Outstanding students aim to help youth, communities in careers

For Freja Magnussen, her interest in the fields of social science began with a curiosity about criminals and psychology. She would watch crime dramas on TV, and it only developed her interest more.

Flash forward a few years, and Magnussen is working on a project involving statistics and crime and ready for wherever the field of criminal justice takes her. Magnussen, of Vallensbaek, Denmark, recently was named the Spring 2021 Outstanding Undergraduate Student for the University of Houston-Victoria School of Arts & Sciences. Magno Guillen of Richmond was named the Outstanding Graduate Student for the school.

Craig Goodman

Each semester, faculty from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, UHV has postponed its 2021 in-person graduation ceremonies until it is safe to gather. The university will host a virtual commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. May 15 that will be webcast on the UHV Facebook page and the university’s graduation website at

“Freja and Magno are excellent examples of how hard work pays off and students have excellent opportunities at UHV to pursue their passions and interests,” said Craig Goodman, interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. “Both are excellent role models for other students and their successes also speak to the critical role that Arts & Sciences faculty play in encouraging students to challenge themselves.”

Magnussen will graduate this month with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. She is a student-athlete and a goalkeeper for the UHV women’s soccer team. She has been at UHV since her sophomore year and has since maintained a high GPA. She has made the President’s lists several times and has been recognized as a Red River Athletic Conference scholar-athlete. She also has been recognized by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics as a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athlete.

Magnussen said she was surprised to learn she was named an outstanding student for the school and texted her mom right away with the good news.

Freja Magnussen

“It is such a big honor because there are so many great students in the School of Arts & Sciences,” she said. “It is also nice to know that my teachers have been acknowledging my work. It’s such an honor to be named an outstanding student.”

At UHV, Magnussen was happy to find that the university was supportive of both its students and the student-athletes. She was able to find a balance between her life as a member of the soccer team and as a student, though not without the structure of time management. To keep up with soccer practice, games and school, Magnussen would divide up her work to be done in small chunks rather than completing work all in one sitting. She could be found studying on the way to out-of-town games, and also spent nights reading.

Although she had a decent workload as a student, she never felt like it was a challenge because of her interest in the field of criminal justice. Magnussen has always been interested in the research behind why people commit crimes and crime statistics. She is motivated to research on topics including what makes criminals different from citizens who do not commit crimes, crimes related to violence and drugs, and discrimination against minority groups. She is working on a project about drug use for an internship with a UHV faculty member.

After graduation, Magnussen plans to apply to graduate school in Denmark and earn a graduate degree in criminology. She would like to have a career where she could work with statistics to help police or other investigators solve or prevent crimes. She is thankful for UHV International Programs and all the faculty members who taught her, especially Sara Zedaker, an assistant professor of criminal justice; Justin Bell, associate professor of philosophy and director of the UHV Honors Program; and Goodman, who also is an associate professor of political science. She also is thankful to her parents and her girlfriend for all their support.

“I’m thankful for receiving this award,” she said. “My experience at UHV has been great.”

Guillen will graduate from the UHV Specialist in School Psychology program this month. Before enrolling in the program, he was in private practice for several years and performed a variety of vocational rehabilitation services including vocational evaluations, behavioral health consultations and interventions. He also conducted clinical vocational evaluations, career assessments, disability consultations, cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology. He is originally from Honduras and speaks English, Spanish and Garifuna, an indigenous language spoken in Honduras.

He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in biology from Southern University at New Orleans and has a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from Minnesota State University. He also has a doctorate in international psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. He is on the last requirement of his UHV degree plan and is interning at Lamar Consolidated Independent School District in the Houston area.

“Being named an outstanding student is an honor for me,” he said. “I am very humbled and consider this recognition a blessing.”

Guillen has always had a passion to help others and to enhance the lives of children, youth and families through a public health approach. His desire to work with children and their families stems from making sure children have a good foundation and tools to be successful in school and life.

Magno Guillen

“The role of school psychologist is important because it provides a team of everyone involved in the child’s life – such as the family, teachers and administrators – to collectively work together to design a plan to support a student so that they are successful in academics and in their behavior,” he said. 

In his research of graduate schools, he chose UHV because of the expertise and vast experience of the faculty in the Specialist in School Psychology Program. He found that the faculty had a tremendous research background and applied experience in the field as well. He began taking courses in 2018 and became a highly involved student in the program. The graduate courses in the program are rich and rigorous, and designed to allow students to shine as a professional, he said.

He presented alongside UHV faculty members twice at the Texas Association of School Psychologists annual conference, including in 2019 with Shannon Viola, an associate professor of school psychology and director of the School Psychology Program, where they had a poster presentation titled “Factors associated with supporting transitional immigrant youth.” In 2020, Guillen, another student and Melanie Lemanski, an assistant professor of school psychology, presented “The role of the Licensed Specialist in School Psychology in transitioning special education students to high school and beyond.”

Guillen is thankful for the faculty members at UHV who provided knowledge and opportunities to grow as a professional, especially Elise Hendricker, an associate professor of school psychology and chair of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division, Viola and Lemanski. He also is thankful for the support and resources available from the university. He also is grateful for the opportunity and the support from the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, as well as his supervisory team.

Guillen’s plans for the future include working in Honduras to help empower and enhance the wellbeing of teachers, families and youth in schools. He plans to become an active member of the International School Psychology Association and the National Association of School Psychologists.

“It’s been a fantastic and remarkable experience as a UHV student,” he said. “I feel empowered by the knowledge I’ve gained, and I am humbled by this award.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs 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 an instructional site in Katy, Texas, 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 population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco