With my second year at UT under my belt, I am happy to report that sophomore year was full of memories, lessons, and personal triumphs. One of my favorite classes from this year was Plan II Philosophy with Professor Woodruff. With each new philosopher we discussed, I was forced to examine ethical questions that I never before considered. This class didn’t just demand critical thinking, but also respect and a willingness to reevaluate my beliefs while debating ideas with peers. Outside of the classroom, I continued tutoring at a local high school in history and biology, and helped my students reach their graduation goals.
This year, the academic enrichment fund supported me significantly as it empowered me to see the world and pursue my goals. This summer, I travelled to France, where I studied in the heart of Paris for six fantastic weeks filled with culture, language, and cuisine (don’t ask me to choose a favorite from all the pastries I tasted, it’s impossible!). As a part of my studies, I visited think tanks like the Jacques Delors Institute, and engaged in meaningful debates with American representatives at international organizations such as the OECD. All in all, my time in Paris left me with a nuanced understanding of France’s role in modern conflicts such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Brexit, and Europe’s refugee crisis — an understanding I am eager to build upon in the security classes I will take at UT this fall.
I also used the academic enrichment fund for my mock trial competitions in court houses across the country. For the first time in seven years, Texas Mock Trial competed at the National Championship tournament in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Not only were we the only Texas team to qualify to the national level of competition, but this year, I was honored to win an All-American witness award, the highest individual award offered by the American Mock Trial Association.
As the new school year inches closer, I look forward to serving as President of the Texas Mock Trial Team, contemplating civic duty and community engagement with Professor Lee Walker as one of his teaching assistants, tutoring high school students, and growing closer to my community as a member of the Arab Student Association and International Affairs Society.
Liberal Arts Honors/Psychology/Rhetoric & Writing
A few weeks ago, I was at my research lab desk surrounded by scattered papers, to-do lists, and a half-eaten lunch. Clearly overwhelmed, my lab mentor looked over and said, “Sometimes, chaos is worth it.” Not only did this become a quote on my desktop page, but as I reflect on this past year’s projects, seized opportunities, and memories, it has defined my sophomore year.
I attribute a significant source of my growth to the Lewis-Peacock Lab. I was paired with Zachary, a neuroscience graduate student in whom I found a lab and lifelong mentor. With Zachary, I engaged in literature about the cognitive neuroscience of memory, and he encouraged me to spearhead an independent research project. With the help of the lab, I created a research proposal, applied for and was awarded fellowship funding, created and ran my experiment on pilot participants, and presented my work – all in four months. My research, which studies anxiety and intrusive thinking in working memory, and my time in the lab promoted academic, professional, and personal growth. I am beyond thankful to the lab’s PI Dr. Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, for his constant support and guidance. I look all the more forward to serving as lab manager for this dedicated group of researchers in the fall.
I continued research in the Preston Lab under the direction of Dr. Christine Coughlin, of whom I was in constant awe. Her love for research and dedication to her RAs was evident in every meeting. With her, I studied the development of future-oriented cognition and its relation to episodic memory. I also befriended many RAs who made the simplest of lab assignments enjoyable. My research assistant positions in both labs led to an eventful end of the year, where I presented at three lab meetings, two conferences, and a poster session.
This year, I held my first and second teaching assistantships, first for Dr. Musick’s freshman honors writing course as a Writing Fellow, then for Drs. Gosling and Harding’s introductory psychology class as a TA. I was fulfilled being in spaces where I could teach and learn alongside students, so I sought out more. I served on the leadership board for a Harvard-led non-profit, where I met with high school students from underserved communities and taught them about research. I even worked with my own international mentee to help her create and present a research proposal, just as Zachary had with me. Additionally, I worked with an Indian non-profit to increase English literacy for children in rural India. This work impacted how I think about educational equity and accessibility. I hope to one day visit the great state of Maharashtra to meet my students.
This year, I leaned into the writing creative in me. In the fall, I participated in the LAH Writing Institute under the direction of former Dedman and LAH director Dr. Larry Carver. I cannot exaggerate enough how transformative these sessions were for both my writing and how I think about writing. In the spring, I took Dr. Mark Longaker’s Principles of Rhetoric class, which reminded me how much I loved critical thinking and written analysis. My favorite essay was one in which I rhetorically analyzed my favorite poet Sarah Kay’s poem “The Type” using metaphoric and neo-Aristotelian criticism. I also became involved with Austin’s poetry scene, attending late-night workshops and open mics with fellow Dedmans. It led me to perform my written pieces at Poetry at the Pond, UT’s poetry performance event, with these same friends. Naturally, these experiences led me to declare a second major in Rhetoric & Writing.
As always, I surrounded myself with communities dedicated to psychology. I was inducted into Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, in the fall and served as volunteer coordinator in the spring. Last summer, I interned at the VA in the Texas Medical Center. This summer, I returned to Houston to work as a research fellow at a psychiatric hospital. I’m currently conducting a research project studying the relationship between open-mindedness and anxiety, depression, emotion regulation, and suicidality over the course of inpatient treatment, while also writing an article about the underrepresentation of BIPOC individuals in clinical trials and culturally insensitive treatment. Additionally, I’ve trained and started practicing as a crisis counselor for a crisis line, a job that has taught me about empathy and cultural competence and even more about personal wellbeing. In the coming weeks, I’ll be attending the American Psychological Association national conference, starting my job as lab manager, and running participants for my study.
This year wouldn’t have been as memorable as it was without the Dedman community. From sharing laughs in the Dedman suite to taking the same classes to exploring Austin together, I’ve developed friendships that I know will last long after my undergraduate years. I have many, many thanks to give to Dr. Pikus for her patience and love during my most trying times, Julie for being the resilient woman I wish to one day become, Dr. Musick for his undying confidence in me, and the Dedman family for their support in my endeavors. The chaos that was sophomore year was definitely worth it, and I’m ready for the experiences, friendships, and joy junior year will bring.
Attempting to recap the past twelve months seems to be, at the very least, a daunting task, as so many of the changes I went through this year feel as if they could each constitute distinct versions of an ever changing “me.” To think that somehow, in this little block of time, so much growth could come from the roots of my own community is astonishing, and something I couldn’t be more grateful for.
In just this past year, what started as an idea for a poem in my Plan II Biology class has transformed into a newfound passion for science and healthcare. What used to be slight apprehension, has become a fascination for the many “poetic moments” of STEM, with cells that listen to each other, DNA that can remember love, and the possibility of saving another life by learning what it is to be human at both the smallest and largest scales. Now, working in medicine and scientific research is on the table for the first time, and learning to connect with the world down to the cellular level is becoming an increasingly integral part of who I am.
In that same block of time, I was able to expand my already passionate love for poetry into something I not only share with others, but a community whose work would ripple throughout Austin. With the help of amazing students in COLA and Dedman, I founded The Next Page, an organization focused on giving aspiring UT creative writers the stage to grow, crack their shells, and blossom so that all of Austin can share in their work. Now, small poetry workshops have led to a drive to connect with more young writers from multiple mediums, building initiatives to self-publication and public performances, and hosting our first ever Rooftop Poetry Slam!
Most recently, I took yet another turn in my winding educational journey; this time across the Atlantic! Thanks to the generosity of the President’s Award for Global Learning, and the brilliance of teammates like Eddie Bankston and William Cotton Hearne, we were able to travel to London to study the parallels and convergences in experiences of BIPOC and BAME student’s lives up to and through University. From sunrises before 4AM to editing sessions on Birmingham train rides to late nights exploring what it meant to live, struggle, and learn in a world we consider oceans apart from our own, the moments and lessons I shared have made the world feel like a door pushed open a little wider.
And now as I write this, each of those moments feel like they have sparkled and dwindled away into the past, yet somehow converged to build the stepping stone that is now going to be another year of college. I’m not entirely sure what other twists, turns, or downright 180’s I’ll face on the path to come, but with the support of my loved ones and my Dedman family, I’m certain it will lead upwards.
What an incredible sophomore year—filled with enriching academic and personal experiences. I’m writing this from Austin, where I’m completing an internship at Social Solutions, a Public Benefit Corporation that helps develop software for charities and governments. It encapsulates fully the main revelation of my sophomore year, a deep desire to remain closely connected to technology and its connection to public policy, a homage to my time competing in robotics in high school. This manifested itself in multiple ways, no clearer than in my course choices. I took some of the most incredible classes of my life, some like International Security taught me how war and conflict can be boiled down into mathematical equations, while others like Law and Ethics of Climate Change taught me the role technology will play in saving countless lives from the upcoming harms of warming.
Outside of the classroom, I continued to be an advocate for access to STEM Education. I was an undergraduate researcher at the IC2 Institute, where I helped conduct interviews to gather data about digital literacy services offered at rural libraries in Texas. In addition, I continued my lobbying project at the state capitol, meeting with lawmakers and preparing the necessary research needed to push forward a bill that can expand accessibility to STEM programs at high schools. And in the Spring Semester, thanks to the Academic Enrichment fund, I was able to mentor a high school robotics team, hopefully encouraging a few kids to continue in STEM.
On the forty acres, I continued to stay involved through my student organizations. I completed my first year of being a member of Genesis, an organization dedicated to helping startups on campus. As part of the organization, I helped organize cool events like the Call for Innovation, while helping run diligence on startups applying for funding. I also stayed involved with student government by running Leland and Isabel’s successful campaign for student body President and Vice President. They’re two individuals committed to making UT a more equitable and inclusive environment, one that tangibly improves the lives of those who it involves. I also played on a basketball intramural team, which gave a way to take a break from everything going on.
I can’t wait for next year—I’ll be a part of the Clements Center Undergraduate Fellows and the Brumley Scholars programs, giving me another avenue to explore the connection between technology and national security. I’m already on the lookout for opportunities to maximize my time left on campus and the resources afforded to me by the Dedman program, for which I’m so grateful for.