May 1, 2024

Nebraska in the national news: April 2024

"In the News" in front of a smartphone, with multiple images of UNL campus behind.
Kristen Labadie | University Communication and Marketing

Kristen Labadie | University Communication and Marketing

A Husker psychologist and legal expert was interviewed for two national news stories on the court cases of James and Jennifer Crumbley, who were recently convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for a mass school shooting carried out by their son. The stories were among 45-plus national news stories featuring University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty, staff, students, centers and programs in April.

Eve Brank, Aaron Douglas Professor of psychology, was a guest on WBUR’s “On Point” program on April 1, where the topic was whether holding parents criminally responsible for their children’s actions could curb gun violence in the United States. She outlined the history of parental liability and involvement laws in the country and suggested that some people favor help over punishment to prevent terrible things from happening. “I think that that could be one argument or one proposal would be to really just focus on prevention and services and help rather than on the punishment side.” The program was picked up by several other radio stations.

Brank was also interviewed for an April 9 Al Jazeera article on the topic. Brank said there is a “very large gap” between the punishments for parents in past cases and the Crumbley case. She also cautioned that there has not been research conducted to determine if punishing parents will serve as a deterrent for others. “I think [this case] still begs the question whether this will give us the result we want,” she said. “So I still would advocate for more empirical research on the topic.”

Additional national news coverage in April included:

  • After two months of challenging field research in a northern Mississippi forest, Noori Choi has created a proof-of-concept for documenting the vibroscape: the ground-bound realm of vibrations that spiders, insects and an estimated quintillion other arthropods employ to court mates, hunt prey and escape predators. Choi was a doctoral student in biological sciences at Nebraska at the time of the research. Popular Science published an April 2 article on the research.

  • In a new study, Ciera Kirkpatrick, advertising and public relations, found that new mothers with a higher social comparison orientation — or tendency to compare oneself to others — were more negatively affected by idealized portrayals of motherhood than those with a lower such orientation. Stories on the research appeared in Nebraska Public Media, Motherly, the New York Post, Study Finds and the Toronto Star.

  • The National Center for Resilient and Regenerative Precision Agriculture, planned for Nebraska Innovation Campus, was highlighted in an April 3 Inside Higher Ed article on university projects earmarked for federal funding in the 2024 budget. The project will receive $25 million in funding in the budget.

  • Josephine Potuto, Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus, co-wrote an April 3 opinion piece for Inside Higher Ed with Texas Tech University’s Brian Shannon. They wrote that any real reform in college athletics needs to start with autonomy for the major programs and conferences.

  • Ryan Sullivan, law, was consulted for an April 9 This Old House article on tenant rights. He discussed two “bait and switch” tactics used by landlords to take advantage of renters: showing a model unit that is not representative of the actual unit; and advertising a low rent amount, then presenting a lease with numerous add-on charges. If a tenant suspects their landlord is treating them unfairly, Sullivan suggests reading tenant acts specific to one’s state and contacting legal clinics for help.

  • In celebration of 15 years of legal education and highlighting its globally recognized expertise in national security, the Nebraska Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program is changing its name to the Nebraska Space, Cyber and National Security Law Program. The Lincoln Journal Star and The National Jurist’s prelaw published articles on the name change.

  • Humberto Blanco, agronomy and horticulture, was quoted in an April 11 Reuters article on the Biden administration offering farmers money for adopting practices that store carbon in the soil to fight climate change. “If we really want to offset or mitigate climate change, we need to think about different systems,” Blanco said. “We need to think about more aggressive strategies.” The article was picked up by 40-plus news outlets, including the Daily Mail.

  • John Hibbing, professor emeritus of political science, was interviewed for an April 15 Independent article on former President Donald Trump verbally attacking judges, prosecutors and others involved in the legal cases against him. Hibbing stressed that people are predisposed to feel one of two ways. “Some people want to embrace outsiders and they welcome immigrants and new ideas and new faces and new things, and other people react very strongly against that — they want to preserve this ethos, whether it be Brexit in the U.K. or Donald Trump in the United States.” Yahoo! News picked up the article.

  • Hibbing was also interviewed for an April 22 U.S. News and World Report article on the electoral battleground of Douglas County. “Biden is quite likely to win Douglas County,” he said. “The real question is whether he will win it by enough to win the district. My hunch is that he will. The district as a whole probably leans conservative, but not ‘Trump conservative.’”

  • Jack Beard, law, director of the Space, Cyber and National Security Law program, was cited in an April 16 Forbes article on Russia threatening to target American satellites aiding Ukraine. American military planners “have to be very careful about creating automatic triggers to war,” he said.

  • Midwest Messenger published an April 16 article on the university’s Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program. Hailey DeMers, the program’s chief creative officer; Engler graduates Emily Herbig and Hunter Suchsland; and incoming Engler student Breanna Bosshamer were interviewed for the story.

  • Christine Wittich, civil and environmental engineering, has received a five-year, $615,387 Faculty Early Career Development Program award from the National Science Foundation to improve the structural engineering of steel grain bins. Stories on the research appeared in Rural Radio Network, and Feedstuffs.

  • The university’s Loeffel Meat Shoppe will host a grand reopening celebration from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 3. The event will include food samples, demonstrations, discounts and giveaways. Stories on the celebration appeared in Rural Radio Network, Farm Journal’s Pork magazine and Meat and Poultry.

  • Anthony Schutz, law, was interviewed for an April 16 Associated Press article on a bill in the Nebraska Legislature to directly fund private school tuition. (The bill was later passed and signed into law.) Schutz said opponents might sue if the bill passes. “One line of argument is that it’s an appropriation to students and their parents, not a direct appropriation to private schools,” he said. But because the money can only be used for private school tuition, it might be difficult to convince a court, he said.

  • On April 19, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the sale of alcohol during Husker baseball and softball games. Stories on the move appeared in 20-plus Nebraska media outlets, 247 Sports and Sports Illustrated.

  • François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, will deliver a May 3 address at the university, speaking on “U.S.-Canada Trade and Geopolitics.” The free public presentation, cosponsored by the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance and the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, is 1 to 2 p.m. in the Nebraska Union’s Swanson Auditorium. Rural Radio Network and Beef magazine ran articles on the event.

  • Sergio Wals, political science, appeared on Noticias Univision’s YouTube channel on April 25 to discuss the results of a BSP Research poll indicating how eligible U.S.-based Mexican voters view their homeland’s 2024 presidential election. The polling project was commissioned by Wals and Xavier Medina Vidal, associate professor and director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington.

  • The exhibition “(In)credible: Exploring Trust and Misperceptions,” on view through July 6 at Sheldon Museum of Art, was highlighted in an April 25 New York Times article. Sheldon is part of a coalition of 10 university museums that have planned nonpartisan shows focused on democracy, with the goal of getting students more engaged. Ann Gradwohl, Sheldon’s marketing manager, was quoted in the article. (This article requires a subscription.)

  • Kurtis Harms, an experienced agricultural industry leader and communicator, has been selected as the next director of the Nebraska LEAD Program. He will begin his appointment June 1. Stories on Harms appointment appeared in KHGI, Rural Radio Network and Feedstuffs.

  • Kelli Boling, advertising and public relations, was interviewed for an April 29 FOX News story on how true crime podcasts impact public interest in criminal cases. Boling, who researches true crime podcasts and their audiences, said while it seems like the genre is exploding in popularity right now, it actually has had an enduring fanbase for centuries. Boling said the education aspect of the podcasts has huge potential to make positive change, though she expressed concern over the implications of turning criminals into celebrities and the effects on the families of victims.

  • Lisa Kort-Butler, sociology, was interviewed for an April 29 Big Think article titled “Is the U.S. becoming more paranoid?” She said that many Americans think crime rates are going up, which is not true in the last couple of decades. She stressed that this leads many people to misjudge the risk of becoming a crime victim and act accordingly. She encouraged people to think critically about where they get their information.

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at If you have additions to the list, contact Sean Hagewood at or 402-472-8514. If you have suggestions for national news stories, contact Leslie Reed at or 402-472-2059.