Paul Woodruff

Philosophy professor Paul Woodruff explained business principles through the analogy of Greek mythology as part of the Employee Engagement Series on Tuesday.

By closely examining a Greek myth in his novel “The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards,” Woodruff illuminates the issue of distributing rewards in both corporations and governments. The myth revolves around Ajax and Odysseus’ competition over the armor of the slain warrior, Achilles, which was to be given to the best soldier. A dilemma arises when the competitors do not fight based on the same values. The brave, loyal and hard-working Ajax feels he was dishonored when the reward goes to the persuasive, clever and tricky Odysseus.

“Sometimes equality is not possible,” Woodruff said. 

Woodruff said this is especially true when recognition and honor are what most people wish to see more than the monetary value of the reward itself.

“Rewards mark the difference between winners and losers,” Woodruff said. “Rewards are public recognition for contributions made. They express the values of the community.” 

In the work world, resentment can sometimes be generated by the unequal issuing of merit-based rewards. Woodruff asked the audience how to issue rewards to employees and still maintain the unity of the larger community.

According to Woodruff, the Greek myth deals with the issue of principles — do people value cleverness or hard work, strength or intelligence, loyalty or inventiveness? Woodruff said for those who resemble Ajax, justice seems to have withered. 

Woodruff said he thinks that although the “Ajax dilemma” will never be resolved peacefully, people should acknowledge that respect, sympathy, fairness and intelligence are necessary for justice.

Public relations junior Skye Zuehlan said she agreed that justice should be the priority when distributing rewards equally.

“The most equitable way to be just is by focusing on the contributions of each individual to the corporation, regardless of their distinctive strengths,” Zuehlan said.   

Woodruff suggests that while a viable solution to this issue might not be simple, people must be understanding and act fairly, according to everyone’s standards. 

Philosophy and Classics professor Paul Woodruff speaks to a group of communication students about ancient tales on Thursday morning. The lecture, sponsored by Senior Fellows, gave students an opportunity to gain additional insight on Greek mythology outside of class.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

A philosophy and classics professor drew connections between Ancient Greek myths and some common dilemmas of modern life during a lecture Thursday.

In the presentation, Paul Woodruff examined two Greek myths and their relevance to issues of fairness and leadership in modern times.

“Through myth we are able to explore and reflect on our lives and the human sphere in ways that I think we would miss if we had to do it without myth,” Woodruff said.

One of the stories Woodruff told was the Greek myth of Ajax, a great hero of the Trojan War, who was compared to Odysseus, a cunning and great communicator. Despite his heroic actions, Ajax was overlooked and Odysseus was highly favored by all for his communication skills.

“These enormous figures from myth are very easy for us to connect to because so many of us find ourselves in positions like that, being taken for granted or getting rewards that other people who are working very hard are not getting,” Woodruff said.

The lecture provided insight to students who attended by incorporating subjects that are generally only taught in the Classics and English departments. Public relations junior Cara Greenstein said she felt lucky to have the opportunity to attend the lecture and hear about topics outside of the “media-filled” world.

“I enjoyed Professor Woodruff’s ability to resurface the value of storytelling, a topic that seems almost done in our age of new media and communication,” Greenstein said. “His stories and personal insights were very captivating to our student and faculty audience.”

The lecture was titled, “Myth as Mirror: The Abiding Power of Ancient Tales,” and was sponsored by Senior Fellows, an honors program of the College of Communication. 

Senior Fellows program director Dave Junker said he wants to increase the program’s boundaries by continuing to bring in people from outside of the college to speak to students and help them better understand their own methods of inquiry.

“Sometimes we forget how relevant what they’re talking about over in the English department or in the classics department is to what we’re studying in communication,” Junker said. “So I think it’s a wonderful experience for our students to be able to see connections and we create that opportunity in Senior Fellows.” 

Published on February 8, 2013 as "Lecture connects myths, present". 

Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker, Associate Professor for the School of Social Work, discusses her research at the University Lecture Series in the Bass Concert Hall Monday evening. The University Lecture Series brings in faculty members to speak about research and relevant issues to first-year students.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Although events that unite the freshman class are rare other than back-to-school events and Saturday night football games, the School of Undergraduate Studies hosted the first in a two-part lecture series aimed at sparking a shared dialogue among new students Monday.

Monday night’s lecture, “Research that Changes the World,” focused on introducing freshmen to the wide variety of research opportunities available on campus. The event featured Lori Holleran Steiker, associate professor of social work; Zachary Elkins, associate professor of government; and Juan Dominguez, assistant professor of psychology. Paul Woodruff, philosophy and classics professor and the School of Undergraduate Studies’ first dean, served as moderator. Woodruff stepped down from his post as dean in August to return to the classroom.

Woodruff said the event was planned with assistance from the Senate of College Councils and was the result of the same discussions that spurred the creation of Signature Courses, introductory courses that all freshmen are required to take.

“The alumni had suggested that we have the same course for all freshmen and we talked about that quite a lot, and realized we couldn’t do it,” Woodruff said. “But most of the signature-course students will either attend one of these events or listen to them online.”

Between six and seven thousand students are expected to listen to the lectures in one of their available formats, Woodruff said. For the majority of students in signature classes, attending at least one of the lectures is mandatory.

Many students said they appreciated the chance to get introduced to UT’s research programs.

“I really know nothing about research, which I know is a huge deal at UT,” said Taylor Chapman, a public relations senior who transferred to UT as a sophomore. “I honestly probably wouldn’t have come to the lecture on my own, but I’m glad I’m here.”

For some students, the program addressed a specific interest.

“I’m really interested in undergraduate research,” undeclared pre-pharmacy freshman Amy Le said. “I’d been planning to contact a professor in the pharmacy school, and after tonight, I actually know how.”

Others got a general sense of research opportunities, even if their specific fields were not addressed. Business freshman Sela Flowers said she wished the program had featured representatives from each college.

“I would have been interested to know what business research opportunities are available,” Flowers said. “But I still got something out of tonight, because now I know the research opportunities are out there.”

The second part of the University Lecture Series, “Election 2012: History, Rhetoric, Politics,” will be held from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday night in Bass Concert Hall. The lecture is open and free to anyone.

Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Freshman lecture series inspires

Although the hunt for a permanent dean for the School of Undergraduate Studies continues, Associate Dean Lawrence Abraham will take over as interim dean beginning Sept. 1.

Abraham was appointed by President William Powers Jr. and University Provost Steven Leslie June 29 to take over for outgoing dean Paul Woodruff. Woodruff announced in early June he was stepping down that month to return to teaching philosophy full-time. UT spokesman Robert Meckel said Abraham was familiar with the School of Undergraduate Studies because he worked with Woodruff. It is not clear how long Abraham will serve as interim dean or when a permanent dean will be hired.

“Just as Provost Leslie phrased it, he will provide ‘stability, continuity and vision for the school.’”

Abraham began his career at UT in 1975 and made a name for himself by becoming an active member of the faculty. He started out teaching in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education and became an associate dean in the College of Education from 1998 to 2002. He then went on to become the associate dean of Undergraduate Studies in 2009.

Abraham said he is looking forward to holding the title of dean during this transition period. He said it will be helpful for the school to have an experienced leadership to coordinate activities and decisions involving staff members and UGS programs. The School of Undergraduate Studies is anticipating a 66 percent increase of incoming students next fall.

“I am excited about this opportunity to help assure that the work of the school continues as smoothly as possible during the leadership transition period until a new permanent dean is on board,” Abraham said.

Woodruff served as the first dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies and served a six-year term. He was originally only expected to serve four years, but agreed to take on two more. Powers started the UGS program as a way for students to experience the taste of a classroom in a different major, according to a statement on the UT website. Since 2009, the number of students changing from UGS to another major decreased from 65 percent to 7 percent. In a June interview with The Daily Texan, Woodruff said he did not think there would be any problems during the transition, even though the school is expecting a large increase of students.

“The preparations that we are making for the increase we are making now,” Woodruff said in the interview. “We got the additional funding that we need. We’ve been able to continue with a pretty favorable ratio of students to advisors, so I don’t think that is going to be a problem at all.”

Woodruff said he believes Abraham will be a good interim dean because he believes in the school’s mission and has experience as an administrator.

“He understands the School of Undergraduate Studies very well,” Woodruff said. “He will be an active interim dean, not merely a caretaker.” 

For Paul Woodruff, stepping down as dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies to return to teaching means changing jobs, but for the school it means an international search for a new dean that could take more than six months.

More than 10 faculty members and students will lead a search committee to find Woodruff’s replacement. These committees are the groups that seek out and hire the University’s president, provost, vice presidents and deans. Architecture professor Larry Speck, who has served as the chair of three vice president search committees in the past decade, sat down with The Daily Texan to talk about his past experience on search committees and explain the process of picking a new dean.

Speck most recently served as the chair on the search committee for the Vice President of Student Affairs, a hunt that started in October 2011 and ended in May 2012 when Powers selected one of three recommended applicants, Gage Paine of UT-San Antonio.

Before the search, Speck said search committees for deans are typically composed of appointed students and faculty members. Speck said the college in question gets to elect around five members and President William Powers Jr. will appoint several more. Among the appointees, Speck said usually one dean from another college or school is included. In the case of the new dean for the School of Undergraduate Studies, which does not have professors in its department, it is not clear what faculty will serve on the committee and if they will be involved.

Once the members are appointed, the committee for a new dean appoints a chair and receives advice.

“They get some advice from the president and whoever else is relevant about what the criteria is for this position and what we are looking for,” Speck said.

Speck said the search committee will then start posting job descriptions and waiting for applications.

In the search for the vice president of student affairs, Speck said the committee had about 100 applications before the winter break.

“We first made one quick cut of people who just weren’t qualified,” Speck said. We said ‘Here is the criteria, and theses candidates just don’t match it.’”

After that, Speck said the search committee read all the other applications and scored them over winter break. Speck said the committee had come up with almost a dozen criteria points that each candidate was scored on.

“We saw which ones came to the top and we had a discussion of those people,” Speck said. “Then we narrowed it down to about nine people to invite to what we call airport interviews.”

Airport interviews are a secretive part of the process. In the search for the vice president of student affairs, Speck said the search committee invited all nine candidates to Austin for a weekend. The committee met with each candidate in secret. The meetings were held at hotels close to the airport and not on campus.

“They don’t have to tell their University or their employer, ‘I’m thinking about taking another job,” Speck said. “That’s why we keep it completely confidential and the interview out at the hotel and not on campus, so somebody doesn’t see them and say ‘What are you doing on campus?’ and make it a very awkward position.”

Speck said one of the challenging parts of the search committee is organizing the schedules of all nine candidates and the entire committee to be available for one weekend of interviewing. While arranging this around busy schedules was challenging, Speck said it is a useful strategy.

“What was really good about it actually is that you saw everybody in close proximity,” Speck said. “So you were able to make those comparisons pretty easily.”

After that point, in the search for vice president of student affairs, Speck said the committee was able to narrow it down to four people.

“We brought them into the campus and they go through a two or three day thing where they talk to everybody and their brother that might have anything to do with their job,” Speck said.

From this, Speck said the committee gets feedback from the faculty, the students and the president. The final step is to submit three unranked recommendations to Powers, who makes the final decision.

The road ahead Speck said the long and intense process is taken very seriously.

“All of these would be international searches,” Speck said. “You’re trying to get the very best from anywhere in the world. They take a long time. This is true at most Universities, this is just the way it is in academia when you are hiring people at this level.”

Woodruff, who announced he was returning to teaching on Wednesday, said he expected an interim dean to be announced sometime within the next week. Speck said sometimes the interim dean becomes the next dean, but that is not always the case.

“All this committee stuff, it is a clean slate,” Speck said. “The committee does what the committee does. The President appoints an interim, but that person may have intentionally been appointed because they weren’t a candidate.”

Woodruff’s announcement comes at a time when the school is expecting a 66 percent increase in student enrollment. Despite this, Speck said the transition from Woodruff, to interim dean and back to a new permanent dean will be seamless.

“The University does this all the time,” Speck said. “We have one person who is really good at their job and very responsible and then they decide they’re going to move on and do something else, so we replace them and it happens all the time.”

Paul Woodruff, the School of Undergraduate Studies’ first dean, announced today he was stepping down to return to teaching.

Paul Woodruff, the School of Undergraduate Studies’ first dean, announced today he was stepping down to return to teaching.

The hunt for a new dean comes at a time when the enrollment rate for UGS is expected to increase by 66 percent in the fall. Woodruff said he did not think there would be any problems resulting from a lack of a permanent dean during this time of growth.

“The preparations that we are making for the increase we are making now,” Woodruff said. “We got the additional funding that we need. We’ve been able to continue with a pretty favorable ratio of students to advisers, so I don’t think that is going to be a problem at all.”

Woodruff said UGS was increasing the number of First-Year Interest Groups, adding advisors and learning specialists to the Sanger Learning and Career Center and hiring student tutors to deal with the 66 percent increase.

“We’re doing a bunch of things to accommodate larger numbers of students,” Woodruff said.

An interim dean will replace Woodruff on August 31, and Woodruff said he expects the announcement of the interim dean to come within the next week.

Steven Leslie, provost and executive vice president, will appoint the committee composed of students, alumni and elected faculty. Woodruff said he expects the committee to be appointed before the summer ends.

Woodruff said when he was originally hired as dean of UGS, he was expecting a four year term. After four years, Woodruff said he spoke to UT President William Powers Jr. and the provost about taking on another two years.

“At that point I made it pretty clear to them that was all I could do,” Woodruff said. “I wanted to go back to teaching.”

Woodruff said he is looking forward to connecting with more students, teaching a wider range of courses and having more time for his writing.

“I do quite a bit of writing,” Woodruff said. “I’ve been able to write while I was dean but I’ll be able to do it quite a bit more effectively as professor.”

Paul Woodruff, Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, and Larry Abraham, a professor in curriculum and instruction, held a forum Wednesday afternoon allowing students to openly express their frustrations with the Undergraduate Studies Program. The “Town Hall” meeting is an effort on behalf of UT administration to help new students feel welcome and looked after.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

While the myth about first-year signature courses disappearing has been dispelled for now, many freshmen are concerned about transferring to other colleges within UT.

The School of Undergraduate Studies held a town hall forum open to all UT students, staff and faculty on Wednesday evening to discuss problems students were facing. One such issue is that UT may no longer require students to take a UGS or first-year signature course. UGS associate dean Larry Abraham said that negotiations were taking place to ensure that the UGS courses would still be required.

“As of now, the UGS course will be fine,” Abraham said.

Students discussed the fact that they were not sure how to go about changing their majors. The lack of information on past transfers to other colleges, such as the McCombs School of Business, was cited as a problem.

Another concern raised during the forum was the fact that the process of transferring out of the School of Undergraduate Studies is not fully understood by high school seniors applying to UT. Dean of UGS Paul Woodruff said that he would work with the UGS advisers during their retreat next semester to try to clarify the mission of the School of Undergraduate Studies.

“We want to provide students with a life boat, with resources that they can use, before things get difficult,” Paul Woodruff said.

Woodruff said another problem facing students was that some courses are restricted to students in that major, so other students interested in the major cannot take those courses. Woodruff used the example of some engineering classes being restricted to engineering majors only, which prevents other students interested in engineering from taking them.

Along with some other students at the forum, Woodruff said that raising awareness about courses available at UT the summer before freshman year may help students with their degree plans as well as decrease the six-year graduation rate at UT, the number of years it takes a great majority of students to graduate.

Truc Nguyen, financial director of the UGS council, said Wednesday’s forum was the best one the council has hosted so far, especially since the turnout was one of the largest it’s had.

“It’s good to have students and faculty together to discuss how to attack these problems and hear their ideas,” Nyugen said.

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: UGS town hall addresses college concerns