UH's First Sumners, Voyager Scholarships Awarded, Honors Student Named Rhodes Finalist
Dec. 19, 2022
By Mike Emery, 713-743-7197
As the year comes to a close the University of Houston can reflect on a number of “wins” including top ranked academic programs, a solid start for the Cougar Men’s Basketball team, faculty earning prestigious honors and groundbreaking, relevant research.
UH definitely has much to be proud of in 2022.
This year, the University also continued to foster student success, particularly in the area of notable awards and scholarships. Coogs were among the recipients of the prestigious Sumners and Voyager scholarships. Both are firsts for the University. And for the first time in several years, a UH student emerged as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.
“These are all significant accomplishments for our students and our University,” said Robert McPherson, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “They truly reflect the talents and tenacity of our Cougars, as well as our institution’s commitment to student success.”
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences students Ola Dafaalla and Cai Wilson are UH’s Sumners Scholars. Both are among just 43 students nationwide to receive this scholarship. They each were awarded $30,000 for their efforts in advancing civic justice and making an impact in their respective communities.
“This scholarship will support me financially during my last two years at UH, allowing me to focus more on academics and extracurricular opportunities,” Dafaalla said.
The scholarship is presented by the Sumners Foundation, named for longtime Texas Congress member Hatton W. Sumners. It is awarded to students based on academic excellence, civic engagement and a capacity for leadership.
The Voyager Scholarship
Public health major Tamara Gonzalez was named among the inaugural class of Voyager Scholars. Created by former U.S. President Barack Obama and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, the scholarship shapes tomorrow’s leaders by providing financial assistance, travel opportunities and a network of professional mentors.
Through this scholarship, Gonzalez and her fellow scholars will embark on a Summer Voyage that complements their commitment to public service. Gonzalez’ trip will take her to Lima, Peru for four weeks to work in a community clinic helping children with school work. She will follow that Voyage with a trip to Granada, Spain to contribute her energy to a hospital.
“My overall goal is to help decrease our nation’s health care disparities in low-income Hispanic and Black communities, specifically in my city of Houston,” Gonzalez said. “During my Summer Voyage, I will volunteer in clinics and interview patients and staff about health care needs in their communities and compare how each clinic serves its clients and their neighborhoods.”
Gonzalez and other Voyager Scholars recently attended the Obama Foundation Democracy Forum and Voyager Fall Summit in November. During these events, she heard from speakers, including former president Obama, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The words and advice I heard during those couple of days were inspiring to create change and overcome differences for the greater good,” she said. “I am honored to be part of the inaugural cohort of Obama-Chesky Voyagers in which each and every individual strives to make a positive change.”
A Banner Year
It’s been quite the year for Sondos Moursy. The psychology major was named a Key into Public Service Scholar by The Phi Beta Kappa Society. Moursy, who was also a member of UH’s Track and Field team, emerged as a finalist for the noted Rhodes Scholarship. To top it off, Moursy also was among the class of 2022, earning her bachelor’s degree over the weekend.
“We are proud of Sondos’ accomplishments, particularly her status as a Rhodes finalist,” said Ben Rayder, director of UH’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards. “Simply being in the running for a Rhodes Scholarship is an honor in and of itself. As a finalist, she not only joined a who’s who of the nation’s top students, but she represented UH on a global stage.”
Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards
Supporting all of these students and countless other Coogs in their academic endeavors is UH’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards (OURMA). Based in The Honors College, the office promotes scholarship opportunities and provides guidance to students as they apply for these competitive awards. It also sponsors undergraduate research opportunities for students from all academic disciplines. UH’s Undergraduate Research Day, Senior Honor Thesis program and Research for Aspiring Coogs in the Humanities program are among OURMA’s initiatives focused on empowering student researchers and helping them realize their potential as scholars.
“Our goal is twofold,” Rayder said. “We want our students to be aware of the many awards awaiting them. There are myriad scholarships, fellowships and honors that can support their academic aspirations. It’s critical that our students both recognize that these opportunities are out there and that they may be very well eligible for them. Secondly, we want our students to prosper in the process of academic discovery. Research at the undergraduate level yields many rewards and enhances skills that will benefit students for years to come. Through OURMA’s various initiatives, students can grow both professionally and personally … and ultimately, be poised for success in the next chapters of their lives.”