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Iverson to Lead School of Undergraduate Studies

Acclaimed teacher and researcher to lead classroom and curriculum innovations for the school.

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Chemistry professor and department chairman Brent Iverson has been appointed dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) by Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie.

Highly decorated for his teaching acumen and his research accomplishments, Iverson will take the post vacated by former Dean Paul Woodruff last fall and filled for the past year by Interim Dean Larry Abraham. The appointment is effective July 1.

“As someone who was part of the initial conception of the School of Undergraduate Studies, Brent Iverson is the perfect person to build on the successes of the school, creating pathways for leadership and excellence in undergraduate studies,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “He is a recognized teacher, researcher and scholar, with a proven commitment to providing our undergraduates with the best academic experience possible.”

With responsibility for the core curriculum, as well as more than 2,000 students who have not yet declared majors, Undergraduate Studies is a key piece of the university’s student success initiatives and classroom innovation.

“I look forward to working with everyone in UGS to further promote teaching excellence, enhance the core curriculum, develop interdisciplinary study programs and assist students with developing a path toward graduation in ways that add value to the efforts of each college and school on campus,” Iverson said.

“I am passionate about undergraduate education, and this is an important moment in our history. We will take full advantage of new approaches in combination with the incredible resources and faculty of a flagship research university. I want to make sure that we do the best we possibly can for all UT students — including putting them in front of top scholars as early as possible through our Signature Courses and making sure they have all of the other important first-year experiences that help them succeed over their next three years.”

The School of Undergraduate Studies was created as an outgrowth of a curriculum reform effort led by Powers that resulted in the implementation of new core curriculum requirements, including the university’s Signature Courses — a reading- and writing-intensive requirement designed to expose first-year students to rigorous academic discourse and interdisciplinary thinking.

Future challenges for the school include implementing the new flag requirements as part of the core curriculum; expanding college readiness materials; and promoting integral participation in the president’s graduation rate initiative, which seeks to raise the four-year graduation rate to 70 percent by 2016. More than half of the students entering the school each fall want to pursue fields of study related to science, technology, engineering and math — the STEM fields.

During the past month, Iverson was inducted into the inaugural class of the UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers established by the Board of Regents, and he received the Minnie Stevens Piper Professor Award.  Both are statewide honors in recognition of his contributions in the classroom. Other honors include the Friars Centennial teaching award (1995), the UT Austin Academy of Distinguished Teachers (1999), the Jean Holloway Teaching Award (2001), the UT Board of Regents Outstanding Teacher Award (2011), the Margaret C. Berry Award for contributions to UT student life (2012), the American Chemical Society Cope Scholar Award (2005) and election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2011).

Before being appointed chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Iverson served as the director for the Texas Institute for Drug and Diagnostic Development, and he holds the Warren J. and Viola Mae Raymer Professorship.

He currently teaches an immensely popular two-semester sequence of organic chemistry and runs an active research program at the interface of chemistry and biology. An organic chemistry textbook that he co-authored is used at universities across the country.

Major projects in his lab include the development of technologies that will enable the creation of next-generation biotherapeutics, investigation of a new class of molecules that bind tightly and specifically to long stretches of DNA and creation of synthetic molecules that help elucidate the factors responsible for amyloid fibril formation, one of the characteristic features of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. He is an inventor on 18 issued U.S. patents, many of which have been licensed and have generated income for The University of Texas at Austin. Working with George Georgiou and Jennifer Maynard of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Iverson helped develop a commercialized late-stage cure for exposure to anthrax.

Iverson served on the Task Force on Curricular Reform that led to the creation of the school, he has served on the Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee for four years and was on the university’s Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates.

Iverson received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Stanford University in 1982, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1987. He completed his postdoctoral work at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

For more information, contact Tara Doolittle, Office of the President, 512-471-4550.

Lee is the Director of Communications for the college. He holds a B.S. in Biology from UT and an M.S. in Entomology from UW-Madison. He lives in East Austin with his partner, their dog, and a garden full of plants and bugs.

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Guest Friday, July 25, 2014