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UHD Honors Program Students Earn Top Award For Presentation at National Conference

Tooba Narejo and Gladys Chan Take First Place Honors at National Collegiate Honors Council Event


By Mark Kramer

University of Houston-Downtown Honors Program students Tooba Narejo and Gladys Chan have certainly put their knowledge to work — and it shows.

The two students share a passion for community involvement and the well-being of the environment. So, it’s no surprise that their presentation of how “Virtually Engaged Communities Strive for Equitable Societies and Environmental Justice” took the first place spotlight in their division at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

“It is such an honor to have our University and our students represented at a national conference of this scope,” said Dr. Catherine Howard, Interim Director of the Honors Program. “We are so proud of their hard work and their achievements.”

Narejo and Chan’s poster presentation detailed how UHD’s Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning (CCESL) utilized its resources to assist underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the downside of no human interaction during that time, virtual internships were able to contribute to community building and learning by raising awareness about social and environmental issues,” Narejo said.

Chan also served in the CCESL’s virtual internship program in 2020 and said that helping others through advocacy and community service efforts was extremely rewarding. The senior student also affirmed those values were emphasized by the NCHC conference presenters.

“What I have learned as an honors student and at this conference has helped me reimagine my purpose and has given me a clearer image of my future in terms of education and a career,” Chan said.

CCESL Associate Director Caroline Smith served as a mentor to both students as they prepared their presentation, which received judges' comments of "excellent presentation, strong advocacy and excellent poster design."

“Presenting at a conference and winning first place doesn’t happen overnight,” Smith said. “Tooba and Gladys honed their skills not only through internships, but also by contributing to public showcases and completing grant projects with guidance through the Community Scholars Program. It’s been an absolute joy and honor to see them learn and grow over the past few years. I’m so proud of these talented young women and excited to see what their futures hold.”

Founded in 1966, the National Collegiate Honors Council has nearly 900 member institutions, impacting over 330,000 honors students. This year’s conference hosted four separate keynote/plenary speaker events, as well as 319 sessions, panels, roundtables, performances, and workshops.


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.