Since its inception in 2014, the University of Houston-Downtown’s (UHD) University Honors Program has grown from its original 24 members to more than 120 participants.
In addition to three earlier graduates from the program, 11 of the inaugural cohort graduated at this year’s spring commencement, most of whom with magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors.
The creation of the Honors Program coincided with the University’s introduction of more stringent admissions standards, which was part of an initiative to recruit, retain and graduate more high-achieving students. For the program’s director Dr. Mari Nicholson-Preuss, however, her goal was to give them an experience comparable to other university honors programs.
“There are certain hallmarks of honors programs that I really wanted these students to take part in,” Nicholson-Preuss said. “For instance, connecting with faculty for research, presenting research at conferences, networking, developing leadership skills and participating in study abroad.”
This spring’s graduating class had 90 percent participation in the Study Abroad Program and each of them held a leadership position in an organization at some point during their time at UHD, including 2017-2018 student body President Faryal Gul. At the Honors Senior Reception in May, many of the students noted how the Honors Program assisted and encouraged them while creating opportunities for them to be more engaged on campus. Just as much as the program helped them, these original students helped shape the program as well.
“There will never be another group like them because they were the first,” said Nicholson-Preuss. “But at the same time, they really set a good standard for the other ones to follow and we’ll just keep building on that strong foundation.”
When the program first began, it was limited to freshman and first-time-in-college students; however, since that time the program has evolved. Now, the program accepts some continuing students and transfer students from Honors Programs at Lone Star, Houston Community, and San Jacinto Community Colleges . Also, faculty working with the program have been indispensable in this growth. The number of Honors Program classes now being offered has increased from one class in its first to semester to 16 courses across UHD’s five colleges, many of which are in the Marilyn Davies College of Business.
“For transfer students who transfer to UHD from another honors program, one of the unique things we offer is that we will accept their honors credits,” Nicholson-Preuss said. “We will honor the caliber of work they’ve already achieved.”
Through partnerships with honors programs at community colleges, students have opportunities to seamlessly transition from associate’s programs into undergraduate majors at UHD. The University Honors Program can provide these students with an educational experience comparable to programs on traditional campuses that was once thought impossible for a commuter campus like UHD.
The graduates of the Inaugural Cohort are as follows:
- Magge Nunez- Psychology
- Wallace J Wilson- Political Science
- Yadira Gamez- English & Psychology
- Juan Leija- History
- Kara Moore- Communication Studies
- Faryal Gul- History & Political Science
- Katy De La O- Political Science
- Eisha Khan- Political Science
- Taylor Scott- Accounting
- Yarmilla Reyes- Biology
- Estefania Henriquez- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Julio Enriquez- Geosciences & Philosophy*
- Aimee Soto- History*
- Citlaly Rubio- Social Work*
*Members of the Inaugural Cohort that will graduate in 2019.