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Undergraduate Scholars and Major Awards Celebration Live Via Zoom

By Jillian Holden

The Honors College held its 2020 Undergraduate Scholars and Major Awards Celebration virtually via Zoom on October 20, 2020. Dean William Monroe offered opening remarks of praise for faculty and students and introduced Provost Paula Myrick Short, who stated that the Honors College had experienced tremendous success over the year despite the challenges of COVID-19. She noted that, “For the first time in the history of the University, the University of Houston was named a top-producing Fulbright institution,” with a record 12 students that received Fulbright awards for research and teaching in the 2019-20 cycle. 

Ben Rayder, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards (OURMA), recognized two groups of people, first noting major awards recipients, alternates, honorable mentions, and finalists for the past year. He gave insight into fellowships and the application process and then acknowledged Houston Scholars, a program providing intellectual and professional guidance to students demonstrating excellence in academics, service, and leadership. 

Supported by Paula Myrick Short, the Houston Early Research Experience, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and collaborative efforts across campus, Honors Scholars are taught by faculty mentorship, discussion seminars, proposal development, and scholarship information sessions. 

“It has been an incredible year of change for all of us,” Rayder said, and “despite the disruptions to our state of normalcy, we can be proud of our many achievements.”    

2019-2020 Fellowship Highlights:           

  • 12 Fulbright Scholarships were awarded — an institutional record
  • 1 Harry S. Truman Scholarship — the first time in 36 years
  • 2 Barry Goldwater Scholarship — second time multiple UH students won in same year
  • 1 Marcus L. Urann Fellowship — awarded by Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society
  • 1 Phi Beta Kappa Key Into Service Award — chosen from 14 states and three countries
  • 1 Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship — designated to promote a positive world change
  • 5 Critical Language Scholarships — the highest total ever achieved by UH

In the 2019-2020 academic year, 15 additional Houston Scholars joined the program thanks to a generous donation from UH alumni Patrick and Jesika Scott. The Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries and awards approximately 8,000 grants annually, opening late March to early April, and the grant usually lasts for nine to 10 months.

The Outstanding Fellowship Mentor Award was awarded to Michael Fares and Dr. David Rainbow, both exemplifying an outstanding work ethic and drive to furthering education. An Outstanding Fellowship Applicant Award was presented to Nimra Zubair, an ambassador for the Major Awards Initiative who demonstrated growth through the application for academic fellowships and competitive opportunities. And three students — April Alex, Hamad Khan, and Debora Mroczek — spoke about the application process to national fellowships. 

Students interested in joining Houston Scholars or in applying for a nationally competitive scholarship opportunity should contact Ben Rayder, director of National Fellowships and Major Awards, in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards.