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Celebrating the Fall Class of 2017

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We raise our horns to the Fall Class of 2017! In honor of our newly minted graduates, we’re spotlighting several inspiring Longhorns who faced a number of obstacles along their academic journey here on the Forty Acres. Read on to learn more about their undergraduate experiences and how they came into their own with help from programs and centers within the DDCE.

Mayte De Paz
Bilingual Education, College of Education

Image of mayte Programs and activities: McNair Scholars, Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE); Resident Advisor, Littlefield Residence Hall

Humble roots…Growing up on a farm in Trojes, Mexico, Mayte De Paz didn’t start attending school on a regular basis until she was 12 years old. Though she was far behind her classmates, she had an insatiable love of learning.

The journey begins…De Paz’s academic journey took a different course when her family moved to Dallas, where she began her freshman year of high school at age 17. Despite the language barrier, teachers noticed a spark in her that she didn’t yet see. “I’ll never forget when my biology teacher encouraged me to explore universities. I told him that I wanted to start working right away after high school and he said, ‘No. You can do more.’”

Where there’s a will there’s a way…Without her mother’s support, De Paz mapped out her college-bound path on her own. She later enrolled at El Centro Community College, where she diligently passed academic reading and writing competency courses and became involved in student government and the honor’s society. Her efforts were rewarded when she won the title of Student of the Year in 2013.

Dreams coming into focus…While preparing to transfer to a four-year university, De Paz didn’t believe she belonged at a top university like UT Austin. However, her mentor and surrogate big brother, Michael Roberson, was determined to make her Longhorn dreams a reality. “Michael told me, ‘You are on your way to college and you can’t go home until I come pick you up.’ We told each other that we would both attend each other’s graduation, and we both made good on that promise.”

UT or bust…Although she was proud of her accomplishments, she kept her medals and college paraphernalia hidden in her bedroom. When her little sister caught her holding a UT Austin poster, she was surprised by her response. “My sister said, ‘Every time you talk about UT your eyes water. Let’s put this poster on the door so you can look at it every day and find a way to get there.’”

Digging deep…Naturally gifted in math and science, De Paz was accepted in to the Cockrell School of Engineering in 2014. Though she was thrilled to be living out her dream, something was amiss. Her professor picked up on her uncertainty and called her in for a meeting. “She gave me an article about following your passions. When I asked her why, she told me to dig deep and figure out what I truly want to do.”

Switching paths…De Paz took her professor’s advice and thoroughly explored her options. She met with mentors and career counselors, weighed her pros and cons and realized that her heart is set on helping others—especially those who are struggling with language barriers. Now as she’s preparing to complete her certification exams, she’s more ready than ever to get started in the classroom.

Talking it out…After switching majors, De Paz was accepted into the McNair Scholars program, which works to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students into doctoral degree programs. One of the greatest benefits of the program, she says, was traveling to academic conferences and presenting her research. “Who would have thought I’d be presenting my research to scholars at national conferences? Those experiences really helped me gain confidence in my communication skills. I’m less scared about speaking in public and am more confident in my ability to effectively communicate with students and parents.”

Flying high…After a long, storied journey from the farm to the Forty Acres, De Paz’s eyes glisten when she recalls the moment she walked across the stage to receive her diploma. “Graduation was like a fairy tale. My mom, my aunt and family members from Mexico came and it was amazing to see them smiling back at me. As I was exiting the building, my mom gave me a hug and kiss. In that moment, I felt like I could fly.”

A word of advice…”Never give up. Have a dream and do not let it die. Keep it alive because at the end of the road you will find that light that will show you who you want to be in life.”

Jeramy Howell
Government, College of Liberal Arts

Image of Jeramy Howell Programs: Student Participant, Discover Law; Executive Board Member, UTransition; Student Associate,  Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE)

At a crossroads…Growing up in a small Northeast Texas town, Jeramy Howell never envisioned college in his future. After high school, he worked long hours as an air-conditioning technician and later explored a career as a first-responder with the local fire department. Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was lacking. “I just wasn’t happy. I realized I had some form of potential, but at that point I wasn’t so I had what it took to get into college.”

Planting the seed…Growing up in an unstable environment, Howell didn’t have the support he needed to prepare for a college. Plagued by self-doubt, the idea of going off to college seemed like a far-fetched fantasy. That was until a teacher recognized something in him that he didn’t see. “I had one teacher who told me I should go to college and get a doctorate.”

Raising the bar…His support system grew when he enrolled at Paris Junior College. Professors, advisors and mentors—including the junior college president—kept encouraging him to keep pushing past his self-imposed limits.  Motivated by her encouragement, he joined a number of academic teams, student government and the Phi Theta Kappa honors society. He was later honored with the Paris Junior College Distinguished Service Award.

Burnt orange bound…Howell’s burnt orange dreams soon became a reality when he accepted his Distinguished Service Award medal at a ceremony at the LBJ Library. The moment he set foot on campus, he knew deep down that it war right where he belonged. “I never dreamed I’d come to a top university like UT. I’ll never forget the day—April 20th to be exact—when I got my acceptance letter. It was one of the happiest days of my lie. When I walked up the steps leading to the Tower, I was in awe and cried out, ‘Look at this place! I get to go here!’”

New challenges ahead…Like many new Longhorns, Howell’s undergraduate journey was riddled with road bumps and detours. That familiar sense of self-doubt crept back in, obscuring the light at the end of the tunnel. Unwilling to give up, he enlisted help from mentors and advisers at the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE) and soon turned his grades—and his self-confidence—around. “The people at the LCAE gave me a lot of love and mentorship. They pushed me to realize that I’m not a failure, that I do belong here and that I can be a success.”

Finding his home-away-from-home…During his time on campus, Howell made the LCAE his second home. Surrounded by supportive friends, faculty and staff, he participated in student activities, study groups, tutoring sessions and more. He also took on administrative jobs at the center, adding more skills to his steadily-growing resume. “I cannot begin to express what LCAE and the DDCE has done for me. It’s been a phenomenal experience being around all of these amazing people.”

Life after UT Austin…Inspired by the many people who helped him in the LCAE, Howell wants to pay it forward by working in a similar environment where he can help students realize their full potential. Years from now, he envisions himself in a master’s program—perhaps on the path to a Ph.D.

On mental health…Now as Howell prepares for a career in student development, he wants to help erase the stigma of mental illness by sharing his experiences living with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder. In a recent Daily Texan op-ed, he opened up about his backstory, addressing the need for better access to mental health care.

A word of advice… “Be comfortable with failure, but do not let it define you. So many successful people who go on to do great things in this life failed several times. Failure gives you strength and makes you better prepared for the next challenge.” 

Dorian Chandler Maloy
Corporate Communications, Moody College of Communication; Pre-Pharmacy, College of Natural Sciences

Image of DorianPrograms: Secretary, Delta Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc; Student Leader,  Black Student Alliance, the Big XII Council on Black Student Government; New Black Student Weekend, Multicultural Engagement Center

Growing pains…”The biggest challenge I faced at UT was adapting to such large classrooms. I am from a small town and small high school so classes of 200-plus were difficult for me.”

Memories to last a lifetime… “My favorite memory at UT would be competing in the Miss Black University of Texas Pageant and being initiated into Delta Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.”

Life after UT…In fall 2018, Maloy plans to take her interest in medicine to the next level by attending the College of Pharmacy at the University of North Texas. “I have always had a love for the health industry and medicine fascinates me. I am passionate about communication because I believe it is vital for all aspects of life.”

A word of advice…”The best piece of advice I have for incoming freshman is to get involved and get out of the comfort zone!”

Alex Tio Suryapranata
Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering

Programs: Director of Leadership Development, Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective; Student Member, Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, Multicultural Engagement Center

Lifelong lessons…Of all the lessons, Suryapranato learned at UT Austin, the most important grain of wisdom came from his experiences working alongside his fellow students at the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC). “I learned I wasn’t alone in my struggles. In high school I was so stressed out and had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Here, I found that a lot of other students are dealing with similar struggles and that there is a support network out there.”

Breaking the model minority myth… One particular struggle, he notes, is the stereotype that Asian Americans are model students with natural talents in STEM fields. “The ‘Model Minority’ myth is heavily felt among a lot of Asian Americans, especially the ones I’ve met here at UT. They feel that they have to do well in school and pursue a career that could bring honor to the family. I know a lot of people who didn’t get support they wish they had.”

A home-away-from-home…Overwhelmed by the size of the campus, Suryapranato immediately searched for a student group that would give him a sense of community. When he discovered the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective (APAC), a student agency within the MEC, he knew he found his home-away-from home. “APAC opened its doors to me and made me feel at home. They supported me throughout my time on campus and helped me grow as a leader.”

Learning as he goes…Not long after joining APAC, Suryapranato was asked to become the leadership director of the Asian American Leadership Institute, a six-week program offered in the fall semester that helps students explore their sense of identity and leadership skills. Despite his self-doubts, he accepted the challenge. “I didn’t think I could do this job because I didn’t have any leadership experience, but they supported me throughout the program and helped me see that I can grow as a leader.”

The future is bright…While working with students in APAC, Suryapranato realized his heart is set on teaching. As for life after college, that all remains to be seen until this summer when the Fulbright Scholarship recipients will be announced. As a Fulbright Scholar, he would have the opportunity to teach English in South Korea, his mother’s homeland.

A world of opportunities…Suryapranato discovered his love for travel after studying abroad last semester in South Korea. Since then he has marked some spots on the map where he plans to live and work in the years to come. “I learned a lot about myself while being in another country. Learning another language opened up my mind to other pursuits.”