Outstanding arts, sciences students take first steps for families

As an involved student leader, Ashley Yaws has had the opportunity to take part in helping establish new traditions at the University of Houston-Victoria, and that spirited leadership also is evident in her role as a first-generation student.

Ashley Yaws

“Going to college and succeeding was something I felt I had to prove to others, not just myself,” she said. “I wanted to show my little brothers and parents that it can be done. Now my brothers can see what I’ve done and are challenged to follow my example.”

Yaws, of Edna, recently was named the University of Houston-Victoria School of Arts & Sciences Spring 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Student. Luz Alquicira, of Richmond, is the school’s Outstanding Graduate Student.

Each semester, professors from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold two spring graduation ceremonies on May 12 at Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the schools of Arts & Sciences and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the School of Business Administration. A live-streaming broadcast of the ceremonies will be available at

Jeffrey Di Leo

“Ashley and Luz are two amazing young women with a passion to help others and vision for their futures,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the school. “Their dedication to excellence and making a difference is inspiring to see, and I expect we will see great things from them.”

Being named an outstanding student is a humbling experience for Yaws, especially because she has been involved in UHV’s student-led activities and has seen what so many of her classmates have been involved in and accomplished.

“It feels a bit surreal to know that out of all these amazing students, they picked me,” she said. “I didn’t expect it, but it’s an amazing way to end my undergraduate years.”

Luz Alquicira

Alquicira also is a first-generation student, and she earned her Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology while working as a therapist. She recently began working full time at the Crosscreek Counseling Center while also working part time at Pocasangre’s Counseling Services in Houston, where she counsels people who have been incarcerated.

“My biggest struggle was finding a way to get my practicum hours while also working at my current job,” she said. “After pushing through and balancing work, studying, family and just life in general, it’s exciting to know someone saw how hard I was working and wanted to acknowledge that. It’s a humbling experience.”

After she receives her degree, Alquicira wants to earn her doctorate in clinical psychology and continue working with people who are incarcerated, especially violent felons such as sex offenders. After that, she hopes to get a teaching position at a university, where she will be able to conduct research.

“One day, I hope I might be able to join the UHV faculty,” Alquicira said. “The faculty members have been so supportive and encouraging as I was working toward my degree. I want to be part of that and help inspire other students just like they inspired me.”

After Yaws, who is double majoring in psychology and history, receives her degrees, she plans to apply for graduate forensic psychology programs.

“When I was a kid watching ‘Scooby Doo,’ I always wanted to be Velma and find the clues and reasons behind why people did these things,” Yaws said. “I think it would be amazing to be able to look at clues in people’s lives, get a better understanding of their thought processes and find ways to help them.”

As she looks back on her time at UHV, Yaws is grateful for the lessons and experiences she learned.

“You have to be willing to fight for what you want – make a choice and plant your feet,” she said. “I like to set goals and push for them. If I accomplish my goals, that’s great. If not, I’ve started the process for the next person.”

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.