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UHV awards first scholarships from $645,000 grant

The University of Houston-Victoria has started awarding full tuition scholarships paid through a $645,677 grant from the National Science Foundation. 

The first Improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in a Rural Area scholarships were awarded to Zion Walker, a freshman from Crosby, and Jahdiel Evans, a junior from Aransas Pass, who both are pursuing Bachelor of Science in computer science degrees with concentrations in digital gaming and simulation. The Improving STEM Education in a Rural Area scholarships are for rural students pursuing STEM degrees. Each scholarship will provide $7,750 annually to qualifying freshmen for up to four years and qualifying juniors for up to two years to cover the cost of tuition.

Yun Wan

“The purpose of the grant and the scholarships it funds is to improve STEM education in rural areas,” said Yun Wan, UHV professor of computer information systems. “There are a lot of rural communities around the Victoria area, as well as a growing need for STEM graduates to work in the region’s petrochemical, manufacturing and other industries. This grant helps us support students who want to pursue those kinds of careers.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be from a rural area or Victoria, demonstrate a financial need and meet certain academic requirements. It is open to incoming freshmen and junior transfer students. As part of the scholarship, students are assigned a faculty mentor and pursue an independent research project on a topic the students choose.

Jahdiel Evans

Evans was working on homework when he received the scholarship award email. After the initial excitement, he called home to let his family know about the award.

“I had already been paying some tuition installments, but I was reaching a point where I didn’t know where the money for the next one would come from,” he said. “Receiving the scholarship was such a relief. My mom was so relieved, she started crying on the phone, but my dad acted like he knew I would get it all along.”

After he earns his degree, Evans hopes to get an internship with a game developer to gain some experience in programing, 3D modeling and animation.

Walker was facing the possibility of needing to take out student loans before he learned he had received the scholarship. He heard about the scholarship opportunity when he attended one of UHV’s freshman orientation events and decided to apply.

“My mom called me while I was working on homework and told me I need to check my email,” Walker said. “She actually found out before I did, and she was so happy. It was such a relief for me, and on top of that, a boost for my younger siblings to see that college can be possible.”

Walker also plans to pursue animation and programming in the gaming industry. He wants to learn as much as he can about the different elements of building games so he can be well rounded and step into any job needed. Both Walker and Evans are considering their options for projects and have not chosen research topics yet.

For Wan, the opportunity to use the grant funds to help STEM students is especially meaningful because of how the university came to receive the award. One of the people who submitted the initial application was Wan’s former colleague Li Chao, a UHV professor of computer science who passed away in November 2017. The university was notified that it was a finalist for the award just a few days after Chao died.

“He had a real passion for helping and recruiting students, and this was one of his final projects,” Wan said. “In a way, it’s a final gift to UHV and its students, and I am proud to be able to pass that on.”

UHV students are encouraged to apply for the scholarships at webprod.uhv.edu/webforms/arts-and-sciences/undergraduate-programs/STEM-ERA-Scholarship-application. To learn more about the scholarships and how to apply, contact S-STEM@uhv.edu.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as a teaching center in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All Initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student popular, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.