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Education: UT Austin Class of 2015
Major: Bachelor of Science, Computer Engineering
Current Occupation: Software Maintenance Engineer, Schneider Electric
Hometown: Greenville, Mississippi
The first of his family to graduate from high school and attend college, Michael Booker faced his share of obstacles. “My parents couldn’t afford to bring me to UT Austin themselves, so I took a Greyhound—it took 20 hours. It happened to be my birthday, so I turned 19 on the bus,” Booker recalls.
The journey paid off—Booker thrived at the university, taking part in various programs that helped him succeed. The Gateway Scholars Program in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement helped guide him. “The Gateway Scholars, the people, the staff, have been like family here to me,” he said. He also became an active member of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program, presenting his research on predicting the interests of social network users at a conference at University of California – Berkeley. Booker is now a proud Longhorn alumnus and works as a software maintenance engineer at the international firm Schneider Electric.
Education: UT Austin Class of 2020
Major: Electrical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Alexis Blackman has called herself a Longhorn since she was a kindergartner on a new campus with a promising name: the University of Texas Elementary School. Now it’s official. Having earned a full scholarship from the University Co-op, she is fulfilling her dream to be the first UT Elementary student to attend “Big UT.”
From UT Elementary, Blackman went on to Austin’s Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders and then Crockett High School, where she earned numerous awards, including one for remaining in the top 10 percent of her class every year she was there. She attributes her success to the solid foundation UT Elementary gave her. At UT, Blackman has chosen to major in electrical engineering, which she first became interested in as a fifth grader. Her desire for a career in the computer industry is rooted not just in her early exposure to science but also in the philanthropic values that UT Elementary instills in its young learners.
“One major career goal of mine is to develop hardware and software that will be cheaper, so that low-income families like mine will have access to a computer and the internet,” she says. “Especially since education is shifting online at all levels, not having a computer in your home is a disadvantage on top of being low-income.”
Education: UT Austin Class of 2015
Major: Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering
Current Occupation: Ph.D. Student in Civil Engineering at the University of California – Berkeley
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Aqshems Nichols graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil in Engineering in December 2015. During his time at UT, he participated in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program, which prepares underrepresented students of color to pursue graduate level education.
In meetings with his McNair academic advisor, Nichols was not shy about stating his big goals for the future, which include winning a Nobel Prize and successfully running as President of the United States. He first learned of the McNair Scholars program by accident when he met a McNair advisor at a city bus stop. Upon learning that the program’s application deadline was that same day, he was able to successfully complete his application and submit four faculty recommendation letters by the deadline. His tenacity and grit led him to easily assume a leadership role among his McNair Scholars cohort. Nicholas is currently in the first year of a Ph.D. program in Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley.
Education: UT Austin Class of 2014
Major: Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering
Current Occupation: Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech/Emory University
Hometown: Laredo, Texas
During Elda Treviño’s time at UT Austin, she participated in the Longhorn Link and Ronald E. McNair Scholars programs and worked as a STEM tutor in the DDCE’s Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence. Her academic ability was demonstrated not only by an impressive GPA in her major, but also by the many presentations and publications she co-authored as an undergraduate and single mother.
Treviño had two mentors at UT Austin: Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Dr. Laura Suggs and McNair Scholars Advisor Dr. James Brown. “McNair Scholars had its own standards,” said Treviño, “but I felt like Dr. Brown held us to higher standards.” He inspired her to apply to more doctoral programs and fellowship opportunities than she had planned. Now as a National Science Foundation fellow and Ford Foundation fellow, she uses the funds to pay her tuition and living expenses as a doctoral candidate in a joint Biomedical Engineering program at Georgia Tech and Emory University in Atlanta. She is now in her third year of graduate school, and is still following the challenging trajectory she embarked on as an undergraduate at UT Austin.
Education: UT Austin Class of 2017
Major: Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
Activities: Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate School Internship Program; Bridging Disciplines Program, School of Undergraduate Studies; and student research assistant in the Child Development in Context Laboratory, Department of Psychology.
College bound … With help from her mentors in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program, Martinez learned everything she needed to know about how to get into graduate school—and how to pursue a career that matches her interests and passions. She is proud to be the second in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree and—in a few years—a PhD.
Acclimating to the Forty Acres…At the start of her freshmen year, she became involved in several organizations that helped her acclimate to a large university. “Working in the Child Development in Context Laboratory for the past four years has definitely helped me be more self-confidant. Now people are asking me how to do things in the lab—that’s pretty cool.”
Bright lights, big city… After graduating, she is heading to New York for a couple of years to work as a full-time research assistant with a researcher who specializes in autism. As for the distant future, she envisions herself attending graduate school and working in the field of developmental psychopathology.
A word of advice … “Just be proactive. There’s nothing that I regret about joining these programs. They really helped me get to where I am. Making your own little community within this much bigger community will help you feel at home.”
Education: UT Austin Class of 2016
Major: Bachelor of Arts, Government
Current Occupation: Graduate Student, Higher Education Administration, University of Pennsylvania
Hometown: Mont Belvieu, TX
Activities: Gateway Scholars, Maymester in Beijing, Summer Bridge, LCCE-Austin City Hall Fellows, Kuhn Scholars, Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate School Internship Program
Prepped for success…Inspired by her team of advisors and mentors in the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE), Caudle wants to launch her own academic success programs for college students. Based on her own experiences, she knows that these programs really make a difference for students like herself who will be the first in their families to earn a college degree. “I’m very interested in student success initiatives. When I joined Summer Bridge as a freshman, I formed strong bonds with some wonderful people in the LCAE who have guided me throughout my college career.”
A trip to remember…As a Gateway Scholar, Caudle embarked on her first overseas adventure. After making a stop in Dubai, she spent a month in Beijing where she studied China’s social entrepreneurial landscape. “It was a very transformative trip. My experiences working with migrant children at the Dandelion School solidified my decision to work in the education system.”
A glimpse into the future…While working with her professors and mentors, Caudle gained confidence in her ability to create and implement academic programming. Of all the role models she encountered, she is most inspired by Dr. Suchitra Gururaj, who leads several service learning programs within the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement. “Dr. Gururaj showed me what it’s like to be a woman in this profession. She helped me trust the process, meaning trust the people you’ll be serving will trust you.”
Horsing around…In addition to her academic accomplishments Caudle is a world champion equestrian. Growing up on a horse farm in Mont Belvieu, she polished her skills in horse showmanship and worked with livestock in the Future Farmers of America program. Although she could’ve pursued a career in the equestrian world, she’s happy she took the college route and discovered her niche in higher education.
Life after college…Caudle is currently pursuing her graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Whether or not she’ll set down roots in her new home, that remains to be seen. What matters is that she finds fulfillment in her career. “Someone once told me that it doesn’t matter where you live if you’re pursuing your passions. As long as my work is rewarding and I’m making a difference for myself and others, I can live just about anywhere.”
The Future is Bright for Neighborhood Longhorns Alum
Every student—no matter their economic standing—can fulfill their dreams of going to college. That’s one of the many important life lessons Jamal Green learned at a very young age in the Neighborhood Longhorns Program.
Looking back at his early beginnings on the Forty Acres, Green fondly recalls roaming around campus with his fellow Neighborhood Longhorns and learning about the many aspects of student life. Housed within the Longhorn Center for School Partnerships, the program has helped thousands of economically disadvantaged students (grades 2-8) in schools across Austin find their path to college. “If you’re a young kid, the Neighborhood Longhorns really helps you put college into perspective,” says Green, a senior majoring in sociology. “It’s a great program for a lot of kids who don’t really have aspirations for going to college.”
Now as he enters his senior year, he continues to take advantage of several student success programs within the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, including the Gateway Scholars program in the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE). Since he was a freshman, Green has benefitted from a host of services within the LCAE—from free tutoring to signature courses to academic advising. “If you’re considering the Gateway Scholars program, I suggest going for it,” Green says. “They help you out with every aspect of college even beyond your freshman year. I really appreciated the faculty and staff. Dr. Moore’s class Race in the Age of Obama was amazing. It really opened my mind to different ideas and made me think critically about certain things that I really didn’t pay much attention to before entering college.”
As for life after graduation, that is yet to be determined. Whether he’s making a positive impact at a nonprofit, or going back to grad school to study ethnography, he’s not entirely certain about where he’ll be two years down the road. The future is wide open and full of possibilities, another valuable piece of wisdom he gained as a Neighborhood Longhorn.