Dean Lawrence Abraham

Former Dean of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff speaks Thursday afternoon at a reception commemorating achievements during his tenure.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

President William Powers Jr. announced a new professorship Thursday that will support programs and faculty doing innovative work in the field of undergraduate studies.

The professorship was made in honor of outgoing School of Undergraduate Studies Dean Paul Woodruff, who stepped down from his position as of today to return to full-time teaching. Alumni, Woodruff’s former students and fellow faculty members raised $270,000 to fund the new position. In addition, the president’s office is going to add an additional $100,000 to create the professorship.

Woodruff announced he was returning to teaching in June after six years as the first dean of undergraduate studies. UGS Associate Dean Lawrence Abraham will serve as the interim dean of UGS until a search committee finds a permanent replacement.

“Very often innovation comes from individual faculty members, who very often need support,” Powers said. “This professorship will be available to support a couple of faculty members.”

Powers surprised Woodruff with the announcement at the ceremony Thursday. Woodruff has been hailed by Powers as the man who built UGS and set it on a path to success for the future.

After Powers’ announcement, Woodruff said he had no idea the professorship would be created and that it would be a tool for the future UGS dean.

“The income from that professorship will allow people to spend a lot of time inventing and creating new courses,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff is returning to full-time teaching, something he said he has missed.

“He has continued teaching while being dean, but he is now returning to full-time teaching,” Abraham said. “He loves teaching so much, he has continued teaching while serving as dean.”

Powers said Woodruff’s absence will be felt.

“Any time Paul Woodruff steps down from any position, it leaves a hole,” Powers said. “We’ll fill that hole, but he is a very important and a very good person around here.”

Powers said this position is a tool that will give professors additional support in their endeavors to innovate UGS.

He said the professorship was created in honor of Woodruff and was not related to the larger incoming freshman class, which is impacting UGS the most heavily.

“The emphasis of [making the professorship] is we need to do something to honor Dean Woodruff,” Powers said. “All of the larger enrollment, we’ve been working on that for three or four months. We’re ready for that.” 

Printed on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 as: Professorship created in honor of UGS dean

Although the hunt for a permanent dean for the School of Undergraduate Studies continues, Associate Dean Lawrence Abraham will take over as interim dean beginning Sept. 1.

Abraham was appointed by President William Powers Jr. and University Provost Steven Leslie June 29 to take over for outgoing dean Paul Woodruff. Woodruff announced in early June he was stepping down that month to return to teaching philosophy full-time. UT spokesman Robert Meckel said Abraham was familiar with the School of Undergraduate Studies because he worked with Woodruff. It is not clear how long Abraham will serve as interim dean or when a permanent dean will be hired.

“Just as Provost Leslie phrased it, he will provide ‘stability, continuity and vision for the school.’”

Abraham began his career at UT in 1975 and made a name for himself by becoming an active member of the faculty. He started out teaching in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and became an associate dean in the College of Education from 1998 to 2002. He then went on to become the associate dean of Undergraduate Studies in 2009.

Abraham said he is looking forward to holding the title of dean during this transition period. He said it will be helpful for the school to have an experienced leadership to coordinate activities and decisions involving staff members and UGS programs. The School of Undergraduate Studies is anticipating a 66 percent increase of incoming students next fall.

“I am excited about this opportunity to help assure that the work of the school continues as smoothly as possible during the leadership transition period until a new permanent dean is on board,” Abraham said.

Woodruff served as the first dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies and served a six-year term. He was originally only expected to serve four years, but agreed to take on two more. Powers started the UGS program as a way for students to experience the taste of a classroom in a different major, according to a statement on the UT website. Since 2009, the number of students changing from UGS to another major decreased from 65 percent to 7 percent. In a June interview with The Daily Texan, Woodruff said he did not think there would be any problems during the transition, even though the school is expecting a large increase of students.

“The preparations that we are making for the increase we are making now,” Woodruff said in the interview. “We got the additional funding that we need. We’ve been able to continue with a pretty favorable ratio of students to advisors, so I don’t think that is going to be a problem at all.”

Woodruff said he believes Abraham will be a good interim dean because he believes in the school’s mission and has experience as an administrator.

“He understands the School of Undergraduate Studies very well,” Woodruff said. “He will be an active interim dean, not merely a caretaker.”