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Alumni Speakers 

Stern 8397 BWAlan Stern – 8 a.m. and Noon ceremonies

Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant, and author. He leads NASA’s New Horizons mission, which successfully explored the Pluto system and is now exploring the Kuiper Belt — the farthest worlds ever explored by a space mission. In both 2007 and 2016, he was named to the TIME 100, a list of the world’s most influential people. In 2007, he was appointed NASA’s chief of all science missions. Since 2009, he has been an Associate Vice President and Special Assistant to the President at the Southwest Research Institute. Dr. Stern currently serves as the chief scientist of both World View, a near-space ballooning company, and the Florida Space Institute. In 2016, he was elected to be the board chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. His career has taken him to numerous astronomical observatories, to the South Pole, and to the upper atmosphere aboard various high performance NASA aircraft. He has been involved as a researcher in 24 suborbital, orbital, and planetary space missions, including nine for which he was the mission principle investigator; and he has led the development of eight scientific instruments for NASA space missions.

Before receiving his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1989, Dr. Stern completed twin master's degrees in aerospace engineering and atmospheric sciences (1980 and 1981) and two undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy (1978 and 1981) from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Stern has published over 270 technical papers and is the author of three books, Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, The U.S. Space Program After Challenger (Franklin-Watts, 1987), and Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System (Wiley 1997, 2005).


duswalt-bw-square Marissa Duswalt Epstein - 3:30 p.m. ceremony

Marissa Duswalt Epstein previously served as the Administrative Director for Health Education, Engagement and Promotion at Stanford Health Care and in the Office of the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, as well as in the White House Office of the First Lady as Associate Director of Policy and Events for Michelle Obama's Let’s Move! initiative. The initiative worked to engage all members of society in an effort to ensure American children would have the opportunity to reach a healthy adulthood, intersecting the disciplines of science, economics, culture and policy. Duswalt served on the White House staff for over a year, implementing many successes of the Let’s Move! initiative through innovative policy programming, public-private partnerships, and public marketing. After leaving Washington, she went to Stanford University where she taught a course examining the intersection of policy, consumer attitudes, and nutritional science. 

As a UT Austin student, Marissa Duswalt was awarded a Truman Scholarship in recognition of her leadership and curiosity regarding childhood obesity. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College of Natural Sciences with a B.S. in Nutrition with Special Honors in 2010 and was chosen as a Dean’s Honored Graduate. While in Austin, Marissa immersed herself in food and nutrition experiences – she worked at Dell Children’s hospital in pediatric dietetics; she managed Austin High School’s cafeteria; and she worked with KIPP Austin schools to build a comprehensive program to teach kids about healthy eating, gardening, and cooking.