College of Liberal Arts

2012 Dean's Distinguished Graduates

By Monica Horvat, College of Liberal Arts
Photo by Ryan Miller
Published: May 10, 2012

Twelve graduating seniors have been named Dean's Distinguished Graduates. Each year the College of Liberal Arts honors 12 seniors with the Dean's Distinguished Graduate Award for their leadership, scholarly achievements and service to the community. The students will be honored at the College of Liberal Arts spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 18.

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the Dean's Distinguished Graduate program, which has yielded more than 370 alumni who represent the best and the brightest graduates of the College of Liberal Arts. In 2009 the college created the Dean's Distinguished Graduate Alumni Association in an effort to better connect alumni to one another and the college. Visit this website for more information.

Meet this year's group of honorees:

Roberto Flotte, Jr. (Anthropology/Mexican American Studies)

ddgRoberto Flotte was born in Presidio, but grew up in Mexico before returning to the United States at age 15. As a research scholar, leader and advocate for Latino and Indigenous students, he founded the first Native American and Indigenous student organization on campus. After graduation he will either join Teach for America or work in public policy in Washington, DC. He then plans on pursuing a joint degree in human rights law and anthropology.






Kathleen Burns (English/Biology)

ddgAfter graduation, Kathleen Burns plans to attend graduate school in a dual degree program tailored to her interests in tropical ecology, conservation and writing. Having lived abroad most of her life in Peru and Qatar, she intends to work and travel extensively in the tropics, helping to empower women through ecologically sustainable practices.







Naveen Pattisapu (Plan II Honors/Biology/Ecology, Evolution & Behavior)

NaveenGrowing up with two older brothers (both of whom are Plan II Honors graduates) and loving parents, Naveen Pattisapu has pursued a wide array of interests during his time at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to his biomedical research, he devotes his time to his award-winning rock band,  basketball and painting. After graduation, he aspires to become a physician and discover new therapies for poorly treated diseases.







Kelli Schultz (Plan II Honors/American Studies/Theatre & Dance)

ddg Though she was born in Texas, Kelli Schultz was raised in Alpharetta, Georgia, and is one of five children. Upon graduation, she will join the 2012 Teach for America corps in San Francisco's Bay Area.







Jessica Messier (Psychology/Mathematics)

ddgJessica Messier grew up in Houston, where she attended The Kinkaid School. For three years she has been a member of the Lee laboratory, which studies the role of the midbrain dopamine system in attentional processing. She is graduating with dual bachelor of science degrees in Mathematics and Psychology.







Derya Kadipasaoglu (Linguistics/Philosophy)

ddgDerya Kadipasaoglu was born in Houston, and after focusing on drawing and printmaking at an arts high school, moved to Austin to pursue a degree in the linguistics department's Child Language Lab. She studied children's language acquisition and development, and plans to start a doctoral program in the field of cognitive science after graduation.







Viviana Aldous (Plan II Honors/Philosophy)

ddgViviana Aldous enjoys writing, a passion that has manifested itself in a four-year investment at The Daily Texan, where she currently works as editor-in-chief.  She also loves to travel and studied in Buenos Aires for a summer.  After graduating in May, Aldous will attend law school.

Jillian Owens (Plan II Honors/Religious Studies)

ddgJillian Owens' scholarly interests include ethnography, evangelicalism, Shakespeare, French and theatre. She works as a theatre critic for the Austin Chronicle and has served as president of the Plan II Honors Students' Association and Spirit of Shakespeare.

Jean Nava (Sociology Honors/Economics/Mathematics)

ddgThe son of a single, immigrant mother, Jean Nava grew up in Houston with his mother and older brother and is the first in his family to attend college. When not studying, Jean enjoys reading books on math history, running long distances and playing guitar. He is also an avid health enthusiast and vegetarian.





James Lamon (Government/English/Philosophy)

ddgJames Lamon began his college career with a stint in the Shakespeare at Winedale program that led to three years acting with the Spirit of Shakespeare players and volunteering with Shakespeare Outreach. His English honors thesis examined solipsism in David Foster Wallace's "Infinite" Jest through the lens of optical physics. After graduation, Lamon will prepare applications for M.F.A. programs in creative writing and plans to pursue a career in screen writing in Los Angeles, California.

Natalie Butler (Plan II Honors/Government/Communication Studies)

ddgNatalie Butler graduated from high school in Arizona and moved to Texas to attend The University of Texas at Austin. While pursuing her degrees, she was elected Student Body President and is a member of the Orange Jackets and the Friar Society. Her thesis focuses on the importance of government and civic education in America's schools.







Melissa Macaya (Plan II Honors/Latin American Studies/Journalism)

ddgMelissa Macaya was born and raised in Venezuela. She is currently a Fulbright finalist, and upon graduation she plans to spend a year abroad and then attend graduate school in Washington, DC.