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James Pennebaker to Oversee Educational Innovation at UT Austin

James Pennebaker will lead new initiative to develop next-generation undergraduate programs through course design, technology integration and rigorous evaluation.

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AUSTIN, Texas — President Gregory L. Fenves has appointed Psychology Professor James Pennebaker as the Executive Director of Project 2021 and Special Advisor to the Provost for Educational Innovation at The University of Texas at Austin.

Project 2021 is a new initiative that will develop next-generation undergraduate programs through course design, technology integration and rigorous evaluation. The project will coordinate the many offices of UT Austin to create, implement and evaluate new teaching and learning methods.

A widely respected educator and acclaimed researcher at UT Austin, Pennebaker is a leader in changing the undergraduate classroom experience to meet the demands of the 21st century. He is a strong advocate of using research to measure the effectiveness of teaching methods in the classroom.

“Increasing the value of the undergraduate experience is a priority for the university. James is an innovative educator and researcher, and is uniquely qualified for this role,” Fenves said. “He will help ensure our undergraduate students receive the maximum benefit of our campus through the integration of research and education.”

During his 19 years at the university, Pennebaker has received many honors. Most recently he was recognized by the American Psychological Association with their Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology. He is also a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and is the Regents Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts. Having published more than 300 scientific articles, he is one of the most cited researchers in the social sciences. He chaired UT’s Psychology Department from 2005 to 2014.

“Higher education is in the midst of a revolution. What a thrilling time to be at a place like UT Austin,” Pennebaker said. “This is a rare opportunity to bring together new approaches to teaching and research to help the university shape the future of undergraduate education.” 

He will step into his new role effective immediately and will oversee campus units focused on innovative teaching methods and programs, including Extended Campus, Learning Sciences and the Faculty Innovation Center.