Home to Texas Q&A: Elizabeth Rangel, Class of 2025

Home to Texas Participant: Elizabeth Rangel, Class of 2025

Major: Social Work

Hometown: Bastrop, Texas

Internship: City of Smithville, Smithville Public Library

During the summer of 2023, UT student, Elizabeth Rangel, participated in the Home to Texas program. At the end of the internship, we spoke with Ms. Rangel about her experience as an intern in the Home to Texas program.

Home to Texas, an initiative started by the IC2 Institute and currently managed by The University of Texas at Austin’s Undergraduate College and Texas Career Engagement, pairs first-year undergraduate Longhorns of all majors with scholarship-funded internships and research experiences in their hometowns across the state.

What drew you to Home to Texas in the first place?

I first heard about it through a coworker in Austin. When she brought it up, I was interested because I knew I needed to start exploring career paths because my major is really broad. One of [the paths you can take] is going into the government and I thought knowing a little bit more about the city could be useful. Also my mom had surgery in February, so I thought it’d be really helpful for me to come back for the summer to help out.

What have been the highlights of your time interning with the City of Smithville?

My day-to-day looks like contacting businesses to see how many people are working there, because they want to build a community profile, and entering data. I’ve worked alongside [City of Smithville staff members] on making a slide for a grant proposal and I’ve also attended city council meeting and library advisory board meetings. The most exciting meeting I’ve been to was, in fact, a library advisory meeting, simply because they talked a lot about—you know how books are being banned in the U.S.? That was the topic being discussed. I liked learning more.

Have there been times during Home to Texas where you’ve made connections between your internship and what you’ve learned in class at UT?

In a way, yes! I took a Media Law class because I couldn’t get my Global Cultures flag through my major. While applying things onto a [City of Smithville] proposal, I made sure to include images that were properly cited. Through my Media Law class, we also learned about open records requests, and I actually had to submit an open records request [for the program’s research project]. It was really cool to learn about it and then be able to go request it. I never thought I would do that right away! But here I am. [Laughs] 

How has your Home to Texas experience changed your understanding of Smithville?

I’m from Bastrop—Smithville is nearby. I don’t really have too many memories of going into Smithville as a kid, but I was actually born here!

I find this place really interesting. I’m working alongside the economic development grant writer for the City of Smithville and you can tell that they’ve had major success. It’s very refreshing to come from a city where it’s a little cold versus a small, rural town where they’re very welcoming and humble. In social work, we care about people—it’s very important that you treat people with dignity and respect. And I notice that here.

I am really impressed with the City of Smithville. I think a lot of people forget that relationships are what make your life fulfilling. As a small town, they’re really aware of that and I admire that.

How will this internship impact the rest of your college career and your professional life post-graduation?

This internship has sparked me visiting Career Services more. I care about professional development and it’s hard to know what path I want to stick to. This has helped me [understand] like, “Oh, you can take this kind of job! You don’t have stick to the field you’re headed towards. You can also branch out.”

If you had to pick one memory from your Home to Texas experience that was emblematic of what you’ve learned, what would it be?

It goes back to the library advisory board, because the librarian brought up how people who go to events with their cameras want to irritate you so you’ll get mad and they’ll record that response and then try to throw a lawsuit at you. And it makes me care a lot more about the law. In whatever I do, I want to make sure that whatever population I’m working with is keeping the law in mind. If they don’t like the law, we can always try to see how we can reform it.

Do you have any advice for students considering applying to Home to Texas?

Any students who are considering applying—I encourage them to go for it. I didn’t do anything last summer because I was afraid to branch out and this program helped me move forward. It’s cool to see your surrounding area provide an opportunity! It’s very important to see what’s out there because it’s very hard to make a commitment before you’ve explored.