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Two Faculty Awarded for Outstanding Contributions

Jennifer Fritz, assistant professor of instruction for the Biology Instruction Office, and Mary Rose, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, were both awarded the 2019 Cale McDowell Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Studies. Fritz has demonstrated innovation in undergraduate programming through her implementation of hands-on learning sessions‚ while Rose is being recognized for her creation and support of key policies designed to improve the core curriculum.

Dr. Jennifer Fritz

Jennifer Fritz teaches multiple sections of entry-level biology courses that fulfill the Natural Science and Technology I requirement in the core curriculum. Sensing that her 311C students needed more active opportunities to engage with course concepts, Fritz collaborated with the Sanger Learning Center to develop Hands-On Learning Sessions (HOLS), which provide opportunities for students to build and manipulate models and solve problems in a collaborative, peer-to-peer environment. Due to the marked academic improvement of student participants of the initial spring 2017 pilot, the Sanger Learning Center partnered with Fritz to adapt HOLS to the existing administrative structure for Supplemental Instruction. This partnership allows Fritz to continue developing HOLS curriculum, while Sanger handles the recruitment, hiring, training, and supervision of student educators.

“Grade data (exciting as it is) only tells one part of the story,” wrote Fritz’s nominator. “Our student educators have cherished the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Fritz as she develops this program. Student participants are also quite enthusiastic. I mentioned HOLS in an off-hand way to one of the students on our advisory board, and she gushed, ‘hands-on learning is changing my life!’”

Dr. Mary Rose

As Chair of UT’s Educational Policy Commission, Mary Rose was instrumental in creating and implementing key policies that work to develop a richer undergraduate experience. This included removing a rule that required students to complete the final portion of their degrees in-residence, allowing more students to take advantage of study abroad programs, as well as setting reasonable limits on attempts at internal transfers between colleges so students would not spend years working through the transfer process without making additional plans. Rose also cleared the way for academic departments to adopt transcriptable minors and revised the course instructor survey to meet new UT System requirements.

“She has done all of this true leadership of the academic experience at UT while teaching a full load (often overload) of undergraduate courses and mentoring numerous research and practice activities for undergraduates in the Department of Sociology and Bridging Disciplines Program,” wrote Rose’s nominator. “For these reasons and more, Mary Rose is an asset to UT. She deserves this award.”

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

2018: Karin Wilkins, Associate Dean for Faculty Advancement and Strategic Initiatives in the Moody College of Communications for a commitment to interdisciplinary education.
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.