Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash

The 2023 results are in, and U.S. News and World Report has deemed the University of Texas at Austin to be the best grad school in the state, with some of its departments landing among the top 10 and 20 in the country.

The university's Cockrell School of Engineering cracked the top 10 nationally, coming in at No. 7, while McCombs School of Business earned the No. 20 spot among business schools. UT Austin's School of Nursing also pulled in a No. 20 national ranking, while its College of Education nabbed No. 16. Finally, the university’s LBJ School of Public Affairs landed a top 10 spot in the “Best Public Affairs Programs” list, tying with eight other universities around the country.

U.S. News publishes its national "Best Graduate Schools" rankings every year, which looks at several programs including business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, and many others. For the 2023-2024 report, the publication decided to withhold its rankings for law and medical schools, which will be published later this year. It also changed the methodology for ranking education and business schools by focusing on outcome rather than a program’s reputation and selectivity.

“When prospective students are considering their options for graduate school, the Best Graduate Schools rankings are designed to help them identify schools that excel in the program they want to study,” said LaMont Jones, senior editor of Education at U.S. News. “With many options available, U.S. News provides a wealth of data in an easy format to help each student make the best decision.”

Because some category rankings have not been released, UT Austin’s Dell Medical School is unranked in the “Best Medical Schools: Research” and “Primary Care” categories. Additionally, the School of Law previously ranked No. 1 in Texas for the 2022-2023 academic year.

One notable difference from the 2022-2023 report was the university’s graduate geology program, which fell from No. 1 to No. 2 this year. The remaining four programs all maintained their top placements.

The No. 1 UT Austin graduate programs for 2023-2024 are:

  • Accounting, the McCombs School of Business
  • Petroleum Engineering, Cockerell School of Engineering
  • Latin American History, the College of Liberal Arts
  • Sociology of Population, the College of Liberal Arts

“It’s wonderful to be recognized among our peer institutions for the scholarship and accomplishments coming out of the LBJ School’s robust faculty, students, staff and alumni,” said LBJ School Dean J.R. DeShazo. “The dynamic capital city of Austin and state of Texas offer endless opportunities to get your hands on the most important policy challenges in the country.”

Here’s how UT Austin compares nationally in U.S. News’ overall rankings:

Photo courtesy of ApartmentAdvisor

Austin named the No. 8 best U.S. city for college grads in new report


Here’s a few nerve-wracking questions that Austin’s college seniors have likely heard multiple times throughout the semester: What are your post-grad plans? Will you pursue a graduate degree here, or will you move elsewhere to continue your studies? Do you plan on working in the city or going back to your hometown?

Graduation is a freeing experience, but working on those future plans can be intimidating. Luckily for Austin’s graduating class of 2023, staying in your college city isn’t as bad as you think it is. And according to a new report from ApartmentAdvisor, Austin is the No. 8 best city in the nation for college grads just starting out in the workforce.

Austin’s affinity for tech startups and entrepreneurship was the main reasoning behind its ranking. The report spoke highly of the University of Texas at Austin’s Technology Incubator, which was founded in 1989 and currently stands as the longest active tech incubator in the country.

The city’s high growth rate for entry-level jobs is a major draw for recent graduates, especially since LinkedIn declared Austin the No. 1 city for grads to land entry-level jobs in 2022. Other key factors include a low unemployment rate and what the report calls a “healthy” median income-to-rent ratio, even though Austin’s apartment rent has increased nearly 10 percent since last year. The city’s bustling nightlife is always a fun after-work perk, but it won’t come cheap.

ApartmentAdvisor analyzed 84 of the largest American cities across several economic criteria such as average salaries, rent prices, access to nightlife, and others to determine their rankings.

The top 10 best cities for college grads are:

  • No. 1 – Madison, Wisconsin
  • No. 2 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • No. 3 – Seattle
  • No. 4 – Atlanta
  • No. 5 – Salt Lake City
  • No. 6 – Pittsburgh
  • No. 7 – Denver
  • No. 8 – Austin
  • No. 9 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 10 – St. Louis, Missouri

Austin was the only Texas city to make the top 10, giving it the title of best city in the state for college grads. Eight other Texas cities made the list, including Lubbock (No. 22), Dallas (No. 25), Houston (No. 39), Amarillo (No. 54), San Antonio (No. 60), El Paso (No. 65), Corpus Christi (No. 67), and Brownsville (No. 78).

The report can be found on apartmentadvisor.com.

Photo by Paul Bardagy

Historic upscale Mexican restaurant cooks up collaboration with Austin Community College

Eat, work, study

It's never too soon to get started in the restaurant business, as proven again and again in family restaurants, school programs, and many high schoolers' résumés. Until recently, Austin Community College had a more insular Culinary Arts Department, but a unique new partnership with upscale Mexican restaurant Fonda San Miguel is about to change that: The landmark "career scholar agreement" honors the late Mexican cookbook author and friend of the restaurant Diana Kennedy, as well as the late executive chef Miguel Ravago.

“Miguel was the first chef to introduce true interior Mexican food to Austin when he arrived here in 1962. Naming the scholarships after both Diana and Miguel will continue their lifetime legacies of sharing knowledge and elevating true Mexican food to its deserved place at the top of culinary achievements," said Fonda San Miguel owner Tom Gilliland in a press release. “This is just the start of our collaboration with ACC students to become future leaders in the culinary world and to build Austin’s continued reputation as a national culinary destination.”

As in any other internship, this program allows culinary students to gain field experience while continuing studies, but is unusual in that it is only tied to the one restaurant so far. Students must apply to be accepted into the scholarship program, seeded by a check for $10,000 from Gilliland to the ACC Foundation, which provides "scholarships, training equipment, and student support."

Scholarship recipients will be on-site at Fonda San Miguel for up to 20 hours per week, and will be instructed and mentored by Fonda San Miguel co-chefs Carlos Monroy and Blanca Zesati.

The announcement took place at the nearly 50-year-old restaurant on Monday, January 16, and was attended by ACC and Fonda San Miguel staff, students, and two visiting chefs from the Yucatán region of Mexico. The restaurant has been lauded in almost every local publication, as well as the Travel Channel, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.

ACC's spring semester began on January 17. The culinary school offers associate of applied science degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry, with entrepreneurship specializations in each, as well as one Level 2 certificate for each category. The entrepreneurship curriculum recently added a category in sustainable farming. More information about the culinary program is available at austincc.edu.

Photo courtesy of Cinemark

Cinemark movie chain opens Austin-area theaters for college football playoffs

Coming to the big screen

The Cinemark movie theater chain is bringing back a special viewing experience that involves not movies but sports: The Plano-based company is teaming with ESPN to bring college football games to the big screen.

This postseason, fans can catch three of the biggest games, including the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve, as well as the College Football Playoff National Championship in January.

Cinemark debuted this idea in 2021. According to a release, it proved to be sufficiently successful that they're not only bringing it back, they're expanding the number of theaters where it's offered, to a total of 70 theaters across the U.S. including 19 in Texas, as follows in alphabetical order:

  • Austin - Cinemark Southpark Meadows
  • College Station - Cinemark Movies 18 and XD
  • Dallas - Cinemark 17 XD and IMAX
  • Denton - Cinemark 14
  • El Paso - Cinemark 20 XD and ScreenX
  • Fort Worth - Cinemark Alliance Town Center and XD
  • Grand Prairie - Cinemark Movies 16
  • Grapevine - Cinemark Tinseltown Grapevine and XD
  • Katy - Cinemark 19 and XD
  • Lubbock - Cinemark Movies 16 and XD
  • McAllen - Cinemark Hollywood USA
  • McKinney - Cinemark North McKinney and XD
  • Pasadena - Cinemark Hollywood Movies 20
  • Pflugerville - Cinemark 20 and XD
  • Plano - Cinemark West Plano XD and ScreenX
  • Rockwall - Cinemark 14 Rockwall and XD
  • San Antonio - Cinemark San Antonio 16
  • The Woodlands - Cinemark 17 and XD
  • Waco - Cinemark Waco and XD

The full list of theaters where it's available is online.

"Cinemark is thrilled to once again offer college football fans an opportunity to watch this year’s most anticipated games in our immersive, shared environment, especially given the enthusiasm we saw in our theaters last year," says Wanda Gierhart Fearing, Cinemark Chief Marketing and Content Officer.

"We are thankful for the collaboration with ESPN and our ability to bring this year’s games to even more cities as we expand participating locations," Fearing says. "Our larger-than-life screens and booming surround sound create the ultimate experience for fans to cheer on their team without missing a single heart-pounding play."

The schedule is as follows:

  • December 31, 3 pm: No. 2 Michigan will square off against No. 3 TCU in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
  • December 31, 7 pm: No. 1 Georgia will take on No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
  • January 9, 6:30 pm: The winners of the two games will go head-to-head for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T

All showings will include ESPN’s live pre-game studio programming.

To see the games in theaters, fans can reserve a seat when they purchase a $10 concessions package. Sales began on December 13. For information on participating theaters and to purchase concessions packages, visit Cinemark.com/CFP or the Cinemark mobile app.

Photo by dszc Getty Images

University of Texas launches $10 million seed fund with investment in vaccine storage pioneer

Sprouting Ideas

Planting a seed seems like a quaint activity, but the University of Texas at Austin doesn't do anything small. Its new $10 million UT seed fund is going into incubation soon, thanks to the efforts of Discovery to Impact, the team leading the University's "research commercialization and innovation efforts."

Except for its scale, this project is no different from any other seed investment, which inputs capital into a business in the form of a lump sum, in exchange for a portion of the business. In this case, the recipients are "promising new startups built on university-owned intellectual property," according to a press release. In total, UT Austin estimates that this intellectual property, or research enterprise, totals $800 million, a number it commits to "dramatically expand."

“By investing in these early-stage companies, we will be addressing a crucial gap in the capital market and enabling development of impactful technologies, while encouraging investors to consider opportunities coming out of the university,” said vice president of business strategies and operations Jim Davis in the release.

Discovery to Impact helps launch startups and stays on board through the many growing pains many startups experience, helping to accelerate "new products, services, solutions and cures." This means choosing and collaborating with three or four new companies each year, and when divided, the seed does appear rather small: companies can expect no more than a $250,000 investment.

The first seed will be planted in Jurata Thin Film, in order to grow solutions that streamline vaccine and biologic development and distribution worldwide. As many who followed COVID-19 vaccine news are aware, one major problem in distributing a vaccine is keeping it cold and stable. Jurata, based on the work of UT College of Pharmacy professor Maria Croyle, makes "thin films" (look up this keyword to see how unique Croyle's contribution is) that preserve vaccines for up to three years at room temperature. This is excellent news for communities with fewer resources or more arduous shipping needs.

The company is still relatively young, although not brand-new, having been founded in 2019. Its leadership has more experience; CEO Sheila Mikhail and co-founder Jude Samulski have previously collaborated on Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio) and Bamboo Therapeutics Inc.

The UT Seed Fund investment, along with other funding, will help bring about a pilot-scale manufacturing line that can create 1,000 doses of loaded thin films per hour, plus studies to ensure the safety of the formulation under the tongue, inside the cheek, and via intramuscular injection.

“Jurata is very excited to be the first recipient of UT Seed Fund,” said Jurata’s senior director of business development, Megan Livingston. “UT has been extremely supportive of our technology and development, and we look forward to continuing our relationship through this investment.”

A similar seed fund already exists at the University of Texas at Dallas, with larger sums for each business. More information about research at UT Austin is available at utexas.edu.

UT Austin hooks No. 8 ranking among best public colleges in U.S. — and No. 1 in Texas

Hook 'Em

The University of Texas at Austin is a star student among the top colleges in the U.S.

A new ranking from education information and review platform Niche ranks UT Austin as No. 8 out of the 601 best public colleges in the country — and the very best public school in Texas.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology holds the top spot nationally for overall best college, with Houston's Rice University coming in at No. 6 and UT Austin holding the No. 46 spot. Rice also beat out UT Austin for best overall college in Texas.

UT Austin also ranked highly in other categories, including:

  • No. 1 of 70 in best college athletics in Texas (perhaps the data did not include UT football?).
  • No. 1 of 43 in best colleges for communications in Texas; No. 7 of 925 nationally.
  • No. 1 of 77 in colleges with the best student life in Texas.
  • No. 1 of 43 in best colleges for accounting and finance in Texas; No. 7 of 829 nationally.

Here's how other top colleges in Texas stacked up, according to Niche:

  • Rice University in Houston, No. 6 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Texas. Rice also ranks sixth on the list of best private colleges in the U.S. and first in Texas.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station, No. 75 in the U.S. and No. 3 in Texas.
  • Southern Methodist University in Dallas, No. 82 in the U.S. and No. 4 in Texas.
  • Trinity University in San Antonio, No. 99 in the U.S. and No. 5 in Texas.
  • Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, No. 104 in the U.S. and No. 6 in Texas.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 148 in the U.S. and No. 7 in Texas.
  • Baylor University in Waco, No. 172 in the U.S. and No. 8 in Texas.
  • University of Texas at Dallas, No. 220 in the U.S. and No. 9 in Texas.
  • University of Houston, No. 232 in the U.S. and No. 10 in Texas.

To create the college rankings, Niche combines data from sources such as the U.S. Department of Education with user input — reviews and ratings from current students, alumni, and parents — in an analysis of factors such as academics, campus, and value for the financial investment. The rankings compare more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country.

“We know that choosing where to go to college is a major life decision, and we’ve always been committed to helping students and their families make their choice with as much information as possible,” says Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche. “With a mix of comprehensive data and millions of reviews, our 2023 best colleges rankings are a guide to the thousands of excellent institutions across the country.”

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Shuttered Salvation Army shelter in downtown Austin will get new life

Salvation Army

When the Salvation Army shelter on East Eighth Street shut its doors back in April, Austin City Council member Zohaib "Zo" Qadri (District 9) said it was unfortunate to see as an Austin resident and leader.

"The Salvation Army kind of abruptly stated that they were pulling out without much of a notice to the residents of the shelter in the district – a shelter that largely houses or housed women and children," Qadri said. "So, you know, that was a huge disappointment for us."

Now the City of Austin has reached a compromise and solution that Qadri believes will help those experiencing homelessness. The Austin City Council on Thursday, June 8, approved a 12-month lease agreement for the former Salvation Army shelter that will cost more than $1 million.

The site will be operated by California-based nonprofit Urban Alchemy, which also provides services at the ARCH, or the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The council also approved a contract for Urban Alchemy to add more funding, extend the ARCH program and run the former Salvation Army shelter, providing 150 beds.

Urban Alchemy will get more than $4 million.

Later this summer, City leaders will also consider a temporary emergency shelter that will provide around 300 more beds for people experiencing homelessness.

ECHO, or the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, estimates there are thousands of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. Since the city's camping ban was reinstated in May 2021, many of these individuals have spread out throughout the city or gone into hiding, making it harder to connect them with services.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Tenacious D will play the best song in the world in Austin this fall

Spicy Meatball

America's favorite (only?) comedy rock duo is back on tour, and lucky for Austinites, they've announced the addition of three Texas dates this fall. Of course, we're talking about none other than Tenacious D, comprised of Jack Black and Kyle Glass.

The duo's Spicy Meatball Tour is currently underway this month in Europe, with newly extended dates including Houston (September 13), Grand Prairie (September 14), and Austin (September 15).

Supporting acts are yet to be announced, but tickets are on sale as of Friday, June 9, at 10 am. Fans can purchase tickets HERE.

According to a release, the tour dates come on the heels of the recently-released recorded version of Tenacious D’s viral, fan-favorite live cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” The single is accompanied by a video directed by longtime D collaborator Taylor Stephens, and features our dynamic duo in a glorious, romantic romp by the sea. Last month, they released their first new song in five years, “Video Games,” which has been streamed over 18 million times across all platforms in less than a month. The animated music video, created by Oney Plays, brings video game-ified versions of Black and Glass to life in classic and hilarious ways.

In addition to the single releases, Tenacious D will be the special guest at this year’s Video Game Awards, happening on June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, where they will perform their new single.

But of course the burning question remains: Will Black perform his equally viral "Peaches" from the recent Super Mario Bros. movie? There's only one way to find out.

Full Tour Dates are below (new dates in bold font):
6/7/23 Berlin, Germany @ Zitadelle
6/8/23 Nickelsdorf, Austria @ Nova Rock Festival
6/10/23 Milan, Italy @ Carroponte
6/12/23 Zurich, Switzerland @ The Hall
6/13/23 Brussels, Belgium @ Forest National
6/14/23 Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Ahoy
6/16/23 London, England @ O2 Arena
6/18/23 Clisson, France @ Hellfest Open Air Festival
6/25/23 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl (Video Game Awards)
9/6/23 Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
9/7/23 Franklin, TN @ Firstbank Amphitheater
9/9/23 Indianapolis, IN @ All IN Music Festival
9/11/23 Rogers, AR @ Walmart AMP
9/13/23 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
9/14/23 Grand Prairie, TX @ Texas Trust CU Theatre
9/15/23 Austin, TX @ Germania Insurance Amphitheater

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is ridiculous and fun at the same time

Movie Review

The Transformers series has been one marked by near universal derision by the critics and (mostly) massive box office, highlighting the divide between those who watch movies for a living and those who just go for fun. Given that history, it seemed unlikely that the latest film, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, would unite the two factions.

Like the last film, Bumblebee, Rise of the Beasts is a prequel to the Transformers films directed by Michael Bay from 2007-2017 (Bay remains as a producer). Set in 1994, it features a way-too-complicated story involving something called the Transwarp device prized by three separate groups of Transformers: The Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen); the Maximals, animal-esque bots led by Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman); and the Terrorbots, led by Scourge (Peter Dinklage). One guess as to which of those groups is the evil one.

Mirage (Pete Davidson) in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Mirage (Pete Davidson) in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) is a former soldier in Manhattan who can’t find a job and tries his best to take care of his sickly brother, Kris (Dean Scott Vazquez). Elena Wallace (Dominique Fishback) works at a museum on Ellis Island, where she encounters an artifact with unusual markings. Through a series of unlikely but still fun events, both of them are dragged into the conflict between the Transformers, with nothing less than the fate of the universe at stake.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr. and written by a team of five writers, the film is as ridiculous as any of the previous iterations, and yet somehow it becomes the most entertaining entry yet. Some of this has to do with the human characters, who are given engaging scenes outside of the ones with Transformers, allowing them to be relatable instead of just pawns in the robot battles.

The trifecta of Transformer groups turn out to be actually interesting, rather than an excuse to fill the screen with CGI nonsense. The Autobots, as usual, are the main heroes, and with Bumblebee using movie quotes to talk and Mirage (Pete Davidson) lobbing wisecracks constantly, they’re rarely unentertaining. Having the animal-like Maximals on board gives a new dimension, and the seemingly unstoppable Scourge makes for an intimidating villain.

That’s not to say, of course, that the film doesn’t devolve into chaos on multiple occasions. Several of the battles, including the final sequence, seem designed to be almost incomprehensible. But Caple and the visual effects team appear to have understood that clarity makes for a better moviegoing experience, and so even as bedlam reigns, there’s a level of focus to the film that other films in the series have not had.

Even though his character isn’t fully fleshed out, Ramos brings a kind of streetwise energy to the role that makes him stand out. Fishback is not given as much to do, but she’s still highly enjoyable. Cullen, who’s been voicing Optimus Prime since the 1980s, is still a commanding presence, allowing Davidson, Michelle Yeoh, Perlman, and more to bring their own unique flair to their characters.

It may be a low bar to jump, but Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is the best film so far in the series, cracking the code of pairing humans with robots for a (semi)intelligible story. A late movie teaser will have fans geeking out over the future, but it’s best to enjoy this film for being as good as it is.


Transformers: Rise of the Beasts opens in theaters on June 9.