Texas, we have drilled over 1 million wells since oil was discovered around a century ago,” Tinker said. “In a larger area in Mexico, there are only 50,000 wells — exploratory and developmental combined.”

Opening up the energy sector could be risky for the Mexican government and its citizens, according to Melinda Taylor, executive director of the KBH Energy Center.

“The Mexican government is trying to strike a balance to ensure that even with foreign investment, they will get to keep the revenue they need and protect their environment and workforce,” Taylor said. 

Taylor said the symposium offered an interdisciplinary take on Mexican energy issues.

“The idea was to bring together people who would not ordinarily have been in the same room to discuss these issues,” Taylor said. “[Our program] is the first to consider the geopolitical perspective and the potential pitfalls for Mexico.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

One day after The Daily Texan reported Texas Student Media properties were moving under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, the University appointed TSTV-KVRX studio engineer Frank Serpas interim director of TSM. As he steps into his new job, it remains unclear what the lasting impact of the move to the college might be. 

In a letter he addressed to TSM stakeholders, Serpas acknowledged the financial issues of TSM and said the Moody college has an inherent interest in TSM’s success.

“TSM’s charter is to educate students, serve audiences and remain solvent,” Serpas said. “Though the educational mission is paramount, at present solvency is the most urgent concern.”

Serpas also addressed certain questions raised by Daily Texan alumni and supporters. Former Editor-in-Chief John Schwartz, who is now a correspondent at The New York Times, said he was unsure what the Moody college’s involvement would mean for the Texan’s operations.

“I have great respect for the UT journalism school — I love the people in it, but not everyone in journalism goes through the journalism school,” Schwartz said. “The thing I love about journalism is that it’s more trade than profession, and anyone can walk in through the door. The more closely the Texan is tied to the school, the less likely you are to have those walk-ins.” 

Schwartz said his main concern as an alumnus is the possibility of restrictions being placed on the Texan’s employment practices.

“I don’t want a structure to arise that makes it harder for an idiot like me to walk in off the street and end up changing his life — and his career,” Schwartz said. “I was going to be a lawyer.”

In the letter, Serpas said he wants to preserve students’ control of their content and equal opportunity to the entire UT student body. 

“I was not a communications major, so I appreciate that TSM welcomes students irrespective of their fields of study,” Serpas said.

While some administrators and alumni work to address the questions that have arisen as the result of the move, others question how the decision was made in the first place. A.J. Bauer, treasurer of alumni support group Friends of The Daily Texan, said he does not understand how the change can be made without amending the student Declaration of Trust.

The Declaration of Trust was created in 1971, when Texas Student Productions — which later became TSM — was engaged in a legal battle with the UT System Board of Regents over the control of its financial assets and student editorial content. Unlike student productions’ earlier charter from 1922, the new trust made the organization an independent entity, although its assets and certain staff positions were still to be controlled by the regents.

“I’m waiting to see how they justify [the move],” Bauer said. “The Declaration of Trust is a legal document that can’t just be overlooked.”

Gage Paine, the vice president of student affairs, acknowledged that little student input went into the decision, but said this was a result of inaction on the part of the TSM Board members themselves. Paine said when she spoke to TSM Board members at a meeting in September, she made it clear her office was open to hearing feedback.

“We left [the meeting] with a pretty clear message that it was ongoing, that no decision was made that day and that we were open to hearing people’s thoughts and concerns and ideas,” Paine said. “Not a whole lot of people came and knocked on my door and said, ‘I really need to talk to you about it.’ … It’s true I never contacted them, because I had opened the door.”

Paine said, ultimately, it was President William Powers Jr.’s decision. 

“The president decides [the administrative home of TSM],” Paine said. “It’s his decision. It wasn’t a vote … did anyone pick up the phone and poll the board members? No.”

Paine said administrators were planning to tell the TSM property managers about the move to the Moody college on Friday.

Paine also said she wanted to make clear the decision was not an act of desperation by her office or a power play on the part of college.

“The dean isn’t grabbing [TSM],” Paine said. “And I’m not punting it.”

Jalah Goette  
Texas Student Media director

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Jalah Goette, director of Texas Student Media, announced Friday that she will be stepping down from her position at the end of January.

TSM oversees The Daily Texan, Texas Student TV, KVRX radio, Cactus Yearbook and Texas Travesty, a humor publication.

“I have enjoyed my time with Texas Student Media and have appreciated the opportunity to work with you and the many other students that have been associated with TSM,” Goette said in an email to student managers and editors. “After eight years, it is time for me to move on to take the next step in my career.”

Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president for student affairs and the person who oversees the director position, said currently there is no timeline to appoint an interim director.

Goette became interim director in March 2012 and was appointed by the TSM Board of Operating Trustees as permanent director in November 2012. Goette stepped in during a period of controversy when former director Gary Borders said he was forced to resign by the University after discussing the possibility of selling the TV station’s federal operating license. Before that, Goette — a UT alumna — had served in various roles at the organization including as the assistant director overseeing advertising and business operations.

“I want to thank Jalah Goette for her eight years of service to Texas Student Media, where she has been a vital asset to the organization,” said Dave Player, third-year law student and president of the TSM board. “We wish her all the best in her next endeavor.”

Goette’s resignation will mark the fourth change in the director position in four years. Hammat, who served as interim director from October 2009 to June 2011, said the University will likely take a close look at the job description of the position before moving forward.

“Clearly, the way we’ve structured it hasn’t yielded us longevity,” Hammat said.

Currently, TSM is tackling a number of potential changes in its structure. The entity is housed in the Division of Student Affairs, though since earlier this semester, there have been discussions about possibly moving it to the Moody College of Communication. Hammat said Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College, has been notified of Goette’s resignation but said no decisions have been made, and that the next seven weeks before Goette leaves will give the University some time to think about the best next step.

“If we’re looking for the right administrative home for TSM, then we need to make sure we’re talking to the [Moody College],” Hammat said. “We need to at least give it enough time to breathe so we can formulate what the options are.”

Last year, TSM offset a $190,000 shortfall in revenue by dipping into its reserve funds. The board will be setting a budget in March for the 2014-15 fiscal year and asked Goette in November to come up with two budget plans: one that maintains the status quo and one that makes several changes to the current structure. Hammat said she still hopes to see preliminary budget plans before Goette leaves.

Ian Reese, Texas Student TV station manager, said he enjoyed working with Goette in his current capacity and felt that she communicated well with students and staff. Reese said her resignation comes at an inopportune time as he feels the organization is in need of leadership and a point person on budget issues.

“It brings up the question on what the game plan is now on how TSM is going to operate in the next year,” Reese said.

Player said the board will continue developing a new business plan.

“We are excited for what the future has to offer for our student media,” Player said.

On Tuesday, UT announced that Thomas Edgar, a chemical engineering professor, will be promoted to interim director of the research-scandal-plauged UT Energy Institute. We hope Edgar will bring fresh air and cultural change to the Institute, which last year presented and published a study ridden with grammar and citation errors that concluded that hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) does not directly cause groundwater contamination. In July, the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), a Buffalo-based nonprofit, reported that the Plains and Exploration Company (PXP), which extracts natural gas from Texas shale using fracking, had paid one of the study’s authors, Charles “Chip” Groat,  former UT geology professor, the author of the study in question, $413,900 to serve on its board, more than twice his professor’s salary. “It doesn’t appear it was even edited,” the PAI report said about Groat’s study. After a University-appointed task force reviewed the study and the possible conflicts of interests its publication and PXP’s payments to the professor created, Groat retired and Ray Orbach, then director of the Energy Institute resigned. Temporarily replacing Orbach, Edgar wants to move on, but the damage inflicted as a result of the flawed study, its author’s conflicts of interest, particularly given the funding the University receives from the oil and gas industry, scarred UT’s reputation.

“We had a case of [a] report [that] did not get finished officially before the presentation deadline to be adequately reviewed,” Edgar said in an interview with the Texan recently, “So that was one of the problems [with] the nature of the report from a purely technical standpoint … [but that] has nothing to do with the conflict of interest situation with Dr. Groat.”

Edgar has several clear goals that he believes will raise the Institute’s profile favorably. He intends to make the pre-publication review processes more rigorous “so that something that goes out the door isn’t going to be subjected to criticism later because we didn’t do our due diligence … I personally will be reviewing anything that goes out the door as well.”

Edgar also wants to make the Institute’s idea-generating mechanism more far-reaching by soliciting faculty from outside the Institute’s walls, citing the “science, engineering, law and business schools” as resources for future study ideas.

What does Edgar think about fracking? Do we know enough to drill with the new technology at the feverish rate at which companies are doing so, specifically in South Texas?

He avoids taking sides: “I believe fracking can be done in a responsible way, as long as people behave responsibly and do the right thing… I personally think that we need to be open about this, we need to let people know what’s going on, we also need to know, is there any impact of doing this? It’s a matter of public record to divulge this, we can’t just say, ‘No, it’s proprietary,’” he says about recent efforts to force fracking companies to divulge the list of chemicals they use. Have the staff and faculty at the Institute resisted Edgar’s effort to change its culture?

“The people who were considered to be the cause of the problems are not here anymore,” he said. “I’m looking at restructuring what we do here, we’re going to have a lot more people involved focusing on what we are trying to accomplish rather than what has happened in the past, and that hopefully is going to recharge what we’re doing.”

Chemical engineering professor Thomas Edgar will serve as interim director of the Energy Institute at UT. Edgar will replace former Energy Institute director Ray Orbach, who resigned after controversy surrounding conflicts of interest in a publication by the institute on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. 

“It was a selection by the provost with input from various parties on campus in that decision,” Energy Institute spokesman Gary Rasp said. 

Edgar began in his new role Jan. 15 and will serve in the interim position for one year while overseeing the development of sustainable energy plans by the institute. 

The Energy Institute at UT is a research group that seeks to provide sustainable solutions to energy issues. The institute is responsible for promoting UT and its faculty as leaders in energy research and for helping create new energy policy. 

“We’re really trying to start with a clean sheet of paper here,” Edgar said. 

Orbach resigned as head of the institute, but not from his faculty position, last December in the wake of a controversial report the institute released on fracking. After a watchdog group found that the study’s lead author had undisclosed ties to an oil and gas company, an independent review of the study also found problems with its construction and findings, which downplayed the environmental impact of the drilling technique. Fracking uses sand, water and chemicals to break through rock and release natural gas, but also has been accused of contaminating and depleting water reserves. The lead author retired after the study was released and scrutinized. 

Edgar said he envisions both challenges and opportunities with his new position as interim director of the institute. 

“One of our challenges is to promote what the faculty are doing in terms of the research,” he said. “Making the average student more familiar with energy issues and policy issues is something we should be doing.”

Edgar also said cooperation among members of different academic fields, a process he refers to as integration function, is important for the purposes of research. 

“The way of the future and the way now is to do things on an interdisciplinary basis,” he said. “No one discipline has all the answers.” 

Edgar joined the University faculty in 1971. Since then he has held numerous offices in the Cockrell School of Engineering, including that of professor, department chair of chemical engineering and associate dean of engineering. He has published hundreds of articles and co-written three textbooks on optimizing coal and chemical processing. 

In addition to his new interim duties, Edgar will continue to teach a chemical engineering course for the spring semester. Chemical engineering senior Julie Fogarty is a student in Edgar’s process control class. 

“Dr. Edgar is one of the most well prepared professors I have had at UT — he is clearly very familiar and invested in the material,” she said. “Dr. Edgar uses process control to tie in all of the material we’ve learned over the past four years and relates it to industry.”

While Edgar said he seeks to promote key issues in energy as interim director, he continues to educate and prepare students for the world of chemical engineering.  

“We would like to see more students in all fields become aware of what the Energy Institute is doing,” Edgar said.

Published on February 8, 2013 as "Provost hires Energy Institute director". 

UT has appointed Dan Sharp as the director of the Office of Technology Commercialization after he took the lead as interim director a year ago.

Sharp became interim director after previous director Richard Miller resigned because of a conflict of interest by licensing UT technology to companies in which he held stock.

The office assesses discoveries and inventions made by UT researchers and faculty in order to pursue patents and analyze commercial applications and potential markets to help products succeed in the market place. The office helps connect theoretical research and start-up business ideas to products and services with industry and investors.

“Sometimes there is a bit of misconception about what we are commercializing,” Sharp said. “People may think we’re using already-made products or prototypes. The majority of the time we’re commercializing an invention that exists only in a lab notebook or a scientific journal.”

Sharp is a alumnus of the UT Cockrell School of Engineering and Lyndon B. Johnson School of Law. Sharp said that his experience as an intellectual property lawyer prior to joining the office influenced his focus as interim director.

“We’re going to continue what we’ve been doing over the past year focusing on education for faculty and researchers across the board, protecting intellectual property, obtaining quality patents and licensing technology out to the private sector, using the research that is being done at UT for the public good.”

Sharp said his time as interim director helped build a network of contacts throughout campus that will be valuable in his new permanent position.

Juan Sanchez, the vice president for research, said Sharp’s year as interim director was a positive experience and as director, Sharp will continue to enhance the work done to commercialize researchers’ work.

“I have appointed him to the post with the conviction that he will raise commercialization at UT Austin to the next level,” Sanchez said. “His knowledge and experience in intellectual property protection and licensing has improved both the quality of our patent filings and the agility and terms of our licensing deals. He is thorough, knowledgeable and communicates extremely well with UT’s internal and external stakeholders.”

In cooperation with the office, Sharp said the College of Pharmacy has developed UT’s highest grossing patent on technology to make tamper-proof Oxycontin. M. Lynn Crismon, dean of the college, said Sharp has made connections with faculty during his time as interim director.

“Mr. Sharp has reached out to us and he has been positive in his interactions,” Crismon said. “He truly appears committed to positively facilitating faculty efforts to license intellectual property. He has experience in preparing patents for submission, and he is well prepared to assume the duties as director of OTC.”

Sharp said besides commercializing products and ideas his vision for the office includes symposiums with faculty and researchers.

“There will be lectures focused on intellectual property or technology licensing but we also try to address the issues that are unique to the academic environment,” Sharp said. “We also want to hear feedback from the faculty.”

Published on January 14, 2013 as "Sharp promoted to director of tech office". 

Jalah Goette  
Texas Student Media director

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time in nine months, Texas Student Media has a permanent director.

Jalah Goette was appointed to the position Nov. 8 by Gage Paine, Vice President for Student Affairs, after the Texas Student Media board members recommended Goette be appointed to the position instead of conducting a month-long national search. Texas Student Media represents the various student media organizations on the UT campus, including The Daily Texan, Texas Student Television, KVRX, the Texas Travesty and the Cactus Yearbook.

“Goette understands the complexities and changing horizon of college media,” Paine said. “She is also respected by TSM’s professional and student staff.”

Goette has served as interim director since Gary Borders resigned from the position in February. Borders said he was forced to resign by Juan Gonzalez, former vice president of student affairs, because he suggested selling Texas Student Television and KVRX. Goette said working as the interim director helped her prepare for working as director. Before she was appointed interim director, Goette oversaw business and advertising as the assistant director.

She said the top priority for Texas Student Media is developing its budget for the upcoming school year.

“Incorporating feedback from all aspects of the organization in the budget development process is crucial for our success and is a great educational opportunity for our student managers and editors to better understand the business model,” Goette said.

She said the biggest struggle faced by Texas Student Media and its entities is figuring out a way to reach the student audience as news consumption becomes more digital. She said she wants to see more collaboration between the different student media outlets.

“This year our student managers and editors have been eager to work together to enhance collaboration and cross-promotion of our media entities,” Goette said. “I will continue to encourage this type of work.”

Becca Rushworth, TSTV station manager and a nonvoting member of the Texas Student Media board, said she is glad the new director is coming from within Texas Student Media.

“It really helps to have someone who has been here a long time, is happy to be here and knows what it is like to be a student,” Rushworth, a radio-television-film senior, said.

Rushworth said she is hoping Goette can keep the different student entities operating during a time when many college news organizations are cutting back.

“I know it’s mostly part of the students’ jobs to find a method to keep it alive, but it is going to take her leadership and knowledge to keep the entities afloat,” Rushworth said.

The Texas Student Media board is composed of 11 voting members and 11 nonvoting members. As director, Goette is a nonvoting member. The board is composed of students, faculty members and professional journalists. Some are appointed and some are elected by the student body.

Associate director of University Health Services Jamie Shutter will begin leading UHS as interim director starting in September.

She is taking over for UHS director Jeanne Carpenter, who announced her retirement earlier
this month.

“Jamie has always prioritized the needs of students in every decision she makes,” Carpenter said. “She is an excellent choice for interim director, and our students will be in good hands with Jamie leading the organization.”

Shutter’s accomplishments as associate director include starting the UT Wellness Network, overseeing the redesign of the UHS website, and developing and increasing the visibility of the Center for Students in Recovery, Carpenter said.

Shutter was one of two people recognized by the University as 2011 Outstanding Supervisors, said Chris Brownson, associate vice president for student affairs, who appointed Shutter.

“Jamie has a wealth of knowledge and experience in college health. She has a passion for working with students and has been a campus leader for promoting student wellness,” Brownson said. “She is open, fair and makes decisions based on what is in the best interest of students.”

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Interim director position filled at University Health Services

Gary Borders starts his new job as Texas Student Media director June 20. Borders steps into the position amid budget cuts and a reduction in the number of weekly print days for The Daily Texan.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Newly appointed Texas Student Media director Gary Borders said the future of the UT media outlets lies in increasing the use of technology and cooperation between TSM branches to maximize quality coverage.

Borders begins his job as TSM director June 20, replacing interim director Jennifer Hammat who worked in the position for a year and a half. He received his masters degree in journalism from UT and will leave his post as publisher of Cedar Park’s Hill County News.

As he steps into the position, Borders will see the impact of shrinking budgets as The Daily Texan reduces its print editions from five days a week to only publishing Mondays and Thursdays because of budget cuts, but he said he does not fear for the future of print newspapers.

“There’s no doubt that the landscape has shifted over the last few years,” Borders said. “But I think the printed product is really going to be around for a long time. It is a great vehicle for advertisers and people will always want to have something to hold in their hands when they sit down to have a cup of coffee.”

Borders, a former newspaper writer, editor and photographer said he hopes to see more synergy between The Daily Texan, KVRX and TSTV.

“At my last job in Cedar Park, I wrote the story, took pictures and used my iPhone to take video,” Borders said. “It’s what you have to do. It’s what they are doing out there.”

Borders said he hopes to hold the position for as long as possible and will wait to fully understand the operation of TSM before he makes any significant changes.

Hammat said she knows with Borders’ previous experience, she is leaving her staff in the right hands.

“The job entails having great administrative oversight but also letting competent people do their job,” Hammat said.
“I feel like we’ve done the right thing by hiring Gary.”

Hammat said budget issues and reorganization challenges filled the past 20 months when she served as interim director, but she feels sure Gary and the staff will continue strong.

Former Daily Texan editor-in-chief Lauren Winchester said the Texan is cutting its summer printing schedule because of the budget cuts TSM faces.

“We couldn’t afford to keep the paper printing five days a week this summer,” Winchester said. “We considered doing this since last summer but we were able to put it off until this one.”

Winchester said financial concerns caused the reduction, but the Texan staff hopes that by only printing two days a week they can be pushed toward the necessary online mind-set. The Texan will resume daily printing in
the fall.

Daily Texan editor-in-chief Viviana Aldous said this summer, the staff will focus on creating a more prominent and effective online presence for the Texan.

“We are trying to use our website as a breathing, living thing that responds to our readership,” Aldous said. “We are hoping to expand our coverage for more effective and productive use of the website and digital media.”