Alumnus hopes to be lifelong learner

Amory Gritta felt intimidated his first day in class at the University of Houston-Victoria until he heard his professor talk about getting another doctorate.

“There wasn’t anyone in the class who was even close to my age,” Gritta said. “I was already starting to think about dropping out, but here’s this man talking about getting a doctorate because ‘why not?’ while I was sweating about starting a bachelor’s degree.”

Amory Gritta

Instead of quitting, the 46-year-old Victoria resident ended up with two degrees from UHV: a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and psychology in 2015, and a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in criminal justice and psychology in 2017. He also was named the Spring 2017 UHV School of Arts & Sciences’ Outstanding Graduate Student. He will complete a bachelor’s degree in communication in May.  

“I enjoy the process of learning,” Gritta said. “In my psychology classes, I learned how children and young people have a fluid intelligence that allows them to process new things while adults have a more crystallized intelligence that relies on knowledge and experience. I want to try to keep moving in a more fluid learning pattern for as long as I’m able.”

His love of learning is something Gritta didn’t expect early in life. He dropped out of high school, and after getting his GED, ended up dropping out of Victoria College. He started college again as part of a way to work on a gag story called “The 40-Year-Old Freshman,” but he decided he wanted to finish what he hadn’t during his first attempt at higher education.

Keith Akins

While he was earning his criminal justice degree, Gritta stood out because of his focus on incorporating knowledge from all his classes, said Keith Akins, a UHV associate professor of criminal justice.

“He didn’t just get a good grade in the class and move on,” Akins said. “Because he tried to connect all that knowledge, it helped him better understand the whole system. He was the kind of student who could catch mistakes on exams I and other professors had written.”

In addition to being a good student, Gritta also helped other students succeed. Akins recommended that the UHV Tutoring Center hire Gritta to tutor other criminal justice students.

Gritta currently is interested in social media and how quickly information travels through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. In particular, he is interested in how people have adapted memes to share facts and can even be “weaponized” to spread false information.

“Law enforcement is still playing catch-up when it comes to social media,” Gritta said. “Whether it’s cyberbullying, scamming, or slander and libel, a lot of current laws aren’t equipped to handle what can happen on social media.”

Now that he soon will have a communication degree, he has reached a critical juncture, Gritta said. Will he go for a doctorate at another university or continue to take courses at UHV? Should he focus on material to expand his current position as niche sales digital lead at the Victoria Advocate or try something new?

He has looked into several career and study options, including public relations, risk management or even teaching. But whatever he decides, he always plans to keep learning.

“One of my friends once asked me when I’ll be done with school,” Gritta said. “I told him, ‘When I have enough degrees to cover all of my walls.’ In a way, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. If I had my way, I would take classes and keep learning until the day I die.”

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.