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Celebrating Our 2021 Graduates: Karla Aguilar

Karla Aguilar First Gen Longhorns Grad

Major: Plan II Honors/ Accounting

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Programs & Activities: First Gen Longhorns; Student Fellow, Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship; EY Accounting Ambassador; UT PALS

A life-long Longhorn…Growing up in Austin, Karla Aguilar often visited the Forty Acres to root for the Longhorns on game days. By the time she started looking at colleges, it just made sense to make UT Austin her top pick. “I’ve always been in the Longhorn mindset and knew UT would be a part of my future.”

Love at first class…Early into her undergraduate career, Aguilar set her sights on a rewarding yet challenging path in accounting. She soon enrolled in the McCombs School’s Integrated MPA program, a five-year program that allows students to earn both a BBA degree in accounting and an MPA degree.  “I just fell in love with it after taking my first accounting class taught by Professor Stephen Smith. He made accounting seem interesting and fun.”

The trip of a lifetime…Looking back at her time at UT Austin, Aguilar is especially fond of her memories from the 2018 study abroad trip to Cape Town, South Africa, an annual Maymester course within the DDCE’s Global Leadership and Social Impact (GLSI) program. “I came away from that trip with so many new perspectives—not just about the culture of South Africa but also about the students in my cohort. This was my first time in a class in which the majority of students were from underrepresented Hispanic and African American populations. I have never been in a community like that and it was interesting to hear their perspectives about certain problems and histories.”

Paying it forward…Inspired by her experiences in Cape Town, Aguilar joined the GLSI’s Global Student Fellows to motivate others—particularly underrepresented students of color—to travel the world. In addition to blogging about her travels, she attended outreach events at Austin-area middle schools as part of the DDCE’s 100 Passports program. “I didn’t think studying abroad was a possibility until I learned about the Cape Town program from my mentor in the First Gen Longhorns program. I want to help other people in similar situations to feel empowered to study abroad.”

Breaking down stereotypes…Aguilar has since studied abroad in Spain and her family’s home country of Mexico—and she has plenty more international visits to make after graduation. Back on campus, she shares her experiences with her fellow McCombs students at events and workshops. “I want to remove doubts from their minds about study abroad and also share some knowledge about what I’ve learned from my travels. When people think of Mexico, they often think of certain things like spicy foods, Mariachi and sombreros—or they think about what they’re taking in from the media and political rhetoric. These perceptions are not the reality of the people in Mexico. When you’re there, you’ll see the traditions are so rich and there’s so much passion in the Mexican pride.”