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The (Controversy of the) South Will Rise Again

Since the South Carolina shooting three weeks ago, many groups ranging from the South Carolina Senate to NASCAR have taken a stance against Confederate symbols.

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Author Terry Shames discusses recent book, veteran treatment at book signing

Author and UT alumna Terry Shames discussed her recent book at a signing event in Austin Monday evening. Her book, “The Last Death of Jack Harbin,” is the second installment in the Samuel Craddock Mystery series. The event was hosted by MysteryPeople, a mystery bookstore located within Bookpeople.

Scott Montgomery, crime fiction coordinator at BookPeople and founder of MysteryPeople, said that the book will be named MysteryPeople’s “Book of the Month” for February.

The story follows ex-police chief Samuel Craddock as he investigates the murder of a wounded veteran in the fictional town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. “The Last Death” has received a lot of praise since its release on January 7, including reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. The Toronto Star describes the character Samuel Craddock as “the most engaging new sleuth in American crime fiction.”

Shames grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas but now lives in Northern California. She studied English at UT and has a master’s from San Francisco State University. She is “a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, [and] she serves on the boards of Northern California chapters of both,” according to her website.

Shames, who once worked for the CIA, briefly spoke about prominent themes and issues brought up in her book, including guilt.

“Scott [Montgomery] mentioned that he thought there was a lot about guilt in this book. And I think he’s right. We’re all guilty of something and this book is about what people do with their guilt,” Shames said.

But to Shames, the most important issue that her work touches on is the treatment of veterans after they return from war.

“When I was in college, a guy that I knew… went off to the Vietnam War and he came back blinded and missing a leg. And that’s what has happened to this vet in [this book]. And I always remembered that, and I just felt like I needed to write about the plight of veterans in this country, how they’re not valued after they are warriors,” Shames said.

Shames is working on the third book in the series, according to her website, and she is toying with the idea of writing a prequel.

Kathy Waller, a fellow member of Sisters in Crime and attendee of the event, recommended the series.

“She’s using a Texas setting, and she is just pitch perfect in her tone and descriptions,” Waller said, “This woman knows her setting. She knows what she’s talking about.”

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Numbers show homeschooled students are extremely underrepresented at UT

The number of homeschooled students in the United States is steadily increasing and has been since the 1970s. The number of homeschooled students attending large universities, however, is not changing noticeably.

The University of Texas at Austin has a total undergraduate enrollment of more than 50,000 students. The overwhelming majority of these students attended a public or private high school, where they were given a class rank.

An applicant’s class rank is often a critical deciding factor in the admissions process, which seems to give the population of students who were home-educated a disadvantage when applying for admission.

According to National Home Education Research Institute, there were about 2 million school-age children being homeschooled in the United States in 2010. Despite there being enough homeschooled students in the nation to populate the city of Houston, homeschooled students attending college appears to not be a widespread occurrence. An Internet search for the number of homeschooled students that attend college yields little and inconclusive results.

Some homeschooled students don’t apply to four-year universities for various reasons.  Many feel that the probability of being admitted to a large school is small simply because of their academic background, but Patty Prado, Assistant Director of Admissions at UT, says this is a misconception.

“Homeschooled students at UT are not really treated that much different. There’s not a separate application, and there are not certain requirements that are different,” Prado said.

Prado, who has worked in the admissions office for 10 years, tells both ranked and unranked students that giving as much information about themselves as possible can only help them during the application process.

Prado said homeschooled students are separated into their own group for review in the beginning of the admissions process.

“This is where we take all the information that they share with us to see who comes to the top. From there, they move into the review pool with all the other students, from a ranking high school or not, to find out how they look within the major or college that they are interested in.”

UT received about 140 homeschooled applicants for the 2013-2014 year, according to Prado. Of them, roughly 40 were admitted and 20 were enrolled, hardly enough to fill a lecture hall on campus. These numbers remain fairly consistent, meaning UT has less than 100 homeschooled students that enrolled here directly. Because the application process is different for them, this number doesn’t include the homeschooled transfer students.

The applicants who were not admitted were denied for the same various reasons students from ranking high schools are denied, and there isn’t any one or two reasons that stand out among them.

“In my experience with homeschooled applicants, they are extremely bright…I’ve really enjoyed reviewing homeschooled files and being a point person for these students and their parents,” Prado said.

“I think sometimes they worry that they won’t do well in the process because we may favor a student who goes to a ranking school…but I let them know that, no, in many cases our homeschooled applicants are very strong students and they do great here.”

Prado’s biggest piece of advice for homeschooled applicants who want to attend college is to plan early, pursue academic and non-academic interests in whatever way possible, and prepare to articulate those experiences and interests.

Journalism junior Anna Daugherty was homeschooled for her entire academic life until college. Because it seemed like the easiest route, she attended a junior college for two years then transferred to UT. She originally wanted to study linguistics, and out of the few schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in linguistics in Texas, she thought UT was the best fit. Later, she decided linguistics was not for her and changed to journalism.

The reason her mother chose to do homeschooling was to give Daugherty and her siblings a more one-on-one experience.

“My mom made sure we were really involved in other stuff too. I did city theatre, I did a lot of stuff with my church and I had a part-time job,” Daugherty said.

Aside from thinking the college application process would have been less complicated, Daugherty doesn’t wish she attended a public or private school. Daugherty said she is grateful for the experience.

“I think everyone should try [to go to college]… I haven’t figured out how you would overcome not having a class rank,” Daugherty said.

“Just do whatever you have to do, even if that means going to a community college. It probably takes a little extra work but it’s worth it.”

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