The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Alumni Spotlight: Connection and Support through Fearless 2020

Alumni Spotlight: Connection and Support through Fearless 2020

The Jonsson School’s Alumni Relations team has recently traveled to connect UT Dallas alumni with each other, in addition to providing more alumni events in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. We asked Sarah Bibelhausen, assistant director of development and alumni relations, for her view from the road.

When I visit Jonsson School alumni, I am struck by two things – the dedication of our alumni and the joy when they realize they are surrounded by fellow Comets within the same city and even the same office.

UT Dallas is still a relatively young university, not quite 50 years old, so we are creating more opportunities for connection. Jonsson School alumni are building successful careers across the United States, especially in tech hotbeds on the West Coast, from San Jose, California, where nearly 1,000 alumni reside, to Seattle, the home of Amazon’s headquarters. I especially enjoyed recently introducing two coworkers at Apple who did not realize they were both alumni.

Patrick Hampton

Patrick Hampton BS’08

In Seattle, alumnus Patrick Hampton BS’08 held our first alumni event at Amazon in June. As a student, Patrick studied computer science and was a founding member of the University chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) as well as an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) officer. He has continued influencing his peers and bringing enthusiasm to his work as a senior solutions architect for Amazon Alexa.

“It’s important to remember where you come from,” Patrick said. “It’s also important to remember the growing pains — being in the lab all night — especially when you are continuing to face challenges at work. You remember the people who helped you get to where you are.”

Patrick enjoyed meeting alumni of all ages, from a retiree who graduated in the early 1980s to recent graduates. Dr. Gopal Gupta, head of the Department of Computer Science and holder of the Erik Jonsson Chair, also made a trip to Seattle to attend the event, and everyone showed off our Comet WHOOSH!

Comet Whoosh

Jonsson School alumni show off our WHOOSH! at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.

Patrick said the time he spent working to secure sponsors and organizing the event was worth the effort. He also encourages alumni to give back to UT Dallas financially.

“It’s easy to think – ‘I’ve already paid so much for my education!’ ” he said. “But now, looking back, a portion of the funds goes to scholarships for students who actually need it. I received a grant when $1,000 was make or break. Any little bit helps.”

In addition to cities across the United States like Seattle, nearly 75 percent of graduates live in North Texas, and Jonsson School alumni are making a major contribution to our local economy. Alumna Grace Kaldawi BS’14, MS’15 hosted the Jonsson School’s first alumni event at the Capital One Plano campus in July. Grace is a senior software engineer at Capital One’s Auto Finance group.

“I was grateful for the turnout,” she said. “It was overwhelming — the space was almost not big enough. The desire is obviously there for these events.”

Like Patrick, Grace held several leadership roles as a student, particularly through our chapters of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), ACM and the national Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. She has stayed involved in her community through Grace Hopper, Women Who Code, Girls Inc., the Jonsson School Computer Science alumni leadership team and even Meals on Wheels.

Grace Kaldawi

Grace Kaldawi BS’14, MS’15

“If you’re successful, it’s probably because of what you learned here,” Grace said. “Volunteering and staying engaged, becoming a local ambassador anywhere you land is important. I have enjoyed living close to UT Dallas because I am able to stay in touch with the people who shaped me, as well as work with the alumni leadership team to help influence the next generation.”

At alumni events, we have two major goals. The first is to add value that extends beyond your degree program, accomplished through networking, community involvement, ongoing volunteer engagement, lifelong learning opportunities and more. As Chris Bhatti, assistant dean for development and alumni relations, shares, “Once you are a Comet, you are always a Comet.” Relationships and circumstances may change, but the years you spend at UT Dallas will continue to shape and define you throughout your life.

The second goal is to encourage our alumni to give financially. A Jonsson School education is a privilege, and we believe our responsibility is to advance others. Our Fearless 2020 initiative launched earlier this year aims to raise $20 million dedicated specifically for Jonsson School programs by 2020. Fearless 2020 is designed to foster academic excellence, expanding our research endeavors and leading to national and international recognition. At the same time, funds are used to support bright students who may be the first in their families to attend college. Such an investment can impact a family – and society – for generations. Through alumni engagement, we can accomplish both.

As Patrick said, recent grads may think, “I just finished school and started my first job – what can I contribute?” In reality, smaller donations add up. We have raised more than $300,000 in 2018 through gifts of various sizes, and any amount makes a difference now.

I encourage all alumni to stay in touch . You may work and live next to a fellow Comet and not even realize it. We encourage our alumni to contribute directly toward the future success of the Jonsson School. Visit our Fearless 2020 page to learn more about the many ways you can give. Finally, if you have any questions or would like to get involved with upcoming alumni events, please contact me directly at [email protected].