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2012 Lectures

Designed to create a campus-wide conversation, the Helen and Jeff Herbert Family University Lecture Series gives first-year students an opportunity to interact with leading members of our faculty—scholars, scientists, and civic leaders who are nationally and internationally renowned. All students, faculty, alumni, staff and community guests are invited, but the events will be aimed at entering first-year students. The Helen and Jeff Herbert Family University Lecture Series is generously brought to UT Austin by the Helen and Jeff Herbert family.

2012 Lectures

Research that Changes the World
Monday, Sept. 17, 2012

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Juan Dominguez, Ph.D., with Trisha Lalapet, Undergraduate Research Assistant, B.S. in Microbiology
Our nervous system has evolved to reward behaviors that are important for survival of the individual and, as a result, ultimately the species. One of these is of course sexual behavior, without which natural outcrossing is impossible. Dr. Dominguez’s lab uses the study of brain mechanisms regulating mating behavior as a prototypic model for understanding motivation and reward. His studies have clear translational implications, as evidenced by recent findings showing that hormones which facilitate mating also influence response to drugs of abuse like cocaine.

Zachary Elkins, Ph.D., with John Marsh, Government Major
Crafting a constitution is an important and founding task in most countries. Yet we know very little about the science and art of constitutional drafting. How should drafters go about their work? Why and how do constitutions differ across countries, and what are the effects of these differences? Professor Elkins and government major John Marsh shed some light on these questions and introduce a set of tools they’ve designed to help drafters do their work.

Lori Holleran Steiker, Ph.D., with Kate Millichamp, Social Work Major
Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker shares her experience as a social work clinician turned researcher working in the world of adolescent substance use, abuse, addiction and recovery. Her research findings include culturally-grounded adaptations for effective substance abuse prevention and intervention with youth. Her reality-based approach emphasizes youth driven interventions such as the keepin’ it REAL drug prevention program and other interventions that help adolescents candidly discuss factors in their choices related to substances. In addition, innovative directions in the field of adolescent substance abuse will be explored, including recovery communities and her work as part of the Center for Students in Recovery.

Election 2012: History, Rhetoric, Politics
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012

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H.W. Brands, Ph.D.
The election of 2012 will hinge on voters’ sense of the direction of the economy. This has been the rule for two centuries in American politics. But whoever wins will claim a larger mandate and will set about trying to put that mandate into effect.

Regina G. Lawrence, Ph.D.
In 2020, scholars will be looking back at 2012 as a turning point in the role of money in presidential elections. The new role of so-called super PACs has brought unprecedented levels of spending, particularly on TV and Internet ads, most of them “attack” ads and many of them based on non-factual claims. But scholars in 2020 will also look back to see what 2012 signaled for the future of voting and citizenship in the U.S. Did rates of voting among young Americans continue to rise?

Daron Shaw, Ph.D.
Although many pundits rate Barack Obama as a solid favorite to win re-election, political scientists are much less sanguine about the president’s prospects for re-election. Indeed, economic models of presidential voting show Mitt Romney as the front-runner. Years from now, 2012 is therefore likely to be seen as a critical test for the power of these models; moving forward, how much stock do we put in these factors as the U.S. economy and electorate evolve?