Below, Dedman Scholars describe their experiences during their final academic year at UT and their plans upon graduation.
Sai Gourisankar (Spring 2015)
Majors: Chemical Engineering, Plan II Honors
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas (but recently my parents moved to Atlanta, Georgia)
Research: Nanotechnology for biomedical imaging: targeting cancer cells for effective diagnosis and therapy
Local Awards: Texas Parents, Outstanding Student Finalist; Churchill Scholar, British Studies Department
National & International Awards: Rhodes Scholarship; Astronaut Foundation Scholar
Leadership Activities: President, Society of Plan II Engineers; Sponsorship Coordinator and Program Speaker, Texas 4000 for Cancer
Community Engagement: Texas 4000 for Cancer: cancer charity bike ride from Austin, TX to Anchorage, AK to raise awareness and money for cancer research initiatives. Speaking at multiple local organizations and schools, volunteering over 40 hours, fundraising > $8,000, training >1,500 miles
Post-Graduation Plans: Masters in applied math (first year) and history or public policy (second year) at Oxford University; Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University afterwards.
Reflections upon graduating (May 2015) As my time in Texas concludes, I want to reflect on whom and what brought me to Texas. In high school I wanted to be a scientist. The strength of the University’s engineering research allowed me to pursue, beginning my freshman year, work developing biomedical nanotechnology. I have continued working with Professors Keith Johnston and Tom Truskett, as well as collaborators at Brookhaven National Laboratory and MD Anderson, to develop more effective cancer diagnostic agents. If I had not come to UT, I would not have had the opportunity to contribute to two working manuscripts, three published papers, and several late-nights analyzing data.
But I also found activities outside of science engaging. I will be cycling 4,500 miles from Austin to Alaska this summer as part of Texas 4000 for Cancer, a non-profit seeking to raise awareness and money for cancer research initiatives. If I had not come to UT, I would not have had the opportunity to, over the past year, speak multiple times to public audiences, train over 1,000 miles on my bike, volunteer, and fundraise for this uniquely UT, student-run charity.
Finally, the Plan II program exposed me to and engaged my interest in history, foreign affairs, and policy. With only rudimentary background knowledge compared to my peers, I’ve been able to read great books, attend seminars, and discuss current issues. If I had not come to UT, I would not have had the opportunity to enjoy the Harry Ransom Center or discuss history with a former four-star Admiral.
After graduation, I will attend Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship to study applied mathematics, for the first year, and either history or public policy, for the second year. I have then accepted an offer to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University. I’d like to be an academic.
I have enjoyed my undergraduate career only because of the unique opportunities present at the University of Texas. For encouraging me to come here as a student, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Carver and the Dedman Family’s generous gift: without your selection and support of me, this biography would be much less interesting to read. Thank you.
Coleman Tharpe (Spring 2015)
Majors: Anthropology (LAH) and Radio-Television-Film
Hometown: Point Clear, Alabama
Research: Mobil’s Masterpiece: The Expression of Public Taste in American Public Television - Undergraduate thesis for departmental honors in Radio-Television-Film; Building U.T.’s Capacity in Learning Analytics - Establishing interoperability and work flows to assess data for learning analytics based on the course app; Energy at the Movies - Examining the relationship between the energy industry and the film industry and exploring representations of energy resources and technologies over time
Local Awards: U.T. President's Student Employee of the Year Award; College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Graduate Honorable Mention, Texas Exes President's Leadership Award
National Awards: Regional Student Employee of the Year; National Student Employee of the Year
Community Engagement: Friar Society Summoner
Reflections upon graduation (May 2015): Through the past year, I remained in my position with the Webber Energy Group. I translated my experience with the massive open online course in 2013 into the world's first course app and the first paid app from U.T. Austin. This experiment in commercialization advances the university's mission for sustainability in twenty-first century education while saving students money by reducing fees. The company that I founded with two partners who I met at the university will expand what we have done for U.T. to other universities and institutions around the world. Our goal is to improve education through targeted data and informed design. We are currently fundraising and building the team to best meet the needs of our clients. Our offices are in Austin, and we are completing several projects for U.T. Austin, so I will continue to engage with my alma mater for years to come.
Steven Dao (Spring 2015)
Major: Philosophy and Computer Science
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Research: I've just completed a senior thesis in logic and the philosophy of mind, focused on proving that the mind is not a Turing machine.
Leadership Activities: News Department staff at Texas Student Television, officer in the LAH Music Ensemble
Community Engagement: Volunteer usher at Texas Performing Arts/Bass Concert Hall
Post-Graduation Plans: I'll be at Google in San Francisco, working on graphics technology for the Chrome OS open-source project.
Reflections upon graduation (May 2015) My final year has been a busy one. I've mostly focused on two things--my thesis and video games. My philosophy thesis seeks to prove that minds are not Turing machines. The Turing machine is a common model in mathematics and philosophy for a digital computer. Some of my fondest memories of the year were sitting in my thesis supervisor's office, debating philosophy while trying to sketch out an argument on her chalkboard.
My second focus this year is a bit more complicated to describe. Instead of playing video games, I've been helping to produce them. For the last year, I've been involved with UT's GAMMA program, where students with backgrounds in computer science, radio-television-film, and fine arts work together to produce video games. Last semester, my team made a 2D platforming video game, and this semester, I'm leading a team to develop a 3D narrative adventure game. We're hoping to submit our finished game to independent game festivals across the country.
Last summer, I had the chance to work on animation technology at DreamWorks. This upcoming fall, I'll be off to California again, but this time I'll be heading to Google in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'll be working on the graphics technology and user interface team for the Chrome OS open-source project. My eventual future goal is to apply my knowledge of computer graphics and animation to films and visual effects.
Alex Fischer (December 2014)
Major: Plan II, Rhetoric and Writing, and Philosophy
Reflections upon graduating: 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.
Elizabeth Barnes (Spring 2014)
Major: Plan II and English
Elizabeth devoted the spring semester to writing her English honors thesis, "Fixed Point in a Changing Age: Anxieties of Health, Race, and Empire in Twenty-First-Century Adaptations of Sherlock Holmes,” which examines how today’s adaptations translate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Victorian politics into the present. Elizabeth has also headed Analecta, the literary and arts journal of the University of Texas at Austin. As editor-in-chief, she has revamped Analecta’s submissions drive, instituted new publicity initiatives, and overseen production not only of the print journal but also of its inaugural web edition, now available to read free online. Additionally, Elizabeth has completed her third term volunteering as a Plan II Peer Adviser and her second year working as a writing consultant at the campus’s Undergraduate Writing Center.
After graduation Elizabeth will spend six weeks studying in Antigua, Guatemala. She is delighted to have the opportunity to return to the country, refresh her Spanish, and formally study cultural diversity in education, one of her longstanding academic and professional interests. Upon returning from Central America, Elizabeth plans to enjoy a few weeks with her family in Dallas before returning to Austin to serve a year-long term with an education-based AmeriCorps program in the Central Texas area. She is deeply grateful to the Dedman Distinguished Scholarship program and the Dedman family for supporting and enriching her undergraduate career at U.T. Austin.
Katie Sinclair (Spring 2014)
Major: Plan II and History
During this past year, Katie spent much of her time completing her History Honors thesis. She worked with a manuscript in the Harry Ransom Center and also did archival research at Syracuse University in order to analyze and discuss convict memoirs coming from the penal colony on French Guiana in the 1920’s and 1930’s. As part of her thesis work, Katie joined the Junior Fellows Program to meet and hear from peers who are also completing year-long research projects. She presented her work to the Fellows as well as at the Thesis Symposiums for the History Honors program and Plan II. In addition to her thesis, Katie has kept busy by continuing to work at the Undergraduate Writing Center as a writing consultant, having now completed over three hundred teaching hours in one-on-one peer writing consultations. Katie also mentors a sixth-grader at KIPP College Prep in East Austin.
This May, Katie will graduate with a B.A. in History and Plan II and a minor in French. She plans to use her skills from working as a mentor and at the UWC during the summer, and hopes to find work tutoring either middle or high school students in writing in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This coming fall, Katie will be headed to Paris where she will participate in a one-year masters program in History and Literature with Columbia University.
John Russell Beaumont (Graduated 2013)
Major: Plan II and Architecture
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
National Awards: Marshall Scholar
Reflections upon graduation: The last year has been an incredible experience, the perfect capstone to my time at the University of Texas at Austin. It is hard to believe my time here is coming to an end, but I am excited for the road ahead. I want to thank the Dedman Scholars Program for everything it has done. I can genuinely say that this program has defined college experience. My amazing peers inspire me to try harder and aim higher; Dr. Carver, Stacey Amorous, and Linda Mayhew are always supportive and encouraging; and the generous funding has enriched my experience with study abroad and research in Argentina and Chile.
I spent the fall semester working for a young and upcoming architecture firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the end of my trip I returned to Chile and traveled along the coast to continue research on my thesis, “The Social and Architectural Impact of Disaster Relief Housing in the 2010 Chilean Earthquake.” I interviewed victims and volunteers, saw the damage and reconstruction first hand, and learned far more than I would have without visiting. This spring I took a studio focused on homeless families led by Overland Architects of San Antonio. I was elected to lead our studio’s presentation to three members of city council outlining our findings and suggestions for Austin’s homelessness issues.
This semester I was honored with the Oglesby Traveling Fellowship through the School of Architecture. The funding will allow me to travel through Peru and Chile to do research on vernacular architecture, community initiated building practices, and their relevance to the reconstruction effort. Beyond that, I hope to remain involved in disaster relief and social justice architecture through professional architecture firms and non-profit organizations.
I want to thank the Dedman Scholar’s Program one last time; I will look back on my time at UT fondly, and I am honored to have been a part of this community. Best wishes, and I look forward to hearing about the amazing accomplishments of my fellow scholars.
UPDATE: Russell Beaumont received a Marshall Scholarship in December 2013. See our news page for details.
Katherine J. Kling (Graduated 2013)
Major: Plan II and Anthropology
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Reflections upon graduation: My final year at UT has been a fantastic send-off. This summer I was a field assistant to UT's Dr. Rebecca Lewis in western Madagascar, an experience that proved to be the most formative and exciting one of my life. I fell in love with the country and with the Verreaux's sifaka we were studying, and was able to travel on my own and attend a conference on lemur classification and conservation before my return to the United States. After Madagascar, I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland for the fall. To echo my time in Madagascar, I was already in love with the country and its people from a former family trip, and so it was a wonderful experience to be able to live in Ireland and enjoy the "craic" as the Irish would say. During my semester I traveled extensively, exploring Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Italy and France.
With my return to UT for my final semester I have kept myself busy acting in the thriller, Deathtrap, singing in the musical, Songs for a New World, and working with the Plan II Student's Association as its Co-Vice President. I presented research on Dr. Lewis' field data from Madagascar at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists' Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee and am proud to be finishing my senior thesis, "An Analysis of Primate Conservation Education Programs: Can We Help Primates Make the Grade?" I have been selected as a College of Liberal Arts' Distinguished Graduate, one of twelve to be so honored.
Upon graduation, I will work at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando as a Conservation Education Presenter during which time I will be applying to graduate programs in primate conservation for Fall 2014. I am hoping to present my thesis research at an international conference about primate diversity and conservation in Vietnam next summer (2014) and have been offered a position to volunteer in Indonesia working with the slow loris and a conservation education program in the area. I am excited for what the future will bring, but as I can now begin to reflect back on my UT experience, I cannot repeat enough how much being a Dedman Scholar has enriched my time at the university. I have been able to explore so many opportunities while here due to the program's support. I cannot imagine going to a different school or having a better experience. Thank you.
Natalie San Luis (Graduated 2013)
Major: Plan II and Communications
Hometown: Buda, Texas
Reflections upon graudation (Spring 2013) This year I finished my course requirements in Plan II Honors, English, and Women's and Gender Studies, which included writing my honors thesis, "Livin' No Limits: Representations of Wealth and Methods of Transgression in Hip Hop Music." As part of my research, I travelled to Ithaca, New York, to visit Cornell's hip hop archives and to Seattle, Washington, to attend the EMP Pop Music Conference. I plan to continue adding to and revising my thesis after graduation in hopes of submitting it for publication and using it as a writing sample for graduate school applications.
I worked as a writing consultant at the Undergraduate Writing Center again this year. By the time I graduate, I will have consulted with over 400 undergraduate students on their assignments. I also took on the position of assistant editor of Praxis, our peer-reviewed writing center journal, for both the fall and spring editions.
My goal for the spring semester was to bolster my writing portfolio in preparation for graduation. I wrote a weekly opinion column for The Daily Texan and took a course on writing for non-profits, in which I wrote an application for a grant for Austin Clubhouse, a local mental health organization.