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Two College Alumni from 1980s Give Insights for New Grads

Two College Alumni from 1980s Give Insights for New Grads
This year's graduating seniors will hear words of wisdom from notable alumni who sat in their chairs about three decades ago.


Suzanne Stout, now a VP at Cisco Systems with a doctorate from Stanford University, graduated in 1985 with a degree in physics. She will speak to the College of Natural Sciences' 8 a.m. and noon ceremonies this Saturday. Pharmaceutical and biotech executive Adrian Barfield, B.S. in Nutrition in 1989, will address the College's School of Human Ecology graduation at 3:30 p.m.

What memories of undergraduate life in Austin can you share?

Suzanne Stout: It goes without saying that Austin was smaller—and a great place to go to college. There was enough of a city that the university was part but not all of your life. The diversity of folks provided fertile ground to develop multiple interests, try on some new ideas, and discover who I might be. Physics was (and still is) my intellectual passion. Three things in particular stand out in my mind: our cohesive group of students, learning from a phenomenal professor, Melvin Oakes, and gaining amazing practical experience in Roger Bengston's lab.

Adrian Barfield: My favorite place on campus has always been looking from the Tower to the Capitol. Austin was just ahead of the tech boom in the mid to late 80s, and we could move around easily—I really liked 6th Street and Soul Night—and had access to hiking in the Hill Country. Campus was very lively for a few weeks of my freshman year when the Longhorns were number one. When I was an upperclassman and on football the team, one of my special class projects was doing a redesign of the Longhorn Dining Hall.

What was your path from UT to the successful career that you have today?

AB: Everything builds on the basics, and the University of Texas gave me that to work with. … Most of my career has been focused in oncology. My science background helps me to understand some of the more complex research relating to eradication of cancer and supportive care.

SS: I ultimately didn't pursue physics, but my background in physics has been very important throughout my career. It gave me the confidence that I could learn anything I put my mind to. It made me comfortable in technical environments. It created an unquenchable curiosity about how the world works and a drive to find out why. These are fundamental principles in my life and work even today.

What advice or insights do you have for graduates as they transition from this chapter in their lives?

SS: The future will require flexibility, more and more collaboration, and adaptability. Physicists are naturally trained to do these things. In fact, science is a subject that demands and receives respect throughout the business world. As part of the future, folks must be effective communicators in multiple mediums, and as social media has spread its reach, science will continue to broaden its reach!

AB: Life is a team—not an individual—sport. New graduates should find mentors early, dedicate themselves to getting good at something, and look for a way to give back to society. Nutrition is becoming central to good health. I have seen a significant increase in nutrition-related topics and the cancer field over the last 5-10 years. We are only beginning to understand the true linkage between nutrition and cancer. Never stop learning and studying.

In addition to your work, you both find time to give back. What is important to you?

AB: Most of my activities are either faith-based or education-centered. The Impact Movement is dedicated to helping African-American college students discover and/or maintain continuity in their faith during those critical college years. I love seeing people get started on the right foot in this area; it pays big dividends down the road.

SS: I lived in France for several years and then abruptly changed careers and moved back to the U.S. It was during this time that I really needed to identify what was at my core. I found that having a community and family (not necessarily genetically defined) really struck a fundamental chord in me. I wanted to enrich the community specifically through sustainable food production. I believe that everyone should give back.

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Saturday, 25 November 2017

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