Outstanding Arts & Sciences students overcome challenges to succeed

Dec. 16, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.

Brittany Proctor

Brittany Proctor   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

A passionate University of Houston-Victoria professor of criminal justice opened Brittany Proctor's eyes to the pitfalls of the criminal justice system, including problems with the rehabilitation services offered to those released from prison.

"We're basically letting people out just for them to come right back in, and we never really give them an opportunity to change course. My professor's point really resonated with me," said Proctor, a Victoria resident who back then was an undergraduate student.

She said the coursework inspired her to enroll in UHV's Master of Arts in forensic psychology program, from which she graduated on Friday.

"It was right up my alley," she said. "It sounded exactly like what I wanted to do, and I'm glad that I made this decision because I love what I do. It's difficult and can be frustrating, but it's really rewarding."

Proctor was named the School of Arts and Sciences Fall 2017 Outstanding Graduate Student. Ethan Gross, of Victoria, was chosen as the school's outstanding undergraduate student.

Each semester, professors from UHV's three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement.

"Brittany and Ethan, who have excelled in their coursework, now aspire to achieve excellence in their future careers through service to others," said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. "With such passion to help people and make the world a better place, they exemplify uncommon and admirable virtue."

While Proctor plans to work as a therapist counseling people with a variety of problems, Gross wants to become a community college writing professor helping students learn to communicate more effectively. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and is applying to master's degree programs to study either English or linguistics.

Gross is the first in his family to earn a bachelor's degree. He did not come from a family of immense wealth, so college did not always seem within reach, he said.

"I didn't know if it would even be possible financially to go to college because it's a lot of money, and I didn't have much," he said. "And I was a little doubtful of my abilities; I was second-guessing if I would be successful in college."

Gross decided to take the plunge after reading the book "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien.

"I was glued to it the whole way through, and I guess it kind of woke me up," said Gross, noting that his enjoyment and comprehension of the book gave him the confidence he needed. "I realized that not only do I enjoy reading a book like this, but I think I also could help other people. I've always wanted to be a teacher helping others articulate and express themselves through writing."

He ended up funding his college education by working as an automotive technician on the side.

Proctor, too, worked during her academic program. For the past year and a half, she has been an intern providing counseling under supervision at a local substance-abuse treatment facility for those who have felony offenses on their records.

"Every single one of them is either in a bad situation or made bad decisions, and it branded them for life and is difficult for them to work through," she said. "I'm really passionate about helping them think in ways they've never thought before - think about things that they've never considered before - and open their minds."

Both graduates said they found inspiration in their professors and their face-to-face interactions with them.

"They were all amazing," Proctor said. "They're all very intelligent, very knowledgeable in their field. And I came to them way too often asking for extra books, extra information on topics. They always sat with me, talked with me and had recommendations or support for me."


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