Brian Evans Receives Prestigious Civitatis Award

Monday, August 22, 2022

ECE students might have chatted with Prof. Brian Evans during his Friday coffee/advising hours, or in the new first-year graduate student mentoring program he coordinates, or in a student organization he advises. In weekly coffee hours, now running for 19 years, Prof. Evans has been providing a comfortable space for undergraduate and graduate students to talk about what’s on their mind and help each other. But his involvement extends further beyond the ECE department to the university community as a whole. And “whole” is what he strives to make our community.

On supporting well-being and mental health, he has been providing and implementing ideas to destress UT classes to help students learn better as part of the university-wide Well-Being in Learning Environments project since Spring 2018. In Spring 2019, he co-authored a Resource Guide to Mental Health Services for Graduate Students with Prof. Jim Cox, which has been updated annually. As Faculty Council Chair (Faculty Senate President) 2019-20, he worked with Dr. Chris Brownson and Dean Sonica Reagins-Lilly to successfully obtain an increase in 18 staff positions for counseling and mental health services for students and 2.5 for staff/faculty to better meet demand. Throughout 2020, he was part of a Graduate School effort to improve graduate student mentoring, working conditions, and salary, as well as health insurance coverage for their entire studies.

When COVID abruptly closed campus on March 13, 2020, and all courses shifted online, Prof. Evans sprang into action in his role as Faculty Council Chair (Faculty Senate President). During Spring Break, he and Graduate Assembly Chair Prof. Kate Weaver coordinated the development of university emergency grading polices for Spring 2020. They sought and received input from Faculty Council, Graduate Assembly, Deans, Provost, Registrar, President, Academic Advisors, and Student Government. The policies allowed undergraduate and graduate students to retroactively withdraw or change grades to pass/fail on a per-course basis up to one week after letter grades had been assigned. It passed Faculty Council over Spring Break in time for President Gregory Fenves to approve it on the Friday before classes resumed. President Jay Hartzell extended the policies for undergraduates in 2020-21 based on input from Faculty Council, Academic Advisors, and Student Government.

As Chair of Faculty Council 2019-20, he brought together 270 elected student, staff, and faculty representatives as well as 30 administrators to find ways to make UT a better place to work and live. Working with the Executive Committee, he reached out to Staff Council and Student Government to propose policies and other recommendations to address concerns of certain faculty interactions with other members of the community. He reached in a similar way to recommend to President Hartzell university responses to calls for racial justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

For the 11 years prior to being Faculty Council Chair 2019-20, Prof. Evans was elected to the University Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, which he chaired for six years. The committee advises the President and Provost on ways to strengthen safeguards of academic freedom in teaching, reseach and expression, including tenure, due process, and shared governance, to enable free inquiry, free expression, and open dissent for student learning and advancement of knowledge.

Provost Sharon Wood (left) and Prof. Brian Evans (right) shown after Provost Wood and President Hartzell presented the Civitatis Award to Prof. Evans at the President’s Faculty and Staff Awards Presentation.

His tremendous efforts over the last 15 years of university-wide service were recognized by the university with the Civitatis Award. The Civitatis Award was established in 1997 to recognize outstanding faculty citizenship. It is conferred upon a member of the UT faculty in recognition of dedicated and meritorious service to the university above and beyond the regular expectations of teaching, research and service. The award is made by the president upon the recommendation of the Faculty Council Executive Committee and, along with the Presidential Citation and Presidents' Associates Teaching Excellence Award, is one of only three awards given to faculty by the President.

At a university that boasts over 3,000 teaching faculty, it is the highest service award a faculty member can receive and is given to only 1 or 2 faculty members per academic year. In the 25 years of the award, there have been only 31 previous recipients, including Prof. Dean Neikirk of the UT Austin ECE Dept. in 2015.

Prof. Evans By the Numbers:

• Taught 2500+ undergraduates and 300+ graduate students in more than 60 courses.

• Supervised more than 200 undergraduate students in research and design projects

• Created a network of over 700 alumni from the upper division course he has taught since Fall 1997 to give career advice to current students and other alumni.

• Graduated 31 PhD students

• 1997 National Science Foundation CAREER Award

• 2009 Elevated to IEEE Fellow "for contributions to multicarrier communications and image display"

• 2011 Texas Exes Teaching Award, a university-wide recognition

• Five departmental teaching awards (Gordon Lepley IV, Most Animated Class, Best ECE Professor, ECE Teaching Excellence, Outstanding ECE Professor)

Prof. Evans Beyond the Numbers:

• Co-led the undergraduate curriculum reform in ECE in 2002 and 2010 to remove structural barriers for students to finish in four years, added more electives, and added more flexibility for students in selecting courses.

• He is a founding member of the UT Wireless Networking and Communications Group launched in 2003 and the 6G@UT Research Center launched in 2021, with 27 faculty, 180 graduate students

• In cellular communications and image/video processing, he has published 270+ peer-reviewed conference papers and journal articles, which have been cited 14,626 times with an H index of 54.

• Of his publications, three conference papers have received best/top paper awards, nine journal papers have been on the journal’s Top 50 monthly online accessed list, and 13 conference and 2 journal papers have been invited.

• Of the 31 PhD graduates he has advised, four are in tenured faculty positions and one is in a tenure-track position; eight in R&D labs; and 18 in designing products at companies.

• He has received external grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Science Foundation, Semiconductor Research Consortium, and The State of Texas Advanced Research and Technology Programs.

• His research has also been supported by unrestricted gifts from companies such as AT&T Labs, HP, Intel, NI, NVIDIA, NXP, Qualcomm, and Xerox.  

Prof. Evans in the Community:

Prof. Brian Evans chats with students during “coffee hours” in the EER. Since 2003, the location of these coffee hours has changed, but Prof. Evans has always made himself available to students.

Prof. Evans Coffee Chat

In this video, “Texas Well-Being: Promoting Well-being in UT Learning Environments,” Prof. Evans discusses why student well-being is important to him and his approach to creating a well community.

Evans Youtube

Dr. Brian L. Evans is the Engineering Foundation Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. He earned his B.S.E.E.C.S. (1987) degree from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and his M.S.E.E. (1988) and Ph.D.E.E. (1993) degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology. From 1993 to 1996, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1996, he has been on the faculty at UT Austin.