Dean Paul Woodruff

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

As part of an initiative to increase undergraduate interest in research, the School of Undergraduate Studies hosted a lecture series called Research That Changes The World on Tuesday evening.

The lectures took place in a packed Bass Concert Hall, where three teams of researchers — representing the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities — took the stage to present their work. Each research team was composed of a student and professor who worked together to develop a project.

The presentations began with a short introduction by Dean Paul Woodruff, who acted as a moderator in the series and urged students to take advantage of the chance to impact their environment.

“These presentations were designed to be a common experience — almost a football game in a way, but academic,” Woodruff said. “We give you opportunities to change, and that gives you the chance to change the world.”

The lecture series kicked off with a presentation by sociology and psychology professor Robert Crosnoe and UT sociology alumna Natalie Raff about their work on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Developments’ case study of the effects of parental involvement in 1,364 children observed from birth to about 20 years of age.

“This was really a great time for me, and I was able to become part of research and work on a different variety of projects and research skills,” Raff said. “I urge all of you to explore what UT has in terms of research.”

Brent Iverson, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Jennifer Maynard, assistant professor of chemical engineering, described their development of a successful cure for anthrax, which they claim is 20 times more powerful than the antibiotic developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. As opposed to research done by large corporations that involve billions of dollars, huge teams and decades of research, this project utilized a small cash amount and only about three researchers, Iverson said.

“It’s hard to imagine working in a lab,” Iverson said. “It’s sort of like an apprenticeship. You’re mixing things, stirring things, heating things — most of the time, it doesn’t work out, and you’re going back to your professor and asking for ideas. You’re thinking about all of these factors, and in these failures is where you learn.”

The last presentation was given by English professor James Loehlin and senior English major Isto Barton, who presented their research on the effect of performance in learning Shakespeare. As Barton acted out scenes from “Richard III”, Loehlin described the psychology of Barton’s character and how watching the performance resulted in a different understanding of the play than simply reading it.

Finally, the floor was open to questions from a select group of honors students. The night ended on a question from Woodruff, who asked if the heavy lifting of work was done by undergraduate students. The answer from Iverson was “an emphatic yes.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Lectures encourage student research.

The University of Texas at Austin is one of 18 colleges and universities given an A grade for its core curriculum in a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Meanwhile, Harvard University, which is ranked as the top university in U.S. News and World Report, received a D grade. The ratings are based on whether the institution requires all undergraduates take seven specific subjects. Because UT requires six of those subjects, it received an A. Michael Pomeranz, spokesman for the council, said the basic requirements are a valid instrument to measure because all students should learn them. “Estimates today are that a college graduate will change jobs nine, 10, 11 times in the course of her career,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t count on specialization.” Pomeranz said he was not concerned with the fact that schools who normally rank highly on other measures received lower grades. Most rankings are based on reputation directly or indirectly, Pomeranz said, but his system is entirely different. “We wanted to measure what students will learn, which is what really matters to a student, parent or guidance counselor evaluating a school or an employer evaluating a graduate,” Pomeranz said. The state government mandates a 42-hour core curriculum, said Undergraduate Studies Dean Paul Woodruff. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board sets guidelines for subject areas, and the Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee proposes courses to meet those requirements and changes in annual reviews. Faculty Council votes on those changes, and then the Coordinating Board must approve them before the University can implement them. Pomeranz said college representatives have called the Faculty Council to discuss their curricula. He said he hopes the report encourages schools to broaden their requirements and make sure they accomplish their goals. Woodruff said he thinks adding an economics course as a separate requirement, as the report recommends, is unnecessary. “Texas high schools require a basic [economics] course, and that suffices for some students,” Woodruff said. “We are looking to support a solid general education for good citizens and lifelong learners.” Psychology sophomore Miranda Edson said the rating system overemphasized the importance of lower-division classes. She said the foreign language and composition requirements were more important than history or a literature survey class. She said she would factor the core curriculum into a rating of a college but also consider degree plans. “At the end, when you graduate, it’s more important that you actually learned something than completed requirements,” Edson said.