Programs and Activities

The Dean's Scholars Honors Program offers students a unique educational experience at the University of Texas at Austin: The atmosphere of a small school, with all of the advantages of a large research university.  The program supports a wide range of activities and programs that encompass social, recreational, and academic areas, planned by the Dean's Scholars Student Council.


Most semesters, the Dean's Scholars take a field trip as a community group to visit places of scientific interest. Previous destinations have included the McDonald Observatories in Fort Davis, Texas, the Marine Institute at Port Aransas, and the LIGO Observatory in Louisiana. 


Most Fridays, Dean's Scholars gather to eat a free catered lunch and listen to an academic speaker. The subjects of the lectures range from soccer-playing robots to the mating dances of spiders, and lunch is provided by local favorite restaurants.  There is always a Q&A session for students after the lecture.


The Dean's Scholars play any and every sport against other on-campus student organizations.


  • Freshman Research Initiative The FRI is an acclaimed three-semester sequence that begins with the Research Methods course and then places students into a spring semester research laboratory where they learn important research techniques.  Summer internships and additional independent inquiry in the fall semester of the sophomore year complete the FRI experience.  Students then have the opportunity to become mentors for incoming FRI students and to continue their research.
  • Natural Sciences Undergraduate Research Forum Held on a Friday afternoon in April, more than 200 research posters are put on display by students engaged in their undergraduate research. About 100 scientists from academia, national labs, and industry show up to judge the posters and award substantial cash prizes for the best work in each discipline.
  • CNS Honors Thesis Symposium Held annually in April, graduating honors students from all three college honors programs present their research in panel sessions. Student panels run concurrently, and each panel is moderated by a UT-Austin faculty member.


Freshman Dinner kicks off the fall semester with a Dean’s Scholars family meal. Older Dean’s Scholars spend the day cooking a meal for the freshmen at Dr. Hillis's home. Professors and students come together to get to know our new students, catch up about summer experiences, and talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives. This dinner is a wonderful time for new DSers to get to know each other, upperclassmen, and professors, in addition to getting some words of wisdom about how to start the semester off right! We finish the night with DS Buddy pairs playing a game called “Two Truths and a Lie” to earn swings at a piñata!

At Holiday Dinner, we celebrate the end of the fall semester by dressing up for a formal holiday meal at a ballroom on campus. The tradition started as a way for students who couldn’t go home to celebrate Thanksgiving to spend time with their DS family and has only grown since then. We use this opportunity to enjoy time with friends and DS faculty and engage in friendly rivalry through an annual trivia competition. The evening ends on the dance floor!

The DS community is full of talent, and Musicale is the place to show it off! Musicale is an annual spring talent show where students and faculty have an opportunity to show off their skills. Hosted at Dr. Starbird’s home, Musicale features a wide variety of acts from an impressively skilled set of students. Previous acts include (but are not limited to) slam poetry, improv games, magic tricks, instrumental performances, singing, and much more! Before, during, and after the performances, Musicale is a great time to relax, laugh, and learn about your peers’ and professors’ hidden talents!

Every year ends with a farewell dinner to honor our graduating seniors. After a day of cooking together at Dr. Cline's home (similar to their first DS dinner four years before), our graduating seniors get one more chance to enjoy great food and company. Graduating Dean’s Scholars let us know where they will be going after graduation, share advice with younger students, and talk about what Dean’s Scholars meant to them. The Senior Dinner menu changes every year, and recent years have included Japanese, Thai, Cajun, and South American cooking. This dinner is a great place to say good-bye to friends before the summer, graduating or not.


Freshman Sunrise is an annual event held by the Dean’s Scholars program. It is designed to welcome incoming freshman students to campus and help them start the school year off on the right foot. The event typically takes place early in the morning in the beginning of the fall semester and includes a variety of activities and programs designed to introduce students to campus life and resources. Freshman Sunrise is a great way for new students to get acclimated to their new environment and make connections with their peers and mentors. 

Senior Sunset is the final Dean's Scholars event of the year designed to serve as one final celebration for our graduates! The event takes place at Mount Bonnell, where seniors gather together to watch the sun set on the Forty Acres from a beautiful vantage point, enjoying the company of their peers, all together for one last time.