The school slogan at the University of Texas at Austin is “what starts here changes the world.”
These 17 students don’t just aspire to this motto, they live it.
From cross-country cyclists to environmentalists to small business owners, these Texas Longhorns have proven that they’re more than ready to change the world.
Class of 2015
When Jon Cozart started at UT, he had about a quarter of a million YouTube subscribers; now he has 1.5 million subscribers, and over 90 million views on his viral, musical videos. He's sold over 100,000 songs on iTunes, all of which were recorded in his bedroom.
The internet phenomenon from Little Rock, Ark., spent last summer touring different conventions around the world, including the Harry Potter convention and LeakyCon, where he sat on a panel about making YouTube videos and performed his videos and musics for thousands of people.
At UT, Cozart performs in a short-form improv comedy group called Gigglepants. A talented writer, Cozart hones his skills through elective English, poetry writing, playwriting, and Shakespearean literature classes.
Cozart plans to move to LA when he graduates to dive headfirst into the film and television industry. He plans to continue his YouTube stardom while launching a career in writing and acting.
Class of 2014
When business student Holland Finley dialed 9-1-1 for a classmate suffering from a medical condition, the call went to a city operator, not campus police. The dispatchers didn't know the names of the University buildings and struggled to locate Finley quickly -- making a scary situation that much more frightening.
The Austin native channeled the ordeal into reforming UT's emergency response services. She worked with developers who created a UT smartphone app to fortify available safety information, and helped to modify campus maps that could be used for reference when speaking to emergency services. Her efforts to improve dialogue between UT and the City of Austin's emergency responders has helped students get the help they need, fast.
Finley, a Tri-Delt sister and and former UT all-girls squad cheerleader, is also a collegiate national wakeboarding champion. A former world titleholder, she consistently places on the podium alongside the guys.
Finley has accepted a job at Bain & Company in Dallas after she graduates in the spring. She would eventually like to go back to school to earn a law degree and an MBA.
Class of 2015
Katie Floyd took on the most hands-on research apprenticeship of her college career -- handling the translation of original 18th and 19th century documents regarding the first fine arts school established in Latin America under the Spanish crown from old world colloquial Spanish to English.
Floyd, a Latin American studies major, got special permission from the UT Library to sit in the rare books room nearly 10 hours a week to see the texts. The most challenging part of the project was not actually translating but deciphering the script, which were handwritten in shorthand and idiomatic Spanish and hadn't been looked at in centuries.
The self-described aspiring 'Renaissance woman' has traveled extensively through Central and South America, and for seven summers has worked at an orphanage in the highland mountains of Guatemala.
Two years ago she founded Campamento de Paz, a summer camp for underprivileged children on the west side of San Antonio. Many attendees belonged to single-parent homes and families attached to gang activity. Floyd set out to provide them with a constructive, creative alternative through the camp. Continuing on this path, Floyd hopes to someday work in policy or as an art historian, and support refugees.
Class of 2014*
When a human interest assignment landed on Holly Heinrich's desk at The Texas Tribune, where she interned, she had no idea it would bring to life her dream of being published in The New York Times.
Heinrich wrote about a unique radio show that connects Texas inmates with their lives outside prison walls. 'The Prison Show' is run by mostly friends and family of inmates, and covers prison-related news and legal issues, as well as personal updates from loved ones.
The Times syndicated the article, broadening Heinrich's audience and awareness.
The Government major expresses her passion for policy-making and journalism through internships at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and StateImpact Texas, an NPR affiliate. Her writings at the latter focused on environmental issues, such as the drought in the American West and water crises abroad, climate change in the Antarctic, and 'smart clothes,' which have electronics built in.
This fall, Heinrich -- who has traveled through all 50 states and 30 foreign countries -- will begin a Master's in public policy at Cambridge University.
*Graduates in winter 2013, but walks with her class in spring 2014.
Class of 2016
As a freshman, Nina Ho started a freelance branding agency that helps small food businesses in Austin with everything from web design to social media, copywriting, and food photography. Her work in this area has made her a local branding expert, whose services are sought after by businesses like bakeries and catering companies.
The Sugarland, Tex., native is also very passionate about kids having the right tools they need to succeed in school. Before beginning a study abroad program in Brazil, she started a 'social media campaign for good' to collect 200 backpacks for local elementary students she'd be volunteering with. Thanks to the support from the UT community, Ho surpassed her goal and collected more than 400 backpacks for the students.
Ho, who calls herself a 'linguaphile,' speaks English and Vietnamese fluently, and French and Portuguese proficiently, and gets a lot of joy in learning and deciphering new languages. She also runs a successful new blog called The New Appetite where she chronicles her journey as a social entrepreneur and provides tips, inspiration, and advice for her readers.
When she graduates, Ho plans to delve into social innovation projects in Europe for a few years before using her background in advertising, design, and branding to build her own social good company.
Hirokazu Horikoshi created a plan for a sustainable campus landscape design that UT is putting into practice.
Class of 2014
As the Student Representative of the Tree Campus USA Advisory Committee at UT, Hiro Horikoshi created a proposal for a sustainable campus landscape design which was accepted by Green Fee, a grant program for sustainability-related projects, and will be implemented in the spring of 2014.
Horikoshi's plan involves the adoption of more native, heat-tolerant plants and proper irrigation systems that, when used, will save the school a lot of water -- in fact, it should reduce the landscape's water usage by 50 per cent. Horikoshi was invited to present his project at a conference in Baltimore in March. He hopes that his project will become a model that other universities can follow and implement themselves.
Horikoshi also works with the University of Texas Landscape Services. Starting as a summer intern, he quickly became interested in the school's sustainability efforts, leading him to join the Tree Campus USA Advisory Board. His work with Landscape Services earned him recognition as the UT at Austin Employee of the Year.
When he graduates this spring, Horikoshi plans to intern under an architecture or construction firm, and hopes to manage international projects some day.
Class of 2015
Mark Jbeily is the recently appointed Command Master Chief Petty Officer of his ROTC battalion -- placing him responsible for 65 other Midshipmen.
Jbeily entered UT on a highly competitive four-year scholarship funding his tuition and training with the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, a program for students wishing to be officers in the Navy or Marine Corps. As Command Master Chief, he maintains discipline within the ranks while also advocating on their behalf to the active duty officers. He plans and helps execute unit events, from physical training sessions to awards ceremonies, and keeps up morale.
As the son of Lebanese immigrants who grew up in a war zone and fled to the U.S. to escape the civil war, Jbeily uses his parents' experiences to motivate his career in service.
'I want to preserve the way of life that drew my parents to this country in the first place,' Jbeily said.
Following graduation, Jbeily will commission as an Ensign in the Navy, and hopes to service select aviation and go to flight school to fly jets. He plans to pursue a Master's in defence policy or an entrepreneurial focused MBA.
Class of 2014
The maker of a number of short films, Kevin Machate's directorial debut won a Silver Remi Award at Worldfest Houston International Film Festival in April.
This past April he was also a featured artist by independent arts organisation RAW Natural Born Artists for his work in film, and was nominated for Austin Filmmaker of the Year. He didn't win, but found many new opportunities out of the recognition. Machate's first short film was recently screened at a film festival in Belarus. Machate also acts in TV and film, including a small part in the 2013 movie 'Angels Sing' starring Harry Connick, Jr. and Connie Britton.
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Machate is a former athlete who holds three Guinness World Records, one of which includes 'Most Weight Squat-Lifted in 24 Hours' for squatting 101,412 lbs in 5 hours and 40 minutes in 2008.
Machate is now planning to get his master's in Media Studies before pursuing a PhD in either Media/Film Studies, Film Production, or American/Cultural Studies. Traditionally a maker or shorts, Machate hopes to direct his first feature film in the next five years with the goal of getting his films into festivals so others can enjoy them.
Jordan Metoyer was inspired to affect housing policy changes when her childhood home was foreclosed upon.
Class of 2014
Originally a finance major, in her sophomore year Jordan Metoyer lost her childhood home in Inglewood, Calif. -- where her grandmother was living -- to foreclosure. As her grandmother was forced to move, Metoyer read as much material on the housing crisis as she could get her hands on, prompting her to switch her focus to urban planning around low-income communities and housing issues.
Metoyer turned a lot of her efforts to local issues in Austin. She founded the school's City Relations Task Force, a coalition of students and members of the wider campus community to tackle the rising cost of housing options near campus that, many times, forced many low-income students to drop out of college.
Metoyer and her team learned that the Austin City Council would vote on a planning ordinance to limit affordable housing near campus even further, so they contacted media outlets and student groups to bring attention to the vote and rent inequality, and garnered over 2,500 signatures through anti-ordinance petitions. Metoyer presented their position to City Hall and facilitated conversations with leaders from both sides. City Council ultimately postponed the vote, and recently passed an affordable housing bond -- a huge move.
A Truman Scholar and Archer Fellow, this spring Metoyer will begin working for the City of Austin filming a documentary on growing suburban poverty.
Metoyer would like to get her master's in Urban Planning and Public Policy, possibly from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, after which she plans to continue her community participation by serving in local office.
Charles Nwaogu is helping increase healthcare enrollment within African American communities around the country.
Class of 2014
As an intern at the White House Office of Public Engagement, Charles Nwaogu helps to implement strategy intended to educate and increase healthcare enrollment within black communities nationwide. Through this prestigious internship Nwaogu's efforts are particularly critical, considering that nearly one-fifth of African Americans are uninsured.
Nwaogu also coordinated the first African Heritage Month summit at the White House -- a benchmark that moved him deeply as the son of Nigerian immigrants.
A government and Arabic language and literature double major, Nwaogu's interest in public service extends beyond government. He is an inaugural member of UT's Arabic Flagship Program, considered the nation's preeminent undergraduate program for study of the Arabic language. His language skills and curiosity have led him to volunteer with CARITAS of Austin, helping Iraqi war refugees acclimate to American society, and to tutor Iraqi refugee children in maths and reading at Austin International High School.
Following graduation, Nwaogu intends to work at a policy think tank or administration department in DC. Eventually he plans to pursue a law degree and serve in the federal government or at a national civil rights organisation that addresses economic disparities and promotes mobility for lower-income Americans.
Divya Ramamoorthy grows functioning heart muscle tissue that could one day eliminate the need for organ donors.
Class of 2016
For the past two years, Divya Ramamoorthy has worked as a research assistant in UT's Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Lab, where they grow hearts.
Regenerative medicine involves removing cells from a patient, growing them in a lab, and re-implanting the functional tissue into the body. It's been successful for other types of tissue, and it's poised to become the next alternative to treating heart injuries.
But for regenerative medicine to work, the lab needs to create an environment for cells to grow in that mimics the environment of the human body, and that's where Ramamoorthy's research comes in. She and a graduate student are determining if a hydrogel environment could provide the optimal conditions for heart cells to form a beating mass of heart muscle tissue. This innovative, exciting research could one day eliminate the need for organ donations; patients could regrow whatever organ they need, using their own cells.
Ramamoorthy, a biomedical engineering and liberal arts double major, serves as chair of the Undergraduate Research Committee and works with administrators to improve access to research opportunities for all students. She also mentors grade school students in the STEM fields in her free time.
The Austin native will spend her summer taking a biomedical engineering course at the University of Cambridge. Her goals including earning a Ph.D. in the field, and having her own TED Talk.
Class of 2014
Raised in one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the country -- and the first in her family to attend college -- Ana Laura Rivera is heavily involved in politics and policy, selected as just one of 12 Latino students in the U.S. to intern at the House of Representatives where she saw up-close how policymaking can affect different communities.
Additionally, Rivera had the opportunity to engage with North Korean refugees and learn about human rights issues as a young delegate in the 2013 U.S. Congress-Korean National Assembly Exchange Program. She also organizes campus events to raise awareness and advocate for young people about the need for sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention. Her service and leadership won her multiple awards.
Rivera is also the founder of the student chapter of the ONE Campaign, an international advocacy organisation that fights poverty and preventable diseases in developing countries.
An active volunteer besides, Rivera devotes time working with Planned Parenthood and St. Baldrick's, an organisation for which she raised over $US500 and shaved her head for pediatric cancer research.
When she graduates in May, Rivera will begin a year-long fellowship with Teach for America at a low-income elementary school in Houston. After, she plans to pursue a joint MBA/MPA in Public Policy, and eventually a PhD in Public Policy so she can continue to be an agent of change.
Cortney Sanders filed an amicus brief in Supreme Court against a case that challenges affirmative action.
Class of 2014
Last year, a young woman filed suit against UT for racial discrimination, claiming her application was rejected because she is white. That didn't sit well with Cortney Sanders, the Political Action Chair of UT's Black Student Alliance, who stepped up to serve as a student representative for the ensuing Fisher vs. The University of Texas case that went to Supreme Court.
Sanders pioneered the filing of an amicus brief in favour of UT with the NAACP Legal Defence Fund for the BSA, spending countless hours with NAACP Legal Defence Fund attorneys learning about the admissions policy and developing a strategy to defend it. While the case continued, Sanders also wrote an op-ed for The Daily Texan about the issue of 'building a campus that includes everyone.'
Sanders and her involvement in the case was also featured on PBS and the local FOX News station, and she was interviewed by BET Online. Sanders, whose grandparents lived under the Jim Crow laws, has always been inspired to fight for racial and ethnic equality, but her experience in the Fisher vs. UT case spurred her on to work full-time as an intern for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce last semester, and in the spring of last year to present her independent research for the Policy Agendas Website at the Midwest Political Science Conference in Chicago.
Though Sanders has struggled to make ends meet trying to travel to visit and take care of a sick mother, she still finds time for her two fellowships, her schoolwork, and planning for a post-graduate career in public service. Sanders will begin a short summer semester in Accra, Ghana, in May to complete a social work and economic development program, after which she plans to pursue a Master's/PhD in Public Policy so she can work in Washington.
Class of 2014
Jay Shah spent his summer cycling from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, with an organisation called Texas 4000, which coordinates the longest charity ride in the world.
After training for more than a year with 68 other undergraduate and graduate UT students, Shah set out on the 70-day, 4,500-mile trek with the goal of raising awareness and funding for cancer research. In addition to personally collecting $US6,500, he directed programs in 23 cities along the route. These events explained why they ride, shared cancer statistics and survivors' stories, and encouraged people to get screened.
Out of the saddle, Shah juggles three majors -- business, finance, and computer science -- while maintaining a 3.9 GPA, and is heavily involved in academic research. He's written an algorithm that quantifies the correlation between a city's Twitter activity and its citizens' quality of life, and another that teaches a computer to buy and sell concert tickets using machine learning.
He blogs about his research and has been read by more than 30,000 people from around the world.
This summer, Shah will intern at McKinsey & Company in a management consulting role. He hopes to one day tackle challenges facing the automative and non-profit sectors.
Rudy Torres developed a mathematical model of the flow of energy in asphalt pavement for its use as a medium in solar energy collection.
Class of 2014
As a Mechanical Engineering student, Rudy Torres didn't want to wait until after college to start improving the world with technology, which inspired his work in the study of asphalt as a means of collecting solar energy. His mathematical model was used in the investigation of asphalt's energy absorptive properties, and earned him a Longhorn Scholars Research Scholarship.
Torres was also selected as one of 50 interns out of thousands of applicants nationwide for the NASA Johnson Space Center Education Office's Undergraduate Student Research Program where he became involved in the program's Structural Engineering Branch. He was the only one in the internship to be awarded a three-week paid extension.
Torres' work in engineering and science has been so successful even from the start of his high school career that it has awarded him enough scholarships to fund his entire college career.
Now about to graduate, Torres had originally planned to go straight to graduate school to pursue a PhD in mechanical engineering, but he decided to work for a few years and earn some money for his family. He says he's currently applying to different companies and interviewing, and he would some day like to be the principal investigator in his own research lab.
Yevgeniya Vinogradova co-founded a startup that seeks to replace the traditional mouse and keyboard.
Class of 2014
Yevgeniya 'Jane' Vinogradova was born in Obninsk, Russia, and moved to the U.S. when she was seven years old. She grew up surrounded by engineers and scientists, and today is doing some inventing of her own.
In just one semester she co-founded Aurality Studios, a startup centered on developing software that makes computers accessible for people with upper limbatory disabilities.
The traditional mouse and keyboard relies on input triggered with slight finger movements, which can be difficult for people with those handicaps. Vinogradova's team is programming a cursor that accepts a wider range of input, such has hand gestures controlled by Leap Motion and eye movements collected by the virtual reality headset from Oculus Rift.
Vinogradova is responsible for securing funding, surveying people with upper limbatory disabilities, and refining the software's interface. In the spring, Aurality Studios will begin pitching the product to summer camps that cater to children with disabilities.
Vinogradova has accepted an offer to become a technology and systems integration analyst at Accenture's Austin office after graduation.
Class of 2015
In her sophomore year, Margaret Wellik started and built the University of Texas's first student-run farm out of an initial budget of just $US20,000. Overseeing the acquisition of farmland, grant money, and other financial matters, Wellik watched as the farm produced nearly 500 pounds of fresh produce on a mere fifth of an acre in just the first growing season -- and it's getting bigger by the year.
Harvests from the Micro Farm are donated to the local community center food pantry, and shared among farm volunteers and chefs at the University Department of Housing and Food Services. They also sell some of the produce at subsidized prices to members of the UT community at a weekly farm stand and, when there's surplus, directly to local Austin restaurant chefs and at a nearby farmer's market.
Wellik got an unorthodox start to her college career by way of a yearlong AmeriCorps service immediately after high school, during which she provided season assistance to non-profits, the IRS, the National Park Service, and FEMA. Her AmeriCorps year inspired her to study the broader issues in America's food system, rather than nutrition studies specifically, and Wellik continues to gain and apply the tools she's gained at UT to think critically about making a more sustainable food industry.
An Archer Fellow, Wellik also competes on the UT rock climbing team and plays the flute. She plans to spend her first year after graduation apprenticing under sustainable farmers, after which she hopes to pursue an MBA in Non-profit Management or a Master's in Food Policy.
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