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A Chance to



For many academically talented students, only one barrier stands between them and their educational dreams: a lack of financial resources. Perhaps they’re first-generation college-goers, parents working to support their families, or international scholars pursuing new opportunities. No matter their backgrounds, they have one thing in common—they need that extra boost as they approach the finish line.

Donor-funded scholarships make the pathway to higher education possible and are often the difference between completing a college degree or dropping out of school entirely. For the following UTA students and graduates, the road to their success was paved by the generosity of the Maverick community.

  • The scholarship helped me get to where I am today by reminding me that people support me and my dreams.

Lauren Sorto Ramos

(’20 BS, Biology)
Julia and Dale Martin Pre-Dental Scholarship Recipient

To Lauren Sorto Ramos (’20 BS, Biology), receiving a scholarship wasn’t just about achieving her own dreams. If given the opportunity to pursue her goal of becoming a dentist, she knew she would translate her success into countless future impacts.

“The scholarship money provided won’t end with me but will be multiplied and put back into the community when I’m a dentist and leader,” she explains.

Thanks to the Julia and Dale Martin Pre-Dental Scholarship, Sorto—an ambitious, goal-oriented, first-generation college student—was able to afford to study biology at UTA and start her dentistry education. The scholarship was established by Dr. Dale (’78) and Julia Martin. Dale Martin is a pediatric dentist in Fort Worth and serves as the president and executive director of the UTA Alumni Association. He is a 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award and continues to engage/volunteer with the College of Science, presenting to and mentoring students.

“The scholarship helped me get to where I am today by reminding me that people support me and my dreams,” Sorto says. “I am truly inspired, and I will continue on to help younger students pursue higher education.”

Sorto starts dental school this August and is already fulfilling her promise to give back to the community. She is currently volunteering at dental clinics in Dallas, and, once she graduates with her DDS, plans to continue to use her skills to benefit the community, especially those most in need of assistance.

“I hope to open up a clinic in south Dallas and also in my parents’ home country of El Salvador,” Sorto says. “I believe dental care is a human right and should be accessible.”

Fiza Saeed

Biomedical Engineering Junior
Dr. Shamim Sughra Malik Endowed Scholarship Recipient

Fiza Saeed had always known one thing: She was going to be a doctor. Growing up in Lahore, Pakistan, it was what she and her parents discussed and planned for years.

However, once Saeed took a look at the medical field in Pakistan, she realized how many hospitals lacked machinery and the resources to pursue new research.

“After seeing all this, it made me think that the main work is behind the scenes, researching about new things or designing new instruments that can help doctors,” she explains. “That’s how I came across biomedical engineering.”

UTA’s diversity and reputation as an outstanding engineering teaching institution put the University on her radar. Unfortunately, attending school in the U.S. is expensive for many international students and, as a first-generation college student, applying for aid was daunting for her and her family.

Saeed was relieved when she found out that she could apply for assistance through UTA’s scholarship system and was awarded the Dr. Shamim Sughra Malik Endowed Scholarship.

The scholarship was established by UTA alumnus Asif Malik (’85 BS, ’91 MS, Computer Science and Engineering) in honor of his late mother Dr. Shamim Sughra Malik, who served in the Pakistani army as one of the few female doctors in the country at the time.

Following in the footsteps of Dr. Malik, Saeed is forging her path in the medical industry. She says all of this is possible because of her scholarship.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Saeed says. “My parents have never been prouder, seeing me as the person I am now because of UTA and this scholarship.”

Shahrzad Amirani

(’89 BA, Chemistry; ’93 PhD, Business Administra-tion)
Vice President, Head of New Products and Innovation, Ipsen Biopharma

The scholarship Shahrzad Amirani received as a UTA student became her lifeline to a college education. To inspire female students with similar needs, she established the Shahrzad Amirani Endowed Scholarship for undergraduates who demonstrate academic excellence and ambition and who receive all or part of their preparatory education in a country other than the United States. Dr. Amirani was named a Distinguished Alumna in 2019 and has served on the UTA President’s Advisory Board since 2009.

What brought you to UTA from Iran?
After the revolution in Iran, our world as we knew it collapsed. The universities there closed for several years, so I decided to come to the U.S. In my family, education was the No. 1 priority. My mother, herself a college graduate, emphasized higher education. As for why I chose UTA, my uncle lived in the area and spoke very highly of the University.

How did the scholarship you received impact your education?
When I think about my situation as a student, the numbers didn’t add up. My scholarship equaled survival. If not for this support, I would have dropped out because I had no other means of paying for my education.

What motivated you to establish the Shahrzad Amirani Endowed Scholarship?
For me, it was a moral responsibility. I’m somebody who survived and thrived because of a scholarship, so it was a no-brainer for me to help others. After all, education is the most effective way to help people succeed.

How did your UTA education prepare you for your career?
The knowledge I gained in chemistry, business, and applied statistics provided the perfect background for my career in the drug development industry. In addition to giving me a technical edge, UTA was very nurturing. The UTA village became my home and gave me the comfort, support, and confidence to succeed academically and professionally.

What message do you have for your fellow UTA alumni?
We have a shared responsibility to develop and nurture the next generation of Mavericks. It should be part of our DNA. Every time you help educate somebody, that becomes your legacy.

  • If Dr. Groner were alive today, I’d probably break down in tears thanking him and his wife.

Dallas Johnson

Communication Senior
David E. Groner Endowed Scholarship Recipient

Uncertainties flooded Dallas Johnson’s mind as he sat next to his mom at the UTA Communication Department scholarship event in 2018. Could he afford a four-year degree? Would community college be a more realistic option? Was graduate school just a pipe dream?

When the department chair called his name as a recipient of the David E. Groner Endowed Scholarship, his doubts faded.

“I looked toward my mom, who had tears in her eyes. At that moment, I didn’t fully understand how life-changing it would be, but my mother did,” Johnson recalls. “This scholarship is one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever received. I don’t believe I would’ve been able to attend UTA without it.”

The scholarship was established through a planned gift from Mary Groner in memory of her husband, the late Dr. Groner, a longtime UTA communication professor. The scholarship supports motivated and talented students pursuing a degree in communication studies.

Not only did the award provide much-needed financial resources, it gave Johnson the confidence to succeed academically as a first-generation student. Thanks to his excellence in the classroom, he was selected for the prestigious McNair Scholars Program and the UT System’s Summer Internship Program in Philanthropy.

He’s on track to graduate in fall 2021 with plans to earn a PhD in communication studies, teach at a local university, and explore a career in philanthropy to raise funds and awareness for college students with similar backgrounds.

“If Dr. Groner were alive today, I’d probably break down in tears thanking him and his wife,” Johnson says. “I would say thank you for giving me a chance to follow my dreams and ask him what I could do to better live up to his gift.”

Ken Fuentez

(’20 BSN)
Advancing Health Care in North Texas Endowed Scholarship Recipient

Ken Fuentez’s (’20 BSN) initial plans for his career were interrupted by the unpredictability of life. Though he had planned to pursue a medical career and had earned a Bachelor of Science when he was younger, he was never able to continue on his desired career path.

Nearly two decades later, he decided to attend UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation based on its reputation for excellence in nursing. And because of the University’s innovative and accessible approach to education, he would be able to attend while continuing to work to support his family.

Though his dream was now attainable, it wasn’t easy.

“I am the primary breadwinner in my household, so there was a constant worry that I would not be able to provide for my family,” he says. “I worked full time while going to school, but the times that I missed work had a significant impact on my paycheck.”

Thankfully, because of the generosity of a donor, Fuentez secured a scholarship that helped ease his financial stress.

In 2020, North Texas Specialty Physicians established the Advancing Health Care in North Texas Endowed Scholarship Fund at UTA. Its goal was simple: Help students like Fuentez—highly motivated and academically talented—make a difference in nursing or exercise science. The group’s gift provided the support Fuentez needed to graduate with a bachelor’s in nursing in December 2020. He plans to eventually earn his master’s and doctoral degrees.

Now working at Texas Health Resources Harris Methodist in Fort Worth, he says he is incredibly grateful for the scholarship and hopes that his story will inspire others.

“It is possible to attain your dreams,” he says. “There are people who care about your future as much as you do.”

  • This scholarship has brought me much closer to achieving my goals, and I only hope that one day I can do the same thing for someone else.

Akram Abbadi

(’21 BS, Economics)
Wayne Watts Scholarship for Aspiring Lawyers Recipient

Akram Abbadi has dreamed of being a lawyer since he was 6 years old. But like many UTA students, he needed a financial lift to make his educational and career goals a reality.

That support came in the form of the Wayne Watts Scholarship for Aspiring Lawyers, which covered the majority of Abbadi’s tuition and fees for his senior year.

“This scholarship lessened the financial burden for my family and me and allowed me to focus on my studies to improve my academic performance,” says Abbadi, who served as UTA Student Congress chief justice for 2020-21. “It also helped strengthen my résumé and campus involvement so I can be a more competitive candidate for admission into the law school of my choice.”

The Watts Scholarship assists students who have demonstrated academic excellence as they near the end of their undergraduate careers and who plan to attend law school and become practicing attorneys. It was established with a generous gift from UTA Distinguished Alumnus Wayne Watts (’76), retired senior executive vice president and general counsel at AT&T.

In addition to receiving financial support, Abbadi has benefited from the UTA Pre-Law Center, which offers advising, mentorship programs with legal professionals, service-learning experiences, and moot court and mock trial competition training.

After graduating, he plans to use his UTA and law degrees to promote socioeconomic change and advocate for those in need.

“I’m deeply humbled and immensely grateful to Mr. Watts for all that he’s done for me,” Abbadi says. “This scholarship has brought me much closer to achieving my goals, and I only hope that one day I can do the same thing for someone else.”

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