How We Influence, February 2024

Published: Feb. 1, 2024

How We Influence

We hit the ground running as the spring term began with welcome events open to all students and the arrival of an arctic cold front. Our team led new health and well-being initiatives and gathered for the annual team celebration meeting to honor Texas Parents Staff Merit Award recipients. In late January, Former Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly retired. President Jay Hartzell appointed Tom Dison as interim VP for the Division the hub of student life and well-being. Below is an overview of December and January activities focusing on our three key Division functions.


CMHC and Brazil Counselors
Danrley Pereira Albuquerque de Castro, Cássia Virgínia Bastos Maciel, Carlos Vinicius Gomes Melo and Karen Cristine Matos Santana (The University of São Paulo), and Associate VP for Health and Well-being Chris Brownson, Larissa Costa Dos Santos (UT Austin alumna), Alessandro de Oliveira dos Santos (The University of São Paulo) and Marla Craig (Counseling and Mental Health Center)

The Counseling and Mental Health Center invited international visitors from The University of São Paulo, Brazil’s Institute of Psychology to visit the space. They met with a professor and four students who shared their findings from a study about the Brazilian university’s students’ well-being and mental health. 

In a new strategic partnership, the Longhorn Wellness Center collaborated with the Graduate School to administer the Sexual Assault Prevention for Graduate Students module to incoming graduate students. This is a mandatory program about consent, sexual violence and healthy relationships. The Longhorn Wellness Center also administers the Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates to all incoming freshman and transfer students.

The UT Outpost team in the Dean of Students office partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank for a mobile food pantry distribution event. They recruited 32 volunteers and served 340 individuals across 150 households. 

University Health Services is building on existing partnerships with Texas Global to make the study abroad medical clearance process more efficient. The General Medicine Clinic designed a new process where some students studying abroad for MayTerm or Summer 2024 can fill out the questionnaire at their convenience and some could skip an in-person or telehealth visit.

University Unions is forging national partnerships in esports to support students’ professional development. Staff and students with Longhorn Gaming, a student organization dedicated to gaming, visited Team Liquid’s National Headquarters for an esports bootcamp. Students participated in workshops and hands-on networking opportunities in the esports field. 

Student Support 

Welcome Bash
Dean of Students' Living the Longhorn Life team at Welcome Bash during Spring Welcome

New Student Services coordinated with partners across campus to host Spring Welcome, the University’s series of welcome events open to all students. The event series — similar to Longhorn Welcome at the beginning of the fall term — more than doubled with 16 events specifically designed to inspire belonging. With freezing temperatures in the forecast, the team once again showed their ability to pivot by making location changes in advance. 

New Student Services helped 465 students and 105 families — a 13% increase from 2023 — get into a Longhorn State of Mind during Spring Orientation. Both student and family orientations were hosted virtually. Students had an in-person option to attend a campus tour and bowling at the Union Underground.

To help students prepare for winter weather, the Dean of Students’ Off-campus Resources team launched a Longhorns Plan Ahead social media campaign in early January. They shared information on winter storms and weather emergencies. The team also participated in the Longhorns Are Prepared Fair on Jan. 25 with Austin and University emergency management partners. 

While freezing temperatures led to the cancellation of Recreational Sports’ Spring Kickoff event for student staff to gather to kick off the new term, the team pivoted to a come-and-go event. Students dropped by on Jan. 26 to visit with supervisors and pick up a care package with snacks and a RecSports water bottle.

Nominations for the 2023-24 Outstanding Student Awards are open through 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 8. Since 1952, Texas Parents has honored students’ exceptional leadership, scholarship, character, and service with these awards.

Parents, families and friends can pay tribute to students through Texas Parents Brick Pavers. Before the end of the spring term, the team will lay 180 purchased bricks in front of the Student Services Building. As part of this 23-year campus tradition, staff will lay six bricks for students who passed away during the academic year.


Team Appreciation and Celebration 1-24-24
New Student Services staff at the Team Appreciation and Celebration

The Division of Student Affairs kicked off the spring term with the Team Appreciation and Celebration on Jan. 24. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Dison welcomed the Division team and Texas Parents Director Susie Smith presented the annual Staff Merit Awards. Read more about the three staff members recognized for going above and beyond to influence the Longhorn life in Our Experts Leading the Way.

Recreational Sports has continued to transform the Gregory Gym basement with the opening of brand-new spaces that enhance the student and member experience. The team launched new spaces dedicated to powerlifting and a Golf+ Simulator offering golf and a variety of sports, available for individual and group use. The FIT Studio now features new audio/visual and sound equipment.

Recreational Sports will mark Longhorn Run’s 14th year on April 13 with a 5K and 10K race as well as a virtual option. Early bird registration ($5 off registration) is open through Feb. 25.

University Health Services and Recreational Sports are working together on more synergies for student health and well-being. Gregory Gym will now serve as an additional location for students to access Physical Therapy services. This will give providers and patients access to additional functional training tools to support their efforts.