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About Us

The Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE) is a learning community at The University of Texas at Austin, serving over 2,000 students in its freshman-to-senior pipeline. Our four signature programs are: Gateway Scholars, Longhorn Link, McNair Scholars, and Summer Bridge. LCAE offers a variety of services that students can benefit from, such as smaller class sizes, reserved seats in competitive courses, tutoring, academic/career advising, internship opportunities, peer mentors, scholarships, and more. For additional information, please visit each programs individual site or contact us via phone (512-471-1205) or email (

When Nissa Guerra was little, she would tell her mother she wanted to be a taxi cab driver so she could travel the world.

In her young, innocent mind she thought cab drivers were expert travelers, venturing off to new places. But now, as a third-year International Relations and Government major, Nissa is circumventing the Forty Acres and enjoying her own adventure as a college student.

Nissa is a returning Gateway mentor who is a part of the LCAE Student Leadership Institute, a member of spirit group Texas Royals and holds a leadership role the Texas Thon service organization. 

“This year every mentor has to be so much more involved and it’s helped me realize how great Gateway is. No one has a bad day at Gateway,” Nissa says.

This year, Gateway has introduced the LCAE Student Leadership Institute as a new program to help motivate leaders within Gateway Scholars. Through the Student Leadership Institute, Nissa has worked closely with department heads and says she is amazed by how passionate the instructors are.

“LCAE Leadership Institute is helping us develop as leaders. I haven’t realized how much they have done in their lives and they have been great. Everyone has taken different paths in their careers and they all do what they love,” Nissa says.

Doing what you love is very important to Nissa.

Nissa says it is crucial for students to find what they love to do. As a freshman in college, the pressure to pick a major was high, but her decision to come in to UT as undeclared is one she is happy she made.

“I would recommend freshmen coming in as undeclared,” Nissa says. “I think a lot of freshman come in and stick to a major that they don’t even like. Instead of picking a major, I took classes that interest me and made sure they counted for my core curriculum.”

Nissa says it wasn’t until the end of her sophomore year she declared one of her majors, and now she is on schedule to graduate on time with not just one, but two degrees.

When Nissa isn’t spending hours studying at the PCL, she says she stays busy with service organization Texas Thon. Texas Thon is one product of the national Dance Marathon event which is a fundraiser held at universities all over the country that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Members are proud to say it is the largest philanthropy in Texas and raised $50,000 last year for The Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. As the Miracle Maker Relations Executive Chair, Nissa is in charge of every registered member for Thon.

“We aren’t the biggest philanthropy in the Big 12, but we are working on it,” Nissa says proudly.

In the future, Nissa hopes to make a living doing charity work. She dreams of working with the Children’s Miracle Network, an international non-profit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals and medical research.

“I’ve said many times I would love to get paid for doing what I do for Texas Thon because I love it that much.”

This year, Nissa is expected to raise $750 dollars for their large fundraising Dance Marathon event. You, too, can help Nissa achieve her goal by signing up for their annual Dance Marathon event that takes place on March 8, 2015.

And though being a taxi cab driver is no longer an aspiration of Nissa’s, one thing remains true: sometimes the unexpected journey brings you along an unknown path, so grab life by the wheel and enjoy the ride.

Changing the Story | Meet Senior Vanilla McIntosh

October 8, 2014

Corporate communication senior Vanilla McIntosh only submitted one application when it came time to apply to college three years ago. She considered two factors: a Texas school with a good football program, and a school far enough away from her family in Houston that she could experience a bit of freedom. The University of Texas […]

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Information Session: China Maymester 2015 – Oct. 8th

October 6, 2014
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Getting Involved: Student Organizations

September 29, 2014
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Bridging Opportunities for New Longhorns

September 24, 2014

Summer Bridge Program Continues to Make a Difference For most members of the 2018 class, this past summer was spent soaking up the last weeks of freedom before embarking on their college journey. But for a select group of incoming freshman, the months of July and August were spent getting a sneak peek at what […]

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Planning on Studying Abroad? Come Join Us!

September 16, 2014
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Gateway Alumnus Ja’Michael Darnell on Following Your Passion

June 25, 2014

Let’s be honest. Gateway has been the essence for most of my growth as a student on this campus. It all started with a speech during the Gateway Orientation at the beginning of my first year. At the orientation, Dr. Leonard Moore, sparked us with a pre-lecture to kick off the semester. My first impression […]

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Looking Back on Gateway: Ezequiel Calderon

June 8, 2014

I made my first friends in the Gateway Scholars Program. That’s a big deal as a first-generation college student from Pasadena, TX that had nearly no connections at UT their first year. I was very fortunate to be involved with two new friends in a First-Year Interest Group, or FIG, and the Gateway Scholars Program. […]

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