Graduation Rate Champion Appointed at The University of Texas at Austin

May 8, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — As part of a strategic plan to increase its four-year graduation rate, The University of Texas at Austin has appointed a graduation rate champion to oversee its efforts to streamline the undergraduate experience and remove institutional roadblocks to timely graduation.

David Laude, who has most recently served as interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences, will join the Provost’s Office on July 15, 2012, as senior vice provost of enrollment and graduation management. The new role was one of the major recommendations from the Graduation Rate Task Force Report released in February.

The strategies outlined in the report are designed to ensure by 2016 that 70 percent of undergraduate students earn their degrees within four years. Funding for the new position will come from vacancies created by recent departures from the Provost's Office.

“This appointment will help bring together the full spectrum of the undergraduate experience — admission, financial aid, registration, the colleges, advisers, technology and facilities — to make sure that students have the means and motivation to graduate within four years,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie.

“David Laude has distinguished himself as a professor and administrator in the College of Natural Sciences and has a passion for student success. His perspective and talents will serve to bridge all of the university’s diverse functions and focus them on ensuring students make timely progress through their degree plans,” Leslie said.

Currently, about half of first-year students entering in the fall semester earn a degree at The University of Texas at Austin within four years. That rate is higher than at any other public college or university in Texas but lower than at several peer, public research universities around the nation. About 75 percent of University of Texas at Austin students graduate in five years, and more than 80 percent graduate within six years.

"This is such an exciting opportunity to take the experiences I have had working with students as a dean in Natural Sciences and use those experiences to promote student success across the university,” Laude said. “For me, achieving improved graduation rates will be more than just about the numbers. It will be the chance to appreciate the accomplishments of our students, which is what makes this work so gratifying."

Laude, a professor in the Chemistry Department, served as associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Natural Sciences from 1997 until 2010, then as senior associate dean for academic affairs until his appointment as interim dean last May. He was instrumental in the development of the UTeach program, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan and the Freshman Research Initiative. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of the South, a master's of science from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of California at Riverside in 1984.

In addition to Laude’s appointment, the provost has announced that Vice Provost Dan Slesnick will be elevated to senior vice provost for resource management, effective May 1, 2012.  His duties include identifying funding for student success initiatives and strategies for academic facility usage.

Before moving to the provost’s office, Slesnick served as associate dean for research and technology in the College of Liberal Arts. He began his teaching career at The University of Texas at Austin in 1982 as an assistant professor of economics. He became an associate professor in 1986 and has been a professor of economics since 1993. Slesnick received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

For more information, contact: Tara Doolittle, 471-4550.

12 Comments to "Graduation Rate Champion Appointed at The University of Texas at Austin"

1.  Michelle Robinette said on May 8, 2012

You may make it a little easier for students to transfer to other majors when picking the wrong one at first and realizing they are not good at that type of career. Sometimes it is very hard to recover when that happens.

2.  david said on May 15, 2012

Increasing graduation rate is fine, but do NOT water down academic rigor to do so. High schools, colleges, and universities have been dumbed down enough by attempts to matriculate students who are poorly prepared or lack the requisite work ethic and intellect for proper university-level work, which should be qualitatively and quantitatively much more challenging than high school.

3.  Zack Dryer said on May 17, 2012

@ David- That was the first thought I had as well. Although I find it tough to maintain a high GPA at UT, I take it as a personal challange to do well and subsequntly my 4.0 at UT feels like it actualy means something. If a person goes to a lesser college and got an GPA the exact same as mine, even admissions at most schools admits that the UT GPA is more substantial in merit. I hope UT does not allow our school to become one of these watered-down schools.

4.  Melody said on May 17, 2012

Excellent points by Michelle and david. I got screwed by picking the wrong major, and it was ultimately impossible to switch to the major I desired. Didn't have very good advising while I was at UT.

Graduation rates don't necessarily indicate a failure at the academic level. Most of the kids I knew at UT, including myself, puttered along, because they all had full-time jobs, in order to support the astronomical cost of living in Austin, and to afford tuition. It has nothing to do with their academic prowess. Why doesn't anyone speak about affordable housing for students at UT? Instead, more and more "luxury student living" condos keep going up. Along with rising tuition, UT is headed toward becoming a university solely for the rich and privileged. Glad I got my degree when I could. It's really a shame who they are catering to - people who have already been given every opportunity in life.

5.  Stephanie said on May 17, 2012

My daughter finished all but her last French class and a math class for her degree in Public Relations 2 years ago. She took a 2nd internship at Disney and it turned into a full-time job. Now she cannot return to campus to finish the last 6 hours or she will sacrifice a nice job that she has worked very hard for! THey will not allow online classes from another university (they do not offer) and they insist the last 6 hours be in Austin. She completed 124 hours in Austin. If they want their rate to increase, they must be more flexible for those that secure a job before the last couple of (non-major) hours are completed. Especially when college grads have about a 35 - 50% unemployment rate 1 year after graduation. Doesn't make sense!!!

6.  Rob Bligh said on May 17, 2012

Anyone willing to take the job of Graduation Rate Czar must be presumed to be willing to compromise the academic standards of the institution in order to accomplish the political goal of manipulating an increase in the rate of graduation. Any academic institution can increase its graduation rate by simply increasing the admission standards for freshmen. Better students will mean higher graduation rates without doing any damage to the academic quality of the institution.

7.  Donetta Goodall said on May 17, 2012

I applaud this move, especially since this action will have the potential to: 1) assist students to focus more on the courses that truly count in their degree programs; 2) being able to be more intentional in the courses taken can reduce time to degree completion and thus decrease the cost; 3) allow students to move through their educational experience with fewer "detours;" 4) allow for easier, and a more seamless transfer for community college students to the university for those who wish to obtain a 4-year degree, and 5) this position can do much to strengthen communication and the advising component.

8.  Rod said on May 17, 2012

Melody is 100% correct. Cost is the major issue. Those that do not work fulltime have to work part-time to pay.
Laude will do a great job if they give him the support. Innovation is the key. Out with the lecture and endless theory-based education. In with application and research so student are able to see quickly what their choice in major will do for them.

9.  Kimberley said on May 18, 2012

I finished my undergrad degree last year, after 5 years. Part of the issue I found was that some classes are only given for a particular semester. We were given a degree plan, but what they don't take into account is not being able to get into classes to fulfill prerequisites. It literally creates road blocks when you can't do that and then a required course for the degree is offered only fall or spring, not both semesters. So that leads to having to wait a year to take the right classes. I switched majors because I ran into that. Had I not, I probably would still be working on my undergrad degree, rather than having a year into my Master's completed.

10.  Jeffrey said on May 20, 2012

I am an engineering student at UT. The Fall semester was my first semester at UT and I met with an adviser to set up my schedule. My adviser told me several incorrect things including the "fact" that I could not take a key course in my major. I find out a few weeks later that I certainly did qualify and that a modest number of students did take this course their first semester. As a result, I'm now graduating a semester later than I had planned strictly due to bad information from my adviser.

In summary, advisers as a whole need to be better educated on a discipline's curriculum. Those who continue giving students incorrect information need to be replaced.

11.  Bill said on May 21, 2012

One more Administrator! How many Staff will be laid off to support this folly of continuing to bloat the ranks of The Administration?

12.  Brenda said on May 23, 2012

I applaud the effort to help students graduate within four years. Hopefully this will include better advising and more classes because, as others have stated, required classes are often not offered but once a year and are quick to fill up. If my daughter didn't take summer classes she would not be on track to graduate in 4 years.