ATEC Undergrad’s Artistic Pursuits Lead to Game Industry Scholarship

Heidi Neunhoffer
Heidi Neunhoffer

Midway through her freshman year studying communication design at the University of North Texas, Heidi Neunhoffer came across UT Dallas in a publication listing the University among 100 other schools deemed the best in animation education.

She said the arts and technology program, in particular drew her attention.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” Neunhoffer said. “I love observing the world, watching movies, playing games, thinking about stories, but for a while, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with art. I just wanted to draw and maybe tell stories. I really loved animation, but I never thought about who made it. Then, in high school, I found out a girl a few classes above me was going to Cal Arts to become an animator. She’s a great artist, and she really inspires me. I realized that if I really wanted to, I could go into animation too.”

After some careful consideration, she decided to transfer to UT Dallas to pursue her passion.

Now a senior, Neunhoffer has received the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation Scholarship, which supports students pursuing careers in the computer and video game industries. She was among 30 recipients representing institutions such as Duke University, Brown University and the University of Southern California.

“Institutions like UT Dallas rightly recognize the value in preparing students for careers in the video game industry, meeting a rising demand among students and eventual employers,” said Anastasia Staten, executive director of the foundation. “The ESA Foundation is committed to supporting this growth and has provided nearly 300 women and minority students with scholarships to pursue video game-related degrees, giving them not only the opportunity to follow their dreams, but also creating a pipeline of skilled and well-educated job candidates for the video game industry and other careers in STEM-related fields.”

The $3,000 scholarship will help Neunhoffer as she wraps up a fruitful undergraduate career.

Most recently, she had a hand in the preproduction of the annual short film created by the animation studio class. Neunhoffer had input with the script and storyboarding the project, which is in development.

“Heidi is a great example of the type of student who can excel within ATEC,” senior associate dean and associate professor Todd Fechter said. “She has the ability to take classroom concepts and expand them into something greater. Recently, she took it upon herself to create her own short story, complete with designs and storyboards. She created a nice presentation book and showed it to well-known industry professionals at this year’s CTN Animation Expo. They loved it! I’m not surprised. She is one of the most talented and dedicated students I’ve met.”

Neunhoffer has been hungry for opportunities to practice. She said preproduction design classes, taught by Fechter, allow her to hone her craft.

Neunhoffer also has served as a student assistant in the photography department since she began at UT Dallas. She helps with digital printing, mixing darkroom chemicals and assisting with maintenance of the Comer Collection of Photography.

She participates in Comet-Con’s Artist Alley every year, and is working on her ATEC Honors Capstone project.

“The ATEC program is really great because you get to choose what you want to focus on,” she said. “Going to school here has also helped me meet lots of people with similar interests, and it’s really given me time and resources to develop as an artist.”

Announcing STEM to STEAM graduate seminar for Fall 2016, ATEC UT Dallas.

ATEC 6380. 501 STEM to STEAM.

Contact for info and approval to enroll.

urlFall 2016 Instructor: Professor Roger Malina. Classes will be held on Monday Evenings.

This seminar will be co-taught with modules led by Dr. Paul Fishwick, Dr. Eun Ah Lee and Professor Kathryn Evans.

Course description: The seminar is open to PhD, MA and MFA students. May be repeated for credit as topics vary (9 semester credit hours maximum).

Syllabus is designed around the research or creative projects of each student.

This course will study current and emerging topics, approaches, and practices, where arts, sciences, and humanities interact or converge, with the goal to advance new research questions and areas of inquiry.

The integration of the arts, humanities and design into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math has become an important research and education agenda in the US and internationally. In this seminar each student will work with the instructor and/or other students on topics in science and engineering that are part of their ATEC or EMAC PhD, MA or MFA project of interest.

The syllabus will be modified to discuss topic areas of each student. Deliverables from each student for the seminar will be defined individually so that each student makes significant progress on their own project. TOPICS Guest lecturers will include visitors to ATEC and also online guests proposed by the students. Topics and readings will include the following topics, with others to be added responding to student areas of interest: The ethics of curiosity, Readings from the work of Indian philosopher of science Sundar Sarukkai, Foundations of inter and transdisciplinary research with readings from the work of Allen Repko, The science of collaboration, readings around the methodologies used to develop successful collaboration strategies when the work bridges the arts, sciences and humanities, Key readings from the Science of Team science initiative, anthropologist James Leach and other experts on training collaboration techniques.

Required reading will be the NSF funded study led by Dr. Malina on enabling new forms of collaboration between the arts and humanities with science and engineering. How researchers and artists can use developing techniques in cultural analytics, data visualization and representation, data Science. How digital humanities are enabling new research questions and methods. Data immersion and exploration. Performing data. Contemporary initiatives in cognitive sciences and neurobiology that can inform research and creative practices. Innovations in scholarly and art publishing and education. How researchers and artists document their work and present to different audiences today. The history and current practices of inter, multi and transdisciplinary research including recent work on the second wave of “consilience’ or emerging practices to succeed in ‘vertical integration’ of the sciences/engineering with arts/design/humanities. Research in arts and design.

We will look at how international programs are developing research methodologies in arts and design and emerging best practices. Development of rationales for art-science and art-technology in society in the USA and Europe. History and trends in design education. Creative industries today. Citizen science, collaborative science and open science developments today.

Deliverables Students will be expected to use social media and new forms of professional documentation such as video abstracts, podcasts, an online research web site or blog. Each student will record a podcast discussing their work to be published on the Leonardo Creative Disturbance podcast platform at MIT Press. Strategies for public engagement. Funding is available for student presentations at local events and conferences. Students who wish to enroll are encouraged to contact the instructor at So that, the syllabus can be augmented in areas of specific interest or need of the student.

Grading will be based 10% on attendance, 45% on participation and presentations made during the semester and 45% on the final deliverable. The final deliverable for the end of the semester is intended to help each student work and advance their ATEC or EMAC PhD, MA or MFA project or interest. Format of the deliverable will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor.

Anne Balsamo Appointed Inaugural Dean of ATEC School

Dr. Anne Balsamo
Dr. Anne Balsamo

Dr. Anne Balsamo has been named as the inaugural dean of the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas.

Balsamo is a scholar, educator, entrepreneur and designer of new media whose research and interactive projects explore the cultural possibilities of emergent media technologies. Her recent book, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work, offers a manifesto for rethinking the role of culture in the process of technological innovation in the 21st century.

Balsamo moves to UT Dallas from the New School in New York City, where she served as dean of the School of Media Studies. Prior to her appointment at the New School, she held tenured faculty appointments at the Georgia Institute of Technology and, later, at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism of the University of Southern California.

The Board of Regents of The University of Texas System authorized the creation of the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) in February of 2015. The programs and faculty of this new UT Dallas school, now based in the new Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, were developed as a visionary initiative of Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, in collaboration with the founding director of the program, Dr. Thomas Linehan.

Their vision was of synergistic collaborations between scholars of animation, game design, and communications mediated though new technologies, engineers and computer scientists, artists and scholars of design, and faculty in the many dimensions of communications. Over the last decade, this vision has been embraced by students and faculty alike, and the dynamic growth of ATEC enrollment and program faculty led to the creation of the new school.

“The creation of our new School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication provided us with the opportunity to recruit a new dean, and in so doing to bring additional administrative and scholarly expertise to UT Dallas,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, president ad interim of UT Dallas. “A search committee, chaired by Dr. Andy Blanchard, dean of Undergraduate Education, and assisted by the executive search firm of Korn Ferry, solicited, reviewed and interviewed an impressive array of outstanding scholar-administrator candidates as we searched for our inaugural dean. Dr. Balsamo emerged from this process as the leading candidate, and after an intensive recruitment process she accepted the challenge and opportunity to lead this dynamic, still rapidly evolving, diverse community of faculty and students.”

Balsamo has been a leader in the growth of digital humanities in the United States, having served on the advisory board of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) since its founding in 2003. She and her research team have received several grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of the Digital Humanities to create interactive experiences for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. This research is widely considered as a model of digital humanities research that expands public awareness of important works of cultural heritage.

ATEC is a bold experiment in thinking differently about the future of STEM education that asserts the importance of the arts and humanities not only in the creation of new technologies, but also in the production of new knowledge that will be required of citizens of the 21st century.

Dr. Anne Balsamo,
inaugural dean of the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas

“ATEC is a bold experiment in thinking differently about the future of STEM education that asserts the importance of the arts and humanities not only in the creation of new technologies, but also in the production of new knowledge that will be required of citizens of the 21st century,” Balsamo said. “So informed, we seek wisdom from our cross-disciplinary conversations about how best to navigate dynamic and uncertain futures. This, to me, is the promise of ATEC. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead and help shape it so that we may realize this promise.”

Balsamo received her PhD in communications research in 1991 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she completed a dissertation that examined the cultural implications of emergent biotechnologies. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in 1981.

Balsamo has pursued her career in a diverse array of environments. She left her tenured faculty appointment in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia Tech for a position as principal scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Subsequently she worked with the Stanford University Humanities Lab and, with former PARC colleagues, co-founded, Onomy Labs Inc., a Silicon Valley company providing technology design and fabrication to develop cultural technologies and signature interactives as narrative platforms for engaging storytelling.

In 1994, Balsamo joined the faculty of the University of Southern California as professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and in the Interactive Media Division of the School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC, she also directed the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, where she developed one of the first academic programs in multimedia scholarship across the curriculum. An expert in developing innovative pedagogies, Balsamo co-developed an alternative MOOC offered by an organization she co-founded called FemTechNet. The distributed learning experience, called a DOCC (Distribute Online Collaborative Course), now in its fourth year, involves dozens of instructors who collaborate to create learning activities addressing issues of women and STEAM, feminism and technology, and race and diversity in digital culture.

Her books have earned her prominence in the emerging field of digital humanities and public interactive technologies. In addition to her 2011 book Designing Culture, she is also the author of the 1996 bookTechnologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women.

Balsamo’s current work focuses on what she terms “public interactives,” and investigates the history and proliferation of interactive experiences in public spaces. She will establish a new lab at ATEC called the Public Interactives Research Lab that builds on the interdisciplinary strengths of the school. This lab will engage artists, designers, computer scientists and engineers in the design of new public interactives that will be available for use in various public spaces in the ATEC building.

ATEC School’s Game Design Programs Rank Among the Nation’s Best

Animation lab
The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication has been recognized by The Princeton Review for its game design programs. UT Dallas has made the Princeton top 25 list every year since 2010

The University of Texas at Dallas has been included in The Princeton Review’s latest assessment of “Top Schools for Game Design,” with theArts and Technology (ATEC) graduate program making the top 10.

Based on a survey of administrators at 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad offering game design degree programs or courses, the ranking puts UT Dallas’ graduate program in the ninth spot and its undergraduate program at 11th on the list.

“For students aspiring to work in game design, the 58 schools that made one or both of our 2016 lists offer extraordinary opportunities to learn and to hone one’s talents for a successful career in this burgeoning field,” Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher of The Princeton Review, said in a news release.

“The faculties at these schools are outstanding. Their facilities are awesome. And their alumni include legions of the industry’s most prominent game designers, developers, artists and entrepreneurs.”

The Princeton Review started ranking video game design programs in 2010 after recognizing a surge in the amount of options available, and UT Dallas has since ranked in the top 25 every year.

“ATEC’s strength in gaming is its interdisciplinary nature,” said associate professor Dr. Monica Evans MA’04, PhD’07 who helped establish ATEC’s Game Production Lab.

“We specialize in things that don’t quite exist yet. There’s a great deal of untapped potential in games as an expressive medium, which we explore through collaboration with our colleagues in education, science, technology, business and the arts,” Evans said. “ATEC is an outstanding place to pursue impactful, groundbreaking work in games, and I’m extremely proud of our school, our students and our faculty in game development and game studies.”

The ATEC program began in 2004 under the auspices of the School of Arts and Humanities, and it quickly grew into one of UT Dallas’ most popular programs. It moved into a new home with the creation of theEdith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building and was established as an independent school with the Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) program in 2015.

Buzzworthy Changes in Fall EMAC Course Options

network-782707_960_720If you’ve already looked at the summer and fall schedules in Coursebook, you probably noticed that we have quite a few changes. We have many new courses in the 2016 catalog. Starting this fall, we have Networked Identities (EMAC 4350), Emerging Media and Identity (EMAC 6350), and Social Science Perspectives of Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC 6375).

We also have some courses that look new but aren’t: EMAC 2321, EMAC 2322, EMAC 3326, and EMAC 4326 have new prefixes. They automatically replace the old ATEC prefixes, so don’t panic if you don’t see the ATEC prefixed courses that appear on your degree plan. Also, some COMM-prefixed courses now have EMAC prefixes, such as EMAC 3300 and EMAC 4314.

Undergraduate students on existing degree plans may substitute the following courses for prescribed electives: Storytelling for New Media I (ATEC 3346) , Design II (ATEC 3384), Strategic Design (ATEC 4357), Interaction Design II (ATEC 4363), Time-Based Art (ARTS 3376),  Photography: New Media (ARTS 3379), Child Development (PSY 3310), Psychology of Gender (PSY 3324),  Social and Personality Development (PSY 3332), and Psychology of Prejudice (PSY 4324).

The fall schedule also includes quite a few special topics courses. The following course descriptions may help you chose which sections best fit your interests:

  • EMAC 4372 Privacy in the Age of the Internet (Banner and Cardenas): Internet of Things (IoT) devices are collecting data about our personal lives – where we travel; what we buy; how much we move; what our bodies consume – at unprecedented volume. This class considers these developments in relation to inequality; gender, race, class, and disability; constructions of normative health; information ownership; and state, corporate, and workplace surveillance. We will also explore the technical dimensions of the IoT and the challenges it poses for existing law and policy. Coursework will include weekly readings and responses, and in-class exercises will include examining IoT objects, for example fitness trackers and other wearables; smart home devices; baby monitors; the Bellabeat; the iWatch; and others. Cross-listed with Computer Science, the course culminates in a collaborative project between EMAC and CS majors. Pre-reqs: EMAC 2321 and EMAC 2322 or permission of instructor.

  • EMAC 4372 Social Media Campaigns (Johnson): Social Media Campaigns will explore the influence social media has during the 2016 presidential election. The class will explore past and present presidential campaigns, comparing and contrasting how media influence public opinion.

  • EMAC 4372 Communication, Media, Information, and Technology (Lee): This course will challenge the way you think about your relationship with those around you and the world. Specifically, you will come away from the course with knowledge of how communication, mass media, and emerging media shape your perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.

  • EMAC 4372 Ethics in Emerging Media (Lester): Emerging media require critical thinking and ethical behavior among professionals responsible for messages in all areas of mass communications. After an introduction to the history and practice of ethical behavior, this course will consider ethical examples and analyses of visual messages found in such fields as news, documentary, design and editing, informational graphics, cartoons, advertising and public relations, movies, television, computers, augmented reality, gaming, social media, global perspectives, and activism.

Finally, undergraduate students planning to graduate in Fall 2016 need to submit their capstone proposals for registration in EMAC 4380 by March 30. Graduate students planning to graduate in Fall 2016 need to submit their capstone proposals for registration in EMAC 6390 by April 15.


Game Lab Fosters Innovation


A creative director mimics running in slow motion as artists around him take notes, brainstorming ideas for character movement. Executive producers meet with the engineering team in the corner, reviewing the latest software build. Level designers in another room sketch the many environments to be included in the game.

This is a typical day for students enrolled in the Game Production Lab course — more commonly known as Game Lab. The course, which has been offered since 2008, serves as a hub for collaboration and creativity while giving students the opportunity to see what it’s like to have a profession in gaming.

“Most, if not all, of the students in Game Lab want to go into the game industry and are considering that as a career,” said Michael Breault, a clinical professor in Computer Game Design and co-teacher of the course.

The course, which is one of the highest-level production courses offered to undergraduate and graduate students, operates on a semester-by-semester basis. Around 50 game projects are pitched to Breault and a handful of other faculty.

From this pool, eight are chosen for live pitches. Then, two are developed during the following semester. Typically, 20 undergraduates and 10 graduates are chosen for the course. For Breault, who helped develop the successful “Dungeons & Dragons” board game, the Game Lab’s team-based environment is an especially important component of the course.

“The students get to work with all these different people — not just people who have different specialties, but different personalities,” he said. “It’s very different from developing a project on your own or with your friends, because there are people you may not get along with. You have to work with them and make sure everybody’s pulling in the same direction. It becomes a very honest appraisal of how much these students like the game industry.”

Monica Evans, who received the first ever Ph.D. from the ATEC program and went on to establish the Game Lab course when she returned as a faculty member, pointed out the student driven nature of the course.

“The games that come through are pitched by the students, and are developed by the students,” Evans said.

Students are placed on one of two projects for the semester and serve as directors, producers, engineers, artists, animators and narrative designers. After eight weeks of initial development, there is a public presentation in which the creators put their game on computers so anyone in the university can play it.

A survey is provided so the creators can receive feedback. At the end of the next eight weeks, the components of the game are finalized and the team begins to polish and debug the game.

“It very much mimics the stages a real game goes through,” Breault said.

Because of the amount of effort that students put into the course, Evans noted students become extremely invested in their work.

“Most of the games (created) in the last few years of Game Lab have gone on to be in production outside of the classroom as well,” she said.

For example, Michael Stewart — a recent ATEC graduate — helped create a game called “Push and Pull” during Game Lab’s spring 2015 semester and later received offers to publish it, prompting him and his team members to continue developing the game.

Stewart and his partner, Dean Soeder, came up with the idea for “Push and Pull,” a game about creatures who use the power of magnetism to move objects, during the fall of 2014. After several rounds of bug testing and polishing, they presented their prototype to Scott Swearingen, another faculty member leading the course, who then suggested pitching the project to Game Lab for full production. In addition to successfully lobbying the idea, Stewart and Soeder managed to convince the faculty to have all 30 students in the lab work on their project, rather than splitting the students between two projects.

“I was the lead director, which meant I was (involved) with every aspect of the game,” Stewart said. “I was building a bridge of communication between all the different teams.”

Part of the challenge for Stewart was ensuring that his vision for the game was consistent with the visions of his team members.

“The first thing I did with my team was making sure that everyone felt like this game was theirs, not just mine,” he said.

For Stewart, there are exciting opportunities ahead in the world of gaming. He is currently working towards obtaining his MFA from the ATEC program, is serving as a teaching assistant for the undergraduate Game Design I class and is collaborating with the Perot Museum to develop educational games for children. In addition, “Push and Pull” was recently featured at PAX South, a popular gaming convention that took place in San Antonio this year. Stewart said he attributes part of his success to the skills he gained in Game Lab.

“It allowed me to sharpen my soft skills, especially in terms of working with people,” he said. “I learned how to work on a team and lead a team at the same time.”

For Evans, who created the course, Game Lab has evolved to become one of the highlights of the ATEC program.

“It’s one of the things I’m proudest of,” she said. “Game Lab is one of the ways in which all of our students can come together and make something spectacular.”

Reprinted from The Mercury

Media Artist Explores Digital Labor, Teaches Humanity


For centuries, artists have utilized varying resources to create, educate, and inspire.  Developments in technology have enabled concepts in artistry to evolve from basic photographic innovations into developments branching into hyper-connected web communities utilizing a multitude of digital platforms.  For artists specializing in media, this ability to collaborate and engage globally allows for deeper humanitarian interpretations.

For media artist, author, and UT Dallas Associate Professor xtine Burrough, art-making is altruistic and multidimensional.  Her eye for deconstructing and reconstructing media to generate new perceptions of form and function are blended with classroom experience and corporate knowledge as a former Web Designer.  xtine’s conceptional, instructional, and technical skills from these experiences combine to a bring a greater meaning to her art, as well as fuel her desire to teach.

“I knew right away, this is where I want to be,” xtine shared while students gathered in the courtyard outside her office window.  “I want to be in the classroom.  I really like working with the students.”

xtine’s goal to invite participants, including students, into her work is part of a larger agenda to generate awareness.

Xtine-4394A previous collaboration with the Mechanical Turks, a digital workforce also known as Turkers, led to the creation of xtine’s most recent exhibit, Mediations on Digital Labor.

The exhibit aims to express concerns regarding interface and culture; predominately  worker’s rights.  While digital laborers have a variety of reasons for working on projects, pay is not comparable to the traditional workforce.  For this reason, professor Burrough hired the Turkers to do nothing.

That’s right – nothing.  Workers were hired to rest and report what it was like to do so for one to three minutes.

With this data, xtine visualized a gallery space.  Requiring fifty hours of creation, xtine drew the typography of her findings in chalk on the gallery’s black tiled floor, allowing patrons to experience her artwork by walking through the space.  As art-goers passed through the exhibit, the chalk interpretations of each worker was altered by footprints, signifying a loss of information.  Her message is a play on unencrypted data, as well as the faceless and nameless online workforce of the digital age.

With a range of interests in appropriation, culture jamming, montage, and translation, xtine’s expertise lends itself to broadening the observer’s experience by providing a fusion of said knowledge to explore.  Her knowledge of coding, for example, offers a unique behind-the-scenes perspective to technical-minded audiences.  Blending xtine’s use of visual concepts creates an arena where she hopes people will view her work as social projects that involve technology to “reach a certain level of humanity.”


xtine frequently updates her website missconceptionswhere she posts information on her projects such as On the Web and Walk on Wire, as well as information about her speaking engagements, publications, and other previous exhibits, such as Mechanical/Olympic Games, which placed as an Honoree in the 2009 Webby “Weird Category”.

This story was originally produced by   for the Office of Research at UT Dallas

EMAC Graduate Caps Stellar Career in Basketball, Academics

Madi Hess
Madison Hess

When Madison “Madi” Hess crosses the stage at UT Dallas commencement ceremonies this week, she will be participating with magna cum laude honors in theemerging media and communication (EMAC) program.

But she also leaves a legacy as a standout student-athlete. At an institution more known for academics than athletics, Hess has excelled in both — and she has the championship ring to prove it.

As team captain and point guard, Hess led the women’s basketball team last season to its winningest season ever (26-5), the American Southwest Conference (ASC) title and its first appearance in the Sweet 16 round of theNCAA Division III National Tournament.

After transferring here her junior year from Concordia University in Austin, Hess racked up numerous accolades. Last season, she was the conference tournament MVP, and named to the All-ASC first team and the All-South Region second team. Hess also was UT Dallas’ first nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year.

During her senior year, she led the Comets with an average of 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and led the ASC with 5.1 assists per game. She ranked third in NCAA D-III from the three-point range, shooting 45.9 percent from beyond the arc.

And all the while, despite a heavy practice and game schedule, and frequent travel during the basketball season, she maintained an excellent academic record, carrying a 3.8-plus GPA and making the ASC’s All-Academic honor roll.

“She raised the level of intensity for us,” head coach Polly Thomason said. “Madi was committed to being the hardest worker both on and off the court, and she brought a competitive fire for both academics and athletics. She took us to the next level and brought some national exposure for the University.”


Madi was committed to being the hardest worker both on and off the court, and she brought a competitive fire for both academics and athletics. She took us to the next level and brought some national exposure for the University.

UT Dallas women’s basketball head coach Polly Thomason

Basketball fans took notice. During her two seasons with the team, Hess saw a surge in campus support for athletic events as she helped ignite Comet fever among students, staff and faculty.

“I remember playing here at UT Dallas during my sophomore year at Concordia, and it was just really empty. It was mostly parents, not the student body,” Hess said. “By my senior year, people were filling the stands and waving ‘fat heads’ (poster-sized images of players’ faces).”

Fans started to set attendance records two seasons ago, when the men’s team nabbed its conference championship and made it to the Sweet 16. The women’s team did the same last year.

Hess put her EMAC talents to work by helping to design the silver conference championship ring for the team, which features an orange gemstone and the team’s hashtag slogan #allin. Then she helped raise money so her teammates wouldn’t have to pay for their rings.

“One donor ended up paying for all the seniors’ rings,” Hess said.

Team members have kept a close bond off the court. For her senior capstone project, Hess developed a documentary about the journey of teammate Amber Brown, who is the first in her family to graduate from college.

Hess hopes to work in a sports-related industry someday. Her dream would be to emulate the career of Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews, but she’s also interested in designing logos for sports companies.

She’s already had a few “cool internships,” editing reports on the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers for CBS Radio, and interviewing coaches for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine.

With her winning combination of athletic and academic accomplishments, Hess said coming to UT Dallas is one of the top decisions she has ever made.

“I’m not a small-town person,” she said. “Having more opportunities for academics was really important for me. I saw everything the [Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology] Building had to offer, and it was awesome. Everyone was so welcoming. It just felt right.”

She has one more basketball-related goal. Hess hopes to travel with her parents and Thomason to Knoxville, Tennessee, to see her All-American jersey, while it’s still hanging in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It will come down in June.

Though Hess admits she sometimes finds it antagonizing to sit in the stands now rather than play on the court, she will always take great pride in what the Comets accomplished during her time here.

“We did so well. I’m just glad for what we did. It’s such a great notch in our belts,” Hess said.


Spring 2016 EMAC Courses


3284555653_203ddf91c8_z (1)We hope you’ve cleared any holds you may have in Galaxy because it’s time to register for Spring 2016 courses. As always, you can find course listings in Coursebook (, and you can access your registration appointment time in Galaxy. The following course descriptions may help you choose among courses emphasizing specific topics this spring:

  • COMM 3342.001 CHILDREN AND MEDIA (Drogos): This course will examine the role of media in the lives of children. Special attention is given to developmental differences in how children process and respond to the media. Major areas of consideration include children’s responses to media violence, educational media, and play with media. Each topic is examined in terms of major issues, research findings, and theoretical explanations of the findings.
  • COMM 3342.002 and COMM 3342.003 PHOTOJOURNALISM (Lester): This course explores through lectures, guest appearances, and field experiences the creation of words and images to tell stories for publication in print and screen media. The history, theories, ethical considerations, practices, and production techniques for analog and digital displays of journalism-based visual storytelling presentations are the main elements covered by this class. You will not only learn how to tell your own stories but also how to critically analyze work produced by others. Prerequisite: Junior status.
  • EMAC 3328.001 DIGITAL SOCIETY – Health, Disability, and Media (Banner): This course examines how emerging media and cultural representations shape the meaning of health, illness, and disability. We will consider how medical and psychiatric concepts are represented in film, television, the news, social networks, and digital knowledge publics such as Wikipedia, and we will examine how people use the affordances of digital media to define health, illness, and norms for bodies and minds in ways that challenge mainstream concepts. Our primary texts will include films, YouTube videos, social-networking sites, online news publications, cell phone apps, digital media health campaigns, and online memoirs. Throughout the semester we will be storming Wikipedia by joining Wikipedia’s Disability Project and improving Wikipedia’s representations of health and disability.
  • EMAC 6342.501 DIGITAL CULTURE (Lee): Drawing on a journalism ethics perspective, this course will examine a range of emerging media practices and dilemmas that make salient the benefits and confines of digital technology. Topics may include institutional norms and business models on online news, audience behaviors, media effects, and data journalism.
  • EMAC 6374 DIGITAL TEXTUALITY (Knight): One of the definitions of text is “something, such as a literary work or other cultural product, regarded as an object of critical analysis.” ( If we drill down far enough into any form of digital “text,” we arrive at the level of binary code: 1s and 0s. This includes other objects of critical analysis, such as digital images, sound files, animations, videos, etc. This material commonality draws our attention to the fact that any digital object has multiple layers – from the surface representation to the source code, down to those 1s and 0s. In addition to this kind of fundamental multi-mediality, it is very rare to encounter a digital text that is composed on the surface of only one type of media object. In other words, in digital textuality, words almost always co-exist with images, links, sound, and video, all built atop a foundation of code. This course takes these types of multi-mediality as its starting point and asks students to reconceive “digital textuality” as a more broad form of cultural product that can occur in multiple media formats and that explores the unique affordances of different kinds of text objects. Through this production-intensive course, students will explore the theoretical and material connections between analog and digital textuality, centered on text, image, sound, and moving image. Students will apply their theoretical understanding of digital textuality to the production of a portfolio, composed of four separate digital media objects and a short paper, each of which foregrounds certain modes of making meaning. The goal is to examine the shifts in writing and representation in digital environments.  The course situates “writing” within a networked, digital environment and, as such, will focus on the production of “texts” in different media forms.
  • EMAC 6381.001 PERSUASION (Guadagno): The course is a graduate-level, selected survey of theory and research on the social influence and persuasion process. As such, we will concentrate on the interpersonal factors that affect change–for without change we cannot lay claim to influence–in two principal domains: attitudes/beliefs and actions/behavior. In keeping with this division, the course will cover the psychological and communication literatures on persuasion and on compliance resulting from one’s exposure to some form of interpersonal pressure for change. Coverage is broken down further into a number of topics and connected readings. The role of technology-mediated interactions on social influence and persuasion will also be covered in this course. In addition, a serious effort will be made to consider how the material of the class may be applied to the construction of effective information campaigns of various sorts. Accordingly, time will be allotted toward the end of most class periods for students to collaborate in small groups on the development of a pair of information campaigns on topics of their choosing.


Also, undergraduates may use COMM 3352 Media and Culture as a prescribed elective.


Finally, undergraduate students planning to enroll in EMAC 4380 Capstone Project should check their UTD email for the application, which is due November 10. Undergraduates interested in pursuing major honors should consult with their academic advisors to determine their eligibility. Graduate students planning to register for the Advanced Project should contact Ellen Curtis.


Image: From Flickr @rcade

Summer and Fall 2015 EMAC Courses

Clear your registration holds!

The Summer and Fall 2015 schedules are now live in Coursebook, and registration begins on Monday, April 6.  You can find your registration appointment time in Orion.

As you look at your options for Fall 2015, you will find that the esteemed STAFF is covering a remarkable number of courses. STAFF is not some new AI tool that will randomly generate grades. We will have several new faculty members come fall (watch for news about this soon!), and we will post names as soon as we complete the hiring process.

You also will notice more special topics courses than usual, and the following information may help you choose among them.

  • COMM 3342.001 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH METHODS (Drogos): Research Methods will take a project-based, active approach to learning and understanding quantitative research methods. We explore fundamental issues of the scientific process as they are relevant to communication research. As we move through the course we will be posing communication-specific research questions, and using the methods of content analysis, survey, and experiment to answer those questions.
  • COMM 3342.002 ADVANCED WRITING AND RESEARCH (Lambert): This course is designed to build on students’ experiences in RHET 1302 to improve technical and professional writing skills as well as to investigate needs and elements necessary in industry documents. Students will study and practice audience analysis, corporate culture, and mechanics and style to improve their writing. In addition, they will consider research methods that allow them to identify best practices for various professional documents, including manuals; instructions; books, proposals, reports (e.g., feasibility, progress, travel, budget); and online documents.

  • COMM 3342.003  COMMUNICATION, MEDIA, AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (Lee): Communication is an indispensable part of human life, and communication scholars have long examined the ways in which mass media, new media technology and ordinary people influence, and are influenced, by one another. This course will offer an overview of such influences, and students are expected to leave the course with knowledge of how communication shapes our perception, how mass media affect our attitudes and behaviors, and how the rise of new media technology complicates our understanding of the relationship between mass media and everyday citizens.

We have three sections of COMM 3342 to give people on the 2012-14 degree plan several options to satisfy a major requirement (subtext: there probably won’t be as many options in spring, so you might want to take advantage of the choices here). Students on the 2012-14 degree plan also have the option to use COMM 3351 History and Theory of Communication and COMM 4360 Communication Ethics as prescribed electives. (Students on the 2014-16 degree plan shouldn’t feel left out — these courses already appear as prescribed electives on your degree plan.)

We also have special topics courses under the EMAC prefix: Kim Knight will teach a section of EMAC 4372 (Topics in Emerging Media and Communication) and its graduate counterpart, EMAC 6381 (Special Topics in Emergent Communication). Both courses will focus on viral media. These courses will explore the notion of “the viral” as a mode of communication. They will begin with a look at the history of the term and its definitional and metaphorical operations, particularly in relation to biology and computation. They will then situate the term within the contemporary media landscape that produces “viral structures” that influence our engagement with media, institutions, and one another. Finally, they will examine “viral media” as it is represented in media, through literature, film, and art.

Graduate students also may like to know that Matt Brown’s section of EMAC 6375, Research Methods in Emerging Communication, will focus on Cognitive Ethnography.

Finally, undergraduate students planning to enroll in EMAC 4380 Capstone Project should check their UTD email accounts for information about the new application and enrollment process. Undergraduate students who want to complete their capstone project next fall must submit your application by April 15; otherwise, they will be assigned a project supervisor.  Students interested in enrolling in EMAC 4V99 Senior Honors in Emerging Media and Communication should consult with their academic advisors to determine their eligibility and to acquire the appropriate forms. Graduate registration processes for the Advanced Project requirement will remain the same.