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Celebrating Our 2021 Graduates: Caroline Graves

Caroline Graves disability graduation 2021

Majors: Government, College of Liberal Arts/Public Relations, Moody College of Communication 

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Programs & Activities: Disability Advocacy Student Coalition, President  (2018-19), Treasurer (2019-20), Recruitment Chair (2017-18); Student Government, Disability Inclusion Agency, Co-Director; Texas Orange Jackets; Orientation Advisor

Burnt orange-bound…Growing up in Austin, Caroline Graves envisioned herself attending school somewhere far away from the Lonestar State. Yet after much deliberation, UT Austin proved to be the best option. “I bought into the perception that I’d experience the most growth if I attended a school on the west or east coast. I first came here a little begrudgingly but grew to love UT and can’t even imagine going anywhere else.”

Sources of support…Early into her undergraduate experience, Graves became involved in student groups including the Disability Advocacy Student Coalition (DASC), a student-run organization that champions disability awareness and advocacy efforts on campus and in the community. She also found a great source of support within Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). “DASC is a great group of people who are passionate about their work and understand what it’s like to have a disability at UT. As a fifth-year senior, I saw the org grow and change over the years, and it is still a big source of support for me.”

A home away from home…Graves is also grateful for the supportive staff at her residence hall San Jacinto Residence Hall, where she called home during her entire five years on campus. I greatly appreciate the supportive staff at San Jacinto because they made sure my life at UT was comfortable and accessible.”

Amplifying students’ voices…While serving as a representative for the UT Student Government’s Disability and Inclusion Agency, Graves spearheaded a number of campaigns including a poster project—which is currently a work in progress—that tells the story of UT’s disability community through photos and brief human interest pieces. “The poster project is one of my biggest accomplishments. It taught me the power of students’ voices and advocating for what we need on campus to be successful.”

Leaving her mark…Graves also elevated disability awareness by leading several campus events with DASC including the annual Dinner in the Dark and the newly created Disability Fest.  “I am very proud of how the executive board brought this event into fruition. We partnered with different community and campus organizations, such as NAMI, Best Buddies and UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, to give people a different perspective of what it means to navigate life with a disability.”

A Longhorn for life…Looking back at her memories on campus, Graves is especially fond of partaking in the time-honored tradition of representing her burnt orange pride at the Saturday night football games. “I wasn’t a football fan until I got hooked at a UT-Notre Dame game. I really enjoyed the game day excitement and crossing the street from my dorm to the stadium with my friends.”

Goodbye, UT. Hello, Google…This fall, Graves will say goodbye to her hometown as she sets forth on her career as an ad support strategist at the Google office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This will  be a big, bold career move, but she believes the leadership experience she gained in DASC and Student Government will serve her well. “I’ve never been to Michigan—and this will be my first time living and working outside of Texas—so I am very excited about this next new chapter of my life.”

Advice for future Longhorns… “if you need a community with students with disabilities, you can find one at UT—and SSD is there to help with accommodations. When COVID hit and the campus shut down, I found that it is so important to have a community to reach out to when times get tough, so please don’t be discouraged to seek connections with supportive people.”