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The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

People of UT: Brandon Zupan

In this People of UT episode, audio producer Mae Lackey talks to Brandon Zupan — a UT student who does it all. He’s a founder of the UT Discord server, the treasurer for Longhorn Furries, a member of Texas Carillon, a moderator of the UT subreddit and a photographer for the UT Housing and Dining marketing team. He even drew the cover art.

Hosted and produced by Mae Lackey. Cover art is “Bebo” by Brandon Zupan. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.


People of UT Intro 


RT 1.1 Welcome to People of UT, the show that introduces you to members of the UT community that have made a positive impact, big or small, on other community members. I’m your host, Mae Lackey.


RT 1.2 Most college students would probably agree that holding down a job while in school isn’t easy. Combine that with having an internship or being in clubs, and it becomes even harder. Now, picture this: You’re an electrical engineering master’s student who single-handedly created the UT discord server in 2018 (which now has at least 8,000 members). You’re also the treasurer for Longhorn Furries, UT’s club for students interested in anthropomorphic animals referred to as Furries. We’ll return to that later. You’re a member of Texas Carillon, the organization who rings the UT Tower bells. You’re a moderator of the UT subreddit. Oh, and not to forget – you’re a photographer for the UT Housing and Dining marketing team.


RT 1.3 Seems impossible, right? It’s not for Brandon Zupan. He’s done all of the above. Here’s what he has to say about the UT discord, which is kind of where it all started. 


Brandon Zupan (2:50-4:00)

The UT Discord server got started in July of 2018. The summer before my freshman year, I was basically sitting around, like, trying to meet new people at UT before I came here, and I was looking for a Discord server and there wasn’t one. 


Discord notification


So I basically took it on myself to make the one for UT Austin, even though I wasn’t really a student yet. So yeah, I really started it because I was excited and nervous about coming to UT and I wanted a way to talk to people and make friends with incoming freshmen. Once the semester began, we started doing little events like meetups where we played video games and Jester. I remember we played, like, Mario Party in Jester East in the big TV room. We also had study sessions like here in the PCL, these meetups basically led to me meeting some of my best friends at UT. Over the next couple of years it continued to grow. Now there’s like 8000 people in it. And during the pandemic, I feel like it got really important because everyone had to go home and it was much harder to stay connected with people. So we took it upon ourselves to kind of be a model for how to make discord servers at UT. We did stuff like run movie nights, we had video game nights and study sessions online. I was even playing like the carillon or the tower bells through discord call so people could hear even if they weren’t at Campus.


RT 1.4 The UT Discord server turned out to be a really, really good way for students to connect. Today, the server hosts tons of channels where hundreds of students chat every day. 


Brandon Zupan 4:12

It feels really strange that I created a community as large as the UT Discord server. It’s strange that I did I guess, it’s hard to think about how, like so many people know about something like this?


Transition music


RT 1.5 Brandon is also the treasurer of Longhorn Furries, and is one of the longest active members. Furries are a subculture for people interested in anthropomorphic animals, and a lot of people create their own “fursonas”, or animal personas.


Brandon Zupan 5:46

I feel like it’s kind of how anyone who’s a furry kind of begins is kind of denying it, because it’s often seen as kind of weird. But so someone else started Longhorn Furries a couple of years ago, and they were starting to grow it. And it was getting, I guess, slightly more and more popular. I was actually about to make the org for it because my friends wanted an org. And when I was doing it, we found out that there was an existing one that was being made at the same time. So we all just kind of joined that one. 


RT 1.6 Brandon said he became an officer in Longhorn Furries because of his work with the UT Discord, and at the time, the organization was mostly run as a discord server. Over time, it grew to over a hundred members from just a few.


Brandon Zupan

So now, I’m basically just the Treasurer for it. I helped manage the org’s finances and help plan how to use their money, doing stuff like ordering merchandise or planning events that I would like I guess use our budget. I’ve always tried to provide guidance about leadership strategies to the younger officers. Since I’ve been at it for like five years now, I have a lot of experience with running communities like this, so I’m often able to help with difficult situations.


Tower bells


RT 1.7 Like Longhorn Furries, Texas Carillon was something Brandon got involved with because he had a personal interest in it. He said he likes when students recognize the songs he plays, many of which are video game theme songs.


Brandon Zupan 14:32

I’ve played so many things. I think my favorite thing that I’ve played on the tower bells is megalovania from Undertale. Because there’s people that instantly recognize it. I think I’ve seen comments on the like subreddit about like, saying, Who keeps playing megalovania on the tower bells? 


One thing that I’m playing a lot right now is, like, one of the songs from Minecraft because I feel like it sounds really cool on the bells with how the chords are.


RT 1.8 Even with his many responsibilities, and an especially hard course load, Brandon finds time to pursue photography, which is what he says is his main hobby. His instagram is full of photos he’s taken around UT’s campus. 


Brandon Zupan 1:33

I don’t know how I’m able to find time for all of it. Honestly, I tried to schedule and kind of plan my days and like keep a to-do list of everything that I need to do. And it’s important to reward myself with free time after being so busy throughout the day.


Silly transition music


RT 1.9

He also found time to create Bebo, which is a goofy depiction of UT’s mascot Bevo that you may recognize as the cover for this story. 


Brandon Zupan 19:13

So Bebo is a little drawing that I made, like I think in 2020 it was kind of my first fursona which is like a funny way to put it, because like it was my icon for discord and zoom. Like, I would join like zoom lectures and like one of my professors would say, what is your icon because it’s just a funny little like  drawing. And it kind of turned into me ordering stickers for it because you can get stickers pretty cheap for a design like that. And just like giving to my friends, putting on all my things, like I have one on my water bottle and laptop. And like, I just kind of feel like a good representation of my time at UT, so I decided to get it as a tattoo this summer. 


RT 1.10 Tattooed with his own depiction of UT’s mascot, it’s easy to say that Brandon has enjoyed his time at UT. He’s graduating next year, in 2024, and he’s pursuing his career in electrical engineering. He said he’s sad to leave all of his involvement with UT behind, but he’s satisfied with what he’s done.


Brandon Zupan 13:32

I enjoyed the way that I helped a great community at UT. I kind of like being hidden because I am often pretty shy and anxious. So being able to do stuff on the internet, I’m really comfortable with, basically, everything I do is just kind of hidden in a way. Even Texas Carillon like, you don’t really see me playing guitar because you can only hear me doing it without actually knowing it’s me. Same with the discord like, I just kind of, I don’t know, for a lot of people, I’m just kind of a username when like the Bebo profile picture, instead of like being an actual person.


I do feel sad with the idea of leaving it behind because I have a lot of my life into it. Like, all of my time at UT I’ve been running this Discord server, this community for people, and it is going to be weird, like leaving it behind.


Outro Music


RT 1.11 


RT 1.12 People of UT is a production of The Daily Texan Audio Department. If you liked this episode, make sure you subscribe to The Daily Texan Podcasts on your streaming platform of choice and follow us on Twitter @texanaudio. This episode was reported and edited by me, Mae Lackey. Special thanks to xx and blue dot sessions. Thank you for listening!

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