Five Questions for Brent Iverson, UT’s Next Dean of Undergraduate Studies

iversonUT chemistry professor and department chair Brent Iverson was appointed Dean of Undergraduate Studies last week.

When he starts his new job on July 1, Iverson says he’ll be focusing on improving the undergraduate experience. Below, he tells us why he believes UGS is so important—and how parenting has informed his work.

Why did you decide to take this position?

It’s a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the undergraduate experience at UT. I also think it’s a particularly important time, not only in the history of this University, but for all of higher education. Things are changing, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to make sure that UT stays at the forefront.

Do you mean you’ll be defending UT against outside forces that want to change its mission?

I don’t see it as playing defense, I see it as playing offense. There’s a lot of discussion now about what higher ed can and should be and how to incorporate new ideas. It’s a challenging time, but it’s also very exciting. There are possibilities with digital media that just didn’t exist 15 years ago.

What’s your vision for the School of Undergraduate Studies?

To add value to what’s going on in the colleges and schools around campus. The most important thing a university can do is get an undergraduate exactly where they want to go. I like the idea that there’s people on campus who wake up every day with that as their goal.

Because UGS is not affiliated with any particular major or career track, it has the ability to take students who don’t know what they want to do and in a truly objective way, work on getting them to the right place as quickly as possible. That’s an incredibly important need for a significant number of students.

You’ve won many teaching awards. How will your teaching inform your work as dean?

It’s impossible to quantify, but I do know that having daily contact with students, understanding what their struggles are, what has worked and hasn’t worked for them, and just knowing what they’re going through is going to be really useful.

I also have three kids who are in school at UT—two are graduating on Saturday—and I understand from a parent’s point of view what they have gone through. That’s given me a really unique perspective.

How so?

Well, it’s shown me the value of great teaching. One of my daughters was not sure what she wanted as a major. She ended up in Jim Vick’s math class. And she’s graduating with a math major because of that. It’s not the course material that changes lives—it’s the human contact you get with an incredible individual at the right time.

Photo by Jay B. Sauceda.


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