Today@Sam Article

SHSU Update For Week Of June 4

June 2, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Lane Fortenberry

Study Examines Neurotransmitters Linked To Aggression, Anti-Social Behavior

Sam Houston State University is taking a new multidisciplinary approach to understanding behaviors that contribute to criminal activity and mental health problems.

Through an Enhancement Research Grant from SHSU, associate professor David Gangitano, Ph.D. student Elizabeth Chesna, and master’s student Ana Blanco in the Department of Forensic Science will conduct research this summer to determine how two neurotransmitters, oxytocin and dopamine, influence aggression and anti-social behavior in mice. 

Oxytocin is associated with bonding, trust and empathy, and dopamine is responsible for the reward system, making it crucial in reinforcing behavior.

David Gangitano

These internal grants are designed to help researchers turn concepts into innovative studies or to attract external funding for research projects.

“Aggression and antisocial behavior both have a large impact on the criminal justice system and the health field,” Gangitano said. “The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Furthermore, aggressive and anti-social behavior are two of the leading causes of mental health referrals. By studying the influence of oxytocin and dopamine on social behavior in mice, it may provide insight about the mechanisms of development of aggressive and anti-social behavior.”

Previous research has shown that oxytocin may counteract the effects of dopamine when it comes to drug addiction. The study indicates that these two neurotransmitters may share a common pathway and play a role in reinforcing behavior.

“Several studies look at only the genetic influence or at only the environmental impact,” Chesna said. “While these each may be helpful, we chose to take a multidisciplinary approach.  Behavior is so complex, and it cannot be explained by just one thing. Therefore, this research includes multiple types of analysis so that we can best determine how oxytocin and dopamine affect aggressive and antisocial behavior.”

This study is part of a larger research project to understand the relationship between neurotransmitters and behavior, which will include genetic data, behavioral tests and neurobiology studies. This information will be used to identify genetic variations in inmate and student populations and compare them to behavioral tests that measure empathy and psychopathy.

The results of this research can help with early intervention and prevention. Reducing these types of behavior can help with inmate overpopulation and the mental health issue this country faces. This also can help identify biological vulnerabilities and how different levels of these neurotransmitters affect behavior. The study may contribute to the development treatments for different problems including drug addiction and anti-social behavior.

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McMurray Selected As Spotlight On Staff

Sam Houston State University’s Staff Council’s Spotlight on Staff award has been given to Mark McMurray, web & media developer I.

McMurray resides in Montgomery with his fiancée Jamie Bozarth, who is an administrative assistant III for Recreational Sports, and their two dogs Rose and MarkMcMurray630Skyy.

He began working at SHSU as a student worker for Informal Recreational Sports, and then moved to Recreational Sports Marketing as a student web developer. After graduating with a degree in computer animation, he was hired as staff assistant I. He was hired for his current position shortly after.

During his spare time, he tries to be on the lake or the golf course as much as he can, according to McMurray.

“I volunteer a lot of my extra time here in Huntsville,” he said. “I’m currently assistant alumni adviser for the Kappa Sigma Fraternity chapter here at SHSU and just recently signed on as Club Sport Inline Hockey’s advisor.

“I also work as the volunteer web master for the Hospitality House which is a local 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works with prison inmates’ families,” he said. “I’ve been volunteering there since January 2010.”

When motivating himself, McMurray tries to stay as positive as possible.

“I realize when clients are putting in work orders or looking for help, they have deadlines they are trying to meet just like me,” he said. “I try to work as quickly and happily as possible to try and make their day a little easier.”

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Alumni Office Wins Three CASE Awards

Sam Houston State University’s Alumni Office submitted several events and traditions for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education IV Alumni500(CASE) awards, placing first in two categories and third in another.

The Alumni Office placed first in Alumni Program, Project or Special Event for its SHSU Distinguished Alumni Gala.

The gala recognizes outstanding alumni who have distinguished themselves through exemplary personal and professional achievements while making significant contributions to the university and society.

The office also placed first in Low Cost Alumni Program for its SHSU Student Class Banner.

The class banner is a new tradition at the university that allows incoming freshmen and transfer students the opportunity to “Leave their Mark” by signing the banner. The banner is then displayed during their class graduation.

They placed third for their Second Annual Community Chili Luncheon Benefiting the Good Shepherd Mission of Walker County.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas.

More than 750 submissions were entered throughout District IV, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

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Program Marketing Wins AMA Crystal Award

Sam Houston State University’s Program Marketing Department won an American Marketing Association Crystal Award last month from the Houston AMACrystalAward630AMA Chapter.

The program was also a finalist in four categories; Direct Mail: To-Dimensional Mail (Single Item); Marketing Campaign: Non-profit: In-house; Paid Social Media; and Promotional Product: Single.

Over 600 entries were received from over 120 Houston area companies, with 97 winning crystal awards.

The SHSU Program Marketing team is part of the Division of Enrollment Management and is comprised of Jana Richie, Meghan Burton and Sierra Ray. The program markets academic programs with the goal of increasing enrollment for specific degrees.

Last year was the first time the department entered the competition, in which they were finalists in two categories.

“It is an honor just to be a finalist, but it was very exciting to win a Crystal Award,” Richie said. “As an alumnus, it was even more special to be representing Sam Houston at such a prestigious event.”

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Raven Nest Ranked As Top 25 Economy Course

The Dallas Morning News has ranked Sam Houston State University’s Raven Nest Golf Club as a top 25 economy course in Texas.

The course places 16th on the list with a green fee and cart price of $37. It placed 14th last year.RavenNest630

The Dallas Morning News’ Texas Golf panel average score of rating determines the rankings. The courses are rated on a scale of one-10. An economy course is $49 or less.

The courses rating criteria are versatility, shot making, design, afterthoughts, beauty, maintenance, and enjoyment.

“We are very proud that Raven Nest Golf Club continues to be recognized as one of the great values for golf in Texas,” said Richard Ballinger, director of PGA Golf Management and Golf Operations. “We have been fortunate enough to be ranked in this category for several years straight by the Dallas Morning News and appreciate their recognition.”

Raven Nest is the home of SHSU’s PGA Golf Management program, SHSU’s men’s and women’s golf team and Huntsville High School’s men’s and women’s teams.

Click here to see the full list.

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Memorial Museum Participates In Blue Star Museums

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum has announced it will participate in the Blue Star Museums program, offering free admission to military personnel BlueStarM630and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day (Sept. 4).

The program is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across the United States.

“We are participating in our seventh year of Blue Star Museums,” said Megan Buro, marketing coordinator at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum. “It’s a way for the Museum to give back to the men and women who are serving our country and their families.”

The program represents fine arts, science, history, nature and children’s museums.

For a full list of participating museums, visit the Blue Star Museums site.

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COBA And CHSS Collaborate With Event

Sam Houston State University’s College of Business Administration and College of Humanities and Social Sciences partnered with the German American

Mitchell J. Muehsam (left), Florian Schiller, Maret Petersson, Daniel Dragone, Christian Raschke, and Ervin Malakaj at the event.

Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S. (GACC South) to host the event “Building Bridges Between Industry and Higher Education” in April in Austin Hall.

The event concept emerged from a collaboration between Ervin Malakaj, assistant professor of German at SHSU, and Christian Raschke, assistant professor of Economics, who seek to strengthen ties between the Department of World Languages and Cultures, as well as the Department of Economics and International Business.

Maret Petersson, manager of Membership and Events at the GACC South, coordinated the event. She communicated with the representatives from two major German businesses, who served as keynote speakers at the event: Florian Schiller, chief financial officer, MAN Diesel & Turbo North America Inc. and Daniel Dragone, chief sales officer, BAUER-Pileco Inc.

The event linked the interests of the two colleges through talks by Petersson, as well as Mitchell J. Muehsam, dean of COBA, and Abbey Zink, dean of CHSS. Students from both colleges were invited to meet the speakers, network and ask questions about how to connect their course of study to a professional path after graduation.

“It was a great success,” said Malakaj. “The event sought to help SHSU students develop stronger ties to international career outlooks by having leaders from the business sector tell them what they are looking for in future employees.”

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Firefox To Be RemovedFirefox250

For user security and the security of campus data, Firefox will be removed from all Sam Houston State University workstations on June 23.

The university will only support Internet Explorer (IE), Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Safari (on Mac OS) as the approved browsers.

Mozilla Firefox users, on both PCs and Macs, should export their bookmarks and/or favorites from Firefox and import them into IE, Chrome or Edge. See the recent Tech Tip and/or the Technology Tutorial for more information.

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SHSU Food Pantry Distribution Set For June 16

Students in need of food can fill out a food pantry request form online and attend the SHSU Food Pantry distribution on June 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. atFoodPantry630 Academic Building III Room 113.

Requests must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on the day before the distribution. Walk-in requests are also accepted, but requests are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students should bring bags to carry their food along with their Sam ID. The service is free of charge.

Food requests are confidential, and five more distribution dates will follow.

“The purpose of the SHSU Food Pantry is to support students who struggle with food insecurity, to encourage an educational understanding of food insecurity and to provide a space for students to volunteer and network with their peers,” according to the SHSU Food Pantry statement.

For more information and to sign up, visit the event page.

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SMMC Summer Workshop Set For June 14

Sam Houston State University’s Student Money Management Center will host a summer workshop, “I Owe How Much?” on June 14 from 6-7 p.m. in IOHM630Student Affairs Annex Room 129.

Patsy Collins, director of SMMC, will present the workshop.

The workshop will focus on repaying students loans. Collins will discuss the types of rebates and other options that could reduce the amount of student loans owed.

Free pizza and drinks will be provided on a first come, first-served basis.

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Send Experts, Story Ideas Here

Are you an expert in a topic might be of interest to reporters? Or even a unique topic? Would you like to have your research interests highlighted or discuss your expertise with reporters seeking interviewees?

The university Communications Office is collecting information and story ideas for its ongoing projects, including the online SHSU Experts Guide, the SHSU home page and Today@Sam. 

The SHSU Experts Guide was established as a resource for the media, who turn to university experts lists for potential interviewees for news stories. Faculty who are interested in being a part of the university's database of experts can submit their biographical and personal information, as well as their areas of expertise, through the Experts Guide Submission Form.

Other story ideas, both news and features on faculty or student research and accomplishments can be sent to For news stories, please include the date, location and time of the event, as well as a brief description and a contact person.

All information, including news story ideas and update items for Today@Sam, should be sent a minimum of a week in advance of the event in order to make necessary contacts and write a story. Feature story ideas for the SHSU home page ("sliders") should be sent a minimum of two months in advance. 

To see a full list of the Today@Sam submission guidelines, or to access submission forms for news and feature stories or hometown releases, visit the guidelines page.

For more information, call 936.294.1836.

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