Liberal Arts Honors

Current Dedman Distinguished Scholars, 2014-2015

Below, the current Dedman Distinguished Scholars describe their experiences in the past academic year, including their academic interests and research, internships, community service work, study abroad experiences, and their future plans (as of August, 2014).

SENIORS (Graduating Spring 2015)

AlexFischer Alexander Fischer (Plan II and, Rhetoric and Writing, and Philosophy; The Woodlands High School; The Woodlands, Texas)

Given that I am pursuing three majors, I will graduate in December 2014.  I began my Plan II senior thesis in the Spring of 2014.  In pursuing Rhetoric and Writing, I discovered that I'm passionate about public deliberation.  Perhaps one of the most important decisions we ever deliberate is the decision about whether to go to war.  My thesis will examine the ways we talk about making war in the hope of ensuring that we do so as responsibly as we can in the future.

In the fall of 2013, I interviewed for and successfully earned a summer internship with Deloitte Consulting; I'll be based in Houston but hope to travel each week to a client site somewhere else in the country, travel being part of what draws me to the consulting world.  If all goes well with the summer internship, I'll be able to return to Deloitte after I graduate.  My plan is to consult for a year or two before I attend law school.  It's strange to me that I'm at this point, for it seems like I just began at U.T. Austin.  I've had a fantastic four years, and can't wait for what's next.

StevenDSteven Dao (Philosophy and Liberal Arts Honors; L V Hightower High School; Missouri City, Texas)

The past year has been one of self-discovery. I found that I had the willpower to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every Wednesday to film a morning news program on student television; that I had the patience to listen to the musical Wicked on repeat while volunteering at Texas Performing Arts; and that Franklin Barbecue is worth standing in line for five hours on a cold Saturday morning.

More importantly, I found that I was afraid. "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear," writes Frank Herbert in the novel Dune. These words have echoed in my thoughts the past few months. I realized this year that I had a great deal of fear. I was afraid that I would disappoint those who were expecting me to do great things.  I was afraid that I would disappoint myself by not doing great things. And worst of all, I was afraid that I was drifting through a void, with no clear sense of direction.

Yet something else happened this past year. I rekindled my love of film and animation.  Surrounded by talented people from fellow Dedman Scholars to filmmaker friends at Texas Student Television, I was encouraged to pave my own path.  That's how I found that I had the patience to wade through dozens of rejection letters from potential employers. That's how I found that I had the grit to continue sending out résumés, even when most of them were being ignored.
The last year has been a roller coaster of emotions, of ups and downs, of victories and defeats.  When prospects looked bleakest, when I was about to give in to my fears, when I was about to let the mind-killer obliterate me, I fought back with the strongest of weapons--hope. And that's how I found out that, this summer, I'll be interning at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale, California.  To many people, this would be the end goal. For me, it's simply the beginning of another journey.  I've still got so much more to discover about myself.

SaiGourisankarSai Gourisankar (Plan II and Chemical Engineering; R. L. Paschal High School; Fort Worth, Texas)

In chronological order, beginning at August 2013, I’ve joined Texas 4000 for Cancer, found a new interest in geopolitical affairs, established a collaboration with a leading nanomaterials physicist at Brookhaven National Labs, explored a fascinating research area of computational materials physics, traveled to Brookhaven to use powerful X-ray instrumentation, volunteered more than 25 hours at cancer charity events, analyzed primary documents on British decolonization efforts in Asia, and presented my research at the Southwest Regional American Institute of Chemical Engineers Conference. I joined Texas 4000 in August 2013 because I wanted to contribute to the fight against cancer outside of the stuffy laboratory atmosphere.  I will ride a bike 4,500 miles from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, in Summer 2015, after raising and giving $4,500 to MD Anderson and UT Biomedical Engineering.  One of our goals is to educate people in the communities we ride through on cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This spring I began volunteering at various cancer charities, fundraising, and training for the ride. I even had my first major bike accident! (I’m all healed now).

But I still enjoy the lab: I spent my entire Spring Break at Brookhaven National Labs on Long Island, N.Y.  I used their powerful X-ray scattering instruments to take nanoscale pictures of our gold nanoparticles, which we hope to use for cancer diagnosis and therapy. I’m in the process of preparing a manuscript for publication, based on those experiments.  I wrote the research proposal for Brookhaven, established the collaboration with the physicists there, ran the experimental analysis, and also raised new questions that the graduate students after me will investigate. 

Finally, I found a new interest for foreign policy and geopolitical affairs, after taking Admiral Bob Inman’s “Perspectives in U.S. Foreign Policy” and Wm. Roger Louis’s “Decolonization of the British Empire.” I now read Foreign Affairs and similar publications.  Next on my summer reading list is Bob Gate’s newly released memoir. 
Again, I’m grateful for the support the Dedman family has given me over the last three years. This summer I have an internship at 3M’s Research and Development Center in Austin, a prestigious materials company.  I couldn’t be more excited.

ColemanTharpeColeman Tharpe (Anthropology/Radio, Television, and Film/Liberal Arts Honors; Fairhope High School; Fairhope, Alabama)

Over the past year the Department of Radio-Television-Film approved independent research for special honors in the Moody College of Communications, and a professor is interested in using my research and expertise in his upcoming book.  The Film Curator at the Harry Ransom Center sought my assistance curating his upcoming exhibit, “The Making of Gone with the Wind.”  I also joined the Webber Energy Group, a research group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.  Through this appointment, I took responsibility for marketing and sustaining one of UT Austin’s first four Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), titled “Energy 101.” The coordinators of SXSW invited me to speak on a panel exploring its global success. 

Currently, I am editing an eBook based on the content of “Energy 101,” scheduled for distribution through U.T. Press.  Both Stanford University and ExxonMobil have adopted the text.  My newest project is “Energy at the Movies, a nationally syndicated PBS television program.  As my time at the Ransom Center draws to a close, I am creating public relation packages to promote the exhibition in publications ranging from Architectural Digest to Parade to People Magazine.

This summer I will leave the country for the first time, joining other Longhorns in Rome studying classical archaeology and politics of preservation.  My entire stay I will search for overworked princesses, so I may practice my best impression of Gregory Peck.  After returning to the States, I will resume my responsibilities with the Webber Energy Group in addition to collaborating with a professor at Stanford University researching the efficacy of the “Energy 101” eBook.  Also, I will begin researching the nexus of energy and film for my final research project.


JacobBarriosJacob Barrios (Government/ Mexican American Studies/ Liberal Arts Honors; I H Kempner High School; Sugar Land, Texas)

As the spring semester draws to a close, I look back and am grateful for the incredible second year I’ve had at the University of Texas.  It began with a change in my degree plan; while I am continuing my Government degree, I have exchanged Psychology for Mexican-American Studies, after taking a captivating introductory course.  I have found my classes for both subject areas enriching and fulfilling.  On top of classes, first semester highlights include traveling to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to participate in the 65th annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, where I sat in on the roundtable about food and water security.

Outside of the classroom, I became involved with the Native American Indigenous Collective (NAIC), a student organization housed in the Multicultural Engagement Center that provides a space for students to talk about issues faced by native peoples both on campus, in the greater Austin community, and across the country. It also provides a fun group of people to hang out with!  This spring we hosted our 3rd annual NAIC Symposium, where we invited speakers and performers from across the country to campus.  I am set to be co-director of operations next fall.

I have also started to volunteer with Worker’s Defense Project, and organization in East Austin that works to improve conditions for some of Austin’s lowest-income workers, mostly construction.  In addition, I have continued helping out the Office of Admissions as a SHARE volunteer.  This summer I will be interning in the office of former Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes.

MaceyShayMacey Shay (English, History, and Liberal Arts Honors; Lovejoy High School; Lucas, Texas)

With interests in education, Jewish studies, and social history, Macey will be writing her honors thesis next year on the comparative development of education systems in the Jewish colonies of Argentina and Palestine, 1889 – 1914.  She has received multiple research grants and fellowships for her thesis research and will be traveling to Jerusalem, Israel, and Paris, France, this summer to visit archives and participate in service work and language study.

Last summer, Macey interned at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, where she worked on the Global Competency Project.  This opportunity allowed her to work with leading scholars on issues related to globalism and multiculturalism in education.  Since then, Macey has remained involved in education-related community service efforts, volunteering in local classrooms and as a tutor for students with learning disabilities.  She is also a research intern at the Child and Family Research Partnership at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, an organization that conducts studies and offers policy analysis related to disadvantaged Texas children and their families. In addition to her community service efforts, Macey is part of the Liberal Arts Council and enjoys being active on campus. Macey was recently named a Distinguished Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts. She is excited for her next year of classes and is thankful to be a Dedman Scholar at UT.


JessicaBJessica Bathea (Economics and Liberal Arts Honors Frisco High School Frisco, Texas)

My freshman year at UT has been one of the most life changing, building, challenging, and rewarding years of my lifetime.  In the classroom, I have been developing my writing, critical thinking, speaking, and time management skills.  Outside, I have been participating in organizations such as Front and Center (a performing arts group), Foot in the Door, Liberal Arts Honors' acting troupe, and the Economics Peer Mentor Program, a program designed to connect Freshman Economics majors with upperclassmen.  I also have been doing musical performances at various U.T. events, and pedi-cabbing downtown on weekends.

This summer, I will be studying the African Diaspora in the Americas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  It is a 4-week Maymester program involving class work as well as volunteering with low-to-moderate income areas in Brazil.  Needless to say, I am excited!  Next year, I plan to mobilize the organization I have started, “Thinkers of Color,” a multicultural support group dedicated to enriching intellect and providing members with thought-provoking material for them to apply to their studies as well as their day-to-day activities.  I also plan on getting involved with Exceeding Economics Expectations, an organization that helps Economics majors build their résumés and networking skills to be financially successful when they leave college. Overall, I am pumped for these upcoming years at UT, and ready to grow and develop in my personal abilities as well as my networking skills.  

AnnieBAnnie Biondi  (Plan II and Social Work Emery Weiner School Houston, Texas)

I spent last year in Ringwood, England, taking a gap year to volunteer at a boarding school for children with special needs.  The children were incredible, and I gained a lot of perspective from my year abroad.  I spent this year taking Plan II and social work classes. My classes have been engaging, and I have enjoyed being in an academic environment again. I have especially enjoyed my World Literature class and my Pathways to Civic Engagement class, which has allowed me to explore social entrepreneurship throughout Austin. 

I began learning American Sign Language, and I spent my first semester volunteering at the Austin State Supported Living Center in a home for adult women with special needs. I also learned about organic gardening and volunteered at the U.T. Microfarm. I enjoy rock climbing both indoors and outdoors and going on a variety of camping trips throughout Texas. I am currently taking harp lessons through the Butler School of Music, and I just finished performing in the play Almost Maine with the Plan II theatre group. This summer, I will work at Camp CAMP, an overnight summer camp for children with special needs, as the chief cabin counselor for the youngest campers, and I am excited! I have greatly enjoyed my first year at UT, and I look forward to the years to come! I am so very appreciative of the Dedman family for allowing me this opportunity.

LoganCLogan Crossley (Plan II, Government, and Radio, Television, and Film, Plano Senior High School Plano, Texas)

I’ve experienced tremendous personal growth at U.T. Austin.  I’ve written piles of essays, introspected more than I ever thought I’d need to, steered myself in several directions, and counted my blessings more than once. I’ve worked long hours into the night, wept in a variety of contexts, and put together an academic record that exceeds that of my winless intramural soccer team. 

This year I fell in love with filmmaking, which motivated me to add Radio-Television-Film as a third major.  At the same time, my desire to serve American diplomatic interests abroad by no means subsided. That puts my career bull’s-eye at something like “foreign service officer/screenwriter” (though I’m more drawn to the alliterative qualities of “ambassadorial actor”).  I plied my trade as a thespian in Plan II’s Broccoli Project theater troupe, making my debut in a student written play and following that up with my sophomore effort as a heartbroken lover in Almost Maine.  But the highlight of my year, without a doubt, has been embracing a whole new set of remarkable people.

This summer will be spent working, writing, travelling, and relaxing by the pool. When I arrive back on campus, I’ll be looking to make a splash. The Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program, and the faculty support and student camaraderie it provides, have been invaluable to me, and I’d like to give a preemptive “thanks” for the bright years ahead.

NicholasGNicolas Gatz (Plan II, Psychology, and Spanish Lake Travis High School, Austin, Texas)

This energetic, diverse campus has a way of challenging and inspiring its students to find themselves in their academic pursuits and in their community.  I feel lucky to be here and am studying Psychology and Spanish in a pre-medical track. I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing my Spanish language skills and interacting with some of this university’s best professors as a part of the Liberal Arts Honors Program.

Aside from meeting and getting to know people whom I now call my best friends, I have also volunteered to be a College Buddy for UT Best Buddies, an organization that allows students to befriend people with special needs in the Austin area.  I also shadow a local physician and assist with research at the Johnson Center for Child Health and Development, a clinical care center for children with autism. Helping plan events and build community in the Liberal Arts Honors Program as a freshman representative in the Liberal Arts Honors Student Council also helped make this a great year.  I will continue working with this organization as the mentoring chair for the 2014-2015 school year.

My experiences with UT Best Buddies and the Johnson Center have affirmed my desire to study medicine.  I hope to conduct research and work as a physician or psychiatrist for people with special needs; I am especially interested in learning more about the causes and methods of therapy for people with autism.
This summer, I will continue working at the Johnson Center as a summer intern and working for a couple of weeks at the Children’s Association for Maximum Potential Summer Camp, a camp for children and adults with special needs and a place close to my heart. I will also be working as a Family Orientation Student Leader assisting the Texas Parent’s Association to help make students and their parents feel just as much at home here on the Forty Acres as I do.

MichelleGMichelle Guajardo (Plan II and Music, Veterans Memorial High School, Mission, Texas)

This year has been one of extensive growth! I thought I knew what time management was until I started spending 20+ hours a week in ensembles, 8+ hours a week practicing in preparation for my clarinet lessons, as well as actively participating in all my Plan II and music courses. I love a challenge, and thanks to God and the help and support of many wonderful people, I have been able to successfully navigate through the year.
This semester I tutored children of domestic violence through Outside the Box Dropout Prevention in Montopolis. The majority of these kids were Hispanic, so they held a special place in my heart.  Last semester I was a member of the Texas Longhorn Band, and this semester I began to play harp and sing for UT’s Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlan. I have improved greatly in my clarinet skills and this has made me eager to start teaching! I have made contact with various music directors in the Round Rock area about giving lessons to middle school students during the summer as well as becoming a private instructor in their Individualized Music Instruction Program. My goal is to influence students in a way that not only makes them better musicians, but better citizens as well. 
This summer I will also take piano lessons in preparation for a piano proficiency exam, as well as American Government II and Child Psychology via UT’s Self-Paced online extension courses. I am also looking into performing with local bands and orchestras, such as the Williamson County Symphony Orchestra and the Austin Symphonic Band. Next semester I will continue training my ear musically, learning music history, studying philosophy, beginning to learn the French horn, and participating in various ensembles.

TrevorHTrevor Heise (Plan II and Economics, Home Schooled, Weatherford, Texas)

Moving from my small hometown of Weatherford to the University of Texas at Austin to study in the Plan II Honors program has been a whirlwind of change. I was homeschooled throughout high school, so the energetic vastness of UT feels like it comes from an entirely new world. Looking back on my freshman year though, I see a wealth of exhilarating experiences, friendships, and learning — both academic and personal.

This year, I’ve worked as a writer for The Daily Texan covering research, the arts, and happenings around campus. In the first few weeks of school I started the Plan II Pre Law society with another student to bring speakers, information about the legal profession, and advising to students considering careers in the law.  I’m a member of the Texas Economics Association and occasionally help showcase the riches of UT to prospective students by helping out with UT’s SHARE program.

Though I’m a Plan II and Economics major, my academic interests are broad; I see those concentrations as starting points rather than limits to investigating the world. Last fall, I undertook a research project into the economic and cultural issues surrounding the use of complementary and alternative therapies in psychiatry, and this spring I’m using the opportunity of my world literature class’ semester research paper to study the connection between authenticity and irony through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

I look forward to another year of learning from my fellow Dedman Scholars and taking advantage of all U.T. has to offer. This summer I plan to work as a Family Orientation Leader here at the university, where I was also selected to help lead Honors Colloquium in July. On those hot summer afternoons, I will be found volunteering for a couple charities, taking classes, learning German, perfecting my backstroke and squash game, and, most importantly, catching up on all the lazy summer afternoons I’ve missed during my busy and exciting time here.

ShaneRShane Rowley Plan II and Petroleum Engineering, Lufkin High School, Lufkin, Texas

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year of classes.  In addition to focusing on my studies, I am participating in the Plan II Student Association, Society of Plan II Engineers, Society of Petroleum Engineers, and the American Association of Drilling Engineers.  During the fall, I was a World Literature Ambassador, escorting prospective Plan II students around campus.  I also did an internship over the winter break with Schlumberger in Houston.  This spring I was invited to be a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies.  In my spare time, I work as a volunteer at St. Austin’s Church.  I have also been active in continuing the work in my hometown mission project that I founded several years ago, Home Runs for Hope. I am happy to report that other students in my community have joined the effort to sustain this worthwhile endeavor. 

I am looking forward to the summer because I have been selected to travel to Italy to be a student in the Plan II Rome Study Abroad program.  I will earn two credits during my time abroad.  I am currently taking Italian language classes to help me prepare for this adventure. Recently, I applied to be a KIPP mentor for the upcoming school year.  Plan II has a partnership with KIPP Austin Public Schools, a local system of public charter schools serving low-income students.  It is truly an honor to be a Dedman Scholar at this wonderful university!

JenniferYJennifer Yang  English, French, Chinese, and Liberal Arts Honors, Clear Springs High School, League City, Texas
In my first year at U.T. I've made wonderful friends in the Liberal Arts Honors program and have had excellent instructors in all of my classes. As an English, French, and Chinese major, I'm always surprised and delighted by the numerous resources the university offers.  I served as the Poetry Editor for Analecta, U.T.'s official literary and arts journal. At The Daily Texan, I worked weekly shifts as a copy editor.  I also acted in Agamemnon, produced by LAH's theater group Foot in the Door.  And through the Partnerships to Advance Language Study and Cultural Exchange (PALS) program, offered through the U. T. International Office, I was able to serve as a Mandarin language partner for a Taiwanese UT student, practicing verbal skills while exploring Austin.
This summer, I am thrilled to be interning at the Harry Ransom Center. In August, I will be leaving for Lyon, France, where I will be studying abroad for the 2014-2015 school year. For all the life-changing, amazing people and great opportunities that I have met since coming to U.T., I am so thankful for the generosity and vision of the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program that has made it possible.

FRESHMEN-- We welcome our five new Dedman Scholars as they embark on their Freshman year at UT! Please see our New Scholars page for photos and details.