ean’s Scholars isn’t just an academic honors program, but a social one too. We put on a plethora of events ranging from small get-togethers around Austin to massive dinners where we cook all the food ourselves. Here are some of the things you can look forward to when you join us!
Freshman Dinner kicks off the fall semester with a Dean’s Scholars family meal. Older scholars spend the day cooking a meal for the new freshman at one of several professors’ homes. Professors and students come together to get to know our new students, catch up about summer experiences, and talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives. This dinner is a wonderful time for the new scholars to get to know each other, upperclassmen, and professors — as well as seek advice from older scholars for tips to start the semester off right! We finish off the night with DS Buddy pairs playing two truths and a lie to earn swings at a piñata!
Holiday Dinner brings the fall semester to a close, with a formal holiday meal. It started as a way for students who couldn’t go home to celebrate Thanksgiving to spend time with their DS family. Now, it’s moved to the end of the semester and grown to involve even more celebration. We take a break before finals to enjoy a traditional holiday meal, compete in a round of trivia, take photos, and enjoy time with friends and DS faculty. To end the evening, Holiday Dinner is concluded with a dance, with a quick dance lesson from DSers who know their moves.
Musicale is an opportunity for the members of the DS community, students and faculty alike, to show off their talents in the Spring semester. Previous years have seen slam poetry, otamatone and didjeridu duets, improv games, orchestral groups, magic tricks, piano pieces, group songs, singing, horns, and much more. It’s hosted annually at Dr. Starbird’s household, where DS comes together to prep food before the show. Before, during, and after the performances, it is a great time to relax, laugh, and learn more about your peers’ and professors’ hidden talents.
The DS community is full of talent, and Musicale is the place to show it off! Musicale is an annual spring talent show where students and faculty have an opportunity to show off their skills. Hosted at Dr. Starbird’s home, Musicale provides a great opportunity for DS to come together to prep food while sharing stories with fellow DSers. Previous acts include (but are not limited to) slam poetry, improv games, magic tricks, instrumental performances, singing, and much more! Before, during, and after the performances, Musicale is a great time to relax, laugh, and learn about your peers’ and professors’ hidden talents!
Every year ends with a farewell dinner to honor our graduating seniors. After a day of cooking together in a professor’s home, just like their first DS dinner four years before, our graduating seniors get one more chance to enjoy great food and company. Graduating Dean’s Scholars let us know where they will be going after graduation, share advice with younger students, and talk about what Dean’s Scholars meant to them while at UT. Every year, senior dinner has a different theme. Past themes have included cuisines such as Japanese or Mediterranean food. It’s a great place to say good-bye to friends before the summer, graduating or not.
A highlight of the fall semester is the annual trip to Fort Davis and McDonald Observatory. From hiking through the Davis Mountains and touring the telescopes at the renowned McDonald Observatory, to pick-up soccer and frisbee in the fields and staying up late to play cards and tell stories, the Fort Davis trip always has something for everyone to enjoy and is consistently a student favorite. Coming from Austin’s city skies, the darkness of West Texas offers an amazing view of the stars, and there are experts on hand to point out beautiful phenomenon.
Port Aransas houses the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, where Dean’s Scholars spend a weekend every other spring semester! Arrival is marked by a ferry trip into town and by Friday night there is typically a beach expedition. Sandcastles, races, swimming, and glorious sand sculptures are enjoyed by all! Saturday activities include either a kayaking or boat trip, with the occasional frisbee being thrown, group game being played, or nap being taken! We conclude with a tasty seafood dinner in town. Often after dinner there is one last visit to the beach before we head back to Austin Sunday morning.
Another trip Dean’s Scholars takes in the spring semester is the Colorado Bend State Park camping trip. Colorado Bend is a beautiful state park outside of Lampasas, along the Colorado River. During the day, we go hiking to Gorman Falls, swimming at the Spicewood Springs and spelunking at one of the many caving sites! After a BBQ, we camp out together at night, make s’mores and enjoy the nature under the stars. And no day would be complete without a few campfire songs! At the end of the long day, you can sleep in the comfort of a cozy cabin or relax under the stars.
Other Activities and Traditions
Friday Lunch is a longstanding Dean’s Scholars tradition. Every week, the Dean’s Scholars community gathers to listen to faculty speak about their research while enjoying a free lunch! Faculty speakers range across all disciplines in the College of Natural Sciences, and occasionally from other colleges as well. Students and faculty in the audience alike ask questions and generate discussion, diving into what is most interesting about the talk to us. Friday Lunches are a great way for you to learn about research around UT, think about potential labs you would like to join, get some free food, and to interact with your fellow Dean’s Scholars!
Between homework, exams, and lab work, it can be easy for students to forget that Austin is a vibrant, fun city! To help students experience the uniquely Austin culture surrounding the university, Dean’s Scholars holds regular “Explore Austin” events where a group of Dean’s Scholars visit the various attractions Austin has to offer. Whether it’s parks, springs, farmer’s markets, food trucks, or the iconic South Congress Bridge bats, there is always something you haven’t tried yet (or is an old favorite) to go explore with DS!
Once a month, Dean’s Scholars spend a Friday night together playing games and hanging out in the Honor’s Quad recroom (affectionately known as the “Q”)! Game nights are the best way to enjoy some friendly competition with great company! On occasion, these game nights include themed snacks – like a hot chocolate bar or cookie decorating! It’s one of many events where Dean’s Scholars of all years come together, relax, and bond over something that isn’t school work. Some games tend to come up month after month, including Mao and Bananagrams, but new additions to keep us up into the late hours are always encouraged!
Athletic or not, we want you on our team! Dean’s Ballers participate in intramural (IM) sports every semester, where our motto is “HAVE FUN!” The IM sports program is a great way to get DSers of all athletic backgrounds to try out different sports in a fun and relaxed environment. More importantly, participating in IM sports is a great way for DSers of different majors and years to network with each other in a non-academic setting. IM sports that Dean’s Scholars have participated in include volleyball, soccer, softball, ultimate frisbee, and basketball. PLUS, because DS sponsors these teams, you don’t have to pay the entry fee!
Dean’s Scholars has a long-standing tradition of assigning each incoming freshman an upperclassman “DS Buddy”! It can be overwhelming to adjust to the new experiences and norms of college, and these pairs work to combat that. DS Buddies are paired by major, and common interests. So, these sets of upperclassmen-freshmen pairs ensure that every incoming student is in contact with someone who is well equipped to offer them advice and guidance as they adjust to life on the Forty Acres.
For several years now, Dean’s Scholars have been tutoring students at Gonzalo Garza Independence High School. The school is dedicated to helping students who have fallen behind or out-of-sequence in the normal path to high school graduation. As such, the students follow self-paced, individualized curricula that are tailored to meet each student’s needs. Each semester, a team of Dean’s Scholars volunteers their time to work one-on-one to help students working in math, the sciences, or other disciplines. At the same time that Dean’s Scholars are helping their tutees with classwork, they are also building mentoring relationships that transform the lives of both the Dean’s Scholar and the high school student.
What Dean’s Scholars Do Outside of DS
The range of involvement reflects the range of interests beyond academics in Dean’s Scholars. Academically, DSers are tutors, TAs, mentors, and members of other honors programs such as Turing, Plan II, and the Business Honors Program. They’re involved in major-specific clubs and groups working for diversity within STEM, from Astronomy Students Association and Society for Neuroscience to the Society of Women Engineers and Undergraduate Women in Physics! DSers make an impact on the College of Natural Sciences as a whole through the Natural Sciences Council. Dean’s Scholars are athletes too. Tennis, rugby, volleyball, archery, and ballroom teams all compete intercollegiately and have Dean’s Scholars members. Or, they put this athleticism to use through Texas 4000, an organization that bikes 4000 miles to Alaska to fund cancer research! DSers are also involved in the greater Austin community. Many members of DS volunteer throughout Austin and beyond with organizations including St. David’s Medical Center, the Austin Child Guidance Center, the Capital Area Food Bank, KIPP charter schools, and Amigos de las Americas.