Graduation weekend for the Longhorns
AUSTIN, Texas -- Now that they’ve mastered the ability to excel in the classroom, in the community and in competition, it’s time for the graduating Longhorn student-athletes to step off the UT campus and start new life adventures.
And, those new eras begin this weekend (May 18-19) as the 124th spring commencement is celebrated on the Forty Acres by 7,440 graduating students, their families and friends, and members of the university community.
There are 92 UT student-athletes in the 2006-07 graduating class. This is a highly-talented and diverse group of athletes across all of UT’s athletic teams. They represent 15 different states and six foreign countries (Canada, Croatia, England, Mexico, Poland and Puerto Rico).
Among the 92 Longhorn graduates, they will receive degrees in 32 different majors which are as diverse as advertising, pre-med, studio art, corporate communications, photojournalism, biology, social work, audiology, economics, Russian, radio-TV-film, chemistry and human ecology along with five different areas of engineering (aerospace, civil, biomechanical and petroleum engineering).
"This is an extraordinary time. A time for Texas," noted William Powers Jr., President of The University of Texas at Austin, in a statement he released prior to commencement. "A time for this generation to step forward and become the creative thinkers and leaders of a new era. Because what starts here changes the world."
Among those ready to go out and help make significant changes are members from the Longhorns’ swimming and diving, football, basketball, tennis, soccer and rowing teams. These seniors reminisced about their time at UT and spoke about their future plans as they waited for commencement exercises to begin on Friday.
"This is like a dream to me, to be able to stand here in my cap and gown," noted tennis standout Petra Dizdar, who graduates with a degree in public relations and who will enroll in UT’s prestigious LBJ School of Public Affairs in September. "To have come from Croatia four years ago to study and play tennis here, and to know all that I’ve gained and how much I’ve grown, it almost unreal! I’ve learned so much, particulary from the difficult times. I’ve been blessed to play for the NCAA national championship, to experience some of the best academics, to have wonderful support from coaches and staff members."
Dizdar was attending graduation ceremonies with one of her best friends from her native Croatia -- Anja Margetic -- who made the trip from Split, Croatia to Austin to spend time with Dizdar on her special day.
"My family, unfortunately, cannot come to graduation, but to have Anja here representing my native country with me is awesome!", Dizdar said. "This is her first trip to America, and on Sunday, we are leaving for an amazing 12-day road trip to Montana and Glacier National Park. We’ll be with my teammate and fellow senior Ristine (Olson), who lives in Montana. From Montana, we fly to New York City for a week to visit with some friends! After that, I’ll return to Austin and get ready for my graduate studies this fall."
"It’s very surreal today," said former Longhorn football deep snapper Tully Janszen of Keller, Texas who studied kinesiology. "I really can’t believe it’s here. It’s already been five years. I’m excited to embark on a new chapter in my life. Closing this one is exciting, and I really don’t know how to explain the feeling. It seems like I’m in a dream. It seems like it’s flown by, and I’ve loved every minute of it. It has been very enjoyable, and it’s going to be a fun day."
"Graduating is such an accomplishment and a blessing," said basketball forward Katrina Robinson, a native of Grand Prairie, Texas. "I’m the last born (in my family) so I’m the last of three daughters to graduate. I know my family is very happy and proud of all of us. I majored in sociology, but my plan (once commencement is over) is to teach in the Plano (Texas) school system once I get my certification. It’s not set in stone yet, but that is the plan. I’m excited to get into teaching and work with young kids."
For other graduates, different priorities are on the horizon.
Former Texas soccer goalkeeper Dana Hall, who hails from Kingwood Texas, has a hectic few weeks in store.
"First and foremost, I’m getting married on June 2 so that’s a big deal right now!", smiled Hall, who will be married on her family ranch. "After that, I’m applying to go to grad school at subsidiary schools in Texas to become a physician’s assistant. I made that decision because I wanted to do something to help people. Studying to be a PA will be a huge commitment, but I’m looking forward to the challenge."
All-America swimmer Stephanie Anderson plans some foreign study before returning to Texas to start her career.
"I’m done with school in August, and to finish my degree, I’m going to study abroad in Prague," said Anderson. "Hopefully when I get back, I’ll have a job designing magazines. My degree is in photojournalism which is exactly what I wanted to do coming out of high school."
"There were a lot of messages that my coaches have left with me," noted Anderson. "They’ve placed academics very, very highly. I was always encouraged to go to class, always encouraged to study and do well, and not just pass through. The dedication to learning your sport transfers over into your academic life. These messages have resonated with me throughout my time here and they are what I will carry with me."
Houston, Texas native and diver Nikki Triplett will move to the West Coast to jumpstart her career.
"I’m moving to Los Angeles to get into an agent training program for directors and screenwriters and actors," Triplett, a public relations major, said. "My cousin is an agent, and I’ve heard a lot about her work. I love film and wanted to get into the industry. UT helped prepare me with all of the guidance. [UT Athletics Director of Career Development] Dr. Mike Sanders helped me a lot with my resume and how to present myself. The people here are unbelievable! I feel like the support system between my coaches, fellow teammates, and the academic services office was just amazing, and that they’ve helped me prepare for my next steps."
Like Dizdar, soccer player Priscilla Fite, a biology and allied health major, also plans to get some travel in before taking her MCAT’s this summer.
"On Tuesday, a friend and I are going to Europe, to London, Paris, Spain, and South Africa for a little over a month," noted Fite. "I'm taking the MCAT's in August and then going to Bible school in Anaheim, Calif., for two years. I'll be applying for PA school or medical school after that, depending on how well I do on the MCAT. I didn't want to go straight to medical school, and thought studying in California would be a nice transition."
"I had a great experience here, in terms of soccer and academics," Fite finished. "I definitely don’t have any regrets. I will miss UT and I will miss Austin, but I’m looking forward to the future and there are a lot of great things ahead of me."
Rower Veronika Buonaugurio of the San Antonio area will go in the opposite direction of Triplett and Fite, as her next move takes her to the Washington, D.C. Area.
"I have a huge interest in human rights policies," stated Buonaugurio, an anthropology major, "and I’ve been accepted to American University where I will be in the graduate public policy program. This summer, before my studies, I am looking to gain experience in Washington by working at either the General Accounting Office or the Congressional Budget Office. Eventually, it’s my dream to work for the State Department, specifically as an ambassador to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). I believe those dreams are possible after coming to UT and experiencing life here and gaining the confidence and knowledge that I have gained as a student-athlete."
UT head coach Chris Petrucelli, who was with his soccer graduates, expressed his feelings about the soccer seniors. His words, however, would be echoed by each and every Longhorns coach.
"This is such a great group because athletically they were outstanding, and academically they were outstanding," said Petrucelli. "They are a great representation of the term ‘student-athlete.’ They were focused on graduating and getting their degrees, and focused athletically on being the best."
"I think this group has gained a great deal from The University of Texas as well as given The University of Texas some great memories," Petrucelli concluded. "The things that they went through during their careers, the difficulties, the good times and the bad times, are all things that have molded them into mature and quality people who are going to be highly successful."
"Not in my wildest dreams could I have thought that my last four years would have been as wonderful as they’ve been," Dizdar concluded. "UT is such a special place."
2006-2007 UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS GRADUATING STUDENT-ATHLETES
Name Sport Major Dariam Acevedo Volleyball Kinesiology Kelly Baritot Women’s Tennis Corporate Communication Justin Blalock Football Youth & Community Studies Daniel DiToro Men’s Swimming & Diving Biology Zach Gallenkamp Baseball Corporate Communication Amber Hall Softball History Matt Hofer Football Social Work Tracey Hemmerle Women’s Swimming & Diving Biology James "Trey" Hardee Men’s Track & Field Kinesiology Bryan Herrera Baseball Kinesiology Greg Johnson Football Corporate Communication Seth Johnston Baseball Corporate Communication Amanda Larence Women’s Swimming & Diving Corporate Communication Matthew Molnar Men’s Swimming & Diving Aerospace Engineering Matthew Munoz Men’s Track & Field Economics Marcus Myers Football Economics Melissa Polka Rowing Music Chezare' Sievers Softball Communication Studies Kristin Siminski Women’s Swimming & Diving Early Childhood Education Ychlindria Spears Women’s Track & Field Audiology Brett Valdez Football Youth & Community Studies Jonathan Von Letscher Men’s Track & Field Radio-Television-Film Melaine Walker Women’s Tennis Youth & Community Studies Meredith Yarbrough Rowing Linguistics & Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
Name Sport Major Devan Andersen Women’s Golf Health Promotion & Fitness Jeff Bell Men’s Golf Kinesiology Amy Bradford Softball Health Promotion & Fitness Greg Brown Football Kinesiology Veronika Buonaugurio Rowing Anthropology Amy Burlingham Soccer Psychology & Kinesiology Ben Campos Football Kinesiology Xang Chareunsab Football Kinesiology Hubert Chodkiewicz Men’s Tennis Economics/Pre-Med Blake Copple Men’s Swimming & Diving Mechanical Engineering Petra Dizdar Women’s Tennis Public Relations Jaclyn Faulkner Women’s Swimming & Diving Social Work Elaine Ferritto Women’s Swimming & Diving Radio-Television-Film Priscilla Fite Soccer Biology/Allied Health Adair Fragoso Football Music Kelli Garrett Rowing Psychology Dallas Griffin Football Finance, Honors Business Haskell "Tre" Griffin Men’s Track & Field Advertising (Graduate degree) Karen Haight Soccer Business Honors Dana Hall Soccer Kinesiology Martine Hall Rowing Human Ecology Clint Haney Football Kinesiology Albert Hardy Football African/Afro-American Studies Caley Hullihen Rowing Biology Tully Janszen Football Kinesiology Wade Kelly Men’s Swimming & Diving Economics & Government Amy Knitt Rowing Public Relations Mark McCoy Football Corporate Communication Andrew Middleton Men’s Track & Field Government Daria Mieloszynska Women’s Basketball East European & Eurasian Studies Dustin Miksch Football Youth & Community Studies Matthew Mills Men’s Golf Youth & Community Studies Brandon Mouton Men’s Basketball Youth & Community Studies Nathan O’Brien Men’s Swimming & Diving Government Cat Osterman Softball Psychology Jason Perez Football Chemistry Bryan Pickryl Football Biomechanical Engineering Poston Pritchett Men’s Swimming & Diving History/Pre-Med Amber Reber Women’s Track & Field Psychology Katrina Robinson Women’s Basketball Sociology Matt Rosenfeld Men’s Golf Management Lacey Smith Women’s Track & Field Biology Brian Smith Men’s Swimming & Diving Journalism Lige Stewardson Women’s Track & Field Kinesiology Kendra Strohm Women’s Tennis Kinesiology Andrew Terry Men’s Track & Field Civil Engineering Ashley Thompson Women’s Track & Field Advertising Nikki Triplett Women’s Swimming & Diving Public Relations
Name Sport Major Lawrence Adjah Men’s Track & Field Kinesiology (Graduate Program) Stephanie Anderson Women’s Swimming & Diving Photojournalism Jennifer Andrew Volleyball Sport Management John Arnold Men’s Track & Field Government Brian Beach Men’s Track & Field Kinesiology Alan Bean Men’s Track & Field Sport Management Jessica Curtis Volleyball History Brock Edwards Football Youth & Community Studies Brittany Givilancz Women’s Golf Corporate Communication Carly Gloge Rowing Studio Art Darren Kelly Men’s Basketball Youth & Community Studies Donovan Kilmartin Men’s Track & Field Petroleum Engineering Samyr Laine Men's Track & Field Kinesiology (Graduate Program) Matt Melton Football Kinesiology Chance Mock Football Youth & Community Studies Lyle Sendlein Football Youth & Community Studies Kasey Studdard Football Youth & Community Studies Joseph Thorne Men’s Track & Field Health Promotion & Fitness Jacqueline Williams Softball Health Promotion & Fitness Megan Willis Softball Corporate Communication
Note: Football's Neale Tweedie, a kinesiology major, had entered the 2006 season with his undergraduate degree.