Tulane’s Stone Center awarded $1.85 million

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $1.85 million in grants to the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.

The four-year grants will provide fellowships to students pursuing advanced studies in Portuguese, Haitian Creole and indigenous Latin American languages such as Kaqchikel Maya, Nahuatl and Yucatec Maya.

The grants also will help the Stone Center finance its designation as a National Resource Center on Latin America. The school will use the money to provide course development, curriculum enhancement and language instruction.

The center also does outreach activities with K-12 educators and postsecondary institutions such as Delgado Community College and Xavier University.

James Carville to speak at UNO commencement

Political strategist and commentator James Carville will be the principal speaker at the University of New Orleans’ fall commencement at 3 p.m. Dec. 18 in the Lakefront Arena.

“James Carville has an international reputation for his political acumen and singular communication style, as well as his deep devotion to New Orleans and Louisiana,” UNO President Peter Fos said. “We are honored that he will participate in fall commencement; it will be a real treat for our graduates.”

Carville, a Louisiana native, was the lead strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign. The next year, Carville married Republican strategist Mary Matalin, who had worked on the campaign of President George H.W. Bush.

Their cross-aisle marriage has resulted in more than two decades of political commentary on every major television network and news organization.

In 2008, they moved from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans.

Carville has consulted on campaigns in more than 20 countries and teaches political science at Tulane University.

Civil rights lawyer to speak at Dillard

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump will deliver the next Revius O. Ortique Jr. Lecture on Law and Society at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 in Georges Auditorium on the Dillard University campus. The free event is part of Dillard’s “Brain Food” lecture series.

Crump and his law partner, Daryl Parks, have provided legal representation and recovered millions of dollars for their clients in some of the most high-profile cases in the country.

In 2012, Crump led the legal fight for the family of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, while walking home.

He is now representing the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. The incident set off months of protests that are continuing.

Crump is also active in a number of professional organizations and national causes and charities.

He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University.

For information, see @DUBrainFood on Twitter, visit dillard.edu or call (504) 816-4800.

Ancient starfish named for UNO professor

An ancient species of starfish has been named after University of New Orleans paleontologist Kraig Derstler.

Derstler, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences and an expert on invertebrate fossils, has spent decades digging up the past. Now his name will live into the future through Swataria derstleri, an early starfish that is approximately 450 million years old — older than the Atlantic Ocean.

The species will be named in honor of Derstler because he collected specimens of it in Swatara Gap in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. According to Derstler, he spent thousands of hours during his youth collecting fossils, including in Swatara Gap. In the 1970s, he published several papers on the fossils from this site and noted that a new starfish resembled a Scottish fossil starfish.

Four decades later, an expert on primitive starfish determined that Derstler’s starfish was distinct and new, leading to the naming of the species.

“I am flattered to have a species bearing my name,” Derstler said. “I’ve described new species myself but never had one named after me. Scientific names are theoretically permanent; they are intended to last as long as we have scientific research. It is pleasing to imagine that people will still be wondering how to pronounce my name in the year 2200.”