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The Class of 2011

Here are 10 stories highlighting students who have overcome obstacles, discovered new dimensions and doggedly pursued their academic goals

May 16, 2011

About 7,500 students will graduate from The University of Texas at Austin at the 128th spring commencement this Saturday, May 21. Students from around the world with diverse cultural backgrounds, students who have faced adversity and students who have realized their dreams will come together to share in the spirit of commencement.

“Inspired by the innovative spirit of Texas — the spirit that nothing is impossible — each graduate embarks on a new journey,” says William Powers Jr., president of the university.  “Our graduates leave empowered to do their best and equipped to fulfill our shared purpose of transforming lives for the benefit of society.”

Each graduate has a unique story.

Here are 10 of those stories, profiling students who have overcome obstacles, discovered new dimensions and doggedly pursued their academic goals.

Panorama of The University of Texas at Austin with the Tower lighted orange with the No. 1
Learn more about the 128th spring commencement at The University of Texas at Austin.

Write on Target: Paralympic archer shoots for gold in the literary world

A passing comment from a sixth-grade teacher sent Lindsey Carmichael, a senior majoring in history and English, on the road to the Olympics.

When the math teacher overheard her talking with her best friend about the girl’s softball team, he blurted, “I bet you could do archery in a wheelchair.”

Lindsey Carmichael
Lindsey Carmichael

“He just wanted to make me feel better about not being able to play softball and then go on with his day,” says Carmichael, who was diagnosed at age 4 with McCune Albright Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes weak spots in her bones. “But that one comment completely changed my life.”

On a whim, Carmichael and her friend convinced their parents to take them to an archery club near their hometown in Lago Vista. After a couple of weeks her friend dropped out, but Carmichael carried on, driven by her desire to compete.

Now a two-time Paralympian at age 25, Carmichael is one of the world’s greatest archers. In Athens, she set a world record in the ranking round and finished sixth overall. She later went on to win the bronze medal in Beijing, making her the first female archer representing the United States to medal in a singles competition in 34 years.

Unlike most sports that require strong, powerful physiques, Carmichael says archery appealed to her because anyone -– tall, short, heavyset or even one-armed — can compete. The strength, she notes, comes from the mind.

After some bad tournaments in 2005, Carmichael’s self-confidence dwindled, causing her to develop Target Panic, a common phenomenon among archers that causes athletes to falter before making a shot. During a critical match in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, the unrelenting anxiety caused her to miss a shot that would have landed her in the running for the gold or silver.

“I remember thinking I can just wallow in this horrible feeling or I can suck it up and do what I came here to do,” Carmichael says. “The proudest moment of my life was when I shoved that overwhelming sense of failure out of my mind, walked into the stadium with a smile on my face and won the bronze.”

During tough times, Carmichael harnesses her strength by recalling her favorite quote by basketball coach John Wooden: “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” By focusing on what she can do, she has overcome obstacles on the field and in her studies.

With her positive attitude and strong self-discipline, she won several awards from writing contests for her essays, poetry and short fiction. This spring, she will walk across the stage as one of the 12 Dean’s Distinguished Graduates, a high honor given to graduating seniors for their leadership, scholarly achievements and service to the community.

G. Howard Miller, the Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History, says Carmichael may very well be the most extraordinary undergraduate he has ever taught during his 40 years at the university.

“Through years of heroic personal effort and with the steady support of her equally remarkable family, Lindsey overcame very serious obstacles to become a world-class student athlete, a thoughtful and creative student, and an unfailing inspiration to one and all,” says Miller, who recently retired in 2010. “And all this she did with grace, humility and a wonderfully infectious sense of humor. She is truly one of a kind.”

After graduation, Carmichael said she will be “in training” to become a New York Times bestselling author.

“I’m training to be the best writer I can be,” Carmichael says. “If one of my books ever makes it to the New York Times bestselling list, that’s going to be right on par with standing on that podium in Beijing.”

By Jessica Sinn
College of Liberal Arts

Raising the Bar: Law graduate sets new standard of leadership

When Omar Ochoa learned last spring he’d been selected editor in chief of the Texas Law Review (TLR), he took a deep breath and reflected on the opportunity.

“I thought of everyone who had ever been in TLR and all the years it’s been in existence. To be trusted to lead the organization was an honor, but also a huge responsibility,” said the 27-year-old graduating School of Law student with a remarkable record of academic achievement and service at The University of Texas at Austin.

Omar Ochoa
Omar Ochoa

Ochoa became the first Latino selected to lead the nationally recognized, 89-year-old legal journal, which is run entirely by students and publishes legal scholarship produced by professors, judges and practitioners.

“There are plenty of challenges in an organization as large as TLR, from daily operations to diverse personalities to getting all seven of our issues published on time,” said Ochoa.

Ochoa felt confident he could rely on the skills he’d developed in 2005-06 as the university’s first Latino to serve as student body president.

“That experience led me to believe I could manage a complex organization and do it well,” said Ochoa, who led successful efforts to add a student member to every Texas public university’s Board of Regents and create a new student activity center on campus, which opened this spring.

A native of Edinburg, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, Ochoa cites his parents’ story of success as his inspiration. Both grew up as migrant farm workers but became successful professionals and community leaders. Ochoa’s father served as mayor of Edinburg.

With this in mind, leading the Law Review wasn’t enough. Ochoa combined his passion for the law and service for others. During law school, he won a writing competition, worked as a research assistant, interned at the Texas Supreme Court and was published in two law journals. But he also was the education chair for the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association, a teaching assistant for a legal writing class and a mentor in the university’s Intellectual Entrepreneurship program. This spring, he was the abbot (president) of the university’s Friar Society, the oldest and most prestigious honor society on campus.

“Omar does a remarkable number of things and does them all remarkably well,” said Law School Dean Lawrence Sager, who taught Ochoa in a constitutional law seminar this semester. “He is intelligent, mature and diplomatic. He is a wonderful standard-bearer for the UT Law School.”

In April, the university recognized Ochoa and two other law students by lighting the Tower orange with a number one, in honor of winning the Uvaldo Herrera National Moot Court championship and the award for best respondent’s brief.

It was the perfect ending for the law review editor from the Valley who says he owes so much to the university. Justice David Medina, who was present at the Tower lighting, gave his former intern at the Texas Supreme Court high praise and summed up the feeling of many: “He’s a rising star.”

By Laura Castro
School of Law

A Rewarding Commute: Dallas mother went the distance for her degree

Earning a Ph.D. in History from a top research university should be challenging enough, but add a three-hour commute and it could be near impossible.

Not for Shennette Garrett-Scott, who will be receiving her doctorate this May.

Shennette Garrett-Scott
Shennette Garrett-Scott

Garrett-Scott lives with her husband and three children in a suburb of Dallas, but chose to earn her degree from The University of Texas at Austin not only because it is the top public university in the state, but also for the opportunity to work with Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker, a pioneer in the field of black business in America.

Garrett-Scott’s passion for studying black business history was sparked by a photo she saw of Teddy Roosevelt speaking before the National Negro Business League (NBBL), which was founded by Booker T. Washington. This early 20th century group that had the attention of the president intrigued her and she decided to learn more about this new area of study so she could educate others about it as well.

Garrett-Scott’s journey toward her Ph.D. began when she was working 80-plus hour weeks in the mortgage industry. One day, her boss said to her, “Shennette, you are going to make me a millionaire.”

Believing that there was something wrong with that picture, she realized that she really wanted to teach at the college level and went to school to earn her undergraduate and master’s degrees in history.

Once accepted in the doctoral program, she vowed she would not quit until she earned the Ph.D. However, her family was not able to relocate to Austin, so she commuted back and forth to take classes, work as a teaching assistant and conduct research for the past five years.

Garrett-Scott recently successfully defended her dissertation about black women in the insurance industry, choosing the topic because it was an opportunity to discover new knowledge in a largely unstudied area.

“The bulk of the scholarship on black businesswomen is in beauty culture, and I wanted to show that black women were also actively and successfully involved in one of the U.S. economy’s premier business industries: insurance and the closely related fields of banking, real estate and finance,” she explained.

She researched both formal and informal black businesses run by women in the South after Reconstruction to the decade before World War II.

“My dissertation is on black women in the insurance industry. I included not just formal insurance companies founded or co-founded by women but also informal insurance enterprises started in secret societies with names like the Court of Calanthe and Sisters of the Mysterious Ten.”

And while she is extremely proud of her accomplishment in earning this degree, she says, “I am most proud of my family. They missed me a lot -– and I them –- over the years, but they always supported me so I was able to keep my promise never to quit.”

By Kathleen Mabley
Graduate School

Worldwide Impact: Nursing graduate has helped people around the globe

When the second of the Word Trade Center’s Twin Towers was falling on Sept. 11, 2001, Heidi Ritter, 29, swore an oath to serve her country in the Air Force.

That day, Ritter said she knew the experience she previously thought she’d have in the military would be dramatically different. But she said her family had taught her, “don’t let fear get in the way of helping out where you can.”

Heidi Ritter
Heidi Ritter

And from that moment on, as cliché as it may sound, she said the only constant in her life has been change.

Ritter juggled her undergraduate studies in nursing and ROTC at the University of Virginia with volunteer work abroad at orphanages. After she graduated in 2004, she became a second lieutenant stationed at the Lackland Air Force Base’s Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio where she worked for the first time as a registered nurse.

In 2005, the Air Force deployed her to New Orleans — hurricane Katrina had just hit. At the age of 23, Ritter assisted in setting up an emergency field hospital inside the New Orleans airport. For almost a month she slept on the floor or on cots at the airport and experienced what she said felt like caring for people in a third world country.

A few years later, she was deployed to Balad, Iraq. There she nursed American troops, coalition forces, Iraqi citizens (including women and children) and insurgents at a Level 1 Trauma Center. She experienced three mass-casualty events in five months. To relax, she taught yoga and swam at the pool on base. She couldn’t use the high dive because of snipers.

After the experience, she still has this to say about it: “It was an amazingly diverse and beautiful place.”

“I feel so grateful to my country because of the opportunities I’ve had,” Ritter said. “I feel like I can be a better nurse now.”

Ritter was still in Iraq when she applied to The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. Despite her vast and varied nursing experience, Ritter said she felt like she could benefit from more specialized nursing education.

She said she threw herself into her studies full time, joined academic organizations, developed a passion for teaching and continued volunteering, practicing yoga and writing poetry. Ritter is graduating this month with her master’s degree in nursing as an adult clinical nurse specialist. She’s in the Air Force’s inactive reserves.

Whether Ritter chooses to care for veterans undergoing chemotherapy or further her education so she can pursue her dream of teaching, only one thing is certain: change is inevitable.

By Samantha Stiles
Office of Public Affairs

A New Direction: A football career ended, he turns to helping others

As a 17-year-old captain of Austin’s Westlake High School football team, Matt Nader had a bright future. In addition to good grades and a loving family, he had earned a scholarship to play football as an offensive tackle for the Texas Longhorns.

Matt Nader
Matt Nader

But fate intervened on Sept. 15, 2006 when his heart went into ventricular fibrillation during a game against A&M Consolidated in College Station — a major rival. Thanks to the swift administration of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) the school had on hand, Nader’s life was spared. He soon had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), similar to a pacemaker, which could deliver life-saving shocks if a life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia occurred.

But his plans to play football for the Longhorns were derailed.

According to Nader, when he broke the news to Coach Mack Brown that he wouldn’t be able to play the following year, Brown told him, “The day that you committed to us, we committed to you, Matt,” Brown honored Nader’s scholarship and invited him to be involved with the team.

Arriving on campus for his freshman year, Nader enrolled in the corporate communication program in the College of Communication and took the opportunity to create a new path for himself by assisting the coaching staff and learning how to run a successful football team — in essence, a business — from the inside out.

When he wasn’t studying or working with the team, Nader was an advocate for the importance of learning CPR and making AEDs mandatory for all University Interscholastic League events. He spoke on behalf of nonprofit organizations and medical device companies creating awareness of how an AED delivered the life-saving shock responsible for him being alive today. He has delivered more than 30 speeches around the country.

“The act of reaching out to people has helped me process my own experience and has enabled me to pay it forward,” said Nader, who will continue down this new path of advocating for medical devices after graduation. He will work for St. Jude Medical, which develops ICDs, as a medical device representative selling the devices to cardiac physicians and assisting in the implantation procedure of cardiac devices.

“After going through the experience of ventricular fibrillation and plotting a new course in life, I’ve found a passion in reaching out to others who could be in a position to save someone’s life,” Nader said.

By Erin Geisler
College of Communication

Parents’ Pride: Engineering graduate builds success on family’s work ethic

More than 25 years ago, Emily Chen’s parents made a hard choice so their daughters would face easier ones.

Chen’s parents left their friends and family behind in Taiwan and moved 8,000 miles away to the Houston area, where they knew only two other people.

Emily Chen
Emily Chen

Despite their sacrifices, the couple believed that one day, when they had children, they would have unlimited opportunities they may not have experienced otherwise.

Chen, now a senior in the Cockrell School of Engineering, credits their ambition for the determination she brings to her academic and professional goals.

“Many first-generation children are expected to fulfill the dreams or expectations of their parents,” said Chen, a biomedical engineering and Liberal Arts Plan II Honors double-major who graduates May 20. “For me, that pressure encouraged me to do a lot of things, and I blossomed under it.”

That’s not to say Chen is fulfilling anyone else’s dreams but her own. In August, she will begin law school at the University of California – Berkeley, where she plans to study patent law. It may seem like a change in direction for a biomedical engineering grad, but Chen aims to use what she’s learned at the Cockrell School — and as a student researcher — to eventually try to improve the patent process so it’s easier to push out life-saving drugs or innovative technologies, like those she has researched while at The University of Texas at Austin.

In her fourth year, Chen created a robotic glove made of conductive thread and piezoresistive material that senses and measures how much pressure is applied when touched. The technology works like artificial skin, or e-skin, which could be used in robotics for everything from communicating with a robot the difference in how it should gently hold an egg or firmly slam a door based on its senses.

Among the long-term goals of such research is to restore the sense of touch for burn victims or patients with prosthetic limbs, Chen said.

Aside from research, Chen has honed her leadership skills through a number of activities on campus. She spent a summer working for the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization –- a job that helped inspire her to pursue patent law. She was president of the Student Engineering Council and represented engineering students on the university’s Senate of College Councils.

Despite her successes, there have been challenges along the way, such as juggling work and research in her pursuit of two rigorous degrees.

“There were definitely semesters where I really struggled, and semesters where I stayed up all night. I had to learn the importance of sleep,” Chen said.

She attributes her work ethic to the example set by her parents growing up.

“I want to make them proud. I know they did a lot coming to a new country, and they did a lot to help me explore what my interests were at a young age,” she said. “I’d like to say that I inspired more than one person and that they will inspire others to be passionate and lead by example. Others did that to me and I’m grateful because it’s allowed me to be who I am.”

By Melissa Mixon
Cockrell School of Engineering

A Row of Obstacles: Mom’s memory pushes business graduate to finish line

“You don’t let ‘em have anything, right here. You’re sitting up tall, getting ready for you know what.”

Put Colby Lowrey in the stern of a boat, in charge of eight athletes, and the unassuming McCombs School of Business student from tiny Bruceville, Texas, morphs into part drill sergeant, part emergency room doctor commanding her patient to live.

Colby Lowrey
Colby Lowrey

“Quick, lengthen, lengthen. One, hit, two.

Eliminate the hang on five.

Let’s go, all summer, right here.”

As a coxswain for Texas Rowing, Lowrey relied on intuition, strategic thinking and one surprisingly aggressive voice to motivate her rowers and push them through vomit-inducing physical exhaustion.

“Two, three, God bless America, c’mon four!

Swing and hit! Relax into the catch.

Coming into this last 100, what are you gonna do?!”

She loved the sport. It’s how she got to know the university and learn about real leadership. But a family tragedy forced her to give it up well before graduation.

“Three, four, COME ON!!!”

***

A petite 5-foot-1-inch brunette, Lowrey possesses delicate features and an inviting confidence. She has a polite, matter-of-fact nature and a sense of optimism that belies a painful past.

Lowrey is the only child of a single mother and a father she never knew. Her mom, Janis Mezzell, worked 18-hour days as a seamstress. Struggling to live above the poverty line, Mezzell told a 5-year-old Lowrey she would have to pay for her own college education.

With that in mind, Lowrey applied herself to just about everything she could in high school: six varsity sports, cheerleading, band, student government. She graduated as valedictorian and entered the university with a full scholarship in 2007. Lowrey tried out for rowing and got a lifeguard job her first week on campus. Cell phone and health insurance bills had to be paid.

Lowrey found her stride at the business school, earning a spot in the school’s exclusive Leadership Program and majoring in supply chain management.

Her mom altered uniforms for the rowing team and watched races on Ladybird Lake, yelling “Go babycakes!” as Lowrey guided her team across the water.

At Thanksgiving of Lowrey’s sophomore year, Mezzell revealed she had end-stage cirrhosis of the liver. A year later, she died. Devastated and alone, Lowrey quit the team to work a second job.

“It broke my heart,” Lowrey says. “I needed to make sure I wasn’t just OK for right now,” she told TexasSports.com last February. “I have to make sure I have a nest egg, in case something falls through, because I don’t have a home to go to. I have to look out for myself right now.”

Lowrey misses rowing and her mom, especially with graduation on the horizon, but credits Mezzell for her work ethic and independence.

“I think she raised me this way for a reason,” she says.

Having spent her college career collecting extra lifeguard shifts, taking 18-hour course loads and grieving her mother as she cleaned out her childhood home, Lowrey says the next phase of her life — which includes a full-time supply chain position with Target, no school and the freedom to do what she wants — will practically be a vacation.

“Colby has this incredible life force, and somewhere along the way she decided that’s the kind of person she is going to be,” says assistant rowing coach Caroline King. “She creates the positivity that surrounds her.”

Listen to Colby Lowrey call the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, where she led UT from a disastrous start to a nail-biting second-place finish. (The audio clip opens in a new window.)

By Tracy Mueller
McCombs School of Business

Heritage of Hard Work: Migrant worker follows mentor’s path to a pharmacy career

Growing up a migrant farm worker — bending over onions, sweet beets, potatoes and alfalfa and moving from state to state — is not all that conducive for finding a mentor. But Joe Malacara was lucky. He found Mr. Smith.

Joe Malacara
Joe Malacara

For several months out of the year, Malacara and his family worked side-by-side having driven the 2,000 miles from Mission, Texas to Payette, Idaho. Before he was 12 years old, he was considered too young to work in the fields, so he carried water jugs out to his parents, older brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and other thirsty workers.

The family lived in a migrant camp 12×12-foot cabin for which they paid $35 a week rent. The camp had 25 cabins, and everyone shared public restrooms and showers. They would work 40 to 80 hours a week, depending on the harvest.

When workers had health issues they went to a nearby clinic where only one health care worker — Mr. Smith, the pharmacist — spoke both Spanish and English.

Malacara decided he wanted to be exactly like Mr. Smith — “someone who helped explain health problems and treatments to patients and someone who didn’t work out in the fields like the rest of us.”

Malacara will graduate from the College of Pharmacy in May — the first in his family to get a college degree. He is graduating with honors and has accepted a job at an HEB pharmacy in the Rio Grande Valley.

Everyone in his family is coming to Austin for graduation.

“During the many hours we were working in the fields, my father would always tell me that he didn’t want me to have this kind of life,” said Malacara. “He didn’t have a chance to go to school, but insisted that I go to college and make a better life for myself.”

The migrant workers had illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, colds and flu. Many times, Malacara helped translate at the clinic.

“The valley is an underserved area of Texas with many people living in poverty,” said Malacara. “There is a problem — just as there was in the migrant farm camps — of health literacy. Many patients do not understand their diseases or the treatments.”

This spring Malacara worked in a clinic on an ambulatory care rotation to experience working closely with patients. He saw many patients who came to the pharmacy without knowing what they were prescribed or what it was for because they didn’t understand what their health care provider had told them.

“Having someone trust you to explain what a medication is for and feel comfortable enough to come back and ask you for advice is essentially what I thought pharmacy was when I was a kid and primarily what I believe it is now,” he said.

Malacara is graduating from the University of Texas-Pan American/University of Texas at Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program, developed to encourage high school students to consider pharmacy as a career. It offers students the opportunity to complete four years of the six-year program in their home region. The college also offers a cooperative program at the University of Texas at El Paso, another area of Texas experiencing pharmacist shortages.

By Nancy Neff
College of Pharmacy

Sustaining Success: Graduate student creates new design for protecting the environment

You might never have to feel guilty about using disposable dinnerware again if Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Design student Amrita Adhikary finds success in her new business. As part of the “Field Study in Design” program under adviser Dan Olsen in the College of Fine Arts, Adhikary studied and worked with individuals engaged in community-based projects in rural India. Working with two organizations in India, Sulabh Social Service Organization and Ikon, the result of her efforts is “Beleaf,” an Earth-friendly solution to disposable dinnerware.

Amrita Adhikary
Amrita Adhikary

Adhikary aims to change wasteful actions into progressive ones through a combination of design and sustainability. Knowing that consumers use disposable dinnerware for convenience, she wanted to find a solution that eliminated the health and environmental disadvantages of using plastic. However, she also found through her research that modern landfills are not designed to aid biodegradation. So even if products are biodegradable, they need to be part of an infrastructure that allows for composting.

By borrowing from traditional, sustainable Indian methods and implementing her innovative design vision, Adhikary’s “Beleaf Dinnerware,” which is being featured at the M.F.A. Design Exhibition, is ushering her through her May graduation to what she hopes will be a widely accepted approach to modern sustainability.

Using a simple heat press to form fallen areca nut palm leaves into dinnerware, Adhikary’s business model expands beyond the design and production of the goods to working with disposal/composting companies to pick up the waste and transport it to the composting sites where it is composted, packed, sold and reintroduced into the soil.

Adhikary describes her graduate education at the university as “fulfilling and gratifying” because of the opportunity to interact with colleagues from disciplines across campus, including the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the McCombs School of Business.

“It brought in outside professionals and that gave me a lot of insight to take an idea and build it and sell it and convince people. You need the tools to communicate the idea, otherwise it’s just in your head. It gave me the ammunition to gear my work,” she explained.

She is glad that she has been able to benefit from the variety of her peers in the design field. “The variety is such that you are thrown into a group that you have no idea of their knowledge base, so you can learn to thrive from each other,” she said.

As a mother, she also had to commute to school and take care of her home and her two children: a teenager and an 11-year-old. Noticing the dilemma faced when purchasing plates for her children’s parties, she was inspired to look at waste as a resource with potential. As she explained, because the infrastructure for biodegradable plates is insufficient, “Beleaf” presents an attractive “closed loop system.”

“I feel that I’ve developed a network of professors and students here in Austin, and it’s the ideal place to do the pilot for my project. UT gave me a platform to make this happen. Hopefully, my system will take shape right here in Austin. I’ve developed the idea and company, and will be able to take it forward, hopefully replicating it in cities across the nation,” she said.

By Laura Messer and Kathleen Mabley
Graduate School

Ringside to Bedside: Former pro wrestler finds purpose in nursing

If words like smack down, hiplock, mule kick, lateral toss, arm chop and front head shuck have been part of your profession’s vocabulary, it’s safe to say deciding to become a nurse is going in a different direction. Needing a nurse, not that big a stretch.

But Jay Ross, a member of the former World Championship Wrestling (WCW) organization who went by “Blitzkrieg” or “Fabulous Blitzkrieg,” sees no problems in the transition ahead.

Jay Ross
Jay Ross with his son Marcus

Ross, 34, is graduating from the School of Nursing in May.

On his road to becoming a nurse, Ross also was an acrobat, a massage therapist, a yoga instructor, a roofer and a journeyman building reservoirs and excavating dams in Southern California. He advocated for several causes, including “Food Not Bombs” and “Homes Not Jails. ” For several months, Ross participated in a Mojave Desert sit-in that eventually stopped a proposal to make part of the area a nuclear waste dump.

If Ross had stayed with the WCW, he would have probably been a millionaire by age 30.

His injuries, however, were numerous — one of the reasons he stopped. He remembers, for example, doing a “skytwisting spring board moonsault” (a back flip off the ropes onto his opponent) at a show in Japan. Instead of his opponent properly catching him — Ross landed head first onto concrete and ended up in the hospital with a concussion.

Raised a Catholic, Ross became a Buddhist after immersing himself in the readings of Siddhartha Gautama.

“In Buddhism, we refer to people who compassionately act on others’ behalf as bodhisattvas,” Ross said. “I see nursing as true bodhisattva work.”

Eight years ago, Ross began raising a toddler when a friend was no longer able to care for him. The boy will be 10 in June.

The real value to society, he said, “is in its countless, nameless men and women in various health services and teaching professions. I prefer to be in the company of health care professionals at this point in my life.”

As a nursing student, Ross says he has seen people at their most vulnerable.

“It is a very privileged position to be in,” he said. “You can really demonstrate unique human behavior by showing compassion and sincere caring. I believe this kind of behavior can be contagious.”

For his senior year internship, Ross is working at Dell Children’s Medical Center. He loves pediatrics and will probably go back and earn an advanced practice nursing degree — perhaps become an anesthesia nurse, pediatric nurse practitioner or some type of family nurse practitioner.

“People trust that nurses are competently and sincerely advocating for them,” said Ross. “I can’t say that about anything else I’ve done.”

Entertainment like professional wrestling can be good medicine, he said, because it “de-stresses people, but nursing provides well being, which is beyond comparison.

“The biggest difference in the two fields is that on stage you have to do big things to get a reaction. But, with a patient, something as small as offering a towel can have a big impact.”

Watch a WCW video of Jay Ross as “Blitzkrieg.” (The video opens in a new window on YouTube.)

By Nancy Neff
School of Nursing

Travel Advisory: Interstate 35 to Shut Down Commencement Weekend

Visitors traveling on Interstate 35 to participate in spring commencement activities at The University of Texas at Austin this weekend may wish to allow additional time in their driving schedules due to highway construction south of the university.

The Texas Department of Transportation said construction on new direct connection ramps at Interstate 35 and State Highway 71 (Ben White Freeway) will necessitate the closure of northbound and southbound I-35 this weekend. The northbound main lanes will be closed at 10 p.m. Friday, May 20, while the southbound main lanes will not be shut down until 10 p.m. Saturday, May 21. All lanes are scheduled to be open by 10 p.m. Sunday, May 22.

Texas Department of Transportation details of the closure plans are available online.

For more information, contact: Photo of Omar Ochoa: Jim Sigmon

All other graduating student photos: Marsha Miller