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College of Liberal Arts



2013 Dean’s Distinguished Graduates The College of Liberal Arts would like to welcome our newest DDGs to the Dean’s Distinguished Graduates Alumni Association! Each year the College honors 12 graduating seniors with the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Award for their leadership, scholarly achievements, and service to the community. This year’s students were honored in May at a private luncheon where previous DDG, Mark Levy, was the keynote speaker, as well as at the College of Liberal Arts spring commencement ceremony. The 2013 Dean’s Distinguished Graduates, pictured above with Dean Diehl from left to right, are: Bottom row: Katherine Kling (Anthropology and Plan II Honors); Margaret “Katie” Sayre (Anthropology Honors and French); Katelin McCullough (Classical Archaeology Honors and Anthropology); Tammy Tran (Psychology Honors); Ben Weiss (Humanities Honors and Government) Top row: Travis Knoll (Latin American Studies Honors); Joshua Fjelstul (Government Honors, History, and Business Administration Honors); Samuel Rhea (Plan II Honors); Margaret (Maggie) Gunn (English Honors and Plan II Honors); Alyssa Davis (Plan II Honors and Sociology); Travis Alexander (English Honors and Plan II Honors); Affonso Reis (Economics Honors and Mathematics)


Summer 2013



Margaret “Maggie” Gunn

English Honors and Plan II Honors Program

English Honors and Plan II Honors Program

Born in San Antonio, Travis moved to Austin to study Plan II and English at UT Austin. He holds research interests – broadly conceived – in portrayals of Los Angeles in text and film, cold war era domestic culture, and the taxonomy of twentieth-century AngloAmerican subcultures. He hopes to write about these, as his audience of friends willing to listen continues to diminish.

Maggie studied in the Plan II, English honors, and UTeach Liberal Arts programs. Since discovering her calling to teach language arts in high-need schools, she has dedicated her academic and extracurricular time to researching and addressing educational inequity. Her research culminated in a thesis paper on teaching racially sensitive material in secondary schools.

Alyssa Davis

Katherine Kling

Plan II Honors Program and Sociology

Anthropology and Plan II Honors Program

Alyssa is a Plan II honors and sociology student with an interest in public policy. She studied in Washington, D.C., as an Archer Fellow and interned in the U.S. Senate. Alyssa is a member of Orange Jackets, the Friar Society, and was named a Rapoport Service Scholar and finalist for the Truman Scholarship.

Katherine, a Plan II and anthropology major from Houston, is passionate about primate conservation and plans to continue work on this issue in graduate school. Katherine completed her thesis on primate conversation education this spring and has served as a primate research assistant in Madagascar. When she isn’t studying primates, Katherine enjoys acting with The Broccoli Project, Plan II’s theater group.

Joshua Fjelstul

Travis Knoll

Government Honors, History, and Business Honors Program

Latin American Studies Honors

Josh is a business administration, government, and history student with an honors thesis on accession conditionality and legal compliance in the European Union. Josh studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh and is the recipient of the prestigious Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship. Josh is the policy director of the Senate of College Councils and the copolicy director of the Invest in Texas campaign. After graduation, Josh will pursue a Ph.D. in political science.

Adopted at six years old by a gay father, Travis, a self-identifying Cherokee, pursued Latin American Studies and wrote his thesis on the relationship between gender, film, and history. Travis has lived in Argentina and Brazil. Due to his background, Travis writes on gay parenting and Native American/ European dialogue.


Margaret “Katie” Sayre

Classical Archaeology Honors and Anthropology

Anthropology Honors and French

Originally from Canada, Katelin has studied abroad in Belize and Italy, participated in the IE PreGraduate School Internship, and is active in Eta Sigma Phi. Her thesis examined commercial connections among provincial Roman elites through material culture. She plans on attending graduate school for classical archaeology in fall 2013.

Katie is an anthropology honors and French major from Houston. Katie was a coxswain for the UT Women’s Rowing Team, participated in research in Ethiopia and Wyoming, and studied abroad in France. In addition to conducting her own research for her thesis in physical anthropology, Katie has been actively involved with educating children about science. After graduation, Katie will teach English in China before pursuing graduate studies in paleoanthropology and human biomechanics.

Affonso Reis

Tammy Tran

Economics Honors and Mathematics

Psychology Honors

Affonso was born in Proto Alegre, Brazil, in 1991. He started college at 16 at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and transferred to The University of Texas at Austin in spring 2011. At UT Austin, Affonso has engaged in research in the fields of economics and mathematics, focusing on the applications of network science and complex systems to economic problems. He enjoys reading about economics, learning foreign languages, and traveling the world.

Tammy is a Los Angeles native interested in the cognitive development and neuronal processes underlying episodic memory. As a member of the Children’s Research Lab and the Preston Lab, she has examined linguistic development in children and conducted an honors thesis examining interactions between past and present memories. After graduation, she hopes continue on to graduate school in cognitive neuroscience.

Samuel Rhea

Ben Weiss

Plan II Honors Program

Humanities Honors and Government

Samuel is graduating with a Plan II Honors degree at The University of Texas at Austin. Born and raised in Austin, he serves on the Board of the Neighborhood Longhorns Program and is a member of the Friar Society. Sam works for a healthcare investment group, and will join them full-time upon graduation.

Ben is a senior honors student. He is triple majoring in history, government, and the self-designed humanities major of African development studies. His academic interests involve the early history and political economy of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. His post-graduate plans include pursuing a Ph.D. in African history.


Mark Levy, DDG, 1998 Mark Levey recently joined us as the keynote speaker at our 2013 Dean’s Distinguished Graduates luncheon, where we recognize and celebrate our most recent Dean’s Distinguished Graduates. Please read below to learn more about what Mark has been up to since leaving the Forty Acres and see the opposite page to read Mark’s responses to our favorite questions.

BIOGRAPHY Mark Levy graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1998 with with a B.A. in the Plan II Honors Program and Spanish, with Special Honors in both. He was also designated a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate and received high honors and Phi Beta Kappa. He then graduated from the School of Law in 2001. He was born and raised in Dallas, but he has lived in Austin since the day he moved into his freshman dorm. Mark was active in a variety of undergraduate organizations, such as the community service-focused Good Society and the Plan II Students Association. He also served as the coordinator of the peer advisor program for Plan II freshmen. While in law school, he was active in the Public Interest Law Association and chaired its annual conference, and served as an attorney ad litem in clinics that assisted victims of domestic violence and child abuse. As an advocate of public service, Mark has worked for the Office of the Attorney General since 2002 and finds his work more rewarding and more enjoyable each year. He began at the OAG representing various state agencies, before joining the Antitrust Division in 2004. Since then, Mark has worked to enforce competition laws to ensure that markets remain free from monopolies and conspiracies among competitors. Mark has worked on cases in a variety of industries, ranging from construction aggregate conspiracies, to hospital mergers, to memory chip monopolization schemes. He also organizes the Division’s internship program for undergraduates and law students interested in antitrust law or public service. Mark is active in the Austin community and has served on the boards of Camp Fire and Open Door Preschool. He is married to another double-Longhorn and has a son in kindergarten, who already has the makings of a better lawyer than his father. Mark enjoys woodworking, running, and watching war movies after his wife falls asleep. If you ever need anything, you can find him most weekend mornings at Tacodeli.

Pictured with Samuel Rhea and Dean Randy Diehl

DDG ALUMNI PROFILE What was your first job after graduation? What lesson did you learn on that job that you keep with you today? I attended UT-Law after graduation, and my first (and only) job has been with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Soon after starting, I learned that even when you have the law and logic on your side, you can often settle a dispute more effectively by simply being compassionate. A few of my early cases had clear facts that aligned with the law in a way that should make the cases cut-and-dry, but the defendant was inclined to dispute them because of feeling misunderstood. I found that by taking time to listen attentively to their stories and being respectful of their situation, I could often resolve cases more quickly and successfully than anticipated. 

Who or what was the biggest influence in your career? For the past decade, I have worked with Tommy Prud’homme (UT ‘85). His natural combination of tenacity, intellectual curiosity, and integrity have shaped his legal career and leadership, and I consider his combined focus on the legal efficacy of arguments and the ethical way of achieving our goals to be a model for how I want to build my legal career.

What’s the best advice you didn’t take? To spend a semester abroad. In retrospect, I wish that I’d taken advantage of that opportunity when I had it. Now, as a father and government employee, that would be called “abandoning my family” or “Why haven’t

you been showing up to work for the last 4 months?” It wasn’t a completely inadvisable decision to stay at UT, however, as I was able to take an extra semester of interesting coursework and learn from my professors and classmates here.

What kinds of life/personal experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field? If you have an interest in a public interest or public service career, then I’d suggest interning with agencies or organizations where you think you’d get the best exposure to the sort of work or the type of issues that interest you. Legal aid offices, nonprofits, and government agencies are usually understaffed and very appreciative of an intern’s time and efforts. You’ll meet people in the field, learn more about the real work they do, and learn if it’s right for you. Also, get a liberal arts degree: nothing prepares you better to face the twists and turns that most professional careers take.

Why did you decide to attend UT? I used to give this answer every Friday to high schoolers and their families visiting Plan II when I was the head of the peer advising program, so I’m practiced at it: I loved the chance to be at a major university with a diverse student body, broad course selection, and numerous opportunities for student involvement, but with the small and engaged classroom experience of the Plan II Honors Program. I’ve made few better decisions in my life.

What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contribute most to success? It is crucial to believe in what you do, and that your work be important to you. Most weeks, you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, and it is important to feel that those hours are a part of your life and the things you value so you don’t feel like you’re compromising who you are or the things you value while you are focusing on being good at your job.

AN INSIDE LOOK AT OUR 2013 DDGS Travis Knoll Enrolled in the nation’s best Latin Americana studies program, Travis Knoll is a graduating senior currently working on his thesis that discusses the underlying ideological forces behind dictatorships and other authoritarian structures in Latin America. As he pursues his master’s degree, Knoll will focus on Argentina and Brazil, and has already been accepted to attend a political science conference in Argentina. However, his ambitions don’t stop there. In order to develop the broad themes that he is working on, Knoll smiled and said, “I’ll have to force myself to get outside of my two countries.” Knoll has enterprising plans to compose a Fulbright proposal to fund his extensive research, so while academia is a desired path, Knoll is also considering a career in either a non-profit organization or the highly esteemed Foreign Service. Inquisitive and thoughtful, Knoll went on to discuss the struggle of maintaining American interests and values abroad while reconciling with one’s personal beliefs. “There are a lot of questions that take internal reflection”, Knoll said. “It’s a journey.” Knoll currently works as an intern for the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice; his experience in the organization continues to intensify his passion for his work in Latin America as he questions power structures and the consequences of patriarchy. In the meantime, Knoll also writes fro the Daily Texan, an endeavor that Knoll justified by saying, “Academia isn’t just for the tower. It’s also that other people can understand. Ideas should be shared.”

Ben Weiss History, government and humanities major Ben Weiss has proven himself as not only a scholar, but a true humanitarian as well. With plans to pursue a Ph.D. in African history, Weiss will graduate after completing his thesis regarding methods of the procurement of antiretroviral medication to treat HIV in several African countries and the related intellectual property law and policies. While capable in the classroom, Weiss also enjoys being hands on in his work. “I would love to be in the field,” he stated. “I’ve been back and forth to Africa a couple of times, and I adore Botswana and would love to live there.” As a prominent member of the Graduate Africanist Organization and the former president of the White Rose Society (a Holocaust remembrance and anti-genocide activist group), Weiss’ passion for human justice stemmed from his experiences as a debater throughout high school. “It was my first exposure to human rights and political oppression outside the U.S.”, Weiss said as he recalled doing yearlong research on U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Weiss aims to become a political consultant, believing that many of the people making policies do not have and adequate understanding of the historical situation in African countries to solve the problem in those areas. “Understanding the historical context is really critical to having effective policy on dealing with HIV”, Weiss remarked before firmly adding, “Your education should be valuable because you are intellectually stimulated by it and because it’s important to you – not because it gets you the best paycheck.” Features by: Elie Wu Photos by: Madhu Singh

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2012-13 YEAR 2012 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards Eight faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts received the 2012 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, the UT System Board of Regents’ highest teaching honor, which recognizes extraordinary educators from system institutions. The 2012 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award recipients from the College of Liberal Arts are: Douglas Bruster, Department of English Luis E. Cárcamo-Huechante, Department of Spanish and Portuguese George S. Christian, Department of English Antonella Del Fattore-Olson, Department of French and Italian Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Department of Sociology James D. Garrison, Department of English Beili Liu, Center for Asian American Studies Michael B. Stoff, Department of History

New Liberal Arts Building The College of Liberal Arts Building, prominently located near the East Mall Fountain, is an impressive example of sustainable architecture and innovative fundraising. The work that takes place within its walls will impact not only the college, but also the university and society for generations to come. “This is our shot at greatness,” says Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “This building ensures that we have the space we need to teach our students, promote world-class research, and foster the collaboration and intellectual give-and-take that is vital to a great university.”

Liberal Arts Introduces 10-Month Master of Economics A new 10-month master’s degree program offered by the Department of Economics will provide a rigorous curriculum and quantitative training to those seeking more economic expertise in a variety of fields. The first cohort will be admitted for the 2013-14 academic year, with classes beginning in July 2013. The program is ideal for students who want to qualify for jobs in the private or government sector; study analytical and statistical tools at a graduate level; obtain a background in economics and mathematics required to gain admission to a highquality economics Ph.D. program; or study economics as a complementary field to another area of expertise.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Do you follow us on Facebook?

Just log into Facebook and search “DDG Alumni” to find us and keep in touch with other DDGs.

Have you been showcased in an article or have news to share?

If so, we’d love to share that on our Facebook page and keep you in mind for future newsletter articles. Just email Carmen Hoffman at

Do you have ideas for ways to keep in touch?

We are considering ways for DDG alumni to get involved in projects like student mentoring, scholarships, and events to bring our community together. If you are interested in helping with a project, please email Carmen Hoffman at

College of Liberal Arts Office of Student Affairs The University of Texas at Austin 116 Inner Campus Drive, Stop G6100 Austin, TX 78712-1258

DDG Summer 2013  
DDG Summer 2013  

Dean's Distinguished Graduates 2013