We already know that Texas Engineering faculty and students are changing the world, but behind the scenes, staff and administrators are the ones keeping things running smoothly. From alumni outreach to student life programming, staff members dedicate themselves to improving and advancing the Cockrell School. Read about two of our many “unsung heroes,” and find out what inspires them to build a better Texas Engineering experience for the next generation.


Hortensia Peoples

hortencia-peoplesTitle: Department Manager, CAEE

Years at UT Austin: 34

In the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (CAEE), over 1,200 students, 60 faculty members and 22 staff members strive to work together to make the world a better place. As one of the biggest and best civil engineering departments in the U.S., CAEE is constantly evolving and often confronting new challenges. But for longtime department manager Hortensia Peoples, that’s what creates opportunity.

Peoples oversees the daily organizational and financial operations of department programs and resources, and she serves as the primary administrative contact for all CAEE faculty, staff and students. A talented strategist and savvy problem solver, she inspires by example and lives by her professional mantra, “the students come first.

Most importantly for Peoples, it’s all about helping others and promoting a supportive community. Her caring is genuine and she is quick to share a smile or laugh, which makes people feel they belong, like they are part of a family.

“You have to be approachable, a good listener and a good communicator — no matter what role you serve in the organization or what problem you’re trying to solve,” she said. “I don’t believe in failure, so I’m looking for solutions everywhere. It is my job to be a creative thinker and open doors for people in the department to have success. I have been so proud to be in a position to help so many.”

I try to help people realize that there is always more than one way to get something done or meet a challenge. Creativity is so important when facing obstacles.”


Francis An


Title: Co-Op Program Coordinator

Years at UT Austin: 5

Every year, roughly 150 Texas Engineering students participate in a Cockrell School co-op program — a yearlong industry-immersive experience that puts students on company teams to prepare them for the future. And every year, Francis An makes sure each of them has the best and most rewarding experience possible.

With a degree in psychology from UT Austin and a passion for behavioral counseling, it’s fitting that An is dedicated to students’ career development. When he’s not coordinating the logistics and planning of his students’ co-op programs, he serves as a general career counselor, helping students polish their resumes and refine their interviewing skills.

“We really have amazing students,” An said. “They’re focused on what they want to do in the future and already have a vision — that part makes my job easy. What makes it rewarding is working with them through the process and seeing their education and training manifest into a career that they have a real passion for.”

There is a no-appointment-necessary, walk-in policy for students seeking guidance in the Engineering Career Assistance Center. As a result, An sometimes meets with up to 20 students in a day. He customizes each session for the student but always gives one piece of advice: “Make the most of your time in college — get involved, become a leader, do something beyond the classroom. Many things can be part of your resume.”

Every successful student elicits a positive memory, but it is especially gratifying to see alumni working in industry come back to campus to meet with and recruit current students. It really shows that they loved their experiences in Texas Engineering.”

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