New Dean of Undergraduate Education Aims to Build Collaboration

Dr. Jessica Murphy

Dr. Jessica Murphy

Dr. Jessica C. Murphy, associate professor of literary studies at UT Dallas, assumed the role of dean of Undergraduate Education on Sept.1.

Murphy also serves as co-director of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) — a UT Dallas initiative aimed at boosting first-year students’ engagement and academic success. She said the yearlong process introduced her to many departments, faculty and staff across campus, which helped her think in a more global way about building upon and improving programs and the quality of student learning.

“I enjoyed the time I spent working on the QEP because it gave me an opportunity to meet and collaborate with many schools and departments across campus,” Murphy said. “We have so many wonderful programs, and I want to think about how we can leverage them to serve our burgeoning student body.”

She also wants to take a critical look at any gaps that may exist for undergraduate student success and how they can be filled to improve both academic performance and quality of life.

“Our student body is so diverse, and they have a variety of different goals, talents and needs,” Murphy said. “There is no one answer for everyone, but that’s what appeals to me about this position. There are so many ways we can serve undergraduates, and we can work to bridge gaps. I’m also excited to look at continually assessing and adjusting what we provide to students because each new class will have different and unique needs.”

Murphy, a first-generation college student, received her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Hunter College, the City University of New York, in her hometown of New York City. She began her teaching career in UT Dallas’ School of Arts and Humanities in 2009, after completing her PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She quickly distinguished herself as a compelling and passionate teacher who employs both conventional and new technologies in her instruction of early modern English literature.

Murphy approaches her classroom teaching by creating learning environments that value individual points of view. She also likes to encourage everyone to be part of what she calls a “learning community.” Those efforts led to her winning a University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award in 2013. The annual award recognizes faculty members across all UT System academic and health institutions who demonstrate extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction.

There are so many ways we can serve undergraduates, and we can work to bridge gaps. I’m also excited to look at continually assessing and adjusting what we provide to students because each new class will have different and unique needs.

Dr. Jessica Murphy,
dean of Undergraduate Education

In discussing Murphy’s appointment, Dr. Inga Musselman, interim provost, noted, “we saw her willingness and ability to communicate and collaborate with people all across campus during the QEP process. Dr. Murphy worked very well not only with Academic Affairs but also with Student Affairs. She has been involved with some major UT System initiatives.”

Murphy spearheaded a campus-based project to enhance student success. She and her collaborators were awarded $1 million by UT System to help fund the Student Engagement through Collaboration, Mentorship and Service Learning initiative.

Her predecessor as dean, Dr. Andrew Blanchard, served in that role since 2013.

“Andy Blanchard has served UT Dallas with distinction in an amazingly diverse sequence of important administrative roles, all the time also volunteering his services as a dedicated and highly regarded teacher,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, UT Dallas executive vice president. 

After a distinguished career as a faculty member and administrator at UT Arlington and the University of Missouri-Columbia, Blanchard joined UT Dallas in 2001 as a professor of electrical engineering and senior associate dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

He was appointed vice provost in 2008, served as vice president for information resources and CIO from 2011-2012 and assumed responsibilities as dean and Mary McDermott Cook Chair of Undergraduate Education and Research in 2013. In addition to these vitally important administrative roles, throughout his time at UT Dallas, Blanchard served as an informal mentor and advisor to innumerable students, faculty members and fellow administrators.

“I hope, and am confident, that his request to transition from administrator into the role of full-time faculty member, unencumbered by administrative routine, will not inhibit him from continuing to offer us the benefits of this informal support,” Wildenthal said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].