March 18, 2018

March 18, 2018


Doctoral Hooding Ceremony Takes on New Twist for Mother, Daughter

In 2007, Dr. Monica Evans was hooded by her mother, Kathryn Evans, then associate dean of the School of Arts and Humanities. On Thursday, Monica will present Kathryn with her hood during the doctoral hooding ceremony in the Activity Center. If you don't see the video, watch it on Vimeo.

For a mother-and-daughter pair of faculty members at The University of Texas at Dallas, bestowing a doctoral hood is about to be a reciprocal thing.

Dr. Kathryn Evans, senior lecturer in vocal and choral music for the School of Arts and Humanities, had the honor of presenting her daughter, Dr. Monica Evans, with her doctoral hood when she received her PhD in 2007.

“It was cool. I had a great seat. As a faculty member, I got to sit onstage,” Kathryn said. “I was very proud of her and I got a little emotional.”

On Thursday, Monica will return the favor as her mother receives her PhD from the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), where Monica is now associate dean of graduate programs.

In the Evans family, it seems academic life is a generational legacy.

Monica’s husband, Dr. Tim Christopher, earned a PhD in aesthetic studies with a focus in educational game design in 2011 from UT Dallas and is a clinical professor in ATEC. Her brother has a master’s degree in software engineering and now works at Google, and her sister is earning an MFA in theater.

“We’re ridiculously academic,” Kathryn said of her family. “Our dinnertime conversations were always interesting. We could start a game design company on our own if we wanted.”

Growing up, Monica was a “hard core” gamer — something her mother initially felt was “a waste of time.” Monica said she was most fascinated, however, with the genre’s creative storytelling.

“The attractive thing for me in digital games is the huge potential for new kinds of storytelling,” Monica said.

She ended up having a creative writing focus in her undergraduate work at UT Austin. Today, she cites one of her favorite games, Sony’s “Shadow of the Colossus,” as “the closest we have to Shakespeare, from a narrative standpoint.”

Monica chose to pursue her graduate work at UT Dallas because “there was almost nowhere else to study digital games at the time.” After she completed her doctorate, the opportunity for further research and academic freedom prompted her to accept a faculty position. Besides her administrative role, she is also an associate professor in ATEC.

Kathryn came to UT Dallas in 1994 to help restart the University’s music program. She had master’s degrees in both music and math, so she was used to incorporating the arts and technology on the college level.

She worked as associate dean for the arts in the School of Arts and Humanities from 1995 to 2010, then wanted to go back to teaching. At age 58, she decided to pursue her PhD, even though she felt “kind of old.” When she asked her daughter what she thought of the idea, Monica’s response was enthusiastic: “That would be awesome — and I get to hood you!”

Kathryn enrolled as a faculty member in the PhD program in her own school — ATEC programs were then part of the School of Arts and Humanities. For her dissertation research on whether “music makes you smarter,” Kathryn studied how taking music classes enhanced the academic experience for non-music majors.

“Music helps you identify patterns and see things holistically. It helps with discipline and delayed gratification. You can’t cram for a musical performance. It requires you to concentrate for a long period of time. Music is one of the things that does that,” Kathryn said.

Both mother and daughter have a deep appreciation of their complementary areas of academic expertise and have collaborated professionally twice.

First, they collaborated on “The Digital Calculus Coach,” an educational game project funded by a UT System grant.

Then in 2012, they worked on a digital-live action theater production as part of the “Best of Broadway” productions on campus. Kathryn directed the musical; Monica helped develop an 18-foot-high digital version of the plant Seymour, which was able to interact with live actors.

They were invited to present their joint work, “Playing Audrey II: Using Game Technology to Create a Digital Actor for Live Stage Performance,” at a SIGGRAPH conference for professionals working in computer graphics and interactive techniques.

Now at 64, Kathryn will receive her PhD.

It was a first for UT Dallas in 2007 to have a parent participate in her own child’s hooding ceremony. Now they’re making history again as Monica helps with her mother’s doctoral hooding.

“It’s going to be pretty awesome. This is a really unique opportunity,” Monica said.

Media Contact: Robin Russell, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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