Education Notes: Graduating Student Stories

May 1, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin celebrates spring commencement May 16-17. Each year, the College of Liberal Arts honors 12 seniors with the Dean's Distinguished Graduate Award for their leadership, scholarly achievements and service to the community.

The 2008 Dean's Distinguished Graduates are available for media interviews about commencement, the Class of 2008 and their college experiences—from researching peacekeeping in Darfur, Sudan, to combating human rights violations in South East Asia.

William Bacon (Anthropology/History) was the 2007-08 president of Liberal Arts Council and shared the concerns of students with the college administration. His honors thesis addressed the impact of New Urbanist retail developments on social interaction and sustainable growth. Bacon also is a member of the Texas Blazers service organization. After graduation he will be a policy fellow in the Houston mayor's office, focusing on land use and development.

After dropping out of high school Megan Campbell (Classics) enrolled in college at the age of 25. After completing classes at Austin Community College, she transferred to The University of Texas at Austin where she earned a Rapoport-King honors thesis scholarship. Campbell has worked on archeological excavations in Greece and won national awards for Greek and Latin translation. She will enter the University of Toronto's doctoral program in classics next fall.

Ishan Chakrabarti (Asian Studies) has studied or speaks nine languages, including Arabic, Bengali, classical Greek, Farsi, Hindi, Hittite, Persian, Urdu and Sanskrit. He earned a Rapoport-King honors thesis scholarship, as well as the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Scholarship. Chakrabarti is the co-editor of SAGAR: South Asia Graduate Research Journal. He will enter the university's graduate program in Asian studies next fall.

Serine Consolino (Government) has completed coursework in French at the University of Paris for Political Studies (Sciences Po), where she worked as a research assistant and peer tutor. Consolino also has studied Arabic. Her honors thesis addressed ethics in international relations. Consolino was active in the university's Legislative Relations Agency and worked as a peer mentor for Freshman Interest Groups.

Miriam Estrin (Plan II/Government) traveled to the African Union and the United Nations to conduct research and interviews for her honors thesis on peacekeeping in Darfur, Sudan. She also investigated human rights violations in Serbia and was a case manager for victims of sexual assault in St. Louis. Estrin was a research assistant for the university's Strauss Center for International Security and the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., where she will work after graduation.

Stephen Gilstrap (Plan II/Government/Business Honors) has been a teaching assistant for University President William Powers Jr., and completed internships with the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Senate. He studied business law at the University of Edinburgh and his honors thesis addressed economic growth in the European Union. Gilstrap served on the executive boards of Student Government and the Senate of College Councils. He plans to attend law school.

Tarak Makecha (ROTC/Government) has been a company commander of the university's Army ROTC, where he is responsible for training and leading 75 fellow cadets, since 2007. In 2007, he ranked 44 out of nearly 4,000 cadets throughout the United States on the National Order of Merit List. He also is a member of Texas Blazers, where he has tutored students at Johnston High School. During the college's ROTC graduation ceremony, Makecha will be commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Jennifer Nation (Plan II/French/Middle Eastern Studies) studied abroad in France and Morocco, where she completed advanced coursework in French and Arabic. Her honors thesis explored the Islamic theological concept of "tawhid," or "the oneness of God." Nation is a member of the Arabic Flagship Program and has volunteered for a number of social justice organizations. She plans to work for an international non-profit organization after graduation.

Christine Nguyen (Plan II/Government/Business Honors) is the founder and director of the Southeast Asian Children's Coalition, which combats poverty and exploitation. She has raised thousands of dollars for the organization and spent several summers volunteering in Vietnam. In 2006, Glamour magazine profiled Nguyen in its annual "Top Ten College Women" feature. Nguyen has held numerous leadership positions on campus, including serving on the President's Student Advisory Committee and Senate of College Councils.

Jason Orne (Humanities) is the co-founder of StandOut, a gay rights organization at the university that supports advocacy initiatives, including state-wide conferences and lobbying of the Texas legislature for a non-discrimination in education bill. Orne's honors thesis addressed how young gay men manage their identity. He will enter University of Wisconsin-Madison's doctoral program in sociology next fall.

Christina Skelton (Linguistics) wrote an article for the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Archaeometry, an unusual feat for an undergraduate. The article applied new techniques in microbiology to linguistics. She also won first place in a national Greek translation competition and studied abroad in Germany, Greece and the Netherlands. Skelton will enter the University of Pennsylvania's graduate program in linguistics next fall.

Michelle Ty (English/Philosophy/Radio-TV-Film) worked as a writing mentor and consultant in the Undergraduate Writing Center. She conducted archival research at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in 2007. Her honors thesis addressed narrative ethics in the works of Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf. After graduation, she will work on an organic farm in France before pursuing a doctorate in English.

For more information, contact: Jennifer McAndrew.