Tuesday, October 28, 2008

UT Spring 2009 Google Calendar

ut-cal.png The life of a student at UT revolves around the University's academic calendar, which includes important dates for registration, add/drop, tuition payment, classes, and finals. While UT does provide the academic calendar online, it's not in a very useful format. I deal with electronic calendars all day long, so I decided to fix that.

I've created a public Google calendar that includes the events from UT's 2008-2009 academic calendar that are relevant to the Spring 2009 semester.

If you have a Mac and use iCal, you can subscribe to it by clicking this link: If you use Google Calendar, just click here:

Registered for ECO 304K

This morning I registered for my Spring 2009 class: Economics 304K - Introduction to Microeconomics. Very exciting. I chose an early afternoon class (MWF 1:00p-2:00p) taught by Wayne Hickenbottom, a senior lecturer. It's in the Geology building (JGB), which I remember as a bit dark and dreary, but that was almost 20 years ago so there's a chance they've renovated it.

I chose Dr. Hickenbottom over the other professor teaching 304K, Olivier Giovannoni, based on the Course-Instructor Survey (CIS) Results for the last few semesters. The CIS is a nifty tool that lets you browse the results of surveys completed by students at the end of each semester. Dr. Hickenbottom's overall rating by students is somewhat higher than Dr. Giovannoni's, so he got the nod.

Frustratingly, my registration isn't complete until I've paid my tuition bill, and I'm not allowed to pay my bill until November 11. I suppose that gives everyone time to add and drop classes and resolve waitlist issues, but I'd really prefer to be able to close it out now. Regardless, it's on my calendar.

Speaking of which, I've created a public Google calendar for UT's Spring 2009 Academic Calendar. I'll share the details in my next post.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Petition Approved! (and UT's Evolved IT)

fec.jpg Last week after the RackSpace event in the KRLU studios at CMB, I walked over to the Undergraduate Studies dean's office to request a waiver for the required UGS courses. There I spoke with Erin Collins, who is in charge of such things, and filled out a one-page form.

Yesterday I got an email directing me to the University's Secure Academic Notes (SAN) system, where I picked up this message:

Dear Charles,
The decision regarding your petition(s) to the Undergraduate School is as follows:
Petition approved/override complete for first-year signature course waiver, 2008-10 catalog. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Erin Collins
Core Curriculum Petition Coordinator
School of Undergraduate Studies

While I'm glad to have cleared that administrative hurdle, I also found the SAN system itself interesting. According to its about page, it's is a sort of CRM application that deans and academic advisors use to communicate securely (and in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) with students. Notably, all communication through the SAN system becomes part of the student's official academic record.

In my previous time at UT ('88-'92) I saw some impressive advancements in the University's IT systems. As a freshman, I registered for classes by standing in line—along with 50,000 other students—at the Frank Erwin Center (pictured here) and affixing a sticker for each course to an actual sheet of paper. By the time I graduated, registration was done via an IVR system called TEX (which has since been retired, but check out the awesome video).

These days nearly everything at UT is done online. I'm sure that's not novel to most students, but it's a big enough change from what I remember that I'll be describing some of the various systems I encounter here.

Next up: registration. My registration window opens Tuesday morning. And happily, I'll be doing it from my office instead of the Superdrum.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Planning My Degree Program

brb.jpg A few weeks ago I scheduled an appointment with Jana Cole, one of the undergraduate Economics advisors, to plan out the courses I'd need to complete in order to add an Economics major to my degree. She and I went through the degree requirements and found that I had satisfied all of them except the required Economics courses themselves—plus one more thing.

The University now requires students to take an Undergraduate Studies (UGS) course each of their first two semesters. No such courses were offered when I was last in school, but they were described to me as a sort of "gentle introduction to college". Surely, I said, I wouldn't need to take those classes. Jana agreed that I probably wouldn't need them, but did say that I'd need an "accommodation" from the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Interestingly, the nifty online Interactive Degree Audit (IDA) tool doesn't seem to care that I've never had a UGS course. (If you haven't noticed yet, UT loves TLA's.) But it is complaining that I haven't declared a a minor, and doesn't seem to have a way for me to do that online.

So tomorrow after I attend the RackSpace Cloud Event as both a blogger and the president of a cloud-based applications company I'll head from CMB over to the FAC as a readmitted student and talk to an advisor there.

Once all that is taken care of, I should be all set to register next week. Very exciting.

The 40-Year-Old Freshman?

ut-campus.jpgWhen I enrolled as a freshman at The University of Texas in the fall of 1988, I did so under protest. I didn't have any friends who cared about school, I didn't care about school, and I didn't care that I didn't care about school. The University called me a Presidental Scholar and an Undergraduate Fellow, but beneath the titles and the test scores I was a disaffected, angry young man.

I thought the idea teaching a bunch of eighteen-year-olds the theoretical underpinnings of the world was ridiculous. With little to no practical experience on which to hang the theory, how could they possibly exercise any critical judgement? They would have no intuitive feel for the topics they were being taught and would have to take it all on blind faith. Universities, I said, were more appropriate for people who had lived long enough to truly develop their own worldviews than for teenagers.

Over the next four years not much changed apart from the fact that I earned—with the absolute minimum effort required—a degree in Computer Science.

Fast forward twenty years.

It's now 2008, and I'm a bit more mature than I was then. I've grown up and built a career, a couple of companies, and a family of my own. I know something about discipline, achievement, responsibility, and sacrifice. I'm proud of what I've done, and I find that I've become one of those people I imagined when I was eighteen who's experienced enough of the world to truly appreciate higher education. So I'm putting my theory to the test and going back to school.

I considered getting a master's in CS, but have decided instead to add an Economics major to my degree. I'll still be working on Spanning Sync (and other, unannounced projects) full time, so I'll only be have time for one or two classes each semester. My first day of class is Tuesday, January 20. 

And of course, I'll be blogging the whole thing here at FortyYearOldFreshman.blogspot.com1. Hook 'em.

1 OK, I'm not yet 40 (38, actually) and I won't be a freshman (degree-holding senior, technically), but "The 38-Year-Old Degree-Holding Senior" isn't quite right.