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Texas at Large: Class of 2003 graduates with a high degree of commitment to helping people

The 120th spring commencement at The University of Texas at Austin will be celebrated May 17 by more than 7,000 graduating students, their families and friends, and members of the university community. The graduates in the following profiles have set high standards for others, both in the classroom and out.

Graduates conquer Nursing curriculum
with ‘It Takes Two’ attitude

College has been double the work, double the fun for two University of Texas at Austin nursing sisters graduating this spring.

Amanda and Courtney Holmes working at the hospital
Identical twins Amanda and Courtney Holmes will both graduate this spring with degrees in nursing.

In their five years at the university, identical twins Amanda and Courtney Holmes have lived together, sat side by side in the same classes and filled out their clinical rotations at the same Austin hospitals. They have confused instructors, hospital staff, nurses, doctors and even patients.

Now they have decided to finally go in different directions after graduation May 17.

“Going into the same field has been a blast,” said Courtney, who has accepted a job at the Children’s Hospital of Austin. “I’m so glad we went through this together. We have always supported each other and been the best of friends. Had we gone into different fields, we would hardly have seen each other.”

Amanda has decided to take a position at North Austin Medical Center on the medical-surgery floor. Both sisters had applied and were accepted to the same hospitals.

“It was a difficult decision, but we decided it was for the best to finally split up,” Courtney said.

The university has 45 maces that are carried by faculty marshals in the Grand Procession.

Both sisters started at the university as students in biology with Courtney originally wanting to become a veterinarian. Amanda first changed her major to pre-nursing, then Courtney.

“I cannot tell you the number of times people would say hello to me and I had no clue who they were,” Courtney said. “I always felt like I was making Amanda look bad because I would look at these people with a ‘do I know you’ expression on my face. The same would happen to her.”

It wasn’t so funny, though, when a supervisor stopped her one time at a hospital clinical rotation and asked why she wasn’t upstairs observing a particular case. Amanda was actually the one who was required to be at the demonstration.

Courtney just smiled and explained the situation.

“Patients and staff actually love seeing them together,” said School of Nursing clinical instructor Shawn Boyd. “Usually twins have very different personalities. I have sisters who are twins, and they are very different. Read more about Amanda and Courtney Holmes...

Alene Riley’s “driving goal” motivates
her to help improve the lives of others

Alene Riley is the quintessential public affairs graduate at The University of Texas at Austin.

Alene Riley at the Texas State Capitol
Public affairs graduate Alene Riley has two legislative sessions under her belt.

She has two legislative sessions under her belt, runs a mentoring program for underserved teenage girls in Austin, helped organize the Barbara Jordan National Forum on Public Policy and successfully competed to enter federal employment through the Presidential Management Internship Program in Washington, D.C., this summer.

In her spare time, Riley took a full course load each semester in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs master’s program and played an active role in student government, among other activities.

Riley’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy is a product of what she calls her “driving goal”: to improve the lives of thousands of people over her lifetime.

“I’m an idealist and activist at heart,” she said. “Doing volunteer work is something I’ve done since I was in elementary school, and I plan to continue volunteering. It allows me to have an impact on my community.”

Riley’s volunteer activities have ranged from voter education and registration drives to political campaigns to mentoring and tutoring programs for public school students. This past semester she spent most Saturdays working with a group of teenage girls from East Austin schools in a youth development program called the Spider Web Workshop Series.

Beginning in 1996, the graduation year (this year "03") is illuminated in the Tower windows.

According to Riley, the Spider Web program aims to help the girls build on their personal assets through workshops on such topics as etiquette, self-defense, male-female relationships and women’s health issues. The program also seeks to build self-confidence and resourcefulness.

“We chose the name ‘Spider Web’ because it represents something that looks very fragile but is actually very strong and can be adapted by the spider for many, many purposes,” said Riley. “We tell our girls that they are like the spider, and they have the power to create their own unique webs that can be used to network, to use as a dragline for resources and to bail out of dangerous situations. Then together we learn how to use the webs to help ourselves and others.” Read more about Alene Riley...

Photos: Marsha Miller

More Profiles of Accomplished Graduates

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  Updated 2014 October 13
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