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Faculty Member Awarded for Interdisciplinary Work

Karin Wilkins, Associate Dean for Faculty Advancement and Strategic Initiatives in the Moody College of Communications, was awarded the 2018 Cale McDowell Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Studies. She has demonstrated a commitment to interdisciplinary education within the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) and in many departments across the Forty Acres.

Wilkins served on the Ethics & Leadership Flag committee for two years where she worked to build Flags into undergraduate degree plans. Wilkins has also been an integral part of the Bridging Disciplines Programs (BDP) for over a decade. She regularly taught the BDP 101 course, mentored students with research projects and internships, and served on the faculty panel for the Global Studies certificate. Wilkins also chaired the task force that created the Communication and Leadership degree in the Moody College and is now the director of the degree.

“Creating the Communication and Leadership degree program was not an easy process, but Karin spearheaded the effort and we accomplished this goal,” wrote one nominator. “While working on this program, she had incredible composure and provided steadfast leadership to faculty and students who were involved in the process. She served as a wonderful role model by inspiring our team to look beyond the complexities of a bureaucratic process and work diligently to accomplish our goals.”

Award History & Selection Process

The purpose of the Cale McDowell Award is to encourage research or innovation that improves the university’s core curriculum. The award is given to a deserving staff member or administrator in the School of Undergraduate Studies, or to any student, faculty, or staff member who improves the undergraduate experience at the university. The recipient of the award receives a $1,000 honorarium. The award was established in February 2010 with gifts from donors, including Inaugural Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff, President William Powers, Jr., and other distinguished members of the university community.

Past Winners

2017: Bruce Pennycook, professor in the Butler School of Music and director of the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technology for bridging disciplines between art and technology.
2016: Meme Drumwright, associate professor of advertising and public relations for her promotion of ethics and leadership in undergraduate education.
2015: Patty Micks, director of the First-year Experience Office in the School of Undergraduate Studies and Lori Holleran Steiker, associate professor in the School of Social Work, for their efforts to improve the experience of first-year students and the undergraduate curriculum.
2014: Jen Morgan, senior program coordinator in the School of Undergraduate Studies, for her work to implement state-mandated changes to the core curriculum across the university.
2013: Jeanette Herman, assistant dean for academic initiatives, for core curriculum innovation.
2012: Professors Barbara Brown Wilson and Matthew Fajkus, for their work creating an innovative Signature Course.
2011: Shelby Stanfield, associate vice president for student affairs and registrar, for his work as a key participant in UT Austin’s effort to reform its undergraduate core curriculum and focus new resources on undergraduate education.


Each year, a committee comprising faculty, students, and staff chooses the McDowell Award recipient from candidates nominated by the campus community. This year’s committee included

About Cale McDowell

Cale McDowellThe award honors Cale McDowell (B.B.A. ’05, M.P.A. ’06, J.D. ’09), one of the founders of the School of Undergraduate Studies and former deputy to the dean. During his time at the university, McDowell served as vice chair (‘04-‘05) and chair (‘05-‘06) of the Senate of College Councils and was appointed by President Larry Faulkner in 2004 to the Task Force on Curricular Reform. McDowell is co-author of the report of the Task Force and the Faculty Council motion adopting many of its recommendations.

During the early months of Bill Powers’s tenure as president of the university, McDowell served as aide to the president. In that role, he worked with college deans and the Faculty Council on efforts to retool the university’s new core curriculum. Upon Paul Woodruff’s September 2006 appointment as inaugural dean of Undergraduate Studies, McDowell joined the dean’s senior staff. His work with faculty committees, the university’s colleges and schools, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board led to the implementation of the new core curriculum for all undergraduate students and the creation of the School of Undergraduate Studies. He now serves on this school’s advisory council.