While the University of North Texas made the difficult decision to postpone commencement ceremonies, there's still plenty to celebrate in these inspiring stories of our recent CLASS graduates.
Brian Elliott didn't expect to finish his time at UNT defending his doctoral dissertation in a Zoom meeting, but "it ended up not being a big deal."
It's not surprising he took it in stride. Brian earned three UNT degrees in history while living with the challenge of a visual impairment. Diagnosed with Stargardt's disease as a teenager, he hasn't allowed that to slow him down.
"Not being able to live a normal life at 16 was tough, especially not being able to drive in a state like Texas. With the support of my family and friends, though, my vision challenges have only pushed me to be a more driven individual who above all things is simply trying to prove I can achieve whatever I put my mind to."
Brian came to UNT from Granbury, joining friends headed to Denton. He says the opportunity to work with history faculty like Andrew Torget, Randolph Campbell and Richard McCaslin kept him here for his master's, and he went on to pursue his doctorate for the chance to teach right away.
He first became interested in teaching as an undergraduate, when he worked for the UNT Learning Center. As a master's student, he was a workshop instructor for the American Culture and Communications Program through UNT International.
"I enjoyed helping international students sharpen their English and better understand culture in Texas and the broader U.S.," says Brian. "It taught me that we as humans share more in common than we are different, and that made me a more empathetic teacher and scholar."
Brian, who was selected as a special projects research assistant for UNT's Portal to Texas History, has published book reviews and has manuscripts under consideration by several academic journals. He was named the history department's 2019 Outstanding Teaching Fellow and teaches history in the diploma program at Westlake Academy.
"The professors I've worked with taught me the value of bringing an infectious energy into every learning environment," says Brian, "and to always believe that every student in the room wants to be there just as much as you."
His advice for new graduate students echoes his advice for teachers and, really, anyone: "Be passionate about what you do. That love for what you study will carry you through the challenges you face."
See all of the Spring 2020 UNT Great Grads here.