Outstanding liberal arts student plots new course
The past several years has come with countless sacrifices for Amanda Morris. she made the decision to re-enroll in college as a nontraditional student at the University of Houston-Victoria when she was 38 years old.
Looking back on her journey, all the sacrifices were worth it.
Morris of Victoria has been named the Outstanding Undergraduate Student for the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Amber Martinez of Victoria was named the Outstanding Graduate Student and will graduate with a Master of Arts in forensic psychology.
“As dean, I am very proud of Amanda’s scholastic accomplishment and her commitment to serve her fellow students and UHV,” said Kyoko Amano, dean of the UHV College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. “Amber, our Outstanding Graduate Student, is a particularly good writer and had a good intellectual grasp of the materials. She is eager and passionate about the field of forensic psychology and was a standout student.”
Each semester, faculty members from UHV’s four colleges select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold four fall graduation ceremonies on Dec. 16 in the Leonard E. Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane in Katy. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the colleges of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and Natural & Applied Science. The ceremony for the College of Business and College of Education & Health Professions will be held at 1 p.m. A live-streaming broadcast of the ceremonies will be available at www.uhv.edu/commencement/commencement-ceremony.
“I have kids at home, a husband, family and all the responsibilities that come with it,” Morris said. “But honestly, it feels so good to put in so much hard work and then to be recognized for that. It’s more than I could ever ask for.”
After graduating from high school at the age of 18, Morris said she wanted to go to college, get a good education and find a career. She found her start at Victoria College and spent a considerable amount of time there going through her courses while at the same time trying to pinpoint exactly what she wanted to study.
“When you’re 18, you don’t really have much of a clue,” Morris said. “And so, I got an associate degree in professional office technology in 2005, which is like a secretary.”
Morris went into accounting but soon found it wasn’t really what she was passionate about. She settled down, got married, had her children and was a stay-at-home mom for the next decade. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris said she saw the hardships that people had to go through: businesses struggling, altering finances, streets now quiet and the cries of struggling mental health across the community. With her children now getting older, Morris said she felt that spark and immediately recognized her calling. She was going to set out to become a counselor specializing in chemical dependency.
“I’ve had a lot of personal experience with people who suffered from substance use and mental health issues,” Morris said. “And I saw that there was such a need in our community.”
But achieving this goal requires a bachelor’s degree. In 2021, she enrolled at UHV to chart her path. It was the same time she came across a news story from the Victoria Advocate. That spring, the Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach Center was planning to open an inpatient rehab facility. It was the perfect opportunity; that was where she wanted to serve one day, Morris said.
In November, Morris accepted a full-time position to serve as a recovery coach through the Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach Center. She now works to connect people with community resources, whether it is for mental health or substance abuse issues, to find the resources they need.
“From the moment I saw that article, I knew that was the place I wanted to work,” Morris said.
Morris will graduate this December with her bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, she can’t relax yet. She is busy studying to take the GRE exam with the goal of applying for the counseling psychology graduate program at UHV. Through it all, Morris said she is thankful for her family, who have stuck by her side and assisted her in every aspect as she went through school. From picking up the kids from school, cleaning the house and making the meals, her degree wouldn’t have been possible without the love and support from her entire family, she said.
“I’ve been so blessed, and it’s all because of UHV that I’m where I am right now,” Morris said. “I’m just super excited for the next chapter and can’t wait to see where everything goes. I’m just taking it one day at a time, and I just keep moving forward.”
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 50 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.