ULN Newsletter | August 2020

ULN Director’s Corner

ULN Scholars,

I hope that you, your family, and your loved ones are doing your best given the day-to-day we are navigating. As you start your academic year, you might be pretty tired of hearing the phrase “we are in unprecedented times,” as it has been nearly six months since the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on, across the world, altering life as we know it for so many. What I don’t want you to ever get tired of hearing is the phrase “you are built for greatness!” This is more than just an idea — I want it to be a whole vibe for you, as this is the kind of energy you will need to continue to persevere despite our worldly challenges.

Whether you are transitioning from high school to college (Texas ’24), beginning your experiential learning in an environment not seen before (Texas ’23), trying to focus on the balance of major coursework and career readiness (Texas ’22) or trying to finish strong around the last leg to graduation and navigating “the future of work” (Texas ’21), each of you are built for greatness. Each of you can and will succeed, especially if you remember to trust yourself, lean on others, and communicate when you are in need. To help you set up the fall semester for success, I offer the following three thoughts:

  • Your health is wealth. Whether you see this as a reminder to follow all public health guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19, a call to action to have a sustainable health and wellness plan for your day to day, or just a note to self to remember to prioritize getting enough sleep, your success is dependent upon you being healthy.
  • Extraordinary times need extraordinary leaders. Not to be lost in how much focus you need to be successful in the classroom, I challenge you to continue to explore ways to develop your leadership skills. Don’t take any time off from learning all you can, even in virtual spaces about your leadership. There will be plenty of content available to you.
  • #letswork. I firmly believe that “what we do, we do together,” so think of the ULN staff when you want or need help, advice, assistance, or just someone to talk to. We are more than just a scholarship program, so let us prove it to you.

This fall will be one for the memory books. You may be challenged in ways you’ve not experienced before. But imagine this: When we are all well past these moments, let us recall the many ways we worked to stay healthy, learned new ways to be successful and did so, as a community! You’ve got this! Let’s work!

To keep the conversation going, follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @kyleclarkspeaks, and keep in touch with ULN by following us on Instagram and Twitter at @ulntexas.

Hook ’em!

Kyle Clark, ULN Director


Kyle Clark signature

Kyle Clark, ULN Director

Summer Experiential Learning Highlights

Tell us about your experience this summer.
This summer, I worked with The IC^2 Institute on a research project that involved 80 Texas communities, examining their current assets and challenges. I have a big interest in research, and when I saw the opportunity to do community research that would help small communities in economic recovery after COVID-19, I was excited to participate. My position was being a student associate researcher for Marfa, Texas. The position involved tasks such as finding secondary research of the community, conducting interviews, and sharing a survey to get to know more about Marfa residents’ views. All the information collected is summed up into creating a community asset summary for use in developing recovery strategies for Marfa. They will be able to use this information to guide their decisions as they embark in the future after COVID-19 and other long-term decisions for Marfa.

What were your proudest achievements during this experience?
The exciting part of the project was learning about a community that I had not visited and being able to gather plenty of data by working virtually. Also, I am proud to have been able to converse with great leaders of the community and learn about a beautiful town.

How has this experience shaped or changed your future goals?
It was a great experience that has helped me in having better communication skills and in being open-minded about the different lifestyles that exist in small communities compared to big cities. In the future, I plan on becoming a physician assistant, and after this experience, I want to one day work in small communities.

Tell us about your experience this summer.

During the school year, I was looking for internships and/or pre-law programs so I could use that as my ULN experiential learning credit. I applied to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) program, where students stay on one of the participating college campuses while taking courses from the law school professors. In the spring, I was notified that I was assigned to The University of Alabama School of Law, but the program was going to be virtual due to COVID.What were your proudest achievements during this experience?

Even though our experience was virtual, one of my proudest moments was being able to develop close relationships with my cohort. I was one of the only persons who represented the state of Texas, so to develop meaningful relationships with peers with the same interest but all across the U.S. was very impactful. In the program, we took civil rights law and property law and discussed LSAT prep and public affairs. We received credit for taking two law classes: Contracts Law and Legal Writing. My proudest moment was receiving an award for drafting the best Legal Writing paper because speaking and reading are my strengths, but not so much writing. Receiving this award showed me that my hard work in improving that area has been paying off.How has this experience shaped or changed your future goals?

One takeaway that I received from this experience is confidence in my career direction. Coming into college, I was pre-medicine. However, I changed to pre-law last semester because I feel that this is the area I am called to serve in. This program granted me confidence in my career choice. Another takeaway that I received was more knowledge of the law field. Going into this program, I went from not knowing anything about the admissions process for law school to knowing the difference between torts and contract law. This was an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.

Tell us about your experience this summer.

All throughout my freshman year, I had been searching for an internship opportunity that would give me the chance to show I’m capable of learning and completing any challenge. Through a partner organization of ULN, UFCU (University Federal Credit Union) Scholars, I was given an opportunity to go to a lunch at UFCU Plaza and talk to various people who work for the organization. The people there were eager to meet the UFCU Scholars, and I was given a chance to express my passion for problem solving and computer science. Following that, I applied for the internship at UFCU, and after a few interviews, they decided I was qualified for the job. I then went on to work for an amazing organization that truly cares for their employees and community.As a result, this summer I worked as an Application Developer at UFCU. I worked on two teams over a 10-week period, where I was tasked with fixing bugs, adding features to existing products, and even taking over a project a developer was working. Originally, this internship was intended to be in person, but as a result of COVID, they decided to move all online. Despite the shift to online, I was able to be very productive, make great connections, and meet with my team every day. In the mornings, our team would meet up to talk about what we were working on and any challenges that arose. After our meeting, myself and the other intern would be given a task to work on for a day or two, and eventually the task gets peer reviewed until no more problems are found in our code.What were your proudest achievements during this experience?

My proudest achievements have to be taking on a project for myself and proving that a freshman can have value and be just as productive as upperclassmen.Being given a few weeks to create a web application of my own design was daunting yet rewarding. The first few days were the slowest since I had to become well acquainted with languages I wasn’t entirely familiar with, but I caught on and within a few days — I could write code way quicker than when I started. I would meet with the developer who assigned me this project every few days to get suggestions on features and review my code. Getting feedback every so often was extremely helpful since it kept me on track and gave me a focus for the next few days. This became one of the most rewarding experiences since I was able to show my passion for coding by designing the app how I saw fit, and I was able to demonstrate my ability to learn quickly.Secondly, I was very proud to be able to show myself as a capable young developer. Throughout the entire internship, I made sure to ask questions when I was unsure of something and actively apply advice I received from developers and managers. I felt this made sure I improved daily, and I was able to work more efficiently with my team since I was comfortable asking for help and getting rid of roadblocks quickly.How has this experience shaped or changed your future goals?

In the process of applying for the internship, I realized the true value of making meaningful connections beyond just adding someone on LinkedIn. At an event for UFCU Scholars, I met a very kind developer who offered to look over my resume and application before I submitted it. This was the start of many connections I made while at UFCU. I learned it’s very rewarding and valuable to create meaningful professional relationships since you find tons of people you can work well with and hopefully reach out to for an opportunity to work with them again.Teamwork really does make the dream work! While at UFCU, I was able to work on two teams filled with wonderful people who provided me with lots of guidance. I was able to learn how to work on large teams with many people who were all committed to the same goal while having different roles which depend on each other. Communication was key to this all. In our daily meetings, it was very important to communicate challenges to other teammates and suggest things you think can be changed. This works to the advantage of everyone since it will all benefit the team. The chance to work on a team with many moving parts is going to be a valuable skill I will continue to use in my education and in future professional roles I take on.

Tell us about your experience this summer.

This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a Family Advocacy Intern at the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). As a Family Advocate, my role entailed completing intake for families who come in to be forensically interviewed and acting as an advocate for that family’s needs throughout the entire investigation process. I learned of this opportunity through one of the emails send out by my major’s advising department.

What were your proudest achievements during this experience?
I’m proud that I was able to adjust to a completely online experience because it was definitely a challenge. Establishing a trustworthy connection with the family you are working with isn’t easy in person, so it was definitely an adjustment to do over a computer screen. It was especially meaningful to me whenever a family would reach out to give me updates even after their time at their time at the CAC was completed because it meant they viewed me as a true support person.

How has this experience shaped or changed your future goals?
Working this internship has influenced my future goals because I know I want to work directly with vulnerable populations and communities. Because of this experience, I know that as I build my career, I want my role to prioritize community empowerment in whatever job I may pursue.

Recently in ULN

Orientation photo 2020

For ULN, a change in plans is just an opportunity to be creative. Because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the university shifted all student orientation sessions online this summer. ULN staff, led by Texas ’24 Coordinator Reyna Flores and Program Manager Esmer Bedia, were happy to adapt, creating an upbeat welcome video for the incoming ULN Texas ’24 cohort and introducing them to the program through virtual ULN Orientation Sessions.

ULN Peer Mentors were excited to participate in these orientation sessions from home as well, providing advice and student perspectives on the program and meeting many of their future mentees. At the end of each orientation week, ULN hosted optional virtual hangouts for the ULN Texas ’24 cohort to get to know each other better, and a total of 51 incoming students attended.

Please join us in welcoming the newest ULN cohort, ULN Texas ’24!

Connect with ULN

Leadership Learning Moment

The Importance of Mentorship

By Esmer Bedia, ULN Program Manager



An experienced and trusted adviser.

Reasons Having a Mentor is Important:

  1. Mentors serve as motivators.
  2. Mentors provide support and resources.
  3. Mentors serve as a sounding board.
  4. Mentors give advice.
  5. Mentors are your friend for life.

College is a time of growth and introspection. It is an opportunity to explore the things we are passionate about and the things we may discover to be our passion. Although college can feel overwhelming at times, having a mentor allows for us to have someone that can provide advice and support. This can be true at any stage of our life.

As a first-year student at The University of Texas at Austin, you start off your college journey alongside a ULN Peer Mentor. Mentors, during such a formative part of college, can really help with the transition. They are instrumental in helping build the college foundation. Many times, throughout our first year, we encounter issues such as Imposter Syndrome, mental health challenges, feelings of homesickness, or academic struggles. It is important to open up and share with your mentor if you are encountering challenges because many times you will find your mentor may have encountered these issues as well. The more we seek out support and motivation from our mentors, the better we are able face the various aspects of college life.

Many students go through the rest of their college journey without another mentor. Having a mentor throughout college is vital. Each year is so unique and different that having a mentor will help in feeling supported and valued. When starting college, often times we have an idea of our career aspirations, but for many, these aspirations change and are transformed to other areas. It’s important to have a mentor to discuss all these changes and successes. Seeking a mentor that aligns with these new aspirations or areas of interest will help with further exploration. When selecting a mentor, make sure you find someone that is able to provide the support you need while also being able to challenge when needed. Finding a mentor can be as simple as finding someone in your organization, a TA in one of your classes, or one of your favorite professors. If you meet someone that you think can serve as a good mentor, make sure that you make time to get to know them and see if they are a good fit. A mentor can be a peer or someone who is versed in a career of your interest. Communication is key in all mentor relationships.

A mentor is not only someone who can help and guide, but they are also someone who will be there for you. Building successful mentor relationships begins with communication and vulnerability. A successful mentor and mentee relationship is one that is balanced and understanding. You will learn a lot from a wonderful mentor, and they in return will provide the support and friendship needed to find confidence and happiness!

Meet the ULN Team

ULN staff work with ULN Scholars from orientation all the way through graduation to provide support on everything from course planning and registration to financial aid questions to experiential learning opportunities and more. The ULN team is always available to help with anything you might need.

Kyle Clark

Esmer Bedia
Program Manager

Veronica Heiskell
Senior Placement Representative

Adrienne McClendon
Texas ’21 Coordinator

Jorge Rodriguez
Texas ’22 Coordinator

Adrian Clark
Texas ’23 Coordinator

Reyna Flores
Texas ’24 Coordinator

Chloe White
Graduate Research Assistant