a view of the ut tower and campus at night

2020 In Review: What Longhorns Around the World Accomplished This Year

  • Dec 18, 2020
  • Jenan Taha

While 2020 was an unprecedented experience with countless challenges, the year also brought notable accomplishments. The global UT community has shown resilience and collective resolve to foster lifelong learning, intellectual inquiry and service.

Not only was the university at the forefront of international research efforts to combat the pandemic, but our students, faculty, staff and alumni championed global exchange and collaboration at a time when they have never been more important.

Our shared commitment to international education has buoyed our hope and renewed our perseverance during this tumultuous time. As we prepare for a new year with eager anticipation, we reflect on moments of joy, resilience, innovation and community in some of our top stories of 2020.   

Texas Global Dialogues Connect UT Alumni Across the Globe

Texas Global and the Texas Exes created the Texas Global Dialogues to offer the more than 530,000 Longhorn alumni living in 176 countries a chance to engage with each other and hear from UT Austin’s leading academic experts on topics that transcend borders. The first three events centered on themes such as news ethics, artificial intelligence and climate change, and brought together upwards of 750 participants in 40 countries.

a zoom gallery of speakers at texas global dialogues

Watch the discussions and find upcoming Texas Global Dialogues events.

Texas Global Launches Grants to Expand Global Engagement

In 2020, Texas Global launched three new grants to support faculty research collaborations with partners abroad, increase international education opportunities for students and deepen the university’s global engagement.

With the Global Virtual Exchange Initiative (GVE), UT faculty have co-created online international courses with peers at universities abroad, while also providing accessible global learning experiences to UT students. In 2020, Texas Global awarded 27 Global Virtual Exchange grants to UT faculty partnering with institutions in over 20 countries.

a graphic of a man walking through a street

GVE grant recipients Jason Cons and Duncan McDuie-Ra conducting anthropology research in Newcastle, Australia

Global Career Launch, a faculty-driven international internship opportunity for students to conduct research and gain career experience abroad, offers both in-person and virtual internship opportunities. The inaugural round of funding provided grants to three UT faculty working with institutions in Australia, Thailand and Mexico, to expand upon existing research and provide students with hands-on, international work experience.

The latest opportunity, the Texas Global Faculty Research Seed Grants, provides support to faculty across all disciplines to develop and strengthen new or existing partnerships with leading higher education institutions and organizations through collaborative research endeavors addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

UT Researchers Work with Global Partners to Fight COVID-19

a ut researcher stands in his labSince the start of the pandemic, UT researchers and their colleagues around the world have moved swiftly to implement creative solutions to thwart COVID-19, demonstrating both the need and efficacy of international collaboration in overcoming global challenges. 

Most notably, the groundbreaking transnational research by UT associate professor Jason McLellan and graduate student fellow Daniel Wrapp, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium, resulted in the identification of a stabilized spike protein, which is now being used in COVID-19 vaccines across the United States and throughout the world.

English Language Center Courses Accessible to Students Anywhere in the World

For the first time in its history, the English Language Center made its high-quality English jaime ortega does a hook em at a football gamecourses accessible online to serve students anywhere in the world, including the Academic English ProgramEnglish Language Program, International Academy, and customized Teacher Training Institute. Applications for spring and summer programs are now open for both in-person and online courses.

“When I arrived in Austin in August 2019, my English was almost nothing,” said Jaime Ortega, a Panamanian student who completed the Academic English Program online. “Now I can communicate better than before with my classmates and English speakers. I think virtual classes have been excellent, despite no one expecting to start learning this way. You can take classes in any part of the world.”

President’s Award For Global Learning Researchers Confront Critical World Issues

After implementing their research on colorism in Ghana in summer 2019, a team of four student recipients of the President’s Award for Global Learning brought their findings back to Texas this spring to create the Museum of Color. The interactive art exhibition of sculptures and multimedia displays captures personal histories and narratives of the exhibition goers themselves, who were able to contribute their own accounts of colorism to the installation, all aimed at expanding the Austin community’s understanding of colorism.

the museum of color exhibit sculptures

An interactive installation piece at the Museum of Color

Since 2018, 12 President’s Award teams have tacked global issues in 10 countries throughout the world. Five new teams were awarded this year, addressing conservation efforts in India, skin cancer prevention in Singapore, water conservation practices in Jordan, early STEM education in Jamaica and the effect of social networks on undergraduates in Mexico. The teams will implement their projects in summer 2021.

2020 Graduates Seek to Change the World

Veronica Remmert wants to help marginalized communities in the U.S. overcome healthcare disparities and ensure equitable treatment for everybody. After graduating in the spring with a degree in biology and certificate in social inequality, health and policy, she took her passion for community health to Dell Medical School in fall 2020.  veronica poses in front of the UT tower in a burnt orange shirt

“Now, more than ever, we can see we are all intimately connected to one another, as we can see that viruses, and ultimately health behaviors, are not contained by borders,” she said. “Each action is impacted by our history and the constellation of socioeconomic factors that control us daily. We must take the time to understand where people come from and their perspectives, to not only improve the health of our own nation, but the health of the world.”

McCombs alumna Meagan Doyle graduated with multiple international experiences under her belt, a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a Business Spanish certificate — as well as Class of 2020, a marketing agency she co-created, inspired by her study abroad experiences. 

Read more about our global alumni

Longhorns Celebrate International Education Week 2020

During International Education Week (IEW) in November, Texas Global invited the UT global community to celebrate this year’s themes of engagement and resilience. Colleges, schools and organizations across campus hosted more than 70 virtual and in-person events.

A highlight of IEW is always the Texas Global education abroad photo and video contest, and this year’s submissions emphasized the enduring Longhorn commitment to curiosity and discovery. One winner was selected in each of six categories by students, alumni and friends around the world who chose their favorites on Facebook.

a sheep stands in a field covered in colorful dye

Marketing Graduate Rissa Broudy's photo from her time in Wales 

"Studying in a country where I knew nobody was an experience full of challenges, uncertainty, and personal growth,” said ‘Artistic Eye’ category winner Rissa Broudy, who studied abroad in Swansea, Wales. “I saw places and met people I never dreamt I would, but my Longhorn spirit followed me wherever I went! I hope to move to London upon graduation, I fell in love with the city and culture and am itching to return."

Despite Abridged Study Abroad, UT Senior Has No Regrets from Time in Belgium

frances sits at a cafe in belgium at nightAfter spending part of the spring 2020 semester in Brussels, Belgian-born senior Frances Garnett was able to reconnect with her roots, visit old family friends and discover facets of Belgian life, like baguette vending machines. She improved her French, gained more confidence navigating new environments and documented her experiences as a Global Ambassador. Garnett’s program was cut short when travel was suspended due to growing COVID-19 safety concerns, but that has not deterred her.

“I would go back to Belgium in a heartbeat. I’m currently brainstorming ways I can make that happen after graduation. I fell in love with Brussels so quickly, and I know I’ll miss the slower pace of life there. My French improved so much. I really don’t have any large regrets about the time I spent there. There are some cities and museums I missed out on, but I came back with so many new memories that I feel like I had a full semester there.”

Freshman Explores UT from Home in Matamoros, Mexico

Diana Arriaga is exploring the world in her online classes from home in Matamoros, Mexico. Although she planned to kick off her first semester at UT on campus, she is enjoying the unique experience of virtual learning and has made connections despite her distance from the Forty Acres.

a view of brownsville, texas

Diana's view of Brownsville, across the border from Matamoros

“This year is not what I expected, but I have learned to appreciate the opportunities that have revealed themselves to me. I am learning new skills, like cooking, braiding and embroidering. I am spending more time with my family as a tech guru and a storyteller, recounting what I learned in class. I am forging new relationships while staying in touch with old friends. Soon there will be new challenges to face, but I will confront them with experience in my pocket because anything that comes after the pandemic will be minor in comparison.”

Arriaga recently shared her experience on the International Student and Scholar Services Blog as part of a new series documenting how the pandemic has impacted international students in their own words. Read her post on the ISSS Blog.

Diplomacy Lab Engages Students in Foreign Policy Research for U.S. State Department

International relations and global studies students tackled real-world foreign policy issues in Diplomacy Lab, a U.S. State Department program that calls on academics around the country to produce innovative research on foreign affairs and contribute directly to the policymaking process. Assistant government professor Michael Mosser’s capstone classroom was the first at UT to participate in the program.

a representative talks with a student at a table

A member of the U.S. State Department meets with a UT student 

One of the teams was invited by the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to present their policy recommendations in a live-streamed event that garnered more than 13,000 online participants and reached more than 72,000 viewers across Southeast Asia.

“Diplomacy Lab is far more than just your typical term paper that you write at the end of the semester,” Mosser said. “It is potential for students to make real-world change. This project is a literal embodiment of ‘what starts here changes the world.’”

Global Professional Training Virtual Forums Prepare Students to Work, Live Abroad

Adapting to a virtual format enabled the Global Professional Training (GPT) symposium to reach more students, feature a wider variety of speakers and engage more international alumni than previously possible.

Both GPT Latin America and GPT East and Southeast Asia were held as a series of interactive workshops and panels in 2020, packed with insights on how to enter the professional market and insight on working in these critical world regions.

a zoom gallery of students at gpt

Ayumi Uchiyama, a Latin American studies junior, said the GPT Latin America virtual forum offered numerous resources and tips for starting a career in Latin America.

“After the professional training sessions, I have a wider view towards my future and career because many of the presenters emphasized that they went through the paths they didn’t even imagine taking,” Uchiyama shared. “GPT helped me learn where and how to find an internship or job opportunity related to Latin America.”