Forty Acres Scholars Share Life-Changing Experiences at Enrichment Symposium

Learning from top professors across a wide array of fields while working toward a UT degree is an invaluable part life on the Forty Acres. But it’s the experiences that students have outside of the classroom that often prove to be more important. That was certainly the case for the 25 Forty Acres Scholars who shared their transformative adventures at the inaugural Forty Acres Scholar Program Enrichment Symposium on Friday, Sept. 21.

Alongside academic achievement, the Forty Acres Scholars Program focuses on personal development, relationship building, and gaining perspective. The goal of the $1400 enrichment stipend awarded to each scholar is to allow Forty Acres Scholars to really make the most of their time at UT by helping them travel the world, volunteer for organizations they believe in, and work alongside professionals in their field.

The symposium allowed scholars who used funds from their enrichment stipend in the past year to share their stories across seven sessions, each featuring a panel of students grouped by study abroad, internships and research, service, and professional conferences. David Jones, BS ’68, MS ’70, Life Member, Texas Exes Board Member and Scholarship Advisory Chair, prompted the scholars with questions that helped them reflect on the impact of their enrichment experience.

Jacqueline Gibson, a senior Forty Acres Scholar studying computer science and African and African diaspora studies, shared her experience from a Maymester in Ghana that centered on community and social development. Gibson says the study abroad program helped open her eyes to different perspectives, cultures, and even her own identity and goals for the future.

“I realized that what I want to do to combat the digital divide doesn’t have to just be solely here, and I’m going to try to get involved with the 4Afrika initiative with Microsoft and try to bring the first technical center to Western Africa there,” Gibson says. “It was good for me to link what I experienced to what I was passionate about and kind of change my trajectory.”

These enrichment experiences also allowed the scholars to learn more about themselves. For Forty Acres Scholar Siji Deleawe, a Plan II and business honors senior, being in the lush environment of Costa Rica set a peaceful and introspective tone for her student leadership studies program.

“We were learning about leadership, but we were also learning about our personal emotional intelligence and our specific philosophy on leadership,” Deleawe says. “I learned that I really enjoy being pushed out of my comfort zone, and that my biggest strength is absorbing new information.”

The invaluable hands-on and real world ventures brought students to new places around the world to learn, including Forty Acres Scholar Sabrina Benitez, a pre-med biology honors sophomore who had never been abroad before. The enrichment stipend supported Benitez as a member of the Atlantis Fellowship Program, which placed her in Milan, Italy, to shadow doctors in different fields. She says seeing the life of a doctor firsthand was an enriching experience.

“Sometimes I’d been sitting with a doctor and they’d be doing paperwork, other times they’d be celebrating after a successful surgery, other times they’d have to deliver bad news to a patient,” Benitez says. I was able to see all the different aspects of being a doctor and this experience really reaffirmed my goals of getting a degree in medicine.”

We would like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to Jones and all of the Forty Acres Scholars who participated in this inaugural symposium. Below is a list of all scholars who used their enrichment funds in the 2017-2018 year.


Study Abroad

Jeff Auster: Europe

Erin Backus: Ghana, Africa

Olivia Cardenas: Rome, Italy

Ricky Cooks: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Alexi Cortez: Edinburgh, Scotland

Carlyn Crow: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Siji Deleawe: Costa Rica

Ashley Deutser: Rome, Italy

Ale Flores: Hong Kong, China

Skyler Frost: Oslo, Norway

Emily Gex: London, England

Jacqueline Gibson: Ghana, Africa

Chandler Groves: London, England

Sophia Guirola: Ghanzi, Botswana

Scott Kennedy: London, England

Alex Rabinovich: Hong Kong, China

Chessie Reece: London, England

Greyson Rubin: Europe

Lauren Smith: Prague, Czech Republic

Audrey Urbis: Edinburgh, Scotland


Manjula Andukuri: International Leadership Foundation Civic Fellowship; Washington, D.C.

Sabrina Benitez: Atlantis Fellowship Program; Milan, Italy

Ale Flores: Ernst and Young; San Jose, CA

Omar Mata: Eco Built System; Shenzhen, China


Shilpa Rajagopal, CPRIT-CURE Summer Undergraduate Research Program

Leadership and Professional Conferences

Katherine Allen, International Seminar for Engineering Leaders; Santiago, Chile

Andrew Bazley, NYU/Rockefeller University Seminar Trip; New York City, NY

Cole BennetteTexas Exes New York Chapter Seminar; New York City, NY

Jacqueline Gibson, National Center for Women & Information Technology Summit; Grapevine, TX

Elizabeth Hamm: Patristics Medieval, Renaissance Conference; Philadelphia, PA; Texas Classical Association Conference; Austin, TX

Steffi Lee: S.H.E. Summit; New York City, NY

Domestic Study Program

Celia Shaheen: Paper Book Intensive; Saugatuck, MI


Andrew Bazley: Gibbon Primate Sanctuary; Thailand

Giancarlo Bernini: International Volunteer HQ; Cordoba, Argentina

Janelle Chavez: Global Medical Training; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Mandy Jústiz: Global Medical Training; Peru

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