The transformative power of education at great colleges and universities is based primarily on interactions among faculty and students who are committed to learning at the frontiers of knowledge and understanding. I believe teaching should be guided by a commitment to the vital missions of our institutions, appreciation for the responsibilities that accompany the great privilege of teaching and learning in these unique contexts, and respect for our colleagues’ and students’ potential. These premises should guide the organization, design, and leadership of our institutions, academic programs, courses, and other learning experiences.
I am an advocate for high-impact learning experiences that allow students to explore and apply what they are learning in new contexts, including internships, site visits, and faculty-directed research. I am also a strong proponent of the use of technology to enable new kinds of learning experiences, support learning at scale, and facilitate ongoing research to help students, educators, and institutions improve.
I strongly endorse principles of academic freedom and the idea that faculty experts should have authority over content. I am also committed to the principle that we should take responsibility for designing curricula, courses and other learning experiences with empathy for our students, awareness of current research about how people learn, and attention to the skills that empower students for personal and professional success. In that spirit, I argue that instructional designs, educational technologies, and curricula should be evaluated primarily in terms of how well they enable effective learning experiences that are attuned to students’ needs.
My recent courses were designed to provide opportunities for students to explore institutional and state policy issues, interact with policymakers and institutional leaders, and develop professional briefs and presentations that contribute new insights to current policy discussions. At UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, our Master’s students were required to participate in year-long “policy research project” (PRP) courses with real-world clients and impact. I directed several PRP’s on issues related to higher education productivity, and taught a number of seminars on topics in public and higher education, and ethics and public policy.
Through my own outstanding faculty mentors at Notre Dame and Georgetown, and the inspiring examples of my former UT Austin colleagues, I know faculty mentors can have a transformative impact on students’ understanding of their disciplines and their own capabilities. With my own students, and in the educational initiatives I have developed, I have aspired to carry on my mentors’ legacies of genuine care and respect for each student’s potential.
Recent Policy Research Projects: Higher Education Productivity (year-long graduate courses)
Students analyzed and contributed to current institutional and state policy discussions related to higher education innovation and accountability. In the Fall, students conducted site visits to Texas colleges and universities, developed case studies of educational innovations, and researched policy barriers to innovation. In the Spring, students worked directly with state legislative and leadership offices to provide policy analyses during the 85th Texas Legislative Session.
Students explored emerging issues for UT Austin and other public research universities related to disruptions in university business models, including issues related to student access, tuition, transfer, intellectual property, technology commercialization, and finance. Students researched changes to traditional university organizational structures and developed recommendations for institutional leaders.
Students analyzed institutional practices and current research related to educational productivity, and developed issue briefs on higher education policy issues for state policymakers. In the Spring, students worked directly with state legislative and leadership offices to provide policy analyses during the 84th Texas Legislative Session.
Students analyzed current research and debates related to higher education productivity and new educational delivery models. Students conducted site visits to federal agencies, national organizations, educational foundations, and public research universities and developed briefs for university leaders.
Students examined institutional practices, organizational changes, and policy deliberations related to innovations in the delivery of higher education. Students conducted site visits to leading institutions and organizations in digital learning, including edX, Coursera, Udacity, UC Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Southern New Hampshire University.
Students analyzed current research and institutional policies and practices related to educational productivity, conducted site visits to Texas public colleges and national public flagship universities, and developed case studies and policy recommendations for college and university leaders.
Ethics and Public Policy: Secrets, Lies, and Politics (Spring 2011)
In this UT Austin Signature Course, first-year undergraduates considered philosophical approaches to secrets, lies, and deception in politics, and discussed these issues in off-the-record conversations with distinguished guest lecturers including researchers, journalists and politicians. Students also explored specific events in the political career of Lyndon Johnson and conducted primary research in the presidential library and museum.
Higher Education Productivity Seminar (Fall 2010)
In this seminar, Master’s and doctoral students critically examined relationships between the financing of higher education and the educational goals of states and Western nations. Students also explored ways in which institutional, state, and U.S. federal policies can facilitate or impede student success.
Transitions to Higher Education: Research, Policy, and Politics (Spring 2010)
In this course, Master’s and doctoral students in public policy, law, and educational policy closely examined intersections between preparation for and access to higher education, and considered ways in which institutional, state, or federal policy can facilitate or impede participation and success in higher education. Besides examining the research literature, students explored practical strategies for shaping policy and for navigating potential tradeoffs and moral dilemmas that can arise when working on these issues.
Policy Issues in Higher Education (Fall 2009)
In this seminar, Master’s and doctoral students explored the theoretical and empirical literature on emerging topics in higher education policy, including affordability, preparation, completion, accountability, finance, and alignment across secondary and postsecondary education. Students also conducted intensive research on selected issues related to UT Austin initiatives.