In his State of the University address, the president characterized Undergraduate Studies as an important piece of the university’s strategic plan and productivity. He also announced the new university-wide career center. Here is the relevant section from President Powers’s speech; read the full text here..
In 2002, as the University approached its 125th birthday, there was a sense on the campus that we were a great institution, but we needed to focus our strategic plan. President Larry Faulkner, to his everlasting credit, met the need head-on by convening the Commission of 125 to develop a road map. In 2004 their work culminated in a thoughtful and bold report that had two big ideas: we should revitalize our undergraduate curriculum, and we should set a more demanding standard for, and give more authority and support to, leaders of our academic departments and research centers. These, after all, are where the real work of the University occurs.
So we set out to implement these reforms. We selected leaders who wanted to shape their departments strategically, not merely manage them administratively. We gave them more flexibility and authority. And these changes have paid off in departments and research centers across the campus with creative, strategic leadership.
And we began revitalizing our undergraduate experience. As dean of the Law School, I chaired the task force that began the process, and as president I have made this effort a centerpiece of my administration. We established the School of Undergraduate Studies, both to be a champion of continuing undergraduate innovation and to be an early home for students who have not decided on a major, a home where they can get the advising and support to progress in a timely way toward a degree. Our inaugural dean, Paul Woodruff, led the school for six years with superb skill and vision. Paul, thank you for all you have done.
We instituted the Signature Courses to give every freshman an experience with an established member of the faculty that focuses on writing, critical thinking, and big issues. I teach one. We established a system of course “flags”:core/flags so that the curriculum systematically gives students exposure to important areas, such as writing, critical thinking, and the diversity of global and domestic cultures. We’re working on pathways, or “streams,” through the curriculum to provide students with opportunities in important areas of the workforce and graduate programs. We’re establishing a new university-wide career center, and we’ve implemented a freshman research program in the College of Natural Sciences where students work in real labs on real research. Today, 89 percent of all undergraduate students and 94 percent of seniors participate in some type of research while at UT. Going forward, this effort is still a vital part of our agenda.