Manuel J. Justiz

Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Manuel J. Justiz is dean of the College of Education. He assumed the position in 1990.

Daily Texan: Could you start off by telling us about the most interesting projects going on in the College of Education? 

Dean Justiz: We are the largest college of education in the country in size. We are a non-traditional school, meaning that we are very performance-based with a heavy emphasis on student performance and research. If you look at our national rankings, we were ranked  number one among publics for four years in a row. We have been ranked number one in research expenditures among public and private [universities] for five or six years. We place heavy emphasis on being interdisciplinary. 

We are cofounders of the UTeach program within the Natural Sciences [college] preparing math and science teachers. We’re also cofounders with Cockrell [School of Engineering] on UTeach engineering. Those are examples of some collaborative efforts. We took the lead with Governor Richards on STEM initiatives. At her request, we developed the only proposal for the entire state on STEM education. We’re working with Governor Abbott’s office on their current education initiative. Internally, we have the Office of Educational Research to improve the participation of faculty, and we have the third highest research expenditure at the University, which is strange for a college of education. It’s a very large college with a comprehensive mission, but we are very proud. 

DT: What percentage of undergrad students go into graduate school immediately versus going into teaching? 

Justiz: Our undergraduate population are the ones wanting to be teachers. Probably 85-90 percent of undergrads go on to teach. The rest are going to graduate school. We have 100 percent job placement and have a 100 percent pass rate in our Teacher Certification Exam. I think a lot of our graduates will come back after a few years for graduate programs.  

DT: You are the first dean we’ve talked to that has mentioned working with gubernatorial administrations. Is that something the college tries to initiate or do those different administrations reach out to you? 

Justiz: They reach out to us. I think that speaks to how well regarded the college is. I’ve been here 25 years, I’m the senior dean at UT. When I came here, the first initiative we had came from Governor Richards, with whom I traveled extensively and visited schools. She chose our STEM proposal to send to a federal level. We’re being asked to take the lead on Governor Abbott’s initiative. We don’t look inward, we look outward.  

DT: What brought you to UT and what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your time here? 

Justiz: When I was selected in a national search for a dean, I had been in a subcabinet post heading up the Research Agency in Education in Washington. I came to UT because it was a great opportunity. I fell in love with Austin and UT. It has been a great privilege for me to be a dean at the university. 

When I came, the college was under review. There were questions about academic integrity and the quality of our degrees. I felt this place could only go up. It was a low-risk situation. If I could build a team of people with the same vision, I knew I could improve the college and help it fulfill its promise. It is a work in progress, there are still problems and we need to make sure the leadership team is always working together. I’ve probably hired 92 percent of the college faculty by now.  

DT: Have you seen any changes in the types of students coming into the college? 

Justiz: When we started, most of our graduates were going into teacher education. Kinesiology has grown. Less people are going into teacher education and more into the health sciences.That isn’t so different from the rest of the university.  

DT: How large of a role does diversity play in your college? 

Justiz: Anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of minority graduates at UT graduate with a degree in education, and we have a strong, diverse faculty. In fact, I was the first minority dean in the history of the university.  

DT: What do you think will be the next big change in education? 

Justiz: We’ve been talking about creating a unique marriage between pedagogy and content in education through gaming. How do we bring the best facets of gaming to teaching and learning? How do we build that into a challenging curriculum that really engages you? How do you bring these practices in without compromising the integrity of the content? We think we need a public-private partnership to do this, but those are the kind of discussions we are having.