2013 CoLA Dean's Distinguished Graduates
Travis Alexander: Plan II Honors and English Honors
Travis Alexander began his studies at UT as a Plan II major. In his first semester, Travis' interest in the music industry led him to the University Unions' Music and Entertainment Committee, which he chaired during his junior year. During this time, Travis also served for two years on the executive cabinet of the Plan II Students' Association. In his junior year, Travis entered the English Honors program and published his article, "Vulgar Display of Rebellion: Analyzing Confederate Memorialization through 'Dimebag' Darrel's Guitar in the 1990s," in UT's Undergraduate Research Journal. This piece was ultimately selected as the year's best submission. In the fall of 2011, Travis was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. The following summer, he attended an American Literature conference in San Francisco and interned at Century Media Records in Los Angeles. While in California, Travis spent time meeting and interviewing friends and contemporaries of the American writer Charles Bukowski (1920 - 1994)--the writer whose work provides the subject of his senior thesis entitled "Under the Influence: Class Fictions, Neonaturalism, and the Grotesque in Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye”—supervised by Dr. Brian Bremen. While writing his thesis, Travis participated in the Junior Fellows Program and published a second paper in the URJ, entitled “A New Mythology for the Space Age: William S. Burroughs and the Rejection of Linear Thought.” After finishing his thesis, Travis hopes to complete a Ph.D. and become a professor of American Literature. He is currently working, with Dr. Coleman Hutchison, on an article considering the conflicting impulses of aristocracy and democracy latent in Edgar Allan Poe’s effort to stylize and caricaturize his image in Daguerreotype portraits, and how this tension is negotiated in Poe’s short fiction.
Alyssa Davis: Plan II Honors and Sociology
Alyssa Davis, originally from Grapevine, Texas, is a member of Orange Jackets, the Friar Society, the President’s Student Advisory Council, and Phi Beta Kappa. During her time at UT, Alyssa dedicated herself to improving women's programming on campus and served as the Women's Resource Agency Director in Student Government. Alyssa has interned for several government and non-profit agencies, including committees in the Texas House of Representatives and the United States Senate. She participated in the Bill Archer Fellowship Program in Washington, D.C., and studied abroad in London to compare international social policy structures. In recognition of her passion for public service, Alyssa was awarded a Rapoport Service Scholarship and was a finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Alyssa's Plan II Honors thesis is on the current state of paid family leave at major U.S. corporations and its influence on gender equality in the workplace. After graduation, Alyssa plans to move to Washington, D.C., and pursue a career in public service.
Maggie Gunn: Plan II Honors and English Honors
Towards the goal of becoming a secondary English teacher, Maggie Gunn studied in the Plan II, English Honors, and UTeach Liberal Arts programs. Since discovering her calling to teach language arts in high-needs schools, she has dedicated her academic and extracurricular time to researching and addressing educational inequity. She has been privileged to learn from and work with KIPP Austin Charter Schools, Breakthrough Austin, and Connally High School. On campus, she has worked as a Resident Assistant in Jester West Dormitory and as a teaching assistant for Lee Walker’s freshman seminar, Pathways to Civic Engagement. Her research culminated in a thesis paper on teaching racially sensitive material in secondary schools, via a case study on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. She is the proud older sister of two younger Longhorns and a proud member of the Orange Jackets and the Friar Society. A native Dallasite, she’s thoroughly enjoyed the hills, lakes, trails, baristas, and people of Austin. This summer, she is thrilled to move to Houston, TX where she will teach MS English Language Arts at Yes Prep East End as a Teach for America Corps member.
Katherine Kling: Plan II Honors and Anthropology
Katherine Kling is a Plan II and Anthropology major from Houston, Texas who is interested in studying primates. Katherine has served as a field assistant to Dr. Rebecca Lewis in western Madagascar where she worked with Verreaux's sifaka and has presented an analysis of Dr. Lewis' data at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists' 2013 Conference. She has additionally had the privilege of studying abroad in Ireland and Costa Rica. When she isn't thinking about primates, Katherine goes ape over Plan II's theater troupe the Broccoli Project and the Plan II/ KIPP Partnership and has additionally served as the Plan II Student Association's Co-Vice President, Volunteer and Communications chairs. Upon graduation, Katherine will begin working at Disney's Animal Kingdom as a Conservation Education Presenter with the hope of attending graduate school to study primate conservation in 2014.
Sam Rhea: Plan II Honors
Sam Rhea is from Austin, Texas. While a student on the 40 Acres, he volunteered with the Neighborhood Longhorns Program, an outreach program that serves students in thirty Title 1 elementary and middle schools in Austin. Sam was the first student member of the philanthropy’s Advisory Board and authored a new bylaw establishing four permanent student seats. Sam served as a teaching assistant to President Bill Powers and a research assistant to Dr. Lance Bertelsen. He is a member of the Friar Society, Beta Upsilon Chi Fraternity, Texans for Israel, and the Student Government City Relations Task Force. He received the Grand Prize in the 2011-2012 Worthington Essay Contest and participated in the Normandy Scholars Program. His thesis research analyzes the evolution of management of the Permanent University Fund and its relationship to the government of the State of Texas.
Sam has worked for an Austin-based, venture capital group since 2011. He currently serves as the Manager of Strategy and Operations for a portfolio company, American Genomics. During the past year he has worked on projects in Washington DC, Miami and Minneapolis in an effort to avoid going to class. He will continue working for the investment team following graduation, focusing on healthcare and real estate ventures.