visiting professor

Meghan McGowan and Kelsey Barajas chat with visiting professor Iris Apfel. 

Photo Credit: Kelsey Barajas | Daily Texan Staff

Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old “Rare Bird of Fashion,” has held many honors to this day: an exhibit dedicated to her style at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her own line of clothes on the Home Shopping Network, a fashion spread for Italian Vogue and advertising campaigns for Coach and Kate Spade. She has been the face of MAC Cosmetics and is the subject of an Albert Maysles documentary. Apfel is also a visiting professor at UT, a title she holds dear. 

Each year, 15 students dedicated to the fashion industry are chosen for the School of Human Ecology’s UT in NYC course that takes place every May. 

Under the direction of Nancy Prideaux, the program coordinator and a senior lecturer in the Textiles and Apparel Department, selected students thoroughly research industry leaders and events. Then they meet with Apfel in New York City for a number of company visits. This unique opportunity allows students to take their classroom to the heart of the fashion industry and learn from firsthand experience.

The UT in NYC program is unparalleled. While many universities with fashion-related programs take trips to New York City to explore the industry, none are led by an industry icon as notable as Apfel. Apfel opens doors to the likes of J. Crew, Bergdorf Goodman, Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar — retailers, designers, public relations firms and more with a lot of prestige in the industry. 

Students are selected for the program through a competitive application, which includes an interview and faculty recommendations. The program itself seeks to incorporate students from varied backgrounds and experiences to participate in a robust exchange of ideas with each other and industry members.

When Sue Meller, BA ’75 and member of the school advisory council, visited the Met-debuted “Rare Bird of Fashion” exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Boston, she was unaware of the series of events that would unfold. 

During her visit, she commented to a docent that the exhibit would be a wonderful experience for UT students. To her surprise, she received a call from Apfel herself soon after, curious about our school. Apfel felt a true connection to UT, commenting that other schools didn’t seem to be as interested in their students. Notable faculty, including former College of Natural Sciences Dean Mary Ann Rankin and others from the School of Human Ecology, met with Apfel in New York City over dinner in December 2010. Then, with the oversight of Prideaux, the course was born, and the first UT in NYC course occurred five months later.

The trip to New York City is a treasured networking experience for the students, who connect with industry professionals and all textiles-apparel grads in the city at an alumni event at the trip’s culmination. 

Supply chain management senior Meghan McGowan attests to how the trip shaped her career: “It’s invaluable to hear from leading professional influences — hearing their stories and the different experiences they have in their toolbox that got them to where they are today.” 

Apfel’s star power certainly isn’t lost on her students or Prideaux. Merchandising senior Kelsey Cowan Barajas believes visiting professor Apfel has had a huge impact on industry executives because she is “not afraid to be uncompromisingly herself or speak her mind.” 

As the faculty member who has worked with her to develop this program, Prideaux describes it as “‘truly a once in a lifetime experience to be in the presence of a creative genius and most astute businesswoman.’” 

Apfel began her career at Women’s Wear Daily and founded Old World Weavers, a textile mill, with her husband Carl Apfel. The textile mill produces replicas of historical textiles, many of which have been enlisted for the White House.

The UT in NYC course has truly influenced the Textiles-Apparel Program and elevated it to compete with other programs nationally. The University’s experience with Apfel allowed it to become a member of the YMA Fashion Scholarships Fund organization. The camera crew for Albert Maysles’ documentary “Iris” — set to be released April 29 — filmed portions of the first UT in NYC course during the students’ time with Apfel in New York City. 

Apfel will be in Dallas for the launch of her documentary at the USA Film Festival later this month. The documentary has received critically acclaimed reviews and is set for private viewings in New York and other venues. We are fortunate to have the support of a fashion icon with so much wisdom, clout and exuberance under her belt. The guidance of visiting professor Apfel provides students the encouragement and enthusiasm to follow her lead in this competitive industry.

Patel is a business honors, finance and textiles and apparel junior from Sugar Land. 

Music therapy could help prematurely born babies regain brain functionality and go home up to two weeks sooner after birth, saving more than $2,000 per day, according to a visiting professor.

Music therapy research in the field of neonatology aims to reduce the amount of time a premature baby spends in the hospital, said Jayne Standley, a professor at Florida State University. Using the therapy, the baby can begin living a normal life at home without the physical and mental burdens of medical treatment, according to Standley. 

The faster a premature baby begins a normal life, the lower the baby’s chances of developing major learning disabilities as the baby grows up are, Standley said.

“If the baby remains overstimulated from hospital sounds, lights and sensations, brain cells divide in an overstimulated state, which leads to faulty wiring in the brain,” Standley said. “Later on, in older children, we see hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. … Every new stimulus causes the child to look around and try to focus, but they just cannot pay attention.”

Marcie Moynihan, a registered neo-natal intensive care nurse at Seton Medical Center, also said loud noises and bright lights could work against giving babies the best care possible, but modern NICUs train their nurses to limit these disturbances.

“When I started in NICUs in the 1970s, they were loud with alarms going off,” Moynihan said. “Nowadays, it would be a pretty unsophisticated NICU to not address those noise and light issues.”

Music therapy teaches premature babies how to breathe regularly, and Standley said doing so helps the children become independent from their medical life-support systems.

“In seconds after the music starts playing, oxygen saturation in the lungs begins to rise because the baby begins to breathe in rhythm with the quiet music,” Standley said. “Music makes pleasure hormones flood the baby’s neurological circuits.”

NICUs in general hospitals have too many other expenses to consider starting a music therapy program, Moynihan said.

“If you have a list of a whole bunch of things that you need in a NICU, I would consider music therapy a lower priority,” Moynihan said.

Local opera singer Alison Trainer said the research’s findings strongly corresponded with her personal experiences with deaf babies’ reactions to hearing music for the first time after cochlear implants.

“I have a dear friend whose baby was born with severe hearing loss,” Trainer said. “When the baby got cochlear implants, his response to the opera singing was obvious — obvious and profound.”

Photo Credit: Ethan Black | Daily Texan Staff

The development of the Internet and social media has created a space for people to share diverse ideas and views — but not necessarily to converse with others from different perspectives, according to a visiting professor.

“We are living in a world where things are sharable but not shared,” said Koichi Iwabuchi, media and cultural studies professor from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “Many polarized voices are competing to gain visibility without dialogue among themselves.” 

The digital media has increased the accessibility of information, but many of the circulating ideas are harmful, according to Iwabuchi.

“[Digital media] has become a center for the connection of new ideas, but we need to rethink the nature of these kinds of connections,” Iwabuchi said.

Iwabuchi used examples of increased Japanese hate speech against Koreans to show how digital media has the power to spread prejudice as much as it has the power to spread information.

“The tolerance of such bigotry was made possible by the Internet,” Iwabuchi said.

Despite the negative impact Iwabuchi states digital media has on societies, Plan II freshman Samantha Gorny said she believes social media is combining with global media to create a space where ordinary citizens have an opportunity to be heard.

“Videos, blogs and forums are challenging the traditionally conservative media coverage of issues and events,” Gorny said.

Five hundred million tweets are sent out per day on Twitter, and Facebook has more than 1 billion active members, according to each of their websites. Experts, as well as everyday users, have attributed the urgency of the Arab Spring, a region-wide revolution that began in December 2010, to social media’s ability to distribute information quickly.

According to chemistry senior, the Internet provides a platform for revolution and freedom of expression, but its openness inevitably results in negative push back. 

“These people get so far lost in their own opinions, where they continue to get positive feedback from the same kind of people,” Nyugen said. “There are no opposing opinions because the opposing opinion is doing the same on another website.”

The speed at which information spreads and the anonymity provided through digital media results in more people participating in hateful behavior, according to Iwabuchi.

“The most threatening to us is not [a mob], but those invisible people who click to endorse the racist action and speech — the silent clicking majority,” Iwabuchi said.

Bain Attwood, a professor in Australian studies from Harvard University, gives a lecture on New Zealand’s indigenous history on Friday. Attwood discusses his findings about the Maori people’s relationship with the British government.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

In its early days, New Zealand was plagued by conflict between its indigenous people and the ruling British government, according to Bain Attwood, a visiting professor of history at Harvard University.

Attwood said his findings on the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, and their relationship with the British government represent the “perennial question in the British imperial historiography.” He said the issues between these two groups stem from their disparate levels of access to the legal system.

“The British sovereignty withheld legal discourse as a resource drawn upon to get leverage over the indigenous peoples,” Attwood said. 

Up until the 20th century, Māori people were rarely recognized as legal owners of much of the New Zealand landscape — an injustice Attwood puts at the center of his research. 

Attwood said many historians question whether British leaders’ vernacular helped trick the Māori tribes into signing an unfair treaty. Though some question the Māori’s understanding of the treaty, and of the concept of sovereignty as a whole, Attwood said answers are indefinite because there is little historical proof to support a given interpretation of what happened. Attwood also said the British downplayed the Māori’s strong military power. 

The Māori people have flourished as time has passed, according to Attwood. In 1769, only about 100,000 Māori people filled New Zealand territory. With the weakening of British power, the Māori people have grown to account for 15 percent of today’s New Zealand population. 

Shang-Ping Xie, climate, atmospheric science and physical oceanography professor at UC-San Diego, says a decadal cooling of the Pacific Ocean could be the cause of a recent global warming hiatus. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

While global average temperature has remained steady over the past 15 years, a visiting professor said at a talk Friday that there are warmer temperatures in store for us.

Shang-Ping Xie, University of California-San Diego climate, atmospheric science and physical oceanography professor, said his research indicated the decadal cooling of the Pacific Ocean seems to be a major cause of the current global warming hiatus. According to Xie, the cooling of the Pacific could not be linked to a carbon dioxide increase and is an example of enhanced climate variability.

“This led us to believe that the decadal cooling we saw over the past 15 years is largely due to natural variability,” Xie said. “If that is true, what’s going down is going to come up. So, when the pacific decadal isolation swings into a positive phase, we are going to see global warming coming back.”

Yuko Okumura, a research associate at the Institute for Geophysics in the Jackson School of Geosciences, organized Xie’s talk. Okumura said she thinks some people may still be skeptical about global warming because of the hiatus. According to Okumura, the natural variability caused by the interactions of the ocean and the atmosphere tends to overshadow the impact of human-caused climate change.

“It’s really hard to communicate the impact of natural variability superimposed on global warming due to anthropogenic forcing, and it’s [a] difficult concept to understand,” Okumura said. 

Judd Partin, a research scientist at the University’s geophysics institute who studies past climate change, said he thought Xie gave a great explanation of the hiatus in global warming. He said that, until the talk, he had not known sea surface temperatures can control
rainfall patterns. 

“The warmer sea temperatures lead to higher precipitation and vice versa,” Partin said.

Xie said the heat waves, warm temperatures and droughts seen in the southern United States seem to have resulted from the hiatus event because all of the precipitation and temperature patterns can be traced back to tropical Pacific cooling.

“People rely on imported water — 80, 90 percent in Southern California at least,” Xie said. “If the rainfall shifts away or something, it’s going to have tremendous consequences. Maybe it’s fairer to say global warming is not really a temperature issue but, rather, a water issue. Rainfall is going to increase somewhere and decrease somewhere else.”

Stanford psychology professor Laura Carstensen speaks to an audience at the O’Donnell Jr. Building on Friday afternoon. Carstensen’s lecture, “Exploding the Misery Myth,” dealt with the emotional effects of aging in older populations.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

While, for young adults, negative stigmas may surround growing old, a visiting professor said there are misconceptions about misery of aging in a lecture at the University on Friday.

In her lecture titled “Exploding the Misery Myth,” Laura Carstensen, Stanford University psychology professor, said some assume older people are more depressed because they are closer to death.

“When I entered this field, about 30+ years ago, at that time there was very little research on emotion and aging, or well-being and aging,” Carstensen said. “It was mostly on biological and cognitive changes with age. The idea was, of course, emotion follows the same course and people are getting increasingly vulnerable— increasingly frail. They get increasingly depressed, sad and anxious. After all they’re coming closer and closer to the end of their lives, so why wouldn’t that be?”

Carstensen said, as people get older, their social circles get smaller, and they do not interact with as many people, which allows for more meaningful relationships with the people with whom they do interact.

“It turns, and many people began to find that older people are not sad and anxious and lonely,” Carstensen said. “In fact, they have lower rates of every known form of psychopathology except for dementia, which is by definition a disease by old age and a brain-based disease by old age.”

Carstensen said young adults, not older people, experience the highest rates of depression.

“People keep telling people your age this is the best time in your life,” Carstensen said. “I think, knowing that emotionally speaking, that’s not true. That in fact, it’s the flip — that this is probably the worst time in your life — [that] can help people think about the future more easily.”

According to Carstensen, research on older populations should not focus on the size of social circles.  

“At one point we decided we should not simply be looking at how large or small social networks are but who are in those networks,” Carstensen said. “We don’t believe this is about age as much as it is about time, future time.”

Karen Fingerman, psychology and human studies and family development professor, used the example of college freshmen attending parties to meet new friends, hoping to increase the size of their social circle.

“It was adaptive when you were a freshman to go to a lot of parties so you could get the friends you need,” Fingerman said. “We are adjusting our behaviors at all stages in life to fit our goals, and so each of those behaviors is adaptive for that goal.”

Eden Davis, human studies and family development graduate student, said that getting older should be looked at as a chance for strengthening relationships.

“Aging is not a process of deterioration,” Davis said. “There are gains in life. There are gains in emotional experience and relationships, and that’s something really positive to focus on.