Nebraska nets 450-plus positive media mentions in 2021 | Nebraska Today | University of Nebraska–Lincoln – Nebraska Today

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Innovative approaches to performing arts programming and name, image and likeness; a study on alcohol use by college students; and a reconciliation project focused on an Indian boarding school drew national and international media attention for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2021. More than 450 stories featuring the university, its faculty, staff, students, centers and programs appeared in national media outlets during the year.
The Lied Center for Performing Arts was featured in a National Endowment for the Arts document called “The Art of Reopening,” a guide to COVID-19 practices among arts organizations, in January. The Lied’s Music on the Move mobile concert series was highlighted in the document. The venue was the first in the nation to host a Broadway or off-Broadway show during the pandemic and was one of the few to offer a full season in 2020-21 through a mix of online, in-person and hybrid shows. Stories on the Lied’s COVID-19 practices and programming appeared in Newsy on Feb. 3, The New York Times on Feb. 24 and USA Today on May 18.
Nebraska Athletics’ announcement of its #NILbraska initiative made waves during the summer and beyond. The initiative aims to educate Husker student-athletes on branding, marketing, financial literacy and other topics related to name, image and likeness. The Accelerate component focuses on teaching student-athletes how to build a business around themselves. It incorporates pop-up classes in the Colleges of Business, Journalism and Mass Communications, and Law. Stories on #NILbraska appeared in SB Nation on June 3, FiveThirtyEight on June 8, The Wall Street Journal on June 24, Sports Illustrated on July 1 and NBC’s “Sunday Today” on Sept. 26.
A study by Anna Jaffe, assistant professor of psychology at Nebraska, and colleagues shows that the influx of students moving back in with their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a substantial drop in college students’ drinking rates. The findings show that living off-campus, often with parents, could be a protective factor against heavy drinking. The research team also included Jason Ramirez, research assistant professor at the University of Washington; Shaina Kumar, doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology training program at Nebraska; and David DiLillo, professor of psychology at Nebraska. Stories on the study appeared in 10 Nebraska media outlets, including the Lincoln Journal Star, as well as Inside Higher Ed and University Business.
The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project — co-directed by Margaret Jacobs, Charles Mach Professor of History and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Nebraska — was featured in a number of media outlets in November. The Genoa, Nebraska, school, which operated from 1884 to 1934, was one of more than 300 Indian boarding schools established by the U.S. government and churches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to assimilate Native children and break their ties to families and tribes. Researchers say they have discovered the names of 102 students who died while at the school, the Omaha World-Herald reported Nov. 12. The Associated Press version of the article was picked up by 130-plus media outlets, including ABC News, The Guardian, USA Today, The Washington Post and Yahoo! News. The reconciliation project was also highlighted in The Daily Yonder on Nov. 5, the Independent and Esquire on Nov. 16, The New York Times on Nov. 17 and Mother Jones on Nov. 23. Jacobs wrote a guest column for The Washington Post on Nov. 24.
Troy Smith, assistant professor of management, co-authored a study showing that after abusive behavior some managers fake nice rather than make nice with employees as a means of repairing their social image. Harvard Business Review published a Jan. 19 article on the research.
Naomi Rodgers, assistant professor of special education and communication disorders, was interviewed for a Jan. 20 story about stuttering on NPR’s Short Wave. Rodgers said the medical model of stuttering as a disability does not account for the social environment. She is pushing for a social model: stuttering as a neurodevelopmental variation that leads to a unique forward execution of speech sounds, produced in the context of language and social interaction.
New research led by Ingrid Haas, associate professor of political science, has shown that the human brain processes politically incongruent statements differently — attention perks up — and that a candidate’s conviction toward the stated position also plays a role. Stories on the research appeared in Medical Xpress, Neuroscience News, Science Codex, Scienmag and a few other media outlets.
New research by Kate Lyons, assistant professor of biological sciences, and colleagues at the University of New Mexico suggests that the offspring of massive bipedal dinosaurs outcompeted medium-sized species for food, which would help explain the surprising lack of species diversity in an animal group that dominated the planet for roughly 140 million years. Stories on the research appeared in Gizmodo, Science and several other media outlets.
Valerie Jones, associate professor of advertising and public relations, has studied whether voice-controlled assistants such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home can decrease loneliness in older people. Stories on the research appeared in six Nebraska media outlets, including AARP Nebraska, and more than 20 others. She also was interviewed for an Aug. 5 Nebraska Public Media story on whether a social media “posting index” should be a new economic indicator. She described the data as a potentially useful tool but warned that the enormity of the information could make drawing conclusions difficult. Iowa Public Radio and St. Louis Public Radio picked up the story.
The university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska announced a five-year partnership to help safeguard the U.S. food supply. Stories on the new NSRI Collaborative Biosecurity Laboratory appeared in six Nebraska media outlets, including the Lincoln Journal Star, as well as SeedQuest and Seed Today.
Recent Husker graduates Ben Johnson and Zane Zents were awarded a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their invention the Grain Weevil, a small robot designed to maintain grain. The robot eliminates the need for farmers to enter bins, which can be dangerous and even fatal. Stories on the invention appeared in more than a dozen Nebraska media outlets, as well as AgDaily, The Fence Post and RFDTV.
A four-year research project led by Patricio Grassini, associate professor of agronomy, suggests that keeping up with palm oil demand doesn’t necessarily mean converting more valuable, fragile ecosystems into agricultural land. According to research published March 25 in Nature Sustainability, palm oil yields on existing farms and plantations could be greatly increased with improved management practices. Stories on the research appeared in the Environmental News Network,, RFDTV and Science Codex. Grassini and Huazhong Agricultural University’s Shaobing Peng are also leading new research that provides an analysis of roadmaps toward sustainable intensification for a larger global rice bowl. Stories on the research appeared in New Food magazine,, SeedQuest and Seed Today.
A “holy grail” long pursued by Husker physicists — a quantum material whose magnetic states could be altered by electric means alone, and above room temperature — could help herald the emergence of digital memory and processors that consume far less power, while potentially running even faster, than their modern-day counterparts. The team was led by Christian Binek, Peter Dowben and Alexei Gruverman, all faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. ran an April 5 article on the research breakthrough.
By compiling and analyzing mollusk fossil data from the past 145 million years, Will Gearty, postdoctoral researcher of biological sciences, and colleagues have shown that temperature largely explains the diversity of aquatic life in the tropics. Human-driven global warming is expected to reduce that biodiversity in coming centuries. Stories on the research appeared in the Environmental News Network,, ScienceDaily, Scienmag and several other media outlets.
The University of Nebraska has received a five-year, $20 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to create a research and education cluster aimed at enhancing the state’s competitiveness in the field of emergent quantum materials and technologies, and boosting the participating institutions’ research and education capacity. Stories on the new Emergent Quantum Materials and Technologies (EQUATE) collaboration appeared in at least four Nebraska media outlets and WebMD.
A new study by John Benson, assistant professor of vertebrate ecology, and colleagues shows that as people sheltered in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mountain lions in Greater Los Angeles actually moved less and downsized their territory. Stories on the research appeared in, the Environmental News Network and ScienceDaily.
Researchers from the university’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility conducted a rare tractor-tanker crash test Dec. 8 to see how a newly designed and significantly shorter concrete roadside barrier performs in a crash. The initial results were exactly as predicted, said Cody Stolle, research assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and the design could be implemented in the next year. Stories on the crash test appeared in at least 15 Nebraska media outlets and more than 150 others.
The University of Nebraska Press continued to garner praise and media coverage for its books. “The Power of Scenery” (Bison Books) by Dennis Drabelle was the subject of a feature on CBS This Morning with the author. “What Isn’t Remembered: Stories” (the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction winner) by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry was longlisted for the Pen/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Foreword Reviews. In addition, 10 books received positive reviews from the Wall Street Journal, including “Champagne Charlie” (Potomac Books) by Don and Petie Kladstrup, which was also featured in The New York Times alongside “South of Somewhere” by Robert Camuto.
Jessica A. Shoemaker, Steinhart Foundation Distinguished Professor of Law and co-director of the Rural Reconciliation Project, was named a 2021 Andrew Carnegie Fellow in April. She co-wrote a Jan. 21 piece for The Conversation on how the Biden administration can help rural America thrive and bridge the rural-urban divide. The article was picked up by 20-plus media outlets. She was quoted in an article in the March/April issue of Mother Jones on a growing movement of young Black Americans striving to reclaim their agricultural heritage. She was also interviewed for a May 1 Mashable article on Black farmers teaching each other how to make money growing hemp after being denied loans. In addition, The Daily Yonder published a Nov. 4 article on the Rural Reconciliation Project, which seeks to answer questions about the structural forces and collective choices affecting the sustainability and viability of rural communities. Shoemaker and fellow co-director Anthony Schutz, associate dean for faculty and associate professor of law at Nebraska, were interviewed for the story.
Margaret Huettl, assistant professor of history and ethnic studies, was one of three historians who consulted on the new “Oregon Trail” video game. Huettl, who is of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe ancestry, researched old photos and drawings for accurate depictions of different tribes’ clothing and style. She discussed her work on the game in a May 12 NPR story, November episode of the podcast Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness and Dec. 3 Le Monde article. She was also interviewed about “New Storytellers: The Research Institute in Digital Ethnic Studies,” hosted by the university, for a June 17 Indian Country Today story.
Dawn O. Braithwaite, Cather Professor of interpersonal and family communication, was interviewed on a variety of topics in 2021. She discussed people relying on their “chosen family” during the COVID-19 pandemic for a Feb. 23 Wall Street Journal article; findings in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS Count 2021 Data Book for a June 29 Deseret News article; the debate over singer and actress Jana Kramer’s use of the term “single mom” for a July 1 Yahoo! News story; why communication matters for a July 15 Psychology Today article; ways to be a better step-grandparent for a Sept. 21 AARP story; and best practices for communicating and expressing affection for a Nov. 29 Psychology Today article.
The university’s National Drought Mitigation Center remains the go-to resource for journalists across the country reporting on drought and climate. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor — jointly produced by the drought center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — was cited by numerous media outlets throughout the year, including ABC News, the Associated Press, Boston Globe, CBS Los Angeles (1, 2), (1, 2), DTN Progressive Farmer, FOX News, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, New York Times, SFGate, Wired and Yahoo! News.
A sampling of other university experts quoted in 2020:
Ajai Ammachathram, nutrition and health sciences, March on CNBC, American custom of tipping for service.
Eric Berger, law, January in Jewish Insider, Merrick Garland’s nomination to be U.S. attorney general; February on Faithful Politics podcast, second impeachment of former President Donald Trump; September in Center for Public Integrity, President Joe Biden’s racial equity effort for farmers of color hitting legal roadblocks; October on Faithful Politics podcast, constitutionality of vaccine mandates.
Kelli Boling, advertising and public relations, June in NBC News, Americans’ love of true crime multimedia; September in The Associated Press, Gabby Petito missing-person case being boosted by social media and true crime craze; November in The Washington Post, people following Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial on TikTok.
Tim Borstelmann, history, May in Politico, whether current world events are repeat of 1970s; November in USA Today, Freedom Riders whose 1961 sit-in campaign helped lead to desegregation of U.S. Route 40 in Maryland.
Kelsy Burke, sociology, March 19 in Religion News Service, guest column with the University of Oklahoma’s Samuel L. Perry on evangelical men and rhetoric of porn addiction, and how it relates to mass shooting in Atlanta; March in Insider, how Atlanta shooting shows dangers of American evangelicalism’s trademark “purity culture”; September in The Christian Post, theologian John Piper denouncing bedroom role-playing; October in The Washington Post, guest column with Smith College’s Nancy Whittier on push by conservative Christians and anti-pornography feminists to drive sexually explicit media off internet.
Deirdre Cooper Owens, history, director of the Humanities in Medicine program, February in The Washington Post, guest column on the United States’ long history of medical racism.
Jeffrey Day, architecture, January in Dwell, wedge-shaped house design featured; September on RFDTV, College of Architecture’s FACT program.
Katie Edwards, educational psychology, October in Public News Service, study linking premature deaths in adulthood with abuse as children.
Megan Elliott, founding director of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, October in Hewlett-Packard’s The Garage, Carson Center’s curriculum focused on virtual and augmented reality.
Charles Francis, agronomy and horticulture, July in Modern Farmer, companies engaging in agricultural greenwashing.
Tim Gay, physics, October in Inverse, physics behind tug of war; November in NFL Films, physics behind well-thrown football pass.
Sarah Gervais, psychology, May in Body+Soul, whether money can buy happiness.
Eileen Hebets, biological sciences, May in Undark, boom in whip spiders; August on The Animal Behavior Podcast, arachnid sensory systems, extreme mating behavior and science communication.
Justin “Gus” Hurwitz, law, director of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, January on Legal Talk Today podcast, outdated regulatory framework surrounding robocalls and U.S. Supreme Court case related to 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act; January on the Technology Policy Institute’s Two Think Minimum podcast, NGTC and rural digital divide; February on Cyberlaw podcast, Sen. Amy Kolobuchar’s push for antitrust legislation and Section 230 reform targeting Big Tech; May in Inside Sources, op-ed on Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause and how U.S. government approaches risk; May in Bloomberg Law, Snap and Amazon appellate rulings paving new paths to tech liability; May in Sinclair Broadcast Group, Florida law that would fine tech platforms for banning political candidates and subject them to lawsuits from users for removing content; August on RFDTV, efforts to bridge rural digital divide; November in USA Today, deadly recalled products still being widely available for purchase on Facebook Marketplace.
Katrina Jagodinsky, history, March in USA Today, York, an enslaved Black man who was part of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition in early 1800s.
Jody Koenig Kellas, communication studies, December in Forbes, importance of storytelling during difficult times.
Paul Kononoff, animal science, March in Inside Science, companies creating lab-grown dairy products.
Tierney Lorenz, psychology, November on Sex and Psychology Podcast and December in Insider, debunking myths of the “hormonal woman.”
Julia McQuillan, sociology, June in Huffington Post, experiences of women of color in child-free-by-choice movement.
Chigozie Obioma, English, January on, his short story “When the Risen Dust Settles” highlighted; January in Longreads, his short story “The Strange Story of the World” highlighted; January in Esquire, piece on chance encounter during his time as teenage street evangelist in Nigeria; February on, his college experiences in Cyprus and the United States, his novel “An Orchestra of Minorities” and how racism in America compares to that in other places; February on Literary Hub’s History of Literature podcast, his childhood in Nigeria, his novels “The Fishermen” and “An Orchestra of Minorities,” what he’s discovered about how fiction works, his love for Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” and his recent work with Alexander platform.
Timothy Schaffert, English, June in CrimeReads (1, 2), Entertainment Tonight, the Los Angeles Times, Oprah Daily and Publishers Weekly and July in Booklist, previews of his new novel “The Perfume Thief”; July in The Wall Street Journal, his five top books on art and culture in Nazi-occupied Paris; July in The Jewish Book Council, piece on Jewish perfumers in the 20th century.
Dai Shizuka, biological sciences, August in The Atlantic, study on female white-necked jacobins evolving to change colors to avoid being harassed by males; September on The Animal Behavior Podcast, social networks in humans and non-human animals, and the relationship between space use and sociality.
William G. Thomas III, history, June in The Washington Post, whether Johns Hopkins enslaved people.
Dirac Twidwell, agronomy and horticulture, May in National Geographic and December in Discover, using prescribed fires to restore Great Plains grasslands.
Frans von der Dunk, space law, January in MIT Technology Review, China’s growing private space industry; March in BBC News Russia, international race to claim lunar resources; July in The Christian Science Monitor, whether the new space era needs new rules; July on The TeachPitch Podcast, his career, the future of space travel, whether SpaceX can enforce its own legal system on Mars and what happens when someone is killed in space; July in Insider, rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s attempt to buy a planet; July in Insider, space tourism; July in Insider, space tourists flying at own risk; October in TalksOnLaw, how international law applies to modern space activities, open questions of property rights for celestial and lunar natural resources, liability issues when private enterprises operate in space, and laws on militarization and weaponization of space.
Joe Weber, journalism, December on RFDTV, his new book, “Rhymes with Fighter: Clayton Yeutter, American Statesman.”
Christine Wittich, civil and environmental engineering, February on Farm Progress America and May on RFDTV, her work to improve infrastructure to better withstand severe weather.
Judy Wu-Smart, entomology, January in The Guardian and February in DTN Progressive Farmer, pollution linked to AltEn ethanol plant near Mead, Nebraska; June in New York Post, viral beekeeper Erika Thompson.
University Communication tracks faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media and reports upon them month by month. If you have additions to this list, contact Sean Hagewood, news coordinator, at or 402-472-8514. If you have suggestions for national news stories, contact Leslie Reed, public affairs director, at or 402-472-2059.
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