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UGS Staffers Recognized for Innovation

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, have been awarded the 2015 Cale McDowell Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Studies for their efforts to improve the experience of first-year students and the undergraduate curriculum.

As director of the First-year Experience Office, Micks has worked to ensure that first-year students have a small peer group through the 360 Connections program to help ease the transition to college. She coordinates a showcase of top faculty researchers from across campus in the form of the University Lecture Series each fall, which every first-year student attends. Micks also oversees the Signature Course program, which introduces undergraduates to college-level courses taught by distinguished faculty members from a variety of disciplines.

“The ways in which Patty supports the undergraduate student experience are overwhelming, yet she faces every effort with focus, heart, and motivation,” said Andrea Gonzalez, program coordinator in the First-year Experience Office. “Being an undergraduate student at UT is full of enriching experiences in and out of the classroom as a result of Patty’s contributions.”

Lori Holleran Steiker’s course “Young People & Drugs” became a small 18-student Signature Course in 2008 as the beginning of a new initiative to transform undergraduate education at UT. She was later asked to establish and chair the Signature Course Advisory Committee by UGS Inaugural Dean Paul Woodruff, where she helps to review course proposals and course assessments. She is the editor of a book titled “Signature Course Stories: Transforming Undergraduate Learning” featuring essays from faculty and students about their experiences with Signature Courses.

“Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker is a remarkable individual whose many contributions to undergraduate students across campus justify her as a most worthy recipient of the Cale McDowell Award,” said Larry Abraham, UGS associate dean. “Her deep personal commitment to building strong, caring, and supportive relationships with everyone she meets stands as evidence that she truly is a gem of the university.”

Dean Iverson presenting awards to Lori Holleran Steiker and Patty Micks

Award History & Selection Process

The endowed Cale McDowell Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Studies was established in February of 2010, with gifts from donors, including UGS Inaugural Dean 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 Curricular Reform and former deputy to the dean responsible for updating and implementing changes to the UT undergraduate curriculum.

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 any student, faculty, or staff member who improves the undergraduate experience at the university. The recipient of the award receives a $1,000 honorarium.

Past Winners

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 ongoing 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 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 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.