Skip to main content

News & Events

Freshman Scholars Excited about Prospects at UH

Bookmark and Share


Coffee Chat 1

October 26, 2012 - For the University of Houston’s Tier One Scholars, freshman year is more than just attending the Cougars home games and meeting up with friends for lunch; it’s about seizing the moment and making the most out of their prestigious opportunity.

For three years, the Tier One Scholar program has provided nearly 140 high-achieving students an unparalleled experience. As a Tier One Scholar at UH, students receive a tuition free degree for up to four years, two years of on-campus housing and a research and study abroad stipend, in addition to numerous other benefits.

 “It’s definitely given me some peace of mind of the tuition aspect, especially with the housing. I wanted to live on campus no matter where I went, even if it was in Houston, since I live in Sugar Land,” said freshman Tier One Scholar Brandon Zech.

“Having all my tuition paid for is something that I definitely couldn’t have done on my own. To study abroad and do research is something that I’m looking forward to and looking into right now although I don’t have any current plans. I’m trying to explore and see what would be best for that.”

Zech, who is studying art history and living in one of the on-campus residences with fellow Tier One Scholars and Honors College students in Cougar Village, said he notices the distinction the Scholars community has provided.

“I feel that it surrounds me with a group of people that are a lot more study oriented, a little more long term goal focused than maybe I would be around if I didn’t have the same type of people or the scholarship itself,”  Zech said.

The same can be said for freshman Sophia Ewens who is studying biology with interests of being a doctor or researcher.

“I think I am (getting a different experience) because of the guidance that I’ve been offered. Being a Tier One Scholar I get Dr. Tran to help me out and kind of give me the short-cut to different opportunities and research opportunities,” Ewens said.

 “Then of course there’s all of the money that’s involved, which is a huge influence. That gets rid of the need for me to work so that I can focus more on my studies, which is extremely important.”

Veronique Tran oversees the Tier One Scholars program and advises students on short and long term goals for their future beyond UH. Helping them to explore their interests and encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunities the program has to offer.

“I enjoy meeting the freshman Scholars in small groups for coffee chats and getting to know each student and their interests and passions,” Tran said.

“I love seeing their eyes widening and wheels spinning when they realize all the opportunities that are available to them at UH and beyond and how they can best leverage those for their future career choice.”

For other Tier One Scholars, like freshman mechanical engineering major, Tony Richmond, the benefits are extensive and carry beyond the scholarship. Richmond who is also a t-shirt designer promoting shark fining awareness, exemplifies success in and out of the classroom. Fifty percent of shirt profits sold on his website are donated to shark savers.

“I want to get a minimum 3.5 GPA, minimum, like bare minimum. I’m shooting for a 4.0. So we’ll see if I can do that. I’ll try my best. I’m taking 12 hours this summer, basically a semester to get my basics out of the way,” Richmond said.

“I want to focus solely on engineering classes as soon as possible. I really want to be the best engineer I can be and I feel like I’m in the perfect environment for that and I’m definitely going to take advantage of that.”

Alex Pankiewicz, who is studying chemical engineering and finance, was impressed by the scholarship and its benefits, but his decision to attend the University came from the advantages of the city of Houston.  

“(UH) is in Houston and Houston is the fourth largest city in America and I thought that if I’m going to work for a big company or something, why leave the city that offers so many resources, to work for any one of the Forbes 500 companies,” Pankiewicz said.

“But mainly it’s the energy capital of the world, I thought about. Why leave Houston, why leave the city that would offer me the biggest resource.”

Coffee Chat 2

The Tier One Scholars program began as part of UH President Renu Khator’s initiative to attract outstanding, high-achieving students to the University. Since the first Tier One Scholars enrolled at UH in 2010, each new class has grown larger and more prestigious. Of the 2012 Tier One Scholars, five are national merit scholars; six are valedictorians and 46 ranked in the top 5 percent of their high school graduating class. Their average SAT score is 1422. To learn more, visit