Forty Acres Scholars Program Class of 2023 Announced
Posted May 9, 2019
The Texas Exes is pleased to announce the Forty Acres Scholars Program Class of 2023. More than 4,000 students applied for the elite scholarship program, which inspires and nurtures visionary leaders and helps them use their talents to benefit society. Back in February, 54 impressive finalists visited UT campus for a full weekend of in-person interviews and a glimpse at what life on the Forty Acres could be.
Today, we are thrilled to introduce you to our 15 new and exceptional Forty Acres Scholars. Among the incoming class is an award-winning playwright, a classically trained pianist, and a founder and CEO of a nonprofit. Many more are decorated varsity athletes, AP Scholars, and leaders of student organizations.
These scholars will receive full funding for their tuition, a living stipend, a book stipend, and opportunities for enrichment activities including a community component, a global experience, and professional experiences. As the only program of its kind administered by an alumni association, Forty Acres Scholars develop a unique connection with their alma mater—and with each other. Over their four years on campus, scholar cohorts form a tight bond with each other, and serve as a powerful network and resource to each other during their time on campus and beyond.
Meet the Class of 2023:
Chandani Bansal from Naperville, Illinois, is the recipient of the Vicky and S. Javaid Anwar Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Naperville North High School, Bansal was captain of the varsity tennis team and an Academic All-Conference athlete. She founded Tennis4Kidz and served as VP of marketing and communications for DECA; she recently qualified for and competed in their International Career Development Conference. As a First Class Leader, Bansal worked to bring mental health awareness to her peers. She plans to major in business honors with a focus on pre-med. She is the daughter of Priya and Amar Bansal.
Hrishabh “Roosh” Bhosale from Bellaire, Texas, is the recipient of the Lowell Lebermann Scholarship and the Marilyn Marshall White Enrichment Award. While attending St. John’s School, Bhosale earned a varsity letter in swimming and diving, was a National Merit Finalist, recipient of the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. As an Eagle Scout and assistant senior patrol leader of Troop 55, the largest troop in the United States, he designed, constructed, and hung owl boxes for a local nonprofit, the Nature Discovery Center. He plans to pursue degrees in Plan II Honors and economics with a minor in neuroscience, as well as studying Spanish and Arabic. He is the son of Priya and Ranjit Bhosale.
Meredith Black from Dallas, Texas, is the recipient of the Pauline Allen Gill Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending The Hockaday School, she was an elected member of the Hockaday Honor Council and was recognized for her research paper on the Harlem Renaissance with the Linda Hankinson History Research Paper Award. She earned her Girl Scout Gold Award, spent eight years in the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, and has performed in the Meyerson Symphony Hall more than 30 times. She plans to pursue a degree in psychology through the Liberal Arts Honors Program and earn a certificate in core texts and ideas through the Jefferson Scholars Program, while continuing to advance her Spanish language skills. She is the daughter of Monique and Tom Black.
Keri Christian from Plano, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by the Cockrell School of Engineering. A graduate of Plano Senior High School, Christian received perfect scores two years in a row at the VASE art competition and was named both a National Merit Commended Scholar and an AP Scholar with Distinction. As an intern at Southern Methodist University under the astrophysics QuarkNet program, she researched variable stars. Christian plans to major in aerospace engineering honors and earn a computational science and engineering certificate. She is the daughter of Becky and Jon Christian.
Joseph Dowdall from Houston, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by Barbara and Alan Dreeben. While attending Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, Dowdall served as president of the Strake Jesuit debate team, an inaugural member of the Jewish Teen Philanthropy Initiative, and as a volunteer with No Limits Debate Camp. He was National Merit Scholar and AP Scholar with Distinction. At UT, Dowdall plans to major in business honors and Plan II Honors with minors in linguistics and economics. He is the son of Katherine Mack.
Maria Gu from San Antonio, Texas, is the recipient of the Preston M. "Pete" Geren Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Ronald Reagan High School, Gu was a varsity dancer, the publicity officer of Mu Alpha Theta, and an ambassador of Got Hope, a club that brings joy to oncology patients. She developed a Latin study app that won the Congressional App Challenge, received a National Women and Information Technology Aspirations Award, and co-founded an organization called Entrepreneurship Reaching Into Children’s Hearts. She plans to major in computer science and earn a business foundations certificate at UT. She is the daughter of Zhen Zhang and Shuo Gu.
Haley Justiz from Austin, Texas, is the recipient of the Elizabeth Shatto Massey and John H. Massey Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending St. Andrew's Episcopal School, she represented more than 16,000 Austin youths as an elected council member and budget committee chair on the Austin Youth Council. She also served as president of Girls Giving Grants and as the content creator on BookPeople's Teen Press Corps. Justiz was a National Merit Commended Scholar, an AP Scholar with Honor, and received the Gold President's Volunteer Service Award all four years of high school. She plans to major in business honors and Plan II Honors. She is the daughter of Leslie and Manuel Justiz.
Joshua Martinez from Spring, Texas, is the recipient of the AIM Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship. While attending Klein Oak High School, Martinez was valedictorian, president of Mu Alpha Theta and founder of the school’s Cultural Diversity Club. He was a National Merit Finalist, National Hispanic Scholar, and AP Scholar with Distinction. Martinez plans to major in computer science as a Turing Scholar. He is the son of Evelin and Robert Martinez.
Aditi Merchant from Austin, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by the Boyce Family. While attending Westwood High School, she was the recipient of the Texas Master Naturalist Conservationist Award and a $500 research grant for milkweed research and activism. She was a three-time international qualifier and international finalist in DECA, and she served as vice president of Girls Who Code, using that expertise to lead a summer camp to teach elementary school girls the basics of coding. She plans to major in biomedical engineering with a business foundations minor. She is the daughter of Saloni and Tushar Merchant.
Tobechukwu Phillips from Alvin, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by the Milam and Tory Newby Family. At Alvin High School, she became the first African-American valedictorian and NHS president, was named 6A Academic All-District, and was captain and most valuable player in track and volleyball. A Sunday school teacher for seven years, this first-generation Longhorn plans to study nursing with a minor in business. She is the daughter of Margaret Nwokedi and Jonathan Phillips.
Eliza Pillsbury from Houston, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by Beverly and Will O'Hara. While attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she was the editor of the school newspaper, assistant director and dramaturg for numerous theater productions, and a speaker at TEDxKids@SMU. Pillsbury was a National Merit Finalist, one of six winners of the Playwriting 360 competition, and built labyrinths in four countries—the United States, France, Ecuador, and Italy—as an ambassador for Sacred Sites Quest International Exchange. She plans to major in journalism and Plan II and receive a certificate in core texts and ideas. She is the daughter of Carrie Caton and Mark Pillsbury.
Marrissa Rawls from Houston, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by the Henry and Ann Seals Family. While attending Bellaire Senior High school, she was a member of student council and the National Honors Society and was captain and choreographer for Bellaire High School's eMotion Dance Company. Rawls was an AP Scholar with Honor and received the Dedication Achievement Award for volunteering at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center. She plans to major in nursing and biology. She is the daughter of Sharon and Marcus Rawls.
Arya Saksena from Round Rock, Texas, is the recipient of the Stamps Forty Acres Scholarship, supported by Reba and Ralph Ferrell, and the Chevron Enrichment Award. At Round Rock High School, she raised money and awareness for girls in developing countries as the president and founder of her school’s branch of Girl Up, was director of written events for DECA, and in her spare time was director of philanthropy for Sandbox Systems LLC, a company started by a friend. Saksena won the AP + Project Lead The Way Achievement Award, the Vocal Solo and Ensemble Superior Award and was a state finalist all four years of high school, and was a National AP Scholar. She plans to major in chemical engineering honors. She is the daughter of Ashima and Sanjay Saksena.
Sarah Spivey from Argyle, Texas, is the recipient of the Carol and Jeff Heller Forty Acres Scholarship. At John H. Guyer High School, Spivey was the valedictorian, a National Merit Finalist Scholar, and recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Military Order of the World Wars Patrick Henry Medal of Honor. Spivey wrote a children’s book to raise money for First Aid Strong, a nonprofit she founded and serves as CEO of, and is a National Advisory Councilwoman for the National Charity League. She plans to major in business honors and finance and earn a certificate in core texts and ideas through the Jefferson Scholars Program. She is the daughter of Christopher and Kelly Spivey.
Chris Wang from Houston, Texas, is the recipient of the BHP Forty Acres Scholarship. At Carnegie Vanguard High School, she was president of the Women in Science and Engineering Club, and was involved in the National Honor Society, the Mu Alpha Theta National Math Honor Society, and the National Hispanic Honor Society. A classically-trained pianist, she won first place at the Houston Forum Young Artists Competition and the Blinn College Young Pianist Competition. Wang is one of fifty Coolidge Senators in the nation, representing the top 2 percent of applicants nationwide for the Calvin Coolidge Scholarship. She is also a U.S. Presidential Scholar Candidate, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and a National Merit Finalist. She plans to enter the Texas Honors Computer Science and Business program with a minor in Spanish. Wang is the daughter of Liping Zhou and Chun Wang.