HERE’S A CERTAIN energy that takes over any university in the fall. Bundled up in cozy attire, students bustle about on college campuses cradling hot coffee and beaming bright smiles. That’s the idea, anyway. Here at UTA, we do fall a little differently. Think T-shirts and iced coffee. But the bright smiles are the same. Everyone gets into the spirit of new beginnings. This is especially true for our incoming freshmen, who are taking those first major steps toward independence, ready to take on college life and then go on to change the world.
UTA’s fall 2017 incoming freshman class also represents a major milestone for the University—it is the largest in our history, with 3,346 new students from across the United States and around the world. This constitutes a 12 percent increase over the 2016 fall semester.
The new class is also the most academically accomplished, with 65 percent of entering freshmen having graduated in the top 25 percent of their high school class. A record 261 new students were accepted to UTA’s Honors College, an increase of more than 60 percent over the year before. The average SAT score of incoming students also rose.
“UTA’s growing reputation as a leading academic university and a path to success has resulted in more high-achieving and highly motivated students choosing us,” says Troy Johnson, vice president for enrollment management. “The overall academic excellence of the entire freshman class is an important indicator that UTA is a rising star.”
So just who are the dynamic students who make up our record-breaking freshman class?
MEET (SOME OF) UTA’S CLASS OF 2021.
Born and raised in Arlington, Cole is a man with a camera and a mission to spread happiness. He got into making fun, quirky films in high school and is passionate about the medium now.
“The world we live in needs all the joy it can get,” he says. “There’s a lot of discontent surrounding us, and I’ve always loved telling jokes and making the people around me laugh—so I figured, why not use film to spread any good I can outside my circle?”
Cole, who graduated in the top 20 percent of his class, says the decision to go to UTA was an easy one. Not only did his dad, aunt, and uncle graduate from UTA, but he also received a Presidential Scholarship that outshone offers from rival universities. He’s confident that UTA will provide him with a strong foundation for professional success—which he hopes one day will lead him to a career in the TV or film industry.
“Anything anyone can do to defy the norm is excellent in its own way, because it’s not about the result alone,” he says. “Nothing can get done without emotion and drive to make a change. I’ve seen excellence all around UTA in the students, the programs offered, and the growing campus as more students choose to be Mavericks.”
Aerospace Engineering Major
Bayonle has stars in her eyes and speed in her feet. The stars are courtesy of a favorite TV show she watched when she was little—a space-focused cartoon that sparked her interstellar interests. The speed? Well, she just loves track and field. When it came time for her to choose a college, she wanted a university that would give her an avenue to explore both interests.
“I knew UTA had a great engineering program,” she says. “I also thought I had a good chance to walk on to the track team, which is fantastic in its own right.”
Bayonle, who ranked in the top 10 percent of her graduating class, was one of 1,200 students statewide chosen to join NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars program. Of that group, she was one of 200 selected for an onsite experience at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Her involvement with NASA made an impression—so much so that she plans to work there after graduation. Bayonle hopes to inspire other women with her success and show them that they can do anything.
“My generation is going to change the world for the better,” she says. “They just need opportunities for success and excellence. When I came to UTA, I saw excellence everywhere.”
Mechanical Engineering Major
Isaac spent his childhood in a small community in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, which runs through northeastern Mexico.
“It’s a beautiful place surrounded by nature,” he says. “However, there is a lack of health services, and education is scant. Children must migrate to other places—the U.S., most of the time—to start working to sustain themselves and their families who stay behind.”
Isaac immigrated to the U.S. with his father when he was just 15 and entered high school unable to speak English. But in three years, he not only taught himself the language, he also excelled in his studies, graduating No. 5 in a class of 426.
“Being constant and fearless were the key features that helped me learn the language and succeed in school,” he says. “I had fun with friends while learning at the same time.”
After graduation, Isaac plans to earn his master’s and PhD. After that, he wants to help students like him pursue degrees in higher education.
“I would like to give back to the Maverick community by funding scholarships,” he says. “I want to be able to take them away from the worries of college debt.”
Like most good things in life, Elizabeth’s career plans were decided over a pie.
She was about 8 when she visited the medical practice of a family friend and got a firsthand look at the work he did, not only as a doctor, but also as a church volunteer who gave aid to those in need. While Elizabeth was there, a couple dropped by to deliver a pie in appreciation for his kindness and generosity. She decided then that she’d become a doctor.
“Although I might have been just thinking of the delicious rewards at the time, it’s always been my dream to help other people,” she says.
Elizabeth was salutatorian of her graduating class. She says that hard work and a dedication to her studies were instilled in her by the incredible work ethic of her parents.
“When one parent was finished with school, they would work to provide for the family while the other went to school,” she says. “My family had to move from apartment to apartment out of convenience for the one job that supported us. I didn’t want my family to go through the same thing, so I am making a promise to be successful for not only myself, but for them as well.”
Deborah’s baby brother was sick, and her family’s normal doctor wasn’t available. But Deborah didn’t worry at all—a nurse practitioner was there to help them. Her skill and genuine care assured Deborah that her brother would be fine. And while she had always planned to go into the health care field, it was that day in the doctor’s office that Deborah’s dreams were fully clarified.
“That nurse practitioner was so confident in her work and very kind and reassuring,” she says. “I realized I wanted to be like her, and I still do. I want to bring joy to children while helping them be healthy, too.”
As the No. 37 graduate in a class of about 420, Deborah had a lot of options when it came time to choose a college. She was leaning toward a rival university until she visited UTA. A campus tour convinced her that this was the place where she could learn to be the best in her field.
“I could see that UTA had a positive community that keeps students involved and brings out the best in them,” she says. “Because of this, I feel like we as students have the opportunity to open up and find out who we really are.”
Additional reporting by Peggy Fredrickson