From Finalists to Family

Posted by The 2015 and 2016 McDermott Scholars

On a long bus ride back to Dallas from a cohort trip to Austin, the 2015 and 2016 McDermott Scholars reflected on their Finalists’ Weekends. They remember their favorite moments and discuss what made them choose to be Scholars– from endless opportunities to cool pants.

McDermott Scholars at the 2016 Provost’s Book Party

“My goals for college were to do well academically and be well positioned to get into a good graduate program. After hearing the experiences of the senior McDermott Scholars, I had a whole new definition of what ‘well positioned’ was. The wide breadth of unique opportunities they were exposed to exceeded my expectations for what college students do to grow themselves, both personally and career-wise. Hearing about the internships, study abroad, and student driven independent studies, I knew I would be able to grow and challenge myself more than just academically as a McDermott Scholar.”

– Sydney Sherman ‘15


“I was skeptical of the community that the Program claimed to provide, so I made a point to ask the seniors whether they ever got tired of being around the same group of people for four years. To my surprise, every single ’12 I asked said that after four years, they still feel like a family. Hearing that the Program lived up to its claim of providing a strong sense of community was when I decided that I wanted to be a McDermott Scholar.”

– Thomas Crain ‘16

2013 and 2016 McDermott Scholars gather at Director Molly Seeligson’s house

“My Finalists’ Weekend experience was initially very hectic – I had a conflict with a competition during the first day-and-a-half of Finalists’ Weekend, and then my plane flight to Dallas was delayed by snow, so I didn’t end up arriving until Saturday around 10:00 PM (when much of the Finalists’ Weekend activities were already over). However, I found the McDermott staff to be extremely accommodating. Even though I had the scheduling conflict and ended up missing most of Finalists’ Weekend, the McDermott staff still took the time to 1) re-book my flight, 2) reschedule my interviews, and 3) provide me with the opportunity to tour the UT Dallas campus and sit in on classes a few weeks later. I was so thankful for the staff’s understanding, and I was really impressed by their efforts to help me learn more about the McDermott Scholars Program and UT Dallas.”

– Richard Wu ‘15


“My favorite moment at Finalists’ Weekend was the midnight event with the then seniors. After the long day of tour and interviews, most of us were fairly tired but mustered our remaining energy to talk with the seniors. Charlie Hannigan and a few other seniors had us all sit down in a circle while we were talking. He was so down to earth about all his amazing experiences, from traveling around the world to getting into such prestigious schools after UTD. By that point, I was already sold on McDermott, but that night really showed me how UTD itself could shape my future. Charlie also ended up being my great-great-grand big!”

– Danni Yang ‘16


“During my Finalists’ Weekend, there were many things which contributed to my final decision to commit the McDermott Scholars Program. Nonetheless, the essence of all these moments can be condensed into a speech that Molly, our director, gave at the conclusion of that weekend. In her words, the McDermott Program wasn’t looking merely for good students but rather agents of change that can help bring UTD forward. These words brought me great motivation then, and continues to urge me ahead today.”

– Quang Le ‘15

2015 Scholars Neel Reddy, Rachel Kyes, and Joanna Haug

“Before coming to Finalists’ Weekend, I decided it would be a great idea to read everyone’s McDermott biography. But, it made me feel incredibly inadequate and unimpressive. That being said, my favorite part of Finalists’ Weekend was the conversations I had with the current Scholars because it helped me see them as genuine people. The non-academic conversations we had reassured me that McDermott Scholars were in fact real people with real passions and interests and individuals that I now have the privilege of calling good friends.”

– Sarah Samuel ‘16


“I went into Finalists’ Weekend very skeptical of a program that claimed to offer so many professional development opportunities along with a healthy group of close friends and a worldwide perspective. It seemed too good to be real. However, getting to talk with the seniors after a day of touring the campus and meeting other Scholars, I got to hear about all of the incredible opportunities the Program opened up for them, and I got to see how close they all were with each other. Honestly, the only way to believe that this program could deliver on all that it promised was to see the end result, and those seniors proved it to me.”

– Ben Allsup ‘16

Finalists’ Weekend 2016

“I can’t pick a specific moment from Finalists’ Weekend as my favorite (though as a music geek, the symphony was definitely a highlight). I would say the thing which left the greatest impression on me leaving Finalists’ Weekend was the community – what at first seemed a simple scholarship program instead came off as a close-knit family, one that I wanted nothing more than to be a part of.”

– Benjamin Lunday ‘16


“I knew I wanted to be a McDermott Scholar after talking to Felicity Voit (an ’05 Scholar) because she told me about her journey through UTD, study abroad, and then her time in medical school at Yale. It struck me when she said, “You can either go to an Ivy League school and coast along, letting the name carry you… Or you can work hard to have amazing experiences and make a name for yourself. Neither is right or wrong – it’s just your personal preference.”

– Ann-Cathrin Guertler ‘16

2016 Scholars Sara Hartke, Ann-Cathrin Guertler, and Nikitha Prattipati

“Throughout Finalists’ Weekend, my many fantastic conversations with Scholars and other finalists’ made the greatest impression on me, and were a significant part of my decision to choose McDermott. Talking to them about everything from genetic engineering, to music, to philosophy introduced me to an intellectually vibrant community of people whose interests and curiosities reminded me of my own. I distinctly remember meeting my eventual roommate on the bus to the symphony. That one engaging discussion was the beginning of a great friendship.”

– Matthew Carpenter ‘ 15


“Finalists’ Weekend is really packed full of activities, and when I say packed I mean until midnight full of things to do, places to be, people to meet. During our midnight with the McDermotts session, I realized that this was where I wanted to be. Sitting across from Nina Haug (‘12), who had these really cool pants on, I found myself thinking (in the least creepy way possible), wow, I want to be her. She was a senior, had been to cool places, and found the drive and confidence within herself that I associate with an individual’s happiness. By the end of the weekend, I wanted to be a McDermott Scholar at UTD more than I could want any other Ivy League school or scholarship program. I wanted to find myself and my own cool pants.”

– Sara Hartke ‘16

2012 McDermott Scholars at “Midnight with the McDermotts”

One thought on “From Finalists to Family

  1. I always love reading about Finalists Weekend. I’d love to hear more about what goes on during this event this year, as this topic (along with Study Abroad and the Santa Fe trip and several others) is one of my favorites.


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