UT staff, students get involved at SXSW

Meara Isenberg

With more than 150 UT faculty, students and alumni participating in South by Southwest over the next few weeks, the University is making its mark on the world-renowned arts festival and conference.

“‘South By,’ in particular, it’s just such an amazing gathering place for innovators from all over the world,” UT marketing coordinator Chad Schneider said. “Considering the research focus within the University and a lot of the innovation happening (on campus), it just makes sense for the University and South by Southwest to work hand in hand.”

Two former UT students, Nick Barbaro and Louis Black, were members of the team that launched the first SXSW music festival in 1997. Today, Schneider said it is the festival’s prestige and proximity to campus that leads UT community members to take part in both SXSW and SXSWEDU, an educator-based learning expo happening this week.

This year at the SXSW festival, which begins March 9, professors will be featured on panels covering everything from implicit bias to balancing multiple jobs. René Salazar, assistant dean for diversity at Dell Medical School, will add his voice to the panel “Wait, What?! Bias is Killing Me?”

“What we are going to talk about is the unconscious, internalized biases that we are completely unaware of and (that) may have an impact on the things that we do,” Salazar said. “It isn’t a topic without its challenges … people sometimes embrace it, and sometimes push away and push away hard, but I’m really excited to (go to SXSW) and let folks know that this is an issue.”

Psychology professor Art Markman, who also works in blogging, company consulting and music, is lending his experience to the panel, “How to Get What You Want Out of Side Gigs.” He said SXSW has become an important part of Austin’s intellectual life.

“I think faculty sees a lot of value in spreading the research that they work on,” Markman said. “It’s a natural way for people to do it, and that’s why I think so many of our faculty end up engaging with ‘South By’ in different ways.”

The festival is also showcasing work from UT students such as Kenya Gillespie, radio-television-film graduate student. His documentary-style film, “The Crystal City,” about a World War II internment camp was selected to be screened alongside 11 other films at the festival’s 2018 “RTF Longhorn Denius Student Film Showcase.”

“My film is about … the internment camp that was in Crystal City, Texas,” Gillespie said. “It’s a really tiny town, and there aren’t many remains from the camp except for a few things, so I sort of wanted to understand the history more and connect it to the present day and the memories the internees had.”

Gillespie said he visited the internment camp — which is unique for having had Japanese, German and Italian internees — and felt connected to the tiny town. He said although his accomplishment has not sunk in yet, he is excited to sit down and watch his film at the SXSW screening.

“I think it’s good that this festival supports younger talents that are coming in because it’s hard for a lot of us students to get our names and our films and our art out there,” Gillespie said.