Chess Brings Mind, Body, Soul of UT Dallas Campus into the Game
May 19, 2014
Since the chess program was created in 2001, it has become integrated into many aspects of the UT Dallas campus, including Chess Plaza at the entry of the University's central mall.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2014 UT Dallas Magazine.
An original intention of creating a world-class chess team at UT Dallas was to bring national attention to a lesser-known campus. Fifteen years later, the team has not only helped put the University on the international stage, but also created an undercurrent of pride among its academically focused student body.
That’s exactly what Dr. Tim Redman, who founded the chess program in 2001, had hoped for. Here, chess is not just considered a nerdy endeavor, but evidence of intellectual prowess, hard work and superior strategy — all considered virtues by students in the University’s largest programs, such as management, computer science and engineering.
Chess permeates life at UT Dallas, so much so that it has been built into academic programs and into the campus architecture itself — Chess Plaza on the south end of the mall features four human-scale outdoor chessboards. In the main dining hall, it’s not unusual to see students with chess pieces set up on the chessboard-printed tabletops.
Redman recalled Provost Hobson Wildenthal’s early guidance that the University should not only create a team but also build related educational opportunities and conferences for students and the public.
This story as well as “The Politely Ruthless Race for the Top in Collegiate Chess” appear in the Spring 2014 issue.
Redman took the provost’s words to heart and has organized two conferences on chess and education. The first George Koltanowski Memorial Conference on Chess and Education, held in 2001, led to the publication of the book Chess and Education: Selected Essays from the Koltanowski Conference.
Ten years later, chess players, scholars and researchers from across the globe came to Dallas again for a second meeting. The 2011 conference covered topics like “chess and character” and “chess and self-esteem.” There was a session on the connections between chess and neuroscience.
Since the chess program began at UT Dallas, “chess in the classroom” courses have been taught by Dr. Alexey Root, the 1989 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, to show K-12 educators how chess can improve student performance.
Chess is also the subject of research at UT Dallas, where cognitive neuroscientists have conducted several studies on how players process visual information. Engineering students have gotten into the game, creating robotic 3- to 4-foot chess pieces.
Every summer, grade-schoolers come to campus for chess camps taught by the University's players and coach.
Beyond the rigors of the classroom and laboratories, the chess program also provides social outlets. The Student Chess Society invites players of all levels to play at its weekly gatherings. The society also hosts several events during the annual ChessFest, a week of chess-related events and activities, including members of the chess team playing blindfolded against any willing challengers.
ChessFest, which was organized by the Eugene McDermott Library in 2001 to honor the University’s chess team and program, includes the announcement of the Chess Educator of the Year. Elizabeth Tejada, commissioner of the Florida Scholastic Chess League, chess coordinator of Title I, and International chess coordinator for FIDE (World Chess Federation), received the 2014 award.
Summertime brings area grade-schoolers to campus for chess camps. Taught by members of the chess team and the chess team’s coach, Rade Milovanovic, campers play matches on Chess Plaza with a giant-sized teakwood chess set. With a king that stands nearly 4 feet tall, the game is aptly called “Chess Grande.”
So while the outside world is most aware of the championships and tournament victories, perhaps the greater shift for campus was the change within.