Current Dedman Distinguished Scholars, 2016-17
Below, the current Dedman Distinguished Scholars describe their experiences in the past academic year, including their academic interests and research, internships, community service work, study abroad experiences, and their future plans for the summer and beyond (as of June, 2016).
We welcome our five new Dedman Scholars as they embark on their Freshman year at UT! Please see our New Scholars page for photos and details.
Megan Abrameit (Liberal Arts Honors; Psychology/Humanities major with Creative Writing Certificate, from Tyler, Texas)
This year has been incredible, but it’s hard to describe on paper since the most important work I have done has been self-discovery. Surprisingly, the easiest part of college has been classes, because there is so much free time to get studying done. I’ve had to take a lot of science, but I survived. I’ve learned a lot about myself living on my own. It’s hard to be away from the support of my parents, but I have found out I am capable of doing more than I thought I was. I feel so free- free from comparison of grades and résumés, free from labels, free from fear of standing out or fitting in. I’ve made so many wonderful friends, closer friends than I’ve ever had before, and for the first time, I feel I am comfortable being myself around people. Maybe it is because I am finally allowing myself to be vulnerable. I'm involved in an amazing church, and the small groups I am in have been such a support to me. In college I’ve explored my passions more in depth, and they’ve only gotten stronger. I am a part of the International Justice Mission chapter on campus, and love surrounding myself with people who share my desire to end human trafficking.
During the summer, I am ready to see my family and get to be a part of daily life on the farm. While home, I want to volunteer with a charity that provides legal services for undocumented immigrants. They mostly take asylum cases, so I am excited to get my first glimpse of non-profit law. Also, I want to shadow an immigration lawyer I got to meet over Spring Break. Her work is so fascinating and rewarding, so it will be a joy to follow her around this summer. Then, I am heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to study Spanish for a month. I have always been weak conversationally in Spanish, so I think I will improve! I’m staying with a host family and hope to understand Argentinian culture. In August I will be a counselor for Ignite Texas. It is a Christian camp for incoming freshman UT students. At camp, I will be a part of a smaller family that will meet all year to make sure the freshmen get involved and have help while adjusting to U.T.
Nathan Alavarez Olson (Plan II and Mathematics major from Austin, Texas)
Freshman year has been good to me. As an Austin native, coming to U.T. was not geographical change, but it was a huge personal change. I feel as though I have grown into myself over the past year, and it has been a lot of fun. The first semester, I took a balanced schedule, where surprisingly my favorite class was Art History class (as a math major, I was not expecting this). I tutored students in pre-calculus at Garza Elementary School, edited college essays for high school seniors at KIPP, and helped introduce prospective Plan II students to the U.T. campus. The second semester my schedule was a busier, as I took 18 hours and three math classes, which were all really exciting and mind opening. I even ended up doing some research on Dalí’s later artwork, which is surprisingly interesting and surreal.
As for the future, I’m excited to be traveling to Cuba in late May as a part of U.T. study abroad. I will be studying Cuban history and culture until the end of June. We’ll start in Havana and travel westward to Santiago, where we will depart from. I’m especially excited because two other Dedman scholars, Logan and Nick, will be with me. After I get back, I will be taking Government and American Literature after 1865 at U.T. It is also possible that I may have an internship at Nanohmics. With my extra time during the summer, I’ll likely do some math self-study, possibly in convex optimization, real analysis, graph theory, or algebra both for my own enjoyment and in hopes of getting ahead in the fall semester. My fall semester will be busy, as I will be taking three upper division math courses (Real Analysis I, Algebraic Structures I, and Topology I). This is in an effort to get more math experience under my belt early on so that I will be more competitive both in applying for REUs (summer research opportunities for math undergraduates) and graduate school. And, well, because I like taking math classes.
Austin Hanna (Plan II and Astronomy major, from Flour Bluff, Texas)
My freshman year at UT helped me narrow my broad interests. I discovered that my STEM classes felt like a chore while my classes in the humanities evoked passion and commitment. Accordingly, I will decide between becoming “pure” Plan II and doubling with an English major in the coming years.
I adored every minute of my World Literature course, and I would like to get back into the habit of writing my own prose and poetry. The poetry I have written has been well-received this year. Two of my poems, “Sonnet #2” and “The Dragonfly,” have been published in The Nocturnal, Plan II’s literary journal. A third poem of mine did well when the Actors From the London Stage came to visit. I volunteered to guide one of the actors, Chris Donnelly, around campus during his stay. After their final performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the actors were kind enough to invite me to hang out with them. A silly sonnet I wrote for a turtle came up in conversation, and I read it for the actors; it was so well-liked that they added it to the official blog for their trip (http://blogs.nd.edu/shakespeare/tag/winedale/).
This spring, I did some acting myself. I hopped over to the LAH side of things and played the role of “Silvio” in a Foot in the Door production of Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters. I cannot wait to get back on stage, and I am already counting down the days until I can join Shakespeare at Winedale.
I have had lots of fun getting involved with my fellow Dedman Scholars this year. I attended Jessica’s Thinkers of Color meetings, volunteered with Sophie for the White Rose Society, and formed a Quiz Bowl team with Jack. Unfortunately, the competition was cancelled this year, but we are already planning to take the crown next time. In the fall, I plan to audition for a Broccoli Project show assistant-directed by Logan. Getting to know everyone better has been a real treat, and I love taking part in everyone’s various adventures.
This summer, I will spend some time in Argentina, teach myself some basic French, and maybe record some music with my band. After all that, I will be ready to tackle my sophomore year at UT!
Sophie Jerwick (Plan II major from Overland Park, Kansas)
My first year at UT-Austin I grew as a student, friend, advocate, and leader. Through trial, error, and sometimes success, I focused on exploring major options and deciding on a career path. My passion for science is still scalding, and I seek to find its best intersection with my love for activism, politics, and advocacy. Possible routes such as computer science, physics, and economics turned to dead ends, and for now I set my mind on medicine. After a life-changing, unconventional World Literature course with Professor Bump, combined with Plan II Biology with Dr. Hansen, and numerous conversations with liberal-arts-major-doctors, I now see that a doctor’s life allows me to be a scientist while working with people and grappling with moral questions. Next semester, I plan to try my hand at the introductory pre-medical courses.
While floating from hard science to liberal arts on a weekly basis, I grounded myself in social justice work at Texas Hillel. After an Alternative Winter Break Trip in Brooklyn with the organization, I dove into leadership in the Jewish community. I served as the co-President of the White Rose Society, a genocide awareness and prevention organization. This April we held our 10th annual 10,000 Roses event. Each one of these 10,000 roses handed out in one day on the UT campus represented one of the 10,000 people that died every day in Auschwitz at the peak of the holocaust. This year, our event drew attention to the Holocaust’s parallels to the Syrian refugee crisis, advocated for the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, and brought Holocaust survivor Max Glauben to campus. Our event sent 400 postcards to the Texas senators asking them to co-sponsor the federal bill, and our organization followed up with a visit to Senator Cornyn’s office. Apart from White Rose Society, I am a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, Liberal Arts Council, and marketed Israeli Block Party.
This summer, I will be interning with Jewish Family Services, working on a metrics system project. My job will be to develop compelling interactive visual interfaces to complex data sets utilizing Microsoft Excel and Power BI, in order to facilitate the non-profit’s grant requests. In addition, I will be taking a course in the C++ coding language at Johnson County Community College, just for fun.
Jillian Pflederer (Plan II and International Relations & Global Studies major from Chicago, Illinois)
It feels surreal heading home to Chicago knowing that my first year at the University of Texas is now complete. Freshman year kept me busy as I took three of my core Plan II classes and a few introductory International Relations courses. I wanted to come to U.T because it has the best Arabic program in the country, and between classes, weekly language partners, and cultural events throughout the year I learned just how much it deserves that title. Learning Arabic has opened many doors for me at U.T., introducing me to an incredible community of likeminded passionate friends who care about current issues and love the Middle Eastern culture as much as I do.
In addition, I joined the International Justice Mission club UT chapter and helped plan a 24-hour Stand For Freedom event to help raise awareness for human trafficking. Throughout freshman year, I also made sure to expand beyond my academic goals. I became heavily involved at my local church where I helped lead a Bible study with other college girls and got to know families from the local Austin area. I am so thankful for the community of friends that I have made in Austin. I am a different person because of the way they have modeled hard work, selflessness, and a passion for justice in everything they do. I took up dancing during this first year, and it was a healthy, enjoyable outlet for me when I was overwhelmed with deadlines and stress. I explored most of downtown and classic landmarks of Austin during my runs and completed my first half marathon. Also, Austin’s reputation for hipster live music and mouth-watering BBQ did not disappoint.
Next year I will continue to pursue my two majors and complete my final year of Arabic language courses while applying to study abroad in Morocco for summer 2017. I was accepted as a Clements Undergraduate Scholar for 2016/2017 and will have the chance to learn from and interact with high- ranking intelligence officials about pressing issues. My goal is to join an acapella singing group and train for a half triathlon. I can’t grasp how fast my freshman year as gone, but am incredibly thankful to have the Dedman community supporting me as I anticipate another wonderful year at the University of Texas!
Jack Cerveha (Plan II and Computer Science major, Dallas, Texas)
While my freshman year introduced me to U.T. and the city of Austin, this year has shown me the breadth of wonderful opportunities that surround me. The past nine months have been filled with exploration, in my studies, my classes, and elsewhere. This fall, I took two computer science courses - operating systems and web search. While these classes were interesting and no doubt provided me with heaps of useful experience for future study or career, they were not as personally influential as the other two courses. Plan II requires a year-long philosophy course throwing me headfirst into the confusing world of ethics and metaphysics. The style of analysis required was nothing like I had experienced before. I was initially resistant and even felt threatened by the discourses we examined and participated in. As the class wrapped up this spring, however, I realize that no other educational experience has had such a profound effect on my world outlook and broadened my perspective. It became quite enjoyable in the end. I also took an intensive ballet class. This introduced me to an entirely new way of artistic expression as well as physical challenge. I've never done anything that requires intense bodily effort to elicit emotion and create beauty (I am much too inexperienced to call my dancing beautiful, however). I was introduced to cycling as a sport and have gotten hooked. What better place than the hills of West Austin to cut my teeth in this wonderful pastime? I also joined the WRA feminist group on campus, which has exposed me to deep perspectives on topics that I barely had even considered in the past.
The web search class prompted me to join a research lab on campus in the School of Information in the spring. I participated in the nascent stages of a project to increase search engine capability over the Arabic language web. Alongside this, I continued philosophy and took some required core classes. Next year, I will begin studies in the Japanese language, which I hope will lead to an experience abroad the following summer. This summer, however, I am staying in Austin and am working at a startup software company called Tasqr in a development role. This is a wonderful professional opportunity, but I am most excited for the prospect of close mentorship with the company's founder, an experienced and talented developer.
All this exploration and personal development, however, would not be possible without the support of the Dedman Scholars program. Thank you again for your willingness to support my passions!
Dana Moore (Plan II and Architecture major from San Antonio, Texas)
Year two at U.T Austin has helped me stretch my already ambitious definition of an active life! Mentally, I’ve had to tackle dense philosophical texts in my Plan II Philosophy course taught by the one and only Paul Woodruff. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Plan II would not be the only supplier of philosophical thought in this calendar year. I found myself in an architectural history course entitled Soviet Avant-Garde Art, Architecture and Film, taught by Danilo Udovicki, who emphasized the political and social currents that generated both Soviet ideologies and the buildings that housed them. I concluded this engaging course with a research paper connecting Soviet montage theory in cinematography with the design and layout of Gothic cathedrals, an effort that was definitely a labor of love for both topics! In Design studios III and IV, I had the pleasure of designing a scheme for a hypothetical library on South Congress, and then designing a sector of low-rise, low-income and high-density housing for a town in Mexico in the spring. Design has challenged me this year with a variety of scope and program, and I look forward to another three years of mental and formal acrobatics.
In terms of extracurricular activities, my involvement with Texas 4000, a student organization that raises funds and awareness for cancer research while developing student leaders, has increased exponentially. I have spent every Saturday of this school year training to embark on our keystone event, a 4000-mile bike ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, in the summer of 2016. My teammates and I have biked over 2000 training miles and raised a minimum of $4500 each, all to promote cancer research. I have also played an active role in securing our lodging along the route to Alaska, which is all completely donated by host communities. I can hardly believe that we are about to leave for Alaska in just two weeks for what I’m sure will be a phenomenal and transformative experience. I can’t wait to apply the adventures and revelations of this coming summer to another year of Architecture and Plan II at this great university, where I have the freedom to engage all of my interests as well as the resources to do so with the ardor they so deserve.
Bahar Sahami (Liberal Arts Honors, with Government and International Relations & Global Studies majors, from Frisco, Texas)
Now midway through my college experience, I can see my purpose falling into place. Courses ranging from Biomedical Ethics to Sufism to Political theory fill me with new perspectives. I learned how to extract my own personal bias from a case study, to apply historical knowledge to current world affairs, to function in a global business setting, and even to make a rudimentary electrical generator from scratch. This year, I was accepted into the McCombs program for the Global Management Certificate. To complete part of my certificate, I will be studying abroad this summer in Barcelona, Spain at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
I’ve also pursued public policy as a Brumley Next Generation Scholar with Dr. Kate Weaver. My public policy proposal promoted liberal arts enrichment programs in high school and college. I then secured an internship in the LBJ School to help create the Austin Social Innovation Ecosystem Map, which is crowd sourced and published on the graph database, Kumu. The Austin SI Map will create greater transparency and meaningful investments in Austin’s social innovation arena.
In addition to my interests in public policy, I continue to enjoy my involvement in the Texas Undergraduate Law Review as head editor. I had a great time serving as the state attorney in my law organization’s mock trial team, doing community service, and attending the 2016 Change Institute for Social Justice. I was also chosen as the 2016-2017 Co-Events Coordinator for the Student Conduct Advisory Committee, an organization in the Office of the Dean of Students dealing with student conduct and academic integrity.
This past spring break, I volunteered in New Orleans and learned about systematic racism with the UT Alternative Breaks Program. Our team was graciously hosted in a local church while we rebuilt homes with Habitat for Humanity and refurbished a community garden. While I was saddened to realize that many still live with the physical and emotional effects of Hurricane Katrina, the kind and resilient community I met inspired me with their strength and love.
As I continue to gain new experiences and conquer my fears, I look forward to the next two years at UT. I am forever grateful to the Dedman Family and the Liberal Arts Honors Program for the countless support and opportunities they have given me.
Mayra Sharma (Plan II and Neuroscience major from El Paso, Texas)
I’ve fallen deeper and deeper in love with what I’m studying and have enjoyed calling Austin my home. As a couple of highlights, my internship with the Design Institute for Health has been a remarkable experience. Interns were challenged to apply innovation and human-centered design thinking to address problems in health care. I worked with four other interns to develop WellNext, an app that empowers users to better monitor their own health care needs and take action to improve their overall wellness. We’re excited to continue working on refining our prototype. This past semester, I also took a seminar course on Social Entrepreneurship, which has inspired me to consider developing the WellNext app into a project with broader social implications.
I was also recently elected Panel Chair of the Polymathic Sciences Student Leadership panel. Polymathic Scholars is a new honors program in the College of Natural Sciences, and I am excited to be working with a great team of leaders to help shape this new program.
This past year, I served as a peer educator for the Counseling and Mental Health Center. I’ve spent the semester educating myself about mental health issues facing college students and planning events such as Mental Health Promotion Week with the theme “Be Kind to Your Mind” Through a positive psychology approach that focuses on enhancing overall wellbeing, I hope to change the conversation on campus surrounding mental health.
As great as this year has been, there is a lot to look forward to. This summer, I’ll be interning at Paul L. Foster School of Medicine as part of the Summer Accelerated Biomedical Research (SABR) Program. I’m not sure of my specific research project yet, but it will be either in Public Health or Neuroscience. I’ll also spend some time relaxing, painting, and watching Food Network to how to cook. (I’m moving into an apartment next year and need to start working on developing these skills.)
As one of the greats once said, “If you feel that you have both feet planted on level ground, then the university has failed you.” With two years behind me and two years ahead of me, I could not be more excited to see how my experiences will shake and shape me and what challenges and opportunities will come my way. I am incredibly grateful to the Dedman family for providing me with the support to truly explore this university’s treasures.
Barrett Smith (Liberal Arts Honors, with French & Humanities majors, from Washington, D.C.)
This year, I have become interested in studying education policies and practices and their effects on disadvantaged students. My Humanities contract is titled, “The Psychology of the Disadvantaged Youth in Education,” I helped to create and worked as the primary designer for the zine “btru4u,” doing research on Nigerian-British immigration and strengthening her circus skills. This summer I will be interning again as a story coach with ShoutMouse Press, an organization that aims to amplify the voices of the marginalized through empowering them to write and publish their stories. I will be designing the books and advertising as well as helping the students write and publish children’s books. In the fall, I will be studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal, to study culture and education and intern in a school, museum, or publishing house.
Jessica Bathea (Economics and Liberal Arts Honors from Frisco, Texas)
This past semester, I have experienced tremendous personal growth as I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, which has undoubtedly been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Navigating the UCT Economics system, a daunting yet exciting process, has given me a new perspective on the Economics field, particularly by empowering me as a student to investigate and question the prevailing (Eurocentric) economic philosophies. I also volunteered as a coach and a mentor for the Ned Doman High School Marimba Band in the Athlone district in Cape Town. In that role, I drew upon the leadership skills I cultivated at UT while starting my young intellectuals’ organization “Thinkers of Color.” To expand my musical catalogue, I became involved in the jazz music scene at the UCT music school and around Cape Town, and participating in activities to hone my own craft, such as shooting a music video and taking jazz theory classes (as a proxy learner).
This semester has inspired me to the fullest degree, and without the Dedmans' dedication to the welfare of their scholars, including myself, this would not be possible. I have a new motivation to give to the communities I am connected to back in the States, by interning or volunteering with an Austin-area community organization (I hope Refugee Services of Texas), as well as gearing up to be a Sanger Learning Center Tutor for calculus. In addition, by practicing my skills as a producer, songstress, and keyboardist, I hope to create music that boosts the self-esteem and leadership skills of young teens and adults (as my original mission had been when I first became a Dedman Scholar). This year has been one of the most adventurous and empowering of my college career and life, and I am proud to say that I have seen my personal growth in action and begun to realize my potential as an educator, a musician, and a human being. I would like to thank the Dedman Scholarship for continuing to provide me with the tools to grow personally and to serve others.
Annie Biondi (Plan II and Social Work major from Houston, Texas)
I had a wonderful third year at UT! This year has been defined by my experiences in Texas 4000 for Cancer. Over the course of the past two semesters, I biked almost 2,000 miles, and I raised $7,000 for cancer research and support programs. I helped put together a cancer awareness program that my teammates and I will present to communities across North America when we bike to Alaska this summer. One of my favorite parts of my Texas 4000 experience was volunteering with the Dell Children’s Survivor Challenge, a program that helps young cancer survivors and their families train for a 5k run. We met at Mueller Lake each week to run laps and build endurance. The kids were amazing, and I loved building friendships with them over the course of the year. This summer my Texas 4000 for Cancer experience will culminate with a 4,500-mile bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska along the Ozarks route.
This year with the freedom and flexibility the Plan II curriculum provides, I took courses on Writing Narratives, Language and the Brain, and Politics of Food in Latin America. Though I am still struggling with my brain injury, I have made progress in my recovery and am able to enjoy my academics much more.
I worked at the UT climbing wall again. I taught climbing skills classes, set bouldering routes, and helped women and children from the Austin Women’s Shelter rope climb. I was also a college buddy with the Best Buddies program. I loved hanging out with Abby, my buddy with special needs, on Sunday evenings. People with special needs remain a prominent part of my life despite the time dedicated to Texas 4000, and I still hope to work with the special needs community after I graduate. I am so grateful for all of these opportunities that the Dedman scholarship has provided.
Logan Crossley (Plan II, Government, and Radio, Television, and Film major from Plano, Texas)
I say this every time, but I promise I’ll stop as soon as it becomes untrue: 2015-16 was the best year of my life. I spent the fall semester in Madrid, Spain. I lived with a woman I had never met who made me breakfast every morning and was a mother and a philosopher and a sensational maker-of-beds. I flew more miles than in all the previous 20 years of my life combined, slept on more trains than I’d care to recall, and saw the sun rise and set over tall mountains and glassy harbors and villages of hundreds and cities of millions. I saw my grandma on Christmas for the first time in ten years. I ate the greatest meal of my life and washed it down with enough expensive wine to smile through the paying of the bill. I ran across the entire country of Liechtenstein. I saw the Northern Lights, and it was the first time for as long as I can remember that I just sat somewhere and let it be silent. I lived the things I’d only every read about, and it was better than the books. And then it was over.
I came home. I took a second look at what my time at UT has meant so far, and I realized how deliberate and present and marrow-sucking I have to be with what I have left. I threw myself into film. I made a few. I like them a lot. I know now more than ever that this is the thing I want to do with my life (or my 20’s. I mean, who can ever know?). I took great classes and met remarkable professors. I say that every semester, too, but this time I really mean it. I was surrounded by old friends and new friends the whole way through. I was blessed and lucky in countless ways. And it continues.
This summer I will be 90 miles and a world away from the USA in Havana, Cuba, for the month of June. I will then return home to Dallas for the last half of summer and begin working on my thesis, which will explore and record Choctaw narratives on film. Senior year promises to be busier and better than any that has come before it, and I’m already putting my money on being able to start next year’s reflection with an updated version of the same opening sentence. Every word of this is only possible because of the Dedman family and the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program’s support, financial and otherwise. Much love to you guys and all of my friends and family.
Nicolas Gatz (Liberal Arts Honors, majoring in Psychology and Spanish, from Austin, Texas)
In the past year, I have learned so much, and I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone more than ever before. The first step out of my comfort zone began last year as summer classes ended. I had just accepted a summer job as a camp counselor in rural Romania. I hopped on a series of planes and trains only to arrive and, due to a clerical error on the part of the camp administration, found myself out of a job and stranded. Over then next day or so, I shamelessly contacted NGOs all around Europe and managed to get a volunteer job at a farm-based occupational therapy center in England. The clients I worked with there were some pretty incredible individuals who taught me that therapy and empowerment must go hand-in-hand.
After Romania, Spain was calling. I spent my fall studying at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas in Madrid, Spain, living with an incredibly welcoming Spanish family. On weekends, I hopped on as many budget flights as I could to explore as much of Europe as possible. I found myself, along the way, sharing moments with friends where it would have been impossible to stop laughing. I also found myself in moments where a stunning view of something like the northern lights or an ancient cathedral made it impossible to say anything at all.
Now, back in Austin, I’m challenging myself to live with the same kind of deliberate, adventure-seeking attitude that motivated me in Europe. This time, I stepped out of my intellectual comfort zone engaging in incredible coursework like LAH’s upper-division Reacting to the Past course or walking around this city, talking late into the night for hours with some of my closest friends.
This summer, I’ll be studying in Havana, Cuba, and it’s bound to be just the kind of enriching, boundary-pushing, head-scratching experience I want during my last year as an undergraduate. When I return, work begins on my honors thesis in psychology. I’ll be recruiting participants and collecting data to conduct a full research study investigating how people on the autism spectrum express religious belief. It perfectly combines my two primary academic interests, and I really can’t wait to get started.
I couldn’t do any of this without the generosity of the Dedman Family. Thank you guys so much.
Michelle (Guajardo) Alanis (Plan II and Music Education major from Mission, Texas)
This year, I took a full course load at UT both semesters as I work to finish two degrees in four years. I also started the process of getting my music teacher certification. This involved many hours of fieldwork, traveling to different schools and providing lessons to students. This certification process will continue through to this fall. I provided private lessons at a middle school in southwest Austin, as well free lessons to children in foster care through a non-profit organization called Kids in A New Groove. I also played clarinet in the University of Texas Symphony band and played guitarra de golpe in UT’s Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlan. This spring, I started my capstone thesis about the history of mariachi music education in the US, specifically how access to this type of ensemble in predominantly Hispanic and low socioeconomic communities helps students to graduate high school and attend college. Over the summer, I plan to continue working on my thesis and take a biology course.
Trevor Heise (Plan II and English major from Weatherford, Texas)
Last summer began an odyssey for me--both academic and personal. Before starting a summer teaching English at the University of Gdańsk, I hitchhiked/walked from Paris to Istanbul. Excepting a train ride across the Italian Peninsula and a nightmare 23 hour bus ride through Macedonia, I mostly owe the experience to French deliverymen, kindly Greek mothers, and a dozen or so Bulgarian engineers on spring break. These strangers, each in their own way, and at various times and latitudes, showed me charm and generosity. Under new constellations, I saw more kaleidoscopic varieties of human experience than I thought were possible — some revolting, others downright sublime.
While teaching English and traveling, I began to write more. I revived many of my dormant interests in film, literary criticism, and current events. I even dove headfirst into photojournalism with an impromptu camera purchase and some tips I got in Turkey from a Swiss photographer for National Geographic. I took several thousand pictures, including many of the Syrian refugee emigration (some of which I'm in the midst of working out details of selling, and I'm quite tickled about this). The intellectual exploration of the summer inspired me to change majors. Though the shift from economics to English was rocky, I eventually found equilibrium by the Spring semester, grounded in a knowledge of what motivates me. I am, more than anything, grateful to invest myself more fully in activites and ideas that captivated my interest over the summer. I am the future Editor-in-Chief of Analecta, the Universitys’s official literary journal. I am invigorated by the prospect of expanding its reach and soliciting the work of ever more varied and excellent writers from the U.T. campus and beyond. With the help of a couple friends I met in Plan II, I continue to monitor the refugee crisis in Syria and other current events by co-hosting a new, weekly radio show called The Pale Blue Dot on U.T.'s radio station. Our mission: to explore the weird, theorize about the world, and discuss what's happening in world news. Finally, this semester marks the end of two years at UTeach, where I've been working with its director to write up the blueprints and secure funding to expand what is the most rigorous, income-blind STEM summer program for students in Austin.
I'm truly grateful for the support of the Dedman family, and more thrilled than ever to use that support to tackle new interests and ambitions.
Shane Rowley (Plan II and Petroleum Engineering major from Lufkin, Texas)
My junior year at the University of Texas has been rewarding. I took an incredible TC class this spring, Writing Narratives, with Matt Valentine. In this course, I learned how to write journalistic articles, poetry, familiar essays, and short fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to write short stories, which is something I have long desired to do. My favorite thing I wrote was a science fiction story in which two characters must struggle with a massive moral decision. In addition to this class, I was also finally able to take major sequence petroleum engineering courses, such as Reservoir Engineering and Well Logging. These classes were especially enjoyable because I know they will help me succeed in my upcoming summer internship with an oil and gas company.
I also served as student president of The Society of Plan II Engineers, arranging multiple dinner seminars with distinguished guests, including Robert Metcalfe, Joseph Beaman, Daron Roberts, Russell Gold, and Philip Mezey. During these dinners, our club members, who are double majoring in Plan II and engineering, converse with the guests of honor about wide-ranging subjects.
Throughout both the fall and spring semesters, I continued to tutor high school juniors and seniors at KIPP Austin Collegiate through the Plan Tutoring program. In the fall, I helped seniors refine their college application essays and also assisted them in the entire application process. In the spring semester, I began working with juniors instead. I guided them through learning how to craft resumes and write great college essays. Additionally, I tutored my students in SAT and ACT preparation.
This summer, I will intern with Devon Energy, an independent oil and gas operator in Oklahoma City, working in their corporate office as a Reservoir Engineering intern. I am excited to have the opportunity to apply all the knowledge and skills I acquired this school year!
The Dedman Scholars program has been such as wonderful gift, and I am thankful for the opportunities that it has provided me. It has also given me marvelous, incredible, unique friends.
Jennifer Yang (Liberal Arts Honors, with majors in English, French, and Chinese, from League City, Texas)
This year was one of great challenge and subsequent growth, personally and academically. More than ever I’ve come to appreciate the friendship and community at UT Austin, and the opportunities I’ve been able to enjoy as a student here.
As I near completion of my majors in English, French, and Chinese, I’ve been able to enjoy the wide offerings of upper-division classes, including Cultural and Literary Theory, Postcolonial Taiwanese History, African Francophone Women’s Film and Literature, Modernism, Viking Literature, and Classical Chinese. In particular, my experience in the Shakespeare at Winedale program through the English department’s Shakespeare Through Performance class was extraordinary. With a cast of 16 students from a diverse range of majors and interests, we put on The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Two Noble Kinsmen in the countryside at Winedale , learning about the living power and legacy of Shakespeare’s words. I feel fortunate to have been involved in this memorable program, which I will always associate with the intellectual creativity and passion that characterizes UT Austin.
I also spent this year working as a writing consultant at the Undergraduate Writing Center and preparing for my senior thesis work in the English Honors Program. I will be studying the intersections of gender and ethnicity in portrayals of Asian-American identities in 20th-century American theatre. I am excited to begin my research this summer, during which I will also visit friends in Québec and Ontario, prepare various applications for work and study, and take more courses.
I am deeply grateful to my family and friends, the Dedman Scholarship, and Liberal Arts Honors for the support given since I began my time at U.T. Thank you so much for everything you've so generously given me.