Tag Archives: St. Edward’s University

SEU Implements Changes to Psychology Major

I wrote this article for St. Edward’s University‘s student-run paper,
Hilltop Views.

In the fall, Psychology students at St. Edward’s University will notice considerable changes to their major, a result of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences enacting an overhaul on the Psychology curriculum.

Dr. Russ Frohardt, associate professor of Psychology, said that the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Psychology department is always looking for ways to improve the major. The department has brought in the likes of Dr. Jesse Purdy, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Southwestern University, to help recommend progressive changes to St. Edward’s Psychology major.

“Earlier in the year, we completed an external review of the department, by Dr. Purdy. One of his suggestions for improving student participation in quality research, increasing the scholarly productivity of the existing psychology faculty, giving students more choice in the emphasis of their experiential requirements and integrating the culminating general education experience of our students back to the major, was to have a year-long ‘senior sequence’ that allowed students to focus their experience on research or a more traditional internship in the greater community.”

In a proposal that began circulating last year detailing prospective curriculum changes to the Psychology major, three major changes were outlined. The first shift was implementing a Capstone course that focused on topics in psychology. The second change was removing the Community Service (PSYC 2120) course in the Psychology major, as the course no longer served the intended purpose of exposing first-year students to the applications of psychology in the field. Lastly, the proposal suggested the addition of a one-hour lab experience (now called PSYC 4442) to Behavioral Neuroscience (PSYC 4442) to accommodate over two weeks of class time devoted to laboratory exercises.

The psychology-themed Capstone course will maintain the same course description and learning outcomes that are currently outlined for the existing Capstone; however, the course will allow students the opportunity to focus on literature within their major to accomplish these learning outcomes. The pilot course for the psychology-themed Capstone course occurred over the course of the current spring semester. Dr. Marianne Hopper, dean of General Education and University Programs, and Dr. Cory Lock, the coordinator of Capstone, indicated that such approaches to Capstone courses are welcomed, especially since this particular addition will most likely result in the hiring of an additional four full-time faculty members to those currently teaching in Capstone.

Dr. Frohardt says he believes that this particular change will allow students in the major to pursue many aspects of a major-specific topic that they are passionate about from several perspectives.

“For example, one of my current Capstone students is writing about whether or not treatment for mentally ill patients who are incarcerated should be mandated by the government. She addressed the arguments of each side, the values that they adhere to and the feasibility of mandating treatment. Now imagine that she had worked with a forensic psychologist in the prison system or at the Austin State Hospital and was able to add those experiences to the research she did, the interviews she conducted and the civic engagement event that she hosted on campus to raise awareness about mental illness. To me, that is a complete treatment of the topic.”

Students will be required to complete this Capstone course with a newly proposed Research and Field Experience course, available next fall. According to the course description in the proposal, the Research and Field Experience (PSYC 4359) course will be an educationally directed course in experiential learning under the supervision of psychology faculty and professionals in the field. The course will offer Psychology majors opportunities to acquire skills and to test in a field setting theories and principles learned in the classroom. Internship students will volunteer at a psychology-related site in the community and address theoretical issues in an applied setting. Students who will be working directly with the faculty member on a research project will conduct an in-depth study in one of the major areas in psychology and the integration of that knowledge with other areas in psychology. The four sections offered in the course cover fields such as health psychology and biofeedback, developmental psychology and behavioral neuroscience.

Another course added to the Psychology curriculum is Behavioral Neuroscience (PSYC 4442). This course will provide an introduction to the neurosciences, where students will examine the function and anatomy of the central nervous system and how it mediates perceptions, emotions, thoughts, memories and other behaviors. Behavioral Neuroscience will include a one-hour anatomical and behavioral laboratory experience.

As excitement continues over the new changes to the major, Dr. Frohardt looks to the future, “We have a great department with competent and hard-working students and professors. I think these changes will make a great department even better.”

Here’s how this change will affect current psychology majors:

If you have not yet taken Independent Research or Internship*, you will

  • Take Research and Field Experience, and
  • Take any other psychology course, or you may repeat Research and Field Experience

If you have already taken either Independent Research or Internship*, you will

  • Take Research and Field Experience, which will replace the course you have not yet taken

* Please note that the stand-alone Psychology internship course (PSYC 4350) will be offered for summer 2009 for those who have already secured an internship placement site.



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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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Lady Bird Lake the Social Hub for Austin Runners

I originally wrote this article for the Hilltop Views.

If you like to walk, jog or run, you are in luck. Austin provides some of the best trails the nation has to offer. Longtime Austinites, new residents, and visitors have come to love the scenic, natural areas that have been dedicated for trail use in Austin. There are always new regional running trails being created for easy access.

In fact, Austin has—at last count—accumulated over 50 miles of trails used by runners. The natural greenbelt trails are all well-surfaced and accessible.

However, the Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) trail loop remains the running social hub for Austinites.


“It’s a place I can go and enjoy the outdoors while I exercise. There are a lot of trails I can take, depending on what mood I’m in,” says St. Edward’s University Junior Kayanne Armer.

The original 10.1 mile Lady Bird Lake loop, which runs from east to west from MoPac to the Longhorn Dam, is a perfect escape from the Austin ado for everyone, from serious athletes to casual joggers.

The trail—which is mostly flat, rather wide and very popular—offers a variety of trails that fit different runners’ needs. The trails along Lady Bird Lake offer pictorial trails for those wanting a scenic run, or primitive trails in wooded areas for runners wanting a challenge.

St. Edward’s University Junior Jillian Tito is encouraged by the scenery out near Lady Bird Lake. “I like running out there because it’s really beautiful, and you’re easily motivated because of all the Austinites out there.”

After moving from bitterly cold Boston, Mass. to sunny Austin in the summer of 2007, Tito became an avid runner after discovering it made her feel good about herself.

“[Lady Bird Lake] has many different trails, so I can if I feel like running five miles one day, I can. Or 2 miles another [day], I can run that. It has beautiful scenery that just makes you feel good to be outside, and there are lots of people running, walking, swimming; it’s very encouraging.”

An added bonus is that the trails around Lady Bird Lake are pet and bike friendly. Austinites are encouraged to take a run with their four-legged friends, or hop on a bike to cruise the trails.

Previously known as Town Lake, the area was renamed in honor of Lady Bird Johnson on Aug. 6, 2007. Lady Bird was an instrumental figure in getting this area transformed from a drab flood zone to a recreational focal point for the city. Thus, it seems a fitting acknowledgement.

Austin also provides several organizations for varying levels of runners to help facilitate health and fitness. The Austin Runners Club is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that has members of all ages and abilities. According to the organization’s site, The Austin Runners Club promotes and encourages running, walking, wheelchair racing, and related activities and educates the public to their benefits.  The club also maintains competitive and non-competitive activities for its membership and for the general public.

When asked if she had any tips for beginning runners, Tito replied, “I would say to go at your own pace. Don’t try to compare yourself to other runners around you, set a goal and give it your all. It’ll only get easier.”

No matter what your pace is or what your personal goals are, running has proven itself to be one of the easiest, most convenient forms of exercise. Whether you want to run the Statesman Capitol 10K, or you just want to shed a few pounds, the trails along Lady Bird Lake can lead you down the path of health and happiness.

For a list of Lady Bird Lake trail maps, click here.

To learn more about The Austin Runners Club, click here.

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World Storytelling Day at SEU a Success

I wrote this article originally for the Hilltop Views.

We listened to bedtime fairytales told by our parents when we were children, told scary stories to each other when we were teenagers and still enthusiastically divulge anecdotes to one another every day. In celebration of this age-old oral tradition, people from all over the state met to share their stories for World Storytelling Day.

World Storytelling Day is an international celebration of the art of oral storytelling that happens every March 21. This storytelling fête is the first of its kind to recognize and celebrate the oral tradition. In addition to allowing storytellers to forge new connections between one another, World Storytelling Day allows others to become a part of this tradition as well.

Sponsored by the Kappa Delta Pi International Education Society and produced by Tellers2 Productions, World Storytelling Day at St. Edward’s was a huge success. The event, held last Saturday during Spring Break, was one of only two sites in the United States hosting this international event. Over forty-eight countries participate in this massive, global event. The campus hosted a total of forty wandering storytellers, all of whom were gathered to share in the event that celebrates oral tradition. Some were professional storytellers, while others came simply to share their favorite family stories, fairytales and legends.

Planning for World Storytelling Day began in June 2008, with wheels really beginning to turn around December 2008. David Thompson, administrative coordinator of University Programs, explained that several considerations had to be made for the event, including who would act as sponsor. Kappa Delta Pi and their sponsor, David Hollier, graciously stepped in and helped Thompson run successful storytelling groups all day Saturday.

This year’s theme was “Neighbors,” with past themes including “Dreams,” “Bridges” and “Birds.” Beginning at the St. Edward’s seal, groups of storytellers shared tales, then moved to other locations throughout the day. Groups met at Sorin Oak, the Moody Atrium and Mabee Ballroom. Even university faculty and staff participated in a storytelling group called “St. Edward’s Shares,” where individuals shared personal anecdotes of their time at the campus, funny personal stories, legends about Father Sorin and so forth.

The evening concert, which featured locally, statewide, and nationally known tellers, wrapped up World Storytelling Day. There were four professional storytellers in attendance, including Lucinda Wise, Gene Helmick-Richardson, and Peggy Helmick-Richardson. Thompson, who was also one of the four professional storytellers at the event, was very excited about the turnout and success of the event. “It went really well. We were so excited.”

The event was free except for the evening concert, which asked that participants either pay $4 and/or donate four food items to be donated. Over 100 pounds of food was later presented to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Thompson plans to make World Storytelling Day at St. Edward’s an annual celebration. He already has plans about how to make the event a bigger success, such as inviting more professional storytellers, pushing for more sponsors, having more “zappy” publicity, and not holding the event during Spring Break. “The official [World Storytelling] day fell on Spring Break, so next year we’ll try to not do that. But it will still be in March.”

When asked what storytelling is and why World Storytelling Day is so important, Thompson fervidly explained that keeping the oral tradition is important. “Storytelling is the world’s oldest known performance. It passes beliefs, morals, customs, and history between and among groups. It keeps alive families and nations.”

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Parenting Attachments

My professor’s husband is a part of an e-show called DadLabs, which is an absolute riot. In this clip, my professor’s father-in-law has a few words of advice for his son–and my professor’s husband–regarding the Empathy Belly, and the overall advisability of gaining insight by strapping things on. “Sometimes there is no substitute for the wisdom of experience.”

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Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve

This article was originally written for the Hilltop Views.

Austin has plenty of places for those who love to get their adrenaline pumping and hearts racing. However, there are also plenty of popular hiking trails that locals take advantage of in order to enjoy the more mellow, scenic side of this sunny city.

Hiking offers individuals a chance to immerse themselves in nature. There are several places in and around Austin that offer a variety of hikes for everyone, from the extempore explorer to the trained trekker. There are newer, urban hike routes in Dick Nichols Park in Austin; wooded, rugged trails at Buescher State Park in Smithville; and more elevated, strenuous hikes and climbs at Enchanted Rock, located about seventeen miles north of Fredericksburg.

Professor Jodi Egerton often goes on hikes with her family on greenbelt trails in Austin. Egerton says that she and her family go hiking when “everyone’s going crazy in the house and just want to get out.” Egerton says that she and husband Owen Egerton tell their daughter that they are about to go on “an adventure” and then make their way down the trails and to the lakes to relax and occasionally enjoy a lunch.

Several people have turned this outdoor hobby into a passion. Professor Edward Shirley is one such person, saying, “For years (and years, and years), I’ve loved to hike or backpack. I’ve hiked or backpacked in many state or national parks, including Yosemite, Big Bend and I even climbed Pike’s Peak.”

Professor Shirley also recommends several local Austin hiking trails, “Since I don’t drive, much of my hiking is in Austin.  The Bull Creek Trail is nice, as is St. Edward’s Park on Spicewood Springs Road.  I love the Barton Creek Greenbelt and have done the whole thing, round trip.”

Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve, part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, is another spot where popular hiking trails can be found. The preserve is roughly thirty miles southwest of Austin, near Bee Cave. The heavily wooded trails lead to and loop around Hamilton Pool, a natural basin created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.

This breathtaking excursion leads hikers down a ½ mile hike to the pool, conveniently beginning at the parking lot. The downhill trail makes its way through lush plant life and jutted rock formations and follows sleepy, serene Hamilton Creek. The right fork of the trail junction, located near the creek, leads upstream to Hamilton Pool and the 50-foot waterfall, while the left fork, called Canyon Trail, leads ¾ mile downstream to where Hamilton Creek converges with the Pedernales River.

Once to the pool, hikers can appreciate the remarkable beauty of the Hamilton Falls, climb the protruding limestone formations, observe the dynamic wildlife, and even take a dip in the Hamilton Pool.

The Hamilton Pool hiking trail is wonderful for both beginning and intermediate hikers who want a change of scenery. The trails are just far and rigorous enough for a solid workout, but are not overly demanding on the hiker.

When asked why he hikes, Shirley answered, “I began because it was fun, [a source of] exercise, and a time of solitude.  I continue to enjoy hiking alone.  I also like to go with groups who really want to hike.  Why? Because it’s fun, and because it is community building.  And I hiked post-stroke because I could.  And now, I hike again because it’s fun.”

Contact Information

Hamilton Pool Trail
Open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, weather permitting
(512) 264-2740
Vehicle entry permit (all day) $8
Pedestrian/bicyclist entry permit (all
day): $3

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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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