Archive for March, 2010
For several years, there has been interest in establishing an ombudsperson to represent UT staff members. As I have expressed at Staff Council meetings and other venues, I am open-minded about this. I believe it has been helpful to have an ombudsperson serving students and faculty.
But I want to make sure that such a move would be consistent with Staff Council priorities. I am aware that the Staff Council leadership had concerns about the structure of a previous proposal for an ombudsperson, as well as how it would be implemented.
As a result, I asked Staff Council Chair Ben Bond to review the subject and make a recommendation. In January the Staff Council created an ad hoc committee to study the staff grievance process and the role of an ombudsperson. The committee is chaired by Staff Council Representative Jennifer L. Smith of the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan. The committee was charged with proposing options for establishing a staff ombudsperson at UT. Its final report is due to the Staff Council in May.
I look forward to hearing from the Staff Council and reviewing its recommendation in the weeks ahead.
The Longhorns won the NCAA championship yesterday in Men’s swimming and diving.
This is UT’s 10th national title in swimming and diving. The NCAA team title is the Longhorns’ first since 2002 and makes head coach Eddie Reese the first in NCAA Division I men’s swimming and diving history to win NCAA team titles in four separate decades.
Coach Reese ranks No. 2 all-time in NCAA men’s swimming and diving team titles behind former Ohio State coach Mike Peppe, who won 11. Assistant Coach Kris Kubik has been on the coaching staff for all 10 NCAA titles. Diving coach Matt Scoggin has helped Texas to five NCAA titles.
The Longhorns had to come from behind on the final day of competition in Columbus, Ohio to surpass California for the title. Arizona placed third.
Congratulations to the entire team and coaching staff!
Hook ‘em Horns!
Today the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters awarded the 2010 Abel Prize to John Tate, professor emeritus of mathematics at UT. The Abel Prize is the highest honor in the field of mathematics and carries an award of $1 million.
The Norwegian Academy stated, “Many of the major lines of research in algebraic number theory and arithmetic geometry are only possible because of the incisive contributions and illuminating insights of John Tate. He has truly left a conspicuous imprint on modern mathematics.”
Professor Tate joined UT in 1990 after many years at Harvard. He recently retired as professor and Sid W. Richardson Chair in Mathematics. In 1995, he received the Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the American Mathematical Society.
Congratulations to Professor Tate! We will light the UT Tower orange in the near future in his honor.
What starts here changes the world.
We recently welcomed 50,000 visitors to our campus for Explore UT – the annual event we call “the biggest open house in Texas.”
Explore UT brings families, teachers, and K-12 students from all over Texas to the 40 Acres. Many of these students have never visited a university campus. They are greeted by our faculty, staff, and students, who guide them through fun programs in classrooms, libraries, and labs in nearly every corner of the campus. We hope to inspire these young visitors, as well, and introduce them to the idea that a college education will transform their lives. And that a college degree is a goal worth striving for.
Explore UT has been growing steadily since we began the program 11 years ago. This year, 443 school buses and 20 vans brought visitors from 261 schools in 65 Texas counties, representing 11 percent of the school districts in Texas. They came from as far away as El Paso, Plano, and the Rio Grande Valley.
Many current students tell us that they made their decision to attend UT based on their visit to campus during Explore UT. When UT aerospace engineering student Travis Imken was deciding on which university to choose, he discovered his answer at Explore UT. As he says, the day-long program gave him an opportunity “to check out the labs where students do projects and research, to talk with student organizations about their programs and how to get involved, and to interact with students and advisers. Explore UT was a great way for a prospective student like me to see what university life is really like and what to expect.”
I hope that all our visitors left campus with a better idea of what we do at UT—and a better sense of why we say “What starts here changes the world.”
Click here for a video of what the Explore UT experience means to Chris Lamons, a counselor at Southwest Elementary School in Belton, Texas, and her students. http://www.utexas.edu/features/2010/03/01/exploreut10/
Click here to watch a time-lapse video of visitors gathering to create the heart shape on UT’s Main Mall, deep in the heart of Texas. http://www.utexas.edu/know/2010/03/09/biggest-heart-in-texas/
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with faculty members who are teaching the Signature Courses for first-year students. These courses are designed to expose freshmen to experienced faculty and provide them with a rigorous and engaging intellectual experience. They are an important element in UT’s undergraduate curriculum reform. This academic year, more than 5,250 freshmen have enrolled in the Signature Courses, and next year the entire freshman class will participate. The program is administered by the School of Undergraduate Studies.
For example, Professor Adam Rabinowitz in the Department of Classics teaches a Signature Course on the Trojan War. He and his students start with Homer’s Iliad and examine the way the story has been adapted again and again, from antiquity to the present, to illuminate issues of violence, honor, and loss. The students also look at the role of the story of the Trojan War in the birth of the field of archaeology, its representation in art and literature, and the ways in which philosophers and social commentators have used the story to explore the relevance of the ancient world to the modern.
“I’ve watched my students become more comfortable speaking and presenting their ideas in class; I’ve watched them learn how to conduct research and frame an argument,” says Professor Rabinowitz. “After several drafts and peer editing, their final papers matured into serious research projects with a thesis and evidence organized to support arguments for that thesis.”
“I wholeheartedly support this initiative,” he continues. “I’m the product of a small liberal arts college, and while a big research university has certain advantages over that experience, small colleges usually have an edge in teaching students how to be students through close interaction with professors and their peers. To have this kind of interaction at a university the size of UT—and to have it not just for the best students, but for all of them—is incredibly valuable.”
I agree. I teach a Signature Course in the fall. It keeps me in touch with students and reminds me why we’re all here.
This week we’ve launched The Ideas of Texas website for alumni, students, and friends of UT. This program is an opportunity for you to share your ideas about how to improve The University of Texas.
We’re looking for ideas to enhance teaching, student life, and the alumni experience, to increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve our effectiveness. The Ideas of Texas allows you to share, review, and vote on ideas to advance our mission. At the end of the semester, we’ll evaluate the top ranked ideas for implementation. This is a companion website to the Ideas of Texas program launched in November for faculty and staff, who have already contributed more than 250 ideas.
I look forward to hearing from you about ways we can better serve our students, alumni, and the world at large.