College of Liberal Arts

Owning Your Challenges: Larry Temple Scholars Q&A

Wed, Oct 7, 2015
Irene Gomez and Maximiliano Rombado, recipients of the 2015-16 Larry Temple Scholarship
Irene Gomez and Maximiliano Rombado, recipients of the 2015-16 Larry Temple Scholarship

Each year, two liberal arts students are awarded the Larry Temple Scholarship, which is designed to recognize students in the college with superior academic merit.

The recipients of the 2015-16 Larry Temple Scholarship are Irene Gomez and Maximiliano Rombado. They were selected by the scholarship’s committee from a group of 10 finalists.

First awarded in 1992, the Larry Temple Scholarship honors Austin lawyer and public servant Larry Eugene Temple.  Recipients are awarded $11,000 per year as a way to help them enjoy and learn from university life and experiences.

Temple Scholarships are awarded to students in the College of Liberal Arts who have completed their freshman year in residence at The University of Texas at Austin.

The scholarship, awarded at the beginning of the sophomore year, is renewable for two years as long as students are enrolled full-time, maintain a 3.5 GPA and remain in the College of Liberal Arts.

The application consists of a short essay on leadership, a personal statement and a recommendation from a member of the UT Austin faculty.

Learn more about this year’s recipients in the Q&A’s below.

Irene Gomez
St. George, Utah
Rhetoric & Writing, Liberal Arts Honors

What was the interview process for the Temple Scholarship like?

I spent hours preparing – asking my adviser Linda for advice, getting my good friend Alberto (a Gates Millennium Scholar) to shoot me practice questions, reading over old personal essays, writing new reflections, basically cramming for the biggest test of and about my life.

I was honored to be a finalist but I didn't believe it would actually happen. Before the interview, Alberto reminded me, "What are you going to get out of being shy?"  Maybe it was this mindset or because I'd already spent so many hours agonizing over it, but the interview itself wasn’t too nerve-wracking. The panel was welcoming and engaging and while their questions were challenging, they were also fun to mull over.

How did you react when you found out you’d been selected?

The two most important lessons my dad has taught me are to always do your best, and to learn to let go once you've done so. After the interview, I knew I'd given my all, so I was at peace.

When Dr. Carver (director of the Liberal Arts Honors program and a member of the Temple committee) gave me the good news, I called my mom in shock. I'm still in shock, to be honest. My mom says she knew I’d get it all along, but she's my mom, ha ha.

What is your favorite thing about studying the liberal arts?

The sciences help control our external environment, but what about our necessity to develop internally? When our morals our shaped as children, we don’t learn from math equations or physics formulas. We learn from fairytales, games, songs, movies and books. Not only do the liberal and fine arts mold us individually – their emotional aspects highlight our similarities, improving our understanding of the human race as a whole. Yes, we evolved to the top of the food chain through our technological innovations of tools. But we also succeeded through our linguistic and artistic abilities. We live in a very STEM-focused society, but if we only think in numbers and calculations, we lose the essence of being human.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Don’t wait for life to happen to you; stop making excuses for yourself and start owning your challenges instead. I had an awful time finding my niche my first semester because I was commuting from home. Instead of hoping that things might get better, I decided to be my own catalyst. I looked for volunteer organizations that gave me purpose. I started working out, eating right and journaling to keep a healthy mindset. I initiated friendships, opened up and asked for help when I needed it. Eventually, I started making better connections, and I've worked my butt off both academically and professionally to afford living in Austin. I was unhappy with my situation, so I changed it. Now I try to only invest time in things that fulfill me or help me grow. I’m not sure if our lives can always be happy, but we do hold the power to make them meaningful.

What is your proudest accomplishment? 

I’m proudest of the person I’m becoming, but that’s a work in progress.

What are your goals for the future?

I have some careers in mind, sure. I’ve thought about working for nonprofits, becoming a journalist, editor or professor. I’m less worried about that than I am to live every day like Neil deGrasse Tyson. He says, “I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.

Maximiliano Rombado
Houston, Texas
International Relations & Global Studies

What made you want to apply for the Temple Scholarship?

Last summer, I received in email from Dr. Larry Carver, the director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, explaining that I qualified to apply.

Although I would never turn down such an opportunity, what really convinced me to apply was that the scholarship was more than just a monetary award. Scholars are able to participate in an enriched program of supplemental advising and field trips and have opportunities to interact with faculty and community leaders. It was more of a community than just an award, and I wanted to be a part of that.

How did you react when you found out you’d been selected? Who did you tell first?

My eyes lit up and all I could think was, “No way.” To be honest it didn’t really hit me until later that day. I just kept reading the email, and every time it felt more real. Finally, I was like, “Wow, I am a Temple Scholar.”

I called my girlfriend first. The night before the interview I started to get really nervous. I felt like I wasn’t prepared enough. She really helped me understand that being prepared isn’t as important as being myself. Without her advice, I don’t think I would have received the scholarship. Right after I called my mom, though!

What is your favorite thing about studying the liberal arts?

First of all, I want to say that I take so much pride in being a liberal arts student. I feel like I am engaging my intellectual thought in a way that no other program can do. The experience I’ve had throughout my language, history, government and geography courses have impacted my point of view tremendously. The world I see now is one where I can share my ideas in multiple languages with so many people, where the events that took place centuries ago are visibly shaping our lives today, where politics is more than just casting a vote and where different skin colors, cultures, religions and ways of living do not divide us, but mesh us together into a beautiful mosaic of humanity.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

To keep an open mind as you search for your academic field of interest, consistently challenge yourself and pursue a degree – not to make an income – but to make a difference.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment is being able to finance myself through college. My parents never had a college fund for me, so I’m proud that I have been able to lift this burden off of them.

What are your goals for the future?

This is a tough one! In the near future I plan to study abroad in Amman, Jordan, next semester and probably work for the Peace Corps after graduating. I’m still deciding whether to pursue law or public policy in grad school. My biggest dreams are to reform both the U.S. education system and U.S. war policies against ideologies such as terrorism and drug trafficking.

Is there any other insight you want to share?

Life is a mountain, and our job is to push a massive boulder to the top of it. However, success is not when you reach the top. Success is when the boulder falls to the bottom, and you choose to go back and push it up again. If you find happiness in your struggle, nothing can stop you.

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