April 14, 2008


A. Report from Undergraduate Studies.

Dean Paul Woodruff (Undergraduate Studies) thanked everyone who participated in the certificate recognition on transcripts legislation, saying he thought these new offerings would be attractive to incoming students. He reported that the site visit by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities had gone “very well.” The first-year signature course served as UT Austin’s quality improvement plan, which is a central component required for accreditation reaffirmation. He said the on-site visiting committee members were very positive about the signature course concept, and he thanked everyone for contributing to its development and implementation throughout the curricular reform process. The concerns he had now were its maintenance and expansion. For next year, there will be 140 first-year signature courses offered with seating capacity for 4,700 students, and they will be required for incoming students in business, liberal arts, communication, nursing, education, architecture, and geological sciences. To bring all other units on-line by 2010, there will need to be on-going recruitment of faculty through the deans and department chairs.

Seating capacity can be expanded without adding new faculty up to nearly 7,000 seats. Only two of the classes for next year will accommodate 200 students. Dean Woodruff said he thought some of the smaller, successful courses could grow into larger class sizes.

Dean Woodruff said incentive payments to colleges and departments that release faculty to teach the new classes had been used in many different ways at the discretion of the deans. His office wants the pool of resources to cover special course-related expenses, such as field trips and visiting lecturers, for the new courses. Some of the funds may be used for professional development for the faculty offering the classes, but none of the money can be used for salary supplements. He said most of the funding had come from “the extra dollop of AUF money that we’re getting as a result of the larger payoff.” Integrated biology has chosen to use its funds for graduate student stipends, and English has decided to fund a post-doctoral candidate. Dean Woodruff said he was very pleased with the status of the signature courses.

The flags are independent of the 42-hour state-mandated curriculum, which needs to be uniform across the UT Austin campus and almost uniform across all Texas colleges and universities, except for six of the hours that can be institutionally designated. The flags are a unique UT Austin requirement and can be made available on core courses as well as degree-specific courses. The independent inquiry flag, according to Dean Woodruff, could be most appropriate if offered in conjunction with a senior seminar or capstone course. He said the intent was that faculty involved with curriculum oversight would hold meetings to answer questions such as the following:
  • What does independent inquiry mean for us?
  • What do we want this course, this new requirement, to represent?
  • Do we want to meet the minimum requirements or do we want our students to exceed the minimum requirements?
Dean Woodruff said it was not necessary to add courses to the degree requirements because the flags can be added to existing courses.

The Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee has focused a good amount of discussion on how to identify courses that could be flagged during the past year. Dear Woodruff said the two handouts distributed to the Council were works in progress. See Appendices B and C. After canvassing and collecting nominations from the colleges for flagged courses, the committee realized there was a good deal of work interpreting the definitions assigned to the flagged areas and determining what courses qualified. He said he felt that these issues could be handled within Undergraduate Studies through its advisory council without turning to the Faculty Council for further legislation and the issues requiring interpretation arise during the review of specific proposed courses. Examples thus far have included whether a freshman studio course could qualify for an independent inquiry flag or whether women qualified as an under-represented group.

Dean Woodruff said he thought there were two important stages in the flag approval process. The first occurs in the departmental meetings and college curriculum meetings where courses should carry a flag was determined. The second stage involved monitoring and assessing progress, which will likely involve reviewing the syllabi from a sampling of flagged courses to see if minimum requirements were adequately addressed. He also expected special assessment tools to be developed for determining if the flag requirement was doing what was intended. Dean Woodruff asked that Council members help their departments and colleagues understand the process and help identify courses between now and mid-fall.

At the urging of Executive Vice Provost Steve Monti, Dean Woodruff described the plan to increase the number of seminar rooms where first-year signature courses could meet. Six rooms will be located in the Tower and comprise the First Year Seminar Center, which is expected to serve six thousand students per year. The two alcoves used for the catalogs will be remodeled into two seminar rooms each, and the offices on either side will also be made into seminar rooms. Dean Woodruff also said that renovations were under way to restore the beauty of the two reading rooms associated with the old library. The Life Sciences Reading Room on the east side was recently restored, and The Hall of Texas on the west side will be restored to become a collaborative learning center that is “nominally controlled by Undergraduate Studies.” He said the hope was that a major donor could be located who would provide funds for the renovation and earn naming rights. This information stimulated positive memories about using the card catalogs and the rich history contained on the cards. Professor Palaima (classics) suggested that a portion of the old card catalog should be saved and displayed for students to realize how knowledge was acquired and accumulated in the past.

Return to the minutes of April 14, 2008.