A salute to excellence

Meet CLASS' Spring 2016 graduates with 4.0 GPAs

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences commends its 4.0 graduates on their perseverance and dedication to excellence. Each Spring 2016 graduate with a perfect grade point average has plans to build on their educations, as well as use what they've learned to help others.

Caitlin Champiny, music education

Ms. Champiny

Caitlin Champiny's childhood desire to make music is now her professional goal  - to teach children who were just like her how to play musical instruments.

At age 11, Champiny joined her middle school’s band program, choosing to play the clarinet. She immediately felt at home – the band room gave her a respite from the stresses and pressures of being a pre-teen.

As a sophomore in high school Champiny realized that not only did she enjoy making music, but that she also wanted to serve the community as a music educator.

After graduating from high school in McKinney, Texas in 2012, Champiny decided to attend UH because she wanted to learn from the faculty at the Moores School of Music.

“I originally applied to the University of Houston because of the glowing reputation of its music school as well as its music education program,” she says. “Additionally, I was selected as a Tier One Scholar within weeks of my high school graduation. At this point, I knew in my heart that the University of Houston would be my home for the next four years of my life.”

On campus, she was a member of The Spirit of Houston Marching Band, the Moores School of Music Wind Ensemble, the Moores School Symphony Orchestra, and the Moores School Opera Orchestra.

After graduation, she plans to search for a teaching position somewhere in Texas. She hopes to teach as long as she can in addition to eventually pursuing a Master’s degree in Music Education.

Arlyn Garza, communication sciences and disorders

Ms. Garza

As the Hispanic population continues to rise across the United States, so does the need for bilingual professionals. Arlyn Garza plans to use her fluency in English and Spanish as a Speech-Language pathologist.

“Having the ability to speak, read, and write in two languages is truly a blessing because I know that this skill will allow me to impact the lives of both English and Spanish speaking individuals with communication disorders,” she says.

As she prepared to graduate from high school in Houston, Garza wasn’t sure what career she wanted to pursue.

“I had no idea what speech language pathology was when I initially came across it on the internet. After doing my research, reading websites and watching videos, this career choice has remained my path,” she says.

Since UH was one of the few school to offer the major, attending UH was perfect because it would allow her to stay close to home, work, and save money.

Next year, Garza will continue her education at CLASS by beginning Communication Sciences and Disorders’ graduate program.

“As the Spanish speaking population in Texas continues to grow, the need for bilingual speech-language pathologists will rise, and I want to be ready to help my community in any way I can. My goal in life is to inspire and help individuals with communication disorders reach their full potential and overcome any obstacles they may encounter,” she says. 

Rossana Ishee, psychology

Ms. Ishee

Rossana Ishee is a wife and proud mother of two sons, one adult son and one son currently in elementary school. Despite the demands on her time, she is graduating with a degree in psychology, a perfect GPA, and plans to continue her education here at UH.

“I chose to pursue the field of psychology after making my decision to return to college after a long hiatus,” she says.

In the fall, she plans to use her new knowledge in the field of psychology as a basis for pursuing a Master’s degree in social work.

“I am planning a career working in the area of substance abuse disorders and helping individuals and families struggling with the disease,” she says.

Although she returned to school after starting a family, Ishee still found time to be involved in other campus activities. She was inducted into both the Psi Chi Honor Society as well as Phi Kappa Phi.

“In addition, I will serve as banner bearer for the psychology department at our convocation ceremony,” says Ishee. “For a non-traditional student such as myself, I am thrilled and honored to have these opportunities.”

Shane Nebeker, sports administration

Mr. Nebeker

For Shane Nebeker, attending UH is becoming a family affair. Now that he is graduating with a perfect GPA and a degree in sports administration, his younger brother has decided to follow in his footsteps and become a COOG.

“I brought my younger brother to visit campus and we attended the UH vs. Memphis football game,” he says. “Now he’s going to attend UH next fall.”

Nebeker will also be here at UH next fall to keep an eye on his sibling – he’ll be beginning the Department of Health and Human Performance’s graduate program in sports administration. Eventually he hopes to work for an NFL team, but not for his hometown team of the Dallas Cowboys – Nebeker is a Broncos fan.

“I would love to have a position with the Denver Broncos. I have also wanted to get involved in the skateboarding business, that’s been a passion of mine for most of my life,” he says.

Jeanne Melton, art

Ms. Melton

Jeanne Melton moved to Texas from Louisiana in 2000 as a wife, mother, and with only one semester of college under her belt. Although she found happiness by raising her family and working, the fact that she lacked a degree always bothered her.

Finally, Melton decided to just go for it and return to college 20 years after she last set foot in a classroom.

“I was VERY apprehensive, so I decided to try one class at the local community college to see if I could do it. My internet search uncovered Wharton County Junior College and their ‘path’ to UH. I searched UH’s website for Art Teacher majors and found the same ‘path’. So I printed it out and started following it,” she recalls.

By the time Melton grew confident enough to start carrying a full class load, her marriage had ended and she found herself working full time to support her daughter and herself. So, she backed off and started taking one or two classes at a time again.

She transferred to UH only to find out that her original ‘path’ was no longer offered and that she had failed to lock-in her plan when she first started taking courses. Discouraged, but undaunted, Melton figured out what classes she needed to take – or re-take – in order to complete her degree, even though this extended her time in school.

This month, she is graduating and preparing to fulfill her dreams of becoming an art teacher. After graduation, she will earn her certification and hopes to teach art during the 2016-17 school year. After she gets some classroom experience, she would like to return to college to earn her Master’s degree.

“Eventually, my dream is to travel with art students to see the master painters’ works in their home countries. I have already been to Paris more than once, and saw the impressionist exhibit in the Musée d'Orsay. On my last trip, I was blessed to visit the home of Claude Monet and see the place he painted his famous water lily paintings. It was a dream come true!” she says.

Michelle Paulsel, economics

Ms. Paulsel

When Michelle Paulsel graduated from Clear Horizons Early College High School in Houston in 2014, she not only had earned her high school diploma, but her associate’s degree as well thanks to their program that allows students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously.

“After high school, I chose to attend UH because it was close to home, affordable, and I could tell the students and faculty were constantly striving to achieve more. Everyone I met cared about their education and where they were going in life,” says Paulsel.

Because she went to an early college high school, Paulsel had access to college classes at a younger age. She took Principles of Macroeconomics in 10th grade, a year before the course was required. 

“The class was fascinating and I noticed I had a knack for understanding the concepts,” she says.

Although she was familiar with college coursework, college life was entirely different. She always preferred working alone, thinking of herself as independent. She had friends through her church at the time, and didn’t feel a need to expand her circle once arriving at UH. However, she eventually she forced herself out of her comfort zone.

“At the beginning of this semester, I decided I needed to move churches. I had almost no friends or even acquaintances after I left my old church since I hadn’t tried to make new friends in college,” she says.

“I started out that semester with no college community, and by the end of the semester I had made several friends who were Economics majors, too. I was involved in a Bible study on campus and had made many other friends at UH through the college group at my new church. It was remarkable seeing how much better my life got when I was looking for people and organizations to invest in, instead of looking for reasons why I didn’t need to.”

This summer, Paulsel has a corporate internship lined up, and next fall she will begin the Master’s program for Applied Economics at UH.

- By Monica Byars