Outstanding Arts & Sciences students share passion for learning, education

When Samantha Donisi-Hamm applied for a new position with her employer, it was her graduate work in publishing at the University of Houston-Victoria that provided an edge needed to get the job.

Samantha Donisi-Hamm

Donisi-Hamm, a resident of Manchester, Iowa, is now an assessment content project manager at McGraw-Hill Education. She will earn her Master of Science in publishing from UHV on Saturday.

“I wanted a school that was going to allow the flexibility of distance education that also offered something tied to my career in publishing and learning technology,” she said. “I actually used some of my company’s textbooks while working on my degree. I knew it was the right program when I actually found some of the books I needed for my classes on the shelves at work.”

Donisi-Hamm is the UHV School of Arts & Sciences outstanding graduate student for the fall. The outstanding undergraduate student is Kevin Oliver of Schroeder.

Each semester, professors from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold fall commencement at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Leonard E. Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane in Katy. Live streaming of the ceremony can be seen at or

Jeffrey Di Leo

“Samantha and Kevin are two excellent students who exemplify the quality we expect and encourage at UHV,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “They are committed to pushing for the best, and I wish them ever-increasing success as they move forward in their careers.”

Oliver chose to attend UHV after he graduated summa cum laude from Victoria College in 2013. He will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities-English and history. He chose to double major after he saw the overlap in the programs and wanted to combine his love of reading and writing with his interest in history.

“Before I came to UHV, I read a lot and knew that I wanted to do something with my life following intellectual and academic pursuits,” Oliver said. “Abraham Lincoln is a big influence on me. When he wanted to learn, he taught himself. So that’s what I started trying to do. I have had some really great professors who have helped me come out of my shell. They inspired me and gave me confidence.”

Kevin Oliver

Oliver’s family has been supportive while he was earning his degree, and some have told him that he should become a teacher. If he does, Oliver said he would like to teach at the collegiate level. He plans to return to UHV in the spring to begin working toward a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in English and history, and he eventually wants to earn his doctorate.

“My two immediate goals are to start my master’s degree and work on getting something published,” he said. “I would really love to take some time and write either a work of historical fiction or conduct some Civil War research and publish a book.”

Publishing was a natural fit for Donisi-Hamm, and she enjoys being part of a field going through so many changes in recent years, she said. She always wanted to pursue a graduate degree. Her bachelor’s degree was in English with a minor in journalism, and she liked the convenience of UHV’s online graduate program, as well as the unique approach to the subject.

“I was surprised that it was a Master of Science, but it made sense once I got into the program because it looks at marketing and management, the legal side, basics of writing and research, and more,” she said. “Publishing is becoming such a technology-heavy field. When I first started at McGraw-Hill, my work mainly involved textbooks, and now a large component of what we do is online and digital.”

Her position in the publishing industry actually gave her a unique perspective during class discussions. Her courses and the information she learned lined up well with her day-to-day work experience.

“I really loved how engaged and enthusiastic the instructors and students were,” Donisi-Hamm said. “The discussions held online were just as good, if not better than the classroom. Instructors are passionate, knowledgeable, had worked in publishing and were bringing in that experience.”

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.