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UNT briefs

UNT Latino students subject of symposium

During the 1950s, North Texas State College was not only admitting its first African-American students, but also its first Latino students, becoming one of the first colleges or universities in the Southwest to become integrated.

A free symposium at the University of North Texas on Sept. 21 will focus on the history of Latino student organizations and leadership at the university.

“Raíces: History of Raza at UNT” is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Forum on the first floor of UNT’s Willis Library, which is located at 1506 W. Highland St., one block east of Highland Street and Avenue C.

The symposium is open to 75 participants, and advance registration is required at the symposium website.

Richard Menchaca, one of the first Latino students to attend North Texas on an athletic scholarship, will be the symposium’s keynote speaker.

A member of the track team, Menchaca set a school record in the 880-yard run and led the distance medley relay team to a record-setting victory as a sophomore. He became the track team’s captain as a senior. 

Menchaca, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Texas in 1963 and 1964, recently published a memoir about his personal experience at North Texas, Guardian Angel.

After North Texas admitted its first Latino students, who were primarily Mexican-Americans, the number remained small for several decades, not reaching more than 1,000 until 1990.

With rapidly changing demographics in Texas, however, the number of Latino students at UNT is growing faster than in any previous period.

In fall 2011, more than 5,500 Latinos were enrolled at UNT, comprising 15.5 percent of the total student body.

The symposium will be the first of its kind at UNT and will have a particular focus on Latino students during the 1990s and 2000s, although alumni from many different decades will be among the guest panelists.

The symposium will include a panel discussion on the evolvement of Hispanic student organizations.

The first group, Los Chicanos, formed in April 1970 “to meet the social, cultural and educational needs of Mexican-American students,” according to the 1970 Yucca yearbook.

This group was later known as La Causa, the Mexican-American Student Organization, Hispanic Students for Higher Education, and Association of Latino American Students, remained the only organization focusing specifically on Hispanic students for more than two decades.

Today, UNT has 10 organizations tailored for Hispanic students, including four fraternities, two sororities and several business and professional organizations.

The topics for the symposium’s other panel discussions are the history of Latino music at UNT, including the beginnings of Mariachi Águilas, UNT’s student mariachi group; Hispanic professionals’ experiences as UNT students, featuring alumni fromthe 1970s, ’80s and ’90s; and UNT regents, faculty members and others who forged a Latino presence at UNT.

The symposium will also provide participants with information on the UNT Libraries’ Latino/a Archives Initiative, which is one of three strategic focuses of the libraries’ special collections.


Specialist to advance plant science research

The University of North Texas has hired Dr. Richard A. Dixon, a world-renowned specialist in metabolic engineering of plants, to further its goal to become one of the nation’s pre-eminent research hubs in plant science research.

Dixon has served as the director of the Plant Biology Division at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation since 1988.

He has also held adjunct faculty positions at Rice University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. Dixon will join the UNT faculty as a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences on Feb. 1.

Dixon will be an integral member of UNT’s Signaling Mechanisms in Plants research cluster, an interdisciplinary research group established in 2008. The group confronts the challenges of feeding a growing population in the face of increasing demand for more sustainable, bio-based fuels and materials by investigating ways to produce high-quality, high-yield crops under increasingly harsh conditions.

Dixon’s research focuses on how to use metabolic engineering to produce chemicals that could treat human diseases, create new bio-renewable products and improve the quality of forage crops. He currently is the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on active grants exceeding $9 million, including a Department of Energy grant focused on producing biofuels more efficiently and a National Institutes of Health grant investigating the potential of chemicals derived from grape seeds to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dixon’s background in metabolic engineering provides a natural bridge to facilitate research with another UNT cluster — the engineering-based Renewable Bioproducts cluster focuses on green solutions for consumer and industry products using plants and other bio-based materials.

Dixon joins other recently hired fellow researchers from both the plant signaling and the bioproducts groups, including internationally recognized scientists Dr. Vladimir Shulaev, Dr. Ron Mittler and Dr. Stevens Brumbley.

Dixon has had more than 410 papers and chapters published in international journals, and he has been named by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the 10 most cited authors in the plant and animal sciences.


7-Eleven CEO to speak at College of Business

Joseph M. DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven Inc., will speak to students in UNT’s College of Business as part of the college’s Distinguished Speaker Series. DePinto will speak at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 in Business Leadership Building Room 180.

Before being appointed CEO of 7-Eleven Inc. in 2005, DePinto was president of GameStop Corp. He also has held executive positions at PepsiCo Inc. and Thornton Oil Corp. and serves on the board of directors for several publicly traded companies and national charity organizations.

A native of Chicago, Ill., DePinto earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

The Distinguished Speaker Series provides students and faculty with an opportunity to interact with prominent executives and community leaders. The series offers students first-hand information about the complexities of the business world, while inspiring them to seek new ways to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Speakers share their views about successful management styles, possible career paths, critical industry-related issues and qualities conducive to successful business leadership.


Savage, Hyneman to speak at UNT Sept. 24

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, co-hosts of MythBusters, will speak to students at the University of North Texas on Sept. 24 as part of UNT’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Savage and Hyneman will speak at 7 p.m. in the UNT Coliseum, located at 600 Avenue D. The event includes a moderated interview, audience question-and-answer session and videos.

No demonstrations will be performed and no myths will be busted on stage.

Hyneman has more than 25 years of experience in the special effects industry, and aside from co-hosting MythBusters, has had his hand in producing effects for more than 800 commercials, dozens of feature films and hundreds of prototypes.

Savage began working in the film industry in the ’90s in behind-the-scenes roles. His ability to solve difficult set problems made him well known in the special effects industry, and he went on to work on popular commercials and movies including Star Wars episodes 1 and 2, The Mummy and Terminator 3. Hyneman approached Savage in 2002 to join him in co-hosting MythBusters.

MythBusters is among the Discovery Channel network’s highest rated shows. Its 160-and-counting episode hours have tackled more than 750 myths and performed nearly 2,500 experiments.

UNT students can submit suggestions for Distinguished Lecture Series speakers online.

The Distinguished Lecture Series is sponsored by UNT’s Division of Student Affairs. For more information, contact Assistant Director of Student Affairs Administration Blake Rexroat at 940-565-2617.

Tickets can be purchased at the UNT Union Information Desk or by calling 940-565-3805. Students receive one free ticket with student I.D. and can purchase up to four guest tickets for $15. Faculty, staff and alumni tickets are $20, and general public tickets are $25. Floor seating for faculty, staff and alumni is $30 and $40 for the general public.


UNT’s Green Brigade Drumline named No. 1

The University of North Texas Green Brigade Drumline has been named the No. 1 drumline in college football by Bleacher Report, a national sports website that compiled a top 10 list of college football’s best drumlines.

The Green Brigade Drumline has more than 50 members.

In 2011, UNT’s Green Brigade Marching Band was named the No. 1 “Best Damn Band in the Land” by Bleacher Report.

The more than 360-member Green Brigade Marching Band performs at various athletic events and marching competitions throughout the year and releases a compact disc of the its season highlights every two years.