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Gator Grads Recognized During Virtual Graduation Celebration


By Mike Emery

It's been a challenging time for college students across the nation, but those at the University of Houston-Downtown have managed to overcome the obstacles presented by COVID-19 and successfully complete the spring semester.

This includes more than 1,300 Gator Graduates who finished their degrees in spite of the pandemic. At 7 p.m., June 11, these graduates will be recognized during UHD's first Virtual Graduation Celebration. The live event will be broadcast on UHD’s Facebook page and hosted by FOX26 and FOXSoul reporter/host Isiah Carey.

During the event, graduates will receive well-wishes from special guests, including city leaders, professional athletes and notable UHD alumni.

“We look forward to a really special and memorable celebration of our 2020 graduating class,” said Dr. Eric Link, UHD Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and Provost. “This will give us all an opportunity to take a moment and commemorate the hard work and achievements of so many dedicated students who reached this important milestone in their lives. It will be a fun celebration, with an array of speakers, special guests, and surprises. I’m looking forward to a great evening.”

The real stars of the event are UHD’s Spring 2020 graduates. Although a commencement ceremony will be conducted later this year to honor their accomplishments, this event will showcase their names as an early commemoration of their hard work.

Among the Spring 2020 grads being honored are:

Marisol Orozco, UHD’s Social Work Student of the Year, earns her Bachelor of Social Work degree. Orozco overcame many challenges in high school to make it to UHD and soon will enter graduate school.

Elizabeth Gonzalez, completes her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She plans to attend graduate school and ultimately help others as a counselor. 

Cynthia Andrade, plans to become a Certified Public Accountant and earn a master’s degree in Human Resources. She graduates this spring with a bachelor’s in accounting. 

Namita Kadel, has traveled the globe since enrolling at UHD. Through the Global Scholars Program, she’s visited Mexico and Costa Rica. She’s also studied in France and contributed her energies to the Partnership and Immersion of Refugees. She earns her bachelor’s degree in business management this spring.

Isbah Khan, was so passionate about UHD that she served as a Gator Correspondent. In this role, the mathematics and philosophy double major, supported the University on social media. She also was actively involved in the University’s many community outreach efforts through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

Lorraine Byrd does not officially graduate this spring, but completes her prerequisites for dental school at UHD’s College of Sciences & Technology. The nontraditional student left a corporate career to return to UHD and begin a new career path that will put smiles on Houstonians faces.

Takese McKenzie, was inspired to attend UHD by family members who attended the University. The international student now earns her bachelor’s degree in biology. Her next stop is The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to pursue doctorate in Neuroscience. At UHD, she was a member of the Scholars Academy. “My biggest takeaway is the welcoming and supportive community that is present at UHD,” she said. “Everyone here is invested in the success of the students. I am truly grateful for some of the professors that I met as they have truly inspired me.”

Christina Glenn’s next stop is graduate school. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from UHD’s College of Public Service while balancing her responsibilities as a Student Government Association Senator and UHD Blue Coat (representing the University at high profile events and greeting dignitaries).

These are just some of the success stories to be celebrated this spring, and UHD’s Virtual Graduation Celebration will complement the accomplishments of all of the semester’s graduates.

For more details on UHD’s Virtual Graduation Celebration, visit the event’s website.


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.