Rice presenters to take center stage at SXSW

Rice University will have a notable presence at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin. Rice’s Kim McGaw, Norie Guthrie, Scott Carlson and Yael Hochberg will be presenters at the annual music, film and interactive-media gathering that attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world to Texas’ capital city March 7-20.



For McGaw, director of professional programs at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, standing center stage is not unusual. She has a nontraditional background for an educator and administrator in higher education: improvisational comedy. She studied with Del Close, whose students included Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Bill Murray, and was selected by audition to train and perform in the conservatory at Chicago’s famed Second City.

McGaw will present and hold a workshop on “Improv and Zombies: Waking Up the Virtual Classroom” at the Hilton Austin Downtown March 9. Her workshop will share lessons and insights gleaned from the innovative lens she has applied to enliven professional development courses at the Glasscock School – the majority of them taught online and covering finance topics. Today, students from more than 20 countries participate in the school’s live online classes.

“Virtual classrooms are havens for zombies – zoned out, multitasking students who don’t actively participate,” McGaw said. “With no visual feedback online, instructors must find new ways to engage students and ensure they understand the material.”

She said the goal of her workshop is to inspire instructors to be more creative in their approach and to provide them with a toolkit of improv games and activities to make online learning highly interactive.

McGaw thinks the timely topic of her presentation resonated with the SXSW organizers and the online community who have a say in selecting programming proposals. “The biggest growth area for every school is online,” she said. “It’s also the biggest pain point. Online classes have higher dropout rates than traditional and hybrid classrooms. To keep students motivated, instructors need to bring hands-on activities into the mix. Executing that in a virtual classroom can be challenging. My presentation at SXSW will provide attendees with some activities and simple strategies they can immediately apply to their teaching.”

To make her case with instructors who come to her for advice, McGaw, a devoted Queen fan, has compared teaching an online course to a rock concert. “Think of it as a set list: You’re going to involve the audience by playing your best-known songs at the very beginning and end, and you’re going to change up your songs every five to six minutes,” she said. “The best 20 minutes in rock ‘n’ roll history is still Queen’s epic performance at Live Aid (in 1985). That was actually only 18 minutes, and one of those 18 minutes was not music but Freddie Mercury doing a vocal improvisation with the audience.”

Archiving advice for independent record labels and bands

Securing music’s enduring value is the topic of Guthrie and Carlson’s presentation, “Preservation Tips for DIY Labels and Indie Bands,” March 17 at the Austin Convention Center.



Guthrie, an archivist and special collections librarian at Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center, and Carlson, metadata coordinator at Fondren, will discuss their project Indiepreserves.info, a preservation do-it-yourself website that dispenses archiving advice to independent record labels and bands.

Technological developments in the past 20 years have made it easy for bands and labels to succeed with little more than laptops and Dropbox, Guthrie and Carlson said. But very few people know how to prevent losing the work of their band, or their label.

“Many people feel like they’re perhaps weak in physical preservation, but they feel that they’re stronger in digital (preservation), Guthrie said. “We’re thinking they may not be as strong as they think they are.”

Carlson said everyday threats to labels’ and bands’ work is real. As a label co-founder told him, “If there’s a disaster in the store, if there’s a fire or a flood or if someone comes in and swipes all of our computers, we’re done. That got me thinking about the precarious nature of independent record labels around the world.”

Their presentation will focus on practical physical and digital preservation techniques for indie bands and record labels. Beginning with the results of a survey they conducted on how do-it-yourself record labels keep track of their work, they will present concrete solutions to preservation issues faced by labels and bands, whether their work lives on a hard drive or on a series of cassettes stashed in a closet.

“As the name suggests, our intended audience is the indie labels who explicitly told us they wanted help,” Carlson said. “However, the advice in our blog is applicable to any who want to preserve their work — whether it’s on a hard drive or a cassette tape — for the foreseeable future.”

Quo vadis, seed accelerators?

Yael Hochberg, the Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor of Finance and Entrepreneurship at the Jones Graduate School of Business and head of the Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative, is the veteran of two SXSW appearances. On March 11 she and Susan Cohen, an assistant professor of management at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business, will present “Accelerators: Flaming Out or Burning Hot?” at the Hilton Austin Downtown.



Hochberg and Cohen co-direct the annual Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, which aims to begin a larger conversation about what makes seed accelerators successful and to provide entrepreneurs with a tool to help them decide which seed accelerators are a good match for their startup.

Ten years after startup guru Paul Graham accidentally created startup fund Y Combinator and thus accelerators, startups going through these programs have raised well over $10 billion in capital, created thousands of jobs and have a combined value of over $50 billion, according to the event description. Accelerators have been called the “new-age business school,” “regional development powerhouses” and “more elite than Harvard.” “At the same time, proliferation has been so fast and broad that some speculate this phenomenon is merely a fad that has created an accelerator bubble that’s sure to pop,” the description said.

Hochberg and Cohen will discuss and debate these issues and conclude their presentation with the announcement of the 2016 Seed Accelerator Rankings.

For more information about SXSW 2016, go to www.sxsw.com.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.