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Student profile: Eliza

Eliza Pillsbury
Plan II & Journalism
Core Texts & Ideas Certificate
Class of 2023

Hello! My name is Eliza Pillsbury, and I’m a sophomore in the Plan II Honors Program and the School of Journalism. I’m also pursuing a certificate in Core Texts & Ideas through the Jefferson Scholars Program, and a minor in English. I’m from Houston, Texas, but I didn’t spend much time in Austin or even consider UT as a possibility for college until I learned about Plan II.

My love for learning has always been about insatiable curiosity instead of quantitative achievement. Choosing a major was difficult for this reason; I didn’t know how I could restrict myself to one field of study for four years. Plan II provided the unique opportunity to study philosophy, history, and literature that could complement the contemporary subject matter of the journalism curriculum. I couldn’t have anticipated, however, the value of the Plan II faculty and community.

Last year, I had the privilege of taking Professor Arjomand’s World Literature course, “People, Performance, and Power.” The class is a highlight of my college experience so far, due in large part to Professor Arjomand’s teaching. She encouraged vulnerability in our class discussions and empowered everyone to share their ideas, however rudimentary or controversial, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the material. I also credit her class for bringing me some of my closest friends. With only 18 of us together for two consecutive semesters, we grew extremely close and shared formative moments of freshman year. Perhaps even more valuable were the moments outside of the classroom: field trips to support local theatre companies, a Secret Santa gift exchange, collaboration on a review to be published in the Johns Hopkins University Theatre Journal, or our summer book club over Zoom.

I’ve also met my Plan II peers in other involvements on campus, including Spark Magazine, Kappa Delta Sorority, Students for Julie Oliver, and the Forty Acres Scholars Program. I include these and previous series of examples to convey the vast potential of one’s experience in Plan II. There is no “right way” to navigate this program. In fact, I think the only way is to try everything, even if that means inevitably failing at something.

For example, I joined seven student organizations in my first semester of college because I was overwhelmed by the abundance of new opportunities. While I could sustain this level of involvement in the short term, that doesn’t mean it would have been the best decision for myself or my fellow members. Instead, I narrowed my focus and learned to value newfound time for reading, rest, or spending time with friends. Leadership and scholarship have become exercises in mindfulness for me because I now realize that what I decide not to pursue is just as important as what I do. I want to be able to give my best effort where it matters most to me, and I know Plan II will prepare and support me in achieving my many goals.

I don’t yet know how the rest of my education or career will unfold, but I hope to go to grad school and travel the world before entering the workforce. My current aspiration is to be an editor at an independent magazine or publishing house. I want to not only be a voice that cuts through the noise, but also to amplify the thinkers who have impacted me. With as much as I’ve been taught and trusted, I want to give back to that extent. I truly believe that what starts in Plan II can change the world, no matter how cheesy that saying may seem.

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