Eli Barrish

I have always, and only, wanted to solve problems. In high school and early in college, that manifested in competitive policy debate, which is secretly a big, collaborative problem-solving endeavor, the problem being: “What ought the US federal government to do?” One side gives proposals, the other side shoots them down. More recently, I have discovered a passion for problem-solving in analytic philosophy. I have published in this area (“ ‘Point and Proclaim’: A Possible Response to the Grounding Problem,” Ex Nihilo, Spring 2017) and am currently writing a senior thesis on the nature of moral explanation. Even more recently, I have nurtured a keen interest in business-related problems and the private sector. My “extra” time is split between two leadership position. At the University Writing Center, in my third year of employ, I lead the data team, a six-person squad dedicated to processing the UWC’s data intake. We analyze and visualize student and consultant surveys, ensuring that the UWC is optimally
managed and provides maximum ROI to the University. I am also the founder and co-Executive Director of the Austin Student Debate Association, a 501c3 (IRS-certified nonprofit) aiming to alleviate the financial burdens of debate for low-income students at two target schools. Debate is an
expensive activity—this I know from experience—and our organization wants to make it accessible to all. Travel is one of my passions made possible by the Forty Acres Scholarship: I have spent the last two summers (2016 and 2017) studying, living, and working in India and Israel, respectively. I also enjoy chess, cooking, hip hop, Buddhism, reading, biking, and film.

Majors: Philosophy and Plan II Honors

Honors Program: Plan II Honors

Other Academic Interests: Public Policy, Literature, Analytic Metaphysics, Eastern Philosophy

Extracurricular Activities:
University Writing Center – Data Team Lead
Austin Student Debate Association (ASDA) – Executive Director and
Founder
Senior thesis in philosophy department on “The Nature and Limits of
Moral Explanation” – directed by Dr.s Jonathan Dancy and Jon Litland

What drew you to the Forty Acres Scholars Program (FASP)?
I didn’t want to go to UT at first; as a native Austinite, I thought it would be better for me to expand my horizons. But the Forty Acres
Scholars Program provided me with an unmatched opportunity to do just that and continue to live in the greatest city in the world. At UT, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Forty Acres embedded me in a cohort of the best and brightest at UT, and since freshman year we’ve been helping each other find new opportunities, gain footholds in interesting organizations and companies, and explore the world. The summer before my junior year, the Forty Acres Scholarship paid for me to travel to India, study with Buddhist monks for nearly two months, and meet the Dalai Lama. What more needs to be said? This scholarship comprises most of the reason I chose to go to UT, and I have no regrets about it.
 
What makes your scholar cohort unique?
Our cohort tends to find ourselves in funny, unfortunate situations that have brought us closer and closer together. Sophomore year, we
visited Enchanted Rock and hiked the caves there. After some close calls within the cave (leaping over gaps in the dark, rock wet from recent rains), we made it out into the sunlight, and found ourselves clinging to a steep, slippery slope. Many of us slithered on our bellies for 20 minutes to make it back. For our junior retreat, we went tubing on the Guadalupe, and once again got stuck in a downpour. We had a choice to abort the trip, but decided to persevere. Though there was much shivering involved, ended up having a great time. Our cohort is tenacious; we manage to have fun no matter the circumstances.

Favorite FASP Memory
I hope I don’t anger the dark powers by sharing this, but our cohort tried to use an Ouija board one night during our junior retreat. Holed
away in a cabin in middle-of-nowhere Texas, we dimmed the lights, joined hands, and said: “Welcome, benevolent spirits, to our AirBnb.” Unfortunately, at this point, one of us would always start laughing (usually me; I eventually had to retire to let the others even have a chance). As far as I know, no spirits ever came.

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