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Find Your UTOPIA: New online gateway enhances public access to university's rich resources


What if every Texan had access—at the touch of a button—to the vast reservoir of knowledge and cultural assets at The University of Texas at Austin? What if you could sit at your computer and gather helpful information from a university professor on how to do your income taxes? What if a teacher could go online and put together a lesson plan or gather ideas for a class field trip? What if you could view—in your own home—the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center’s memorabilia of the movie classic “Gone With the Wind”?

UTOPIA

Now, you can. The University of Texas at Austin has created UTOPIA, a digital knowledge gateway into its intellectual resources and the cultural treasures of its libraries, museums and galleries. At http://utopia.utexas.edu, this rich online venue is breaking down walls and changing the way a university connects to those outside the campus community. No longer do you have to be on campus to see Renaissance paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art or to hear a lecture by a University of Texas at Austin scholar on how to take your invention to market.

“The goal is to push the university’s value out to all citizens in new and imaginative ways,” said Dr. Larry Faulkner, president of the university, in announcing UTOPIA on Saturday, March 6. “What we are unveiling today is only a beginning. UTOPIA is a work in progress that promises to be an online service that will exceed anything of its kind.”

Watch the UTOPIA vision video
Watch the UTOPIA vision video to learn about this groundbreaking new project.

As Dr. Faulkner indicated, UTOPIA is a sustained, systematic effort to digitize the university’s resources and share them with the public. Funded mostly with private money, the site will evolve over time into a voluminous resource presented in an easy-to-use, navigable format.

A key aspect of UTOPIA will be its resources for K-12 educators. There are professional development opportunities, classroom teaching tools and lists of on-campus field trip suggestions. Materials will be searchable by grade level and subject and most of the lesson plans are TEKS-aligned. (TEKS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, is an assessment tool for learning in Texas public schools.) UTOPIA will also provide online forums so that teachers can share ideas. Eventually, streaming video of live university events will be available.

In addition, the scholarly work of the university’s faculty will be made accessible, understandable and appealing to visitors of different ages and educational backgrounds. There are interactive opportunities, including a page on which users can ask experts questions about the latest scientific discoveries on Mars.

UTOPIA Web site home page

The site is navigable by user category—Educators, Students and Families—or by areas of interest—The Arts, Business, Health & Fitness, History & Culture, Law & Politics, Science & Nature, Technology, and Texas. The home page will contain a regular feature titled Brainwaves, which provides information about the wonders of the human brain. It is produced by the UT Institute for Neuroscience and the producers of StarDate, a broadcast outreach program of the McDonald Observatory.

“UTOPIA is different from our main UT Web site in that it provides a centralized and guided point of entry into the rich world of knowledge, research and visual wonders that make up The University of Texas at Austin,” said Liz Aebersold, project director. “Our purpose is to create the universal university, the pathway to information for all people, regardless of where they are or the level of their technical skills.”

Other broad categories of information include a section for students, which offers, among other things, test-taking tips and study skills. A family page is home to reading lists for kids by age group and printable coloring books.

The special “You-T” corner offers “Tools for Life,” or information helpful in tackling life’s everyday issues. You-T will feature a monthly theme, such as health and fitness or financial planning—all based on the expertise of university faculty members.

Originally called the Knowledge Gateway, the concept of UTOPIA was announced two years ago by Dr. Faulkner, who said at the time, “The great treasures of this institution belong to all citizens of the state. We want all to use them. We intend to be a leader in the new realm where research, learning and scholarly discourse are not limited by the walls of classrooms and laboratories.”

Sheila Allee

Office of Public Affairs
P.O. Box Z
Austin, TX 78713

512-471-3151
Fax 512-471-5812


  Updated 2014 October 13
  Comments to utopa@www.utexas.edu