Outstanding Students Highlighted During 73rd Commencement Ceremonies
By Marie Jacinto
More than 2,500 UHD students graduated on Dec. 10 during UHD’s 73rd Commencement ceremonies at Minute Maid Park, and each had a unique story to tell of determination, dedication, and sheer Gator Grit. During his remarks, President Blanchard told a few of these stories, including the two that follow.
A graduate of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kaili Mora-Duarte faced the challenges of COVID from his first semester at UHD until his last semester, when he was finally able to take in-person classes. That made him feel more engaged than ever before. A full-time student, Kaili also worked full-time while participating in one-act plays, writing for local magazines, creating art out of leather, and interning for UHD’s literary and arts magazine, The Bayou Review, as an inspired editor. Truly creative and multi-talented, Kaili excels academically and plans to go to graduate school in creative writing at the University of Houston. He aspires to teach, someday showcasing what he has learned in his own classroom and educating the writers of tomorrow.
Mireille Aziz graduated from the College of Sciences & Technology with her certification to teach secondary-level mathematics. Her pathway to becoming a certified teacher was not a smooth one. Midway through her college career, the mother of two lost her husband to COVID. After her tragic loss almost two years ago, she pursued her studies with excellence amid the challenges of being a single mom and the uncertainty of navigating both the U.S. and Lebanese legal systems in finalizing her husband’s will. She has often attended virtual court hearings in the middle of the night due to the time difference and then reported to classes or to complete her student teaching experience the following mornings. As her student teaching semester neared completion, Mireille’s students begged her to stay as their full-time teacher, evidence of her commitment to them despite her competing priorities. Likewise, her work in her UHD courses demonstrated a deep care for detail and accuracy. She has shown that Gator Grit transcends working hours, persists through the ravages of deadly diseases, and strengthens resolve across international borders.
Kaili and Mireille are typical examples of the quality of students who attend UHD. For more inspiring stories of our Gator graduates, watch UHD’s ‘Stole of Gratitude’ Series and check out upcoming issues of UHD News.
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.