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Emma Heitmann, Forty Acres Scholar

As a budding environmental scientist, Forty Acres Scholar Emma Heitmann traveled to Botswana in 2013 to learn about the earth. In the end she learned about the world.

“The program really changed my perspective on my degree,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a more holistic view. Looking at the human component is just as important as the scientific issues.”

The Forty Acres Scholars Program, administered by the Texas Exes, paid for her trip to the southern African nation. Aimed at bringing the best to Texas, the program offers full-ride scholarships that cover not only the basics but also summer enrichment activities such as study abroad.

“I most likely would have never had the opportunity to go were it not for the Forty Acres scholarship, which was funded by the Campaign for Texas,” Heitmann said.

The scholarship was born when Exes officials noticed UT was losing top-tier students to competing universities that made more generous offers. The first class of Forty Acres Scholars is set to graduate this spring. There are four classes of Forty Acres Scholars. Combined, they represent more than 50 of the nation’s most talented and motivated young leaders.

Now in her third year at UT in the Jackson School of Geosciences, the graduate of Houston’s Lamar High School is considering a career in hydrology.

“Water is such a basic element of life that we take for granted a lot and don’t realize how much we depend on it — not just for sustaining ourselves but sustaining our lifestyle as well,” she said.