Running the World

Posted by Kathleen Alva


Researchers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, corporate leaders, scientists, environmentalists. These are the people who change the world. They are also some of the careers chosen by the first eight women I met as a nervous college freshman in August of 2013.

Santa Fe group picture

As my class begins our final year as college undergraduates, I would like to share what I have learned from the successes of these senior women from the University of Texas at Dallas. Our diverse majors encompass nearly every academic school in the UTD galaxy, but I have noticed four traits we share that may have contributed to our success.

Quick facts about the nine of us so you know who I’m talking about:

  • Caitlynn: International Political Economy major
    In the past year: Studied in Taiwan
  • Kathleen: [Me!] Literature and Arts and Performance major
    In the past year: Studied Flamenco dance in Spain
  • Lauren: Biology major
    In the past year: Saw 11 species of bats in the wild while studying in Malawi
  • Lyndsey: Finance and Business Administration major
    In the past year: Accepted into post-graduation wealth management rotational program
  • Marisa: Neuroscience major
    In the past year: Studied the Cuban health system
  • Nancy: Political Science major
    In the past year: Published Throwaway Youth, a book advocating for homeless teens
  • Priya: Neuroscience major
    In the past year: Studied in Washington, D.C., Oxford, and Amsterdam
  • Samantha: Geosciences major
    In the past year: Biked, rode buses, and hiked around Scandinavia
  • Vedika: Biology major
    In the past year: Studied in Spain and Peru

We run:

If you’re Sam and Marisa you run in the literal sense: Sam on UTD’s cross country team, and Marisa as president of the UTD running club. However, all of us have taken the initiative to lead in one way or another. For example, Caitlynn and Nancy served as 2015 President and 2014 Vice President, respectively, of UTD Student Government to improve campus and represent the voices of students. In another case, Lauren created a club for “Outdoor Adventurers,” and then convinced the university to allow camping equipment to be rented from the activity centers. Vedika taught Biology as a Supplemental Instruction Leader, and Lyndsey has led everything from a round table seminar about finances to serving as President of her sorority, Delta Zeta.

DC group picture

We make time for our passions:

Last fall, Lauren, Priya and I took a yoga class together that rocked our semester, because life is stressful and unfulfilling without passions. In the midst of preparing for her MCAT, Vedika made time to take figure drawing classes and to salsa dance with the club “Stop Pretending You Can’t Dance.” Lyndsey has performed in musicals. Priya sang with the a cappella group “Novis,” and I dance with every team I can. If you are passionate about something, continue to do it! Or, find a new passion, and don’t worry about it being major-related. From Marisa’s “Latin-American Politics” to Caitlynn’s “Mandarin,” most of us have taken classes outside of our major that have had an enormous impact on our future plans, career goals, and well-being.

We show up:

Mornings are hard, and getting to that class, or that meeting, or that volunteer event sometimes seems like the most impossible task in the world. But here’s a secret: showing up is difficult for other people too. SO if you are the one to make the effort to show up and be there, sometimes your effort is rewarded, like being given the answers to test questions, or receiving free extra credit points, or meeting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (as Nancy did). A second part of this advice is to not be afraid to show up, try out, or apply for a position, even if you’re not a typical candidate. Nancy, a political science major, Priya, a neuroscience major, Lauren, a biology major, and I, a literature major, all studied political science and public policy while interning in Washington D.C. for a semester. Three of us four were not “typical” candidates for a public policy program, but by “showing up” and applying anyway, we managed to show how the internship corresponded with our future careers.

We support each other:

The nine of us have climbed mountains and leapt out of airplanes together. We’ve met up to drink boba and eat Ethiopian food and laugh and cry. With such varied goals, we have spent much of the past three years states and countries apart. However, my last piece of advice is this: college is a time of change and growth, and a time that is better shared. Yes, you need sleep. Yes, you should make schoolwork one of your priorities. But also make time to spend with your people. I hope you’re lucky enough to find a group like these ladies.


I walked a portion of the Camino Santiago in Spain this summer, and heard the phrase: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” To the 2013 McDermott women: it has been an honor to share your path for the last three years. I look forward to this year and the future.

To everyone else reading this: You’re off to a great start in life, and I have total faith that you will succeed. Now pick up your confidence and walk far.

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