UNT Dallas sophomore Valerie Torres has been chosen as the first recipient of the Robert Mong Endowed Scholarship, which was established this year in honor of university president Bob Mong.
Torres is a first-generation college student majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. She almost decided against college. Her three older brothers chose not to go, and because of the pandemic, she didn’t want to go, either. She thought she was ready to enter the workforce.
But now, Torres is on a track that will lead her to medical school after she graduates from UNT Dallas. Her goal is to become a reconstructive cosmetic surgeon treating burn victims.
“Many low-income families don’t know how to treat burns,” Torres said. “They think water or a cold press,” which can do more damage. She wants to educate them, advocate for them, and minimize future burn-related injuries.
Her journey to becoming a doctor started in elementary school in Seagoville. As a child, Torres watched Bill Nye the Science Guy on television. Her family didn’t have cable TV, so she watched a lot of PBS and other educational programs available free over-the-air with an antenna. She really liked science, especially the projects and fairs.
In the seventh grade, Torres made a decision. “I wanted to have an impact on people’s lives,” she said. Torres remembers seeing children with cleft palates and hoping she could help them.
After high school, as Torres contemplated getting a full-time job and skipping college, she discovered UNT Dallas and its proximity to where she and her family lived. It was a pleasant and timely surprise.
Torres changed her mind about passing up college. She enrolled at UNT Dallas, attended summer bridge classes, and was accepted into the Trailblazer Elite program. It was the unexpected next step in her journey. Her parents were delighted, and her brothers were excited. “My family is my biggest support system,” Torres said.
She is also receiving a lot of support from UNT Dallas. “Better than expected” is how Torres describes her experience here so far. She is impressed by our STEM curriculum and is excited to be part of the BAT-LSAMP Scholarship Program, which offers experiences and resources to students pursuing STEM careers.
So what’s next? Torres is enthusiastic about joining JAMP, the Joint Admission Medical Program, which provides undergraduates a path to medical school. She also plans to explore the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. And she hopes to intern at the Parkland Burn Center.
Torres will put her $5,000 in scholarship money to good use. For “STEM stuff,” she said, including books, research materials, a chemistry kit, and clothes to wear when making presentations.
The Robert Mong Endowed Scholarship was created through generous funding from The Dallas Morning News, where President Mong spent much of his distinguished journalism career, including as Editor-In-Chief.
“I am honored by this endowed scholarship in my name, especially coming from an institution to which I devoted so much of my life,” said Mong. More importantly, I thank them for providing much-needed scholarship dollars to our students.”
The Dallas Morning News has committed to contribute a total of $50,000 to UNT Dallas to fund this initiative, with half going to establish the permanent endowment fund and the other half being awarded directly to students in the immediate academic years.
“The Dallas Morning News is honored to endow this scholarship in the name of Bob Mong for two key reasons. The first is how much Bob Mong meant to The Dallas Morning News in his storied career, where he ultimately led the newsroom for 15 years. The second is the respect we have for UNT Dallas and all it is doing to provide opportunities for first-generation college students in North Texas,” said Grant Moise, Chief Executive Officer of DallasNews Corporation and President and Publisher of The Dallas Morning News.
Valerie Torres is the first of what is expected to be a growing cohort of students who benefit from the Robert Mong Endowed Scholarship. UNT Dallas and The Dallas Morning News are proud of her accomplishments and look forward to following her journey as she achieves her dream of becoming a doctor.