Home » news » Assistant Professor Awarded for Innovation in Undergraduate Programming

Assistant Professor Awarded for Innovation in Undergraduate Programming

Dr. Jennifer Barbour

Dr. Jennifer Jones Barbour, assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Communication Studies and associate director of the Communication and Leadership degree, has been awarded the 2021 Cale McDowell Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Studies. Barbour has demonstrated innovation in undergraduate programming through her work with major curriculum initiatives and her mentorship with the Bridging Disciplines Programs (BDPs). Barbour’s nominators all noted her deep commitment to the subjects she teaches and her passion for mentoring students.

Barbour helped develop four core courses for the communication and leadership degree, the minor in communicating for development and philanthropy, and the Ethical Leadership in Journalism Initiative. Barbour also serves on the Faculty Panel of the BDP in Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofits, teaches the Forum Seminar and four courses in the BDP, and has mentored 11 BDP students.

“Jennifer is phenomenally gifted in developing new courses with experiential learning components,” one nominator wrote. “She developed a highly successful course with an Ethics Flag, “Introduction to Communication and Leadership,” using a number of unique experiential learning exercises. As one example, she developed an experiential, in-class exercise related to privilege in which students receive colored beads, which make various dimensions of their privilege salient.”

One of her former students had this to say after taking one of her classes, “Dr. Jennifer Jones Barbour was absolutely incredible. She genuinely cares about the well-being of her students, encouraging them to ask questions, actively engage, and think critically. It has been a privilege to have her as a professor.”

Award History & Selection Process

The purpose of the Cale McDowell Award is to encourage research or innovation that improves the university’s core curriculum. The award is given to a deserving staff member or administrator in the School of Undergraduate Studies, or to any student, faculty, or staff member who improves the undergraduate experience at the university. The recipient of the award receives a $1,000 honorarium. The award was established in February 2010 with gifts from donors, including Inaugural Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies Paul Woodruff, President William Powers, Jr., and other distinguished members of the university community.

Past Winners

2020: Jeff Mayo, assistant director of the Transfer-Year Experience Program, for his work to integrate the SHIFT program with Signature Courses
2019: Jennifer Fritz, assistant professor of instruction for the Biology Instruction Office, for her implementation of hands-on learning sessions and Mary Rose, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, for her creation and support of key policies designed to improve the core curriculum.
2018: Karin Wilkins, Associate Dean for Faculty Advancement and Strategic Initiatives in the Moody College of Communications for a commitment to interdisciplinary education.
2017: Bruce Pennycook, professor in the Butler School of Music and director of the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technology for bridging disciplines between art and technology.
2016: Meme Drumwright, associate professor of advertising and public relations for her promotion of ethics and leadership in undergraduate education.
2015: Patty Micks, director of the First-year Experience Office in the School of Undergraduate Studies and Lori Holleran Steiker, associate professor in the School of Social Work, for their efforts to improve the experience of first-year students and the undergraduate curriculum.
2014: Jen Morgan, senior program coordinator in the School of Undergraduate Studies, for her work to implement state-mandated changes to the core curriculum across the university.
2013: Jeanette Herman, assistant dean for academic initiatives, for core curriculum innovation.
2012: Professors Barbara Brown Wilson and Matthew Fajkus, for their work creating an innovative Signature Course.
2011: Shelby Stanfield, associate vice president for student affairs and registrar, for his work as a key participant in UT Austin’s effort to reform its undergraduate core curriculum and focus new resources on undergraduate education.


Each year, a committee comprising faculty, students, and staff chooses the McDowell Award recipient from candidates nominated by the campus community. This year’s committee included

About Cale McDowell

Cale McDowellThe award honors Cale McDowell (B.B.A. ’05, M.P.A. ’06, J.D. ’09), one of the founders of the School of Undergraduate Studies and former deputy to the dean. During his time at the university, McDowell served as vice chair (‘04-‘05) and chair (‘05-‘06) of the Senate of College Councils and was appointed by President Larry Faulkner in 2004 to the Task Force on Curricular Reform. McDowell is co-author of the report of the Task Force and the Faculty Council motion adopting many of its recommendations.

During the early months of Bill Powers’s tenure as president of the university, McDowell served as aide to the president. In that role, he worked with college deans and the Faculty Council on efforts to retool the university’s new core curriculum. Upon Paul Woodruff’s September 2006 appointment as inaugural dean of Undergraduate Studies, McDowell joined the dean’s senior staff. His work with faculty committees, the university’s colleges and schools, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board led to the implementation of the new core curriculum for all undergraduate students and the creation of the School of Undergraduate Studies. He now serves on this school’s advisory council.