Senior Fellows is poised to celebrate its 25th anniversary as the honors program of The College of Communication. In this second issue of Backstories, we share insights and stories from alumni who make us proud, faculty who make us think, and current students who keep us going.
Letter From the Director
In his inspiring interview in this issue of Backstories, Senior Fellows teacher Gene Burd explains what hangs in the balance as we blindly rush to stay ahead of the new media curve: the "human touch."
Indeed, the pace of change is so dizzying one can't help but wonder how it's changing us. The Internet has made the world smaller and more connected, but it's also given us innovative ways to ignore each other. This is why Senior Fellows is as relevant as ever. In this issue of Backstories, our alumni, students and faculty all bear witness to the value of discussion-oreinted seminars with engaged peers and passionate teachers. The human touch, as Burd has demonstrated for so many years, is what Senior Fellows is all about.
Alumnus Charles Mead (Bachelor of Journalism, 1994) explains this well in his interview with current Senior Fellows student Sameer Bhuchar. He says that being "thrust into an atmosphere where challenging a premise [is] expected ... is what we are all hoping the college experience gives us. We want the ability to think for ourselves and be able to branch out on our own and really begin to decide who we are and what we stand for."
For nearly 25 years, Senior Fellows has been providing that atmosphere. Face-to-face critcal dialogue has an intangible value that can't be replicated on screens or Twitter feeds. And this will be as true in the 21st century as it was in ancient Greece, from whence came Plato's "Symposium," the inspiration for our introductory seminar.
I can't wait to teach Symposium in the fall to our incoming students. We had a spike in applications this year, and based on our interviews, we have an amazing group of students eager to test their crtical voices. As excited as I am to welcome them, I lament bidding farewell to my first Symposium class, most of whom are graduating in May. (It's been real, and I hope you keep in touch!)
It's reassuring to know our graduating class has expereinced a great program over the past two years, with great speakers, great teachers and great classes. You can read about one of those classes in the Backstories article "Lessons from Life's Laboratory," written by one of those teachers, Diana Dawson. She provides a look into her series "Communicating the Human Side of Social Issues," an experiential-learning seminar that brings students into contact with the people who are living the issues they're learning about in class.
Senior Fellows faculty have an impressive track record as teachers over the years, and this year was no exception. Frequent Senior Fellows teacher Dana Cloud won a teaching award, as did Sharon Jarvis, who's offering a Senior Fellows seminar on campaign communication to coincide with the fall election season. As for accolades, it's probably most satisfying to report that one of our top students, Alejandro Diaz-Wahl, was honored with a university-wide undergraduate research award for a project that started in his Senior Fellows seminar with Talia Stroud last spring.
One of the unexpected benefits of directing Senior Fellows has been hearing the stories of our growing list of alumni. This issue profiles remarkable alumni like Chalres Mead, Paul Leonard and Fanienne Darling-Wolf, as well as soon-to-be alumni like Alejandro Diaz-Wahl, Kelsey McGonigle and Alden Paras, all of whom are graduating this year. Thanks to all of you for your contributions to Senior Fellows and for keeping the conversation fresh and illuminating.
As for the rest of you, I hope you take a moment to send us a hello, post a comment, or tell us what you've been up to. You can email me or a past professor, or you can join our Facebook page. Also, we're thinking about hosting a reunion of some kind in spring of next year and would appreciate your thoughts as we begin planning. If you have a moment, please take a brief survey to help us figure it out. Just click on the button above.
Alumni & Student Profiles
Walter Cronkite Plaza Dedication
The University of Texas at Austin dedicated the Walter Cronkite Plaza on April 19, featuring the premiere of a public art installation by new media artist Ben Rubin. Cronkite was not only an alumnus of The College of Communication and former writer for The Daily Texan. For three weeks in 1988, he co-taught "Symposium" with Roderick Hart. This short film includes commentary from Hart about the art installation and what it means to the College.
Gene Burd, Senior Fellows' Socratic Trickster
by Dave Junker
In the 24-year history of the program, no one has taught more Senior Fellows classes, with more intriguing topics, than journalism professor Gene Burd. Read more
Lessons from Life's Laboratory:
Diana Dawson Takes Senior Fellows to the Streets
by Diana Dawson
Diana Dawson’s Senior Fellows class, part of a series called “Communicating the Human Side of Social Issues,” takes students into neighborhoods and community centers to examine how immigration is lived in Austin. Read more
Senior Fellow Alejandro
Diaz-Wahl Wins Undergraduate Research Honor
Alumna Gigi Causey Earns
Senior Fellows and RTF alumna Gigi Causey got a 2012 Academy Award nomination for her short film “Time Freak.”
Sharon Jarvis Inducted into Academy of Distinguished
Communication Studies professor Sharon Jarvis, slated to teach a Senior Fellows seminar on campaign communication in Fall 2012, was inducted into the prestigious Academy of Distinguished Teachers at The University of Texas at Austin.
Dana Cloud Wins
Regular Senior Fellows teacher Dana Cloud was recognized as a “master teacher” by the Western States Communication Association.
** VIEW A LIST OF THIS YEAR'S SENIOR FELLOWS GRADUATES **
Editor: Dave Junker
Designer: Andy Greer
Contributors: Kate Van Winkle, Sameer Bhuchar, Angelica Morris