Ryan Karkowsky
Ryan Karkowsky
John and Cynthia Adkins/Texas Exes Houston Chapter Forty Acres Scholarship
Forty Acres Scholars Class of 2026
Houston, Texas
High School
The Kinkaid School

I find comfort in my own discomfort, for that vulnerability allows me to grow.

I backpacked for six weeks in the Pacific Northwest, exploring the Olympic, North Cascades, and Mt. Rainier National Parks with seven other people from around the country, cooking every meal and living under the stars; this was my first time being away from my parents for such an extended period of time. I spearheaded an Operation Gratitude project that gathered over 1,200 handwritten letters of gratitude for health care professionals and other front-line workers during the pandemic; this was my first project I ever led on the Community Service Leadership Council at my high school. I developed an Instagram account for my dog Skittles that grew to engage over 14,500 followers and that, over time, obtained product sponsorships from nationally renowned dog companies; this was my first time deciding to build a brand.

Something about all of these experiences struck me in a way that made me realize the significance of putting myself in otherwise uncomfortable situations. Prior to that backpacking trip, I had never slept in a tent for that long, hardly knew the other people on the trip, and could not scramble a powdered egg to save my life. I just knew I liked to explore new places and meet new people. Before joining the council, I did not know who to get in touch with at nonprofit organizations in general, how to entice my student body to serve, or what steps I needed to even take to turn a service idea into a fully-functioning project that actually benefits the intended target audience. I just knew I wanted to help other people and enjoyed problem-solving enough to decide to lead a project myself. When starting the Instagram account, I had no idea of what content to post, how to edit photos in Photoshop, or what to say in emails to people I did not know for companies I barely even knew the names of. I just knew I liked photography and was interested in creating something of my own.

So what is so comforting about discomfort? I find that discomfort allows me to put my knowledge on a pedestal: one that highlights not just what I do not know but also—and even more importantly—what I do know. Discomfort forces me to analyze my strengths and apply them to situations that aid my weaknesses. I have learned that we are all, as humans, much more capable than we occasionally lead ourselves to believe. With a little bit of innovative thinking and a whole lot of patience, we can thus find comfort in our own discomfort.

Business Honors; Plan II Honors

Honors Program
Canfield Business Honors; Plan II Honors

Other Academic Interests
Jewish history, behavioral economics, Spanish language and culture, and art history

What drew you to the Forty Acres Scholars Program?
Commitment: This is an attribute embodied by every individual involved in the Forty Acres Scholars Program. From the donors to the program coordinators to fellow scholars to everyone in between, I have learned how dedicated this program is to giving each scholar a unique experience to thrive at The University of Texas and beyond. Everyone is so willing to give advice, offer a new perspective, or even be there to just chat about their interests. Coming from a relatively small high school where community possessed such a significant role in my learning foundation, I constantly was in search of a college experience that allowed me to find my family, my people. When I discovered how tight-knit of a group the Forty Acres Scholars Program was, I realized that The University of Texas was the place for me.