College of Liberal Arts

Honors Day 2015: Q&A's with 3 Liberal Arts Honorees

Wed, Apr 15, 2015

More than 1,000 liberal arts students are being recognized this Saturday in a UT Austin tradition that began in 1948.

The University of Texas at Austin holds Honors Day each year to recognize students who have achieved academic excellence. The Honors Day Convocation serves as a prelude to commencement and is attended by UT faculty members, administrators and academic deans.

This year, the College of Liberal Arts is home to 841 college scholars and 188 distinguished college scholars. The criteria for those designations is as follows:

College Scholar
  • The student must be registered as an undergraduate in the current semester. Students who hold an undergraduate degree or are registered in-absentia are not eligible.
  • The student must have completed at least 30 semester hours of coursework in residence at the university and at least 60 semester hours of college coursework, including transferred work and credit by examination.
  • The student must rank in the top 20 percent of his or her class in each college or school in which he or she is pursuing a major, based on in-residence cumulative grade-point average.
  • The student must have an in-residence university grade-point average of at least 3.50.
Distinguished College Scholar
  • The student must meet the first, second and fourth College Scholar requirements stated above.
  • The student also must rank in the top 4 percent of his or her class in each college or school in which he or she is pursuing a major, based on in-residence cumulative grade-point average.

To see a complete list of liberal arts students being recognized on Honors Day, click here.

Below, read Q&A’s with three students being recognized this weekend for a more personal look at the students behind the GPA.

Elizabeth "Ruby" Willmann
Economics and Humanities (Liberal Arts Honors)
Austin, Texas

What made you want to be an honors student?

The flexibility of the Honors Humanities program allowed me to take classes from many different schools. More than just a degree, I wanted a well-rounded education. The Honors program provided me with that.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in college?

Every issue is multi-faceted. My economics professors constantly contradicted my sociology professors, and neither of them were necessarily wrong. It was one of the benefits of having two such opposite degrees. It is very easy to be an expert on one facet of the issue, but it’s a lot harder to take all points of view into account.

What is your proudest accomplishment at UT?

That I took college seriously. I used the writing labs, I studied hard, I didn’t cheat, I went to office hours and I was an overall good student. I really learned a lot at UT and I’m a better person because of it.

What are your plans after graduation?

My husband and I are moving to Los Angeles. I don’t know what my job will be, but wherever I feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives will be a perfect fit for me.

How has studying liberal arts impacted you?

My sociology classes, in particular, really changed the way I look at life. They allowed me to develop a sense of empathy that I think I would have otherwise lacked. I see now that there are influences bigger than any one person that alter our behavior. For this reason, I feel like I can better understand the ‘why,’ which has allowed me to be more proactive in answering the ‘now what?’

What advice would you give to incoming freshman?

College is an opportunity. Don’t squander it. If you discover you’re not ready to take your classes seriously, then take a year off to work or travel. I did exactly that. Two years in I was burnt out and I left UT and moved to Peru for a year to travel and explore (it was extremely affordable. My rent was 32 bucks a week!). Then I came back to UT refreshed and ready to finish strong.

Also, explore Austin. I took improv classes at the Hideout Theatre, trapeze at Sky Candy and participated in a monthly story-telling show called Testify. I believe it’s very healthy to have communities outside of UT. It allows your world to stay nice and big, and helps prevent burnout.

Braydon Jones
English and Government (Liberal Arts Honors)
Texarkana, Texas
Braydon jones

What made you want to be an honors student?

I wanted to challenge myself. The University of Texas is one of the top 25 universities in the world and it is nearly impossible to find a field of study that isn’t nationally ranked. I don’t believe you can become a great leader without creating an environment that challenges you, encourages you­—an environment that propels you forward. The Liberal Arts Honors program at the University of Texas has done just that, and I don’t regret the decision to go the extra mile at all.

What is your proudest accomplishment at UT?

Growing up, my father would take me camping and his number one rule was always to leave the campgrounds better than the way you found it. At a young age, I did not understand why we would spend so much time preparing the property for strangers who we would never meet. But this concept has influenced my life and changed the way I understood student involvement at the university.

I am a firm believer in the idea that service to others allows you to discover yourself. I want the work that I do during my time on campus to define me. The University of Texas has not only given me all the tools that I need to change the world, but also it has shown me that it is my responsibility to take the initiative to go out and create change.

I’ve had countless opportunities at the University of Texas including serving on the executive boards of Tejas Club, Texas Cowboys, Student Government and Camp Texas.

What am I most proud of? I am proud that I can think of a way that I improved every organization or job I have been a part of at UT. Just like so many great student leaders before me, I am proud that I have left the Forty Acres better than the way I found it for the next generation of longhorns.

When I look back and think about the work that I have done on the Forty Acres, it doesn’t seem like work at all.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in college?

If I attended Texas 10 times, I could have 10 completely different experiences with different majors, organizations, and outlook and enjoyed every minute of each one. While I love the path I chose, the people that I interact with daily help shape and mold me into a better person. I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most influential students from every corner of campus.

Through my passion of connecting with others, I have discovered a remarkable concept: if you surround yourself with people who are better than you, then you will grow as a person. Each person I come in contact with has a strength that I can learn. My hope each day is that from my interactions with these people will help better myself. At Texas, I have found the role models, mentors and stellar peers I need to relentlessly pursue excellence.

How has studying liberal arts impacted you?

As a prospective student, I wanted to come to a place where that had the best facilities, faculty and intellectual freedom. With the College of Liberal Arts, I have had just that. The College of Liberal Arts Building has been my home, and I am fortunate to have such first-class facilities to learn and study.

I’ve also had professors who have played an active role in my transformation as a person. For example, government’s Sean Theriault, who encouraged me to participate in undergraduate research where I gathered data on more than 24,000 political fundraisers held in Washington, D.C. and analyzed how each of the 435 Congressional districts voted in every election since 1913.

The College of Liberal Arts has advanced my skills through courses that stress reading, writing, speaking and critical and logical thinking. All of these tools are at my disposal to conquer any problem that comes my way. With these tools, I know I will be a leader who is not afraid of taking risks and creating change.

What are your plans after graduation?

Upon graduation, I plan on taking some time off from school to work. My hope is to work for a management consulting firm where I can continue to do what I’ve done at Texas, but on a larger, and more professional, basis: helping people make improvements and reach their goals. After consulting, I plan to fulfill a lifelong dream of attending law school and receiving a degree.

What advice would you give to incoming freshman?

Being that I spend 90 percent of my time talking about UT and the other 10 percent hoping someone will bring it up, I always have something to say!

My one piece of advice is simple: Take advantage of the opportunities that UT has to offer. Never again will you be around anything like the resources, people and atmosphere of the Forty Acres. This time is precious for these purposes because here you have everything you need to grow and fulfill the university’s mission of “transforming lives for the benefit of society.” Go to Amy’s for that late night snack, take that road trip you and your friends have been talking about, apply for the prestigious internship, participate in undergraduate research—Always, always, always take advantage of the opportunities, big or small. That’s what you’ll remember and be grateful for 30 years from now.


Juliette Seive
History, Humanities, Italian and certificate of Computer Science
Paris, France
Juliette Seive

What made you want to be an honors student?

It provided a safety net. I was a little worried about coming to a big school and being swallowed up. I felt that an honors program would allow me to have an “in” into the things I was really interested in.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in college?

Try everything! You never know when you’ll find something you like (or figure out that the thing you thought you “loved” you actually hate); be open-minded and willing to change your mind.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I’ll be interning with Capital One in their technology department and then I’m heading to graduate school to get my Master’s in Information Sciences from UT’s iSchool.

How has studying liberal arts impacted you?

 I think it’s made me more of a versatile and critical thinker. The skills you learn in liberal arts help you communicate and argue your ideas well. You understand the importance of evidence when supporting an idea.

What is your proudest accomplishment at UT?

Following my dreams! I did what I liked to do and made it happen even when it seemed not totally possible. You can truly blend seemingly unrelated fields; I pushed my two interests together and made it work! I got to study World War II and build apps during the college. You really can have it all.

The 67th Annual Honors Day Program will take place at the Frank Erwin Center at 2 p.m. on April 18. For more information, visit the Honors Day website.

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