One of the true joys of being the president of the University of Houston-Downtown is having an opportunity to meet some of our outstanding students. They are the faces of America's future.
I have previously mentioned the work of our Powerlifting Team that has won two national championships and our Model UN team that has gone on to win recognition in New York, Madrid, Paris, Mexico City, and Milan. But, our students just keep winning. We even have one student who is an Olympic medalist and has written a book about her experiences!
On Saturday, February 6th, the UHD Powerlifting Team successfully defended its WABDL National Collegiate Team Championship--its third consecutive national championship! The team achieved its victory over a particularly difficult opponent, UT San Antonio. The team's coach, John Hudson, who is an assistant professor of English and who requires all team members to maintain a 2.5 GPA in order to compete, exclaimed, "UTSA is a great team and they bring out the best in our lifters."
The UHD team received a perfect score! The Team Co-captain, Ilian Rojas, scored 165 points and 1st Place in the Bench Press, 1st Place in the Deadlift, and 1st Place Total! He was one of four students who joined me a few days prior to the tournament, when I spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Houston.
Rojas wore two national championship medals to the luncheon. A sophomore majoring in applied mathematics, he serves as a UHD Ambassador and works as personal trainer in the UHD Sports and Fitness Department. Ilian graduated from the Yes College Prep academy in Houston in 2008. He had never tried powerlifting until he came to UHD. Now he is a national champion with three team medals!
Another amazing student who joined us for the luncheon is Melissa Chan, a UHD Chemistry major. She already has an undergraduate degree, having graduated from CUNY's Hunter College with a triple major in German, Russian and Political Science. Ms. Chan works as an animal behavioral specialist at the SPCA in Houston.
Melissa has earned recognition for her undergraduate research in electro-chemical analysis and will present her work at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Montana later this year. Next year, she will earn dual degrees from UHD and the Technical University of Lodz in Poland. She plans to pursue a PhD in neuropharmacology in Germany.
Also joining us at the Kiwanis luncheon was Gaspar Gonzales, a full-time student in the Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts program with an emphasis in music. He serves as an intern to the administration of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, where he will learn the business and marketing side of running a chamber orchestra. Gonzales works part-time as a music teacher at Stevenson Elementary School in the Heights.
Finally, there was Claudio Saenz, a junior in international business, who is a Microsoft Student Partner. He teaches students and staff on UH System universities about software and technology. The job allows him to connect with other students who are passionate about technology, marketing, and learning. Saenz works full-time at DI Central a business-to-business software company. With all of this, Saenz is a full-time student.
But, these are only a few of our Stars at UHD. Let me mention a few other amazing UHD students:
Diana Lopez won the bronze medal in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lopez and her brothers made history that year by being the first set of four siblings to represent the U.S. on the same Olympic Team, and for having three siblings win medals in the same sport. Ms. Lopez is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary studies.
Her book, “Family Power,” was co-authored with her brothers. It was released in late 2009 by Penguin Press and chronicles the hard work of the Lopez trio as they became 'America’s First Family of Tae Kwon Do.' She explains, “We do everything together. It made sense to write a book together.”
UHD also has world class salsa dancer. A business major at UHD, Vanessa Pinon, and her partner danced nearly flawlessly in Japan at the international salsa championships in Japan. They finished 11th, but qualified to dance in the World Championships in Miami later this year. Ms. Pinon will be dancing at UHD on Tuesday March 9th as part of the festivities of Investiture Week.
Abdul Jangda is a junior majoring in industrial chemistry at the University of Houston-Downtown. A student in the UHD Scholars Academy, Jangda's chemistry research centered on detecting metal particles in liquid by using special plastics capable of conducting electricity. He developed a special plastic polymer while working with UHD assistant professor of Chemistry, Mian Jiang.
Jangda presented his work at a recent Sigma Xi science research conference and received a superior rating. The judges commented that his work has many potential medical uses and appears to be relatively affordable. They believe a polymer with the right qualities could lower the cost of testing blood for sodium, potassium, glucose and other elements that doctors use to diagnose and treat patients.
That would be great wouldn't it? Reducing the price of medical tests could reduce the costs of medical care. Who knows, maybe one of these days a UHD student will tackle lowering the cost of health care insurance!
Each of these students are helping UHD to Make a Name for Itself. That's been our mantra this past year. We want everyone to know just how wonderful the University of Houston-Downtown really is. We want every to know the great things our students achieve.
I am truly impressed by the accomplishments of our UHD Gators. And, I am proud to be the president of their university.