Travis Dong Named 2018 Senior Class Gift Award Winner

Ziyue (Travis) Dong at the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, UT Austin.
“The people and community that we have within the department are very important to me and I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I was able to make a contribution.”

The third award from the Texas ChE Senior Class Gift Endowment has been presented to senior Ziyue (Travis) Dong for his outstanding accomplishments as a class tutor for CHE 354 Unit Operations I (Transport Processes).

The Senior Class Gift was started in 2013 by six chemical engineering seniors who pledged $5,000 over five years to seed an endowment to fund incentive awards for teaching assistants (TA) or tutors and undergraduate research opportunities within the department. Now alumni of the department, founders Daniel Horne, Colin Gentry, Matthew Ferris, John Wilbur, Camila Bastidas and Dan Dietz have worked together since 2013 to encourage gifts from other graduating seniors to support the endowment to benefit all chemical engineering undergraduates.

Tutors and teaching assistants are nominated for the award by the students they teach. Students that nominated Travis cited his ability to explain complex concepts clearly and succinctly, his sincere drive to help other students succeed and willingness to go beyond what was expected or required to help his fellow classmates.

“Tutoring has given me the opportunity to know more people better in the community,” says Travis. “My peers’ feedback has given me confidence in my own teaching style and motivated me to continue tutoring for the department in the future. The people and community that we have within the department are very important to me and I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I was able to make a contribution.”

Several nominators expressed that Travis was “the best tutor” they had ever had. “He has personally helped me out in so many of my classes, has really motivated me to push through difficult academic periods and has always been a source of lucidity when the CHE class material gets confusing,” said one nominator.

After nominations were collected, the endowment committee, including the six founders and current senior representative Luis Taboada and former award winner of the Senior Class Gift, Masahiro Ward, chose the recipient from the top nominees.

“This award has made me realize the kind of impact I was able to make within the undergraduate chemical engineering community just as a tutor. It is truly an honor to be recognized for something that I have always enjoyed doing,” says Travis. “I would like to thank the Senior Class Endowment for establishing this award to promote learning within the department.”

Daniel Horne, who had the initial idea for the endowment, was inspired by meeting department namesake Dr. John McKetta Jr. at his 95th birthday party in 2010 and learning about the story behind the Challenge for McKetta. The campaign recognized McKetta’s dedication to students and decades of philanthropic efforts for education by naming the department in his honor. The challenge, which was officially completed in April 2016, raised more than $28 million for future Texas ChE students.

This fund will honor, and represent, every year’s senior class by supporting tutors and teaching assistants that go beyond what is expected of them. Once the fund reaches $500,000 it will also provide undergraduate research opportunities.

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