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Engineering Student Speaks on Behalf of UT in Washington, D.C.

Kristin Thompson delivers a statement on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court

Kristin Thompson, a civil engineering senior in the Cockrell School of Engineering and student associate in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, was chosen by University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. to deliver a statement on the steps of the United States Supreme Court last month in support of the university in the Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin case.

"What starts here changes the world," Thompson said to a crowd that had gathered outside the Supreme Court. "We can't afford to start going backwards on America's commitment to diversity."

Thompson was among six students accompanying President Powers to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9.

Since her freshman year, Thompson has been involved with the Black Student Alliance (BSA), a student organization at UT Austin that is committed to "uplifting and empowering our community through academic improvement, social involvement, political awareness and action, with the ultimate goal of developing student leaders and uniting the black community."

She served as president of the organization during her junior year in 2010, when the Fisher case was in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. She worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund (NAACP LDF) to file an amicus brief supporting the university's holistic admissions process — and the BSA would go on to file a second brief along with the NAACP LDF in the Supreme Court this year.

"Advocating for educational equality has shaped my post-graduation interests — I'm a civil engineer, but I'm also applying to Teach for America because I believe these issues are important," Thompson said.

During the trip to Washington, D.C., Thompson and her fellow students met the family of Heman Sweatt, who was refused admission to the university in 1950 on the basis of race. Sweatt would go on to become the first African American admitted into the UT School of Law after the Supreme Court ruled in his landmark case, Sweatt v. Painter in 1950.  Thompson said meeting the Sweatt family was insightful and she is "honored to be continuing on in his legacy of promoting racial diversity and the impact it has on the university as a whole."

Thompson is set to graduate in May 2013.