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UTA earns international attention for Liberal Arts research, digital humanities initiatives

When Ritu Khanduri, a cultural anthropologist at The University of Texas at Arlington, traveled to India last summer to discuss her book, “Caricaturing Culture in India,” interest in her research was so great that even the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, wanted to meet with her.

Dr. Ritu Khanduri, associate professor in the UTA Department of Sociology and Anthropology, during a July 2015 meeting in India with President Pranab Mukherjee.

The book, published by Cambridge University Press, is a pioneering study of democracy, free speech and the art of political cartoons in colonial and contemporary India. President Mukherjee viewed the work as making a significant contribution to knowledge about India, and so, his office contacted Khanduri to contribute to the President's speech on the occasion of India's National Press Day.

More than one year later, Khanduri’s critically acclaimed work is fostering discussion worldwide about the power of cartoons [visuals] in culture and politics. Many of her UTA College of Liberal Arts colleagues also are earning national and international attention for their research in sociology, history and politics.

From art, music and modern languages to Literature, linguistics, philosophy, and criminology and criminal justice, the College of Liberal Arts is emerging as a leader in key areas of local, regional, national and international interests.

Brent Sasley, an associate professor of Middle Eastern politics, is frequently asked by American and international media, such as the International Business Times, the BBC, Voice of America and Times of Israel, to provide analysis of deeply complex matters such as the crisis in Syria, Israel’s strategy in Gaza, or the politics of Jewish identity. Sasley co-authored “Politics of Israel: Governing a Complex Society,” which Oxford University Press published in February.

Drs. Brent Sasley, l, Jason Shelton, r, of the UTA Department of Political Science.

Jason Shelton, an associate professor of sociology, has established himself as a reputable source on race, religion and social attitudes. He is a frequently called-upon media commentator, lecturer and co-author of “Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions,” a New York University Press book that was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2014 Distinguished Book Award competition sponsored by the American Sociological Association. The book also earned the 2012 C. Calvin Smith Award from the Southern Conference on African American Studies.

The Huffington Post and NBC News last year published an essay and photographs of Cuba’s vibrant Afro-Cuban community that were curated by David LaFevor, assistant professor of Latin American history and digital humanities and the director of the British Library Endangered Archives Program project, “Creating a Digital Archive of Ecclesiastical Sources from Trinidad, Santiago, Bayamo and Baracoa, Cuba.” The project focuses on digitizing, preserving and publishing documents pertinent to the African diaspora in Cuba. LaFevor also is a much-sought speaker on the evolving relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Photo of Cuba taken by David LaFevor, UTA assistant professor of Latin American history.

“What COLA faculty have accomplished in recent years, is simply amazing,” said businesswoman and veteran real estate developer Shirlee Gandy (’70), a 2012 Distinguished Alumna who earned her undergraduate degree in political science at the College of Liberal Arts. “In the years since my time at UTA, COLA has reached new levels of scholarly accomplishment and the college is exploring new boundaries – in the digital arts and humanities - like never before.”

Since January 2015, several COLA faculty have embarked upon ambitious projects that pair them with investigators from other disciplines as part of a new COLA Digital Arts and Humanities Initiative created by Paul Wong, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. The first round of internal grant recipients will share more than $100,000.

The faculty and projects awarded, include:

  • Sonja Watson, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, will work with Kenton Rambsy, assistant professor of African-American Literature, on “Multicultural Women’s Historical Archive in North Texas.”
  • Mark Tremayne, assistant professor in Communication, will work with Dustin Harp, assistant professor of Communication, and Julian Rodriguez, lecturer in Communication and director of UTA News En Español, on “Hispanic Youth, Digital Media Fluency and Political Capital.”
  • Laurel Stvan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Linguistics and TESOL, is collaborating with Jacqueline Fay in English, and Sridhar Nerur, in Information Systems and Operations Management in the College of Business, on “Changes in Vernacular Perspectives on Health: Medieval to Modern Texts Highlighting Food and Health.”
  • Julienne Greer, a senior lecturer in Theatre Arts, is joining Kris Doelling, a research scientist at the UT Arlington Research Institute, to study, “Assistive Technology to Enhance Human-Robot Interaction.”
  • Lonny Harrison, assistant professor of Russian, and Neal Liang, assistant professor Chinese, who will investigate, “Language and Cultural Exchange in the Virtual Classroom.”

The College of Liberal Arts is an emerging leader in areas of vital importance and the model of a 21st century urban research university, as outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

Khanduri

UTA not only leads in nursing and engineering, but also is chiefly producing the next generation of leaders who will work hand-in-hand with the future scientists, engineers and nurses in Texas and beyond. While much attention is placed upon science, technology, engineering and math studies, research shows that individuals with strong liberal arts backgrounds are needed to connect the dots. Julienne Greer, a senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts, has proven that while engineers and computer scientist can design and program robots, it is sociologists, communicators and artists that are helping to bridge the gap of human understanding.

As the College of Liberal Arts eyes the future, its faculty experts are already connecting the dots, and in the process, helping UTA to become a more comprehensive university. Since meeting with President Mukherjee, Khanduri, for example, has used a series of blog posts to further the reach of her digital content.

“These types of digital strategies can bridge the chasm between the on-campus classroom and the online world,” Khanduri said. “We want to make an excellent liberal arts education accessible for all.”

About the College of Liberal Arts

The College of Liberal Arts includes 12 departments that house disciplines in the arts (with national accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art & Design and The National Association of Schools of Music), the humanities, the Social Sciences, and the areas of Communication, Languages, and Linguistics. More than 4,700 students are enrolled in its 27 undergraduate and 19 graduate degrees, which include the M.F.A. and Ph.D. programs in English, Transatlantic History, and Linguistics. Students and faculty have been recognized nationally and internationally for their research scholarship and creative activity. Visit www.uta.edu/libarts to learn more.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 50,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UTA as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.