First Class

Four years after welcoming its inaugural class to campus, the Forty Acres Scholars Program watches its first graduates cross the stage.


For years, UT had been losing Texas’ most talented high school students to the Ivy Leagues. In 2011, the Texas Exes introduced the university’s premier full-ride, merit-based scholarship program. With a comprehensive program that includes more than just a check—think a tight-knit cohort of fellow Longhorns, leadership training, and study-abroad opportunities—the Forty Acres Scholars Program managed to turn that problem on its head.

The 10 members of the program’s class of 2015 were selected from a competitive pool of 780 applicants. As some of their fellow scholars continue their educations at UT, four members of that first class will become official Texas Exes—part of the organization that brought them to UT in the first place.

Below, graduating Forty Acres Scholars Anne Alexander, Ashley Chang, Stephanie Eisner, and Emily Gruener reflect on their UT experiences and talk about what’s next.

… On the best part of their time at UT

Anne Alexander: Being able to study abroad was really incredible, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if the program hadn’t provided the funds for it and gently nudged us to go. I got to go to Florence and immerse myself in a new culture for a full summer.

Ashley Chang: My favorite part of being at UT was meeting the great diversity of people on campus. I learned more about myself because I got to see and experience new ideas.

Stephanie Eisner: There are some really awesome mentors here. The professors I’ve had have been friendly, supportive, and eager to help me succeed.

Emily Gruener: The alumni in particular have been very supportive. I met a Texas Ex my freshman year and he offered me an internship at his law firm. It’s great that UT alumni are so willing to help scholars figure out what they want to do.

… On how their college experiences would have been different without the Forty Acres Scholars Program

AA: I don’t think I would have challenged myself as much. When I saw what my fellow scholars were achieving on campus, it really challenged me to set bigger goals.

AC: The transition from high school to college would have been a lot harder. The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough resources at UT; it’s just that people don’t always know they exist. We always knew the Texas Exes staff could help with any questions we had.

SE: Being a Forty Acres Scholar made a lot of things easier for me, including opening the doors to creativity for what I wanted to do with my summers. I interned in Bangladesh after my freshman year, then spent a summer in Germany as a RISE Scholar.

EG: I think I would’ve been afraid to take risks, such as unpaid internships or a solo service project in Guatemala. I would’ve probably stuck to trying things that more conventionally lead to success.

… On what it means to become a Texas Ex

AA: It’s good to know I’ll always have a place to call home. Texas Exes truly cares about connecting alumni and keeping the network strong.

AC: Being a Texas Ex is such a privilege, and it will serve as motivation to work harder so I can say what started at UT actually changed the world.

SE: It’s a great honor to be called a Texas Ex. I look forward to bringing what I learned about science and public health at UT to the next chapter of my life.

EG: At the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Awards, Matthew McConaughey said something about UT teaching you to fight for what you want. As a Texas Ex, I definitely have a strong desire to give back and help students the way the program helped me.

Chang,-AshleyAshley Chang
Elizabeth Shatto Massey Forty Acres Scholarship

Neurobiology major and Health Science Scholar from Victoria

Attending The University of Texas Medical School at Houston in the fall




Emily Gruener
Mrs. Harold Myers Forty Acres Scholarship

English, government, and Plan II Honors major from Houston

Working in management consulting for Accenture in Boston, then starting law school at Stanford


Stephanie Eisner
Founding Donors Forty Acres Scholarship

Public health major and Polymathic Scholar fromThe Woodlands

Heading to the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil for a four-month research project on Chagas disease

Alexander,-AnneAnne Alexander
Charline and Red McCombs Family Forty Acres Scholarship, Chevron Enrichment Award

Finance and business honors major from Houston

Moving to Chicago for a consulting job at Accenture


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