James Barclay, psychology
James Barclay has lived in a number of cities throughout his life, and his next move will take him to our nation’s capital. After graduating with a degree in psychology he will begin an internship with the U.S. government in Washington D.C.
“I’m still waiting to hear specifically which department I will be working for during my internship,” he says. “But I decided to apply for the internship after taking a class last summer called Political Terrorism. I found that class so fascinating that, at the instructor’s suggestion, I applied for several security-related government internships.”
The move to Washington D.C. is just the latest relocation in a series of moves he has made over time.
“I was born in Los Angeles, moved to Dallas, moved to Chicago, moved to London, moved to Houston, moved to Oakland, and moved back to Houston. I’ve lived and traveled all over, and I don’t consider myself to be from anywhere in particular. I attended high school at the American School in London and then at Houston’s Awty International School. I graduated from Awty in 2010,” says Barclay.
As he researched which college to attend after graduating from high school, he knew he wanted to attend a large university that could offer him a variety of opportunities. In addition, he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and major in psychology. UH fit the bill.
On campus, Barclay worked in the Transgender Health Lab. “Working in the lab has been a fantastic experience. We do extensive and widely varied work in an effort to help improve transgender health in the U.S. and around the world,” he says.
Throughout his time at UH, Barclay maintained a 4.0 grade point average. He says that keeping his grades high taught him the value and importance of hard work rather than relying solely on intelligence.
“I didn’t come into UH intending to have a perfect GPA, but by making maintaining it a goal for myself, I was motivated to work hard in situations where I otherwise may have procrastinated,” he says.
At the same time he is working at his internship, Barclay intends to go to graduate school in the Washington D.C. area to pursue security studies.
“For my future career goals, I hope to work for the federal government in either a policy-making capacity or in a law enforcement capacity, such as for the FBI,” he says.
James Brown, psychology
James Brown cites a lack of responsibility, motivation, and maturity for his inability to complete his college education nearly a decade ago, but his second attempt at a higher education has been successful beyond his expectations.
On December 16, not only is he graduating from CLASS with a degree in psychology, he is one of only six graduates who earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
His accomplishment is even more noteworthy considering he graduated from Georgetown High School in Georgetown, Texas in 2004 by the skin of his teeth.
“To go from barely graduating from high school and failing at my first attempt at college years ago, and now being able to graduate from a Tier One university as a member of an honors society and being on the Dean’s list - that alone is amazing in my eyes,” he says.
Brown credits his growing family with his success. They were the inspiration he needed to focus on his education and his future. After his first stint at a local community college didn’t work out, he dropped out and started working in a retail environment. But once he got married, he decided to give college a try once more. He wanted to be able to support a family.
“I started taking classes at Lone Star College,” he says. “As the semesters finished out and I had earned a 4.0 grade point average, I decided to see how far I could take this. Ultimately, I finished my associate’s degree with Summa Cum Laude recognition and began looking forward to the next step.”
His sister had previously graduated from UH with a degree in psychology, and spoke highly of the department. Brown was also interested in the field, and decided to transfer to UH. He continued to maintain his grades and is now graduating with his bachelor’s degree. Next, he plans to earn his teaching certificate.
“I will teach for a few years before further pursuing a Master’s or Ph.D.,” he says. “Once I’m in graduate school I’d like to focus on either counselling or education. These post-college plans are entirely motivated by the upcoming arrival of our first baby in February. I wish to be grounded in a field that offers career potential and will allow me to support my family.”
Devyn Price, history and English
When Devyn Price arrived at UH, she intended to double major in history and anthropology, but one course changed the trajectory of her education. On December 16 she is graduating with a different major – creative writing – in addition to her history major.
“I took an introduction to fiction and poetry course as an elective and I loved every second of that course!” she recalls. “The moment that I found out that I could actually major in English with a concentration in fiction writing, I knew exactly what I would be doing for the rest of my academic career.”
Price says that she’d loved writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She is a Houston native, and graduated from Jersey Village High School in 2001. After high school she attended University of Texas – San Antonio before deciding to move to the UK to get married. She worked as a recruiter before deciding to move back to Houston. Although she has two young children, she was determined to carve out time to finally return to school and earn her degree. She enrolled at UH in 2012.
“UH has an excellent reputation in the arts, and for the cost, it was hands down the best choice I could make. It was also nice to go to school in my hometown!” says Price.
On campus, she interned for Gulf Coast, the journal of literature and fine arts which is run by CLASS graduate students. Currently, she is co-managing editor for Glass Mountain, a literary magazine for emerging writers and artists that is run by UH undergraduates.
Although she always loved to write, the first assignment she turned in as an English major was enlightening.
“I thought I was an excellent writer but when I got my first paper back, it was covered in red ink. I realized at that point that there was still a lot I could learn about writing. This was the moment I discovered that I loved writing so much that a paper covered in red ink was the best thing I could get back from a professor. It meant that I had so much more potential to improve,” she says.
Now that she is graduating with a 4.0 grade point average, Price has decided to take some time off and enjoy her children while exploring graduate programs relating to her majors.
“Everything that happens today is connected to a vast and complicated past, I realized that I wanted to learn about those connections, which is why I studied history,” she says. “I also know what I want to do is to write. I want to help people learn about human connections, our complicated past and our hopeful future as a diverse and global community.”
Vanesa Romero, psychology
A turbulent political atmosphere in her home country combined with her own desire to conduct research in the field of psychology led Vanesa Romero to UH. Now, she is graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and, most important to her, the skills she needs to pursue her goal of helping all children learn.
Romero is an international student who was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She went to high school there and graduated in 2008. In 2011, she graduated from the Instituto Universitario Avepane in Caracas with a degree in Special Education.
“Given my home country’s political situation I decided to move abroad,” says Romero. “I knew I wanted to study psychology because my goal was to understand how children learn, and then apply my knowledge to an educational setting.”
After first taking classes at the University of Toronto in Canada, she transferred to UH in 2014.
“I did a lot of research into psychology programs before moving to Houston and I really liked the program offered here - especially the research opportunities that were available to undergraduate students,” she says.
Romero didn’t waste any time delving into research once she arrived onto the UH campus.
“I’ve been part of the Cognitive Development Lab for a year now,” says Romero. “I volunteer as a research assistant. This is, by far, one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my academic years.”
In addition to majoring in Psychology, she is earning a minor in Communication Disorders. She feels passionately about both fields because of her background in Special Education. After graduation, Romero will complement her education by taking a year of optional, practical training. During that year, she intends to find a job related to her studies and work awhile before beginning graduate school.
“My plan is to go to graduate school, most likely to study developmental psychology,” she says. “I feel very passionate about research and academia, but because of my background in education, I believe I’ll go back to work in the field after completing grad school.”
She added, “I feel very lucky that my family gave me the opportunity to study abroad — I know it wasn’t easy for them — and I couldn't have done it without their support and their advice.”
Minhas Wasaya, economics
Immediately after graduating from Clear Lake High School in Houston in 2010, Minhas Wasaya began his college career at the University of Texas at Austin.
But his father’s death brought him back to Houston so that he could be closer to his family.
“I needed to help my younger sister in supporting the family, both emotionally and financially,” he says. “My sister was already a student at UH at that time.” So, Wasaya enrolled at UH as well.
He is an economics major, an interest area that piqued during an AP Macroeconomics class he took in high school. At that time he says he began to see how multidisciplinary the field of economics is, and how every sector in society can be described using economics.
“As an Ismaili Muslim, it is my understanding that the purpose of education is to learn about the world and to use that knowledge to serve humanity. That understanding of education is a core ethic of our community. I wanted to find an area of study that could fit that purpose while also being interesting to me,” he says. “I was really drawn to how everything is connected to, and affected by, the economy. I thought, if there was anything I could study that would be interesting to me AND help me serve humanity, this was it.”
Through advisors and faculty mentors he learned how to navigate his college experience while maintaining his responsibilities with his family.
“I learned to be prepared. Make plans. Come up with contingencies. Ask people for help, but always be prepared,” he says. The advice worked, because he is graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Outside of school and family, Wasaya is involved with the Ismaili Muslim community through the Aga Khan Council and other institutions.
“I am currently working with the National and Southwest Aga Khan Education Board in developing and managing a college application advising program to help 11th graders successfully navigate their final years of high school and the college application process. I am also an 11th grade Religious Education teacher at the Clear Lake Ismaili Center,” he says.
Wasaya believes that coming back home and learning to balance his personal life with his education was challenging, but CLASS has prepared for his next steps after graduation – his professional career.
“I have accepted a full-time position at AIG as an Energy Property Underwriter,” he says. “I want to learn as much as I can, work as hard as I can, and do my best to create positive value in what I am doing. When opportunities to take things to another level arrive, I want to make sure that I’m ready and worthy of the challenge.”