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Celebrating the Class of 2017: Mason Lanch

image of MasonMajor: Consulting and Change Management, McCombs School of Business

Activities and Programs: Bridging Disciplines, Texas Undergraduate Studies; Austin City Hall Fellows, Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence; Camp Texas; Texas Spirits

Game changer…Before embarking on her freshman year, Lanch had mixed feelings about coming to UT Austin since her heart was set on playing volleyball at a different university. But, as they say, life had other plans. “I lost my chance at a volleyball scholarship, so I wasn’t happy about my situation. That all changed when I went to Camp Texas. I loved being out there on the water and making new friends at camp. That experience really made me excited to be a Longhorn.”

Living to serve…Now Lanch is more than happy she came to UT Austin, where she took advantage of many programs that helped her discover her interest in community service. That interest soon turned into passion when she got involved in Austin City Hall Fellows, a one-year program that combines service-learning with community engagement.

New to the neighborhood…While working with community leaders, East Austin residents and other stakeholders, Lanch and her team set out to determine how to meet the needs of Rundberg residents. In partnership with the Housing Authority of Central Austin, the fellows conducted surveys in the neighborhood and presented their data to City Hall. “We saw how valuable data collection can be. Going into this project, we were expecting language barriers to be the biggest issue, but the residents were more concerned with transportation and internet access.”

Going the extra mile…Throughout the year, Lanch and her team chatted with residents and learned more about their backgrounds. She will never forget their stories, particularly one told by an 8-year-old girl who didn’t have access to a school bus and had to walk 20 minutes to and from school. That walking time doubled for her diabetic brother. “I’ve talked to a lot of residents and listened to a lot of stories, but that one will stick with me the most. It makes me think of all the privileges I have, and how much work that needs to be done to fix this transportation problem.”

Life after UT Austin…Now as Lanch prepares to leave the Forty Acres to embark on her new career as a health care consultant in Houston, she takes satisfaction in knowing that she made an impact in her city. “Through this project, we were actually making a difference. It’s really important to include this work into service learning because it causes us to focus less on our grades, and more on successfully completing the project and making a sustainable impact.”

Bridging the gap…As for the long-term future, Lanch plans to take her passion for community service to the next level. “I love the company I’m going to work for, but I plan to go back and get a master’s in public health or health care administration so I could translate my skills to a nonprofit that provides support for patients who can’t afford the treatment they need.”

Favorite UT memory…An avid runner, Lanch can often be seen at the Turtle Pond in the wee hours of the morning. “I love to stop there on my way back from a run and watch the turtles. Or sometimes I’ll just sit out there under the trees and relax. I love turtles – ask anyone I know and they’ll tell you!”

A word of advice…”It’s really important to prioritize school and work, but it’s equally important to know when to take a study break, and to also figure out an activity outside of school that makes you happy.”