The Science Guy

April 3rd, 2014

Clad in his signature multicolored bowtie, Bill Nye kicked off his visit to UTPA Tuesday, April 1 with a blend of comedy and science aptitude. As the second speaker for the 2013-14 Distinguished Speaker Series, the first being columnist Ruben Navarrette, Nye spoke to a packed Field House about the necessity of science.

One of Nye’s main talking points concerned the changing climate of Earth. According to the 58-year-old Cornell alumnus, Earth’s carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly since 1997.

“Everybody in this room, or almost everybody, was alive, when that number changed from .03 to .04 (percent),” said the former star of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired from 1993-2011. “In your lifetime, the Earth’s atmosphere has gone up a third.”

To better illustrate the significance of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Nye explained it in terms of the atmospheres on Venus and Mars. Both planets possess atmospheres that are made up of more than 95 percent carbon dioxide. As a result, both celestial objects have climates much different from Earth, and much deadlier.

“The clouds are made of sulfuric acid,” Nye said of Venus’ environment. “The reason Mars is the way that it is and the reason Venus is the way it is, is largely because of carbon dioxide.”

What is worrisome, according to Nye, is that increased levels of the gas result in the thinning of the atmosphere and this can lead to problems for humanity. The population increased to 3 billion when the scientist was in third grade. Now, it stands at more than 7 billion.

“The world’s population has more than doubled in my lifetime,” said the author of numerous children’s books, including Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Big Blast Of Science. “So the atmosphere of the Earth is thin, it’s got enough carbon dioxide to keep us warm. But now we have 7 billion people using it. Every single thing you ever do affects everybody in the whole world. We all share the air. There is nobody who doesn’t breathe the air.”

Nye has contributed to climate change discussions in the past. In January 2012 the scientist wrote the foreword for Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. Based on the findings of a 2001 report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, the book uses the “hockey stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years, as the crux of its argument. The graph illustrates the rising temperature and the increased rate at which it is occurring due to carbon dioxide levels.

The theory has faced scrutiny as recent as May 2013, with doubters arguing that it was too simple and that uncertainties in historical climate readings were disregarded to make the chart more dramatic. But opposition aside, Nye still supports the theory.

“It’s not the temperature of the world as such, it’s the rate, the speed at which is changing,” Nye said at the presentation. “That is our problem. And by our problem, I mean your problem.”

In addition to climate change, Nye also spoke about his continuing debate concerning creationism being taught as science. In February, Nye debated Kevin Ham, founder of the Kentucky-based Creation Museum, about the origins of life. Ham argued that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that the Bible tells factual information about the origins of Earth and life.

“They want to teach creationism in schools,” Nye said during the question-and-answer session at the end of the presentation. “That’s fine, if they want to teach it as philosophy or history of myths. If you want to teach creationism as part of that, that’s fine, but it’s not science.”

Isela Lopez was one of the more than 3 million people  who tuned in to the debate earlier this year. The business management major, and fan of Nye, entered an essay contest to have dinner with the celebrity prior to the presentation.

“I’ve loved Bill Nye since I was young,” the sophomore said. “Every Friday I would watch him in elementary. I have Bill Nye to thank for most of my science knowledge.”

While Lopez is not pursuing a science degree, she believes the presentation for the Speakers Series was relevant and important to everyone.

“I know I’m not a scientist, I don’t understand as much as I wish, but I know science is everywhere,” Lopez said. “Even though science isn’t my calling, people who have that power to study that, should be able to pursue it, and someone like him coming here to talk to us…it must mean a lot to them. It even means a lot to me and I’m not a science major.”

This idea was reinforced by Nye’s closing statements.

“That is the essence of science. It is inherently optimistic,” he said. “To celebrate the joy of knowing, that joy of discovery that is deep within us. It’s what drives us. You can, dare I say, change the world.”


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Character, courage and commitment

March 27th, 2014

Mabel Cortina-Matos, UTPA program coordinator, made it her mission earlier in the semester to contact all University colleges to find out if any faculty or students were doing anything to promote Women’s History Month. When multiple ideas came trickling in, Matos thought to bring them all together to create one week to celebrate the month, consisting of six events, which started March 18 and ended Wednesday.

“Our school is an educational institution, which is why we found it necessary to pay tribute to one of history’s most significant time periods,” said Matos, who graduated from UTPA in 2008 with a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology, Communication and Sociology. “We want our students, our community, to be aware of the events in history that shaped America to what it is today.”

For nearly 10 years, UTPA has promoted and celebrated Women’s History Month. The University Program Board and the Gender and Women Studies Program, along with seven other organizations, came together to celebrate Women’s History Month.

“We all decided it would be a good idea to collaborate together because nine brains are brighter than one, right? Also, in doing so, we were able to pick out the best ideas to make this event a really strong one,” said Matos, an Arizona native. “It wasn’t easy because there were numerous great ideas, but in the end we were able to narrow it down to the six best.”

The first event of the week, titled “Women’s Empowerment,” took place March 18 and March 20. UTPA sorority Kappa Delta Chi teamed up with the University’s Panhellenic Council to encourage women to be positive role models for other women and young girls.

Matos stated that this event was important because it motivated ladies to uphold the character, courage and perseverance shown by women in history, such as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

A panel on gender and women’s studies was held March 20, where Caroline Miles, an instructor at the University who started the Women’s Literature and Gender Studies class in 2010, presented some of her and her students’ research on gender and women-related issues, such as equality in the workplace and sexual abuse.

The Student Union played host to the week’s third and fourth events Monday. In the evening, a private mother-and-daughter reception was held in the Union’s commons where attendees were free to eat and converse. Generation Sex was then performed by the ladies of Teatro Luna, which was open to the public.

Teatro Luna, a Chicago-based theater group with an all-Latina cast, included burlesque, poetry and several other elements in their act, which centered on technology and how it impacts people’s sex lives today.

On Wednesday, an audience was informed about several topics surrounding women’s health during a Student Health Services Open House in UTPA’s Student Health Services Building, located next to the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.

Items discussed included recognizing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. At the end of the session, audience members were able to ask one-on-one questions and schedule personal appointments with a health services representative.

The last event of the week, a panel on women in leadership, also took place Wednesday in the University Center lobby, where a select handful of women from across the Rio Grande Valley were recognized and celebrated for their success in their field of work. These women were asked to speak to the audience about their perseverance and commitment in achieving their goals in hopes of stirring up inspiration. They also provided tips and pointers for becoming a more well-rounded person.

According to Matos, there was an estimated 1,500 attendees for the entire week, with an average of about 250 people at each event.

“Women’s History Month is a tribute to all of the generations of women, past and present, whose commitments and contributions have been invaluable to our society,” Matos said. “It’s a month to praise the long, hard road women have walked along to get our status to where it is today.”



According to Ann-Marie Imbornoni, author of Women’s Rights Movements in the U.S., a laundry list of events occurred that slowly empowered women over time. Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed as first chairwoman of the Presidential Commision on the Status of Women by former President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than a man for the same job.

According to the National Women’s History Project, after decades of commitment and pushing for their rights, women’s efforts were recognized and celebrated. In February 1980, former President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 2-8 as National Women’s History Week.

The National Women’s History Project said that state departments of education encouraged schools across the country to celebrate Women’s History Week as an attempt to achieve equality goals within classrooms. To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978.

The following year, California began the annual “Real Women” essay contest and other special events, such as presentations and tributes. States such as Texas, Pennsylvania and Maryland developed and distributed similar curriculum materials enforcing women’s historic achievements. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrating women’s history and how females worked in order to obtain their equality.

By 1986, 14 states had declared March Women’s History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed resolutions requesting and authorizing President George H.W. Bush to make March of each year Women’s History Month. Since 1995, U.S. presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.



Despite these facts, it was not until spring 2013 that UTPA’s Feminist Club was formed. The organization has participated in several events, such as the Clothesline Project, where both victims of violence and their supporters paint messages on white T-shirts to display on campus.

Since Miles became the director of the University’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program in 2010, she has worked to spread knowledge of it. For almost two years now, UTPA has offered Gender and Women’s Studies as a minor.

According to Matos, UTPA has carried on the legacy of celebrating Women’s History Month as a way to respect and pay tribute to America’s history as well as praise the women of the past and present for having the courage to stick to their guns and fight for what they believe is right.

Matos said it is important to celebrate Women’s History Month because of how large a role women’s equality played in society’s history.

“Our main goal is to hit our students and community with knowledge and appreciation for all aspects of our nation’s history,” she said. “We definitely intend on continuing celebrating Women’s History Month for years to come.”

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Smoking struggle

March 27th, 2014

As UTPA theater performance major Jesus Salaiz took a drag off his cigarette, he reminisced about the two times he attempted to quit smoking in recent years. Having been a smoker for seven years, he said he always ends up smoking again and worries he may never be able to kick the habit.


“One time I quit for a month,” the 24-year-old said. “The second time was a bet, and it was supposed to last for a year, but I quit (trying) after two months.”


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, more than 18 percent of Americans smoke cigarettes in 2012, accounting for 42 million people. While nearly 70 percent of those people admitted they wanted to quit smoking, more than 42 percent had made unsuccessful attempts in the past.


The CDC states that most people who attempt to quit use a plethora of methods to help their smoking cessation, including nicotine patches, prescription medication, therapy and, counseling.


Salaiz, a pack-a-day smoker, said he turned to a juicing diet to help him quit. Juicing, according to Juice Nashville, is the process of extracting the natural vitamins, liquids and minerals from fruits and vegetables to help boost the body’s natural detoxification properties. While Salaiz said this worked for a little while, his cravings for nicotine soon became too strong to ignore, and he, like 42 percent of smokers in the U.S., was unsuccessful in his efforts and returned to smoking.


“(Juicing) helped me and then I stopped…and I was cold turkey for a while, but I still needed that nicotine,” Salaiz said. “If I were to try to quit cold turkey, without preparation, I get agitated. I get a little frustrated.”


While smokers occupy the outside areas of buildings on campus, a different type of nicotine craver is getting a fix inside the building— the electronic cigarette user. Rather than staying 25 feet away from building entrances, as the current rule for all UTPA buildings demands, these smokers have the luxury of smoking in any setting.


Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, have grown in popularity over recent years with nearly 3 percent of Americans using them in lieu of smoking traditional cigarettes, according to USA Today. The battery-operated device is filled with liquid nicotine that is converted into vapor that serves as another option to the carbon monoxide smoke produced by cigarettes.


Although they serve as a healthy alternative to smoking, e-cigs still feed a person’s nicotine craving, even in the case of someone who was not a cigarette smoker before trying e-cigarettes. Therefore, a person who is without their e-cigarette may find themselves smoking a roll of tobacco, a habit they never intended to acquire. Bradley Williams, a computer science major, found himself in this exact predicament.


“I started on e-cigarettes because there is just something pleasing about the act of smoking, and I thought, ‘Well, it’s vapor,’ so I could do it in my own house,” the 20-year-old said. “At one point, I did start smoking cigarettes when I wasn’t (smoking the e-cig) and I definitely feel like I do have a bit of a dependence (on nicotine).”


In 2012 a group called The Tobacco on Campus Task Force was created at UTPA to make recommendations to University President Robert Nelsen about the harms of smoking on campus.


The University of Texas at El Paso officially became a smoke-free campus in February and joined more than 20 Texas colleges and universities that already have a ban of this kind, according to The El Paso Times. Other campuses with smoke-free policies include the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas at Austin.


UTPA could potentially be one of the next campuses to become smoke-free, something that would earn the University more research funding, according to a 2012 article in The Pan American. A ban like this, Salaiz said, could hinder student life.


“I smoke after every class, so (a ban) is a little scary,” he said. “Having it off campus completely, that’s too much.”


While the CDC stated that there are more former smokers than current smokers, nearly half percent of all smokers are ages 18-24, the common age window on college campuses. UTPA provides smoking cessation programs to help reduce the number of students, faculty and staff who smoke, by getting to the psychological root of the problem.

As for Salaiz, he is wary of attempting to quit smoking again and hopes that UTPA considers his rights and those of the many other student smokers when deciding whether to make campus a smoke-free zone.

“I would want to (quit smoking),” Salaiz said. “But it just seems too hard.”


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UTPA student dead after collision

March 7th, 2014

UTPA student Eric Davila died Friday at around 5 a.m.

The 20-year-old and his passenger, South Texas College student Joshua de Zenea, were on South Sugar Road and West Freddy Gonzalez Drive in Edinburg when Davila crashed his Chevrolet Camaro into a utility pole. Edinburg police said drugs and alcohol were found at the scene.

While Davila died in the wreck, de Zenea survived and was rushed to the McAllen Medical Center in critical condition, according to Edinburg police.

Service details for Davila have not been announced.

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Survival of the music

March 3rd, 2014

Latin Music USA: The Chicano Wave is a movie about Chicano music struggles, hardships and success. This film was presented by the UTPA Library Feb. 24 in the Student Union Theater as part of America’s Music series, which started Jan. 6.


John J. Valadez wrote, directed and produced the film, which tells the story of the struggles Chicano artists, such as Little Joe y La Familia and Carlos Santana, have gone through since the mid-1950s to today in order to have their music heard. When conceptualizing the idea for the film, Valadez a critically acclaimed director, producer from Seattle, Wash., said he realized nobody had told the story of Mexican-American music.


Latin Music starts off with the story of Ritchie Valens, a California native and first-generation Mexican-American. Valens blended traditional Mexican music with rock in the late 1950s and  was later adapted by other artists, such as the late Tejano singers Selena and Freddy Fender in the 1990s. Valens had to change his name in order to reach a wider audience, according to the film. He was born Richard Valenzuela and died in a plane crash Feb. 2, 1959.


“He had to disguise who he was so that people wouldn’t judge him,” Valdez said. “The film really becomes about the different strategies that Mexican-American artists had to pursue in order to be able to participate in the cultural arena in America.”


In the early 1960s, there were artists such as The Premiers, Thee Midnighters and Sam the Sham who downplayed their Mexican-American descent so radio DJs would play their records. The Chicano movement in the mid-’60’s, led by civil rights activist Cesar Chavez,  becomes a point of departure early in the film. Groups like The V.I.P.’s then started to do the opposite by embracing their background due to the new Chicano pride consciousness. Leading up to the late 1960s, Mexican-American artists started to market themselves by exaggerating their culture, according to Valadez.


“The V.I.P.’s changed their name to El Chicano and they released an album called La Revolucion (The Revolution),” Valadez said. “The thing that changed was that it was OK to be Chicano now and they started wearing serapes (a long, bright-colored blanket).”



Fast forward to the 21st century and Norteño artists such as Los Tigres Del Norte, who are also featured in the film, started to take pride in their culture. According to Valadez, white people have become “irrelevant” to musical acts like Los Tigres due to the large population of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who buy their music.


“Los Tigres Del Norte aren’t hiding anything,” Valadez said. “They’re flaunting it in the most flamboyant manner.They sing about illegal immigrants, difficulties of coming to this country and they sing in Spanish.”


The Chicano Wave touches many topics, such as disenfranchisement, discrimination and how Mexican-American artists had to mislead others to perform and sell records. Valdez believes no one should apologize for who they are in order to function in society.


“No person should have to pretend to be someone else they’re not,” Valadez said. “That’s a tragedy, not just for Mexican people, but for the country.”


America’s Music series was organized by the Tribeca Film Institute in collaboration with the American Library Association, Tribeca Flashpoint and the Society for American Music. It was funded by a major grant of $1,500 from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.


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Events calendar from Feb. 28 – March 7

February 27th, 2014

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‘Unrealistic expectations’

February 27th, 2014

Kevin Galaviz, a senior writing tutor at the UTPA Writing Center, tries not to worry about his appearance, but finds it hard.

“I’m always paranoid about what people think of me. I’m always thinking that someone I’m walking by is judging me, so I just avoid eye contact most of the time when I’m in public,” said the 24-year-old Georgia native. “Whenever I’m walking in public and I hear someone I passed laugh, I worry they’re laughing at me.”

Galaviz said this behavior started in 2005 when he was 16. That was when his stepfather verbally abused him by calling him “obese.”

“(He) would always abuse me psychologically, and I never put much thought into my body until he called me that,” the English major said. “It’s something that scarred me back then, and now I have all these negative, self-conscious thoughts about myself.”

The following year Galaviz was diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental disorder in which someone exhibits obsessive behavior about his or her appearance, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders Program.

According to Kristin Croyle, a UTPA psychology professor, people suffering from this disorder can develop a severe preoccupation with their body image. Croyle said these people often feel so depressed and hopeless about their bodies that they may go to drastic measures to fix them, such as developing eating disorders.

Eating disorder website Something Fishy, reports that an estimated 8 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. One in 10 people diagnosed are male.

“People who are strongly affected by body image issues don’t talk about it because they’re embarrassed,” said Croyle, the vice provost for undergraduate education. “If you feel ugly or ashamed about something, it’s hard to talk about it. They’re not allowing themselves to see their self-worth because they’re only focusing on one negative thing about themselves. The only people that can know if something is wrong are close friends and family members.”

According to non-profit organization Do Something, 58 percent of college-age women feel pressured to be a certain weight.

UTPA junior Regina Perez said she is bothered by the fact that she may lose her fit, 5-foot-3 physique.

“I’m worried about getting old and gaining weight, and losing the shape and energy I already have,” the 20-year-old studio art and philosophy double major said. “I have to constantly remind myself that I shouldn’t have to worry about my body because that’s not important.”

Low self-esteem, negative influences from other people or traumatizing childhood events can lead to dissatisfaction with appearance, according to the Cleveland Clinic website.

Croyle, a graduate of the University of Montana who has been at UTPA since 2002, explained that people with body image issues can be hard on themselves due to the impractical expectations they set for themselves.

“People can be incredibly unrealistic about themselves. They can care more about how they look like than other people do,” she said. “Everyone feels this way, but sometimes people can acknowledge they have flaws and live with it because they also acknowledge that they have several strengths. If they can’t see that and this negativity starts to dominate them, that’s when people should be concerned.”



Croyle recommends that people look for warning signs in individuals suffering from BDD. These include a drastic change of mood, becoming more self-conscious about one’s looks and displaying socially avoidant behaviors, such as not wanting to go out in public, according to the Cleveland Clinic website.

Galaviz said that coming out as gay four years ago added to his stress.

According to a 2012 article by the UK-based LGBT news outlet Pink News, 48 percent of gay men would sacrifice a year or more of their lives in exchange for a perfect body.

“People in the LGBT community…can be so judgemental,” he said. “There’s always those preconceived notions about how gay men have perfect bodies, or how gay men need to be placed in a certain category, like ‘bears’ (a large, hairy gay man),  ‘twinks’ (a young, thin gay man), etc. I feel as if I had to box myself into one of those categories when I first came out, and I didn’t like that.”

In a study by Brown University, more than 74 percent of women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.” Fourty-six percent of the men surveyed responded the same way.

UTPA counselor Kim Nguyen-Finn isn’t surprised that many people suffering from body-image disorders are college students. According to the clinical therapist, college is a transformative time for them.

“For many young adults, college is a time of self-discovery,” the San Antonio native said. “College marks a certain point in their life where they realize that they need to know who they are and who they want to be for the rest of their lives.”

According to Nguyen-Finn, men also face pressure in regards to their image. However, as a 2012 article from The Examiner explained, a stigma surrounding men with body image disorders exists because these issues are usually categorized as a “female problem.” This causes men to be less likely to report or admit the issue, creating fewer precedents for treatment of males.

Nguyen-Finn acknowledges that treatment can be difficult, but recommends people do what they can to stick with it.

“Body image issues aren’t something where all of the sudden you wake up one day and you’re cured,” she said. “It’s not like a light switch that suddenly makes you see clearly. It’s more like a dimmer switch, one that’s turned slowly, that takes a while to get there. There will be some drawbacks and moments where you feel as if you’ve failed, but the best course of action is to stay on track and keep at it. It does get better.”

Galaviz sought out counseling last semester due to stress brought on by BDD as well as family issues and an increase in his workload at school. He said he is now focusing on improving himself.

“I just felt overwhelmed by everything and realized that I was just making myself depressed,” he said. “I realized that no one was fighting for me, so I had to do it myself. I don’t want to live up to anyone’s standards anymore. I want to create my own.”


The UTPA Counseling and Psychological Services is located in Room 109 in the University Center. Counseling is free for all students.

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Sex, shoes and curves

February 27th, 2014

With the spring semester in full swing, the UTPA Theatre Department is set to premiere three productions for this semester: Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Real Women Have Curves and Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Tom Grabowski, the UTPA theatre director, called the lineup an interesting one and explained how the range of genres this semester is intended to keep the upcoming season fresh and different from the previous one. Last semester’s group included the horror productions The Woman in Black and Diner of the Dead.

“We always try to attract an audience by presenting works that we know we need to do because our students and audience members need to be exposed to them,” said the 57-year-old Illinois native, who began teaching at then-Pan American University in 1981. “Each play this semester is different, Liaisons is a period piece drama that is very involved, due to all the costumes and sets we’ll need. The other plays are lighter and not as technically elaborate.”

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, or Dangerous Liaisons, is an adaptation of the 1985 stage play based on the 18th-century novel of the same name. It tells the story of two noblefolk and ex-lovers who seduce and humiliate others as a form of entertainment. UTPA’s version is scheduled to run from Feb. 26-March 2.

Luis Moreno, a senior majoring in theater performance, is in the starring role of The Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

“The role is a challenge because the character is a sadistic pig,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s our job to show audiences that no matter how disgusting, misogynistic or evil our characters are, these guys are relatable.”

His co-star, Gina Marie, admits to enjoying her role as The Marquise de Merteuil, calling it a change of pace from other performances she’s done.

“In the past, I’ve played older, gentler characters,” the Pharr native said. “These guys aren’t conventional heroes and it’s indicative of how strong our season is.”

Marie is also performing in Real Women Have Curves.

This production is a coming-of-age tale set in 1987 Los Angeles and revolves around five women working at a sewing factory. Themes in the production range from body image to feminism. The show will run April 23-27.

The final production of the semester will be Twelve Dancing Princesses, from the Theatre for Young Audiences Program, an initiative that works with plays aimed at younger audiences. This production is an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.

The story is about a king who challenges a prince to solve the mystery of where his 12 daughters sneak off every night, and how. If he succeeds, the prince wins the hand of the princess of his choice. However, if he fails, the prince will be decapitated.

“There are no beheadings here. This adaptation will be a bit cleaner than a normal Brothers Grimm tale,” Brian Warren, the play’s director, said. “We’re also having some moments of comedy, like the inclusion of a reluctant executioner who’s not a fan of his job.”

As the title implies, Twelve Dancing Princesses will feature a dance number for each princess. The genres of dances will include salsa, Irish step dancing, country and more.

This adaptation will feature student actors from Warren’s Children’s Theater Workshop class, and will also double as their final project. Child actors will be featured in the production as well.

“We’re always interested in allowing children to see the joy of theater and how beneficial it can be for them,” said the 52-year-old Iowa native, who has been at the University since 2002. “By performing with adults, and vice versa, everyone gets to see how the process of theater is done. It’s exciting.”

Twelve Dancing Princesses will run May 1-4. More information can be found on the University Theatre website.

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Event Calender

February 20th, 2014

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Singles awareness day

February 13th, 2014

Valentine’s Day, or Singles Awareness Day as Time Magazine has called it, is almost here. The smell of love and roses lingers in the air, bringing joy to some and nausea to others.

“It’s gross,” said Humberto Ramos, a UTPA student without a date or plans for Saint Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Friday this year.

The 21-year-old advertising major said he has never had a date for the red-and-rose-themed holiday, but that has little to do with his distaste for it.

“Well, not that it’s gross. I just think people take it way over the top and it’s so hypocritical at the same time,” the junior explained. “Why aren’t they like that the rest of the year? Why is it just on that one day?”

According to research firm Harris Interactive, 24 percent of men and 16 percent of women said they would rather have a root canal than be single on “that one day.” But what is it about this ancient holiday that invokes concern over someone’s relationship status?

Ramos feels that Valentine’s Day is accompanied by love, affection…and a social stigma.

“I don’t mind not having a date, but there is a stigma where it’s like, ‘Oh, those people are single. Sucks to be them today,’ but not really,” the Weslaco resident said.

Ramos went on to give examples of his own experiences with other’s expectations for the holiday.

“People ask, ‘What are you doing for Valentine’s? Do you have a date?’ And I’ll just say no, and they’ll be like, ‘What do you mean?’ and I just say I have no date for Valentine’s,” he explained. “They think it’s sad, but at the same time, not everyone is revolving their entire year around it.”

Russell Eisenman, a psychology professor at the University who specializes in human sexuality, in addition to other topics, disagrees with Ramos. As a single man, the Savannah, Ga. native does not find a stigma attached to this day.

“I think it is mostly in people’s heads if they worry about it. Of course, different subgroups or different cultures could have different reactions,” he explained. “The holiday could make being single worse for some, as it emphasizes people being together. Kind of like people getting more depressed on Christmas if they do not have a family or friends present to relate to.”

To avoid any loneliness, or just to have a good time, some people will have singles get-togethers on Valentine’s Day, also known as Anti-Valentine’s Day parties. At these events, individuals who find themselves without a date join forces to have a fun Valentine’s Day of their own. Ramos, who moved from Monterrey, Mexico, to the States at the age of 9, believes that gatherings like these aren’t rare, and that a variation of them is the norm in Mexico.

“Valentine’s isn’t always about love. It could also be about friendship, or even loving your family,” he said. “Since I’m from Mexico, they celebrate it as El Dia Del Amor y La Amistad, which is the Day of Love and Friendships, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be couples. Friends can hang out, your family can hang out.”

One place where Broncs can get together with friends, family or a significant other on the romantic holiday is in the UTPA Ballroom. As a part of Homecoming Week, there will be a Roaring ‘20s-themed dance starting at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, which will include a photo booth, music and free food.

With the chilly weather that has been visiting the Rio Grande Valley lately, Ramos said it will only add to the intensity of the upcoming holiday on campus.

“The cold weather, then mix it in with Valentine’s, people are going to be holding hands and cuddling and whatnot,” he said. “It’s just going to make it more…ugh. It won’t be very pleasant, I’ll tell you that.”

Two years ago, Time Magazine wrote that 70 percent of individuals who are single on Valentine’s Day would not be opposed to a blind date for the holiday. Ramos agreed and said he would enjoy a romantic dinner Friday night.

Despite the frustrations he feels during Valentine’s Day, Ramos said there is one thing he likes about the celebrations, whether he is single or not.

“I do like seeing couples really happy together, but how I said, why aren’t they like that the rest of the year?” he said. “It’s really good seeing people happy with each other, but at the same time I wish it were like that more often.”

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