Margaret Siu waltzed up to former Plan II Honors Program director, distinguished history professor Michael Stoff, at her freshman orientation for The University of Texas at Austin. She introduced herself and let him know then and there that she was going to found UT’s first international arts magazine.
“From my perspective, his reaction was kind of like, who is this kid?” Siu says with a laugh. “He didn’t dismiss me, but he said we can talk about this later.”
Siu is gutsy. She graduates this month as a Plan II honors student, editor-in-chief turned chair of Apricity magazine and the 2020 recipient of the British Marshall Scholarship. A big school like UT Austin can be intimidating to some, but not for Siu. She came from a small high school in Dallas and was looking forward to making the most of all a big campus has to offer.
“Going through UT has just been the best thing,” she says. “It taught me how to be better to myself and how to listen to the stories of other people more.”
Siu pushed forward with her ambition. During her first semester, she built up Apricity, which she started with a staff of 10 people who met in a dormitory basement every week. Stoff heard about the quickly growing student magazine and remembered the young woman who was behind it. He reached out to reconnect with her.
“He said, ‘All right, I think you should come to my office.’ So I went,” says Siu. “I brought prototypes of my work. I was editor of my high school newspaper and literary magazine. I had also self-published two books. I said to him, ‘I’ve done this before. I promise you I’m serious.’”
Stoff was impressed. From that point on, he became a mentor, helping her connect with other professors in the College of Liberal Arts and find funding to grow the magazine. “I think that leap of faith, especially in a freshman, was just so encouraging.” Today, Apricity is the official literary and arts journal of The University of Texas at Austin, and it is a winner of the Gold Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.
Apricity is one of many byproducts of Siu’s passion for the humanities. In high school, she toured UT and was told by her English teacher Tolly Salz (’92) to visit the Harry Ransom Center. She says she fell in love with the exhibits and archives on display. Now as she leaves the university, the magazine she poured her years into has an office in the same building.
As she developed Apricity, Stoff introduced her to mentors who could help with every part of the process. Siu says that the mentorship and guidance she received from faculty members through the Plan II program helped direct her humanities mindset and large ambitions. Among her mentors, she says she was fortunate to be supported by former College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl. “He really taught me how to dream and think big — never limit yourself.”
Siu had frequent conversations with him in his office, and at the end of her freshman year, he asked her whether she had heard of the Marshall Scholarship. When she said no, he smiled and recommended she look into it.
As she found out, the Marshall Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships awarded to an undergrad. She set her sights on it and three years later, with the support and encouragement of her mentors, in December 2019, Siu added the award to her list of achievements.
During her time at UT, Siu was also a Bill Archer Fellow. She spent the fall 2019 semester in Washington, D.C., working as a research intern for the Human Rights Initiative in the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She was also a semi-finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship and has obtained a certificate in managerial economics, business analytics, and financial accounting from Harvard Business School, as well as a certificate in advanced Mandarin Chinese from National Taiwan Normal University.
Despite her very demanding schedule, Siu says she always tries to find the time to get a good night’s sleep. “Sleeping is a hobby for me.” And she can’t overemphasize the importance of time management skills. “I just live on Google Calendar and checklists now.”
Returning home to finish her senior semester because of COVID-19 was a blow to her momentum. “At first it was rough balancing things out. The days just kind of blurred together,” says Siu. “But I’m slowly working out a routine.”
Siu is wrapping up her last efforts on campus as she looks toward what’s next. She plans on attending the Univesity of Oxford in the fall through her Marshall Scholarship to pursue an MSc in contemporary Chinese studies and global governance and diplomacy. Staying true to her core belief in the power of narrative, Siu believes her strong background in the arts will help her facilitate better discussion on a global scale.
“I want to be in the room where it happens and help negotiate on the behalf of America as the world continues to globalize,” she says. “I think there are so many perspectives that are important that need to be heard but might not be recognized right now.”
When asked about her feelings on graduation this spring, Siu responded simply, “Sad.”
She says that graduating over Zoom away from the people who made such a difference in her life is not what she expected for the end of her time on campus. Being at home, however, has given her more space to reflect.
“I chose to come to UT because I thought I would grow the most at UT,” she says. “I am so grateful for the time I’ve spent there. So if anything, this has made that time all the more precious.”
With reporting by Jade Fabello