• Chancellor reveals cost of possible Houston expansion, said it’s “years” away from breaking ground

    Chancellor William McRaven revealed to lawmakers Wednesday the total cost of the UT System’s planned expansion into Houston: $15 million a year for the next 30 years.

    The System purchased the first portion of the land Friday as part of a larger plan to purchase a total of 300 acres in Houston to build a campus there. The expansion has come under criticism from lawmakers because of concerns about inhibiting the growth efforts of existing Houston-based institutions such as Rice University, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

    When speaking with lawmakers, McRaven emphasized the benefits to the state of expanding into Houston and said the System was years away from breaking ground on a new campus in Houston.

    “Our goal is to build something that will bring the best talent to the city for collaboration and innovation,” McRaven said, according to the Texas Tribune. “We want to astound people with our boldness. And we are beginning with a blank canvas... We are only limited by our drive, our imagination and our courage to challenge conventional wisdom.”

    McRaven is expected to address the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board tomorrow on the possible Houston expansion.

  • Psychology professor to lead initiative on educational innovation

    Under a new five-year initiative, the University will look into incorporating more technology into courses and experimenting with more innovative teaching methods.

    The initiative, Project 2021, will be headed by psychology professor James Pennebaker, according to President Gregory Fenves, who announced the initiative and appointment Tuesday morning.

    “Increasing the value of the undergraduate experience is a priority for the University,” Fenves said. “[Pennebaker] will help ensure our undergraduate students receive the maximum benefit of our campus through the integration of research and education.”

    In his new role, Pennebaker will coordinate offices at UT — including extended campus, learning sciences and the faculty innovation center —  to evaluate new teaching methods and course designs that better integrate technology and education in courses.

    “This is a rare opportunity to bring together new approaches to teaching and research to help the University shape the future of undergraduate education,” Pennebaker said in a press release.
    According to Joey Williams, interim communications director for the executive vice president and provost office, Pennebaker is a renowned social psychologist who has focused his research on understanding how students learn and communicate in groups, making him an ideal candidate for his new roles.

    Pennebaker said he is honored to be a part of an initiative as massive and exciting as Project 2021.

    “My goal is to work with various parts of the University to try to help prepare UT for the next generation of teaching and learning,” Pennebaker said. “President Fenves’s vision will establish UT as a leader in undergraduate training.”

    Pennebaker, who served as the psychology department chair from 2005 to 2014 and has worked at UT for nearly two decades, will also serve as special advisor to the provost for educational innovation. He has received many awards for his work in his field,  such as the Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology recently awarded by the American Psychological Association.

    “He’s known for being very innovative and using research and technology in his classes,” Williams said. “He’s really been studying this in his own research for some time, trying to be innovative and leveraging technology when appropriate.”

    This story has been updated since its initial publication.

  • Hartzell appointed as new dean of McCombs School of Business

    The University announced Thursday that Jay Hartzell has been appointed as the new dean of the McCombs School of Business.

    Currently a senior associate dean for academic affairs at McCombs, Hartzell will begin serving as dean on Feb. 1, holding the Centennial Chair in Business Education Leadership. Hartzell is currently the Trammell Crow Regents Professor in the Department of Finance and served as executive director of the McCombs School’s Real Estate Finance and Investment Center in 2007.

    “Jay is an outstanding scholar and engaged member of UT's community,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in an email to the University. “I am enthusiastic about his leadership as McCombs continues to lead the innovation of business education and research.”

    Hartzell also served as chair of the Department of Finance from 2011 to 2014.

    As chair, he created the one-year Master of Science in Finance degree and also started the Undergraduate Real Estate Certificate Program.

    According to Fenves, the program is “an excellent example of the interdisciplinary collaboration that [he] would like to increase across campus.”

    “It is an enormous honor to be selected as the next dean of the McCombs School,” Hartzell said in a press release. “[The McCombs School] will continue to find new ways to expand and capitalize on our many strengths, including top faculty, outstanding students, talented staff, great industry partners, and a passionate alumni base.”

    A UT alumnus who earned his Ph.D. in finance at UT-Austin in 1998, Hartzell has twice been recognized as an Outstanding Core Instructor by students. His research focuses primarily on real estate finance, corporate finance and corporate governance.

    Red McCombs, the business school’s namesake, called the announcement “a great day for the University of Texas family” in a press release.

    “Jay has worked tirelessly to see that business students at Texas are prepared for leadership challenges facing our state, our nation and the world,” McCombs said. “I congratulate President Fenves on a wise appointment.”

    Hartzell replaces interim dean Laura Starks, who has served as dean ever since former dean Tom Gilligan stepped down from the position after the spring semester.

  • Evans named new dean of LBJ School of Public Affairs

    The University announced Tuesday afternoon that Angela Evans has been appointed as the new dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

    A former deputy director of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, Evans has served as a clinical professor at the LBJ School since 2009, and previously worked for the United States Congress for 40 years.

    “Angela is the right person to lead the LBJ School at this time,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in a press release. “Her deep knowledge of the school provides a strong basis for increasing its impact by educating public affairs leaders through scholarship and research in domestic and international affairs.”

    Evans will begin serving as dean on Jan. 16 and will also be a fellow of the J.J. “Jake” Pickle Regents Chair in Public Affairs as part of her new role.

    “I am honored to be part of this amazing community and to serve as its dean," Evans said.  

    Evans will replace Robert Wilson, who has served as interim dean since Robert Hutchings, the former dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, stepped down from the position earlier this year.

  • Mock shooting event would constitute criminal trespassing

    A mock shooting scheduled on campus this weekend  during a final exam period would be considered trespassing, according to University spokesman J.B. Bird.

    The “crisis performance,” which  gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and Dontcomply.com have planed to hold Saturday, is intended to protest against gun-free zones on campuses, according to Dontcomply.com.

    While university, faculty, staff and student groups may demonstrate on University grounds, Bird said outside groups are not allowed to hold such events on campus.

    “The property or buildings owned or controlled by UT Austin are not, however, open to outside groups for assembly, speech, or other activities, including theatrical performances, as are the public streets, sidewalks, and parks,” Bird said.

    The groups will be asked to leave, and if they do not, it will be a “criminal trespass matter,” Bird said.

    According to Bird, the UT Dean of Students Office is contacting the groups to ensure they are aware of UT’s policies.