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Seizing Opportunity: Graduating student leader makes the most of college experience

By Laura Byerley, College of Communication
Photo by Marsha Miller
Published May 14, 2012

After graduating from one of Arizona’s top-ranked high schools in 2007, Natalie Butler had a host of higher education options.

“At the end of the day, The University of Texas at Austin just felt right,” Butler said. “I just felt at home in Austin.”

Natalie Butler

Her intuition proved correct. Throughout her five years at the university, Butler has had more opportunities than she could have imagined.

She has completed three majors – communication studies in the College of Communication, as well as government and the Plan II Honors Program in the College of Liberal Arts.

For her Plan II senior thesis, Butler researched and wrote about education policy and how high school civics experiences invite and negate positive attitudes about government, public life and future political engagement.

“Her progress was consistently on pace with my master’s and doctoral students, her ability to make sense of data was a joy to watch and her authorial voice emerged in an exciting way,” said Sharon Jarvis, associate professor of communication studies, associate director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation and Butler’s Plan II thesis adviser.

In Jarvis’ civic participation and political communication courses, Butler became a leader, raising the level of conversation for her peers.

“Students looked forward to hearing her points and learning from her questions,” Jarvis said. “I know that they learned more in those classes simply because Natalie was in them. I, and so many others, will miss her terribly when she graduates. We are a better university because she chose us.”

In addition to completing three majors, Butler has served in several Student Government roles, most recently as 2011-12 student body president. Butler also was selected to join several prestigious organizations, including the Friar Society, Orange Jackets, Phi Beta Kappa and the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education.

“Milk this experience for everything you can,” Butler said. “These years have been transformational for me, and I know they can be for everyone. Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you.”

After she graduates on May 18, Butler will join the Texas Exes as a summer fellow. In the fall, she will work for the Boston Consulting Group in Dallas.