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Scholar Spotlight

Tier One Scholar James Wang inspired by refugee parents to excel in academics and Army ROTC leadership

By Allison Monroe
November 11, 2013

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Veteran’s Day is a time to honor those who have made the selfless commitment to serve our country and protect our citizens. This Veteran’s Day, we salute Tier One Scholar James Wang for his excellence as a student and serviceman for the United States of America.

A native Houstonian and Nimitz High School alum, James Wang graduated at the top of his class – number six of 729 students.  During his senior year, Wang made the decision to get involved with the Army ROTC program. An acronym for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, ROTC provides necessary skills that prepare students to become commissioned officers in the United States Armed Forces. 

“I was flip flopping between college and the military for a while,” Cadet Staff Sergeant Wang explains. “When I learned that I received a full ride scholarship, thanks to Tier One, I decided to take the intro ROTC class just to see what it was about.”

As the son of Cambodian Pol Pot Genocide refugees, the story of his parent’s plight has been more than enough motivation for Wang to continuously strive for success. Fortunately, his mother and father have managed to make a new life in the United States and because of that, Wang honors his parents by seizing the opportunities that he is afforded, knowing his mother and father were not as fortunate.

“It humbles me as a person, but most importantly it encourages me to push as far as I possibly can because I am an American-born citizen, blessed with all that entails,” Wang declares. “It is a constant reminder that I really have no excuses.”


In addition to his involvement in Army ROTC, Wang is an opinion editor for The Daily Cougar. His tasks include creating layouts for the paper’s opinion section to ensure the words and visual elements work well together.

“I used to be an opinion columnist, so I know what goes into writing for the section, and it helps me understand what should and shouldn’t be allowed in an opinion piece,” says Wang.

Now in his junior year at UH, the history major and military sciences minor plans to attend law school immediately after earning his Bachelor’s degree. Later, he intends to serve as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps Officer, a military lawyer. The Tier One Scholarship has proven to be an invaluable asset for Wang who wavered throughout high school between enrolling in a university or the armed forces.

“I was initially intending to enlist in one of the branches because I didn’t know how I’d pay for school without becoming wrapped up in debt. Tier One helped me find another way,” Wang adds. “I couldn’t be happier about the best decisions I’ve ever made – coming to UH and joining Army ROTC.”

 After three years of experience in the Army ROTC, Wang has recently taken on a leadership role as Cadet Staff Sergeant, gaining hands-on leadership experience.

“Theory and ideas on leadership are nice, but it’s an entirely different feeling when you’re out in the field, surrounded by people who are losing hope because they’re cold, wet, and shivering from last night’s rain,” Wang explains. “Being able to overcome such low morale takes real leadership.”


On this Veteran’s Day, we give honor to the men and women who have served in the armed forces. As we reflect on the true meaning of Veteran’s Day, Wang, a patriot and future military leader, has a message for his peers.

“Military service isn’t just about combat and fighting. It should be about serving something greater than yourself, not because it benefits you, but because you know that the opportunity to serve is out there and you want to do your part,” he shares thoughtfully. “What that means for veterans is that they aren’t superheroes or mystical beings. They are everyday people who made the conscious decision to serve, even if it means sacrifice.”