Recipient of Outstanding Student Award Is a Leader On, Off Campus
July 2, 2014
When Jessica D’Souza came to UT Dallas as a freshman, she had a hunch she would be taking a less traditional approach to her medical career dreams. That approach was effective — she recently was recognized for her dedication to UT Dallas and the community with the Outstanding Student Award.
Beginning as an undeclared major, D’Souza had what she calls a “light bulb moment” when she first understood the connection between health and sociology in her Public Health and Society class.
“Medicine is only one piece of health, and sociology highlights the other important factors. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a public health-oriented career and that sociology was the path for me,” said D’Souza, a McDermott Scholar who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in biology in May.
D’Souza’s hands-on college experiences confirmed her desire to work directly with those she will serve. To prepare for a career in public health, D’Souza volunteered with Rainbow Day Children at Dallas Life Homeless Shelter and with CitySquare, a nonprofit devoted to fighting poverty.
Working at a clinic, D’Souza explored community medicine by health coaching and coordinating family activities. She shadowed physicians and translated for Spanish speakers at various clinics throughout the Dallas area.
D’Souza’s Achievements & Activities at UT Dallas
- McDermott Scholar
- Collegium V Honors Program
- Bill Archer Fellow
- Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society
- Student Ambassador
- Student Government communications chair and Freshman Senator of the Year
- Studied and volunteered abroad in Peru, Argentina and Spain
- Rainbow Days Children volunteer
- North Texas Undergraduate Conference of Psychology poster presenter
- Sociology Club vice president
- Ladies of Vision and Excellence treasurer
- Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority
- NEW Leadership Texas Program
The St. Louis native continued to serve others, teaching multicultural and health-based cooking classes while in Spain and Washington, D.C.
D’Souza is the second student to receive the Outstanding Student Award. The Office of Undergraduate Education established the Outstanding Student Award in 2013 to provide public recognition to one outstanding senior graduating each year from UT Dallas.
“Awards such as this are important because they demonstrate to the UT Dallas community that in addition to academic success, we also highly value leadership, commitment, perseverance, creativity and service to the community,” said Courtney Brecheen, assistant dean in the Office of Undergraduate Education. “The ultimate goal is for the Outstanding Student Award to evolve from an incentive to accomplish great things at UT Dallas to the standard of excellence we expect of each undergraduate."
The award, presented each spring at the Honors Convocation, includes $5,000 and a custom-engraved diploma frame. The anonymous donation that funds the Distinguished Chair for Undergraduate Education and Research supports the award.
D’Souza was nominated by Dr. Carol Cirulli Lanham, assistant dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and senior lecturer of sociology. D'Souza's nomination was supported by a combination of her professors, past employers, volunteer supervisors, student organization advisors and UT Dallas program coordinators.
Lanham said D’Souza was enrolled in her sociology classes in her first and last semesters, giving Lanham the opportunity to witness D’Souza’s progress.
“She has taken full advantage of all that the program has to offer, and she continues to give back in time and creative ideas of how to improve it for others.”
“Although she already had a long list of accomplishments when she came to the University, she did not rest on her laurels,” Lanham said. “She quickly got involved in a wide range of extracurricular activities and academic pursuits, and was always looking for ways to give back.”
McDermott Scholars Program director Molly Seeligson said D’Souza served as a representative of her class on the McDermott Council, provided academic feedback to those interested in pursuing a career in medicine and mentored younger scholars in the program. She joined a group of newer McDermott Scholars on their trip to Santa Fe, N.M., earlier this year.
“Jessica’s commitment to the McDermott Scholars Program has been as constant as it is boundless,” Seeligson said. “She has taken full advantage of all that the program has to offer, and she continues to give back in time and creative ideas of how to improve it for others.”
This fall, D’Souza will begin her medical training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Her long-term career goal is to create greater ties between medicine and public health, possibly through public policy.
“Receiving the Outstanding Student Award was the culmination of my time at UT Dallas,” D’Souza said. “It holds a sense of fulfillment for me that I have contributed to the University and the UTD community and have made the most of the wonderful opportunities I have been blessed with.”