STEAM Advocate to Share His Vision at Lecture

John Maeda, design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, will speak at 7:30 p.m. March 4.
John Maeda, design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, will speak at 7:30 p.m. March 4.

John Maeda — an artist, graphic designer, computer scientist and educator — will speak March 4 at the second talk in this year’s ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series.

Maeda’s talk, “Turning STEM into STEAM,” will illustrate the concept of combining science, technology, engineering and math — the STEM subjects — with another letter, an “A” for art.

“The current excitement in ways of integrating the arts and humanities with STEM is part of a centuries-old challenge of how to integrate the different ways we make sense of and work in the world. We need both deep disciplinary experts but also professionals with the ability to cross disciplines to solve hard problems,” said Dr. Roger Malina, who holds the Arts and Technology Distinguished Chair at UT Dallas. “John Maeda has been a longtime proponent of the STEAM movement, and his insights will only encourage the North Texas community toward a new vision of rethinking both the arts and the sciences.”

With a career that reflects his philosophy of humanizing technology, Maeda has worked to integrate technology, education and the arts into a 21st-century synthesis of creativity and innovation. Esquire named him one of the “75 most influential people of the 21st century,” and, in 2014, President Barack Obama named him a member of the National Council on the Arts.

Maeda has been at the forefront of the STEM-to-STEAM movement since June 2008 when he became the president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Called the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes, he believes art and design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century as science and technology did in the last century. Maeda announced his departure from RISD in December 2013, when he took on new roles as design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and chairman of eBay’s design advisory board.

Maeda previously served as associate director of research at the MIT Media Lab. He serves on the boards of Sonos, Quirky and Wieden+Kennedy, as well as on the Davos World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership.

His books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code and Redesigning Leadership. Maeda received the AIGA Medal in 2010, and his artwork is represented in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Purchasing Tickets

Prices vary between $10 and $20 for seats in the lower level of the Edith O’Donnell ATEC Building’s lecture hall. Tickets for balcony seats are $5.

Staff and faculty members can purchase up to four tickets for each lecture that will be discounted by $5. Emails were sent to staff and faculty with a discount code. The discount only applies to assigned seats in the $10 to $20 range.

If seats are still available, free standby tickets will be distributed to students with a valid Comet Card beginning one hour before the lecture. First come, first served. One ticket per student.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here using a desktop or laptop computer.

Parking Map

Exhibit and Forum Examine Anti-Apartheid and Human Rights Activist

Helen Suzman


A traveling exhibition highlighting the work of Helen Suzman, a former South African parliamentarian who devoted her life to fighting apartheid laws comes to UT Dallas next week.

“Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights” showcases four decades of photographs, personal letters, speeches and news articles, capturing Suzman’s strength during constant animosity, anti-Semitism and intimidation from her South African colleagues and citizens.

Suzman served in the South African Parliament for 36 years (1953-89), including a 13-year period as the governing body’s only member of the Progressive Party and the sole opposition condemning apartheid. She was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The exhibition also highlights Suzman’s enduring friendship with former South African President Nelson Mandela, which began in 1967 when the two met during his incarceration at the Robben Island Prison. The exhibit opens Monday in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building and runs until March 27.

The exhibition also highlights Suzman’s friendship with former South African President Nelson Mandela.


“It is a privilege to celebrate the achievements and call attention to the ideals of this great humanitarian who reminds us of the enduring importance of, in her words, ‘the old-fashioned liberal values’ that should vivify every culture,” said Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities at UT Dallas.

In conjunction with the opening, UT Dallas is hosting “The Helen Suzman Forum on Life Under Apartheid,” a panel discussion that includes South African natives who lived under apartheid laws. The forum will be Wednesday in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. A reception will start at 6 p.m., and the discussion will begin at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The panelists for the event are:

Peter Anderson: A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, Anderson came to the U.S. for a Fulbright scholarship at Boston University, where he completed his master’s and PhD in English, before returning to work at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. In 2006, he became associate professor at Austin College, where he teaches post-colonial literature. He is also the author of The Unspeakable, which won the 2013 Alex La Guma award.

Lorimer Arendse: Arendse, who is from Cape Town, South Africa, came to the U.S. in 1988, when he was 16 years old. He came to Dallas in 2007 from Ohio to serve as associate principal at Grapevine High School. He is currently the principal at Grand Prairie High School.

Warren Harmel: Harmel is from Johannesburg and Cape Town. He has a bachelor’s from the University of Cape Town and was a member of the Young Progressive Party in Johannesburg, where he interacted with Helen Suzman. He immigrated to Texas in 1986 for work with an advertising agency. He is now an advertising consultant.

Harshad Lalloobhai: Lalloobhai is from Johannesburg. He came to Texas in 1984 with American Corporation. He currently owns retail shops and hotels.

Dr. Peter Lewin: Lewin is from Johannesburg. He came to the U.S. for a job in 1979, when he was 23. He has studied the economics of apartheid and is currently clinical professor of managerial economics at UT Dallas.

The moderator for the forum will be Dr. Jill E. Kelly, assistant professor of South African history at Southern Methodist University.

The exhibition is sponsored by the M.B. & Edna Zale Foundation. For more information,

Freshman’s Design of Gravity-Powered Superhero Draws Scholarship

Quasar, a researcher who can create pockets of intense gravity, helped pull in a $1,000 scholarship for ATEC freshman Emma Mathes, who created the character with fellow student Daniel Colina.
Quasar, a researcher who can create pockets of intense gravity, helped pull in a $1,000 scholarship for ATEC freshman Emma Mathes, who created the character with fellow student Daniel Colina.

Emma Mathes, an arts and technology (ATEC) freshman at UT Dallas, has always loved art, drawing and science fiction — from literature to movies to comic books.

So when she heard about a contest to design a superhero, she was all over it. Never mind the contest deadline was just three days away.

“Basically, I worked on it 24/7 over one weekend to meet the deadline,” said Mathes, a National Merit Scholar from Fayetteville, Arkansas, who drew a character she developed with fellow ATEC major Daniel Colina.

Her design of Quasar, a researcher who can create pockets of intense gravity, earned Mathes a $1,000 Clark Van Pelt Scholarship from Element X, a motion design studio in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas.

“We spent way too long nerding out over this guy and deciding what superpowers he would have,” said Mathes, who is taking classes in 3-D computer animation processes such as modeling and texturing in her second semester. “Daniel came up with the rough idea, and I ended up drawing it out.”

The scholarship is for any student enrolled in a college degree program for 2-D/3-D animation, visual FX, motion graphics or game design, said Chad Briggs, president of Element X.

“While we had several good entries, Emma’s stood out in in terms of simplicity and overall design of her character and the backstory. The composition of her image was well laid out and did a great job of demonstrating comic book tension,” Briggs said.

Emma Mathes
Emma Mathes

Mathes even came up with a backstory for Quasar, aka Quinlan “Quinn” Black, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland as a teenager, earned a doctorate in quantum physics and led a team of scientists in black hole research while still in his 20s.

As he was testing a gravitational containment unit one day, an electrical storm compromised the device and killed all except Quinn and his assistant. Quinn became trapped as the unit overloaded, altering him beyond repair.

Now, he lives in self-exile inside a containment suit to protect others from the mass destruction that would occur from “the nearly inescapable gravitational pull and concussive blasts of force he can create,” Mathes’ contest submission reads.

“He can create rifts in space, relocate objects and slow down time — like what happens when you get close to a black hole,” Mathes said. “I should have studied up on the physics more.”

Should the containment suit fail, bad things would happen, she said.

“It would be a total meltdown,” Mathes said.

Mathes said she was surprised to learn she’d won the competition.

“I got the email at 3 a.m. — I may have still been up drawing — and called my mother right then,” she said.

In high school, Mathes used her skills to create Web comics after she and some friends dreamed up a steampunk universe, complete with time travel and aliens. “The really nerdy part is the alien language I created to use in the speech bubbles,” she said.

Mathes hopes to work in animation or another creative field someday. For now, she’s enjoying her creative pursuits both in and outside the classroom.

“I’m a nerd who loves sci-fi, comics, art, computers — definitely a good fit for ATEC,” Mathes said.

UT Dallas Announces Creation of New Arts, Technology School

The Arts and Technology (ATEC) program has seen rapid growth since its inception at UT Dallas more than a decade ago. It will become part of the new School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, which was approved Thursday.

The University of Texas at Dallas is creating a new school focused on arts, technology and emerging communication after the UT System Board of Regents approved the move Thursday.

Since their inception, both theArts and Technology(ATEC) andEmerging Media and Communication(EMAC) programs have seen rapid growth. At the end of 2014, the number of students enrolled in these programs included 1,096 undergraduates, 167 master’s students and 28 PhD candidates.

“This is just one more indication of the tremendous success UT Dallas is fostering through its programs and leadership,” said Bill McRaven, chancellor of The University of Texas System. “The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication will help UT Dallas better manage rapidly growing programs and also create more visibility for the degrees offered by this new school.”

UT Dallas President Dr. David E. Daniel consulted with deans, faculty, student government and the faculty senate about the concept of establishing the new school.

“We are grateful that Chancellor McRaven and the Board of Regents supported and approved this new school,” Daniel said. “We anticipate this will provide UT Dallas students with an even stronger learning environment and overall experience.”

The Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) program was introduced in 2008 at UT Dallas to study the uses, impact and implications of digital technology in contemporary culture. The program will be part of the new arts and technology school.


UT Dallas created the Arts and Technology program to explore the intersections of science and engineering with the creative arts and the humanities more than a decade ago. In 2008, the Emerging Media and Communication program was introduced to study the uses, impact and implications of digital technology in contemporary culture.

The programs are housed in theEdith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, a 155,000-square-foot facility that features classrooms for game design, sound design and visual arts, conference rooms, 2-D drawing and painting art studios, 3-D art studios, a recording studio, a motion capture lab, soundproof chambers, and photography and 3-D fabrication labs.

Arts and Humanities Dean Dennis Kratz conceptualized the programs making up the new school, and created a proving ground for their development and their growth to a school level,” Daniel said. “By reorganizing, we create an opportunity for the core programs of the School of Arts and Humanities to sharpen focus on their objectives, and become even better, and for the school to consider other new programs to develop.

“These actions, collectively, are designed to provide more and better educational opportunities for students and an even better environment to support faculty members’ excellence in their work.  We will now begin the process of getting faculty, staff and student input on how we can grow Arts and Humanities and help it reach new heights of success.”

Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the new school “will have the same status as the seven other currently constituted UT Dallas schools, and will be able to facilitate faculty collaborations among them all on an equal footing.”

The new school will be formally introduced on campus as early as the fall 2015 semester. A new dean for ATEC will be appointed pending a national search.

DreamWorks Executive Reveals Inner Workings of Animation Process at ATEC Lecture

Wallen, the first speaker in the 2015 Arts and Technology Distinguished Lecture Series, presented “Science and Engineering: The Art of Experience.”

In creating the hit computer-animated film How to Train Your Dragon 2, animators wanted to pull viewers into the action as dragons zipped through the air, the sun shining at their backs, and artists wanted to transport audiences into the magical and unworldly.

But the designers couldn’t do this on their own: Every scene in an animated film requires massive amounts of science, engineering and mathematics.

Lincoln Wallen, chief technology officer of DreamWorks Animation, launched the 2015ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series with a talk titled “Science and Engineering: The Art of Experience” in which he explained how big, complex systems containing mountains of data and equations are made small and simple during the animation process.

“Designing an animated experience requires solving problems — thousands of physics simulations each day,” Wallen said. “How to Train Your Dragon 2 required 80 million compute hours to produce. That’s done on a supercomputer consisting of over 20,000 individual computers involving 200 terabytes of data, half a billion digital files and 250 billion pixels that are crafted for the film.”

But despite the scientific know-how needed to create flying dragons, animators and artists have become less involved with the mechanical aspects of creating a film and have been given more creative freedom, thanks to new technologies.

Dragon 2 was significant because it was my favorite, but also because it was the first film that we used a new production platform, Apollo, that has pushed the boundaries of technology to improve the viewer experience,” Wallen said. “In the past, computers turned artists into engineers. But Apollo software gets them back to analog experience — the ideal artistic environment.”

Wallen explained that Apollo represents the next generation of media creation technology, deployed in and through the cloud.

“In creating Apollo, my vision was to set a new course for innovation at the studio utilizing a novel approach — making our end users, namely our artists, intimately involved in the development process of software to enable creativity,” he said.

Eric Farrar, assistant professor of 3-D Computer Animation in the Arts and Technology program at UT Dallas, said it’s important for studios like DreamWorks to continue to push technology and make the filmmaking process more intuitive so computer artists won’t have to become computer engineers in order to make their craft.

The lecture series, presented by The Dallas Morning News, is held in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, which houses programs that explore topics at the intersection of arts and technology.

“The takeaway for students should be that on the technical side of things, there are still huge and complex problems to be solved, but those problems are more about conservation of resources and building efficiencies now than about how to make something look photo-realistic,” Farrar said. “We’ve always told our students that the computer is a tool that can be used to make great art, just like a pen, pencil or paint brush, and I think DreamWorks is really pushing to make the computer interfaces for 3-D animation just as intuitive and natural as picking up a pen or pencil.”

Some of Farrar’s students who are studying animation were in attendance.

“The talk was inspiring,” said Huda Hashim, who is pursuing a master’s degree in ATEC. “Lincoln Wallen was enthusiastic about DreamWorks’ technology and how they use it to convey stories in a unique way. As an aspiring 3-D artist for animated films, it seems to me that he has expanded the horizons for the future of computer animation. His visit proves that by merging the worlds of software engineers and creative artists we will be able to produce magical things in the world of animation.”

Wallen ended his talk by showing a trailer for DreamWorks’ next movie, Home, a comedy about an alien race in search of a new place to live.

When the lights came up and Wallen fielded questions from the audience, he was asked how students might become more competitive for jobs at companies like DreamWorks. His response: engineers, mind your math, and animators, hon
e your graphic skills.

The next speaker in the lecture series will be John Maeda, a world-renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist and educator, whose career reflects his philosophy of humanizing technology. His talk, “Turning STEM into STEAM” will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4. Tickets are available now.

Media Critic Anita Sarkeesian to Address Gender in Gaming at Lecture

Anita Sarkeesian will present “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the lecture hall of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.

A talk this week from media critic Anita Sarkeesian will continue the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology 2015 lecture series.

This year’s series focuses on issues in society regarding the interaction between gender and medicine, science and technology.

Sarkeesian will give an overview of a culture that she says sustains harassment, exclusion and objectification in video games — from the dynamics of sexist cyber-mobs to recurring tropes in video games that reinforce sexist conceptions of women. She will then provide examples of a few games that do not portray women in such ways. The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the lecture hall of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. The talk is free and open to the public.

“I have been a fan of Anita Sarkeesian’s work for several years. Since 2009, Sarkeesian has done an excellent job of making feminist media critique accessible and exciting via her Feminist Frequency video series,” said Dr. Matthew J. Brown, director of the Center for Values. “More recently, in turning her attention to video games, she has helped fill an important gap in feminist media critique.”

Sarkeesian’s work focuses on deconstructing the stereotypes and tropes associated with women in popular culture as well as highlighting issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces.

“She has done more than almost anyone in helping us take games seriously as a medium of expression by subjecting it to serious critique,” Brown said.

Sarkeesian regularly lectures and presents at universities, conferences and game development studios internationally. She has presented at various fan, media and technology conferences, and has also facilitated and taught multi-day filmmaking workshops. She has been interviewed and featured in publications such as Forbes and The New York Times. Her videos are freely available on the Feminist Frequency YouTube channel and widely serve as educational tools in high school and university classrooms. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies at California State University at Northridge and her master’s degree in social and political thought at York University.

Other lecturers in the series include Dr. Carla Fehr, professor of philosophy at the University of Waterloo, on March 11; Dr. Matthew J. Brown, assistant professor of philosophy and history of ideas at UT Dallas, on March 25; and Dr. Sarah Richardson, associate professor of the history of science and of studies of women, gender and sexuality at Harvard University, on April 9.

The series is also sponsored by UT Dallas’ Carolyn Lipshy Galerstein Women’s Center and Gender Studies Program. For more information, visit the Center for Values website.