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”?
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.”
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,
A key aspect of UTOPIA will be its resources for
K-12 educators. There are professional development opportunities,
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.
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.
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
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
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.”