The University of Houston Magazine

First Class of TierOne Scholars Proud to Be a Part of the Tier One Journey

High-Caliber Students Will Become ‘Great Ambassadors’ for UH.

By Michelle Klump

As a high school senior making his final college choice, Josh Levine brought a lot to the table – he had an impressive resume, an enviable SAT score and numerous opportunities.

Levine considered such well-established institutions as DePaul University, Indiana and Northwestern, among others. But when it came time to make the final decision, the Missouri City native opted to become a pioneer, of sorts. He selected the University of Houston, and admittance into the initial class of its new TierOne Scholarship program.

“I realized it’s a great place,” Levine said of UH. “When I started looking at it seriously, I realized it did have everything I wanted and more.”

Tier One Scholars


As part of the inaugural class of TierOne Scholars, Levine and his cohort represent an important facet of the University of Houston’s Tier One ambitions.

They are future doctors, lawyers, anthropologists, musicians and pharmacists. They come from diverse backgrounds and each has his/her own story. But collectively the 39 students who are the first to earn the prestigious scholarship are among the most accomplished freshmen on campus.

By design, the TierOne Scholarship program is intended to attract the best and brightest students, who in turn will help raise the university’s academic profile and serve as the next generation of leaders. They will carve a clear path of academic excellence for class after class of future TierOne Scholars to follow.

So far, this year’s class does not disappoint.

“They are the top of the incoming class – the cream of the crop,” said Veronique Tran (’91), director of the UH Learning Through Discovery Initiative, who is connecting the scholars to advisers in the undergraduate research and study abroad offices.

“I have high hopes that this will turn into a cadre of students who will really do well by UH,” echoed John Hardy, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and chair of the UH scholarship committee, which selected this year’s TierOne Scholars. “They will go out into the community, whether they go to medical school, or law school or graduate school, and really represent the University of Houston well.”

The program got its start in 2009 with a $7 million anonymous gift. UH President Renu Khator leveraged that money, using it to match donations for newly created UH TierOne Scholarship Endowments.

Roger Berry (’72), retired Senior Vice President and CIO of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, endowed a TierOne Scholarship, along with his wife, Victoria. Berry, who studied mathematics and computer science at UH, said he and his wife thought the TierOne Scholarship program was the perfect opportunity for them to give back and to help the university that gave him a great start in life.

“I went to the University of Houston on scholarship myself through the Houston Endowment. And had it not been for that, it would have taken me a lot more time to get through school. It allowed me to apply myself and focus on my studies,” he said. “[The TierOne Scholarship] is going to allow these great students to take advantage of all that the university has to offer.”

Khator expressed high expectations for the program.

These scholarships will create a legacy of excellence,” she said at the time. “By helping the brightest minds overcome today’s economic challenges, we will ensure that our students are well-prepared leaders who can help our society overcome even greater challenges in the future.”

To be eligible, students need a 1300 or better SAT score, or a 29 on their ACT. They must be in the top 10 percent of their class, and they must submit a resume and essay outlining their academic goals.

TierOne Scholars by the Numbers

  • Number of Scholars - 39
  • Number of Males - 18
  • Number of Females - 21
  • Average SAT score - 1397
  • Number from out of state 4
  • Number from city of Houston - 10
  • Number from Houston metra area - 22
  • Number in the Honors College - 27
  • Number ranked #1 in their high school classes - 4
  • Number living in Cougar Village - 26


In the first year, 125 students applied. For the 39 who were selected, the scholarships represent a significant financial and educational benefit. Each student receives tuition and mandatory fees for up to four years; a housing stipend for the first year, up to $2,500; a one-time $2,000 award to participate in a study abroad program; and a one-time $1,000 award to participate in a research project. (The housing stipend may be discontinued in future years.)

“The university has done extremely well in providing the resources for this,” Hardy said. “I can’t think of a better way to spend money than on students like this.”

The goal, Tran said, is to demonstrate what is possible when high-caliber students are given every chance to succeed.

“It is like an ideal world,” she said. “If you don’t have to worry about your finances, you can take advantage of all of those resources and opportunities that are available.”

The students are eager to get started, she said.

Noy Shemer, a pre-business and Honors College student from Houston, already is thinking about research and study abroad opportunities, which she plans to take advantage of next year.

“I was already leaning toward UH, and it [the scholarship] was just the icing on the cake,” Shemer said. “It made me feel more confident that I was making the right decision.”

Her father, a UH alumnus, earned his degree in structural engineering as an international student from Israel. He is thrilled that his daughter is attending his alma mater and is able to be near home, Shemer said.

“I am really close to my parents. They were born in Israel, so we are pretty much the only immediate family we have here,” she said. “It was important to me to be close to home while still having independence and the college experience.”

While nearness to home was a factor for many of the scholars in choosing UH – 10 of the 39 are from Houston, while 22 others are from the Houston region – others had completely different reasons for their choice.

Levine, a music education major, came, in part, because of the sterling reputation of the Moores School of Music, and, in part, because of the Honors College.

“All the classes are very good. The music ones are great – I’m really happy to be studying music,” Levine said. “And I’m enjoying the Human Situation course in the Honors College.”

Now that he’s here, Levine loves living on campus with access to all that the university and the city has to offer.

“I love Cougar Village,” he said of the state-of-the-art student residence where at least 26 of the TierOne Scholars live. “I love living on campus. I couldn’t imagine not living on campus. It’s great to be one of the few college freshmen in America that lives in a brand new dorm.”

Noah Joost, a mechanical engineering student, decided on UH after a great experience at the Mentoring & Enrichment Seminar in Engineering Training (MESET) camp held on campus each year. The MESET program targets high school students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the field of engineering who have demonstrated an interest and aptitude for math and science.

“I attended the MESET engineering camp the summer before my senior year. It showed me engineering was the degree I wanted to pursue, and that the University of Houston had a great engineering program with a lot of opportunities,” Joost said.

The TierOne Scholarship was a bonus.

“It provides financial support and alleviates the stress associated with trying to focus on school and being financially independent at the same time,” he said.

While many of the scholars are from the Houston area, four are from out-of-state, including Mary Sun, from Wichita, Kan.

Mary Sun and President KhatorWhen her dad moved from Kansas to Houston for a new job, Sun thought long and hard about staying in Kansas to attend college. But the TierOne Scholarship persuaded her to give Houston a try.

A pre-pharmacy major, and an Honors College student, Sun finds her classes rewarding.

“I especially like the Honors College classes,” she said. “They have really small classes and more time to talk to the teacher. You can actually get to know the teacher, as compared to my biology class, which has like 500 people.”

Though she lives off campus, staying with her family in their new home in Pearland, Sun has thrown herself into campus life, making new friends and joining the pre-pharmacy association club.

Like Sun, Katylyn Stewart also commutes to campus so she can live closer to her part-time job.

The scholarship, she said, is crucial to helping her afford college.

“It made it much easier – that way I only have to cover books and a meal plan,” she said. “I didn’t have any other money.”

Stewart, an anthropology and Honors College student, says she has been inspired by her anthropology courses and, already in her few short months, has decided she wants to focus on linguistic anthropology.

“I was definitely interested in the topic, but I didn’t know that much about it,” she said. “I am just totally fascinated by it.”

That fascination for learning is something shared by most of the TierOne Scholars, Tran said. Something else they share is a developing appreciation for UH.

“It is wonderful to see how much they have embraced and love UH … A few of them have commented about how there is such great school spirit,” Tran said. “I have no doubt they will become great ambassadors for the school.”

As they progress in their college careers, Tran believes the students will be very competitive for national awards.

“I’m hoping in the years to come, we will see an increase in the number of Fulbright grantees or Rhodes or Marshall Scholars,” she said. “I think those will come out of the TierOne Scholars classes, so that is exciting for the university.”

Eventually, Tran said, she believes the students’ achievements will help bolster the university’s reputation and encourage even more high-caliber students to attend UH.

“Their success will be a testament to what a Tier One university can provide students as they prepare to become future leaders,” she said. “I hope that by sharing their undergraduate stories and experiences, the TierOne Scholars will inspire other UH students to take advantage of all that UH and the world has to offer.”

TierOne Scholars TierOne Endowments
  • Tyson Adams, Business/Entrepreneurship
  • Megan Aldridge, Biology and Biochemistry
  • Kristin Ammon, Music Education
  • Joniqua Ceasar, Biology and Anthropology
  • Jeffrey Clark, Hotel and Restaurant Management
  • Waqaar Diwan, Business/Accounting and Pre-Med
  • Kassity Dunaway, Biology
  • Cassandra Gianni, Economics and Spanish
  • Catherine Goode, Vocal Performance and Music Education
  • Christina Haddad, Biology
  • Blake Hudson, Mechanical Engineering
  • Noah Joost, Mechanical Engineering
  • Deena Kapadia, Biology
  • David Kronenberger, Biology
  • Joshua Levine, Music Education
  • Gregory Malek, Physics
  • Sruthi Mathews, Biomedical Engineering
  • Jonathan Miller, Physics
  • Kelley Murfin, Communication
  • Tammy Ngo, Biology and Communication
  • Stacy Nguy, Biochemistry
  • Patrick Nguyen, Chemistry
  • Nicholas Pessarra, English/Creative Writing and Communications, Advertising
  • David Phan, Biology
  • Sybil Philip, Biochemistry
  • Brian Rainosek, Chemistry
  • Andrew Robertson, Mechanical Engineering
  • Joshua Ruddock, Industrial Design
  • Kerry Schuette, Chemical Engineering
  • Noy Shemer, Business/Entrepreneurship
  • Samantha Stanley, Biomedical Engineering
  • Sarah Stanley, Mathematics and Music
  • Katylyn Stewart, Anthropology
  • Mary Sun, Pre-Pharmacy
  • Juliann Tea, Biology
  • Katherine Teeters, Political Science
  • Alexander Winkler, Music Composition
  • Lai Wong, Business/Accounting
  • Roya Zamani, Chemistry

Truman and Becky Arnold

Roger and Victoria Berry

Barbara A. Britt

Gaynelle Brock and Prem Bhushan Dewan Gadihoke

Burch Family

Rose and William B. Calhoun

J. Scott Chase (’68, J.D. ’71)


Ed and Sue Clark

Cougar Community

Lana A. Culpepper

Barbara S. and Glen C. Farber

Valerie King Freeman and Greg King

Goodman Financial

Les and Donna Haulbrook


Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation

Nancy and Carter Hixon

Clay Hoster

Houston Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Sue and Richard Howard

Marvin and Joan Kaplan

Manny Family

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Maxwell Jr.

Gerald W. McElvy

Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation

Earl Monk

Earl Ray Monk

Dan J. Moran Jr. and Carolyn Farrell Moran

Professor Mamie Wong Moy

Pamela and Patrick Newman

Carlo and Kristen Pippolo

Sophie Pledger

The Schissler Foundation

Dr. Kaye E. Stripling

Rhonda J. Sweeney

John D. and Susan K. Thompson Family

Peter Y. Tsan

University of Houston Alumni Association

Fully funded as of Aug. 31, 2010