Head of the Class

Meet six rising stars who aren’t waiting for graduation to change the world.

Since 1985, the Texas Exes’ President’s Leadership Award has honored six students each year—one sophomore, two juniors, and three seniors who have made their mark as leaders in the classroom and in student organizations. This year’s class is more impressive than ever, with entrepreneurs, scientists, and writers among their number.


Lauren Caton

Neurobiology, Honors in Advanced Nutritional Sciences
Bragging rights
Founded GirlAdvocates, a 100-member mentorship program at Webb Middle School; also founded an eating disorder support program at UT’s Center for Students in Recovery

“When I was in middle school, I had low self-confidence. A lot of teens try to find themselves in unhealthy things; for me that was an eating disorder. So I want to help girls find themselves by giving them a positive role model they can look up to.”


Ignacio Cruz

Corporate Communication Studies
Mission, Texas
Bragging rights
Raised $5,000 for women and families affected by HIV/AIDs in Ghana; founded and directs the Undergraduate Research Association

“During my junior year, I had the opportunity to go to Ghana. It was an amazing experience that brought everything full circle. Now I have a deeper understanding of the history, culture, and need in Ghana, and how fundraising can help. ”


Amy Enrione

Business Honors, Management Information Systems, Mathematics (Actuarial Science Track)
Brooklyn, New York
Bragging rights
President of women’s mentorship group Austin Connect; Forty Acres Scholar

“I think it’s incredibly important for business students to give back to their community. I want to give back to the people who have given me so much [as a Forty Acres Scholar], and that starts here and now as a student.”


Madison Gove

Business Honors, Marketing, Government
Dickinson, Texas
Bragging rights
President of Students for Wema, a club that raises funds and support for a school and orphanage in Bukembe, Kenya; directed a campus benefit for human trafficking survivors

“As we started to work with the orphanage, we realized they needed a sustainable source of income. We also realized they needed a bakery. We decided to create that, so that the village would have bread and the students would have work when they finish school.”


Neal Makkar

Business Honors, Finance
Katy, Texas
Bragging rights
Organized the largest South Asian dance competition ever held in Texas; led a disc golf tournament that raised $15,000 for scholarships

“Jhalak means ‘glimpse’ in Hindi. I wanted to give people a glimpse into Indian culture. We hosted the first national Indian dance competition in Texas and the largest in the nation.”


Coleman Tharpe

Anthropology (Liberal Arts Honors), Radio-Television-Film (Information Studies)
Point Clear, Alabama
Bragging rights
Founded a consulting firm; assistant editor of the Ransom Center’s The Making of Gone with the Wind

“Working at the Ransom Center was eye-opening for me. Raising the profile of research institutions is so important to their survival.”

Photos by Anna Donlan.


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