Aditya is thrilled at the prospect of attending McCombs School of Business at UT Austin and is currently on the waitlist for Vanderbilt. He is an awesome student with a kind heart and we can’t wait to see him thrive as a college student!
Fourteen pairs of eyes looked expectantly at me across the table where I stood with Bible in hand. It was my turn to lead daily prayer. I held the leather-bound manuscript reluctantly and examined the near-translucent pages, unsure of where to begin.
When I left Strathcona-Tweedsmuir International School after five years, I traded a classroom of diverse friends who encouraged me to wear traditional garb for Diwali for Texas classrooms filled with religiously homogeneous strangers congregating for afternoon bible sessions. Despite Grace Middleschool’s local prestige, its forceful departure from the polytheism and idolism inherent in my Hindu tradition was isolating.
At first I approached this new, stifling atmosphere with my usual enthusiasm. As I introduced the possibility of multiple omniscient beings in bible class, my peers’ anticipatory glances turned to rolling eyes and exasperated sighs. Soon, rather than opening up about my distinct religious perspective, I sat silently at my desk and internalized my beliefs. My academic success was stifled by the pressure to push aside Hinduism’s approachable multitude of gods in order to understand just one.
Dogmatically accepting the beliefs of others would negate the values I learned in both my academic and religious education. Intent on learning firsthand about Christianity, I scoured the Bible, biographies of Christ and comparative texts to accumulate historical context and identify points of compatibility between the two religions. I learned that both religions uphold a code of righteous action: the Ten Commandments in Christianity and folk tales of penitent virtue in Hinduism. They also both extoll sacrifice in the face of violations of this code.
The surprising intersection between the two religions helped me to recognize a substantial common ground and open myself to an inner paradigm shift that I had not previously considered. I saw how we dress the same idea in different clothes. How underneath the obvious differences lie common principles at a fundamental level that made the differences seem minute in comparison. Following this epiphany, singing along at church and leading Bible studies at school felt compatible with the Hindu ideals I grew up embracing.
Though I didn’t realize at the time, through my exploration into Christianity, I was building invaluable, research skills. Understanding the nuances of alternate religions has helped me gain sensitivity to diverse perspectives; rather than relying on predisposed facts to form my opinions, I always search for a common ground. As a debate captain, I have diffused tense arguments over controversial debate topics by mediating conflict with an open mind and appreciation for the diversity of my team. Meanwhile, as a debater, I have employed the same rigorous research and study skills I honed during my foray into Catholicism to ensure I enter tournaments with a dossier of arguments capable of withstanding extreme scrutiny.
My newfound skills also extend to the professional sphere. As an intern at Adam Henderson Law, I recognized the importance of understanding multiple viewpoints to sustain a successful law practice. When a construction worker hobbled into the office one day and inarticulately described how he managed to get his leg wedged under a telephone pole, I assisted the specialist as she guided the frantic client through a labyrinth of paperwork and policy. It wasn’t efficient typing that made her great at her job, but rather the ability to understand the perspectives of the person in front of her. In shadowing her work, I was reminded of the importance empathy plays in building common ground, and actively used my internship as an opportunity to diligently refine my own.
I now enthusiastically engage in agnostic discussions, allowing me to form opinions that were previously inaccessible. Rather than feeling cornered by the perspectives of others, I embrace both points of compatibility and differences between my views and conflicting beliefs. The next time I am handed the Bible, I will orate it proudly with an appreciation for its distinct perspective.
Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?
Our engineering class president presented us with a daunting task: to plan, construct, and market a bridge capable of withstanding a 30-pound weight with a total budget of only $7.
As the de facto leader of my group, I tackled the initial design myself. After a long weekend of drafting, I had only a trash can overflowing with failed models to show for my effort. Handing the design over to my “draftier” teammates, I refocused my efforts on project management. To remain within our slim budget, I created spreadsheets to track purchases and researched cost-effective materials. I also used the communication and public speaking skills I had developed as a competitive debater to support the design team and ultimately market our bridge through a concise and compelling presentation.
Three weeks of late nights staring at my computer screen flew by and it was time to put our bridge to the test. Our tiny wooden bridge was no match for the 30-pound weight that crushed it in seconds.
This partial failure led me to the realization that my participation in Engineering Club was never meant to build a STEM career, but instead to illuminate my capacity for business. It’s not the architectural blueprints that intrigue me, but the late night research, strategic marketing discussions, and product management.
Since this defining moment, I have continued to hone my business acumen through both academic and extracurricular pursuits and I look forward to further exploring innovative ideas and practices as a student at the McCombs School of Business.
Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities.
“Our lecture today is taught by one of our own high schoolers,” the debate coach announced to the googly-eyed middle school debaters. “…On Kantian Philosophy and its implications on public policy.”
As I walked to the front of the room, confused stares and innocent laughter transformed to terrified silence.
Since ninth grade, I have tutored middle school debaters in moral philosophy, world events, and case writing. In the beginning, the constant shower of raised hands and perpetual restatement of explanations quickly drained my patience. Over time, I reflected on the conceptual difficulties my students faced, and realized that I too had once been an “ignorant” middle schooler shifting restlessly at my desk.
As a result, I learned to slow the pace of my lessons and built in extra time at the end of practice to ensure that each individual student could be heard, rather than steamrolled over. I knew the only way for them to become better debaters and for me to become a better teacher was to encourage questions and dive deeper into fewer topics, rather than overload my class with more information than they could handle.
I resolved to embrace their curiosity in the most effective ways possible. Starting with lesson plans, I created structured lectures and activities that could deliver the intricate information in a digestible fashion. Last year, for example, the novices engaged in a series of start-and-stop debates; whenever they made any errors, I would pause the round and explain how to avoid such mistakes in the future. Now, instead of spewing random factoids, my students anticipate their shortcomings and can successfully replace old, ineffective habits with new, dynamic ones .
Today I lead by prioritizing the needs of others, adapting strategy to circumstance both in and out of the debate room.
Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at UT Austin, both in and out of the classroom.
I used to lie in bed for hours reading comics illustrating the noble deeds of gods in parables from the Mahabharata or the tales of Ganesha. To me, each panel was an intriguing, illustrated portal into my culture.
As an immigrant twice over – once in Canada and once in the United States – the fear of losing my culture and religion in the face of blizzards and country music is not foreign to me. With every move, my accent changed and visits to the temple decreased. Over the years, I have realized that cultural assimilation often comes at a religious and personal cost.
Today, as a volunteer at the Cultural Heritage Project, I work to ensure that others don’t experience the same cultural disconnect I have. Through collaboration with a cohort of Hindu immigrants, I am establishing a cultural exhibit at my local temple that untangles the complex history of Hinduism in an interactive and captivating manner. Just as comic books helped demystify Hindu parables in my childhood, the Hindu trivia game my team created engages visitors with stimulating questions that recontextualize fundamental Hindu tenets in a familiar light. Through light-hearted competition, people forge cultural connections stronger than any spatial disconnect caused by immigration.
At UT, I am eager to bring this collaborative and culturally nuanced perspective to the classroom, where I will work with peers to unpack complex economic and socio-cultural principles. Outside the classroom, I will continue to advocate for religious, cultural, and ideological diversity through Advocates for Unity, a student organization that works to create cultural cohesion in education. On UT’s top-10 ranked debate team, meanwhile, I will foster critical discussion over pressing issues. Through these pursuits, I am dedicated to promoting an environment that is conducive to both academic inquiry and social harmony.
McCombs Honors Prompt: Discuss a single piece of business news in the last year that has affected your view on the need for a high-quality business education, and tell us why this has affected or reinforced your desire for a business education. You do not need to go into detail about this piece of business news—a quick reference to the event will suffice. It can be something that occurred in your community, in the U.S., or internationally. Spend the majority of your response on how this event affected your views.
In the past decade our oceans have been polluted by billions of gallons of oil, ravaging ecosystems and damaging coastal economies. In 2018 alone, US businesses and oil refineries offshore were responsible for 137 oil spills according to a recent report from Resource Watch.
Upon reading this report, I was astonished by how few precautions businesses took to prevent these ecological disasters. Several oil firms refused to adopt environmentally sustainable practices, spending less than 20 minutes on safety checks for each oil rig. The lack of regard for oceanic ecosystems by corporate giants is deeply disconcerting.
Both ExxonMobil and BP have steadily increased their annual profits since 2013, but very little of that capital has been invested in creating sustainable energy solutions. Before reading Resource Watch’s report, I naively assumed that brand-image was determined by commitment to ethical actions, and that profits would follow suit. If that were the case, however, how could so many profitable businesses disregard environmental concerns and continue to be profitable? After ruminating on the ubiquitous nature of corporate pollution, I have become convinced that businesses are morally obligated to promote ecologically sustainable practices.
Through McCombs’ Business Program, I hope to learn about the nuances of business processes to further understand the ways corporations can toe the line between ethics and profitability. The tight-knit community of honors scholars in combination with discussion-based courses and experiential learning opportunities offered by BHP will enable me to achieve my business goals while ensuring that my moral compass is pointing in the right direction.