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Assistant Dean Herman Wins Award for Core Curriculum Innovation

Dr. Jeanette Herman, assistant dean for academic initiatives in the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS), was selected to receive the 2013 Cale McDowell Award. The selection committee, which includes students, faculty, and staff, chose Dr. Herman for her work implementing one of the recommendations of the Task Force on Curriculum Reform: skills and experiences flags as part of the UT Austin core curriculum that is shared by all undergraduate students. Flags are taught across the curriculum shared by all UT Austin undergraduates. Students learn about writing or ethical decision-making, for example, in the context of their own discipline. Flags come from a belief that every undergraduate should be exposed to a set of important skills and experiences designed to prepare them for a complex world.

“The visionary transformation proposed by the Task Force, of extending common curricular elements into each major, has been and is being accomplished systematically, skillfully, and impressively under Dr. Herman’s leadership,” said Interim Dean of Undergraduate Studies Larry Abraham, adding that he commends her “dedicated personal efforts.”

About Jeanette Herman

Jeanette HermanJeanette Herman received her Ph.D. in English from The University of Texas at Austin in 2004. As assistant dean for academic initiatives, she serves as director of the Center for the Skills and Experience Flags and director of the Bridging Disciplines Programs. In her current role, she works with a variety of academic initiatives in the School of Undergraduate Studies, including the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Archer Program at UT Austin.

Her academic research focuses on textual and visual images of suffering bodies as they circulate in colonial and postcolonial political contexts, particularly in India and Ireland/Northern Ireland. She has published articles in Camera Obscura and Comparative Literature Studies. She has taught courses on women writers of the South Asian Diaspora, women’s popular genres, and the rhetoric of political bodies. Before joining the Bridging Disciplines Programs in 2006, Jeanette was the editor for UT Austin’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, where she managed three series of scholarly monographs and literary translations.

Award History & Selection Process

Jeanette Herman with AwardThe endowed Cale McDowell Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Studies was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System on February 4, 2010, with gifts from numerous donors, including Inaugural Dean of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff, President William Powers, Jr., and other distinguished members of the University community. The award honors Cale McDowell, a member of the Task Force on Curriculum Reform, founder of the School of Undergraduate Studies, and former deputy to the dean responsible for curriculum reform implementation.

The purpose of the McDowell Award is to encourage research or innovation that improves the university’s core curriculum. The award may be given to a deserving staff member or administrator in the School of Undergraduate Studies, or to reward extraordinary effort by any student, faculty, or staff member toward improving the undergraduate experience at the university. The recipient of the award receives a commemorative certificate and a $1,000 honorarium.

Past Winners

2012: Professors Barbara Brown Wilson and Matthew Fajkus, for their work creating a Signature Course.
2011: Shelby Stanfield, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Registrar, for his work as a key participant in UT Austin’s ongoing effort to reform its undergraduate core curriculum and focus new resources on undergraduate education.


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

About Cale McDowell

Cale McDowellMcDowell (B.B.A. ’05, M.P.A. ’06, J.D. ’09) was 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 chairman (‘04-‘05) and chairman (‘05-‘06) of the Senate of College Councils and was appointed by President Larry Faulkner in 2004 to the Task Force on Curriculum 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 toward the approval of 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.