Lawrence (Larry) Abraham, associate dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed interim dean of the school, effective Sept. 1.
Provost Steven Leslie said the appointment follows a recent announcement by the school's dean, Dr. Paul Woodruff, that he will step down from his post on Aug. 31. Woodruff, who has served as the inaugural dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies for the past six years, will return full time to his faculty position in the Department of Philosophy and is working on a concept for a new center for research and teaching in practical ethics.
"The university is very fortunate that Larry Abraham has agreed to serve as interim dean while we engage in a search for a permanent dean," said Leslie. "As associate dean, Larry has worked closely with Dr. Woodruff, and he has contributed greatly to the enhancement of critical initiatives, such as the Center for Strategic Advising and Career Counseling, in the School of Undergraduate Studies. I am confident that Larry will provide stability, continuity and vision for the school during our search process for the permanent dean."
Abraham said, "It is truly an honor to be asked by Provost Leslie and President Powers to serve in this capacity, advancing the efforts initiated by Dean Woodruff to improve undergraduate education at this great university. I look forward to continuing our work with faculty, staff, administrators and students across campus as we prepare UT graduates to change the world."
Abraham received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio; his master of science degree from Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kan.; and his doctorate in education from Columbia University. He joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin in 1975, teaching courses in biomechanics and neural control of movement in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.
Abraham's leadership roles at the university have included being an associate dean of the College of Education from 1998 to 2002 and serving as chairman of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction from 2000 to 2008. He has been co-director of UTeach Natural Sciences since 2003. He was a member of the Task Force on Curricular Reform, which led to the creation of the School of Undergraduate Studies. He became associate dean of Undergraduate Studies in 2009.
The School of Undergraduate Studies was created as an outgrowth of a curriculum reform effort led by President Bill Powers, and Woodruff has overseen the implementation of the resulting new core curriculum, including the university's Signature Courses a reading- and writing-intensive requirement designed to expose first-year students to the seminar class format.
In addition to overseeing the shared undergraduate curriculum for all students, the school will be home for about 2,900 students beginning with the fall 2012 semester. Since 2009, the school has reduced the rate of students who change majors from 65 percent to 7 percent, with almost half of that 7 percent changing to related majors, often in the same department as the original choice.