Texas Innovator, designed to be a toolbox for the 21st century, debuted in August, 1999. The monthly newsletter features best practices, breakthroughs, new technologies and new ways of doing things. Contributors scour a wide array of magazines, newspapers, journals and Web sites for ideas to benefit state and local governments, educators and all Texans.

April 2004

Grad Program, No Degree

Students in a special graduate program at the University of Texas in Austin don't earn degrees. Instead, they contribute to the community as they develop leadership and accountability skills.

Dr. Rick Cherwitz, founder of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) program, said the program's goal is to empower students to "own" their education and make informed choices about how to use their expertise. Through graduate-level courses, internships and workshops, the program, part of which recently was renamed Professional Development and Community Engagement, educates "citizen scholars," Cherwitz said.

Students must work toward a degree in a specific discipline and take IE classes along with their regular graduate classes. There is no IE degree, but students gain experiences that contribute to society, according to Cherwitz.

In 2002-2003, IE students collaborated with Seton Healthcare Network in Austin. Students worked with Seton administrators to help Seton find ways to discourage patients from visiting emergency rooms (ER) unnecessarily, which drives up health care costs. The students offered Seton specific strategies for educating its patients, including providing a kit with information and medication for illnesses that most often bring people to the ER.

In 2003-2004, a new pre-graduate school internship directed by Cherwitz expanded IE to undergraduates. The internships, which have resonated especially with minority and first-generation students, pair undergraduates with faculty mentors and graduate student buddies, who share graduate study culture, including conducting research, serving as teaching assistants and publishing articles in professional journals.

Since the IE program began in 1997, more than 3,000 students in 90 academic disciplines have participated.

"Its goal is to harness and integrate the vast intellectual assets of the University as a lever for social good," said Cherwitz.

For more information, contact Dr. Rick Cherwitz, cherwitz@austin.utexas.edu, 512-471-1939, or visit http://www.ut-ie.com/


Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts