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Student Profile: Melissa

Melissa Hall
Plan II & Electrical Engineering Honors
Undergraduate Fellow, Clements Center for National Security
Class of 2019

I am a fourth-year student at UT studying Plan II and Electrical & Computer Engineering. Throughout all of high school, I took computer science and engineering classes. As a native Houstonian, I knew of UT’s renown in the engineering disciplines. However, several of my favorite experiences in high school applied skills and perspectives that weren’t a primary focus of engineering classes, such as understanding the experiences of others, communicating my perspective and beliefs, and collaborating with and motivating others. When I learned of Plan II, I realized that its focus on literature, history, philosophy, language, and other humanities would fill the desire I had for a richer undergraduate education.

Plan II’s diverse curriculum has increased my comfort with being active in a domain that’s not my “expertise”, which has enabled me to grow diversely. Through the Society of Plan II Engineers, which organizes formal dinners with distinguished university professors and industry leaders, knowledge of novel ideas across all engineering disciplines is accompanied by discussions of the social complexities and implications innovation contains. I have done research with the finance department of the McCombs School of Business to identify patterns in the fraudulent activities leading to the 2008 financial crisis. After taking a Plan II junior seminar focused on the American intelligence community, I applied to be an Undergraduate Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security. As a Fellow, I have gotten to meet with UT and American policy leaders and engage with other students who are passionate about policy and national security.

I have also had the opportunity to increase my social awareness. In my freshman year, I chose to take a Plan II class focused on civic engagement. The course was centered on class visits from leaders of non-profits and socially focused start-ups who shared their experiences, field trips around Austin to see historic sites and impactful communities, and a student research project in an area of social need. That course inspired my involvement in the Plan II/KIPP partnership to mentor high school students throughout the college application process. It led to my desire to join Texas Orange Jackets, where I have been able to serve at the Settlement Home for Girls, at Feed My People breakfasts for the homeless, and with SafePlace Austin. I also worked for several months with a start-up founded by a Plan II alum to build websites for non-profits, which was a great way to apply my engineering skills with a social purpose.

As I near the end of my time as an undergraduate, I am able to reflect on a multitude of unique experiences I have enjoyed at UT. Plan II has been more impactful than I could have ever expected in shaping my perspective, curiosity, and confidence to explore ideas and opportunities.

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