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Accounting Professor Primes Students for Energy Industry

When Shannon Deer returned to Texas A&M University to teach after working for two years at a Big 4 accounting firm in Houston, she knew she wanted to arm her students with information that is practical and can place them in a good job. Her emphasis on the energy industry has provided both.

Shannon Deer, intermediate accounting professor at Mays Business School and assistant department head for the accounting department.

Shannon Deer, intermediate accounting professor at Mays Business School and assistant department head for the accounting department.

Deer teaches intermediate accounting at Mays Business School and serves as the assistant department head for the accounting department. She answered a few questions about her chosen path:

Why it is important for our current students to learn about energy

The energy industry has its own language. To obtain a competitive advantage in the industry, our students need to be fluent in the language. They need to know what operational terms such as fracking, casing, oil sands and even pig (used to clean a pipe) mean. They need to know where major shale plays are located and why Henry Hub in Louisiana, Cushing, Okla., and Mt. Belvieu, Texas, are important to product pricing. A petroleum engineering major or a geology major would likely have this terminology embedded in many courses. Until we started programs specific to the energy industry, most business majors were not exposed to these concepts.

Until our students understand the industry from an operational perspective, they cannot master industry-specific accounting and finance concepts. I want our students to walk in the first day on the job and be able to speak the language and understand a company’s strategy in addition to being able to account for derivatives or exploration costs. Every year I receive emails from former students who are excited because they were able to explain a concept they learned in class to their coworkers who did not attend schools with energy-specific business courses.

Additionally, the energy industry is facing many challenges today. Several examples of risks facing the industry according to Ernst & Young, who employs many of our students, include cost containment, a deficit of human capital, operating in new markets, and managing public perceptions about environmental and health concerns related to new technologies. Our students are the future leaders who will manage these issues as they progress through their careers. I want to teach them to think critically about these risks from a business perspective.

Why it is important for our graduates to work in the energy industry

It is important our graduates are able to work in the energy industry, because the corporate hub for many energy companies is only 90 miles from College Station – in Houston. Across Texas, there are many excellent opportunities to work in the energy industry and we want to make sure our students are initially competitive for those jobs and can quickly excel in those jobs.

Our students pursue a variety of career paths within the energy industry. Many of our students start their careers in public accounting. Especially for those working in Houston, there is a high probability some or all of their clients will be energy companies. Each year, several students go into consulting and investment banking focused on energy clients or become financial planners evaluating energy portfolios. I have one student who transitioned after several years in energy-focused investment banking to a private equity firm that funds new midstream energy companies.

Energy companies are very eager to recruit our students and are providing excellent and competitive rotational programs designed to give students broad experience in a short period of time. Baby Boomers are retiring from energy companies and need young professionals to fill those positions. Our students who complete rotational programs with energy companies are primed to fill the gap left by Baby Boomers.

Additionally, the energy industry helped insulate Houston and all of Texas from the devastating effects of the financial crisis. We are lucky our students are still being aggressively recruited when some industries were laying employees off.

Programs I have developed

In developing energy programs in Mays, my goal has been to increase the number of cross-discipline opportunities for our students. Very early in our students’ careers they will be working with engineers and geologists in addition to accountants and finance professionals. The following opportunities are now available:

  • BUSN 302 – a one-hour seminar, open to all business majors. The course is designed to expose students to operational aspects of the industry, such as exploring, drilling, producing, transporting, and processing oil and natural gas. We have business and operations experts such as engineers and geologists speak to the students in interactive sessions.
  • Energy accounting – This course is accounting specific, but carefully links all accounting and finance topics covered to operational issues. Marathon was instrumental in helping me develop projects, which are the center of the course, that provide student hands-on practical experience.
  • Phillips 66 Energy Panel – Each semester, including the summer, Mays and Phillips 66 hosts an energy panel. Experienced and new business professionals represent some of the largest energy companies (for example, Anadarko, BHP Billiton, Enterprise, Marathon, Oxy, and Southwestern). Students have the opportunity to interact, in a group of 8-10, with the company representatives who rotate tables over the course of the evening. The event is sponsored by Phillips 66 and is open to students from all majors. See http://mays.tamu.edu/energypanel/ for more information and upcoming panels.
  • Halliburton Case competition – Teams for the case competition must include at least three members from Mays and can have up to one member from another discipline. Students are presented with a realistic issue facing Halliburton and given 48 hours to develop a solution. Halliburton executives judge the competition. Prizes are awarded to first-place through third-place teams in the amounts of $4,000, $2,500, and $1,500 http://mays.tamu.edu/acct/halliburton/.
  • Certificate program – The certificate program requires students to take the courses listed above, as well as an energy elective (preferably in another discipline), a required foundational accounting course, and an energy related internship. The certificate program is especially helpful in matching interested employers with top quality students interested in the industry.
  • Energy finance – A course I teach in the Professional MBA program designed to help students consider companies’ strategies when using derivatives to hedge price risk, analyze energy companies’ financial statements, and determine the impact of reserves.
  • Energy Club – The Energy Club is an excellent opportunity for students of all majors interested in learning more about energy companies. I try to speak to them each year and I invite members to all energy related events in Mays. http://energyclub.tamu.edu/
  • Energy Institute – we are now working more closely with EI to create cross-discipline programming for students across campus.

This article was originally published by Mays Business Online.

You can support the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University with a gift of endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation. 

Contact
Brian Bishop ’91
Senior Director of Development
(979) 862-3615

From Aggie Jokes to Graduation

Dunae Crenwelge '15

Dunae Crenwelge ’15

The first time I came to College Station—I was maybe six years old—the driving lanes left an impression. Having come from Fredericksburg, Texas, where there are still no double-lane turn lanes, I noticed that the intersection of Texas Avenue and University Drive had dotted lines to guide turning drivers.

I had been introduced to Aggie jokes around the same time, because my sister had accepted her admission to Texas A&M University and some longhorn relative gave her the book “The Best of 606 Aggie Jokes.” So from the backseat of my parents’ minivan, having noticed those white dashes, I asked my family if “Aggies were too dumb to know how to turn and that’s why they needed lines to show them?”

You can bet that story has been retold a time or two.

Neither of my parents went to college. My mom Susan worked more than 30 years for the U.S. Postal Service as a highway contract carrier, while my father Atlee is a rancher. I have three older sisters, Colleen ’02, Laura ’04 and Janiece ’07. We all finished top of our class in high school—a favorite fake argument of my parents is to debate from which side of the family we got our brains—and we all ended up in Aggieland.

One of my favorite Texas A&M memories is from June 2011. The Texas 4-H Youth Development Foundation awarded its annual scholarships that summer in Rudder Tower. Halfway through the ceremony, I was called for one of three $16,000 scholarships from the Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo (Rodeo Austin). If you’ve ever stood up too quickly and felt the blood rush to your head, then you know how I felt at that moment. I do not wear heels as a general safety rule, so the only thought I had walking onstage was please don’t fall. It was only a little later that I processed the full magnitude of what I had been given.

I applied for more than 40 scholarships my senior year of high school, and I received 22. Combined with scholarships I later received in college, I generated a total of nearly $75,000. The Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo scholarship was the largest, and it helped me singlehandedly pay for my entire college education.

I’ve been working in the marketing department at the Texas A&M Foundation for more than two years, and I learned quickly that there are a thousand stories like mine. There are thousands of Aggies who get a tremendous boost from private scholarships funded by former students, corporations and other friends of Texas A&M.

The Aggie record of philanthropy is a strong draw for prospective students. I applied to only one other college, the University of Texas at Austin, but I received virtually no offers of financial support, despite being valedictorian and an involved student; that was a major deterrent. At Texas A&M, not only did I have financial support, but I’ve had many out-of-classroom experiences because of it: studying abroad in Nicosia, Cyprus, interning at a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C., working at the Foundation, working as an under graduate assistant and serving on staff for the MSC Leland T. and Jessie W. Jordan Institute for International Awareness.

Something else I’ve learned at the Foundation is that $75,000 is almost pocket change to the many millions that donors give annually. But to me, it was no joke.

By Dunae Crenwelge ’15

This article was originally posted in the Postscript section of the summer 2014 issue of Spirit magazine. Read the full publication here.

You can support student scholarships at Texas A&M University with a gift of endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact
Marcy Ullmann ’86
Manager of Scholarship Programs
(979) 845-6383

‘Cash For Clunkers’ Stimulus Program Backfired, Say Texas A&M Economists

Turns out “Cash for Clunkers”was a clunker according to economists at Texas A&M University who found the 2009 fiscal stimulus program designed to increase spending on new vehicles had the exact opposite effect, costing the automobile industry billions in lost revenue.

According to Texas A&M Economists the "Cash for Clunkers" stimulus program did more harm than good.

According to Texas A&M Economists the “Cash for Clunkers” stimulus program did more harm than good.

Cash for Clunkers, which was formally called the Car Allowance Rebate System, was one of several fiscal stimulus programs implemented by the federal government during the last two recessions. In their study, “Cash for Corollas: When Stimulus Reduces Spending,” Texas A&M economists Mark Hoekstra, Steven Puller and Jeremy West found the program backfired because it had more than one goal.

“The first goal was to increase revenues to the auto industry by accelerating the purchase of new vehicles,” Puller explains. “The second goal was to reduce harm to the environment by encouraging households to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Puller says the program could have worked if the subsidy to purchase fuel-efficient cars encouraged people to buy more expensive hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius. “This would have improved fuel efficiency and increased revenues to the auto industry,” he says.

But what happened instead, say the researchers, is that since most fuel-efficient cars on the market are small and relatively inexpensive, such as the Toyota Corolla (the most popular new vehicle purchased under the program), and the subsidy was only available for high fuel-economy cars, people purchased less expensive cars than they otherwise would have.

The researchers determined this by comparing the purchases made by households barely eligible for the program – those with “clunkers” rated at 18 MPG or less – to those whose clunkers were rated 19 MPG or higher and were unaffected by the policy. They found that while the program did shift sales forward, that increase in the number of vehicles sold was completely offset by declines over the following eight months. And over the entire ten-month period, each barely-eligible household who purchased under the program spent $5,000 less than their barely-ineligible counterparts.

“The environmental goal undermined the stimulus goal of the policy,” Hoekstra asserts. “We find that total revenue to the auto industry was significantly reduced due to the environmental goal of the policy.  If the policy had not been put in place in summer 2009, then total revenues to the auto industry from summer 2009 to spring 2010 would have been several billion dollars higher.”

So what’s the takeaway?

“Don’t try to kill two birds with one stone,” says Hoekstra. “Even though the two objectives may both be worthy as individual goals, trying to simultaneously achieve both can cause a policy to fail. In this particular case, the environmental goal turned a stimulus policy into anti-stimulus in less than a year. Revenues to the auto industry fell significantly.”

The researchers say that a more effective stimulus policy would have subsidized the purchase of any new vehicle, rather than just fuel-efficient and thus cheaper vehicles. That would have still accelerated the purchase of new vehicles without inducing households to purchase less expensive vehicles.

This article was originally published by the TAMUTimes.

You can support research at Texas A&M University’s  College of Liberal Arts with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:
Larry Walker ’97
Director of Development
College of Liberal Arts
(979) 845-5192

Preparing the Peacemakers

From left to right: Mauricio Cifuentes Soto '12; Melissa LaReau '11; Ryan Crocker, dean of The Bush School of Government and Public Service; and David Sutton '11.

Ryan Crocker, dean of The Bush School of Government and Public Service, speaks with several students from The Bush School.

“Go to hard places and do hard things.” Students at The Bush School of Government and Public Service have heard my call to action before, and they heard it again at the school’s May commencement ceremony. As former ambassador to six Middle Eastern countries, I’m a firm believer in the power of diplomacy, whether it entails sitting around a table with Iranian diplomats discussing war and peace or talking with gang members on the streets of Los Angeles. Our graduates can do both.

Diplomacy, I’ve learned, is a whole lot cheaper in terms of blood and treasure than is the use of force.

The concept of going to hard places and doing hard things isn’t novel to any of our students; in fact, it’s the reason most choose to attend the Bush School. Students enroll with a desire to better our world, and my greatest satisfaction is that they leave here two years later fully equipped to do so.

While we are proud to bear the name of a man I tremendously admire, former President George H.W. Bush, we are a nonpartisan training ground for public servants—not for politicians. Our mission is precise, and we therefore focus on two programs alone: the Master’s Program in International Affairs (MPIA) and the Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) program. For MPIA graduates, going to hard places might involve diplomatic or intelligence efforts in war zones or developing countries, while hard places for our MPSA graduates could entail working for nongovernmental organizations abroad or staying in the United States to tackle challenges in inner-city or impoverished rural areas.

During my Foreign Service career, I was privileged to be involved in a number of high-stakes diplomacy efforts. These days, though, while I’m occasionally called upon for advice, I leave negotiating to the active diplomats.

But while I take a backseat role, our students are being called upon to conduct studies and to present policy options that address real-world issues. Through capstone projects, they work in teams to identify ways to approach an issue or to find a solution, usually for a government agency or a nonprofit organization. Unlike capstones at other institutions, however, ours aren’t fabricated: each one is completed for a paying client.

This year, the U.S. Department of State called upon our students to recommend a U.S. policy toward Iran. Joint efforts with other Texas A&M groups led students to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to research health service delivery in Liberia. Internships are likewise required of our students. Such opportunities range from local nonprofit involvement to studying Arabic in Beirut.

While public service is highly valued by the American people, it is not always financially rewarding. But we must be able to draw in the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances. President Bush feels strongly—as do I—that any student who sacrifices financial gain to serve others should not be expected to do the nation’s work under a crushing burden of debt. Each and every one of our students therefore receives some level of financial assistance. As we grow, however, the generosity of donors becomes even more crucial to funding scholarships.

Likewise, we must recruit the best faculty to teach these promising students, and to provide critical employment and internship contacts. Some of our faculty members have worked at the world’s most prestigious universities, while others made their mark in the U.S. Foreign Service, the CIA or globally recognized nonprofit agencies. They are constantly recruited by other universities. With the help of donors, we provide endowed chairs, faculty fellowships and travel and research funds needed to attract and retain them at The Bush School.

In his 1991 State of the Union Address, President George H.W. Bush delivered the oft-quoted lines: “let future generations understand the burden and the blessings of freedom. Let them say, we stood where duty required us to stand.” He certainly did. I certainly tried. And our graduates—now 1,000 strong—are going forward throughout this country and this world following in his footsteps.

By Ryan C. Crocker
Dean and Executive Professor
Holder of the Edward and Howard Kruse Endowed Chair
The Bush School of Government and Public Service

This article was originally posted in the One Voice section of the summer 2014 issue of Spirit magazine. Read the full publication here

You can support The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University with a gift of endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact
Jessica McCann ’07
Senior Director of Development
(979) 458-8035

A Promise Made Will Be a Promise Paid

Everyone who grows up in Texas knows that at some point, there comes a choice: Aggie or longhorn.
“Half my peers went one way, half the other, and for some reason I chose Aggie,” said Charles Manning ’82, who came to Texas A&M University in 1978 and graduated a year early with a degree in finance.

M. Ann and Charles Manning '82

M. Ann and Charles Manning ’82

“I remember walking around campus, seeing names on buildings and reading about former student benefactors, and I vowed to myself that I would join their ranks if circumstances allowed,” he said.

Flash forward to today, where his promise is set to be fulfilled. In a tremendous philanthropic gesture, Charles and his wife Ann solidified a significant planned gift through the Texas A&M Foundation to benefit four Texas A&M entities: Mays Business School, the College of Agriculture and life Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and the 12th Man Foundation.

Thoughtful Planning
With hefty retirement accounts and no children, the Mannings wanted to plan for the final distribution of their estate in a tax-efficient way. They worked closely with their attorney, Amy Bloomquist ’83, to create a giving strategy that is now documented in their estate plan. In addition to a generous bequest planned in their living trust, they have named the Texas A&M Foundation as a beneficiary of their retirement accounts after their lifetimes.
“Retirement account assets are not very tax-friendly, so a planned gift was an easy decision,” said Charles. With both gifts, the Mannings will hold, manage, enjoy and continue to build their estate during their lifetimes, and Texas A&M will benefit greatly.

They designed all of their endowments to allow college deans maximum flexibility in the use of funds.
“I have no idea what the needs of each college will be in 20, 30 or 40 years, but I do trust that the deans will be good stewards of these funds,” said Charles, who chose each beneficiary with care.

Banking Reaps Benefits
Retired now and living in Austin, the Mannings enjoyed productive and fruitful careers. Charles worked in banking technology, writing software used by banks nationwide. Ann received a juris doctor degree from Ohio northern University and originally worked for a law practice.

A Spirit Worth Preserving
Mays Business School Dean Jerry Strawser says the Mannings’ gift will impact students in countless ways.“With the flexibility they are allowing, it can support student scholarships, study abroad opportunities, student travel competitions and faculty teaching and research activities,” he said.

During a recent conversation, Dean Eleanor Green of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences told the Mannings that private gifts keep the spirit of Texas A&M a reality.

“She reminded us that cultures must be nurtured and that giving resources to the right people can generate a culture and spirit worth preserving,” said Charles.

By Dunae Crenwelge ’15

This article was originally posted in the Legacy section of the summer 2014 issue of Spirit magazine. Read the full publication here.

You can support the Mays Business School with a gift of endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact
Brian Bishop ’91
Senior Director of Development

(979) 862-3615

Legal Scholar Works with Advocates to Help Inmates Re-enter Society

FORT WORTH – More than 650,000 men and women are released from state and federal prisons every year, according to statistics by the National Institute of Justice. That’s roughly the population of the entire city of Baltimore.Handcuffed_hands_line_drawing

That means some prisoners may be returning to society too soon without a rigorous or effective prison re-entry program, and in turn, this contributes to a rise in crime and in turn, a declining economy. Texas A&M University School of Law associate professor Lisa Rich is working with an advocacy group who is attempting to reduce the number of young men of color re-entering the criminal justice pipeline after already serving time in prison.

“Because our criminal justice system is so diverse, there are so many potential sentences. We now have this huge system we can’t afford,” Rich said. “They get out and can’t support themselves, and then they end up in prison again.”

Rich’s aim is to give former prisoners the tools they need to succeed through interactive workshops or programs designed to reduce the number of relapses. She says one out of seven people in the United States alone, have had some contact with the criminal justice system. One estimate suggests the U.S. economy loses between $55 and $65 billion in output annually as a result of former prisoners not being able to work or being forced to work below their potential.

By working to ensure a more meaningful re-entry into society, Rich’s research helps stabilize economy, promote families and reduce monetary and societal strains on governments.

“While it is important that those who break the law are held accountable, we must have thoughtful penalties and sentencing,” Rich said. “We must ensure that once a person has fulfilled his or her sentence, they have the means to reintegrate meaningfully into society – that promotes safety and security in this country.”

This article was originally published by the Texas A&M University’s School of Law.

You can support  research at Texas A&M University’s School of Law with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Myke Holt
Senior Director of Development
School of Law
(817) 212-4061

Co-sleeping Infant Deaths on the Rise, Parents Must Weigh Risks

Parenting requires daily decisions, some small, some large. From which brand of diapers to use to whether or not to breastfeed, decisions about the health and care of your newborn can be downright overwhelming. A rise in infant deaths related to co-sleeping has added yet another important decision to parents’ plates: What’s the best sleep routine for my baby?

A rise in infant deaths related to co-sleeping has added yet another important decision to parents’ plates: What’s the best sleep routine for my baby?

A rise in infant deaths related to co-sleeping has added yet another important decision to parents’ plates: What’s the best sleep routine for my baby?

Co-sleeping, or bed-sharing, refers to a caregiver sleeping in the same bed as an infant and is widely practiced in many cultures around the world, including the United States. Benefits such as easy access for mother and child to breastfeed during the night, improved caregiver sleep, and increased bonding between caregiver and infant have been cited as reasons for co-sleeping. However, new research shows that co-sleeping increases an infant’s risk of death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes, such as accidental suffocation.

“Like many behaviors of parents, co-sleeping has a polarizing effect,” said Alison Pittman, M.S.N., RN, CPN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing. “One of the biggest reasons given for co-sleeping is an increased ease in nighttime feedings, particularly while breastfeeding, but it comes with a risk.”

Data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) shows that co-sleeping deaths in Texas are set to surpass the previous state record. In 2011, 174 children died while co-sleeping. In the first 10 months of this fiscal year, Child Protective Services reported investigating 164 cases of children who died while sharing a bed or other sleep surface with an adult or older child.

Most of these deaths involved children who were less than a year old. The exact cause of the majority of these reported deaths remain unknown; however, TDFPS notes that the deaths may have been prevented by giving babies “room to breathe” when they sleep. Despite associated risks, a recent study found that the number of U.S. caregivers sharing beds with infants has more than doubled in the last 17 years, from six percent to 13.5 percent.

With 15 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, Pittman has seen first-hand the consequences of suffocation and other related life-threatening events.

“As with any decision made concerning a child’s health, it is imperative to consult your child’s physician,” Pittman said. “Many caregivers who want to sleep near their infants will place the baby in a crib alongside the bed to keep the baby close, but minimize the risk.”

This concept of “room sharing,” or placing infants in the same room as the caregiver, but not the same bed, is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Additionally, the TDFPS suggests that parents follow the ABC’s of Infant Sleep, which include infants sleeping alone, on their backs without blankets or bedding, in a crib, and in a cool (70 degrees), smoke-free environment.

Pittman explains that while SIDS remains an unexplained cause of death, there are certain risk factors that link SIDS with accidental suffocation. The following recommendations can reduce SIDS and accidental suffocation whether co-sleeping or not:

  • Use a firm sleep surface such as a safety-approved crib covered with a fitted sheet.
  • Remove any soft bedding, pillows, blankets, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals that may interfere with a child’s ability to breathe freely.
  • Secondhand smoke should be avoided completely.
  • Babies should sleep on their backs.
  • Do not overdress an infant or keep the child’s sleeping environment too warm to avoid overheating

“If you’re still unsure about what is best for your family, compromise and practice ‘room sharing’ to keep the baby within an arms reach, but in their own safe space,” Pittman said.

This article was originally published by the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Andrew Robison ’04
Director of Development
Texas A&M Health Science Center
(979) 862-6423

Texas A&M Home To Most Comprehensive Data On Global Status of Women

The safety and security of women are critical to the spread of democracy, says Texas A&M University professor Valerie Hudson and, thanks in part to her efforts, Texas A&M has become home to the largest and most comprehensive database on the global status of women. The WomanStats Project,http://womanstats.org, helps researchers and policy-makers understand the link between the lives of women and the security of nation-states.

Hudson, a professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, is an expert in international security and foreign policy, and studies how gender, family, legal and related issues and the overall status of women affect political and economic organization, as well as conflicts.

In countries such as Nigeria, women and girls "are considered chattel," says Texas A&M Professor Valerie Hudson whose research on the global status of women has put Texas A&M in a leading position to fight for the safety and security of women.

In countries such as Nigeria, women and girls “are considered chattel,” says Texas A&M Professor Valerie Hudson whose research on the global status of women has put Texas A&M in a leading position to fight for the safety and security of women.

“This resource has more statistical information than the World Bank or the United Nations,” said Hudson. She and her co-principal investigators of the WomanStats Project have published a wide variety of empirical work linking the security of women to the security of states which has appeared in such journals as International Security, the Journal of Peace Research,Political Psychology, and Politics and Gender.

For Hudson, the capture of 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Islamic militant organization Boko Haram, illustrated the link between the status of women and national security.

“Boko Haram was surprised that anyone outside Nigeria cared about these girls, let alone that this action would create a worldwide storm,” said Hudson. “Girls are regularly sold as brides by their fathers, and women are considered chattel in that society. In practical terms, the subjugation of women in Nigeria fuels the creation of terrorist groups.”

Hudson’s extensive expertise in the relationship between the status of women and a nation’s security was recently recognized when she was selected to receive a Department of Defense (DoD) $900,000 Minerva grant, shared with three colleagues—Donna Lee Bowen and Perpetua Lynne Nelson from Brigham Young University and Rebecca Nielsen from Yale.

“This research will heighten DoD’s strategic forecasting ability and help them deal with terrorist threats like those posed by Boko Haram,” said Hudson, who holds the George H. W. Bush Chair at the Bush School.

“We know that women can only become active partners in building peace and preventing conflict when they are safe, and able to express their experiences and make their voices heard,” said Hudson. “Since women make up half the earth’s population, knowing what obstacles they face in various societies and communities is vital in developing international strategies to improve their status and assure peace,” she added.

Bush School Dean Ryan Crocker noted that Hudson’s research is bringing a new and important perspective to how the United States deals with nations where women have traditionally had few rights.

“Dr. Hudson and her colleagues are providing vital empirical evidence of the importance of women in bringing stability and peace to their nations,” Crocker said. “Her work informs our curriculum as we educate future diplomats and public servants, and provides important data for other researchers and policy-makers.”

Hudson’s most recent book, forthcoming in late 2014, is titled The Hillary Doctrine: How Sex Came to Matter in American Foreign Policy.

This article was originally published by the TAMU Times

You can support research at Texas A&M University’s George Bush School of Government and Public service with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:

Jessica McCann ’07
Senior Director of Development
Bush School
(979) 458-8035 

Research Offers Hope for Spinal Cord Injuries: How a Clinical Trial in Dogs May Help Human Patients

Dr. Jonathan Levine’s research on spinal cord injuries in dogs may one day help humans with similar injuries. The United States Department of Defense seems to think so, as they have funded a large-scale, three-year clinical trial of dogs with injuries resulting from intervertebral disc herniation. While humans with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) usually sustain these due to trauma, canine disc herniation does mimic certain facets of human injury.

Importantly, canine disc herniation results in spinal cord bruising and compression, as is the case with trauma in humans. Additionally, the treatment for canine disc herniation is amazingly similar to that which is administered to humans with spinal cord trauma.

Using infrared cameras that track limb movements, the team measure how normal versus injured dogs walk.

Using infrared cameras that track limb movements, the team measure how normal versus injured dogs walk.

“The animals get an MRI, they get surgery, and they get rehabilitation,” said Levine, who is an associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Using dogs with naturally occurring neurological conditions, as opposed to rodents with induced injuries, gives a much more realistic view of how a drug might perform in humans. However, the study is also much more complicated because the researchers don’t have control over a number of factors. Unlike rodents, dogs vary widely in their genetics, the location and severity of the injury, and time before treatment begins. Human SCIs, of course, have similar variability.

“If a drug doesn’t work on dogs, that is a good indication that it might not work in humans either,” Levine said. On the other hand, of course, something that does work well in dogs is very promising for human injuries.

One of the ways to determine if a treatment works is to measure recovery of various functions, especially movement. Using infrared cameras that can track limb movements, Levine and his team measure how normal versus injured dogs walk. Then, in separate collaborative projects with bioengineers at the University of Louisville, the team can determine which muscles are activated.

“It is a very collaborative process,” Levine said. “There are about 20 people, at a number of different institutions, who are vital to our entire program.”  The study with the U.S. Department of Defense is a joint effort with investigators at UC San Francisco Medical School. Scientists at University of Louisville, Methodist Hospital, and UT Houston Medical School are participating in an array of other projects.

“Dr. Levine’s approach is a perfect example of One Health research,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “The goal of his trial is to determine how best to treat dogs with this common injury, but in so doing he is gathering valuable data that can be used to benefit future human clinical trials.”

The drug Levine and his colleagues are evaluating in the U.S. Department of Defense canine clinical trial is a type of neuro-protective therapy, meaning it is thought to protect the cord by stopping events that happen soon after injury that actually make injury worse. Specifically, the drug blocks enzymes called metalloproteinases that are released after injury. These enzymes break down the extracellular matrix and allow white blood cells into the spinal cord, which only does more damage. However, these same enzymes can be useful at later stages of injury, after the body has started the healing process and has begun to form scar tissue. When the enzymes are inhibited at later stages, the patients tend to do poorly, which is why the drug therapy has to be timed perfectly.

“If we can get to these dogs in the first 48 hours after their injury,” Levine said, “we can give this drug—and the dogs—their optimal chance.”

If you have a dog or a patient you think might be a candidate for Levine’s clinical trial, please contact Alisha Selix (aselix@cvm.tamu.edu) or Elizabeth Scanlin (escanlin@cvm.tamu.edu) at 979-845-2351.

This article was originally published by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

You can support research at Texas A&M University’s  College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact:
O.J. Bubba Woytek
Assistant Vice President for Development
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
(979) 845-9043

Treatment Developed by Texas A&M Biologists Shows Promise in Fighting Fibrotic Disease

A decade after first identifying serum amyloid P (SAP) as a key protein in human blood that controls routine tissue-related processes from scarring to healing, two Texas A&M University scientists and the biotechnology company they co-founded continue to make encouraging progress in the fight against fibrotic disease, a broad class of chronic conditions associated with an estimated 45 percent of U.S. deaths per year.

Texas A&M biologists Darrell Pilling (left) and Richard Gomer (right) teamed up to identify the blood protein serum amyloid P (SAP) as the key to controlling routine tissue-related processes from scarring to healing.

Texas A&M biologists Darrell Pilling (left) and Richard Gomer (right) teamed up to identify the blood protein serum amyloid P (SAP) as the key to controlling routine tissue-related processes from scarring to healing.

Texas A&M biologists Richard Gomer and Darrell Pilling have collaborated in recent years on several SAP-related advances, from establishing Promedior Inc. in 2006 to celebrating its promising preliminary results in early clinical trials involving PRM-151, a recombinant form of SAP.

Gomer notes that in a recent 24-week study of 27 patients with myelofibrosis — a life-threatening scarring of the bone marrow — seven of the patients experienced a 50 percent reduction of symptoms with PRM-151, while five experienced a reduction in fibrosis.

The results, initially revealed by Promedior at the June 2 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, have since been presented at additional conferences and symposia.

“More trials are definitely in the future,” Gomer said. “As for which of the 62 fibrotic diseases will be involved in the next trial, that’s a complicated business decision that depends on potential partners, among other factors.”

Chance encounters

The origins of Gomer and Pilling’s breakthrough work in fibrosing disease therapy unfolded on an international stage, albeit a seemingly inconsequential one — a lunch table in a crowded cafeteria in England in 2001. During the interlude of a developmental biology conference, the two scientists — Gomer, then a biochemist at Rice University, and Pilling, a British immunobiologist — discovered they had similar interests and agreed to collaborate on some future protein identification work.

“Unexpectedly, we ended up finding a human blood protein that looked like it might be a therapeutic for fibrosis,” Gomer said.

Fibrosis occurs when the body’s natural healing mechanism goes haywire and creates dangerously excessive scar tissue in vital organs, resulting in fibrotic diseases. Asthma and cirrhosis are two of the most common fibrotic disorders, and scar tissue in the heart can lead to congestive heart failure.

Regardless of area or system affected, there are common threads among all six dozen related disorders: Each is a painful, debilitating and chronic condition for which neither a cure nor U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment exists.

“Most of these fibrotic diseases can be fatal,” Gomer said. “Collectively, they kill more people than cancer.”

From whites to fibrocytes

Armed with their combined knowledge about biomedical science and related processes in the human body, Gomer and Pilling set out to find the cause by focusing on one of the body’s first lines of defense, white blood cells. They began with an initial experiment involving two groups of white blood cells, one in the presence of blood serum and one in a culture without.

Gomer recalls they were fascinated by what they witnessed. Fibrocytes, the long, skinny cells responsible for the formation of scar tissue, quickly developed in the second group. None, however, developed in the group containing serum. By all appearances, something within the serum, later determined to be SAP, was inhibiting fibrocyte activity. They theorized that if getting rid of the SAP in a wound was possible, more scar tissue cells would be available, thus enabling the wound to heal faster.

To test their theory, Gomer and Pilling devised an SAP treatment for lab mice that were given an irritant to cause fibrosis in the lungs. When those tests indicated that SAP treatment inhibited fibrosis, Gomer and Pilling realized they were in possession of a first-of-its-kind, groundbreaking medicinal discovery.

“What seemed to be happening is that the scar tissue cells go away,” Gomer said. “We don’t know if they die or just round up and leave. It looks like if you can prevent the new scar tissue formation, the old scar tissue will go away, and you can actually reverse fibrosis if it’s something you catch early on, which doctors generally do.”

A bird in the hand

Faced with the prospect of being able to save thousands of lives, Gomer says he reevaluated his professional priorities, making SAP his primary focus. In the process, he and Pilling both joined the Texas A&M Department of Biology shortly after co-founding Promedior to fast-track technologies and viable treatment options capable of halting or even eliminating the progression of fibrosis and, as a result, the future of other fibrotic diseases awaiting clinical trials and potential treatments.

“This all started with very basic research,” Gomer said. “The punchline is that this work didn’t come from deliberately trying to find a therapeutic. We probably never would have found one if that had been the case.”

While Promedior plans to conduct additional clinical studies to determine SAP’s potential as an anti-fibrotic therapy, Gomer says his work with the blood protein has gone as far as it can at this point — one at which he’s content simply to see what the future holds.

“It’s almost like a mother bird releasing her hatchling from the nest and seeing where it goes,” Gomer said. “Now, we’re just looking for more birds to raise.”

To learn more about Gomer and Pilling and their research, visit http://www.bio.tamu.edu/FACMENU/FACULTY/GomerR.php.

For additional information about Promedior Inc., go to http://www.promedior.com/index.html.

This article was originally published by the College of Science.

You can support faculty research at Texas A&M University’s College of Science with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.

Contact

Michael Morelius ’98
Director of Development

College of Science
(979) 847-9218