Tag Archives: Education

St. Edward’s Renovations Go Green

I wrote this article originally for the Hilltop Views.

St. Edward’s University has made concerted steps towards a more energy-efficient campus over the past few years, and the renovations
on Doyle Hall have been especially environmentally conscious.

Doyle Hall is being renovated and expanded in order to accommodate more classrooms, as well as offices for faculty and staff.  The
university site says that renovations of existing buildings, such as Doyle Hall, allow the university to repurpose an existing building and
prevents existing building materials from going into a landfill.  Most of the building’s shell and interior walls will be reused, including
existing clay tile walls, concrete structure and roof, light fixtures and floor finishes.

In order to preserve St. Edward’s heritage, the university has secured notable architects to help renovate older campus buildings, as opposed to simply tearing them down.  Not only does this move maintain the campus’ traditional aesthetic, but keeping older buildings like Doyle Hall and opting for renovations helps the university go green.

St. Edward’s Physical Plant Project Manager Saleem Jehangir says that the most important green step taken in the renovation of Doyle was reusing building materials and simply demolishing the building and starting from scratch.  “Although the reuse of Doyle was extremely challenging from a design standpoint, given the low ceilings and beam depths, the quantity of energy and materials saved was substantial.”

Samara Spence of the Benz Resource Group, which is working with St. Edward’s on the renovations, says the architects and contractors took several steps to improve the sustainability of Doyle Hall.  These steps included focusing on four key parts: the sustainability of the site, materials and resources, indoor air quality, and energy performance improvements.

To keep the site sustainable, existing Cedar and Oak trees were left untouched.  In addition, the addition to Doyle Hall was designed as a
dense two story structure to minimize impervious cover and compliment the existing architectural character.

St. Edward’s made a resolute effort to reuse as much of the existing building materials as possible.  The university’s Web site says that
renovating outdated buildings helps reduce costs and cut down on waste in the landfill.  “St. Edward’s is helping reduce negative impacts on the environment by implementing sustainable design principles. Whenever possible, the university reuses existing materials, such as
carpets, to minimize waste.”

In terms of increasing the quality of the air indoors, all paint used in the project is low VOC (volatile organic compound), which is meant
to reduce air-born toxins in the building.  Also, sealants and construction adhesives are low VOC.

One of the most important aspects of the renovations of Doyle Hall regarded energy efficiency.  New double-paned windows with low-e
coated class are being installed in the building. The new roof with be a white TPO roof, which is a reflective material that minimizes the
heat gain on the roof surface.  Also, new roof insulation will be installed.

Other additions meant to improvement energy performance include sun shade systems to control direct sun exposure into the building,
occupancy sensing lights that will turn off when nobody is in the room, energy efficient fluorescent lighting, and a more energy efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) system.

Jehangir adds that the lighting in Doyle Hall will feature low wattage fixtures.  “Maximum lighting power consumption is one watt per square foot.”

He also mentions that construction waste recycling has been instituted and many recyclable or re-processed materials have been specified, such as the cementitious cladding and aluminum windows.

The building isn’t the only aspect of Doyle Hall that is getting an environmentally friendly facelift.  St. Edward’s is enhancing the  landscaping, adding more trees, plants, fountains and shaded seating around campus.  At Doyle Hall, the university’s plans are to include
colorful native plants like Monterrey oaks and mountain laurels to shroud the nearby parking lot and road.

The hall was named after Mrs. Mary Doyle, who left most of her 498-acre South Austin farm to the Catholic Church to establish an
“educational institution.”  Three years after the passing of Mrs. Doyle, Father Sorin founded what was then called St. Edward’s Academy.
Doyle Hall opened its doors to its residents in 1960.  The residential hall has since served as a male-only hall, a female-only hall, and a coeducational hall.



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Meghan McCain on Ann Coulter

On the “Blogs and Stories” section of the Daily Beast, Meghan McCain dishes on being a middle (wo)man in a politically polar world. From being called a RINO (“Republican in name only”), to having Ann Coulter being the egregious side of the Republican image, McCain explains how the younger generation is being lost in translation.

Meghan McCain

I am sure most extreme conservatives and extreme liberals would find me a confusing, walking contradiction. But I assure you, there are many people out there just like me who represent a new, younger generation of Republicans. It took me almost two years of campaigning across this country and hanging out, on a daily basis, with some of the most famous and most intelligent Republicans to fall in love with the Republican Party. If it took that much time and exposure for me to join the party, how can GOP leaders possibly expect to reach young supporters by staying the course they have been on these past eight years? Where has our extreme thinking gotten us?

In regards to right-wing extremist, Ann Coulter, McCain explains that both her politics and mien.

I straight up don’t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time. But no matter how much you or I disagree with her, the cult that follows Coulter cannot be denied. She is a New York Times best-selling author and one of the most notable female members of the Republican Party.

More so than my ideological differences with Ann Coulter, I don’t like her demeanor. I have never been a person who was attracted to hate or negativity. I don’t believe in scare tactics and would never condone or encourage anyone calling President Obama a Muslim. But controversy sells and Coulter is nothing if not controversial. Everything about her is extreme: her voice, her interview tactics, and especially the public statements she makes about liberals. Maybe her popularity stems from the fact that watching her is sometimes like watching a train wreck.

Can I get an amen?

I am a big fan of this article because I reflect similar sentiments as the 2008 Republican presidential candidate’s daughter. Being a proponent of conservative libertarianism , I can relate to feeling of exclusion from either party. I grew up in a conservative environment, but I have some views that are not “deemed appropriate” by the GOP. However, I’m without a doubt more conservative (I do not relate with the Democratic party in terms of fiscal, economic, or military issues in any way).

I can appreciate McCain’s views and even agree with a majority of them. I think it’s honorable and respectable that this young woman has solid beliefs of her own that she refuses to sugarcoat just because the two dominating parties don’t “approve.” Which begs the question: who’s representing us moderates and third-party people?

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Austin Bike Plan

The article was written originally for the Hilltop Views.

Bicycling has become a significant part of the Austin identity, as it provides locals an alternative mode of transportation and serves as recreation and exercise. In a move to rally round local bicyclists, the City of Austin has created the Austin Bicycle Master Plan, a means to create and promote the ideal environment for the friendly co-existence of bicycle riders and other transportation users in the area.

With the rising costs of fuel, the economic decline, and environmental concerns, many Austin locals have turned to bicycling. “Unfortunately,” imputes the Austin Bike Plan Petition committee, “Austin’s infrastructure has not kept up with this demand, forcing cars and bikes to share the same road space, at times in dangerous ways.”

The City of Austin says the plan is a set of goals, objectives and actions to be completed over the next ten years to transform Austin into a world-class bicycling city. These moves include facility development, inter-departmental and interagency coordination, public education, enforcement, promotional campaigns and supportive public policy, amongst other things.

Mayor of Austin, Will Wynn, says that “Austin’s Bicycle Master Plan is an effort [for Austin] to become the most bicycle friendly major city in Texas and make Austin a world-class city for cycling.” In addition to helping bike riders, Mayor Wynn says the plan will help the city reverse the “impacts of global warming.”

The Austin 2020 Bicycle Plan is an update of the existing Austin Bicycle Plan, which was completed in two parts in 1996 and 1998. The former bicycle plans’ goals are still pertinent, but are in desperate need of an update. The City of Austin says the new plan will present “a holistic and practical approach to achieve the vision of becoming among the best communities for bicycling. It provides the framework and actions necessary to build a bicycle system, including the bicycle network and supporting end-of-trip facilities, to develop the educational and encouragement programs necessary to promote bicycling as a safe and convenient way to travel and exercise, and improve enforcement of bicycle-related laws to create a safe environment for bicycling.”

Not all are impressed entirely with the plan. Elliott McFadden, organizer of the Austin Bike Plan Petition, explains, “On a positive note, the draft plan calls on resolving all vehicle parking in bike lanes by 2020, however it does not indicate what this resolution will be. There is also nothing in the plan about consistent enforcement of drivers who are at fault for hitting cyclists.”

Open house meetings were held on Feb. 26 and March 4 for Austinites to come voice their concerns about the Austin Master Bicycle Plan. Mayor Wynn says that the community’s input “was instrumental in soliciting public ideas in preparing for the plan.”

While there are still parts of the plan that may be changed for the better at a later time, the initial progress is hopeful, says McFadden. “A better Austin for cyclist is on the horizon, and we can make it happen.”

For more information about the plan, visit the City of Austin site.

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“Twitter in Congress, With the Accent on Twit”

This is a really interesting article by Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English at Emory University. For those who don’t know what Twitter is, you might be a little lost.

Essentially, Twitter is a real time internet tool that allows users to let their “followers” (or people who subscribe to their Twitter profile) what they’re doing. This is also called “updating a status” or “tweeting.” Many use it just to keep connected with friends; however, writers, politicians, and the like are using it to let followers know up-to-date news, when blogs have been updated, etc. So yes, this is the context for the following article.

President Obama’s address this week turned out one of the biggest viewing audiences ever for a chief executive’s visit to the chamber. But while people at home were admiring Obama’s delivery and accepting or rejecting his statements, some in the seats in front of him were doing something else.

Here’s the story by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. Several members of the House and Senate came to the occasion equipped with real time digital tools, and before and during the speech, they sent out “content,” what they saw and heard and judged. Or, as Milbank puts it, “They whipped out their BlackBerrys and began sending text messages like high school kids bored in math class.”

Some of their broadcasts:

“‘One doesn’t want to sound snarky, but it is nice not to see Cheney up there,’ Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) announced as Obama entered the chamber.‘I did big wooohoo for Justice Ginsberg,’ Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) broadcast, misspelling the name of the ailing Supreme Court justice. McCaskill could be seen applauding with BlackBerry in one hand.

‘Capt Sully is here — awesome!’ announced Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), spotting the US Airways pilot in the gallery.

Then there was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), in whose name this text message was sent at about the time the president spoke of the need to pull the country together: ‘Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren’t going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour.’ A few minutes later, another message came through: ‘Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer.’”

Culberson provided a live streaming video, and before the event approached some Capital Police and asked them to name themselves. Others gave minute remarks about where they were sitting and who sat nearby. More dispatches: “We must stand our ground as conservatives”; “Not many applause lines. Some in the audience not sure how to react”; “Americans are not quitters — Amen — what a great story.”

If this is the mindset of our representatives, we need an administered dose of Mark Twain, who said: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

And: “Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full grown man.”

And: “All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.”

Indeed, a representative with a live-action tool in hand may be the clearest expression of a vital principle of communication: The faster people can record their experience, the stupider it gets. We hear a lot about infantilization, but this is “adolescentilization,” and it reaches all the way to the top. With everyone so equipped, we’ll never see another Webster, Clay, Taft, LBJ, Moynihan . . .

(Source: Chronicle.com)

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Doubt and Immobility

“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”

From the novel, Life of Pi. A terrific read, and an interesting quote to consider.

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Passion and Civility Debate Tournament

The second annual Passion and Civility Debate Tournament finals, hosted by St. Edward’s Center for Ethics and Leadership, will be held tomorrow, February 20 at 2:00 p.m. The Center for Ethics and Leadership, in coordination with Campus Ministry, had students debate contemporary issues with passion and civility in a single-elimination tournament.

Beginning with thirty-two students, the tournament is now down to its final four, respectively: Anthony Betancourt, Ankit Babber, Marett Hanes, and yours truly.

The debate schedule is as follows:

Semi Debate 1:
Anthony Betancourt vs. Ankit Babber
Judges: Mary Brantl, Helene Caudill, and John Camden

Semi Debate 2:
Jen Obenhaus vs. Marett Hanes
Judges: Val Episcopo, David Thompson, Br. Larry Atkinson

Short recession to determine finalists.

Debaters TBA
Judges: Jack Green Musselman, Helene Caudill, Mary Brantl, John Camden,
and Val Episcopo

If you get the chance, come support the Center and the student participants (but mostly me) as everyone battles for the title of Debate Champion and the $250 first prize.


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Student Entitlement

This is a very interesting article from the New York Times. It’s definitely a valid argument, one that I agree with. How hard students claim to work is totally subjective, yet many feel entitled to As and Bs no matter whether they put in two hours a week on homework or nine. Check out the article, below.

February 18, 2009

Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.

“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “

In line with Dean Hogge’s observation are Professor Greenberger’s test results. Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

At Vanderbilt, there is an emphasis on what Dean Hogge calls “the locus of control.” The goal is to put the academic burden on the student.

“Instead of getting an A, they make an A,” he said. “Similarly, if they make a lesser grade, it is not the teacher’s fault. Attributing the outcome of a failure to someone else is a common problem.”

Additionally, Dean Hogge said, “professors often try to outline the ‘rules of the game’ in their syllabi,” in an effort to curb haggling over grades.

Professor Brower said professors at Wisconsin emphasized that students must “read for knowledge and write with the goal of exploring ideas.”

This informal mission statement, along with special seminars for freshmen, is intended to help “re-teach students about what education is.”

The seminars are integrated into introductory courses. Examples include the conventional, like a global-warming seminar, and the more obscure, like physics in religion.

The seminars “are meant to help students think differently about their classes and connect them to real life,” Professor Brower said.

He said that if students developed a genuine interest in their field, grades would take a back seat, and holistic and intrinsically motivated learning could take place.

“College students want to be part of a different and better world, but they don’t know how,” he said. “Unless teachers are very intentional with our goals, we play into the system in place.”


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