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Liberal Arts Honors

Recent Graduates

Below, Dedman Scholars describe their experiences during their final academic year at UT and their plans upon graduation.

Annie Biondi
Bahar Sahami
Mayra Sharma

2018 Graduates


Annie Biondi
Humility Cohort, Graduating Class of 2018
Plan II/Social Work

I am officially a college graduate! My last year at UT was very rewarding and defined by my work on my Plan II senior thesis. I wrote about the interactions of individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and the criminal justice system. Individuals with FASD are significantly over-represented in the justice system, and their invisible disability leads to mistreatment throughout the legal process. My younger brother has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, so this topic had a personal draw for me. In March, Special Books by Special Kids came to Houston to interview my brother and me about life with FASD, and the video has over three million views on Facebook (Living with an Invisible Disability).

I started this school year unable to look at a computer screen and struggling to read for more than a few minutes at a time while recovering from my sixth serious concussion, but I ended the school year by finishing a 90-page thesis that received a Model Thesis award from Plan II. I hope that my thesis serves as a resource to individuals working in the criminal justice field and brings awareness to the challenges experienced by individuals with FASD. I will continue working on related projects about FASD after I graduate. I also took some excellent classes in my last year at UT. I particularly loved the courses Culture of Disability in Education and Individual Differences, both of which examined disability in education. As someone with a disability and someone who intends to spend the rest of her life working with people who have disabilities, taking disability-related classes was informative and empowering.

This year I volunteered with the Helping Hand Home, a residential home for children who have been severely abused or neglected. One night a week I read bedtime stories to the young girls at the Helping Hand Home to help them feel safe and secure as they fell asleep. Junie B Jones was by far their favorite book series. I intend to continue volunteering with the Helping Hand Home in the fall. This was my fifth year as a volunteer in UT Best Buddies! I had a wonderful year hanging out with Abby, my adult buddy with a disability, and we ended the school year with a trip to Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio. In November, I volunteered at the Texas Chargers retreat for children with CHARGE syndrome and their families. I was paired with an 18-month-old baby girl who has CHARGE syndrome, and I had an incredible weekend bonding with her and other young children with CHARGE.

I also continued volunteering at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in a middle school chemistry class in the fall and in a high school art class in the spring. In the spring, I started working part-time as a substitute at TSBVI in a variety of classes. I particularly love being a substitute for the elementary classes and the classes for Deaf-blind students. I got to practice my American Sign Language, and I started teaching myself braille. I intend to continue working at the School for the Blind in a full-time position this fall!

Before starting the school year at the School for the Blind in August, I am going to travel to the UK this summer. I will be visiting the children with disabilities that I worked with during my gap year at the Sheiling School in Ringwood, England! It has been over five years since I last saw the children, and I am so excited to reconnect with them and see the young adults that they have become. I will also be volunteering on a farm in Scotland for a week before volunteering at a camp for children with cancer in Ireland! I am so grateful for all the opportunities that the Dedman family has provided me over the past five years. Because of the Dedman scholarship, I have been able to consistently use my time outside of the classroom to volunteer in the community, which has filled by college experience with meaning. Thank you Dedman family for supporting me throughout my five years at the University of Texas. I'm now ready to go out and change the world!

BSBahar Sahami
Humility Cohort, Graduating Class of 2018
Liberal Arts Honors
Majoring in Government/International Relations & Global Studies

Bill Archer Fellow, Spring 2018
Judicial Intern at U.S. Supreme Court, Spring 2018
Phi Beta Kappa Member, 2018
Dean's List

My final year at UT Austin has been a time of personal growth, friendship, discipline, and discovery. This past year, I enjoyed an interesting combination of academic ventures such as Intensive Russian in the fall semester, and courses such as the policy making process, advocacy and politics, and the politics of national memory for the Archer Fellowship in spring. Furthermore, I completed and published my honors thesis on Egyptian state feminism; this research foray has driven me to reflect upon history and our current surroundings more critically.

As president of the Student Conduct and Advisory Committee, I was lucky to engage in extensive planning with our dedicated and vibrant team, which ultimately led to the establishment of my project, Longhorn Veritas. Longhorn Veritas aims to increase resource transparency on the UT Campus and to empower students with the individual agency to sharpen their skills in scholarship and research. I also served my final term as Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Undergraduate Law Review, for which I published the sixth volume of our journal. It has been a pleasure to see both of these organizations grow and flourish during my time at UT. Another highlight of my senior year was being a workshop facilitator for the Leadership and

Ethics Institute, for which I was humbled to present workshop material ranging from ‘inclusive leadership’ to ‘building your leadership brand’ to various groups, such as Women of Excellence and a group of graduate students from Latin America on a business fellowship. LEI is chock-full of value-driven individuals who I am lucky to know. All of these groups helped me develop character and better serve the university that has given me so much.

I spent my spring semester in D.C. as a Bill Archer Fellow, completing a full academic course load while working as a full time judicial intern at the U.S. Supreme Court in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice. My experiences in D.C. reiterated my passion for public service and deeply impacted my perspective on humility, devotion to principle, and the pursuit of knowledge. I am grateful to have met so many self-driven individuals in my fellowship cohort, as well as inspiring mentors both inside and outside of the workplace.

This year, with all its twists and turns, has reminded me more than ever why I love what I study and has further strengthened my sense of purpose. With much enthusiasm, I am happy to say that I will be a matriculating law student this coming fall 2018. While I have not yet decided which school I will attend, I will make my final decision very soon. I am eager for the journey to becoming an empowered legal advocate! I would not be at this exciting point in my life without endless encouragement from the Dedman community. Everyone in this program has, at one point or another, inspired me, warmed my heart, supported my goals, and most importantly, taught me what it takes to be a compassionate and decent human being. Empowerment is being able to live and learn from a community that is also constantly changing and thriving, which the Dedman community so passionately embodies. If the unique individuals in this group had not shared their humanity and visions with me, I would not have been able to develop my own aspirations, perspectives, and sense of self in the way that I have these past four years.

You all are truly wonderful, and it has been a privilege to spend my undergraduate years with you. I am always indebted to our staff, fellow scholars, and the Dedman family for the wonderful impact they have had on my educational journey at UT Austin!

MSMayra Sharma
Humility Cohort, Graduating Class of 2018
Plan II/Neuroscience with an Emotional Intelligence Certificate

This past year was difficult. It was difficult knowing that good-byes were lingering just around the corner and that there was a ticking clock attached to my time here. So, I spent my senior year being intentional about cultivating friendships, chatting with professors, and deeply engaging in my coursework. I invested time to think honestly and deeply about what truly lights a fire in my heart and what I sincerely hope to leave as my mark on our world. In this year of reflection, I changed course quite dramatically.

Rather than applying straight to medical school, as I was so sure I would, I decided to take a gap year (…or three) to focus more on growing my personal and professional skill set, learning more about aspects of the world I'd never otherwise gain exposure to, and making myself wildly uncomfortable. And it worked. With this clearer picture, I pushed myself on a thesis that captures many of my interests regarding empathy, political decision-making and reproductive rights issues, and I planned a future trajectory that feels more in line with my new-found interests.

After graduation, I will spend the summer interning as a Business Analyst for McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. Here, I will be working in Pharmaceuticals and Medical Practices in Philadelphia with a team of mentors and leaders in the field. Following this internship, I will be serving as a STAR Fellow for Running Start, a non-profit based in Washington D.C. that works to encourage female engagement in politics and fosters a space for more representation of women in positions of political power.

In the Spring, I have a bit more flexibility. I hope to either return to McKinsey & Company to continue working on meaningful projects particularly in the healthcare or non-profit/social-impact space or spend the semester studying screenwriting (my actual dream job!) in Australia or perhaps even back-pack through Southeast Asia while reading books I've been meaning to get to, writing poetry, and maintaining a travel blog. Long-term, I do aspire to attend medical school to combine my love for public health and public policy with patient care. Until then, I plan to pursue my goal of being a life-long learner and intellectually curious global citizen, while of course continuing to laugh loudly, sing badly, and dance uncontrollably with all the friends I've made here and the people who mean the world to me.

As I say my good-bye to the University of Texas at Austin, when I look past the nervous excitement and bittersweet endings, I find that my heart is bursting at the seams with gratitude. I know that I will look back to my time here with a special sense of fondness, since I've experienced immense growth here on the forty acres over the past four years. And as I dive out of this nest and fly into the real world, I will take the lessons that I've learned from class, memories from the adventures I've experienced with my friends, and the words of wisdom I've cultivated from mentors with me. I remember finding myself constantly awe-inspired by my fellow scholars, and as a life-long member of the Dedman community, I am beyond grateful that I can continue to be so years down the line as well. And one day, I hope to give back to the program that has given me not only four years of enormous support, but a life-time of love and encouragement with the friends and mentors I've found here. What Starts Here Changes the World, and I can't wait to go out there and help change it!