Growing up, Amie Jean was the 12th child out of 13. Her mother would buy the single-serving cereal boxes, and there would be a rush to the kitchen every morning. If you didn’t get up first, you didn’t get the one you wanted.
“With 12 siblings, I’ve always very much been aware of other people,” Jean says. “But I didn’t understand how it wasn’t a competition or a collision.
“UT showed me we’re all here existing together, and when we can work together? — oh, it’s over. We can do anything.”
This month, the student body vice president, Texas Parent Award finalist, and Texas Orange Jacket Amie Jean will graduate with a finance degree from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. One of our outstanding graduates from the 2020 class, she has helped shift the culture of this campus by co-leading one of the most successful student body campaigns in history.
She ran alongside now-student body president Camron Goodman and won 67% of student body first-choice votes. As vice president, Jean championed the idea of “UTxYOU,” a campaign and administration centered around students working to make sure UT fits their needs. As both a leader and a student, Jean has maintained that college is a big avenue for personal growth.
“There’s something so critical about this period in our lives during college, and I’m grateful for that,” she says.
There are parts of the college experience that often go unnamed. People often hear about how education creates career and networking opportunities and allows for innovations in technology or the business world. For Jean, the true value of an education is not just in traditional leadership roles and academics but also in how being on campus can make people feel welcome.
“I think that all of the opportunities and the people I knew in college really helped me understand something about empathy, love and self-empowerment,” she says.
Jean has led the student body through important assemblies. She led a campaign to raise funds for racing chairs for other wheelchair users to participate in Longhorn Run. She has applied for more than 200 scholarships and received dozens. Even with all of her accolades, she says she feels the most important thing she’s gained from her education is her ability to share her growth with her family. Growing up with 12 siblings, Jean sometimes felt that the competitiveness of the household kept her from being a good older sister.
“My proudest achievement?” she says. “The first thing that always comes up in my head is I think I’m becoming a great big sister.”
Jean’s younger sister, Nicole, has frequently visited her on campus. Jean has multiple sclerosis, which causes her to experience pain and fatigue. Since Jean’s diagnosis during her sophomore year, Nicole, 19, occasionally comes to Austin to help Jean with various tasks.
“In my head, she’s an unofficial UT student,” Jean says about her sister. “I’m just like, ‘Oh wow, you did this, you did that with me. We cried together at the dome on top of the Student Activity Center. That is very much a student experience,’” she says. “I love that I was able to share that with her who I am at UT.
“A lot of times, people say to me, ‘You could have taken a semester off, and you could have just gone back home,’” she says. “I could have, but the things that go unnamed are what kept me.”
Jean says she looks fondly at many of the interactions she had on campus. She spent much of her time at UT in the Multicultural Engagement Center. In the often sunny room, Malik Crowder, assistant director of the MEC, would ask her how she was doing and when she was next going to stop by and say hello to the family.
“I think Malik knows how to make a student feel wanted. He’s always like ‘Oh, you belong here, not only here but right here next to me bothering me.’”
Jean says Crowder will ask you to come to an event and do nothing but be present. As she stepped more into her role as student body vice president last year, she would pass the MEC more often on her way up to the Student Government office on the next floor. The invitations from Crowder never stopped. “I love the consistency. Nothing about Malik changed, in a good way.”
The value of her degree did not just come from the classroom. Jean found a number of mentors on campus: BBA Director of Undergraduate Recruitment and Scholarship Charles Enriquez, Recreational Sports staff members Jennifer Speer and Tom Dison, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Leonard Moore and Director of Texas Parents Susie Smith. Each of them helped Jean grow into the type of person she wanted to be. “Susie’s late mother had MS,” Jean says. “She’s been helpful in a way that I didn’t understand that I needed so much.
“When I say, ‘I’m tired,’ Susie understood what I truly meant.”
Jean had applied to a consulting job with Dell and made it to the second round of interviews when the pandemic froze the process. With her finance degree from the McCombs School of Business, she sees herself pivoting to human resources or other person-focused fields in the business world.
“I’m not feeling stressed about not having something definite,” she says. “I think it’s because there’s this collective uncertainty going on right now.”
Jean’s one definitive plan is to train for Bike MS: Texas MS 150, where she will use her hand-cycle to travel 150 miles through Texas to raise money for MS. The event has been delayed from its original summer start time until September 26.
All in all, Jean’s time on campus demonstrates that the value of an education rests in the little things — the small interactions that are possible when you are surrounded by people who are interested in seeing you grow.
On a Sunday last fall, alongside her sister, Jean left J2 dining hall with an ice cream cone in hand. Nicole, who turns 20 this year, had been in town helping Jean clean her room. They went together under the warmth of the Texas sun. It was a busy afternoon by the Jester dormitory, but Jean felt an incredible calm. She called Nicole over and asked her to sit in her lap. Nicole obliged and the two sisters spun together in Jean’s wheelchair. She balanced the ice cream as they rotated and laughed through songs from the musical “Hairspray.” No competition in sight.
“Everything just seemed right with the world,” Jean says. “I had ice cream, and it’s like, OK, you’re about to go back to San Antonio.’ But I’m grateful for whatever this moment just meant and how all the things that go unsaid are going to give me energy for weeks.”