Paul Woodruff, inaugural dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies since 2006, announced this week that he plans to step down from his post, effective Aug. 31. An interim dean will be named in the coming weeks, and a national search will be held for a new dean.
The School of Undergraduate Studies was created as an outgrowth of a curriculum reform effort commissioned 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.
“I accepted this service largely because of Powers’ leadership, and I rejoice in the support he and the provost have given me,” Woodruff said. “At the same time, the many splendid people who have come together on staff in the School of Undergraduate Studies to help improve undergraduate education have made my work a delight. I love this job, but I love doing too many things for one lifetime.”
In addition to overseeing the shared undergraduate curriculum for all students, the school is the initial home for about 1,750 students who were not accepted to their first or second choice major and chose not to select another college or school upon entering the university. Since 2009, the school has reduced the rate of students who change majors from 65 percent to 7 percent, with almost half of those changing to related majors, often in the same department as the original choice.
Highly regarded across the university, Woodruff began teaching at The University of Texas at Austin in 1973 with a specialty in ancient Greek philosophy. After three years as chairman of the Department of Philosophy, he became director of the Plan II honors program in 1991 and served on Powers’ Task Force on Curricular Reform in 2004-05.
“Erudite, thought-provoking, far-sighted Paul Woodruff has been the perfect person to serve as the inaugural dean of undergraduate studies. Not only has he been an effective administrator, but more importantly, he embodies the very traits we want new college students to see and emulate,” said Powers. “Paul is a dear friend and a treasure to the university. I’m grateful both for his service and for the fact he’ll remain on our faculty to continue enriching our students’ lives.”
Woodruff is the Darrell K. Royal Professor in Ethics and American Society, and held the Hayden Head Regents Chair as director of Plan II. He won the 1986 Harry Ransom Teaching Award and was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 1997. He received a bachelor’s degree in classics from Princeton University and a bachelor’s in Literae Humaniores from Oxford University. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton.
Woodruff has written a number of definitive translations from ancient Greek, including works by Plato, Sophocles and Thucydides. He has written several books that interpret classical philosophy for political, business or personal situations in contemporary lives.
Woodruff will return to his faculty position in the Department of Philosophy. He is working on a concept for a new center for research and teaching in practical ethics.
“As dean of undergraduate studies, Dean Woodruff’s work has touched virtually every undergraduate student on campus,” said Steven Leslie, provost and executive vice president. “From the beginning, he brought stellar academic accomplishment, commanded the respect of the entire faculty and applied his masterful administrative skills to the complex task of building a reformed curriculum that has served as a model for the nation.”