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2022 Archive

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.

Spring 2022 Events

Fact, Fiction, or Distortion? The Importance of Staying Critical When Scrolling Online
Dr. Scott Stroud, Department of Communication Studies and Dr. Anita Varma, the School of Journalism and Media

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The challenges posed by online misinformation seem novel, but they connect to issues that have been troubling humans for thousands of years. In this lecture, Dr. Stroud will explore the philosophical paradoxes of trying to be a critical reasoner in situations characterized by clashing partisan interests and conflicting beliefs. No one wants to distrust everything, but what is true in a world that constantly changes and surprises us? What does truth mean in our post-truth world? How can we direct our abilities of critical thinking to avoid both corrosive skepticism and mindless dogmatism? Drawing on traditions as diverse as the Greek sophists, Jainism, and American pragmatism, we will explore what sort of orientation we ought to take toward digital discourse if we are concerned with enabling democracy in communities afflicted by disagreement and polarization.

Misinformation spreads rapidly through online spaces, and even the savviest users often find it hard to distinguish distortions from accurate posts. A common tip has been to turn to “trusted sources” like personal contacts, news organizations, and experts with powerful titles – but what should we do when our “trusted sources” also (perhaps unintentionally) circulate distorted claims? In this lecture, Dr. Varma will provide guidance on how to spot misinformation, will offer criteria for assessing the quality of digital information, and will explain why slowing our scrolling may help us become better informed.

Texas Climate Change: Past, Present, and Future
Dr. Jay Banner, Department of Geological Sciences

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Climatological and geopolitical forces converge in Texas and have the potential to put extreme stress on natural resources and public health. Paleoclimate records from over the last thousand years portray significant periods of drought, of much longer duration than the 1950s “drought of record” that is commonly used in planning. Climate models project that Texas will become significantly warmer and drier over the twenty-first century, leading to unprecedented drought risks. In this lecture, Dr. Banner will discuss how concurrent rapid growth of the state’s population, planning for the projected changes will require advances in integrating science, engineering, policy, communications, public health, and economics.

Fall 2022 Events

Black Austin Matters: Highlighting the Stories in Our Community
Dr. Richard Reddick, College of Education, Senior Vice Provost for Curriculum & Enrollment, and Dean of Undergraduate Studies & Dr. Lisa Thompson, College of Liberal Arts

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How do you learn about a community that is in transition? What do individual stories tell us about the whole? How can researchers interact with and contextualize a city and state in innovative ways? How can we use technology to provide an auditory snapshot of a place and time? Our experience as friends and colleagues with different disciplinary backgrounds, with a shared investment in the importance of the stories in our community guided us to collaborate and co-create the KUT podcast and radio segment Black Austin Matters. Recording interviews of Black Austinites and sharing those interviews in a podcast, as well as on the air creates a broader and more diverse community conversation. Archiving and foregrounding the stories of citizens who are often marginalized can shift not only how we see our hometown, but our world.

Watch the follow-up Q&A.

Two Guys on Your Head: Doing “well” in school… in every sense of the word
Dr. Robert Duke, College of Fine Arts & Dr. Art Markman, College of Liberal Arts and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

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Success in school means different things to different people, but those who gain the most from their college experience behave in ways that allow them to learn effectively, remain physically healthy, and experience pleasure in all aspects of their academic and personal lives. In this talk, we’ll examine core principles of learning, motivation, and resilience and connect them to the common features of happy and rewarding lives.

Watch the follow-up Q&A.