Austin Viktorin says that in his hometown of El Campo, “Everybody knows everybody, … football’s king and nobody really leaves. And if you do, you come right back.”
During high school, he was involved with the El Campo Chamber of Commerce, where he volunteered and met school board members, business owners and other community leaders. Viktorin was also involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (he enjoys tennis and cross-country). He hosted events for children and provided scholarships to students through the Lions Club, which named Viktorin the Best All-Around Sophomore, Junior and Senior Boy.
He also participated in speech and debate. He was awarded fifth place at the state 4A contest for University Interscholastic League congressional debate and went to the National Speech and Debate Association competition three out of four years.
“You’re constantly having to argue for and against ideas and policies and things that really do make or break communities, towns, and even states and countries,” Viktorin says of public speaking and debate. He uses these skills when persuading his friends to attend UT to create better opportunities for themselves.
I want to build those connections with people because later on in life, that’s who you’re going to call on.
His friend Jose Brito, a second-year student who is also from El Campo and majoring in business, encouraged him to apply to UT’s McCombs School of Business.
“I don’t want to bind myself to one particular organization, department or career path, and business just opens up so many doors,” Viktorin says. As an undeclared business major, Viktorin plans to learn more about different fields to find the best fit.
He has seen the pandemic’s effects on small businesses, including his father’s automotive repair shop, which experienced a decrease in sales. Viktorin helped his father’s business with administrative tasks — even driving six hours to Corpus Christi to get one part.
“It was a truly humbling experience,” he says, adding, “I was proud to help contribute to my dad’s business.”
Upon hearing in December that he had received a UT Impact Scholarship, awarded to students from across the state who are having an impact in their communities, he cried. “I was going to be the first one in my family going to a university, and we didn’t know how we were going to do it financially. When I got that call, I just couldn’t believe it. It was the first big blessing I had gotten. That put me on cloud nine.”
He then learned at the beginning of this year that he was selected as a Dell Scholar at UT Austin, receiving a scholarship along with individualized support through UT for Me all the way through graduation. Along with a dean’s scholarship, the support has allowed him to focus on his studies and find housing in West Campus.
“UT has made it possible for me to have a career and an education,” Viktorin says.
To help communities, including those in El Campo, he hopes to become a senator or lawyer and gain experience working with policy research to improve the state.
At UT, Viktorin looks forward to meeting all kinds of new people. “I want to build those connections with people because later on in life, that’s who you’re going to call on.”
Of UT’s “What Starts Here Changes the World” slogan, he says: “That has been my motto. It’s really been the driving force.”