44 Reasons We Love Austin
How Hilltoppers Make the Most of One of America’s Favorite Cities
Tell anyone outside of the capital area you go to school in Austin, and city-envy ensues. It’s trendy. The economy is hot. The live music reputation is second-to-none. It’s got amazing parks, great restaurants and incredible festivals, not to mention a vibe that no other city can match.
As biased as we may be (we can admit it: we’re really biased), there are reasons well beyond the cool factor that make Austin a great place to go to school — and home to St. Edward’s. Think internships at one of the city’s startup incubators. Professors who aren’t just teaching about the city’s arts scene but actually are the scene. Research opportunities at a 227-acre wilderness preserve just miles from campus. Service opportunities that connect students to the heart of the city.
The list could go on well beyond these 44 highlights, but we hope you’ll check out just a few of the ways our students are taking advantage of all that the city has to offer.
1. For the sixth straight year, Theater Design students competed in 2nd Street's Holiday Window Walk, an annual store-window design competition that has netted scholarships for 12 students through the years.
2. Professor of Political Science Brian Smith was the go-to academic for many Austin television stations during the fractious election season — he was interviewed more than 18 times.
3. The Inside Out Steelband, led by C.J. Menge ’13, is gearing up for its 11th annual summer band camps for Austin-area elementary, middle and high-school students.
4. Chelsea Elliott ’12, founder and executive director of the half-Helen Foundation, spoke at Austin Startup Week in October about creating sustainable business models to meet social challenges.
5. School of Natural Sciences Dean Gary A. Morris and Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Paul Walter have been launching specially instrumented weather balloons from campus to study ozone pollution. The project has been funded by the Capital Area Council for Governments and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
6. S.E.R.V.E. 1 Day brings together approximately 100 students from St. Edward’s one Saturday each month to volunteer at five different sites across the city.
7. Valedictorian McKenna Dunn ’16 was named National Student Teacher of the Year by education honor society Kappa Delta Pi and the Association of Teacher Educators in September for her work at Sunset Valley Elementary School.
8. As artist-in-residence for the city’s Betty Dunkerley Campus, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Jimmy Van Luu, along with other collaborators from the university, is working on a permanent outdoor sculpture at the site.
9. Letterscape, a large-scale sculpture by Luu that is part of the City of Austin’s public art collection, is being refurbished at the Dunkerley campus.
10. Megan Tillman ’14 and Chris Beale ’12 are making their mark in Austin’s legendary music scene. This fall, their band, Magna Carda, showcased its innovative style of hip-hop at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Sound on Sound Fest.
11. Associate Professor of Education Steven Fletcher has overseen creation of teacher circles for STEM, literacy, bilingual education and elementary education that encourage collaboration for educators across Austin schools and districts.
12. Through a grant from 3M, Fletcher joined School of Natural Sciences Dean Gary A. Morris, Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Paul Walter and Professor of Biology Bill Quinn in leading a three-part workshop on investigating air quality as part of the Austin Area STEM Teachers Conference held on campus in August.
13. The Bill Munday School of Business brings speakers from local organizations such as Whole Foods, Tiossan and the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute to campus to discuss topics like how social enterprise thrives in the Austin business landscape.
14. Approximately 70 students participate in S.E.R.V.E. Austin each semester, which coordinates ongoing weekly commitments at locations like Central Texas Food Bank, Casa Marianella and Keep Austin Beautiful.
15. Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability students Lexington Belyeu ’17, Andrew Horvath ’17 and Danica Metlay ’17 are partnering with Wild Basin Creative Research Center to study deer density with an infrared-equipped drone.
16. Each year St. Edward’s hosts the annual Texas Teen Book Festival, organized by the Texas Book Festival, BookPeople and local librarians — this year’s event brought about 30 authors to campus, including writer and actress Mindy Kaling.
17. The Writers’ League of Texas holds workshops on campus for Austin’s writing community that cover everything from “Anatomy of a Chapter” to “Crowdfunding Your Book.”
18. Students work with local organizations every semester as part of the civic engagement component of their Capstone papers — Theater Arts major Colleen McCool ’17 recently collected supplies worth more than $1,000 for SafePlace.
19. Each fall, graduate and undergraduate Accounting students get tips from practicing accountants from across the field — KPMG to the Texas State Auditor’s Office — as part of a “How to Succeed in Accounting” retreat.
20. This spring will mark the 13th year for the Student Government Association’s The BIG Event, a day of service that sends volunteers to Austin nonprofits like the Healing with Horses Ranch and River City Youth Foundation.
21. Visual Studies students designed and installed the Butterfly Project, an exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum that features 5,000 paper butterflies created by Texas children as a message for tolerance.
22. The campus chapter of Keep Austin Caring, founded and advised by Assistant Professor of Psychology Kelly Green, prepares care packages for the city’s homeless and hands them out to students, faculty and staff to distribute across the city.
23. Students across all majors pitch creative ideas to judges from companies like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Capital Factory and Weeva each year as part of iChallenge on the Hilltop: Ideas for Innovation Competition, sponsored by The Bill Munday School of Business.
24. Students in Associate Professor of Art Alex Robinson’s Installation Art class have put together medium- and large-scale exhibits across campus and the city, everywhere from Up Collective to PUMP Project.
25. Students taking the Civic Engagement section of American Dilemmas explore a social justice issue they are passionate about by volunteering 20 hours at local nonprofits like Phoenix House, Equality Texas, Any Baby Can and Austin Pets Alive!
26. In addition to ATC, The Bill Munday School of Business cultivates partnerships with groups like Austin Inno, Southwest Angel Network, Women Who Code and Impact Hub Austin.
27. The Bill Munday School of Business and Austin Technology Council have partnered to create the Career Prep Accelerator, a three-week program that gives students access to workshops and mentoring from local tech leaders who are ATC members.
28. Visiting Assistant Professors Jennifer Jefferson and Amy Nathan Wright have brought in a who’s who of speakers — from the City of Austin’s demographer to Austin History Center community archivists — for the Austin: Then & Now section of Freshman Studies that they co-teach.
29. Jefferson and Wright also organized an involvement fair that connected students in their Austin: Then & Now class with nonprofits like the Sustainable Food Center and the Inside Books Project.
30. The School of Education has partnered with Del Valle Independent School District for the last six years to bring junior and senior education majors into Del Valle middle and high schools — hands-on experiences that go far beyond the state mandates for teacher certification.
31. Local professional actors Amy Downing and Robert Tolaro worked alongside student actors in the Mary Moody Northen Theatre's October production of The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui.
32. Local graphic artist and Y&R Associate Creative Director Oen Hammonds curated Me, Myself and I: A Self-Portrait Study of 23 Designers at the Fine Arts Gallery on campus in October — featured designers included Catherine Chao and Terrence Moline.
33. As part of this year’s Food Justice common theme, freshmen volunteered at East Austin's Urban Roots community farm and screened the documentary East Side Food Stories, which was produced by local activist group Food for Black Thought.
34. Ali Dadpay, associate dean and MBA director in The Bill Munday School of Business, recently partnered with High Five Events to conduct an economic impact study on the Austin Marathon.
35. Through his Capital Factory internship, Biochemistry major Joseph Ramirez ’19 co-founded YOUnite, a nonprofit for undocumented students (Carlos Alpuche ’18, Ricardo Apanco-Sarabia ’19, Gloria Perez ’17 are co-founders).
36. Texas Civil Rights Project founder Jim Harrington spoke to the university’s first-ever Leadership Living Learning Community in September about César Chávez’s United Farm Workers march to the Texas Capitol in 1966 — and several students participated in Austin’s 50th anniversary re-enactment of the event.
37. The students living in community with Holy Cross Brothers as part of Moreau House prepare food for Austin’s homeless community every Tuesday evening and distribute it every Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. through their Egg Ministry program.
38. St. Edward’s has partnered with Capital Factory to provide memberships for 10 students in the School of Natural Sciences and The Bill Munday School of Business each semester, giving them access to some of the city's top entrepreneurs, investors and startup resources.
39. Student organization REACH OUT partners with Austin groups like St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church and Mobile Loaves & Fishes to host the annual Homeless Resource Fair — more than 400 homeless Austinites attended last year.
40. Students get an up-close look at politics and government, thanks to the university’s location in the state capital.
41. Assistant Professor of Art Tammie Rubin, Associate Professors of Art Alex Robinson and Hollis Hammonds, adjuncts Kate Jarboe and Laura Barth Turner, and seven alumni exhibited their work in Big Medium’s East Austin Studio Tour in November.
42. St. Edward’s partners with the City of Austin Innovation Office and Open Austin to host the annual ATX Hack for Change, which brings technology enthusiasts together to solve community problems by creating websites, apps and online tools.
43. Assistant Professor of Social Work Laurie Cook Heffron is on the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking steering committee and the Allies Against Slavery advisory board — she also frequently works with Refugee Services of Texas, the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at the University of Texas at Austin, and a host of immigration attorneys serving immigrants who have experienced violence and exploitation.
44. Beatriz Lavitola ’18 and Aida Domingo ’19 are heading up the St. Edward’s buy-one, give-one campus program for Love Your Melon, a national apparel brand that donates hats to children battling cancer. Their team is generating sales for 100+ beanies to be given to cancer treatment centers in Austin, such as Dell Children’s Medical Center, by January 2017.
By Stacia Hernstrom