News Briefs

Technology does not help learning
According to a federal study, going high-tech does not lead to higher math and reading scores. The study was released on the effectiveness of education technology for the Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, a form of research that’s part of the Education Department. The study found that achievement scores were no higher with the use of new technology products than classrooms using reading and math software products. Researchers looked at elementary and secondary classes in 132 schools. The teachers used more than a dozen software products to deliver their lessons. Nearly all the teachers received training on the products in order to be prepared to use the technology in their classrooms. However, nearly all teachers indicated that they would use the products again. The report was based on schools and teachers that had not used the products in the previous school year. The report detailed the effectiveness of the products as a group.

University selects book of the year
For the second consecutive year, the APU/UAA Books of the Year Program has announced the 2007-08 book selections, “The Swallows of Kabul” by Yasmina Khadra and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. The two books are to provide a perspective of religious extremism. Khadra’s novel depicts Taliban rule on two couples living in Afghanistan while under the strict rule of the Taliban. Khadra was an Algerian army officer who wrote under a female pseudonym to avoid censorship. Atwood’s book details a young woman’s life and the generalized effects of fundamentalism. The theme of religion and politics was chosen to complement the community education project, “Meeting Islam; Engaging Muslim Beliefs, Culture, Politics,” that will begin this fall and continue for nine months. The project involves organizations such as the Anchorage Museum, Loussac Library, Alaska Humanities Forum, the Anchorage School District and more. A donation from the Cardinal Newman Foundation at Alaska Pacific University will also allow four national Islamic scholars to visit Anchorage and provide a lecture during Spring 2008.

Celebrity criminal cases lecture
Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht will be providing two free public lectures on campus regarding his field of work. Wecht has been an expert in cases including Anna Nicole Smith’s son Daniel Smith, O.J. Simpson, JonBenet Ramsey and Laci Peterson. Wecht has written “Cause of Death,” “Grave Secrets,” “Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey?” and more. He has performed more than 15,000 autopsies and has been consulted on 35,000 exhumations in the U.S. and several countries worldwide. The first lecture will review Wecht’s most interesting cases, including political assassinations and celebrity deaths. This lecture will take place in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium Thursday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m. The lecture on forensic scientific concepts worldwide will be at the Allied Health Sciences Building Room 106 on Friday, April 20 at noon. These lectures are part of UAA’s 2007 Complex Systems Lecture Series, a program that brings new research in complex systems to Alaska.

UA operating budget dismissed
During a finance meeting with the Senate Finance Committee, a UA operating budget amendment failed four to three. Before the meeting, a caucus was denied and Anchorage senators were not allowed to discuss their interest in passing the amendment, while many were led to believe it would pass. As a result of the reduced operating budget, UAA will have a fixed cost hit of $1.3 million while UAF will have a $1.7 million hit. The amendment was an attempt to use funding from the university budget to cover the fixed costs short fall. Programs in the amendment include upgrading the Integrated Science Building, Engineering enrollment growth and WWAMI program expansion at UAA. Sen. Lyman Hoffman, with the Bethel and Dillingham campuses, and Sen. Donnie Olson, with the Kotzebue and Nome campuses, voted against the amendment. While there is one Fairbanks and Juneau senator in the majority caucus who voted for the amendment, there are no Anchorage members on the Finance Committee.

Grad student commits suicide
UAA student Holly Hemry committed suicide early morning Tuesday, April 10. Hemry drove her Jeep off a cliff near Earthquake Park, survived and walked towards the Cook Inlet waters where she drowned. Hemry had been studying for a master’s degree. She was known as an avid tennis player in the community. Hemry had been the co-captain of the Diamond High tennis team and has been competing in local tennis matches since December last year. For most of her life, Hemry had been struggling with depression and alcoholism. The Student Health Center on campus provides students and faculty with counseling, medication and depression screenings. The Anchorage community also offers a suicide prevention hotline at 563-3200 or the 24-hour statewide hotline at 1-(877)-266-4357.