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Celebrating Our Spring ’23 Graduates

Five outstanding graduates reflect on their experiences at UT and share plans for the future
Collage of 5 spring 23 graduates
Reporting and photography by Abbie Bard

With Spring Commencement right around the corner, we caught up with five outstanding Longhorns who have made the most of their experiences here on the Forty Acres and are planning bright futures ahead. We look forward to celebrating all our graduating Longhorns at the 140th university-wide commencement ceremony on May 6!

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Tisa Umeshkumar Gandhi

    • B.A., Health and Society, College of Liberal Arts
    • Pre-Health Professions Certificate
    • First-Gen Equity Graduate
    • GraduAsian Graduate & Keynote Speaker
    • Hometown: Born in Los Angeles, California; Raised in Waco, Texas

Benefits of Joining the First-Gen Equity Program

I could not even list all of the ways I have benefited from the First-Gen Equity program. This program has supported me throughout my journey, helping me make valuable connections and gain so many real world skills. I could not be more fortunate to have been given the opportunity to join such a strong community where I feel connected and have a real sense of belonging. It reminds me of home.

Best Thing About Being a Longhorn
Here at UT, I’ve learned how to express myself and show who I really am without feeling afraid. This is a very inclusive campus, and I haven’t been graced with that type of environment before. I’ve really enjoyed it here, and I’ve learned that there’s so much more for me to learn, which is exciting to me.

Greatest Achievement at UT
I’m most proud of graduating early and debt free!

Post-Graduation Plans

After graduation, I plan on returning to Waco and giving back to the community. I will be working in a federally funded program called Upward Bound that helps kids who—like myself—come from low-income, minority backgrounds. In the long term, I plan on focusing on business executive leadership, and consulting with the goal of helping my parents expand their hospitality business.

Favorite UT Memory

My favorite memories all took place in the SSB building, where we held a lot of first-gen events. It’s where I found my community and spent time with my friends.

Favorite Spot on Campus
I’ve spent the majority of my last three years on the third floor of the SSB Building. That’s where I go to work, study and hang out with friends. It’s the place on campus where I feel the most comfortable.

Best Advice for New Longhorns
My best advice is to reach out. Truly, if you are experiencing any type of challenges—from figuring out your sexual orientation to navigating housing and dining or even college finances and scholarships—just reach out. Anyone at First-Gen Equity would love to be of assistance and provide a safe space because we all have gone through it. Our goal is to help you succeed by tackling any obstacles you might be experiencing along the way. It is a beautiful journey and we can’t let ourselves or others get in the way of enjoying it.

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Sidney Garner

    • M.A, Media Studies, Radio-Television-Film, Moody College of Communication
    • Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Benefits of Joining the Gender & Sexuality Center (GSC)
I really enjoyed my part-time job at the GSC, where I have been working on implementing new tagging systems for books within the Ana Sisnett Library. With our revamped system, it’s easier to search for different topics within individual books that weren’t captured in the library’s different collections. The entire project has been a big learning experience that has helped me discover the type of work that I enjoy doing.

Post-Graduation Plans
I plan to look for job opportunities either here in Austin or back home in Kentucky. In the long-term future, I may consider going back to school to get my Ph.D.

Favorite Spot on Campus
It would have to be the Student Activity Center (SAC), where I work in the GSC. I also love walking past the turtle pond on my way to the SAC.

Best Advice for New Longhorns
Find communities you’re a part of.  College life is so much more enjoyable when you’re able to find community with people you can connect with.

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Alejandro Perez

    • B.S.A., Neuroscience, College of Natural Sciences
    • Business of Healthcare Certificate
    • Spanish for Medical Professions Certificate
    • Hometown: Corpus Christi, Texas

The Benefits of Joining Project MALES
I really enjoyed participating in Project MALES, not only because it helped me work on my social skills, but it also connected me with leaders who represent the underserved community in education.

Greatest Achievement at UT
I’m most proud of getting accepted into medical school at Sam Houston State University-COM, and also getting through school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post-Graduation Plans
Once I graduate, I plan to attend a medical school in Texas and find myself in a residency where I can help out the community. I come from a rural area of Oaxaca, Mexico, where there is a need for physicians. Here in the U.S., there are more resources, but still there’s a shortage of physicians in minority and rural communities and a very low percentage of Hispanic doctors in general. This is one of the reasons why I chose to pursue medical school.

Favorite UT Memory
It was really impactful showcasing my culture and community at the Hispanic Business Association’s Dia de Lost Muertos Festival back in 2019. That’s definitely one of my most favorite UT memories.

Favorite Spot on Campus
I like going to the PCL because it gets me in the mindset to get things done. I also really love the turtle pond because it’s a great spot to take a break and relax.

Best Advice for New Longhorns
If you pursue what you love, you’ll get more out of UT. If you follow your dreams and your passions, life will never be dull. And if you’re planning on going to medical school, apply early. Your chances of getting accepted will be much greater, which is something I wasn’t aware of ahead of time.

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Haley Thomas

    • B.F.A, Dance Studies, College of Fine Arts
    • Lavender Graduation Graduate
    • Hometown: Grapevine, Texas

Walking the Stage  
I’m excited about walking the stage at Lavender Graduation with my partner and seeing all the speakers who are a part of the alumni community.

Favorite Spot on Campus
My favorite spot would have to be this area near the Winship building that has a staircase that leads to this platform where I like to do some improv dancing.

Post-Graduation Plans
After graduation, I plan on staying in Austin and teach dancing. Later in the future, I’d like to become a head director for a drill team. Austin has such a great, competitive dance community, so this is where I’d like to start my career.

Best Advice for New Longhorns
If you don’t like your major, change it as soon as possible. Also, don’t overwhelm yourself by joining too many extracurriculars. Attending and participating in class is what makes the college experience. If you find yourself wanting more, check first to make sure you’re doing the college part right.

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Anthony Williams

    • B.B.A, Marketing, McCombs School of Business
    • Black Graduation Graduate
    • Hometown: Houston, Texas

Benefits of Joining the Sweatt Center for Black Males
The Sweatt Center changed who I am as a man completely. At first, I thought it was corny and didn’t want anything to do with it. But they never gave up on me and eventually I came around. They always followed up with me, even during the pandemic, and I will always be grateful for their help. The Sweatt Center helped me get my first marketing internship with a music artist called D1. They also took me abroad to Ghana, Africa and Abu Dhabi/Dubai.

Best Thing About Being a Longhorn
The opportunities at UT are amazing. Where I come from, there aren’t very many people reaching out to provide me with opportunities. UT just provides you with all these avenues to take, and there’s so many I’m still learning about.

Greatest Achievement at UT
My greatest achievement was turning my college career around. When I first got here, I went on academic probation and almost got put out of school. But when I joined the Sweatt Center, my life was forever changed. They kept reaching out and helping me get back on the right path. Now I’m a senior getting ready to graduate, which is pretty cool.

Post-Graduation Plans
I’m going straight into the marketing workforce, specifically in the entertainment industry. My internship put me on this path, and I’m really excited to do this work, particularly in the anime realm. I already have a license as an LLC for an entertainment company that produces print and digital content for video games and anime. One day, I’d like to turn this company into something as big as Disney.

Favorite UT Memory
I will never forget going to the LSU game with my friends. There was no order to it, and everyone was bum-rushing their way in. I also enjoyed the halftime show when the lights  were turned off and everyone listened to the music while waving flashlights.

Favorite Spot on Campus
The fourth floor of the PCL is where I like to study by myself. I can’t focus with noise, so this was where I was able to get a lot of work done. Also, the WCP building is where I would hang out and talk it up with my friends and chill.

Best Advice for New Longhorns
Find the right group of people. Find people—friends, mentors, faculty—who won’t let you go down the wrong path and will always look after your best interest. And don’t give up. Days get better as they go. Some days feel like too much, but just keep going.