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Student Profile: Eunice

Eunice Iyalho
Plan II & History
UTeach-Liberal Arts Program
Class of 2020

Howdy! My name is Eunice and I’m a third year student studying Plan II and History. In addition to my two majors, I am in the UTeach-Liberal Arts Program and am getting a certificate in Children and Society from the Bridging Disciplines Program.

From the first day, my Plan II classes started to dramatically shape me. Thanks to World Lit, I broke from the confines of the 18th-20th century Western European/U.S. literary sphere. We read ancient texts and modern graphic novels and nearly everything in-between. I started to reflect on what it means to be a citizen of the world and it wasn’t enough to just read foreign news or have superficial knowledge of different countries. I began to seek true understanding of culture and people and the context in which both are found.

After taking Civic Viewpoints, a Plan II class on civic engagement, I felt empowered to make the leap from learning to doing. I used to dream about changing the world with grandeur someday, but I realized that I could make an impact, a powerful impact, in my community and that I could start then. In fact, I hadn’t realized I had already started. Plan II has three partnerships with KIPP Austin Public Schools, a charter district that serves low-income students. I have been volunteering as a ‘Plan Tutor’ since the first few weeks of school and had a cohort of seniors whom I helped search for the best fit university, brainstorm and edit essays, fill out applications and forms, and so much more.

I ended up signing up for the Plan II/KIPP course taught by Jill Kolasinski, the founder of KIPP Austin, and I began to learn more about the state of education in the U.S. Initially, I was appalled. I knew there were inequalities but was unprepared for two semesters on the mortifying disparity of our educational system. Despite this, I never felt hopeless about change because when I looked around the classroom, I saw determination in the eyes of the 14 other students. None of us were planning to pursue a career in education but we were resolved to educate ourselves in order to ensure a better future.

I think that’s the most profound thing about being a Plan II student. You can look around the classroom and know for certain that the people you see are going to change the world. Moreover, we are all in an interdisciplinary program that supports students majoring in engineering but being passionate about education, students studying business but also interested in art, and so much more. I just realized that when people looked around the room and saw me, I wanted them to see a future educator and know that I was working hard to impact the lives of high schoolers. So I left pre-med and joined UTeach-Liberal Arts, one of UT’s teacher preparation programs. Social change and justice and equity and diversity are no longer abstract concepts or buzzwords but tangible issues that I want to dedicate my life to proliferating, especially in education. With the clubs and organizations I’m involved with now, I already feel like I’m making a difference.

But it’s not always so serious — I’m having a blast in college! I just came back from an incredible study abroad experience in France thanks to a generous scholarship from a Plan II alum. My first year, I was a research assistant in the Psychology department’s Children’s Research Lab and worked at a property management agency for a semester. Sophomore year, I was a teaching assistant for my former Word Lit professor and I interned the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, one of the gems of the University with which Plan II partners. This year, the Institute has offered me an undergraduate fellowship that I still can’t believe is real. Of course, I am still involved with KIPP and am eager to reconnect with my middle school mentee and meet my new high school cohort. And finally, not PII related, I will be leading a First-Year Interest Group for UT freshmen this fall.

When I graduate, I would love to teach history at the high school level and maybe work on educational policy. One day, I plan to get my PhD and become a historian. I’m *shooting for the stars* and am hoping that I’ll work somewhere like NASA. Whether or not any of the aforementioned happen, I’m not too worried because I have had the privilege of being in a prestigious program that has prepared me for whatever the future holds.

Lastly, no one told me just how critical it would be to find a good support system while in college. I am truly lucky to have found unparalleled support as a Plan II student. The phenomenal Plan II staff members are second to none and there seems to be no issue that they cannot solve and if it wasn’t for the advisors, I don’t know where any of us would be. The whole department is committed to the social, academic, and developmental success of Plan II students and the staff work hard to take great care of us.

The professors who teach Plan II courses are outstanding, accessible, and passionate about their fields. Classes are taught with an infectious fervor that will have you signing up for 8AM’s five days a week and not caring because you're eager to go. One thing that makes my Plan II professors stand out from other professors is the fact that they support students not just taking an active role in their learning, but also taking over the classroom and lesson material. Lectures are rarely just lectures and are instead interactive and intensive debates, discussions, and opportunities to share.

Because of this, it is no wonder that fellow Plan II students are another great source of support. Although the program is competitive, there is an atmosphere of collaboration and collectiveness. I can sincerely say that I am inspired by each and every one of my peers and am motivated daily to succeed and lead. Exemplary Plan II students become exemplary Plan II alumni. Not enough can be said about the generosity of Plan II graduates who donate money, scholarships, resources, personal time, and more to the program because of the impression it has left in their life.

Indeed, it would be impossible for me to say what course or which person has impacted me the most in college, but if I had to hazard a guess at the one thing that has changed my life more than anything else, without hesitation I would say the Plan II Honors Program.

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