Inaugural UT International Education Fee Scholarship Recipient Graduates with Skills to Change the World
- Jun 8, 2021
- Suvi Bhalgat
Alumna Shania Robinson is ready to change the world. As the first UT student to receive the International Education Fee Scholarship, she has made the most of her four years on the Forty Acres, giving back to Austin communities, supporting Caribbean students on campus and engaging with the numerous global opportunities UT has to offer.
Following her graduation in May 2021, Robinson will begin her new job as a business analyst for McKinsey & Company with two degrees in hand: one in finance from the McCombs School of Business and the other in international relations and global studies from the College of Liberal Arts.
Robinson is from San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, and chose UT Austin to gain skills and knowledge to benefit her community. Growing up, she always felt the Lone Star State was her second home. She moved around between San Fernando and wherever her father’s work took them in Texas. Her elder siblings attended Texas public universities, so it made sense for Robinson to follow in their footsteps and go to Texas, too. Of the universities she applied to, Robinson was most drawn to UT because of its location as well as the McCombs School of Business’ prestigious rankings.
After her acceptance into the university, Robinson was concerned about tuition and applied to the International Education Fee Scholarship, a highly competitive award covering up to four years of tuition and related expenses on the Forty Acres. The scholarship is awarded annually to one incoming international freshman facing financial hardships, allowing them to focus on studies instead of constantly worrying about money.
Initially, Robinson did not feel very confident in her chances of earning the award but decided to give it her best shot. In her words, “why not?”
“The scholarship application was an opportunity to showcase my aspiration for my college degree or my university experience,” she said. “That was an intrinsic reflection exercise for me. There is really no downside to applying, and of course, financial aid is incredible.”
Robinson was the first Longhorn selected to receive the award, marking the first time the International Education Fee was used to fund four years of tuition for an international student at UT.
In her sophomore year, Robinson chose her concentration in finance and says the most rewarding decision she made at UT is adding her second major in international relations and global studies (IRG) in the College of Liberal Arts. The hard work has been worth it as she has been able to go in-depth into two different disciplines she feels passionate about.
“I liked both majors desperately,” she said. “Finance is a very practical major: you can see it everywhere, it's relevant everywhere, and it provides some options in terms of a stable career path. IRG is really what I’m interested in. Thinking about, why is the world the way that the world is, how can we change the world and was it always like this? The intellectual freedom of IRG really appealed to me. In just pursuing one path, I felt I would have lost something.”
As part of her IRG degree plan, Robinson spent a Maymester in Santiago, Chile where she took an introductory course and toured various local government and international organization offices, including the region’s World Bank Office, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and El Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos. Her favorite activity was exploring Valparaiso, Chile, and the many murals that adorn the creative city’s walls.
Robinson says the most difficult part of the immersive program was navigating the language barrier, especially because she sometimes felt intimidated by the number of fluent Spanish speakers in her program. However, these types of challenging experiences were what she wanted from her university experience.
“I knew that I wanted to grow and mature intellectually,” Robinson said. “I wanted to push myself. I wanted to have certain experiences, and I really do think I've been able to accomplish all of that.”
One of Robinson’s goals at UT was to explore all of the avenues available to her in and out of the McCombs School.
Robinson found a community on campus in the Caribbean Student Association. The group regularly held talks on pressing issues facing their home region, such as climate change and evolving industry practices. She says the club aims to build a community for students like her as well as others interested in the culture, since Austin does not have a large Caribbean population.
After taking her freshman year to find clubs and activities outside of the McCombs School, including adding her IRG major, Robinson realized she needed to start taking full advantage of the business school.
“The opportunities McCombs presents are a bit insane when you think about how well McCombs can set you up if you put in the time and the work to utilize those resources,” she said. “I was looking for an organization that would develop my skills for my college and professional career moving forward as well as something I was genuinely interested in so I would like the work I was doing and the people I was working with.”
One of the student organizations that spoke to Robinson and aligned with her values was Texas CYC, a student-led organization that helps local nonprofits and small businesses grow by providing free consulting services.
“Right away, the emphasis was on service and really giving back to your community,” she said. “Everyone was so intelligent, so driven in their own ways, but also very down to earth. Everyone brought something new to the organization: a different perspective, a different background, different interests.”
She says the organization introduced her to people who cared about the same things she did.
“I found people who were thinking about big picture systemic issues but also people who shared my interests like football, European football; people who also had parents who were moving all over as well; people who had crazy ambitions and were unlimited and what they wanted to do with their life,” she said. “That grounded me and gave me the confidence to go on to pursue other opportunities.”
These experiences with her student organizations helped Robinson tap into her passions for solving climate change, food insecurity and resource scarcity. Furthermore, they have helped her land a post-graduation offer at McKinsey & Company as a general business analyst this coming fall.
In this job, she hopes to specialize in the public and social sectors.
“McKinsey & Company offers you the latitude to build your own career and pursuing projects that you're most passionate about,” she said. “I am excited for the opportunity to engage in the social sector work, like their public policy process, social equality projects, sustainability functions and working to make the world as simple as possible.”
As someone who was intimidated by the scholarship’s selectiveness four years ago, Robinson encourages incoming students to apply to the International Education Fee Scholarship, no matter how daunting it may seem.
“Go for it,” she said. “It is incredibly impressive that you were admitted to UT because they admit very few international applicants, so have the confidence in yourself and that you deserve to be here.”
When applying to awards like the International Education Fee Scholarship, she suggests students take a moment to think about what they want from their university experience.
“Try your best to articulate and demonstrate that, while you may be one out of 50,000 students, you are going to make an impact on this institution,” she said. “As long as you have that conviction in yourself, have that confidence, ambition and desire to accomplish those things and convey that, you have a solid shot. Apply, because there is nothing to lose.”