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The University of Texas at Austin

Margaret "Megan" Sanders

Not Feeling Limited

I chose to come to UT Austin for the Plan II Honors Program and because of the number of different opportunities the university as a whole offered. When I was applying to college, I couldn’t decide which of my many interests to pursue. I could imagine myself as an artist as easily as I could see myself as a research biologist, which made choosing a university difficult. I found UT Austin appealing because it had so many strong departments. I knew that no matter which field of study I ended up pursuing, I would be able to study it at UT Austin, and it was reassuring not to feel limited.

A Better Place to Find Answers

I started college thinking that I might want to pursue a major in Biology, in addition to Plan II. Although I enjoyed the biology classes that I took, I found myself asking more and more questions about human thought and behavior. After taking an introductory psychology course, I decided that psychology would be a better place to find answers to these questions.

Margaret's tips on…

Studying

Study with friends. I’ve learned so much in the conversations I’ve had with my friends while we are all studying for different classes.

How to be a successful student

Make time to do the things that you love. I always find that I work more efficiently and am much happier when I do.

Living on campus

I would strongly recommend living on campus for the first one or two years of college. I lived on campus for the first two years of college, and I enjoyed living in the middle of things. Although the convenience was a clear benefit, I found living on campus especially valuable because it helped me meet other people. Being on campus made it easier to hang out informally with the new people I met, whether by bumping into them in the dining hall, seeing them in the common rooms where we were all studying, or gathering a group of people to go to an event on campus.

However, after I had made friends freshman and sophomore year, living on campus was less appealing. I was ready to have my own room, be able to cook for myself instead of eating in the dining halls, and live with my friends. I moved off campus junior year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far.

Making friends

Take advantage of how friendly everyone is freshman year and don’t be afraid to talk to people.

Transportation around campus

Get a bike! Having one has been incredibly useful now that I live off campus, and it’s great not having to wait for the bus.

Both Sides of the Research Process

I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology, and the opportunities that I have had at UT Austin to participate in every level of research have helped me toward that goal. As part of my introductory psychology class, I served as a research participant in studies being conducted in the department. I saw the other side of this process when I worked as a research assistant in two of the psychology labs on campus. As a research assistant, I was responsible for taking participants through the study and recording data. Finally, in my honors project I reviewed the literature, came up with a research question, and am in the process of designing a study to test that question. I feel well prepared for graduate school because I have a good sense of every part of the research process.

A Richer Experience

Plan II has been an amazing part of my experience at UT Austin. Academically, the program provides an interdisciplinary degree plan, small classes taught by excellent professors, and a wide range of lectures, movie screenings, and other events. However, the small and vibrant community that Plan II creates is as, if not more, important to me as the academic environment that it fosters. My peers are some of the most interesting and engaging people I have met at UT Austin. The conversations I’ve had with them about every academic subject imaginable and about larger life issues have been as valuable to me as the classes I’ve taken. I know without a doubt that my experience at UT Austin has been much richer because of my involvement in Plan II.

Margaret "Megan" Sanders

Understanding Rome and England

During the summer after my sophomore year, I spent a month in Rome with 12 other Plan II students learning about ancient Roman culture and the changing architecture of the city. Almost all of the lectures took place in the field, and looking at the actual buildings and ruins we were talking about made the classes come to life. One of the things I liked most about the trip was that I really came to understand Rome as a city. Through our classes we learned its history and talked about its future, but in our ample free time we also explored the city ourselves. It was exciting to know my way around after the first week or so, between our class excursions and our own walks around Rome. It was especially nice when I was familiar enough with Trastevere, our neighborhood, which felt like home.

This past summer, I spent an exhilarating two months studying at the University of Cambridge, England. I don’t think that the program could have been more perfect. The rich intellectual history of the place was almost tangible, and my coursework gave me the chance to devote myself entirely to an intense study of the history and philosophy of art. In addition to taking courses on the philosophy of art, I had the opportunity to further explore my interest in an independent study project that I conducted with one of the Cambridge faculty. Studying something I am deeply passionate about in such a stimulating environment made this one of the most intense and rewarding intellectual experiences I have ever had.

Taking Advice to Heart

There are a few professors who I have really connected with, and even after our class is over I still drop by their office hours to talk about their research or to ask for advice. Dr. Wendy Domjan is one such professor. On the first day of class, Professor Domjan insisted that we come see her during office hours so she could get to know us, and from the first time I walked into her office she has acted as mentor to me. She is encouraging, but also honest, straight-forward, and willing to tell me when I need to work harder or to congratulate me on my accomplishments. Her candid guidance has been invaluable to me, and I always take her advice to heart.

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Why I picked my major

I picked Plan II as a major because it worked directly toward my goal of gaining a well-rounded education.

Best unexpected experience

Having the opportunity to conduct both a Psychology Honors project and to write a Plan II thesis was one of the most exciting things that has happened during my time at UT Austin. At first, I thought that I would have to choose one or the other, and I struggled with the decision. If I chose the Psychology Honors project, I would be able to design, conduct, and present an experiment using actual participants. I would be conducting true, psychological research! However, if I chose to write a Plan II thesis, I would be able to approach my questions about art from an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing in ideas from philosophy, art history, and psychology. Unsure about what I should do, I asked the advice of one of my Plan II advisors who also works in psychology. Through our conversation, I realized that it might be feasible for me to do both. The realization was thrilling, and I feel lucky and incredibly grateful to have so many opportunities to study the things that I am passionate about.

How I learned more about UT Austin

Since I grew up in Austin, I was already quite familiar with UT Austin when I applied through programs like Explore UT and by hanging out on campus. However, attending the Honors Colloquium gave me the chance to talk to current students and get a sense of what the university was like. I also attended a Plan II information session and sat in on one of the freshman world literature courses.

How I spend my spare time

I love living in Austin because there is always something going on and always somewhere interesting to hang out. I try to take advantage of Austin’s live music as often as I can. When it’s warm, my friends and I picnic at Zilker Park and swim in Barton Springs Pool. But if I have a free afternoon, I’ll probably spend it reading a book or playing Scrabble with a friend in one of Austin’s many wonderful coffee shops.

Updated Tue, 2011-04-12 15:41 | Top

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