Zachary Smith

Shining American Traits Displayed by My Family

As you may agree, American culture is a melting pot of diversity, and today I wanted to inform you all not of the culture itself, but the traits of Courage, Sacrifice, and Protection displayed by Americans, specifically veterans in my family who have displayed said traits. My family lineage has individuals from every generation that have fought in every war dating back to the Revolutionary War in America. With that being said, I wanted to focus on the three members I found the most interesting, who fought in the Civil War, World War 1, and World War II. A few great quotes that many may feel summarizing these traits are as follows:

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill

“We sleep peaceably in our beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.” –George Orwell

“I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism and the heart of America.” –Bob Riley

The first ancestor I would like to focus on is Van Buren Smith, my fifth Great Grandfather. He was born in 1834 and died in 1938. Van Buren Smith served as a General in the Confederate Forces and after the war became one of the original Texas Rangers. Van Buren engaged in many battles during the war but swore an oath after to protect the citizens of Texas regardless of what race, social status, or gender they were. Van Buren lived to be 103 years old and died at his daughters homestead peacefully.

Van Buren Smith, Male, Bottom Right.

Newspaper Article over Van

The next ancestor I would like to focus on is my Great Uncle Buck C. Catchings-Smith. He was born on July 4th, 1895 and died on January 17th, 1978. Buck served as a Private First Class overseas during World War I. Buck displayed resilience in the face of adversity in many crucial battles in France during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. According to the United States Military Archives, “The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest operations of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I, with over a million American soldiers participating. It was also the deadliest campaign in American history, resulting in over 26,000 soldiers being killed in action (KIA) and over 120,000 total casualties.” (Government Archives, April 4th, 2023). I ask you all to imagine the fear he had to overcome at just 23 years old going into battle to protect his family back home in the United States and his brothers alongside him.

Buck Catchings (far left)

Buck Catchings at Basic

The last ancestor I would like to focus on is my Great Grandfather Henry “Nicholas” Smith. He served overseas in World War II in Africa, Normandy, and Rhineland Central Europe. The nickname “Nicholas” was derived from “Nicolaos” which translates to “people of victory”. This was given to him by citizens his platoon saved while overseas after a battle. He was highly decorated during his time in the military and sacrificed time with his family back home in the United States to help others in need. The sacrifice is shown in a letter sent home to his mother stating that “I wish this war would hurry and I think it will be a long, long time the way it is looking to me.” He also mentioned in the letter “That letter from Pearl sure was a letter, it sounds like the truth to me…she sure did turn out to be nothing.” The letter from Pearl was a letter from his fiancé at the time stating that she could not handle him being gone to war and it was taking a toll on her mentally, so she had to leave him. Below are photos of Henry “Nick” Smith, the letter to his mother, and a photo taken with Pearl before leaving to Europe.

The photos that are shown are a few of the many that he took while on duty overseas in Africa, Normandy, and Rhineland Central Europe.

The top left photo was taken in Africa. The photos of the planes were shot in Normandy. And the rest of the photos shown were taken in Rhineland Central Europe. An amazing piece of American History and culture.

In conclusion, American culture is a melting pot of diversity, but has many unique traits associated with it that are shown by many American people, whether that be protecting the citizens of Texas as a Texas Ranger, running into battle courageously at 23 years old during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, or sacrificing what you truly love for the greater good. I ask you all today one final question. Do you display these traits that my ancestors held so dear to their hearts?


Pioneer Rancher Dies at 103 Years, San Antonio Express LXXIII, February 22, 1938, page 2.

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Rachel Schnakenberg


This study analyzes the iconographic and stylistic elements of photographs by early albumen photographer Lady Clementina Hawarden. Although Hawarden was recognized by her contemporaries for photographic skill, her early demise and lack of documentation of artistic process has led to a disconnect of her images from their narrative and historical context. Previous research on Hawarden’s imagery has investigated her use of lighting, emotion, and the eerie. However, through a visual analysis of two unnamed photos of her daughters, elements of Baroque chiaroscuro, combined with the technology of the photographic process, reveal a deep interest in art historical and emotive interest within her process.

“[T]hough they are portraits, undoubtedly they are also of far wider interest than any (p)ortraits can be–which we remember ever to have seen.”[1]

Far Wider Interest: Art, Drama, and Theatricality in the Photography of Lady Clementina Hawarden

Early pictorialism and the experimental art-photography movement of the mid-19th century included several deservedly well-known artists—among them Julia Cameron, Oscar Rejlander, and Henry Peach Robinson. However, one lesser-known female amateur photographer stands out as a figure of interest. Lady Clementina Maude Hawarden (1822-1865) was a wife, mother of eight daughters and one son, and a devoted amateur photographer.[2]  Although the context of her images is lost, her oeuvre spans over eight hundred known images from a working period of about eight years. Most of these enigmatic and captivating images feature her daughters as models and incorporate direct lighting as both a compositional and emotive element. Hawarden’s strong lighting and flair for the theatrical/Baroque distinguishes her images from contemporaries and grounds them in a tradition of female expression.

As a member of the British Photographic Society, Hawarden showed several portraits entitled “Study from Life” in the society’s 1863 and 1864 exhibitions. The British Journal of Photography reported on the 1863 event, stating that Hawarden’s portraits display “[g]raceful pose, delicate play of light in every gradation of half-tone, [and] fine chiaroscuro with unity of design.”[3] They further claimed that her work “ranks second to none, whether professional or amateur, for artistic excellence in the productions exhibited” among the female exhibitors.[4] The praise given by the journal focuses on the lighting and design, including her unique compositions, and identifies the strong contrasting light and tone values of chiaroscuro technique as a laudable quality in her images. Hawarden’s attention to the modeling of figures appears throughout her oeuvre, and many of her later works bring chiaroscuro to the forefront.

Hawarden’s use of photography as a medium served to blend new technology with an established art historical process of posing and lighting. In two unnamed photos, referred to by their Victoria and Albert Museum accession numbers, 379-1947 and 341-1947, the influence of Hawarden’s art historical background and theatricality can be clearly seen. Figure 1 (379-1947)[5] features two of her daughters, Florence Elizabeth and Clementina, in a pyramidal composition that references the geometric structure of Classical art. Florence Elizabeth stands in the middle register with her back to the corner of a window. The light streaming behind her creates a sharply-contrasted diagonal stripe on the wall—an orthogonal line connecting her upward-turned face to that of Clementina stretched on the floor at her feet. Clementina’s character wears a gauzy, Classical inspired gown that drapes from one shoulder (revealing her arms and shoulders) and a star diadem that crowns her head.[6] The light falling on Clementina’s face in 379-1947 creates a vivid chiaroscuro effect in the modeling of her features, introducing an illusion of harshness and melodrama to her youthful face. Conversely, Florence Elizabeth, who is dressed as a nun or saint, is positioned so that the light softly illuminates her features and lends her an even glow akin to the softly modeled portraits of the High Renaissance. This image displays Hawarden’s strength and process as a student of the Classical as well as her unconventional use of natural light as an almost physical element in a photographic composition.

Hawarden also uses light as a frame for the subject and as a distinguishing factor for her doubled photographs. Figure 2 (Image 341-1947) features a teenaged Clementina wearing a fancy-dress costume with half-length slashed puff sleeves and a full pleated skirt, suggesting the dress of the 1660s, with a headdress and net veil that evokes the High Renaissance.[7] The lighting and pose of this image, combined with the subject’s costume, appear to intentionally evoke a Baroque aesthetic. In this image, Clementina poses with her back against a wall, almost touching a mirror that reflects her in a three-quarter profile. The “real” girl stands in the left-central register while her mirror-self is reflected opposite in the left register. Hawarden allows bold natural lighting to connect the highlighted portions of the faces, but due to the changes in the angle of illumination, both the “real” and the “mirrored” girl possess slightly different emotive expressions. With light streaming over her face and shoulders, features modeled in a soft gradation of tone, “real” Clementina faces the viewer in three-quarter profile on the left register but directs her serene and resolute gaze toward a point past the right register. In the mirror, the image of Clementina takes on a more subtle expression: the lighting on her face creates sharp tenebrosity, and her expression is almost sorrowful. The image of the girl in the mirror appears in sharper focus than the “real” image on the left register, which adds an element of other-worldly allure to the confined space of the photograph.

One of the notable and recurring elements of Hawarden’s photography is the prominently featured studio space that grounds her subjects in a contemporary setting. This artistic choice breaks away from conventions of commercial studio portrait photography of the time as well as those set by other art photographers. Her contemporaries in art photography carefully manipulated images, removing their models and studio spaces from reality by cutting and piecing together their photographs from many negatives.[8] What remains of the studio is entirely transformed, according to the photographer’s desire, into a “fictional space.”[9] These images, especially those by her peers in the British Photographic Society who exhibited works alongside her in 1863-64, would have been undoubtedly known to Hawarden. However, while her portraits also incorporate costumed characters and traditional art compositions, her images are recognizably set in her newly built London home, which included bare board floors, papered walls, and prominently featured windows. Scholar Suzanne Cooper asserts that by acknowledging the existence of the subjects’ surroundings, Hawarden demonstrates an interest in the eerie. For example, the visible structures of the studio suggest uncanniness, as the Victorian home is seen as populated with residents but exists without its familiar trappings.[10] However, the bare, stage-like appearance of Hawarden’s studio space, combined with the narrative and costumes of the images, suggests another layer beyond the merely eerie.

Using light and costume, and with the collaboration of daughters as models, Hawarden crafts themes within her images that communicate story and emotion. In photographs 379-1947 and 341-1947, the posing and lighting follow many conventions of Baroque and High Renaissance compositions, as well as suggesting narratives through their visuals. One scholar suggests that Hawarden’s images may be meant to interpret pre-Raphaelite poetry with one costumed image serving potentially as an interpretation of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market.” Evidence for this claim can be found in the pose of the sisters in the cover illustration of “Goblin Market,” illustrated by Dante Rossetti, which features two sisters in an intertwined repose similar to that of Hawarden’s photograph of daughters Isabella and Clementina.[11] Several of her other images provide glimpses, although their context is lost, of stories/characters and many of her images feature recognizable characterizations such as “Cinderella,” which would be known to the models and the viewer.[12] However, the drama of Hawarden’s imagery is beyond a mere interpretation of narrative, and her references to the Baroque with chiaroscuro and tenebrism create a visual language of emotion that carries through without explanation.

Narrative elements appear in the art-photographic work of many of Hawarden’s contemporaries and fellow members of the British Photographical Society, especially in the composite images of Henry Peach Robinson (with whom she shared a wall in the exhibition of 1863) and Oscar Gustave Rejlander.[13] The artistic images produced by these well-known artists were driven by story, often with accompanying text or poetry. Many images featured large spreads and numbers of people in well-defined allegorical roles and in settings that, like a painting, place the figures in an appropriate and fictional time and place.[14] While allegory may have been the goal for several of her works, her images convey the boldness of the Baroque period through dynamic poses, limited set pieces, and bold lighting.

Hawarden’s use of lighting and costumes in her images suggests an intentional process of art historical referencing and places her works out of the realm of documentary photography and into that of the budding pictorialism movement. Through many of her surviving photographs, Hawarden’s use of fictional narrative is apparent, and although the images of Florence Elizabeth and Clementina represent the girls as they physically appeared in life, their costuming and poses insinuate an element of theatricality. As in the grand Baroque paintings she references, emotion is central to her oeuvre. Emotions are communicated in the lighting, the costumes, the faces, and in the composition of her works. Peace, sorrow, joy, fear, and hatred all live in the exaggerated expressions of the poses and are illuminated by the bright sunlight she prefers. The enigma of the meaning within her images, combined with their extraordinary lighting and composition, provides them with a novelty that would be absent within their original contexts. However, even divorced from the artist’s process, Hawarden’s photographs demonstrate her mastery of light and drama.


[1] “The Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society (London).” The British Journal of Photography. January 15, 1863.

[2]  Suzanne Fagence Cooper, “Through the Looking-Glass: Photographs by Clementina, Lady Hawarden (1822–1865).” The British Art Journal.

[3] “The Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society (London),” 31.

[4] “The Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society (London).”

[5] Hawarden, Clementina, UntitledFlorence Elizabeth and Clementina, 1863-64. Albumen print, Victoria and Albert Museum, accession no 379-1947.

[6] The gown Clementina wears is thin and draped around the figure from a rectangular piece of cloth, clearly referencing the chiton or peplos garments of Greco-Roman antiquity.

[7] Clementina Hawarden, Untitled – Clementina and Mirror, 1863-64. Albumen print, Victoria and Albert Museum, accession no 341-1947.

[8] Daniel A Novak. “Photographic Fictions: Nineteenth-Century Photography and the Novel Form.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, 2010, 25.

[9] “Photographic Fictions,” 25.

[10] “Through the Looking-Glass,” 6.

[11] Gwendoline Koudinoff, “Illustrating Victorian Poetry: The Dynamics of Photographic Tableaux Vivants, Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne],” 89 Spring, 2019.

[12] “Through the Looking Glass,” 8.

[13] “Photographic Fictions.”

[14] “The Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society (London).”


Figure 1. Clementina Hawarden, Untitled – Florence Elizabeth and Clementina, 1863-64. Albumen print, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Accession no. 379-1947.

Figure 2. Clementina Hawarden, Untitled – Clementina and Mirror, 1863-64. Albumen print, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Accession no. 341-1947.


Atencia-Linares, Paloma. “Fiction, Nonfiction, and Deceptive Photographic Representation.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70, no. 1 (2012): 19–30.

Cooper, Suzanne Fagence. “Through the Looking-Glass: Photographs by Clementina, Lady Hawarden (1822–1865).” The British Art Journal, vol. 20, no. 3, 2019, pp. 3–11. JSTOR, Accessed 18 Mar. 2023.

Koudinoff, Gwendoline, “Illustrating Victorian Poetry: The Dynamics of Photographic Tableaux Vivants,” Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 89 Spring | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2019, consulté le 23 avril 2023. URL: ; DOI :

Novak, Daniel A. “Photographic Fictions: Nineteenth-Century Photography and the Novel Form.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 43, no. 1 (2010): 23–30.

“The Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society (London).” The British Journal of Photography. January 15, 1863, P.31 American Institute for Conservation Https://Cool.Culturalheritage.Org/Albumen/Library/C19/Ninth.Html.

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Hannah Faith Lindley

Weathering Emotions (I: Rays of Sun; II: Night Terrors; III: Stormy Evening)

Original Music Composition (for Voice, Wind Chimes, Rain Stick, Vibraphone, and Bass Drum)

In this original work, Hannah’s composition reflects techniques and stylings of the avant grade of the twentyfirst century while using traditional musical forms from the baroque era. Aleatoric in composition, the work is organized by the evocative emotional journey featuring poetry / lyrics written by the composer herself. Formally, each movement within the work can both stand alone or be performed in sequence thanks to the formal schemes that were borrowed from the seventeenth century, all while still maintaining a lack of harmonic closure. Even with the advantages of modern technology, Hannah decided that composing this work by hand would be the most effective way of translating her artistic expression in print, so no software was utilized.

-Martin Quiroga Jr.

PDF Score

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Zoe Galleno

Zhu Kerou: Women and Kesi Textiles in the Song Dynasty


This study examines the iconography and style of Kesi textiles produced by the renowned artist, Zhu Kerou, to understand how women interpreted the religious and social environment during the Song dynasty. Previous scholarship suggests that women’s treatment affected their expression within society but fails to address how, despite oppressive measures, they still found a “voice” to communicate their views. To that end, such readings prevent a nuanced understanding of the complex gender dynamics within the era. To better understand these unique visions, Kesi textiles created by Zhu Kerou are analyzed based on their stylistic progression from works that reflect Confucian era paintings to a more unique and expressive style. First, Zhu’s Kesi textile Ducklings on a Lotus Pond is examined by connecting the compositional harmony between animals and nature to Confucianism ideals. Next, an analysis of the artist’s work, Bird and Flowers, manifests similar themes rooted in Confucianism. For example, the calligraphic seal containing Zhu’s signature is less hidden in the work, thereby demonstrating the ways in which her works increasingly rejected the male-dominated gender dynamics in the Song dynasty. Lastly, an examination of the textile Butterfly and Camellia establishes a heightened vibrancy when compared to the other works–further differentiating the style from Confucian inspiration. The research conducted in this project suggests that innovative women such as Zhu Kerou, in the Song dynasty utilized their societal position as court weavers to redefine the gender-specific rules placed on painting/artistic expression. More specifically, the evolving process of weaving Kesi textiles led to unique and meaningful styles for artists like Zhu Kerou.


Artistic representations from women of the Song dynasty–including Zhu Kerou–are key to understanding how women expressed themselves within the patriarchal system of the era. The definition of womanhood under Confucianism was heavily based on women’s positions as weavers and how men interpreted religion, which they used to dictate women’s lives. With the rise of male Confucianist scholars in the Song dynasty, who participated in activities like painting to document their religion and other cultural views, painting became a “masculine” activity.

Women who chose to paint in the Song dynasty were suppressed due to the alignment the activity had with men. To that end, innovative women like Zhu Kerou began weaving painting-like Kesi textiles, which redefined the societal creative landscape for women. Kesi textiles served as a creative outlet for women to produce artistic works that mimicked paintings while remaining under the expectations of womanhood within Song society. Moreover, women artists in the period gradually found their own style while maintaining the religious and moral iconography found in Confucianist scholar paintings.

First, a brief review of the literature will be conducted to establish the scholarly work conducted on Kesi textiles, Confucianism, and their connections to the gender dynamics within Song society. The essay then further addresses Confucianism and textile production in the Song dynasty. This section helps elucidate the roots of the gendered notion behind weaving and the resulting effects on women. Third, Song paintings will be looked at in order to establish common motifs and stylistic choices seen throughout the paintings. After a contextual analysis of Song paintings, Zhu’s works will be investigated. Her works will undergo a dissection in which Song and Confucian inspiration will be highlighted–illustrating her developing style.


Literature Review

Throughout the Song dynasty, the topic of gender developed and remained interconnected within the cultural environment. The religious and social culture embedded within the dynasty led to unbalanced gender dynamics between men and women, which will be investigated through textiles. When observing Song dynasty Kesi textiles, gender dynamics are crucial to understanding how the culture defined visual culture. Case studies of innovative women like Zhu Kerou, coupled with analyses of gender divisions during the era, contribute to the topic by providing the necessary cultural context to understand the different styles of the period–including those seen in Kesi textiles.

Modern research on artworks and social practices from the ancient period vis-a-vis gender representation aids in identifying corresponding social ideas present in ancient societies, like the Song dynasty, and their effects on women. Historian Lamia Doumato suggests that the representation of men and women in art is unbalanced in the historical landscape. Although Doumato observes common elements utilized by artists of both genders, it is prevalent to note that both men and women represent their ideas on similar topics differently in art.[1] Thus, it can be concluded that while free expressionism is an essential aspect of art, upon relating to the common patriarchal standards within pre-modern eras, the differentiating ideas between men and women led to the suppression of women’s art.

By analyzing Leonora Auslander’s article, the gender-reliant norms of the era as expressed through textiles are further elucidated. Upon examining the textile industry’s developmental stages, Auslander suggests that “the products themselves have been systematically used to construct gender”.[2] While male weavers did arise during the developmental era of the industry, they were viewed differently depending on their class and environment. Male weavers who held a “commoner” status weaved to show rebellion against the definition of “masculinity”, but still did not face as much marginalization as women who also rebelled against their own gender roles. With men placing themselves in leadership positions within the developing industry, they were seen as superior to women, as highlighted by Xavier Vigna et al. Women were often looked down on by men in the industry “who [were] still locked into the male breadwinner model.”[3] Due to the overall gendered notion of femininity being a weaker and/or inferior quality compared to masculinity, women often faced mistreatment in the textile industry. The power imbalance highlighted by these sources also resulted from the shift in gender dynamics that occurred in the Song dynasty.

Beth English also argues that the historical practices in the textile industries assisted in shaping gender roles throughout time. English recognized that women consistently worked but that “women’s labor, in this case, is not only cheap and flexible but also disposable.”[4] In other words, women could partake in the industry, but they were seen as more replaceable than their male counterparts. Further, Francesca Bay posits that both genders in China were once seen as equals: “[T]he classic gender division of labor in China was encapsulated in the saying: ‘men till women weave’”.[5] Bray’s observations set the basis for what China was like before the textile industry began to develop and overtake Song society because once industrialization occurred, men began to take over. The analysis of both sources assists in connecting ideas of the mistreatment of women in the industry through lower wages and the lack of career growth. English’s source does highlight how women were pushed out of the innovative portion of the industry, but it is important to note that they were still active workers. Conversely, Bray assumes that women outright lost any place in the industry. Despite their differences, these sources elucidate how men replaced women’s innovative role in the textile industry and the significant shift in gender dynamics that resulted.

Dorothy Ko argues that due to the firm roles set in place by gender stereotypes in the Song dynasty, women in the era challenged societal boundaries through their creations. For scholars to understand why women challenged their environment through innovation, it is essential to take the position of men into account. Weaving was viewed as a “feminine” pursuit, making painting a “masculine” activity. The gendered marginalization in the era led to the movement of women who challenged their environment through technological and artistic methods, which can be viewed in Zhu Kerou’s Kesi textile works.

These modern analyses of gender and how it was defined throughout the dynasty demonstrate the bigger picture of women’s representation and expression throughout the era. Although these contributions are rooted in various–even differentiating–perspectives, they all aid in contextualizing gender norms in the cultural environment of the Song dynasty. Analyzing these nuanced theories, such as the effects gender dynamics had on women’s expression in ancient societies like the Song dynasty, offers a deeper understanding of the roots of the patriarchal artistic environment of which Zhou Kerou chose to reject and redefine.

Song Paintings

Within the Song dynasty, paintings served to perpetuate religious and social beliefs that were reflected in the general public. The reflection of Confucian morals served to primarily support the production of paintings within the court. Many of the paintings produced can be traced back to the Confucian court painters whose works constructed the mainstream style commonly seen in most artworks being produced.[6] The composition of the paintings within the Southern Song dynasty reflected Confucian ideologies such as, “longevity [which was] seen as a proof of virtue, granted by heaven to those who deserved it”.[7] This reflection of longevity can be viewed in the paintings through the inclusion of decaying leaves within the composition (Fig. 3). The leaves reflect the inevitability of death but highlight the longevity of existence throughout the pathway toward death. The paintings often attempted to capture a moment in nature in an almost documentary way, but the style was both naturalistic and stylized.

Confucianism and Textile Production in the Song Dynasty

In the Song Dynasty, textiles were an important commodity in society as they assisted in establishing social bonds and maintaining economic flow. The uses of the textiles included gifting for marriage or other social exchanges and ceremonies, serving as currency, and funerary mourning.[8] With women being placed at the forefront of textile production and management, their contributions served in establishing aspects of social practices. To explicate the crucial role that women’s work had within the social, political, and economic environment, it is important to examine how Confucian scholars chose to define women. Confucianism placed women at a lower level than their male counterparts from birth: “the birth of a boy [being] called big happiness while the birth of a girl [was] called small happiness.”[9] Under the guise of Confucianism, male scholars decided that “women[‘s] place was confined to home,”[10] which contributed to the unbalanced gender dynamics.

In the Song dynasty, painting was a common activity utilized to spread and document Confucian ideologies. “Due to the links between Confucianism and painting, most painters were Confucianist scholars–a standard that socially defined the activity as “masculine.” While there were women who painted, they lacked representation due to the association art had with elite men.[11] To that end, paintings often focused on nature and/or the balance of humanity with nature. The primary focus of balance in paintings aided in “demonstrat[ing] an honest simplicity,”[12] which also supported Confucian ideas. With women lacking societal ‘permission’ to paint and remaining stuck within the confining definition of “womanhood,”, they began to embody an innovative attitude to challenge their environment.  A highly analytical lens was therefore placed on women, which caused innovative women artists to remain anonymous to avoid suppression.

To add to the artistic landscape, however, women created painting-like Kesi textiles, which allowed for creativity through an ‘acceptable’ medium. Although many women remained anonymous, Zhu Kerou can be identified for her creative yet controversial approach to signing her textiles. Further, the formal and stylistic characteristics in Zhu’s works can be traced back to common imagery seen in paintings where “a temporary, seasonal aspect of nature, such as falling plum blossoms, a goose in flight, [or] an evening party” is common.[13] The similar composition and style seen between Kesi textiles and paintings in the period can be traced back to Confucianism and Confucian scholars’ effects on artistic expression. In order for women who weaved Kesi textiles to create such detailed works, which replicated paintings, they utilized innovative techniques. For instance, women would weave their hair into the textiles to create a diverse color palette that might not be achievable with the materials they had access to.[14] Moreover, many of the techniques and stylistic choices utilized in Kesi textile production can be traced back to a key figure like Zhu Kerou.

Zhu Kerou

Zhu Kerou (1127-1161), who lived in the Southern Song region, was well-known for her weaving skills. Referring to her ability, Alexandra Tunstall stated, “the exquisite skill shown in her works with figures, trees, rocks, flowers, and birds [was] almost supernatural.”[15] While the information on her lineage is minimal, Zhu was likely an elite individual as elite women were typically taught how to embroider in the Southern Song dynasty.  Her position within society was defined as highly esteemed[16] and, although few of her works have survived, her status helped make her a key figure in Kesi textile production. Among Zhu’s few surviving works, several embodied a technique that resembled court-style Confucian scholar painting. Her incorporation of court-style techniques into the Kesi creation process was described as the “long and short thread inlay” method using ink wash brushes.[17] The process, as previously mentioned, that Zhu used aided in creating a highly realistic visual throughout the work through adding nuanced colorizations of thread within the textile. As Kesi textile production progressed, women began to shift from the common artistic style into a more expressive, unique style as seen in Zhu’s progressing works.

Zhu Kerou’s Kesi textile, Ducklings on a Lotus Pond (Fig. 1), exemplifies environmental motifs seen throughout paintings within the period. The landscape in the piece is primarily made up of a large pond that takes up three-fourths of the space while the remaining area is occupied by a small portion of peninsula-like land. There are multiple species of birds present, with most shown in dynamic motion. The ecosystem in the piece is exceedingly diverse, containing different kinds of flowers and other kinds of vegetation representative of a marsh/swamp environment. Her use of numerical balance between the birds can be analyzed through the inclusion of two birds per breed, with the leading focus staying on the pair of ducklings in the pond. The color palette Zhu utilizes is neutral with hints of blue, which assist in rhythmically moving the viewer throughout the piece. Although this Kesi textile reflects major Confucian inspiration, Zhu’s playful/rebellious nature can be seen through her use of composition. The composition of her work doesn’t utilize a standard foreground or background; rather, it fuses the background and middle ground together. The fusion of perspective in the composition aids in creating a subtle abstraction in the work. Overall, the composition of the work primarily contains an aesthetic focused on balance and capturing a moment in nature.

Another piece by Zhu, Ducklings on a Lotus Pond, embodies styles akin to those that appear in Song paintings. “For example, the inclusion of numerical balance with the birds demonstrates Zhu’s attempts to conform to the Confucian belief in order.” Zhu also includes her signature, signifying her position as the creator and challenging the predominantly male artistic environment. Her calligraphic seal is seen hidden in the far-right section of the blue-colored bush in the piece. It is important to note that, while this work challenges the ‘umbrella’ definition of womanhood and the gendered nature of painting, Zhu was exceedingly careful with her artistic approach in this Kesi textile. Her usage of a style inspired by Confucian works and ideologies placed her works into an ‘acceptable’ artistic category. Although she signed her work, her signature is camouflaged within the composition. The camouflaging of her signature in the piece exemplifies a cautious approach when attempting to gain recognition as a woman in a male-dominated artistic environment.

While another work from Zhu Kerou, Bird and Flowers (Fig. 2) maintains similar stylistic qualities, there are key differences that reflect the development of her individual style. The textile was created with the same materials as the previous work–including silk threads, hair, and hemp threads weaved together in an embroidered style. While this work lacks numerical balance, it still aims to capture a moment in nature throughout the composition. Bird and Flowers also utilizes a neutral color palette with one blue-toned shade for the leaves that also creates movement, which the viewer is meant to follow. When compared to Ducklings on a Lotus Pond, her use of lines is stronger and more defined–a distinction that can be viewed in the leaves. Zhu also creates the visualization of the blooming stages of the flower within her piece, which may be attributed to the social changes and growth of women as artists through the weaving of Kesi textiles.[18]

The creation of a visualized life cycle of the flower serves as a visual transition from idealized Confucian work to a more unique developmental-feminine style. Zhu also includes a motif seen in other Song paintings of decaying leaves. The bird in the work assists in connecting Zhu Kerou’s developing style back to the main common motif of Confucian flower-and-bird paintings in the period while allowing the rest of her work to embody a more individualistic style. Zhu Kerou’s signature in this work is placed in the negative space, which helps draw the viewer’s attention to its position in the piece. Unlike her previous work in which the signature was present but hidden, Zhu’s signature is placed in the open, showing a developed, confident, and defiant attitude towards the predominant gender standards. The bird in the work also represents Zhu’s strategic use of implied lines to bring attention to her signature. The implied line can be seen through the bird’s position in which the head and eyes aim toward the signature.

The final work from Zhu Kerou, Butterfly and Camellia (Fig. 3), embodies an individualistic and expressive artistic vibrancy compared to her previous works. While she does maintain minimal Confucian stylistic standards, like the inclusion of decaying leaves, her work is still more unique and expressive. This Kesi artwork portrays a less direct connection between plants and animals and also lacks the common use of birds by trading them for a butterfly. The focus is on the camellia flowers with a minor focus on the butterfly, which is flying to the flower from the top left corner. The butterfly, while still a key part of the work, is shown as having a more distant, indirect connection with the flowers, which can be seen through an implied line between the two. Further, the relationship between the butterfly and flowers may imbue the work with a sensual sensibility. This sensual motif can be linked to the cultural connections between women and flowers and men with butterflies, therefore creating erotic implications through the intimate connection between the two.[19] Zhu’s iconographic choice to include the motif thereby represents the deeper meaning and connection of men and women. The motif challenges the confining nature of chastity and femininity present in Confucian ideologies by redefining femininity within the composition. Akin to her previous works, Zhu is capturing a moment in nature, but she is establishing a different connection between living beings.

Zhu’s usage and application of colors and text within her work assisted in differentiating her artistic contributions from Confucian scholars. She does maintain one subtle Confucian motif of the decaying leaf but otherwise differs from other major Confucian stylistic inspirations. In Butterfly and Camellia, Zhu utilized a color palette containing highly vibrant colors compared to her previous artworks. Her shift from a muted/neutral color palette, which was also used in many Song paintings, created a stark difference from her previous style. Zhu also delves deeper into the use of thicker/stylized lines within this work, which helps create her distinct style. The signature that Zhu included in her earlier works slowly developed from being hidden in the first to being openly included in an almost stylistic manner in this work. She included her signature twice in the composition on both the left and right sides, which creates a frame around the main area of the artwork. The placement of her text within the composition of the Kesi textile creates borders, which the viewer is supposed to look within. This work exemplifies how throughout the development and progression of Kesi textile production, Zhu Kerou developed her style differently than the works produced by men and is more reflective of women’s abilities as artists.


In the Song dynasty, Confucian ideologies and morals dictated how society operated and ran. With the conversion from previous imperial political dominance to male Confucian scholars overtaking the political and social environment, the gender dynamics in the period created a patriarchal system. As women began to fall under the expectations of religiously and occupationally defined womanhood, they lost many individual freedoms. Women who had the desire to practice their creativity and add to the artistic environment were pushed aside. The artistic environment in the Song dynasty was primarily male-dominated due to the societal notion of painting being a ‘masculine’ activity. For women to create art and express how they interpreted their environment, they had to embody an innovative attitude.

Innovative women, like Zhu Kerou, began to produce textiles that replicated the appearance of paintings called Kesi textiles. With the production of Kesi textiles, women were able to express themselves but with a medium in which they would slowly gain recognition due to the many every day and practical uses of textiles. Many women who weaved Kesi textiles kept their anonymity due to the gender dynamics within the period, but Zhu Kerou signed her works, which placed her as a key figure in Kesi production. The stylistic choices seen through the progression of Zhu’s works, which is representative of other women’s works, show the development of her style. The evolution of Zhu Kerou’s style and expression serves to establish how women gained confidence and challenged the male-dominated society with their art.


[1] Lamia Doumato, “The Literature of Women in Art.” Oxford Art Journal 3, no. 1 (1980), 74.

[2] Leora Auslander, “Deploying Material Culture to Write the History of Gender and Sexuality: The Example of Clothing and Textiles.” Clio. Women, Gender, History, no. 40 (2014), 157.

[3] Xavier Vigna, Michelle Zancarini-Fournel, and Siân Reynolds. “Gender History and Labour History: Intersections.” Clio. Women, Gender, History, no. 38 (2013), 178.

[4] Beth English. “Global Women’s Work: Historical Perspectives on the Textile and Garment Industries.” Journal of International Affairs 67, no. 1 (2013), 76.

[5] Francesca Bray. “Textile Production and Gender Roles in China, 1000-1700.” Chinese Science, no. 12 (1995), 115.

[6] K. Murray, “Art-Historical Perspectives on the Song: Studies on Song Painting.” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, no. 24 (1994), 359.

[7] Jerome Silbergeld, “Chinese Concepts of Old Age and Their Role in Chinese Painting, Painting Theory, and Criticism.” Art Journal 46, no. 2 (1987), 103.

[8] For the specifics on the plethora of uses for textiles read…Bray, Francesca. “Textile Production and Gender Roles in China, 1000-1700.” Chinese Science, no. 12 (1995): 115–37.

[9] Xiongya Gao, “Women Existing for Men: Confucianism and Social Injustice against Women in China.” Race, Gender & Class 10, no. 3 (2003), 118-119.

[10]  “Women Existing for Men,” 116.

[11] Steve Garlick, “Distinctly Feminine: On the Relationship Between Men and Art.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 48 (2004), 109.

[12] Gaku Kondo, “Rambling Words on Song-Yuan Flower-and-Bird Painting.” The Saburo Hasegawa Reader, edited by Mark Dean Johnson et al., 1st ed., University of California Press, 2019, 88.

[13]  “Rambling Words on Song-Yuan Flower-and-Bird Painting,” 89.

[14] For more information on the hair weaving technique and other unique methods utilized in the Kesi weaving process read Tunstall, Alexandra. “Beyond Categorization: Zhu Kerou’s Tapestry Painting ‘Butterfly and Camellia.’” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, no. 36 (2012): 44-53.

[15] Alexandra Tunstall, “Beyond Categorization: Zhu Kerou’s Tapestry Painting ‘Butterfly and Camellia.’” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, no. 36 (2012), 52.

[16]  “Beyond Categorization,” 55.

[17] “Ducklings on a Lotus Pond: A Kesi Silk Tapestry Enshrined in the Shanghai Museum.” 上海博物馆. Accessed May 20, 2023.

[18] This notion of women having societal connections with flowers is further contextualized in… Tunstall, Alexandra. “Beyond Categorization: Zhu Kerou’s Tapestry Painting ‘Butterfly and Camellia.’” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, no. 36 (2012), 60-61.

[19] “Beyond Categorization,” 60.


Zhu Kerou, Ducklings on a Lotus Pond, 1127-1279, embroidered silk textile, 107.5 cm x 108.8 cm. Shanghai Museum, China.

Zhu Kerou, Bird and Flowers, 1127-1279, embroidered silk textile. National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Zhu Kerou, Butterfly and Camellia, 1127-1279, embroidered silk textile, Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang. The New Historia.


Auslander, Leora. “Deploying Material Culture to Write the History of Gender and Sexuality: The Example of Clothing and Textiles.” Clio. Women, Gender, History, no. 40 (2014): 157–78.

Bray, Francesca. “Textile Production and Gender Roles in China, 1000-1700.” Chinese Science, no. 12 (1995): 115–37.

Doumato, Lamia. “The Literature of Women in Art.” Oxford Art Journal 3, no. 1 (1980): 74–77.

English, Beth. “Global Women’s Work: Historical Perspectives on the Textile and Garment Industries.” Journal of International Affairs 67, no. 1 (2013): 67–82.

Garlick, Steve. “Distinctly Feminine: On the Relationship Between Men and Art.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 48 (2004): 108–25.

Gao, Xiongya. “Women Existing for Men: Confucianism and Social Injustice against Women in China.” Race, Gender & Class 10, no. 3 (2003): 114–25.

Han, SoongHee. “Confucian States and Learning Life: Making Scholar-Officials and Social Learning a Political Contestation.” Comparative Education 49, no. 1 (2013): 57–71.

Ko, Dorothy. “Epilogue: Textiles, Technology, and Gender in China.” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, no. 36 (2012): 167–76.

Kondo, Gaku. “Rambling Words on Song-Yuan Flower-and-Bird Painting.” The Saburo Hasegawa Reader, edited by Mark Dean Johnson et al., 1st ed., University of California Press, 2019, pp. 84–92. JSTOR,

Kuhn, Dieter. “A Step on the Way to Confucian State Orthodoxy in the Song Dynasty: The Third Year of the Reign-Period Xianping of Emperor Zhenzong.” Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 151, no. 1 (2001): 133–62.

Murray, Julia K. “Art-Historical Perspectives on the Song: Studies on Song Painting.” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, no. 24 (1994): 355–72.

Silbergeld, Jerome. “Chinese Concepts of Old Age and Their Role in Chinese Painting, Painting Theory, and Criticism.” Art Journal 46, no. 2 (1987): 103–14.

Tunstall, Alexandra. “Beyond Categorization: Zhu Kerou’s Tapestry Painting ‘Butterfly and Camellia.’” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, no. 36 (2012): 39–76.

Vigna, Xavier, Michelle Zancarini-Fournel, and Siân Reynolds. “Gender History and Labour History: Intersections.” Clio. Women, Gender, History, no. 38 (2013): 176–203.

Posted in Visual Communication 2023 | Leave a comment

Cooper Robbins

The Impacts of English Language Learning Students on Texas Public Schools

Home to 30 million people, Texas is one of six majority-minority states, with Hispanics constituting a plurality of 40.2 percent of the population as of 2021 (Texas Demographic Center). While natural increases (birth-death ratios) and net domestic migration account for close to 80 percent of this change over the past decade, Texas also has one of the highest immigration rates in the country, attracting both authorized and unauthorized individuals from across the globe (Texas Demographic Center). Without question, the state benefits significantly from the cultural enrichment, dynamic workforce, and younger population profile that accompanies diversity, yet it must also educate a growing number of English Language Learners (ELL). Over 20 percent of Texas’ 5.5 million K-12 students are ELL, a 36.3 percent increase over the past decade, and over 60 percent of the total student body is economically disadvantaged (TEA, “Enrollment”). Moreover, while the demand for specialized language tuition increases, the quality of the state’s education has consistently ranked amongst the lowest in the nation, placing tenth from last in a 2023 study (McCann).

The impact of immigration, particularly unauthorized immigration, on public K-12 education has been politicized to the detriment of serious analysis. To garner a more sophisticated understanding of the impact of ELL students on Texas’ public education system, this study draws on a rich variety of academic sources, including a primary interview with Gilberto Lozano, the Director of Bilingual and ESL Programs at Conroe Independent School District, the ninth largest ISD in the state and one that has experienced a rapid growth in ELL students. The paper opens with a scholarly literature review, providing a broad contextualization of the state’s minority population, an analysis of the impacts of ELL students in public schools, and a discussion of limited programmatic solutions. The review explores the role key agencies and legislations, focusing on the Texas Education Agency and Federal assistance through Title III, Part A. Together, the primary and secondary data indicate that Texas’ high population of ELL students constitutes a complex, multidimensional educational challenge. However, there is no evidence they exert negative impacts on native students in terms of either resources or the wider learning environment. On the contrary, incumbent students appear to benefit, academically and culturally, from the inclusion of immigrant learners.

Literature Review

Texas must educate 1.1 million ELL students, 89 percent of who are Hispanic (Unidos). Over 75 percent of all Latino K-12 students and 85% of all ELL students are economically disadvantaged (Unidos). Consequently, Hispanic ELL students typically confront layers of disadvantage, and their sizeable numbers are likely to impact the state’s public education system in significant ways.

Research by Margarita Pivovarova and Jeanne Powers investigates strains on incumbent students created by influxes of immigrant children. Drawing on quantitative evidence, the authors contest politicized “claims by elected officials that immigrants consume a large share of social benefits.” They conclude, “there is no direct evidence that the increased share of immigrant students in the U.S. has negatively affected the educational outcomes of third-plus generation students.” More specifically, Pivovarova and Powers contend, “Once we controlled for race, gender, socio-economic status, and school contextual factors, the achievement gap between first-generation students and their second- and third-generation peers disappeared.” Anti-immigrant arguments about competition over scarce educational resources and detrimental peer effects are not substantiated by Pivovarova and Powers’ data.

Cross-national studies examining the impacts of high immigration on native students produce varied results. Peter Jensen’s review of international research finds that while large influxes of immigrants can strain educational resources in many countries and lower test scores of native students, “Increased immigration to the US has a small but positive net effect on the high school completion rate of native children.” Similarly, David N. Figlio and Umut Özek’s study on the impact of refugees on incumbent students found, “little evidence that a sizable influx of refugees has short-term negative consequences on native students” (19). Daniel L. Duke and Martha Jacobson likewise observe overall positive spillover effects for native students, noting “a small positive net effect on the high school completion rate of native students.” While Jennifer Hunt concluded, “natives’ probability of completing 12 years of education is increased by immigration,” within this overarching trend, there are differences within subgroups (25). Black students’ probability of completion is slightly higher when compared to non-Hispanic whites. However, native Hispanic students’ chances of success are slightly diminished by immigration (Hunt 26). The results of these studies show little evidence for politicized narratives that immigrant students negatively impact native students although deeper research into subgroup effects is warranted in Texas given that 53% of Texas school children are Hispanic (TEA, “Enrollment”).

With an understanding of the general impact of immigrant populations on public education, it is important to subset ELLs and independently evaluate their influence on schools. This is not a simple task. Suzanne Lane and Brian Leventhal note how ELL testing modifications can render accurate comparison difficult. The nature of the modifications, such as shortening reading passages or adjusting the content being tested, may impact the construct being examined for the sake of the accommodation. That said, several researchers have attempted to isolate important variables. Welton and Williams established that there is a higher likelihood that students with developing English competency will drop out of high school. However, correlation is not causation, and the authors’ additional research offers more diversified and nuanced results. Ainhoa Fennol’s research on the disparity of test scores between native and migrant students reveals that although there is difficulty in separating language barriers from other socioeconomic obstacles, English proficiency exerts profound influences on test performance. It is worth noting that applied mathematics showed no such deviation in results (11).

Julia Shaftel’s research analyzes the impact of linguistic characteristics in mathematics and their impacts on ELL students and those with disabilities. Her findings show, “ELL groups were not disproportionately affected by language characteristics in these test items” (105). Mathematics exist as a comparatively mechanical subject; therefore, variations in test performances within an ELL sample clearly signify, as Fennol stated, that educational achievement has more nuanced contributors than linguistics alone. Overall, the research shows that English language competency affects general educational outcomes, if not all subject competencies, although linguistic barriers cannot be designated as solely responsible given measurement difficulties and reinforcing barriers to success.

The 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe ensures the provision of public education for all students. However, this base requirement does not necessarily ensure equal opportunity. Immigrants are disproportionately likely to live in large, under-performing, urban school districts, where the ELL experience is magnified by variables affecting struggling public schools more generally. Daniel L. Duke and Martha Jacobson address the issue of size in public schools. Texas educates 5.5 million children, something that affects the adaptive capacity of educational systems. As Duke and Jacobson state, “it is more difficult to change the course of a low-performing high school of 2,000 students and 125 teachers than it is to raise performance at an elementary school of 500 students and 30 teachers” (34). Renovations or improvements to a school system grow directly more comprehensive and expensive in response to size. Beyond physical size, large, complex systems also prove problematic for implementing modifications. For example, “Changes that might be supported by some departments often are opposed by others,” depending on the area of study (35). In conjunction with the impact of size on education, a deficit in accountability within institutions negatively influences the quality of education.

Researchers Anjale Welton and Montrischa Williams observe how limited requirements to maintain accountability for high-minority schools inevitably restrict progress and “de-empathize college rigor and readiness” (182). This disadvantage is correlated with increased dropout rates, leading to the popularized label of “dropout factories” (Pandolfo 2011). It is noteworthy that students attending high-minority schools who are “Black, Latina/o and/or English Language Learners” are particularly adversely affected by high-stakes exams that serve as entry barriers to higher education (181). Institutional responses often exacerbate the problem with “punitive school reform labels and school closure practices” (Welton and Williams 183).

Deficits in accountability have historically been a serious issue in Texas’s major metropolitan areas where ELL students are concentrated. An audit of schools within the Houston Independent School District showed that “of the 5,500 students who left these schools during the 2000-2001 academic year, 3,000 were dropouts misclassified as transfers to boost the district’s graduation” (Thurston et al. 324). Texas has implemented a menu of initiatives to help correct low-performing high schools, including supplemental programs to support disadvantaged and ELL students. Jacqueline R. Stillisano and her associates highlight the example of GO Centers which aim to facilitate a school culture oriented towards graduation and the pursuit of higher education. The authors “noted a high degree of student-use of the enhanced GO Centers and very positive attitudes towards [their] importance…in building a school culture that encourages students to attend college” (299).

Another successful program includes the Early College High School system. This was created in “an effort to bridge the gap between secondary and postsecondary education and create greater access to high quality postsecondary education for all students” (Woodcock and Beal 56). Accounts of the program taken by JoDee Baker Woodcock and Heather Olson Beal reveal that students willing to work hard and improve their academic situation typically had positive reviews of the ECHS (64-71).  While supplemental programs oriented towards student success are a potentially powerful solution for both ELL and native students trapped in low-performing schools, more encompassing interventions are needed to change systematic inequities in outcomes.


Collectively, the scholarly literature indicates that while ELL students, as well as general immigrant populations, do not inherently create negative impacts for incumbent students, they are more likely on an individual level to underperform and have an increased probability of exiting public high school prior to graduation. After evaluating this dynamic and institutional responses through reports from the Department of Education and the Texas Education Agency, the following analysis offers key findings from a semi-formal interview with CISD’s ESL Specialist Gilberto Lozano. Together, the evidence elucidates the confluence of influences—legislative, financial, and cultural—impacting ELL student performance in Texas.

Education Trends for ELL Students From 2009 To 2017

Reports from the Department of Education indicate that while recent performance trends amongst ELL students[1] have experienced a net growth, much remains to be done regarding educational attainment for these students. For example, Texas was ranked third for positive educational growth amongst grade four ELL students from 2009 to 2017, specifically regarding mathematics. This national placement indicates a comparatively large measure of success for bilingual and ESL programs in the state. However, while Texas achieved a 7.4 percent positive change (from 19.9 percent to 27.3 percent), 72.7 percent of these ELL students did not meet state requirements for mathematical proficiency in 2017. Grade 8 students showed even poorer performance, with a net change of 1.3 percent from 5.7 percent to 7 percent. These statistics indicate that a staggering 93 percent of grade 8 ELL students did not meet state requirements for mathematical aptitude.

Unsurprisingly, ELL underperformance in reading is dramatic across the state. Grade 4 ELL students experienced an increase in reading proficiency of 3.7 percent from 2009 to 2017. However, this uplift only improved outcomes from 8.1 percent to 11.8 percent. Grade 8 students had a similar 3.8 percent change from 0.8 percent to 4.6 percent proficiency in English. In total, a monumental deficit of 88.2 percent and 95.4 percent was recorded for the two sampled grades in 2017. Collectively, statistics from the Department of Education indicate that while the educational attainment of ELL students in Texas is experiencing a positive change, the numbers remain deeply concerning.

On a secondary level, graduation rates reveal a similar development, yet remain well below their native-born peers. Texas ELL students from 2015-2016 graduated from high school within four years at a rate of 73.7 percent, even when accounting for transfers (Department of Education). While this trend indicates a 0.4 percent increase from the 2014-2015 school year, it is still a notable 16.7 percent beneath the four-year graduation rate of non-ELL students. Overall, for every non-ELL student, nearly three ELL students do not complete high school in four years. Although Texas outperformed the 66.9 percent high school completion average achieved by all fifty states combined, 1.1 million students—over 20 percent of the entire K-12 student body—is a significant number to leave behind.

Texas Education Agency Protocols for ELL Students

            The Texas Educational Agency oversees ELL student placement, instruction, and overall integration into educational institutions, and one out of every five ELL students in the United States are educated under their jurisdiction (TEA, “Generation 26” 8). While 90% of non-English speakers in the state speak Spanish, there are over 120 languages spoken in Texas public schools (TEA, “English Learners in Texas Fact Sheet”). To address the educational needs of these students, the Every Student Succeeds Act requires active measurements in place to appropriately undergo “EL identification…placement in program services…monitoring of language acquisition…reclassification of English learners as English proficient…[and] post classification monitoring” (TEA, “Generation 26” 12).

The process for identification demonstrates a thorough, nondiscriminatory process for all students that incorporates the household language of individuals and appropriate steps to take based on parental consent. Testing is undergone if the home language is not English, at which point scoring demonstrates the ability of the student to integrate into General Education Classrooms or the need for further monitoring and instruction (TEA, “Generation 26” 13). Upon necessary placement, individual students are then monitored in their progression of English competency until a reclassification is deemed necessary.

Beyond comprehensive identification, classes to address recognized needs provide a variety of instructional measures to best accommodate different students, each with varying levels of participation. Bilingual Education Programs, whose goal is to develop true bilingual competency, had a 45.7 participation rate in the 2019-2020 school year (TEA, “Generation 26” 25). English as a Second Language programs, which incorporate a student’s native language as a gateway to English competency, yielded a 50.1 percent participation rate in the same school year. Apart from Alternative Language Programs and a complete lack of provided services due to parental denial, which bore a net 15.1 percent, Bilingual and ESL programs are the most popular. The data on outcomes, however, is not altogether promising. Writing for Rice University’s Kinder Institute, Lizzy Cashiola and Dan Potter note the significant increase in the number of ELLs being reclassified as LTELS (long-term English learners who have failed to gain proficiency within five years). As Figure 1 below shows, these students are growing at a significant rate and, according to Cashiola and Potter, are “particularly at risk for multiple negative educational outcomes, including lower scores on state and national tests, greater risk of dropping out of high school, and a significantly lower likelihood of attending college.”

Potential explanations for the declining effectiveness of English proficiency programs in Texas include budget cuts, reclassification policies, and the inability to recruit bilingual teachers (Cashiola and Potter).

Supplemental Assistance from Federal Sources

Beyond the protocols of the Texas Education Agency, Federal assistance has a significant budgetary impact on ELL programs. Specifically, Title III, Part A is a crucial legislative contribution to Federal assistance for ELL students. As a broad summary:

Title III is a part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). The purpose of Title III, Part A is to help ensure that English learners (ELs) attain English proficiency and meet state academic standards. Generally, Part A of Title III provides federal funding to assist state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) in accomplishing this (Office of English Language Acquisition 1).

This act provides supplementary funding designated for the educational attainment of ELL students, thereby ensuring that native students are not deprived of resources. Overall, the programs established by Title III, Part A yield a 96.5 percent rate of national participation by ELL students, demonstrating a generally successful uptake (Office of English Language Acquisition 2). Within Texas specifically, 99.8 percent of the identified ELL students participated in these programs during the 2015-2016 school year. Given these numbers, Title III, Part A is widely considered a critical asset in assisting ELL students without diminishing resources for native, English-speaking students.

Interview with Gilberto Lozano

To further understand Texas’ growing ELL student body and institutional responses, a semi-formal interview was conducted with the Head of Bilingual and ESL Programs for the Conroe Independent School District: Gilberto Lozano. CISD is the ninth largest district in the state, incorporating 67,490 students, 38.5 percent of who are Hispanic with 17.2 percent enrolled in bilingual and ELL programs during the 2021-2022 school year (The Texas Tribune). While the ISD received a B accountability rating from the state in 2022, it boasts a 96.5% graduation rate and several high performing schools. Compared to the state average of 60.7 percent, 40.5 percent of CISD students are economically disadvantaged and 41.2 percent are considered at-risk of dropping out, compared to 53.3 percent statewide. The graduation rate for Hispanic students (95.9 percent) is just 1 percent below the 96.9 percent of White students. In terms of college-readiness, 21.3 percent of Hispanic students take AP/IB courses, compared to 29.3 percent of Whites and a significant 62.7 percent of Asians (The Texas Tribune). While there are significant variations within the ISD, overall, it does not face the breadth or depth of challenges experienced by high-minority, urban schools. That said, the TEA flags CISD as a fast-growing district (5.23 percent growth rate), and it has experienced a notable increment in ELL students (TEA, “2020-2021 Fast Growth Districts”).

In line with the broad consensus of the scholarly literature, Lozano chose not to identify a singular identifiable problem for ELL students in his district, saying, “I can’t identify one particular thing that I can say like we’re lacking curriculum, lacking funding” (Personal Communication). Despite having “definitely seen an influx of a large number of immigrant students coming into our district…the effects of it have not tremendously impacted our district in the sense of resources, staff or anything like that.”

One reason Lozano provides for a mitigated impact is Title III funding for ELL students, stating that, “The Federal government provides federal funds, Title III bilingual funds, that are specifically allocated for these particular students. They also provide immigrant funds specifically for immigrant students.” This supplementation from the Federal government not only increases the resources provided for students with limited English competency, but also preserves the resources required to properly educate other students. Lozano reinforces this point when he contends, “resource wise, it’s almost like they’re separated per se, so you don’t borrow from one thing to give to another. So, therefore, students don’t have less resources because of immigrants.” This effectively reduces negative impacts, considering that ELL students require unique resources, as stipulated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, to achieve satisfactory educational attainment.

Lozano explains the importance of how educational resources are distributed to avoid problematic overlapping. For example, secondary ELL students are placed in sheltered classrooms that allow them to remain focused on the specialized curriculum designed to achieve true bilingualism. He reinforces the inaccuracy of “a stigma that is classified out there with bilingual students, that bilingual education is more of a second-class education.” Not only does he maintain that ELL standards are academically rigorous, he also notes how immigrant students culturally enrich native students when he states, “a beautiful thing that happens in this tapestry” of cultures interconnected throughout Texas Public Schools.

Although ELL students do not drain the budget or resources dedicated to native students, they still demonstrate lower educational attainment then their non-ELL counterparts on key measures. Lozano attributes this to is the linguistic barrier needed to translate skills between teachers and fellow students, even if the skills have already been developed. Lozano offers a hypothetical example:

If [a student] took physics in Russia, we want to make sure we give them credit for physics in the US. Because in terms of language development, they have the skills. They know physics, they just don’t know the language. So, building on that is critical, whether it be extracurricular or whether it be academic.

This deficit in communication is critical in educational settings and although it may vary from student to student based on English fluency, there is a consistent effect felt across the body of ELL students that requires linguistic instruction and reinforcement. In addendum, Lozano adds, “I’ve seen a lot of second language learners that do better than our monolingual kids, kids who have been here since Pre-K and know the language.” While there is an individual component to particular outcomes, the quantitative data suggests the CISD’s ELL students do incur communication deficits with respect to conveying predeveloped skills and learning new ones.

In addition to communication challenges, the varied and sometimes limited educational backgrounds of students is a deterrent to educational attainment. Lozano specifically cites Title I campuses, of which CISD has 18 out of 34 elementary and four out of nine intermediate schools, where, “students…from impoverished communities in Central America and Mexico… come to us, with very… little schooling.” Such circumstances provide a unique challenge because they require both bilingual and academic instruction when the student is already at a substantial disadvantage compared to students who have received consistent schooling throughout their childhood. Students from these environments are more likely to drop out and seek work. Lozano states that although not in large numbers, “we see kids come in and they drop out because their focus is not education. Their focus is more going to work and start making money.” Inadequate early years preparation and a cultural emphasis on work over education are much harder to combat than simply providing additional linguistic support. Individual and cultural barriers compound the mechanics of language in immeasurable and significant ways. It is noteworthy that Lozano did not identify any contagion effects that might negatively impact native students’ commitment to education.

Discussion and Conclusions

Taken together, the results of this study indicate that ELL students do not damage the educational attainment of native students or the learning environment. There is little evidence of a source drain or detrimental cultural impact on the wider student body. On the contrary, immigrants appear to bring cultural enrichment to the school environment and even increase the performance of native students. Federal funding allows for targeted programming without undercutting the needs of students without linguistic barriers. Still, given Hunt’s findings, further research into subgroup effects, particularly Texas’ native Hispanic students, is warranted.

The problem remains that ELLs significantly underperform their native counterparts. While this is less dramatically the case in relatively successful districts, such as CISD, where the compounding problems of concentrated poverty are less severe and graduation rates remain robust, ELL students are still less likely to graduate or enroll in college-level programs. Moreover, statewide, ELL students suffer a plethora of compounding disadvantages that create seemingly insurmountable barriers to educational success. Texas educates nearly a fifth of all ELL students the country, most of who arrive with less education than native students, less educated parents, less economic resources, and a cultural commitment to early paid employment. Federal funding and state programs, including experimental college-readiness initiatives, are important contributors to dismantling barriers. Still, the data on test scores, graduation rates, and long-term English learning remains concerning. Further budgetary investments, as well as a focused recruitment on bilingual teachers will help, but the educational experience in multi-barrier school districts is a complex and persistent one.

In conclusion, while further research is required to gain a fuller picture of ELL impacts, one stereotype can be laid to rest: ELL students do not damage native student achievement or the wider educational environment. On the contrary, quantitative data and expert accounts suggest they enrich the educational experience of incumbent students.

Works Cited

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Stillisano, Jacqueline, Danielle Brown, Beverly Alford, and Hersh Waxman. “The Effects of GO Centers on Creating a College Culture in Urban High Schools in Texas.” The High School Journal vol, 96, no. 4 (2013): 283–301.

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[1] This briefing from the Department of Education and other selections refers to the students as ELs (short for English Learners). For consistency, they will continue to be referred to as ELL students.

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Rachel Schnakenberg


This research investigates the impact of devastating flood events in Houston, Texas, on flood-specific legislation at a statewide level and regulation within Harris County and Houston City. Although extant studies have investigated the two separately, the interrelationship has received surprisingly little scholarly attention. While it may be reasonably assumed that major events result in significant legislative responses, this investigation shows a highly mediated relationship between the two, with political barriers to proactive policymaking, including the limited attention of lawmakers and complex intergovernmental relationships, conditioning flood responses. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with Dr. Phillip Bedient, director of the SSPEED Center at Rice University, and Texas State Senator Brandon Creighton to understand the magnitude of the policy problem and the reach of legislative responses. An examination of three floods and state and local responses between 2015-2021 indicates a distinct upward trend in flood-related laws and enhanced cooperation between governmental agencies. However, the measures have been largely reactive, with proactive policymaking confronting the significant hurdles of organizational boundaries and political agenda.

Legislative and Regulatory Responses to Houston-Area Flood Events Since 2015

Houston, America’s fourth largest metropolitan area, is experiencing a period of heightened precipitation with unprecedented regularity, resulting in catastrophic damage on a human, economic, and environmental level. These events have been accompanied by a reactive increase in flood-related laws and regulation, both in Houston and Harris County and in the State legislature. Scholarly studies have investigated rainfall in Harris County and concluded that Houston is experiencing extreme events with higher precipitation than ever before (Statkewicz, et al, 2021). Further research has investigated recent flood-related legislation and escalated flood spending in Texas. While these studies scrutinize storms and their effects independently from each other, no research has unpacked the complex relationship between disastrous flood events and governmental responses. With the intention of filling this gap, this paper conducts an inquiry into the effects of floods in the Greater Houston area on three levels of government in Texas and analyzes the mediated relationships between the events and legislative-regulatory outcomes.


This paper first addresses the geography, frequency of flood events in the region, and the impact of climate change on weather patterns. The literature review and primary resources are combined into three case studies examining governmental reactions to three events in a seven-year period:​​ The Memorial Day Flood in 2015, Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019. The events were selected for their respective significance in terms of costs and damages, their occurrence during biennial legislative sessions, and for their direct impact on subsequent legislation.

Following a detailed review of the secondary literature, primary source legislative analysis, and three exploratory interviews, two political and policy experts were selected for interview. The primary data was collected via semi-structured interviews to go beyond the scholarly literature and expand upon significant findings.  Interviews were conducted on April 1st, 2022, with Texas State Senator Brandon Creighton of District 4, and on April 3rd, 2022, with Dr. Phillip Bedient, Professor of Environmental Engineering and Director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, & Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED) at Rice University. Preliminary interviews for topic consultation and pre-research were also conducted with Tessa Crosby, a Rice University PhD candidate in environmental engineering, Rex Harris, a Houston lawyer, and with the researcher’s Honors College peer mentor.

Literature review and Case Analysis
The Greater Houston region is situated largely within a natural wetland and much of the land is inclined to hold water. The county is situated on a web of low elevation bayous and creeks, and their respective watersheds provide most of the water drainage to the Gulf (Blackburn p. 4). Many of these creeks and bayous have watersheds that are contained within Harris County, and their low-elevation and interconnection with other watercourses means that water levels rise easily during episodes of heavy rain ( p.4).

Houston’s flatness and reliance on low-lying bayous for drainage makes it highly susceptible to flood events, which are increasing in frequency. A 2021 study of Houston discovered a clear upward trend in wet days (in terms of frequency and average precipitation) over a three-decade period between 1989 and 2018 and concluded that the number of dry days (measured by a total absence of rainfall) were decreasing (Statkewicz, et al, 2021).  Moreover, the research found that dry days tended to fall in drought spells, suggesting that extreme rainfall amounts in shorter periods of time may be becoming the new normal for this area. According to the researchers, “the increasing trend of 6.6 mm in annual totals most likely owes itself to the increase in extreme events exhibited (e.g., Memorial Day flood, 2015; Tax Day flood, 2016; Hurricane Harvey, 2017)” (Statkewicz, et al, 2021).

In addition to the data presented by Statkewicz et al, the severity of rainfall events is apparent in the amount of funds spent on flood-specific disaster recovery. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 2021 is the “seventh consecutive year (2015-2021) in which 10 or more-billion-dollar weather and climate disaster incidents have impacted the United States” (NOAA, 2022). Figure 1 below shows inflation-adjusted data from NOAA between 1980-2021. The data reveal that between 2015–2021, tropical cyclone and inland flooding events increased in frequency and resulted in a cost of over $200 billion in damages in Texas alone (NOAA, 2022).

Figure 1 NOAA, Time Series Chart. Texas Flood and Tropical Cyclone events.

Figure 1 NOAA, Time Series Chart. Texas Flood and Tropical Cyclone events.

A report by the Texas State Water Development Board (TWDB) notes that weather changes in Greater Houston were responsible for a 2018 update to the NOAA’s eleventh volume of Atlas 14, the official advisory guide for estimated rainfall amounts per location in the U.S. which serves as a basis for many disaster-readiness plans at state and local levels in Texas (TWDB). The 2018 update, which was included due to Harvey’s extreme rainfall, adds five inches to the 1% annual chance for 24-hour events in Houston (TWDB). This effectively changes the boundaries of the pre-existing 100-year floodplain in Houston.

Case 1: The Memorial Day Flood, 05/25/2015

The Memorial Day flood began on May 25th, 2015, during a long period of rainfall over Harris County. Although the average rainfall across the area was only 5.3 inches, 162 billion gallons of water fell into reservoirs and waterways that were already swollen from previous rainfall (Talbott). Michael D. Talbott, the Executive Director of the Harris County Flood Control District at the time, reported that a Flash Flood Emergency was issued by the National Weather service in Harris County for the first time during this event and warnings were delivered to the affected areas. However, despite the warning, the sudden floods and inundated waterways and roadways caused the deaths of eight people in the Greater Houston area. The Housing and Community Development Department of Houston states on their website that the event was immediately declared a federal disaster by President Obama, and Houston was granted $87 million in federal funds for recovery (HCDD).

The Memorial Day Flood took place during the last days of the eighty-fourth regular session of the Texas Legislature and consequentially, legislators were able to act immediately on state-level disaster relief. House Bill 6, which pertains to state budget arrangements, was amended only days after the Memorial Day Flood. The added amendment, proposed by (then) Senator Kirk Watson of senate district 14, which was hit hard by flooding, reads as follows:

On September 1, 2015, the Floodplain Management Account…is re-created by this Act as a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund, and all revenue dedicated for deposit to the credit of the Floodplain Management Account… is rededicated by this Act for that purpose, except that revenue deposited to the Floodplain Management Account may be transferred to the Disaster Contingency Fund No.i453 to be used for extraordinary costs associated with flood risk analysis, planning, and public education (HB 6).

The bill allowed for the floodplain management account (issued in 2007) to be re-created. The new separate account permitted all estimated revenue for future years 2016 and 2017 to be transferred to the Disaster Contingency Fund (DCF) in September 2015 (HB 6).

The State decision to transfer future revenue ultimately impacted smaller local government efforts, as money from the DCF was used in fund-matched grants for flood mitigation projects by the TWDB one year later. In August of 2016, the TWDB approved a sum of $3.5 million dollars to be used for flood improvement projects in seventeen affected areas, many of which lie adjacent to or within Harris County (Munguia, 2016). Of this amount, $1.5 million was transferred directly from the Disaster Contingency Fund (Munguia, 2016). According to TWDB board member Kathleen Jackson, the program’s “combination of statewide and local efforts allows the TWDB to capitalize on the strength of both to maximize flood outreach across the state” (Munguia, 2016). This statement highlights the state and local government’s efforts to collaborate on flood protection efforts following 2015, signaling a noticeable move towards greater state responsibility for localized events.

In Houston, the disastrous flooding revealed the need for a specialized officer to preside over flood mitigation and recovery efforts. In 2016, Mayor Sylvester Turner created a new office for the city and hired Stephen Costello as the city’s first Chief Resilience Officer, a position colloquially dubbed “flood czar” by the media. This position would, in Turner’s words, “serve as the City’s focal point for integrating regional resiliency efforts in the Houston area” (“Imelda Assistance Fund”). Also in Houston, 10 million dollars in the form of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery 2015 (CDBG-DR15) Action Plan was granted through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to the city (“Houston Action Plan”). The grant sponsored the Houston Strategic Buyout Program, part of which was created in 2016 in direct response to the flooding sustained by Houston during 2015 (“Houston Action Plan”). This program was designed to offer voluntary buyouts of properties that suffered repeated flooding and provide funding for the rehabilitation of any homes or properties deemed rebuildable. However, according to data from FEMA, as analyzed by NPR, the City of Houston had only bought out seventy-five homes by 2016 following the multiple flood disasters (“Response”).

The sluggish action demonstrated by the buyout program illustrates an observation offered by Professor Bedient; the processes of government are generally slow and difficult (personal interview, Apr 4, 2022). In the case of the buyouts, Response to and Recovery from Disasters further explains the implications and structure of the buyout plan, which impedes timely action. The article states that, “the average buyout takes longer than five years [to complete] and only one in five typically qualifies.” Moreover, the buyout option can only benefit property owners directly, so “if multi-family properties are bought out, the funds go to the owners, and tenants are required to leave” (“Response”). The length of time required to close the sale plus the risk of inadvertently causing the displacement of tenants, puts a damper on the buyout program and limits its effectiveness (“Response”).

Case 2: Hurricane Harvey, 08/26/2017

Hurricane Harvey is central to this research, as the breadth of its destruction and flooding across the Greater Houston area has had the most far-reaching impact on all governing bodies in Texas during the period of study. On August 26th, 2017, Harvey made landfall as a category 4 hurricane, and the storm broke all previous records for U.S. rainfall in one event, with parts of Houston reporting nearly fifty-two inches of rain (FEMA). Of the thousands of houses flooded, 23,000 were under more than 5 feet of water according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report issued in September 2017 (FEMA). This storm provided a unique challenge to the Greater Houston area, for, although the previous storms had prompted some reactive changes, the sheer volume of water overpowered the city. Following the storm, an outpouring of efforts at flood mitigation gained traction in the halls of state and local government.

This reactive push to improve infrastructure was exemplified by the Brays Bayou project in Meyerland. According to Bedient (2022) the area has a long history of flooding caused by the bayou and had been undergoing an infrastructure improvement project that had “languished” since 2001. The Brays Bayou project is a joint effort between the Harris County Flood Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers, with both entities financially invested in its progress (“C-11 Project Brays”). Although Meyerland was badly affected by every storm since 2015, progress remained slow, and Harvey caught Meyerland with very little improvement to infrastructure (Bedient, 2022). However, due to the reactive nature of the governmental process and Harvey’s disastrous effect on the unimproved area, money to complete the project was allocated following the President’s declaration of disaster (“C-11 Project Brays”). On the one-year anniversary of Harvey, the county approved a 2.5-billion-dollar bond program to improve county infrastructure. This bond program, as reported by the Harris County Flood Control District, is currently contributing to multiple projects with a combined value of nearly $5 billion, including the Brays Bayou project. The county website states that, “When possible, Harris County Flood Control District will leverage the bond funding to participate in partnership programs that could bring in billions in additional partnership funding” (HCFCD). The publicly funded nature of these projects brought new partnerships across the federal, state, and private sectors.

By the following legislative session in 2019, lawmakers delivered flood-related bills in numbers greater than all bills pertaining to drought, which have historically been the dominant focus of weather-related legislation. Matthew Berg’s article for The Texas Water Journal in 2019, states that 128 bills mentioning the word “flood” were filed during this session and a total of 240 bills dealing in part or whole with floods were submitted (p. 2). In addition, a 71 percent majority of those bills were authored by representatives from districts that had increased annual precipitation rates in Atlas 14’s 2018 update (Berg, 2019 p. 4). This overflow of disaster-conscious bills may have been necessitated by the massive events of the previous four years, but they were certainly rendered all the more urgent by the weather conditions immediately preceding the session. Berg (2019) states, “the 6 months leading up to the session were the wettest July-December period ever recorded in Texas” (p.. 2, 2019). This increase in wet-weather-aware legislation included historic changes for the state.

During the 86th legislature, Texas assigned the task of creating a state-wide flood management plan to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The task was accomplished by senate bills (SB) 7 and 8. SB 8 is discussed at length by Peter Lake, the former Chairman of the TWDB, in a 2019 article published in the Texas Water Journal. The article details that, while the creation of the SFP is a new milestone in government collaboration, it is based on the structure of an already time-tested statewide planning tool: the State Water Plan (SWP) (Texas Water Development Board). The TWDB has managed the SWP, which focuses on drought supply, since its creation in 1957 and has handled flood mitigation in a fractured capacity as the state’s National Flood Insurance Program coordinator and through its work with FEMA as grant administrator (Lake, 2019, p.59). Peter Lake (2019) states that the new SFP will rely on three “pillars” of flood-fighting: Mapping, Planning, and Mitigation (p. 61). Mapping entails updates to the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for each county. Lake writes that, “as of 2018, the average age of Texas floodplain maps was 13 years old,” and considering the evidence suggesting a change to precipitation rates and frequency of extreme rainfall events, maps that are a decade old are no longer relevant to the mitigation efforts and must be updated (p. 61).

Additionally, planning coordinates the organization of local, county, and state projects into a unified plan. In accordance with SB 8, the TWDB created fifteen Regional Flood Planning Groups (RFPGs) with committees for each. The regions are organized around watersheds, and their structure ensures upstream and downstream communication with stakeholders on every part of a connected waterway (Lake, (2019 p. 63). The RFPGs are entirely responsible for which projects are submitted to the SFP and, in Lake’s words, “The future of fighting floods in Texas will be built from the ground up by the people who are most directly impacted by floods in their unique corner of the state” (p. 63). Ultimately, the planning pillar’s outcome is entirely decided by the local shareholders in the region, and the TWDB has no influence beyond the creation of the groups.

Finally, the mitigation pillar entails funding studies and projects to alleviate the effects of major flood events (Lake, 2019, p. 61). Funding projects will involve coordination between the state, private companies, and the federal government. SB7 provided the necessary funding for the SFP to begin to work. After SB7 was passed, House Joint Resolution 4, known as Proposition 8, was added to create the Flood Infrastructure Fund. Voters “enshrined the FIF in the Texas Constitution so it will exist in perpetuity, outside of normal budget cycles and fiscal year limitations” (Lake, 2019, p. 64). The FIF was granted a one-time transfer of $793 million for grants and loans for eligible mitigation projects across the state (Lake, p. 64, 2019).

Regarding Senate Bill 7, Senator Creighton, the bill’s author, states, “There wasn’t up until this time [2019] a concerted effort…for the entire legislature to focus on such a huge response and long-term planning” (personal communication, April 1, 2022).  Because of Harvey, and the great costs to the state, the legislature was highly motivated to work together and collaborate on a solution (Creighton, 2022). Senate Bill 7, in addition to funding the FIF, includes provisions for state-sponsored federal disaster fund matching (SB 7).

Sec. 15.534.  USE OF INFRASTRUCTURE FUND [FIF]. (a)  The board may use the infrastructure fund only: 4. To make a grant to an eligible political subdivision [county or city] to provide matching funds to enable the eligible political subdivision to participate in a federal program for a flood project (SB 7).

In Creighton’s words (2022), Senate Bill 7 will “bring value to the entire state because it’s disaster related, not just flooding related.” The inclusion of other disaster events, including wildfires and tornadoes, transforms the bill from one that focuses on coastal or riverine areas (e.g., Harris County) to one that benefits the whole state and, therefore, garners greater political support (Creighton, 2022).

In addition to the large-scale statewide legislative changes brought about by Senate Bills 7 and 8, Texas also passed an amendment to the Water Code during the 86th session. Amendment 2, Section 12.052, subsection a, regulates the manner and procedure of emergency dam releases. The amendment requires the operator of a dam to notify downstream communities of an impending emergency water release, notify the public with details on the affected flood area, include a disclaimer in their announcement that protects the agency from accusations of false alert, and provide protection for the dams from admitting liability by following the amendment (HB 26.) This update unifies watersheds and requires full communication with every downstream community that will be affected by a dam release.

Writing in 2017, Jim Blackburn, Professor of Environmental Law, and Co-Director of SSPEED at Rice University in Houston, examines the policies in place immediately after Harvey and concludes that a lack of regulation is responsible for many of the worst outcomes of this historic event. One such outcome is the case of the federally managed Addicks and Barker dams and their reservoirs, which were built on the outskirts of Houston in 1948 by the Army Corps of Engineers and are now incorporated within city limits. During Hurricane Harvey, massive flood damage was sustained by uninsured homes built within the maximum flood level area of the reservoirs (Blackburn, 2017). Blackburn finds that the footprint of the reservoir was not maintained as a condemned area. Indeed, as the dams had been designed to assist the bayous by containing water during heavy rain and were never meant to hold water long-term, this may have led to the impression that the low-lying land above them was not in danger of flooding (Blackburn, 2017).

In addition to a possible misconception of the reservoir’s capacity, Diggs et al (2021) suggest a further reason for the lack of transparency for homeowners in the reservoirs; unless dictated by state law, the city government has ultimate authority over zoning decisions in its region, which may allow the city to pursue profit over safety (p. 15). In Houston’s case, the city allowed developers to build homes within the maximum level of the reservoirs without disclosing the threat of flood, resulting in the inundation of uninsured homes in 2017 (Blackburn, 2017). The extreme cost to homeowners and the lack of insurance on these homes coincides with a push in the state legislature to pass Senate Bill 339 and its companion, House Bill 3815, in 2019, requiring home sellers to disclose a property’s previous flood history and flood zone status to the buyer (SB 339, HB 3815).

Harvey’s direct effect on local government was wide-ranging, but one truly notable outcome for Houston occurred in 2018. Bedient (2022) references a mandate that was passed requiring new construction sites in the pre-NOAA Atlas 14 500-year flood zone to be elevated two feet above the floodplain (Cardenas & Formby, 2018). This decision was notable to Bedient, as it complicates the interests of what he referred to as a “developer owned city” by increasing the cost of building. Previously, only the 100-year flood zone was regulated, and the old zoning law required new homes to be raised just one foot above the floodplain (Cardenas and Formby, 2018). As the mandate was passed before the update to the NOAA’s Atlas 14, the Houston decision has increased the regulations in what must now be considered the equivalent to the pre-update 100-year zone. This revision, which predicts weather patterns based on updated research, has essentially expanded high-risk zones that were previously designated as 500-year zones (Bedient, 2022).

Case 3: Tropical storm Imelda, 09/17/2019

Tropical storm Imelda is a study in the drought-flood cycle in Texas. After the unprecedented wet weather preceding the 86th legislature, Texas and the south-eastern U.S. experienced record-setting heat, culminating in widespread “flash drought” conditions during September 2019 (Di Liberto, 2019). While the ground was baked dry and unabsorbent from drought, another catastrophic weather event hit the Houston/Harris County area. Imelda, a slow-moving tropical storm that became a tropical depression as it progressed inland, produced heavy rain and tornadoes across the state and into Oklahoma (Latto and Berg, p. 2, 2020). In their report for the National Hurricane Center, Andy Latto and Robbie Berg (2020) observed that, “The 44.29-inch peak rainfall total makes Imelda the 7th-wettest tropical cyclone…to impact the United States, the fifth wettest in the contiguous United States, and the fourth wettest in the state of Texas since 1940” (p. 5). While Jefferson County sustained the worst of the event, Harris County and Houston still experienced extreme flooding and two of five total flood-related deaths in Texas (p.5). The storm was declared a federal disaster by President Trump on October 1st, 2019.

Imelda prompted the collaboration of Harris County and Houston City governments. Immediately following the storm, Houston’s mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, in cooperation with the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF), set up an emergency fund to aid non-profits in their services to affected people. This fund was necessary and timely. A survey administered by GHCF immediately following the storm reported that of “2076 homes in Harris County [that] were damaged as a result of Tropical Storm Imelda…1,054 of those homes do not have flood insurance” (Greater Houston Community Foundation, 2019). Interestingly, a finding reported in the GHCF’s 2019 Imelda survey revealed that nearly half of the respondents were renters. The flooding had affected 1339 homeowners and 702 renters in Harris County, as reported in the survey as of October 21st, 2019 (Greater Houston Community Foundation, 2019). These numbers and the demographics they represent are highly relevant when considering legislation passed during the 87th session.

Passed during the 87th legislature in 2021, House Bill 531 (effective January 1st, 2022) requires landlords to inform renters of the previous flood history for any rental property in a 100-year flood zone (HB 531).  Previously in 2019, Senate Bill 339 and its companion House Bill 3815 created the legal requirement for property sellers to inform prospective buyers of the home’s location in a 100-year flood plain. HB 531 adds rental owners and expands the disclosure requirement to the 500-year zone. Despite the straightforward appearance of this bill, it has critics among groups promoting housing equality. In Houston Public Media’s (HPM) review of incoming laws in late 2021, the bill was viewed as both potentially positive and potentially negative. HPM reported that the bill places the responsibility of insurance on the inhabitant of the property, i.e., the renter, and the landlord has no responsibility beyond informing the tenant of the 100-year zone location and notifying the tenant that renter’s insurance does not cover floods (Fogel, et al, 2021). This incurs an extra cost to the tenant, as they must pay for both renter’s insurance and a flood insurance policy.

While Imelda had less visible impact on subsequent acts of government, it serves as a sharp reminder of increased volatility in Texas weather patterns over the last seven years. According to Bedient (2022), despite the billions in damages and floodwater intrusion into the 500-year zone, research on the acceleration of weather conditions places Imelda within the bounds of “normal” weather patterns. He states that in Houston, the damage from the storm was overshadowed by that of Harvey, and it was ultimately viewed by weather experts as simply “another one” in an expected series of unusual and harsh storms ( Bedient,2022).  Although experts were not surprised by Imelda, it demonstrated the ferocity of the predicted new normal for the area.

Analysis and Conclusions

Although Imelda shocked and devastated parts of Texas, flooded 500-year zones, and even exceeded Harvey in terms of short-term rainfall, it seems to have had relatively little impact on the 2021 legislative session. Senator Creighton’s response to this omission made clear that legislators inevitably focus on the most pressing agenda items. Beyond the overarching issues that have the potential to change legislative priorities under emergency conditions, are shifts in the immediate needs of constituents, which can lessen the urgency of flood mitigation efforts

( Creighton, 2022). Creighton (2022) illustrated this point by stating that, “every blue-sky day, there’s an issue …that takes money away from continuing to solve the flood mitigation problems, because it’s been a week. It’s been a year. It’s been three years [since the last flood disaster]. It’s not on everyone’s mind.”

Texas has gone through several major focus-shifting disasters since 2015. At the end of the 86th session, legislators were already forming new plans for the next session and deciding agendas (Creighton, 2022). However, many of those agendas were adjusted with the global COVID-19 crisis, and the shutdown interrupted much of the usual state process as well as rearranging budgetary priorities (Creighton, 2022). According to Creighton (2022), the pandemic is a prime example of “when an issue is controlling us instead of our preferences on what priorities might be,” and in his experience, after the struggles through 2020, the public’s concern with flooding has been eclipsed by the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic and the challenges it presented to Texas legislators, in the middle of February 2021, an unprecedented deep freeze (winter storm Uri) brought the state to a standstill as millions of Texans lost power and water. Creighton cites this, along with the pandemic, as two major reasons for the shift in attention. He observed that “elected officials get distracted very easily, depending on the hot button issues of the day” as the immediate demands of the of the moment supersede longer-term goals (Creighton, 2022). This, along with his statement regarding the memory of the public for flood issues, provides an interesting insight into the challenge of flood legislation; with so much competition of needs and so many demands, can significant proactive measures sustain the necessary momentum to reach fruition?

Senator Creighton offered the following explanation of the public’s role in legislative priorities:

The fascinating thing about Texas is that we are usually either in a drought or a flood.… So, we’ve been really looking into flood mitigation solutions at sort of an unprecedented level because of…the recent and consistent severity [of storms in the last 7 years]. The public…does not have a short memory on flooding events. And so, when the public stays motivated…[and] loud and channels the urgency towards the elected officials to continue to keep the issue of flooding as a top priority, the elected officials listen and respond. The consistency of the floods has caused people to not just forget about it once it’s happened; and because they don’t forget about it, and they stay motivated ( Creighton, 2022).

That said, Texas is a diverse state, and the interests of its people are diffused across a plethora of non-flood related issues. Poll data from the University of Texas in the year following hurricane Harvey showed a systematic decrease in urgency regarding hurricane recovery across the state as time progressed.

Figure 2 Texas Tribune Poll data, hurricane recovery Oct 2017-2018.

Figure 2 Texas Tribune Poll data, hurricane recovery Oct 2017-2018.

Figure 2 shows the ranking of hurricane recovery as a state priority. Recovery was the third priority for respondents one month after the flood yet fell to sixteenth place by the one-year mark (University of Texas & Texas Tribune, 2018). In the relatively quiet year following Harvey, the urgency of hurricane flooding rapidly abated.

Yet the frequency, devastation, and cost of flood events will continue to pressure state lawmakers to invest in statewide mitigation strategies ( Creighton, 2022). While Creighton (2022) accepts that “blue sky days” derail long-term planning, Bedient notes that mild periods will be fewer and farther apart owing the changed weather cycle. The “blue sky days” referred to by Creighton are becoming punctuated by more extreme events, focusing the public mind on high-priority flood initiatives. This, coupled with Creighton’s statement that public priorities ultimately drive the actions of elected officials, suggests that flood-affected residents may be increasingly likely to keep their representatives on-task (Creighton, 2022). Naturally, this depends on new, salient issues not redirecting public attention and budgetary priorities, something that will be challenging as federal and state partisan agenda and election cycles present ongoing barriers to long-term proactive planning.

The overall source of motivation noted throughout this research has been reactivity; as events happened, alterations to plans and budgets have responded after the fact. However, the investigation has also shown some movement towards the greater anticipation of and planning for floods by local governments as well as at the state level. Paramount here is the increasing need for more inter-governmental collaboration in the flood planning process, something that has long been the responsibility of local government agencies. The willingness of Texas citizens to cede some aspects of local power to the state appears to have increased with the volume of flood events and is a noteworthy phenomenon in such a historically fractured state. For example, voter results from the 2019 constitutional amendment election show that most Texans supported the funding of the FIF from the state rainy day fund. Not surprisingly, Jefferson County, which was hit hardest by Imelda two months prior, offered overwhelming support for the proposition: of 11,816 total votes, only 1,273 opposed the FIF (Texas Election Results, 2020). In addition, the results by county show that even the counties furthest from obvious flood hazards voted in favor of the fund (Texas Election Results, 2020). The FIF was passed with a statewide majority in November 2019, suggesting that although other priorities superseded flooding for the public, lawmakers were able to remind the voters of its importance at the ballot box.

While funding flood mitigation efforts is essential, organizational hurdles also impact the coordination and implementation of remediation strategies. Departments within municipalities may be reluctant to work together or share research. Especially in Houston, which has over 100 independent Municipal Utility Districts operating in the city, communication and decision-making is hindered by the sheer numbers of competing interests. Flooding and its relation to law-making in Texas is a multiforked issue that requires substantial communication between numerous governmental agencies.

As previously noted, voters may be increasingly acceptant of flood intervention measures from state government. In Creighton’s words, “There’s been an increase in the scale of the bills that we’ve addressed… [They are] larger statewide policies that address major flooding solutions” (Creighton, 2022). He further noted, “the funding has been at a heightened level.” The senator also expressed an expectation for this level of involvement to continue; “One of the things that has come out of these huge damaging floods is that legislators and organizations are now more in tune with flooding.” This “in tune” relationship may foster proactive efforts, as “departments are interested and aware of the long-term nature of the problems” (Bedient, 2022).

While the increase in awareness is reassuring, it also creates intra- and inter-governmental challenges. Although Texas has seen an increase in federal funds, there is a hurdle to their proactive use due to their partisan allocation. The Republican-led Texas General Land Office dispenses federal aid for counties and municipalities. However, the office has apparently snubbed many larger and more diverse areas in favor of less needy Republican counties. Following Harvey, Federal emergency funds for Texas were granted with a HUD recommendation that the 20 worst affected counties receive priority—typically large coastal areas with diverse demographics and Democratic Party majorities (Despart, 2022). Acting within its rights, the GLO added 29 less impacted counties to the HUD list that are farther inland and with much smaller, whiter, and Republican voting populations (Despart, 2022).

Figure 3 below shows the distribution of funding between the HUD counties and the GLO counties using data from the GLO and the 2020 census (Despart, 2022).  The payment of 1.2 billion dollars ultimately showed extraordinary favoritism.

Figure 3 Fund distribution across HUD and GLO chosen Counties in Texas. Credit: Carla Astudillo, Texas Tribune.

Figure 3 Fund distribution across HUD and GLO chosen Counties in Texas.
Credit: Carla Astudillo, Texas Tribune.

About 800 million dollars of the fund was allocated to Harris County and around 400 million to the GLO counties, with less densely populated areas receiving substantially more money per resident than larger, diverse counties (Despart, 2022). Indeed, despite its centrality to the issue, Harris County was completely excluded from an initial payment of funds by the GLO: only after an extreme outcry was it granted nine percent of the 1-billion-dollar payout granted in 2021 (Despart, 2022). The partisan and political nature of fund granting, as practiced by the GLO, is undoubtedly a deterrent to proactivity and trust within intragovernmental agencies.

While political boundaries are a significant hinderance to proactively addressing the “long term” issues identified by Bedient (2022), some anticipatory initiatives to flood mitigation can be found at both the local and statewide level. On April 26th, 2022, Houston Community College (HCC) announced its plan for a $30 million flood disaster training facility (McGee, 2022). This facility is a true collaboration of state, national, and local powers and shows foresight for preparation, while also being consistent with Texas’ desire to address public needs through private enterprise. The HCC initiative may be indicative of a policy shift in Houston; one that demonstrates a general admission of evermore frequent flood events and a willingness to prepare for them proactively. That said, the political and organizational barriers to statewide proactive policymaking remain high, and Texas has a history of reactive and incomplete initiatives when it comes to flood preparedness. The challenge for Texas will be how to deliver coordinated and funded proactive measures in the face of organizational, political, and partisan divides across state and local governments.

Works Cited

Bedient, Phillip. (2022) Personal Interview.

Berg, M. D. (2020) “Policy Review: State Legislature, Voters Move to Eighty-Six Texas’s Flooding Challenges.” Texas Water Journal, 11( 1) 1-14 doi:1

Blackburn, J. (2017) “Living With Houston Flooding.” Rice University., James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University.

Cardenas, C, & Formby, B. (2018) “Houston City Council Approves Changes To Floodplain Regulations In Narrow Vote.” The Texas Tribune.

“C-11 Project Brays.” (n.d.) Harris County Flood Control District,

Creighton, B. (2022) Personal Interview.

Despart, Z. (2022). New Texas plan for federal Harvey aid again diverts money away from coast. The Texas Tribune.

Diggs, J, Mikolajczyk, S., Naismith, L., Reed, M., & Smith, R. (2021) “Flood Management in Texas: Planning for the Future.” Texas A&M Law Scholarship, Texas A&M University School of Law Program in Natural Resources Systems,

Di Liberto, T. (2019) “Flash drought engulfs the U.S. southeast in September 2019” | NOAA

FEMA. (2017) “Historic Disaster Response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas.” FEMA.Gov

Fogel, B., Leahy, J., & Love, C. (2022) “Texas Landlords Will Have to Disclose Flood Risk to Renters. That’s One of 23 New Laws Going into Effect Jan. 1.” Houston Public Media,

Greater Houston Community Foundation. (2019). “Imelda Assistance Fund –.” GHCF,

Harris County Flood Control District. (2018). “2018 Bond Program.” Harris County Flood Control District,

Housing and Community Development Department. (n.d.) “Housing and Community Development Department-Disaster Recovery.” City of Houston Texas,

“Houston Action Plan for Disaster Recovery – 2015 Flood Events.” (2016). City of Houston Texas.

“Imelda Survey- Resources + Data for Partners.” (2019)Tropical Storm Imelda Needs Assessment Survey.

Lake, P. (2021)“Texas Reimagines the Fight Against Floods”. Texas Water Journal, 12( 1), 58-67, doi:10.21423/twj.v12i1.7133.

Latto, A., & Berg, R. (2020) “TROPICAL STORM IMELDA (AL112019) 17–19 September 2019.” National Hurricane Center Tropical Cyclone Report, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

McGee, K. (2022, April 26). Houston Community College unveils plan for $30 million resiliency center. The Texas Tribune.

Munguia, L. (2016)“$3.5 Million in Flood Protection Grants Approved by the TWDB | Texas Water Newsroom.” The Texas Water Newsroom, Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).

National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). (2022). “Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters.” National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

“Imelda Assistance Fund Announces Advisory Board and Grant Committee Members.” (2019) City of Houston Texas.

“Response to and Recovery From Disasters – Buyouts.” (2019) Understanding Houston.

State Flood Assessment.(2019). “Report to The 86th State Legislature.” Texas Flood Assessment, Texas Water Development Board.

Statkewicz, M. D., Talbot, R., & Rappenglueck, B. (2021)“Changes in Precipitation Patterns in Houston, Texas.” Environmental Advances, vol. 5, p100073. Science Direct,

Talbott, M. (2015)“2015 Memorial Day Flood in Harris County, Texas.” University of Houston, Cullen College of Engineering – The Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology (THC-IT),

Texas Election Results. (2019)”Texas constitutional amendment election, 2019. Proposition 8.”, Office of the Secretary of State, Mar 24, 2020,,%20FLOOD%20MITIGATION,%20AND%20FLOOD%20CONTROL%20PROJECTS.%0D%0A&officeType=STATEWIDE%20PROPOSITIONS&from=race.

Texas State, Legislature. House Bill 26. (2019) Texas State Legislature.

Texas State, Legislature. House Bill 3815. (2019)Texas State Legislature.

Texas State, Legislature. House Bill 531 (2021). Texas State Legislature.

Texas State, Legislature. Senate Bill 339. (2019)Texas State Legislature.

Turner, S. (2016) “2016 State of The City Speech.” City of Houston Texas, 4 May 2016,

University of Texas and Texas Tribune. (2018) “Texas Statewide Survey, February 2018.” Texaspolitics.utexas,

University of Texas and Texas Tribune. (2018).“Texas Statewide Survey, June 2018” Texaspolitics.utexas.

University of Texas and Texas Tribune. (2017) “Texas Statewide Survey, October 2017.” Texaspolitics.utexas.

Click to access 201710_poll_toplines_final.pdf

University of Texas and Texas Tribune.(2018). “Texas Statewide Survey, October 2018.” Texaspolitics.utexas,

University of Texas and Texas Tribune. (2019) “Texas Statewide Survey, October 2019.” Texaspolitics.utexas,

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Richard Saettone

Within this original composition, Mr. Richard Saettone manages to capture the disturbing qualities of the mythological creature known as a Wendigo by composing an original work for solo violin. The musical narrative communicates Mr. Saettone’s understanding of musical form, harmony, melody, imagination, and extended techniques for the violin. “Dance of the Wendigo” captures the picturesque aesthetics of the late 19th / early 20th century, while making use of techniques formulated after the Second World War. The software used is MuseScore.    Martin Quiroga

Listen to Performance

Score Excerpt from "Dance of the Wendigo: Violin Sonata in D" by Richard Saettone.

Score Excerpt from “Dance of the Wendigo: Violin Sonata in D” by Richard Saettone.

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Michelle Ahrens

Cloning and Sequencing of a portion of a Capsicum chinense x Capsicum frutescens hybrid ghost pepper’s GAPDH gene (GAP C)


Background Information

The primary project of my Molecular Biology Techniques class, also known as BITC-2441, was to clone and sequence a plant chosen by student pairs to learn the genetic sequence of the glyceraldehyde-3-phophate cytosolase (GAPC) gene. This paper contains the results from ghost pepper, also known as ‘Bhut Jolokia’. Fresh ghost pepper was crushed, measured and a lysate generated following resuspension in buffers. 2 sequential PCR reactions, the first using degenerate primers and the second using primers directed against a highly conserved region of the GAPC gene, were done to amplify regions of GAPC. The expected DNA band was detected with gel electrophoresis. This PCR product was purified using size exclusion chromatography and spliced into E.coli HB101 plasmid. This plasmid was isolated from the bacteria and analyzed with gel electrophoresis. DNA samples were then Sanger sequenced using pJET (plasmid-specific) and pGAP (gene-specific) primers. The sequence was analyzed with Geneious Prime bioinformatics software.

Ghost pepper originates from northeastern India, a region known for its wide variety of extremely hot peppers and spicy cuisine. Other varieties include ‘Naga Jolokia’ and ‘Bih Jolokia’ (Bosland et al., 2007. 1). It is a cross between Capsicum chinense x Capsicum frutescens and has a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) of 1,001,304. The cultivar is relatively well understood owing to a great deal of attention paid to it (Bosland et al., 2007, 1) by hot pepper aficianados.

The lab is trying to compare the Ghost pepper GAPC gene with that of other plants. There are many steps to cloning and sequencing genes of a plant. The primary reason the lab is important is due to contributing to the knowledge about GAPC within plants, in this case in ghost pepper. GAPC is a well-known housekeeping gene sequence within the Glyceraldehyde-3-phophate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) family that is conserved across many plant species, making it ideal for research (Bio Moreover, the portion of GAPC to be amplified encodes for two-thirds of the gene, including the enzyme’s active site. GAPC encodes for an NAD+-dependent cytostolic GAPDH (Bio Rad, 18). Furthermore, the GAPC gene of ghost pepper has never been sequenced before in BITC 2441 at Lone Star College.


The purpose of this experiment is to clone and sequence the GAPC gene of ghost pepper using primers directed highly conserved GAPC sequences.


If the instructions of the protocol are followed, the GAPC gene from ghost peppers will have more sequence similarities to the gene from closely related plants compared to more distantly related species.

Methods and Materials

Extracting gDNA

Prior to extraction, a ghost pepper plant was kept in the dark for 24-48 hours to maximize the cellular DNA. 200 ul of lysis buffer was added to a 1.5 ml microcentrifuge tube. Ghost pepper leaves were added to the lysis buffer and micro pestles were used to crush and lyse the cells. After a homogenous mixture was obtained, an additional 500 ul of lysis buffer was added. The tube was then centrifuged at full speed for 5 minutes. Afterwards, 400 ul of supernatant was removed and added to 500 ul 70% ethanol to create plant lysate. 800 ul of the resulting plant lysate supernatant was then added to a mini-column and centrifuged again. 700 ul of wash buffer was added and centrifuged and the resulting flowthrough was discarded. The wash process was repeated two more times. The column was transferred to a new microcentrifuge tube, 80 ul of 70C of sterile water was added and held for 1 minute to and then centrifuged. The eluate containing DNA was then collected and stored.

Amplifying GAPC region and assessing results with Gel Electrophoresis

To carry out the PCR with degenerate primers, the PCR tubes were put on ice and 20 ul of 2x Master Mix with Initial Primers (MMIP) was pipetted into each tube. Afterwards 15 ul of sterile water was added to each tube. Using a fresh tip each time, 5 ul each of negative control, pGAP, ghost pepper, Celosia, and Arabidopsis DNA templates were added to the tubes. The tubes were placed into a thermal cycler for 1 round of initial PCR.

This amplified gDNA was prepped for nested PCR by treating with 1 ul of exonuclease I to destroy the leftover degenerate primers from the initial reaction. The template DNA was incubated at 37C for 15 minutes and then 80C for another 15 minutes to heat-inactivate the exonuclease I enzyme. 98 ul of sterile water was added and an additional 2 ul of the appropriate initial PCR into the tubes was added. The tube was then vortexed and placed on ice to keep cool. 20 ul of yellow master mix (2x MMNP) was pipetted into each PCR tube. The tubes were placed into the thermal cycler.

The results of both rounds of PCR were separated through agarose gel electrophoresis in a 1% gel. The gel lanes were run according to Figure 2: Lane 1 was loaded with the 500 base pair molecular ladder. 5 ul of gDNA and 1 ul of loading were loaded onto lanes 2 and 3. Lanes 4 and 5 were loaded with 20 ul of initial PCR reaction was transferred into a new tube along with 2 ul of loading dye. 5 ul of nested PCR and 1 ul of loading dye were added to lanes 6 and 7. Lane 8 was loaded with 20 ul of Arabidopsis gDNA and 2 ul loading dye were added to act as a control.

Purifying and ligating PCR product into a plasmid vector

The products of the nested PCR reaction were used for cloning of the amplified GAPC sequence into a sequence vector. Beads in the PCR spin column were resuspended. The cap of the spin column was snapped off and the column centrifuged for 2 minutes. 30 ul of yellow nested PCR reaction was added onto the column bed. The column was centrifuged for 2 minutes and supernatant collected.

The resulting supernatant with the amplified DNA were combined with 2x ligation reaction buffer, proofreading polymerase, 2 ul of blunting reaction and 1.5 ul of sterile water. The tubes within were centrifuged to force contents to the bottom and incubated in the thermocycler for 5 minutes at 70C, then cooled on ice for an additional 5 minutes. Centrifugation was applied to force contents to collect at the bottom. 9.0 ul of blunt reaction was added, followed by 0.5 ul of T4 DNA ligase and 0.5 ul pJet 1.2 blunted vector. The reaction was centrifuged to collect contents at the bottom of tube. The tube was incubated at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. The reaction tube was then stored at -20C until further use.


10 ul of E. coli HB 101 was streaked via the quadrant method onto a LB plate. This was then incubated at 37C overnight and then stored at 4C until the day of the lab.

1.5 ml of C-growth medium was pipetted into a 15 ml culture tube and warmed for 10 minutes at 37C. 150 ul of fresh starter culture prepared from the starter plate was then pipetted into the C-growth medium. Afterwards, 250 ul each of transformation reagents A and B from BioRad were combined into a separate microcentrifuge tube, kept on ice. After a 20-40 minute incubation, the C-growth culture was transferred to a new microcentrifuge tube. This was centrifuged at 17,000 rpm for 1 minute and put on ice. The resulting supernatant was removed without disturbing the bacterial pellet. This pellet was resuspended with 300 ul of cold transformation buffer. It was then incubated on ice for 5 minutes and immediately centrifuged for 1 minute. The supernatant was removed. 120 ul of cold transformation buffer was added and kept on ice for 5 minutes. The cells were now competent for transformation.

5 ul of ligated plasmid were added to the 50 ul competent cells and mixed by pipetting twice. The tube was incubated on ice for 10 minutes. The entire volume of transformation was pipetted onto an LB Amp IPTG plate warmed at 37C. An inoculation loop was used to gently spread the bacteria around the plate. It was immediately placed upside down in an incubator at 37C until the bacterial colonies were apparent. This plate was used to inoculate four tubes of LB/AMP broth (20 ml LB broth and 100 ul ampicillin).

Isolating Plasmid from Bacteria

1.5 ml of miniprep culture of transformed E. coli was transferred into a microcentrifuge tube and centrifuged. The supernatant was removed without disturbing the pellet. This process was repeated two more times. 250 ul of resuspension solution was added and the mixture vortexed. Another 250 ul of lysis buffer was added and the tube inverted 6-8 times. 350 ul of neutralization solution was added within 5 minutes and then gently inverted 6-8 times. The tube was centrifuged for 5 minutes. The resulting supernatant was added onto a spin column spun for 1 minute at top speed. The flowthrough was discarded. Subsequently, 750 ul of wash solution was added to the column and centrifuged for 1 minute. Flowthrough was discarded and the column was centrifuged for 1 minute to dry. The column was transferred to a new tube and 100 ul of elution solution was added to the column. The solution was allowed to settle for 1-2 minutes. The column was centrifuged for 2 minutes. The column was discarded, and the sample capped. The miniprep DNA was stored at -20C until further use.

Miniprep DNA was analyzed by restriction digestion with Bgl II. 10 ul of plasmid DNA was combined with 10 ul 2x Bgl ll master mix (2 ul 10x Bgl II reaction buffer, 7 ul sterile water and 1 ul of Bgl II enzyme). Reactions were incubated at 37C for 1 hour. The samples were analyzed by 1% agarose gel electrophoresis: 10 ul of 500 bp molecular ladder was added to Lane 1. 5 ul of undigested DNA was combined with 15 ul of sterile water in a separate tube to compare digested DNA.1 ul of 6x loading dye was added to each of the digested and undigested samples. Immediately afterwards, 20 ul of each DNA sample was added to each well. The gel was run at 100 Mv and the results are shown in Figure 5.

Sequencing DNA and performing bioinformatics

10 ul of miniprep DNA were combined with 1 ul of each sequencing primer. The mixture was added to assigned wells on the 96-well plate. The plate was sent to BioRad for Sanger sequencing. The resulting sequence data were analyzed with Geneious Prime bioinformatics software.


DNA Preparation

Figure 1.a shows the yield of crushed ghost pepper plant leaf material was prepared from ghost pepper leaves. Figure 1.b shows the 60-80 ul of genomic DNA solution extracted from the DNA material.

Figure 1.a -0.0958 mg of crushed young ghost pepper leaves was utilized for the extraction of gDNA

Figure 1.a -0.0958 mg of crushed young ghost pepper leaves was utilized for the extraction of gDNA

Figure 1.b- Extracted gDNA lysate result, the result of extracting gDNA from the ghost pepper leaves

Figure 1.b- Extracted gDNA lysate result, the result of extracting gDNA from the ghost pepper leaves


The results are shown in Figure 2 from left to right. PCR was done at an early stage to determine the presence of GAPDH genes in the various products and Arabidopsis was utilized to further measure the presence and intensity of PCR products since it has been thoroughly sequenced in many laboratories.

Figure 2. Amplification of GAPDH. Lane 1: 500 bp molecular ladder. Lane 2: Ghost pepper gDNA. Lane 5: Ghost Pepper initial PCR. Lane 7: Ghost Pepper Nested PCR. Lane 8: Arabidopsis control.

Figure 2. Amplification of GAPDH. Lane 1: 500 bp molecular ladder. Lane 2: Ghost pepper gDNA. Lane 5: Ghost Pepper initial PCR. Lane 7: Ghost Pepper Nested PCR. Lane 8: Arabidopsis control.

The LB AMP IPTG plate below was inoculated with competent cells that had the PCR products inserted into them. Colonies were selected that could grow in Ampicillin-indicating uptake of plasmid ampicillin gene and GAPC gene. However, to maximize the chances for colonies to grow, Tube 1 and 3 were inoculated with colonies from my own plate while 2 and 4 were inoculated with a different plate’s E. coli. 1 and 3 were the ones showing signs of heavy and cloudy growth. Tubes 2 and 4 were clear and showed no signs of growth. Inoculated 2 and 4 again with plate this time. Nonetheless, the plates that were inoculated again showed no growth, indicating that the previous cells used up all nutrients and the new inoculation was unable to grow and take hold.

Figure 3 Inoculated plate that was used to inoculate Tubes 1 and 3.

Figure 3 Inoculated plate that was used to inoculate Tubes 1 and 3.

Figure 4 E. coli culture was used to inoculate tube 1 and became cloudy, indicating growth.

Figure 4 E. coli culture was used to inoculate tube 1 and became cloudy, indicating growth.

PCR for Bgl II enzyme

Restriction digestion of GAPC construct was performed, with results shown in Figure 5. Digestion with Bgl II enzyme excised the PCR fragment. A single band shows that the enzyme was successfully digested. The presence of two bands in Lane 4 indicates the size of the vector and size of inserted DNA.

Figure 5 Results for BgII ezyme, from left to right. Lane 1: Empty. Lane 2: 500 bp ladder. Lane 3: Undigested enzyme. Lane 4: Digested enzyme.

Figure 5 Results for BgII ezyme, from left to right. Lane 1: Empty. Lane 2: 500 bp ladder. Lane 3: Undigested enzyme. Lane 4: Digested enzyme.

Bioinformatics sequence analysis

The sequences were sent away to be sequenced. Afterward, Geneious Prime bioinformatics software on Windows 10 was used to . The current results are shown in Figure 6 below and how far into sequencing and what needs to be done for a more complete picture.

Figure 6 Top results for Blastn in Geneious software

Figure 6 Top results for Blastn in Geneious software

One way to gain a more complete understanding is to compare the sequences that are most similar to the ghost pepper GAPC sequence with those lower in the list. As can be seen above, there were 5 results with an E value of 0. All of those were from the Solanum family.



The top 3 E-value results, which all have values of 0 indicating a perfect match, are Capsicum frutescens glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPC), Solanum pinnatisectum, and Solanum melongena glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase. The genus that the GAP C sequence shares the highest identity with is that of the Solanum family. Members of this family include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.

An interesting thing to note is that no other pepper species were returned, indicating that the GAPC of this pepper species differed significantly from other previously sequenced pepper species.

Explanation of Conclusions

Several factors may explain these experimental results. The first two rounds of PCR, initial and nested, focused on amplifying portions of GAPC gene from gDNA of ghost pepper. With initial PCR a set of blue primers using multiple degenerate (less specific) sequences were utilized to amplify the GAPC gene from the gDNA. Exonuclease I was used to remove the primers from the initial PCR so that they do not amplify the target DNA. The enzyme was then inactivated. Then in the second round of PCR (nested) a more specific set of yellow primers were used to amplify the GAPC from the initial products. The PCR products from the initial round now contain a high proportion of GAPC-like sequences relative to the amount of gDNA. The results are shown in Figure 2. A 500 bp molecular ladder was used to measure target DNA. The gDNA show the brightest bands, which indicate the amount of DNA extracted from the first step. The initial PCR shows the denaturing of the DNA while the nested bands show that the amplification from the specific set of primers were successful. Arabidopsis was added because the plant also contains a GAPC region and yielded a single bright band as expected.

Bgl II sites were cut to separate insert DNA from plasmid DNA. Figure 5 demonstrates the results for Bgl II PCR. If the isolated plasma contains the insert of interest then there would be two bands, one containing excised PCR fragment and another with the vector DNA. If there is only one band in an unintended lane, then the digest was unsuccessful.

Works Cited

Bosland, P., and Baral, J. (2007) ‘Bhut Jolokia’-The World’s Hottest Pepper Known Chile Pepper is a Putative Naturally Occurring Hybrid. HORTSCIENCE 42(2):222–224.

Bio Rad. (n.d.). Cloning and sequencing explorer series. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from

Bio Rad. (n.d.). Bioinformatics supplement – Bio Rad. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from

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Ivet Love

This writing is a concept map derived from information gathered from clinical notes and information obtained from clinical rotation VNSG 1362: Creating a concept map on a disease or chief complaint of assigned client. In this concept map Ivet is very precise in explaining the health problem, risk and health promotion nursing diagnosis specific to this client and their disease process.

Understanding the client’s needs as the nurse is very important in prioritizing and guiding individualized care. Ivet based this plan and goals on helping the client’s respiratory status focusing on managing not curing. COPD is not a curable disease but can be managed and prevention of further lung damage can be achieved through teaching and education about disease process. Which is also outline in Ivet’s teaching.

For this specific client, Ivet was able to use her critical thinking and assess that increased mucous build up is apart of the disease process and can lead to exacerbation of COPD and taught the client how to loosen and cough up the mucous to help breathing. The goals were SMART. Specific, measurable, attainable and had a time frame specific to the client’s needs.

This image lays out a concept map by Ivet Love with lots of text outlining her plan for her particular client.

Concept Map. Ivet Love 2022

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Kaitlen Gutierrez

Creating a concept map on a disease or chief complaint of assigned client. In this concept map Kaitlen is very detailed in explaining the health problem, risk and health promotion nursing diagnosis not only specific to the disease process, but more importantly specific to the client and their family. This is very important because as a nurse assessing priority guides the plan for individualized care.

For this specific client skin breakdown was a priority problem for them and their family due to the client’s immobility. Skin integrity is always a struggle when the client has limited mobility.

Kaitlen was able to use her critical thinking and clinical judgement skill to identify this client’s risk for inadequate tissue perfusion because of cerebral edema. She assessed the spouse’s readiness to learn and was able to outline teaching topics and techniques related to their concerns, which was the skin breakdown. The goals were SMART. Specific, measurable, attainable and had a time frame.

This image lays out a concept map by Kaitlen Gutierrez with lots of text outlining her plan for her particular client.

Concept Map. Kaitlen Gutierrez 2022

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