Keeping up the Pace
16-year-old junior follows in her mother’s footsteps

by Sherry Wodraska Neaves

Courtney Pace skipped high school, enrolling at UTA as a 15-year-old freshman. Early college entrance is a tradition in the Pace family. Courtney’s mother, Janyce Johnson Pace, started classes here at age 16, and her dad was in college at age 17.

Courtney Pace, a 16 year old UTA junior, began college at age 15. Her mother Janyce, a 1975 UTA graduate, started classes here at 16.

Courtney’s fast track to college began after qualifying to take the SAT in seventh grade. She enrolled in tutoring courses at the Gateway Institute in DeSoto and soon began attending classes there full time.

“I started college-level work when I was 12. Essentially, elementary school was all I needed. High school is all about the social life, but for me, school
is for learning.”
–junior Courtney Pace

“We actually took college classes there in the seventh grade,” she said. “Then we took the CLEP tests and got college credit. I started college-level work when I was 12. Essentially, elementary school was all I needed. High school is all about the social life, but for me, school is for learning.

“Everyone thought I was loopy when I decided to do this, but it’s opened up a lot of doors for me. I would have been an 11th-grader right now, but I just don’t see myself there.”

At 14 Courtney started attending UTA engineering camps. “I felt like this was where I belonged,” she said. “I had intended to do architecture at A&M, but the engineering camp really swayed my decision.”

She enrolled full time in fall 1999, pursuing a degree in computer science engineering. She was 15 years old and had to petition for a hardship driver’s license so that she could get to and from school.
“You wouldn’t believe the hassle,” she said. “I had to have documents from the school saying I was going there, and from my parents showing their schedules and that they couldn’t drive me. It was unreal.”

College savvy at age 15
For someone who began walking at 8 months and talking in complete sentences before she was a year old, college at 15 was no big deal. But, before the final admission decision, Courtney met with Provost George Wright and Mary Ridgway, vice president for undergraduate academic and student affairs. “Of course, they wanted to be sure I was emotionally ready for college,” she said. “Academically there was no problem. Starting college at 15 didn’t really bother me. I’m used to being around people of all ages.”
Her mom agrees. “It’s only physically that Courtney is 16,” Janyce said. “Mentally she’s much older.”

During her freshman year Courtney lived at home, but as a sophomore she moved into Arlington Hall to serve as one of six residential mentors sponsored by the Honors College. The mentors tutor other residents and receive room and board as payment.
“It was very frightening to send her off to college at 15,” Janyce said. “I got a glimpse of what my mother felt when I went to UTA at 16. Then when we decided to let her move into the dorms, that was frightening, too, but I’ve seen her mature a lot this year. If we didn’t live so close to campus, we might not be able to do it. But it’s been a great opportunity for her.

“Plus, she has so many guardian angels on campus, so many adults she can go to who are watching out for her.” Dawn Remmers-Roeber, a student development specialist in the Honors College, is one of those guardian angels. She works with Courtney and the other residence hall mentors.

“They were selected based on their interest in the program, grade-point average and the subjects they were able to tutor,” she explained. “Courtney has very strong academic preparation for a program of this type. She’s such an asset. She’s so excited about it that she makes other students and faculty excited, too. Her techniques as a tutor are exemplary.”

Courtney said the Honors College faculty and staff have taken her under their wing. “And the CSE faculty are just great.” Baptist Student Ministries has also become a home for her at UTA.
“She’s fitting in just great,” Remmers-Roeber said. “Courtney is a very independent and energetic young lady. I don’t think the other students look at her any differently at all.”

Courtney, now 16, plans to finish her bachelor’s degree in May 2004 and immediately begin work on her master’s at UTA. Where she goes for her Ph.D. depends on which college makes the best offer.

“I definitely want to pursue artificial intelligence research,” she said. “I’d like to work in industry for a while, and eventually I want to teach at a university. I think being a professor is the greatest pulpit anyone could have. You have 16 weeks every semester to convince those students that they can do anything.”
Courtney’s already doing most everything. She volunteered for a robot programming contest, makes motivational speeches in area high schools and figure skates well enough to receive offers from Disney on Ice.

“As far as skating goes, I saw Kristi Yamaguchi in the 1992 Olympics and fell in love with the sport,” she said. After entering her first competition in 1992, Courtney skated in the Freestyle 4 class at the 1994 world championships and the Freestyle 6 class in the 1997 competition. But with school and other commitments, her skating has suffered.

“At one time I had planned to go to the Olympics, but I don’t see that now,” she said. “I don’t want it as much. But coaching is still a possibility. And maybe Disney.”

Like mother, like daughter
Janyce Pace also knows a lot about changes and possibilities. Another child prodigy, she started first grade when she was 4. “I was already reading and doing math by then, but my mother didn’t know that was unusual in any way,” she said. “She had me tested and then found a school that would take me. I didn’t skip any grades, just went straight though, but I was always two years younger than everyone else.

“Junior high was probably the most difficult time. I was 10, 11 and 12 when everyone else was 12, 13 and 14. But usually it was just in social things that my age was an issue. I was involved in lots of extracurricular activities, and there the age thing didn’t matter.”

After graduating from Duncanville High School, Janyce was admitted to UTA. She started her bachelor’s degree in music education at 16 and completed it in just over three years. To earn money for school, she taught flute and piano at the local Brook Mays music store, where she met 17-year-old Roger Pace, who was also working his way through college, teaching flute, clarinet and saxophone.

“He completed his senior year of high school and freshman year of college at the same time, so he was also a fairly young college student,” she explained.

Within a few years the couple married, and later, while Janyce was back in school working on an M.B.A., Courtney was born.

“I realized early on that she was unusual,” said Janyce, who works for Ernst and Young in Dallas. “And I actually tried to get her into a school early, much as my mother did for me. But I couldn’t find anything, public or private, that would accept her at that age. They kept citing the social issue, saying she would have difficulties. But that really wasn’t ever an issue for her. She went through everything—all the developmental phases—that all children go through, but always at an earlier age than her peers.”

But then, this family is always doing things at a faster Pace.



Springing forward
Graduate students lead the way in spring enrollment increase
Graduate students like Ruby Ruperto and her Contemporary Science classmates significantly boosted University enrollment for spring 2001, the fifth consecutive semester of enrollment increases.

Writing for the Digital Age
New  tools and technologies are taking one Honors English class online and into the future
When students in Martin Danahay’s Honors English class get ready to work, they don’t pull textbooks out of their backpacks. Instead, they each slide a thin, black Toshiba laptop onto their desk, flip up the cover and log in to UTA’s first completely wireless class.

Worldwide welcome
International recruitment efforts are expected to pay long-term dividends
New faces, from places all over the world, keep coming through the UTA front door. And, with continuing international recruitment efforts, the University is keeping the welcome mat on the doorstep.


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