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Congratulations 2020 Spring Grads!

Applying Gator Grit to Finish UHD Strong


By Sheryl E. Taylor

University of Houston-Downtown Gators continue to exemplify unwavering resilience aka ‘grit’— from the tumultuous Hurricane Harvey to the COVID-19 pandemic … and everything in between.

But for four newly minted graduates and Honor students of the University Honors Program, their grit encompasses determination, unlimited opportunities for success, real-world learning and a University that truly cared about their success.

Elizabeth Gonzalez

For a lot of prospective and current students as well as alumni who choose UHD, close proximity to home and affordability is a significant factor. And, Elizabeth Gonzalez couldn’t agree more.

“I was able to graduate with a bachelor's debt free … and I’m extremely grateful,” she said. “Being close to home also allowed me to have the support network I needed to get through these past four years.” 

Gonzalez, who earned a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in communication studies, wants a career as a licensed professional counselor for young kids and a play therapist. Her next step after UHD is to pursue a master’s in mental health counseling.

“I want to help individuals struggling with mental health problems because of my personal journey with mental health,” Gonzalez emphasized. “I also want to help end the stigma by making mental health services more readily available.” 

Following closely behind is Gonzalez’s sister who is currently studying to be a bilingual teacher at UHD.

“It was really great that my sister attended UHD with me for a few years because I was able to guide and show her the ropes,” she said. “My cousins are graduating soon, and I always make it a point to suggest UHD. The classes are small, the professors are great, the campus activities are fun, and there’s always a friend around the corner.” 

Cynthia Andrade

First-generation graduate Cynthia Andrade chose UHD for its diversity and faculty-to-student ratio; however, she soon learned the Gator community — fellow students, faculty and staff — is what made all the difference when it came to Finishing UHD Strong.

“I love how UHD is a close-knit community that cares about its students on a personal level,” the accounting major said. “UHD provides students with endless opportunities to grow as students and future professionals.” 

Andrade’s career aspiration is to pursue a graduate degree in Human Resources and she’s also studying to take the CPA exam. Her advice for future Gator grads is simple — seek as many opportunities you can to enrich your future.

“One can't truly know what the future holds,” Andrade said. “You are all capable of more than you know.”

Namita Kadel

She arrived in the United States from Kathmandu, Nepal as a junior in high school. Admittedly, Namita Kadel didn’t want to be far away from her parents, so she chose UHD with the intent of transferring to a larger university, but the best-laid plans … don’t always go as planned.

“I started loving UHD,” she emphasized. “I received so many opportunities that I probably would not have had if I went somewhere else — from working on campus to joining the University Honors Program in my first semester to becoming involved in the community to traveling to Mexico and Costa Rica on an academic trip through the Global Scholars Program.”

Thanks to several scholarships, Kadel also studied abroad in France for a semester, which encouraged her to choose international business as a minor to accompany her bachelor’s in business management.

“Small class sizes and my professors helped bring out the best in me,” Kadel said. “I have the tendency of getting lost in the crowd. But now four years later, I’m graduating summa cum laude with all these great memories.”

Presently, Kadel works as a program assistant at Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR), which help refugee students learn English, do better academically, and build social and emotional skills.

The best part of UHD for Kadel … diversity.

“We not only have a diverse student body, but so is our faculty and staff,” she said. “I think that’s really important to receive irreplaceable experience learning about other cultures and perspectives to work in such a diverse world.” 

With a sister who started attending UHD last fall. Kadel offers the following advice to fellow Gators.

“UHD is a great university with a community that wants to help you realize your potential and reach your academic, personal and professional goals,” she noted. “There are so many resources available; make sure you utilize all of them. Explore the University and Downtown … get to know people … join the Gator community.”

Isbah Khan

Khan, a double major in mathematics and philosophy, summed up her academic journey with Gator pride, grit, experience and an extended family.

“With continuous academic support and enriching opportunities, UHD has helped me prepare for a successful career after college. From being part of Study Abroad to my involvement in campus organizations, UHD broadened my global and local experience,” said Khan. “As the second UHD alum in my family, I'm proud to carry on the Gator Grit. I hope current and future Gators make the most of their time at UHD by taking advantage of the opportunities available to them. When necessary, seek help and guidance, the Gator community is here to help you succeed.”

These proud graduates are among the nearly 1,300 Gators being honored during UHD's 2020 Virtual Graduation Celebration at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 11. All family and friends are invited to RSVP yoday to secure a spot in the virtual party! 

Congratulations 2020 Gator Grads!


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.