synergies - spring 2009 issue

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A University of North Texas: College of Arts & Sciences publication for alumni and friends.


  • SYNERG iES*A U N T C o l l e g e o f A r t s a n d S c i e n c e s P u b l i c a t i o n f o r A l u m n i a n d F r i e n d s . S p r i n g 2 0 0 9

    * Mutually advantageous outcomes resulting from the conjunction of distinct elements, efforts, or actions.


  • Pencils, pens, paperclips, and protrac-tors: these school supplies are nothing new to a UNT student. However, for a student in Afghanistan, materials like these may be difficult to come by. Operation Care, a UNT-based commu-nity project involving the department of Political Science, the American Humanics Student Association, and the American Democracy Project, sought to help by raising money and collecting donations of school sup-plies for distribution in Afghanistan.

    Starting on September 23 with the annual PACS fall forum, donations started coming into UNT, helping Operation Care accumulate 22,000 lbs. of goods, as well as $1,050 in cash, that were sent to Afghanistan in February. The 375 backpacks full of supplies were part of the 58,000 lbs. of material 17 pallets collected through the nationwide efforts asso-ciated with the event.

    Dr. Kimi King, associate professor of political science, oversaw Operation Care. This kind of project epitomizes what is good about UNT as a place to work and learn because it shows that UNT is a community that cares, recog-nizes need, and reaches out, she said.

    Operation Care began on the UNT campus after King observed a simi-lar project at Tarrant County College. After seeing the success of the project there, she decided that she would im-plement a larger drive at UNT. UNT, as a public university, has a commit-ment to public service, King said.

    Weve been getting students in-volved by having teachers offer ex-

    In Vidalina Trevios fall 2008 STEP 1 teaching class, part of UNTs new Teach North Texas (TNT) program, her UNT students were obviously mo-tivated. Before class even began, some had already arrived and were organizing their practice lessons. Paper towels, eye droppers even snails started to cover lab tables. Later in the week, they taught these same lessons to actual elementary school students in Denton and Fort Worth. It is this real interaction that makes TNT unique and enjoyable.

    Trevio, an experienced secondary school science teacher, is one of two TNT master teachers mentoring the students and passing on their love of teaching and its challenges.

    A collaborative effort between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education, TNT is a grant-funded program that aims to address the nationwide shortage of math, science, and computer science teachers. TNT began with a $1.4 million grant from the Greater Texas Foundation and a challenge grant of up to $1 million from the National Math and Science Initiative. The program is co-directed by Associate Professor John Quintanilla, Department of Mathematics and Professor Mary Harris, Department of Teach-er Education and Administration.

    tra credit, King explained, Weve also been getting help from local sororities, the College of Commu-nity Affairs and Public Service, and the Political Science Department.

    The project culminated on Octo-ber 28 and 29 with an exhibit of digital photographs taken by Af-ghan children and a speech by Lt. Gen. John Bradley (Ret.), who was with the Lamia Afghan Founda-tion. After the event, the donations were taken to the NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Air Force Base where they were packed on a plane go-ing directly to Kabul, Afghanistan.

    The cooperation of the U.S. mili-tary with Operation Care was one of its most unique features.

    King said, The involvement of the military was important because they have direct access to the tribal leaders who distribute the school supplies. If this direct access wasnt available, the supplies might not reach the people who need them. Its not just the Afghan children who benefit.

    This project helps put a friendly face on the American forces involved, be-cause it shows that they are there to support Afghan communities. Theres an added bonus of the Afghan com-munities knowing that the supplies came from America, which enhances our national image.

    More information available at


    With a book list comprised of titles like How to Read Comics and Why, The Many Lives of Batman: Criti-cal Approaches to a Superhero and His Media, and Frank Millers The

    Dark Knight Returns, students in COMM 5840 Mythic Rhetoric of the American Superhero were not in a conventional class. Brightly colored comics covered their desks; however, they did not serve as a distraction. Instead, the class used these comics as a basis for discussion.

    In late October, Shaun Treat, an assistant professor in the Depart-ment of Communication Studies, led his students in a discussion on the Marvel comic The Black Panther. The Black Panther was the first black superhero, so the conversation


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  • Robert Avila and fourth grade students at Pecan Creek Elementary School in Denton examine snails and discuss their observations. He and Lauren Robertson, his TNT partner, are major-ing in math at UNT.

    Modeled after the innovative UTeach program at the University of Texas at Aus-tin, TNT provides an opportunity for students to explore the teaching profession while earning a math or science degree. Students determine their interest in teaching by taking two free one-credit-hour STEP courses that provide experi-ence in the classroom from the beginning of the program and can be taken as early as freshman year. TNT allows students to work towards their bachelors de-gree and teaching certificate at the same time by integrating education courses with content courses in their major.

    Getting actual teaching experience last semester, together with everything we learned in class, was amazing, said Robert Avila, a senior mathematics major enrolled in the program. The most enjoyable part of TNT was the actual lessons we were teaching. My partner, Lauren, and I chose a lesson involving live snails. Since it was our first time teaching, I wanted something that would be interest-ing to the kids and would make them want to be involved in the lesson.

    The kids absolutely loved learning about and experimenting with snails, Avila said, and that made teaching much easier. The kids were excited to ask questions and learn more. It was very enjoyable to see the kids eager to learn like that.

    touched upon many racial issues but also some surprising subjects: mythic story arcs, commodity markets, and even the use of the rhetoric of Rev-erend Jeremiah Wright in the recent presidential debate.

    It might astonish some that this discussion was generated from The Black Panther; it did not surprise Shaun Treat. He explained, Superhe-roes provide an interesting inductive study of our culture, as they embody our ideals.

    This isnt all that they do. Treat added, Theyre also a fun way to introduce students to rhetoric and philosophy. Nietzsche, Lacan, and Jung can be boring to students until you put them in tights. Though the course is

    unusual, Treat received a lot of sup-port from his department and UNT. He said, Communication studies is an interdisciplinary field. It is this ability to analyze any subject that has helped me bring so much to my study of comics. It also helped with Rhetoric and Politics, a class notable for including a discussion of Tina Feys impersonations of Sarah Palin.

    To help his students get access to the comics used in class, Treat formed a partnership with Tim Stoltztus, owner of More Fun Comics. Stotlztus said, Its wonderful for me, because not only does it help my store, but its really great to know that there are people who care about the comics Im selling. Its great to know that they are helping people learn.

    political communication, cultural and media studies, psychoanalysis, free speech issues, and constitutive rhetorics of postmodern civic identi-ties, particularly the rhetoric of char-ismatic leadership.

    Getting involved in the TNT program and taking STEP 1 has shown Avila the challenges and rewards of teaching. I have realized that even though it is a lot of work, it is something that I have enjoyed and could see myself doing as a career, he said.

    As a result of Teach North Texas, UNT expects to graduate 60 students a year with teacher certification and bachelors degrees in math, science, or computer science.

    For more information visit Teach North Texas at

    This isnt the only course that UNT offers which might attract students with an interest in comics. In the Eng-lish Department, Marshall Armitor teaches ENGL 3910 Topics in Ameri-can Literature: Visual Storytelling from the Comics Page to the Graphic Novel, a class which also applies a critical analysis to comic books.

    Due to the level of student interest, the course has been redesigned as a senior-level undergraduate commu-nication studies class to be offered in 2009-2010.

    Treat arrived at UNT in 2006, two years after receiving his doctorate degree at Louisiana State University. His research interests focus on rhetorical theory and criticism,



    Photo: Jay Rodman


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