2020-2021 Award Recipients - University of Houston
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2020-2021 Award Recipients

  • Stephanie Forse

    Stephanie Forse

    2020 Critical Language Scholarship

    Stephanie Fose is a third-year chemical engineering student in the Honors College pursuing minors in chemistry and mathematics. She is actively involved in Society of Women Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers which connect her with a network of professionals who impact global energy-related issues in some form. Learning Azerbaijani is a way to help improve communications with Azerbaijan, a country with strong energy ties to Houston. Fose hopes to enter the energy industry after graduation to help meet the increasing global demand for energy and maintain strong relations with strategic international partners 
  • Jessica Haney

    Jessica Haney

    2020 Critical Language Scholarship

    Jessica Haney is a junior and a member of the Honors College majoring in applied linguistics and minoring in history in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. She has taken Japanese classes at UH through the intermediate level and will continue her study of the language via the Critical Language Scholarship program during the summer of 2020. Haney has always been fascinated by studying other languages, cultures, and people groups and hopes that, by learning other languages, she can promote cross-cultural understanding and multilingualism here in Houston. Haney is excited to participate in the CLS program, as this will be her first time abroad. She plans on using this opportunity to deepen her understanding of Japan’s culture, language, and history. 

  • Hamad Khan

    Hamad Khan

    2020 Critical Language Scholarship

    Hamad Khan is a management & leadership major in the Bauer College of Business with double minors in public relations and Arab studies. Fascinated by Middle Eastern culture and history, Khan began studying Arabic at the University of Houston. Hamad also joined the Arabic Club, where members expand their knowledge of the MENA region’s language, culture and history. During the summer of 2019 Khan studied abroad in Amman, Jordan with the assistance of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. He later studied abroad in Tunisia to enhance his knowledge of Ancient civilizations and Arab uprisings in the North African region. Hamad is currently a Global Guide with Learning Abroad at UH and helps mentor and advise students about the various opportunities studying abroad can provide. As a CLS Arabic recipient, he is excited and grateful for the opportunity to continue studying Arabic and move closer to his goal of achieving superior proficiency in this language.  

  • Kaden Lewis

    Kaden Lewis

    2020 Critical Language Scholarship

    Kaden Lewis is a sophomore studying political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. He is also a student in the Honors College. As a former Undergraduate at-Large Senator for the Universitys Student Government Association, and as a current executive board member of the Black Pre-Law Student Association, Lewis has been very active during his time on campus. Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and obtain his J.D. This summer, Lewis will be travelling to Meknes, Morocco through the Critical Language Scholarship to strengthen his Arabic proficiency. He applied for the CLS Arabic program to enhance his language skills for a future career in the field of international relations, and human rights work. 

  • Nimra Zubair

    Nimra Zubair

    2020 Critical Language Scholarship

    Nimra Zubair, a political science major with minors in Phronesis and Business Administration, and a certificate of Entrepreneurship, will be studying Punjabi in India through the CLS program in the summer of 2020. As an immigrant student, she began her undergraduate career at Houston Community College where she studied accounting and finance. Upon transferring to the Honors College at UH in 2018, Nimra realized her interest in government agencies and began to pursue a new career path. She has interned in various industries and speaks four languages. Nimra hopes to pursue a dual JD/MPA degree after completing her bachelor's, so that she may work with marginalized populations in helping them integrate into contemporary societies. 

  • Kevin Flemming

    Kevin Flemming

    2020 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Kevin Fleming is a sophomore in the Honors College majoring in chemical engineering and minoring in mathematics and chemistry. Currently, he works as a research assistant in the chemical reaction engineering lab of Dr. Praveen Bollini. His research is focused on determining the CO2 adsorption properties of MIL-100, a metal-organic framework. This summer, he will be working at the Technical University of Darmstadt, utilizing quantum chemistry computational software to obtain mechanistic insights on the photochemical fixation of nitrogen gas over rhenium transition metal complexes. 

  • Mouad Rifai

    Mouad Rifai

    2020 DAAD RISE PRO Scholarship

    Mouad Rifai, a computer science Ph.D. student, will work at ABB Corporate Research Center Ladenburg through the DAAD Rise Pro Program. His project targets the enablement of Time-Sensitive Networking for End Devices and systems. The overall idea is to create software for enabling IoT on resource-constrained devices. The project tasks include the design of the automatic TSN configuration for embedded devices, and the design of TSN configuration tools for automatic networks.  

  • Pichvyda Tuy

    Pichvyda Tuy

    2020 DAAD RISE Scholarship

    Pichvyda Tuy is a computer science major who will spend her summer interning at the University of Rostock in Germany. She will contribute to the development of a virtual research environment and workflow tracking mechanisms. The goal of this project is to create a platform for a large multidisciplinary research team to efficiently store, manage, and share their research workflow, resulting in the reproducibility and reliability of their research findings. Pichvyda looks forward to challenging herself and exploring the wonders of Europe in her free time. 

  • Brina Rahmaty

    Brina Rahmaty

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Kosovo, English Teaching Assistant

    Brina Rahmaty recently completed her student teaching internship with Pasadena ISD in a 6th grade English classroom. A strong believer in the power of building positive relationships, Brina connected with students inside and outside of the classroom through the many small group workshops she led and  also helped coach the girls volleyball team. When school is out, Brina is hardly home as she likes to take both big and small trips with the people she loves. When she is home, she enjoys conversation with friends over coffee or spinning her energy out with hula hoops. Brina plans to continue working in Pasadena ISD in the fall while she finishes her Phronesis minor. 

  • Austen Knowler

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Lithuania, English Teaching Assistant

    Austen Knowler is a senior, graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor’s in English with a focus in applied linguistics. His upbringing was shared between the small border community of Yuma, Arizona and multicultural Houston. Living in different, vibrant multicultural environments informed his interest in multilingual identity, policy and pedagogy, the subject of his senior honors thesis. His studies also encouraged him to work as a program assistant for the University of Houston’s Language and Culture Center (LCC) as well as a volunteer ESL instructor to local refugee and immigrant communities. For two years, Knowler lived out of his backpack, working in several National Parks and traveling mostly by hitchhiking. Seeing the United States from the road further broadened his awareness of the country’s great diversity of people and place, which he intends to bring to the classroom in Lithuania. As a descendent of Lithuanian refugees and aspiring ESL instructor, he looks forward to reconnecting with his roots and learning from a country whose democratic, inclusive language policies have made it one of the most successful in the world for developing plurilingual speakers 

  • Jackelin Velasquez

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Spain, English Teaching Assistant

    Jackelin Velasquez is a recent graduate with an English major and Education minor. She spent her time at the University of Houston pursuing her teaching certification and preparing to be a high school english teacher. She now teaches in Alief ISD and is passionate about education. While at UH, she took advanced level Spanish classes and boosted her bilingual capabilites to get her ready to take on the ETA grant in Spain. Velasquez hopes to further explore her Hispanic heritage and her teaching abilities to multilingual students through her future involvement in Spain. Velasquez also hopes to return from Spain able to promote diverse learning, further assist ESL students, and teach in a way that embraces culture and language in Houston after her experience teaching abroad.

  • Lida Hedayatpour

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    TajikistanEnglish Teaching Assistant

    Lida Hedayatpour is a graduating Honors College senior majoring in English and Spanish with a minor in political science. Committed to public service, she volunteered as a Farsi translator and family mentor to Afghan refugees through the Refugee Services of Texas. In the legal field, she applied her Farsi knowledge as an assistant and translator with Ozlat Injury Lawyers, a boutique law firm dedicated to serving Houston’s Persian community. To both expand her dialectical knowledge of Farsi and interest in the region of South Central Asia, Lida was awarded a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Tajikistan for the 2020-2021 year. Looking forward, Lida plans to continue pursuing her interests in language acquisition, teaching, and community service through programs such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America. 

  • Elmer Villalobos

    Elmer Villalobos

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Germany, English Teaching Assistant

    Elmer Villalobos is a Spanish teacher and a recent graduate from the University of Houston. While pursuing a major in Spanish and a minor in German, he discovered that he was not just passionate about learning languages, but also teaching them. As a teacher assistant in Germany, Elmer hopes to learn as much as possible about how the German schools tackle the task of teaching a foreign language, as well as how they approach the many aspects of classroom management. Upon his return, he plans to implement the knowledge he gained from his experience as a Fulbright ETA in his own classroom to better serve his students. 

  • Rachel Ballenger

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Spain, Study/Research

    Rachel Ballenger received an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. Her writing and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in nationally distributed journals like The Common, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Your Impossible Voice. Her novel, Take My Life, won the Inprint Joan and Stanford Alexander Prize in Fiction and was a finalist in the Texas Writers League 2019 Fiction Manuscript Contest.

    In 2021, she will spend nine months in Spain, researching a novel set in Rota, a unique Spanish-American community thanks to its active US naval base. Her research and immersion will allow her to explore Rota’s history and the base’s effects on the town over time, and experience first-hand how our two cultures coexist.

  • April Alex

    April Alex

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    Peru, Study/Research

    April Alex is a graduating  University of Houston Honors College student majoring in political science with minors in Spanish and business administration. She spent her time at UH serving with the Bonner Leaders Program to alleviate food insecurity in Houston. She had the opportunity to intern at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and realized her passion for disability policy, advocacy, and research. After returning from her internship, she legal volunteered with Disability Rights Texas to assist with FEMA and IDEA claims. With this opportunity, she learned about the low completion and retention rates among students with disabilities in U.S higher education institutions. She completed and defended her senior honors thesis on this topic which identified several necessary university policy changes such as implementing the model of Universal Design of Instruction to improve the access, accommodation, and inclusion of students with disabilities.

    To continue her disability policy research and Spanish language acquisition, April was awarded a Fulbright Study/ Research Fellowship in Peru for the 2020 – 2021 year. She will have the opportunity to research one of the most inclusive disability policies in the world and understand its relationship to the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the Peruvian labor market. Looking forward, April plans to pursue a JD/ MPP to continue researching public policy and advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations.

  • Fernando Flor

    Fernando Flor

    2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Student Program
    France, Study/Research

    Fernando Antonio Flor is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and is a part of the Experimental Heavy Ions Group under the guidance of Professor René Bellwied. The scope of the Bellwied Group is to understand and measure the formation of visible matter during the early stages of the Universe– particularly microseconds after the Big Bang – by accelerating heavy ions close to the speed of light and allowing them to collide in a controlled environment. Fernando is an active member of the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) Collaboration, housed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and serves as one of three representatives for the junior scientists in ALICE.  

    Fernando’s research currently focuses on the phase transition from a state of free quarks and gluons (dubbed “The Quark-Gluon Plasma”) to the particles that now populate the Cosmos, such as protons and neutrons. While in France, Fernando will expand a statistical thermal model to chronicle the hierarchical formation of elementary particles and light nuclei emerging out of the early evolution of the Universe.  

    He is an advocate for underrepresented minorities in STEM and higher education. Additionally, Fernando has a passion for bicycle racing around the world. 

  • Debora Mroczek

    Debora Mroczek

    2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program 

    Debora Mroczek is a senior graduating with degrees in Physics and Mathematics. She is also a member of the Honors College. Mrocek started working in Professor Claudia Ratti’s Nuclear Theory Group in 2017, where she developed the computational skills to tackle problems related to the hottest and most ideal fluid, the quark-gluon plasma, which filled the universe right after the Big Bang. As a result of her academic performance and research, she was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in 2019. Debora will continue her work as a Ph.D. student in the Nuclear Theory Group at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She is also the first graduate fellow of the new Institute for Fundamental Physics of the Universe (IFPU) at UIUC. This novel center for physics aims to create an environment that will nurture interdisciplinary collaborations between gravitation, cosmology, nuclear physics and particle physics, as well as statistics, mathematics, computer science, and astronomy.  

    During her years at the University of Houston, Debora was involved in UH Powerlifting, the Astronomy Society, and the Cougars in the Houston Area Math Program (CHAMP). She is an advocate for women and minorities in STEM and is an undergraduate teaching assistant for the mathematics department. In her free time, Debora enjoys learning new vegan recipes and distance running. 

  • Brian Vu

    Brian Vu

    2020 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
    Marcus L. Urann PKP Fellowship 

    Brian-Tinh Vu is a senior physics student in the Honors College pursuing a minor in mathematics. He has spent all four years of his undergraduate career at UH conducting undergraduate research as part of Dr. Donald Kouri’s research team. In his sophomore year, he independently proposed and executed a research project of his own on generalized Gaussian quadrature. Brian has received a number of scholarships and fellowships that demonstrate the quality of his research work, including the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and the American Association for Physicists in Medicine’s Summer Undergraduate Fellowship. Next year, he will begin to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Bioengineering PhD program, where he aims to work on improving medical imaging technologies using his mathematics and physics background. 

  • Kaden Lewis

    2020 Boren Scholarship

    Kaden Lewis is a sophomore studying political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. He is also a student in the Honors College. As a former Undergraduate at-Large Senator for the University’s Student Government Association, and as a current executive board member of the Black Pre-Law Student Association, Lewis has been very active during his time on campus. Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and obtain his J.D.  Lewis will be travelling to Senegal through the Boren Awards to strengthen his French proficiency. He applied for the Boren program to enhance his diplomacy and language skills for a future career in the field of international relations, and human rights work. 

  • Wasiq Javed

    2020 PBK Key into Public Service Scholar

    Wasiq Javed, on stage known as WiseIQ, is a spoken word artist, community organizer, and second-year Honors Political Science student with a minor in Leadership Studies at the University of Houston (UH). Born and raised in Houston, Texas to Pakistani immigrants, Wasiq is passionate about increasing Muslim involvement in public service and civic engagement to add a growing voice to the American civic and political discourse. He has previously organized voter campaigns, protests, and education events across numerous social issues and founded a youth civic-engagement organization at his high school, Lakes for Lives. Wasiq is a current member of the Mayor’s Commission Against Gun Violence and a former Senator in the Student Government Association at UH. He has previously interned with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Raj Salhotra Campaign for Houston City Council.  

    As a public speaker, Wasiq fundraises for charitable causes, emcees community events, and delivers sermons in the Houston Muslim community. Moreover, his talents in spoken word poetry have allowed him to compete with the UH CoogSlam Poetry Team, placing 4th in the nation at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational Tournament (CUPSI). His poetry has been featured on television, radio, and in the Houston Chronicle. Wasiq is a former Critical Language Scholarship recipient, where he studied Urdu abroad in Lucknow, India. He intends to pursue a joint JD/MPP degree and concentrate in civil rights or public interest law to prepare him for a career in representing minority populations. 

  • Johnny Zapata

    2020 Pickering Fellow

    Johnny Zapata is a class of 2019 graduate with a bachelors degree in History and Spanish, and a second degree in political science. As a junior he was the first student at UH to participate in a reciprocal exchange program to ADA University in Baku, Azerbaijan with the help of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. There he took international relations courses related to Central Asia and the Middle East. His experience in Azerbaijan had a great influence on his academic and professional goals. During his time at UH he also interned at the Houston History Magazine, the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston, and volunteered at the Learning Abroad Office as a Global Guide. In 2019 he was awarded the Nationally Competitive Scholarship Senior Award. After graduation he participated in a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Turkey where he taught at a university in Turkey’s Black Sea region. As a Pickering Fellow he will begin a master’s degree in International Affairs at the Bush School at Texas A&M University in Fall 2020. Subsequently he will join the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer. 

  • Mike Floyd

    Mike Floyd

    2020 Truman Scholarship

    Mike is a political science major with a minor in phronêsis, focusing on the political thought of the early American Republic. In 2017, he was elected to serve as a trustee for the Pearland Independent School District and currently represents over 160,000 constituents. As a trustee, Mike has created district townhalls, raised salaries for 2,500 staff members, balanced deficit budgets, and implemented a comprehensive restorative justice policy, all while managing a $220 million bond project. In his three years as a school board member, he has overseen more than $1 billion of public funds. In 2018, he was elected to a four-year term as treasurer of the Texas Democratic Party, making him the youngest state party official in history. Mike founded a political action committee dedicated to increasing youth turnout in local elections in the Greater Houston area, and he serves on the advisory board of Next Generation Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to develop young people into politically-engaged and civically-aware citizens. Mike also serves as a Supreme Court Justice of the University of Houston’s student government. For his dedication to public service, Mike has received recognition from several notable organizations, including the National Education Association, Children at Risk, the NAACP, and the Houston Chronicle. Mike hopes to pursue a JD and continue his efforts in increasing the vibrancy of American civic culture.