Four Questions for Judith Langlois: New Permanent Dean of UT Graduate Studies

Four Questions for Judith Langlois: New Permanent Dean of UT Graduate Studies

After serving as interim dean of UT’s graduate school for nearly two years, vice provost and psychology professor Judith Langlois has officially been appointed to the post of permanent dean. Langlois, who has been a member of the UT faculty since 1973, will now oversee the 78 doctoral and 116 master’s degree programs on the Forty Acres—serving a total of more than 11,000 students.

This isn’t Langlois’ first rodeo, either. Once the associate dean of liberal arts, she also served as interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts twice before, in 1998 and 2006. Langlois’ appointment is the first by new executive vice president and provost Greg Fenves, former dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering.

The Alcalde spoke to Langlois about how her role will change now that’s she’s no longer interim, and where she hopes to lead UT’s graduate programs.

You’ve served as interim dean at UT three times now. What changes now that you’re permanent?

Well, to be honest, I’ve never really known how to act as an interim. My approach has always been to keep the unit moving and advancing toward excellence.

You maintain a research lab and also a vice provost role. How do you manage it all?

I have to be very organized. I think that my research and teaching life—my regular faculty life—contributes a great deal to my administrative life. I try not to compartmentalize them; I use each to reinforce the others.

What should people know about UT’s graduate studies program and where you’re trying to take it?

Graduate students are the glue between the faculty and the undergraduates. Without a great set of graduate students with great minds and great energy and great motivation, it’s hard to attract great faculty and undergraduates. We cannot be a premier public institution without very strong graduate students. My goal is to make sure we get as many resources into their hands as possible, like competitive stipends, and help individual units to recruit the best and brightest.

The structure of the graduate school is confusing for some. (i.e. Why isn’t the dean of the College of Liberal Arts also the dean of a liberal arts graduate student?) Why do you think this is the best structure for UT’s graduate programs?

The role of the graduate school is to spare the individual deans, frankly, the onerous task of dealing with 30,000 faces. They don’t want to handle all that paper. If we were to distribute the graduate school across campus, each school would have to hire a specialized staff. It just isn’t economically feasible.

So we try to take the burden of a lot of administrative tasks. We work very closely with the colleges to learn what their priorities are, how we can help them, and ensure there is a minimum standard for accepting graduate students. That’s the administrative side. From the moving graduate education forward side, we have 12,000 graduate students who need a champion and a cheerleader. And that person is me. I try to get all the deans to work with us on moving graduate education forward.

Judith Langlois. Photo by Marsha Miller. Courtesy The University of Texas at Austin.


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