Sophia Li

Sophia Li from Murphy, Texas, is the recipient of the Charline and Red McCombs Family Forty Acres Scholarship

Lana Mohamed

Lana Mohamed from San Antonio, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship

Amelia Nickerson

Amelia Nickerson from Leander, Texas, is the recipient of the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Forty Acres Scholarship

For years, the Texas Exes Forty Acres Scholars Program has made it their mission to “inspire and nurture visionary leaders and help them use their talents to benefit society.” The program is a full-ride, merit-based scholarship given to highly qualified students entering the University of Texas at Austin. Scholars are selected based on their intellectual curiosity, outstanding academic success, and desire to use their skills to change the world.

This year, Texas Computer Science (TXCS) is excited to announce that three of our students have been selected to be a part of the Forty Acres Scholars Class of 2024 — Sophia Li from Murphy, Lana Mohamed from San Antonio, and Amelia Nickerson from Austin.

The students are looking forward to starting their undergraduate journeys as TXCS students in the fall. “I’m really excited about how challenging it will be,” says Li. “I want to see how far I can push myself within these next four years.” Li’s love for computer science stems from a project she did with a friend in the tenth grade, where they recreated Dance Dance Revolution. “The reward that I felt after the project was finished and other people got to play it and [I saw] how much they enjoyed our game… that really settled it for me that computer science was something that I wanted to do,” she says.

In Nickerson’s case, her passion for the subject started when she noticed how few girls were in her computer science classes in high school. Deciding to do something about it, she applied for funding from The National Center for Women & Information Technology to teach elementary school girls about programming and technology, and created a weeklong camp called Code Chicks. “Hopefully more girls will be in those computer science classes at my high school further down the road so it won’t feel so lonely!” she says. Nickerson also already has some familiarity with the TXCS department from having attended the First Bytes summer camp. “I’ve gotten to see the Gates Dell Complex and how amazing it is, as well as all the great faculty there, and the research opportunities,” she says.

Within TXCS, the students are excited to explore the array of opportunities that they are exposed to. “I’ve always wanted to do a hackathon,” laughs Li. “The thought of staying up all night with your friends, trying to solve a problem… I think it sounds really fun.” Among other things that they want to be involved in are the Longhorn Startup Lab and Code Orange.

This is a difficult time to be facing new beginnings, and the incoming class is definitely encountering some uncertainty about what their first semester will entail. Despite the confusion, these students are trying to look on the bright side. “I wish it didn't happen during my senior year because I'll miss all of the high school traditions, but I'm trying to stay positive,” says Nickerson. She adds, “I'm disappointed that I will miss that classic, on-campus orientation experience, but I'm still really excited for college.” Li seconds this feeling. “Even if classes are online, I still have full faith that I will be able to learn and that I’ll be just as excited about my subjects as if I were at UT,” she says. “I just have the mindset of ‘things will work out in the end’. And I might take a really long path to get there, but there’s a lot of learning and growing to do no matter what happens, so I’m happy either way.”