Tuesday, June 9, 2015

EPPS Grads Headed to Yale and Harvard law schools

Each year, EPPS graduates go on to prestigious law schools at universities across the nation. The 2015 graduating class includes two students who are going to Yale University and Harvard University law schools, ranked number one and two respectively by U.S. News and World Report:  We recently sat down with Theo Torres and Kyle Reynolds, both political science majors who graduated in May 2015, to find out the keys to their success. Read more

Theo Torres, UT Dallas Political Science Major
Yale University Law School

Theo Torres
What do you think was the key to your admission to such a prestigious law school?

 Beyond GPA and LSAT score, I think my musical background helped me in law school admissions. Throughout my time at UT Dallas, I've played in the school-affiliated orchestra, jazz band, and the classical guitar ensemble, in addition to a couple of independent groups. I like to think that those kinds of activities did something to convince admissions committees that I'm more than just a study machine. Additionally, I tried to balance this by crafting a compelling and credible narrative about my motivations to become a lawyer.

How did your pre-law experience here at UT Dallas help you?

I took part in lots of law-related extracurricular activities as an undergrad, each of which was helpful in its own right. The Innocence Project of Texas  class exposed me to real-world legal work, Moot Court sharpened my oral argument skills, and being secretary for the John Marshall Pre-Law Society acquainted me with some administrative and organizational know-how. The Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center was instrumental in helping me out with the actual application stage, both in terms of broad strategy and detail-oriented review, like proofreading drafts of my personal statement. I don't think I would have been remotely as successful without the help of Dr. Anthony Champagne and Anne Dutia. And, although he isn't formally part of the pre-law program, Dr. Douglas Dow helped out a ton as well. 

What do you plan to do after you graduate from Yale?

After law school, I would like to end up practicing criminal law in a public defender's office. My time with the Innocence Project of Texas here at UT Dallas really made it clear that it's what I want to do. That being said, I look forward to experimenting with other subfields in the clinical program at Yale.

Kyle Reynolds, UT Dallas Political Science Major
Harvard University Law School 

Kyle Reynolds

What do you think was the key to your admission to such a prestigious law school?

Every law school values different qualities. For Harvard, the most important admissions factors are exactly what you would expect: having a strong GPA and a very high Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score. That alone isn't enough, however. Harvard also places a lot of value on work experience - 75% of its entering class last year had been out of college for a year or more before starting law school. I believe it was a combination of these three factors that made me a successful candidate. My numbers were good, and the Archer Fellowship Program provided me with excellent full-time work experience in Washington, D.C.

How did your pre-law experience here at UT Dallas help you?

UT Dallas pre-law helped me in two key ways. The first and most important one was mentorship. Dr. Anthony Champagne and Anne Dutia have both been guides for me since freshman year. I can't overstate the value of their advice, in terms of both law school admissions and being a successful student at UT Dallas. The second way pre-law helped me was by providing opportunities. They host law school visits, sit-downs with successful alumni, and competitive advocacy programs like Mock Trial and Moot Court, all of which give students a picture of what being a law student or a lawyer is like. I recommend students take advantage of these opportunities before making the decision to apply to law school.

And of course, it goes without saying that UT Dallas' challenging coursework will be good preparation for the rigors of a law school class. The skills I learned here will help me hit the ground running at Harvard.

What do you plan to do after you leave Harvard?

For me, it is still a little early to decide on that. I can tell you that I plan to come back and work in the Dallas area if possible - I have come to love the city over the past four years. Right now the two main options I'm exploring are working for a large law firm as a litigator, or working for a U.S. Attorney's office as a federal prosecutor. I hope that my time at Harvard will shed light on which of those choices (if either) is the better fit for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All I Had to Do Was Say Yes

By Christina Lanier

I’m sitting in an office in Uptown. The view out the window isn’t terrible, but it’s not the one you see in all of the movies- I can’t see I-station or Chase, I can’t see Reunion Tower or the beautiful bridges. Nonetheless, I’m sitting here on this cloudy day, and I find myself staring at this view. I’m 25 minutes from the dorms where I’ve called home, or at least Google Maps says it’s 25 minutes (the actual trip is closer to 40 minutes with Dallas traffic). I’m 40 minutes from school, but I’m 12 hours from home.

A little over a year ago, I would have never seen myself here. I saw myself going to another school in another city, in another state. I saw myself spending every day in a classroom, praying that one day I’d have a view like this. I had put a deposit down at a school in my hometown of Atlanta and I was pretty happy with that choice. I didn’t apply to any Ivy Leagues because I couldn’t afford to go there. I didn’t even apply to any out-of-state schools for the same reason. I knew if I went to this school, I’d probably spend the rest of my life floating around the streets of Atlanta and to that I was ambivalent.

Up until a year ago, I had lived in one house my whole life. I had the same neighbors, the same friends, the same mailman, and the same boring suburban town that felt too cookie cutter to be real. I lived in a town that prided itself on small town values and ridiculous home prices- called itself the county’s “best kept secret” and even had kitsch
y signs everywhere to remind all the residents. When my father moved to Atlanta proper, I jumped on the chance to pack my life and take the thirty-minute journey with him.

I was happy, but I longed to get away. I longed to be more than just an Atlantan- just someone who lived in the same 20-mile radius until the day she died. So when I got a card in the mail from a university far away telling me to check out their scholarships, that’s what I did.

Like many high school students, I received plenty of mailings from colleges and universities around the country. I had given my address to the College Board for the PSAT and gave them permission to give that information to schools on my behalf. So, over the years, the piles of college cardstocks grew. I usually threw them away or recycled them when I could- after all, why keep a flyer for a school you can’t afford?

I knew I had settled. That was just a fact of life. I put a deposit down on a school that didn’t even think I was good enough for their competitive scholarship. When I found out I wasn’t going to be chosen, I felt trapped. I felt like I had chosen a school that did not even choose me. I started reading the college cardstocks, dreaming that one would have a line or two about fantastic scholarships for random students from states far away. I dreamed of late acceptances, but didn’t expect much.

UT Dallas was one of the schools that sent me cards. I didn’t think much of it the first couple times because I was still under the impression that I was a shoo-in for the scholarship at my first choice school. But when that reality quickly disappeared, UT Dallas appeared on the radar. I called the number on the card on the insistence from a Tex-pat teacher, who thought getting out of Georgia would be the best decision I would make.  Long story short, I applied that night and received my notification of a full scholarship within a couple days. All I had to do was say yes.

It was all such short notice for me. Here I was, about to graduate high school, and still making plans for my higher education. Everyone was already packing their things, heading to school. I had never been to Texas, and had no idea what to pack or how it would get there. I was a chronic planner lost in a sea of little certainty other than the fact I had a spot at a school 800 miles away.

Fast forward one year and here I am in this office in Uptown Dallas. I work for a national law firm at a local branch, where I file real paperwork for real cases. I’m not sitting in a classroom bored out of my mind. I spent 10 months taking classes I loved (for the most part) and doing extracurriculars I poured my heart into. I just finished an internship with a United States representative, and started another internship (with pay!) at this law firm with a decent view. I just received two scholarships from the Pre-Law Department, and wrote two reviews for The Innocence Project of Texas. I just finished my first year of college with a decent GPA and with fantastic connections.

A year ago, none of this would have been possible. Had I been more stubborn, had I not read my mail, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have met all of the fantastic professors and students I now call my mentors and peers. I wouldn’t have been in Mock Trial or Mediation. I wouldn’t have realized that I want to go to law school. But all of those things are my reality. All of those things happened because I read my mail, made a phone call, and because a school half way across the country had enough faith in me to have me here. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Here’s to the next three years.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Class Leads to "Aha Moments" Regarding Major, Career

By Vernicia Griffie

When I first made the decision to become a political science major, I did so because I wanted to see a change in the way the political happenings of the country were being relayed to the public. This has led to an increased sense of curiosity regarding the world around me and the workings of the American political system. This is why Dr. Champagne’s Civil Liberties Class was the perfect choice for me.

From the start of the semester, I’ve had an affinity for the Civil Liberties course. Reading through numerous Supreme Court cases and discovering the rationale behind the laws that I’m expected to abide by on a daily basis proved to be more of a fun thing to do than a daunting task. Although I found this enjoyable, I in no way expected it to be anything more than a class that I didn’t mind attending every other day. Instead, it became a medium that opened my mind up to understanding present day events and further reinforced my belief that political science is the right major for me.

The first “aha moment” the class presented me came with a discussion over what is considered constitutionally protected free speech. In order to help spur critical thinking, Dr. Champagne utilized an event from last year’s demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. This perfectly put the lesson into context. It amazed me that there was finally a conversation about that significant social event that dealt solely in fact – not emotion – as previous ones that I’d been exposed to had not. 

Fast forward to a month or so later, when news outlets were swarming over the story of an Oklahoma university’s expulsion of a student for his utilization of a derogatory slur while with his fellow fraternity members. I arrived to class without having much of an opinion on the matter, until we begin to discuss whether or not punishing the student for utilizing this type of speech was constitutionally sanctioned. It was then that my mind started to race, and I again began to notice how excited I become in the midst of factual, intellectual, and socially significant conversation.
I left class that day feeling a sense of increased passion for the major and career path I have chosen. 

These so-called “aha moments” have not only helped to reinforce my choice, but they also have shown me that I need to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity I have to be attending a university. With the knowledge I acquire while taking courses like this one on civil liberties, I will be able to one day become the type of journalist that is so desperately needed with these changing times – one that sticks to the facts and feeds the public the information that they need to know, as opposed to that fueled by emotion or personal feelings on the matter. I’m so anxious to take everything I can from the class this semester and use the aforementioned aha moments as a means to propel me to continue on this journey toward my future career.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An EPPS Senior Reflects on her UT Dallas Journey

By Vinni Anandham, EPPS Blogger

I can’t believe it! It’s been three years and it’s my last semester at UT Dallas as an undergrad. I knew I wanted to major in Political Science since I was a freshmen in high school, and in less than three months my dream of graduating with a degree in Political Science will be coming true! But now that I’m so close to walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I can say that while my degree had always been the goal and I will be proud of it, I know that it will not be the highlight of my years at UT Dallas.

I have gotten SO much more from UT Dallas than just a degree. I have gotten to work with Dr. Daniel’s staff that set the perfect example of an ideal workplace in my eyes. I have gotten to serve the student organizations of UT Dallas and watch student leaders emerge, creating 180 student orgs to 275 in just two years! I have been able to assist in planning some university events with the amazing people that dedicate every day to UT Dallas students. I have been encouraged by my peers to thrive in volunteer work that lead to being accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative University Conferences and actually shaking hands with former President Clinton! I have met professors and staff members who believed in my abilities more than I did to one day discover that they were right, when achieving success in Moot Court Tournaments. 

I have been given more than words could express in just one blog but meeting all of the people that made these three years so worthwhile, serve as the true “highlight” of my undergraduate experience.

If someone were to ask me to change something then most likely I’d say no because I believe that even the mistakes I made were crucial in order to gain all that I did. That being said, if a freshman were to ask me about something I did that they sh
ould make sure not to do then my BIGGEST advice to them would be “DON’T REFRAIN FROM GETTING INVOLVED!”

This is my advice to anyone who’s a student in an institution, but especially if you are a freshmen in college, don’t hide yourself in your dorm. Go get involved in clubs and/or greek life, find out what all your university offers, figure out the various resources offered there but just don’t go to class and straight back to your dorm. 

Since I played an active student leader role in high school, I thought that getting sucked into it again would decrease my GPA, but I was wrong. Freshmen year was my worst year in college, academically and socially because while I was lucky to have met a professor that encouraged me to become an EPPS blogger, and a few friends that got me involved in a club to volunteer, I did nothing but go to class and work. The only thing I showed real initiative towards was finding an on campus job and was privileged to work in one of the best offices on campus, learning from some of the most amazing women I have ever met. 

BUT, if I showed the same initiative towards other activities on campus, then I would have been able to do some other things I can no longer do because once you get into junior/senior year, you will find yourself with having free time. So show some initiative to explore your campus and find what suits you best! J       

Monday, January 12, 2015

EPPS Frosh Reflects on First Semester

By Christina Lanier, Class of 2018

Semester One: Check. 

When I started here at UT Dallas almost five months ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had never been to Texas let alone gone to a Texas school. I didn't know what to expect from the school, from the professors, from my peers. Looking back, I think I can say everything couldn't have turned out better. 

Over these last few months, I have met so many students and professors who have fundamentally changed the way I live my life- everyone here has something to offer. Everyday I am reminded that I'm surrounded by some of the brightest students in the nation and that they chose this place for some of the same reasons I did- to learn, to succeed in college and beyond. 

Even if the classes are way more challenging than I expected and the food is sometimes sub-par, I can say with absolute certainty that this school was the right fit for me. 

And that is what college is all about- finding the place and the professors that instill in you the desire to learn beyond what the tests may cover, to learn for the sake of knowing more and to have fun doing that. 

Now that the this first semester has come to a close, and as the class of 2018 begins to reflect upon that semester, I hope we all can say that we have found the right s
chool for us.

Semester One: check. Here's to seven more. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Twas the Night Before Finals

By Hope Steffensen, 
Peer Advisor, EPPS Blogger and Poet

Twas the night before finals, when all through the hall
Not a student was slacking, no shirking at all
The books were spread on the desks with great care
In hopes that Winter Break soon would be there

The students then nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of good grades danced in their heads
The on-call phone was silent, the PA did clap
And then settled down for a long winters nap

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
The PA sprung up to see what was the matter
Away to the window she flew like a saint
Prepared to document a noise complaint

The moon on the breast of dry barren grass
Gave the luster of whiteboard from a government class
When, what to her wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
The PA soon knew, it must be St. Nick

More rapid than electrons his coursers they came
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On COMET (My favorite!!!), The rest of you and Blitzen!

To the top of the door! To the top of the hall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!
As college students to free food quickly swarm,
Even if they dont know what Org. the foods from!

Quickly to the dorm-top the coursers they flew
With a sleigh full of gadgets, and St. Nicholas too
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And the PA laughed when she saw him, in spite of herself!
A wink of his eye and feint of his hand
Soon let her know, no noise complaints were at hand
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Put gifts in the suite rooms, then turned with a jerk.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a motion
And away they all flew like test inspiration
But the PA heard him say,
ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Finals to all, and to all a good night!"

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cardboard Boat Regatta Captures Comet Spirit

By Hope Steffensen

The atmosphere was electric. The music was blasting. The bass was bumping. People were cheering their hearts out. No, this was not the homecoming basketball game, although the event was in the Activity Center on campus. This crazy event, filled with technique and perseverance, was the annual Homecoming Cardboard Boat Regatta.

For this event, various student organizations build boats out of nothing but cardboard and duct tape, and then race them across the Activity Center Pool. Some designs are elaborate, obviously contending for creativity and spirit awards, complete with colored duct tape hulls and paddles. Others were obviously built for speed—minimalist in nature, resembling a raft more than a boat.

The warmth of the pool deck, along with the excitement of the student organizations, really contributed to the heat of the moment at the Regatta. Shouts and cheers echoed across the water. Finally the winners emerged from the pool, drenched, but with huge smiles of victory decorating their faces. However, the epic moment of the night was not necessarily the winning boat; it was a team who made the crowd laugh.

The CV Honors Program decided to create a twist to the race—while paddling their boat across the pool, the team paused, and made a small hole in the bottom of their boat halfway across the pool. The two competitors then stood at salute in their cardboard boat and went “down with the ship” as a friend in the audience whipped out a trumpet and played Taps. The CV Team may not have won the race, but they won the favor of the crowd.

All in all, the spirit of the Cardboard Boat Regatta was a great representation of what it means to be a Comet. Comets are smart, technical and determined. However, we still find ways to enjoy ourselves in the midst of studying and pursuing success at this fantastic university. It’s great to be a Comet! Whoosh!