UH Magazine Spring 2023

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Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson saw the potential for a historic rebound. He was right.
Preston Gaines’ pandemic hobby-turned-art form lifts a looking-glass to our relationship with the natural world.
Blair Ault is having visions—visions of a whole new world of craft whiskey on the horizon.
Writer Robert Cremins discusses our paradoxical appetite for murder mysteries— while devouring them nightly.

Letter From the President

Dear Cougars and Friends,

Summer is here. While some classes are still in session, the campus is considerably quieter and free of its usual highlevel activities. So, we use this time to review the University’s strategic plans, think long-term and set priorities for the upcoming academic year. Thankfully, we are building from a strong foundation. In this issue of UH magazine, you’ll read how we’re achieving our goals with the help of new leaders, award-winning academics, breakthrough research and program expansions.

Our new provost, Diane Z. Chase, joined us this spring, and you can learn all about her road to UH, her storied archaeological career and the unique perspective she brings (page 26).

The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C. T. Bauer College of Business has been named the No. 1 undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year (page 16), while our newly named Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing is expanding and setting the gold standard in the field of nursing (page 14).

The Energy Transition Institute made great headway with the naming of its director, Joe Powell, the former chief scientist for Shell and advisor on research and development for a netzero carbon economy. Under his guidance, the novel institute aims to accelerate the local and global shift to decarbonization through dynamic research advancements (page 40).

Speaking of energy, I’m also celebrating our electrifying entrance into the Big 12 Conference. As our cover story reflects, our journey to the Big 12 is a decadeslong climb, bridged and supported by incredible student-athletes, trailblazing coaches and diehard fans who always believed it’s where we belong. This prestigious conference will not only advance our athletes but also elevate our profile, bringing greater attention to our dynamic programs and progress.

It’s yet another chapter in the University of Houston’s story! As you take in these long summer days, I invite you to dive into the pages of this magazine. I promise you will be informed and inspired, educated and empowered.

With warm regards,



Streets of Houston

20 Nature Is Healing

Preston Gaines’ pandemic hobby-turnedart form lifts a looking-glass to our relationship with the natural world.


21 Keeper of Memories

The Smithsonian Libraries is the world’s largest library system, housing nearly 2 million books. The UH alumna in charge of them doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.

From the Lab

22 Behind the Vaccine Against Fentanyl Lead researcher Colin Haile speaks from the lab about the discovery that shields the brain against one of the world’s deadliest drugs.

The Spirit World

Office Hours

24 The Power of Data

Dean Catherine Horn believes researchers have the ability—and responsibility—to solve society’s most pressing issues. She’s starting with making education more equitable.

Person of Interest

26 Following Ancient Roads to Find Modern Success

She’s uncovered secrets of an ancient Maya civilization in Belize. Now, Diane Z. Chase is applying those findings to her role as UH’s new provost.

Houston’s Finest

28 The Spirit World

Blair Ault is having visions—visions of a whole new world of craft whiskey on the horizon.

Nature Is Healing
Behind the Vaccine
06 On Campus Find the hottest, freshest campus hangouts. 08 On the Field Farewell to the AAC. Bring on Big 12 mania. 10 Social Scene Catch the Cougar spirit. 12 Studies Show Myths busted and metabolism hacked. 14 Growth Chart We’re transforming the future of nursing. 16 Awards & Accolades Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship just can’t lose. 02 UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON MAGAZINE




54 Tip Your Robot Meet Servi, the robot waiter that might be the first wave in an increasingly techdriven dining experience.

56 Murder Most Cozy Writer Robert Cremins discusses our paradoxical appetite for murder mysteries —while devouring them nightly.

PRESIDENT Paul Buckley VICE PRESIDENT Chris Phelps EDITORIAL Editorial Director Annie Wiles Managing Editor Maria Hieber Copy Editor Staci Parks DESIGN Art Director Katy Rimer MARKETING Director of Client Services Cory Davies Account Supervisor Brianna DeMarco PRESIDENT Renu Khator PUBLISHER Lisa K. Holdeman CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Shawn Lindsey Carrie Taylor ONLINE Deana Kreitz PHOTOGRAPHY Jonathan Burke Benjamin Corda Jeff Lautenberger Greg Ortiz Nick Pomes H2 H2 H2 H2 H2 H2 40 The Great Energy Transfer 32 Road to the Big 12
saw the potential for
He was right.
The University of
toward a new energy era.
32 Road to the Big 12
Basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson
a historic rebound.
Great Energy Transfer
leading the charge
46 It Doesn’t End at the Border
professors aim to transform immigration policy and advance migrant health research at the Texas-Mexico border.
Where Would Be Without Nurses? Kathryn Tart, founding dean of the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing, tackles the ongoing nursing shortage.

Introducing: Shasta VII

Meet the University of Houston family’s newest, cutest and most ferocious representatives.

Shasta VII, the University of Houston’s new live mascot, and his brother, Louie, are the newest UH ambassadors.

Two cougar cubs have taken the city of Houston by storm with their undeniably adorable furry faces and inspiring resilience. Shasta VII, the University of Houston’s new live mascot, and brother Louie are the University’s newest ambassadors at the Houston Zoo cougar exhibit—a designation previously held by the beloved Shasta VI and Haley.

Before the cubs found their place in the UH family, they had a rather lonely start.

A rancher discovered the orphaned pair on his property in Washington state during a dark, damp day last October. It looked unlikely that the cubs, estimated to be only 4 weeks old at the time, would have survived on their own.

The cubs were flown to the Houston Zoo for medical care and a new home. As part of the UH Alumni Association’s partnership with the zoo, Shasta VII and Louis were named successors to Shasta VI and his companion, Haley, who both died last year.

The cubs made their public debut at the zoo in February and are busy learning what it means to be a UH Cougar. Like any sibling pair, the two have shown unique personalities, with Shasta VII rising as a natural leader protective of his smaller brother and often sleeping with a paw over Louie.

Shasta has already shown traits—like curiosity, courage and resilience—that embody the UH spirit. The growing brothers are inseparable and quickly adapting to the time-honored responsibility of representing the University.

“The cougars are adorable and look approachable; however, they are ferocious,” UH President Renu Khator said at the cubs’ debut. “Their tenacity and determination definitely represent Cougar spirit, and we are delighted to have them in our family.”

UH students receive free admission to the zoo, where guests can observe Shasta VII and Louie in their enclosure across from the black bears.

Like any sibling pair, the cubs have shown unique personalities.




Out with the old, in with the brew.

Beloved student-run coffeehouse Cougar Grounds has a new home, and we’ve got the tea.

In its previous life inside the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership, the café was cramped and dimly lit, and during the dragging months of the pandemic, the future of the student-favorite spot looked dim as well.

That was until August 2022, when the shop moved next to the Eric’s Club Center for Student Success, nearly doubling its previous footprint to support a much-bolstered customer base— with “Cougaristas” serving 100200 customers per hour.

The space, which has quickly become a campus hot spot, is filled with natural light and has plenty of seating for students and guests to stay, sip and study as they please. The energy at Cougar Grounds is as inspiring as the coffee is delicious. It’s also the first university coffeehouse in the country run by students, giving the Cougaristas an even bigger claim to fame. Their work at Cougar Grounds is part of a corollary education class where Hilton College students learn about small-business operations, marketing and sales and developing new products. Cheers to that!



A fresh take on campus dining.

The University of Houston is keeping its dining options fresh with the UH Farmers Market, which offers students, staff and faculty a chance to shop for locally sourced and produced food items without leaving campus.

The market runs every second Wednesday of the month during the fall and spring semesters, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on the Student Center North lawn. Past vendors have included local farms specializing in microgreens and fresh produce as well as local businesses such as Metanoia Coffee Roasters, which brews roasts from around the world, and My French Croissant, which sells both ready-to-eat and ready-to-bake pastries made with ingredients sourced from France. Student-owned businesses make an appearance too—like Lala Loveables, which sells handmade crocheted earrings, hats, décor and more. UH students, staff and faculty can even use Cougar Cash to purchase items.

Stop By

What: UH Farmers Market

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every second

Wednesday of the month

Where: Student Center North lawn

The UH Farmers Market offers students, staff and faculty a chance to shop for locally sourced and produced food items without leaving campus.


Mark your calendars and secure your seats.

Football Tickets

As of July 1, the Cougars are officially a part of the Big 12 Conference. It’s not too early to secure your seats for the upcoming fall games and grab the opportunity to be a part of this historic season.

• Season Tickets:

On sale now, starting at $175 for seven home games.

• Mini-Plan Tickets:

On sale now; pricing and locations based on available remaining inventory.

• Single-Game Tickets: On sale Aug. 14.


As UH transitions into the Big 12, it’s only right to take tailgating to the next level too. New this year:

• Premier Pregame Cougar Alley Fan Fest: Enjoy music, food trucks, game watching, games and more.

• Kids Zone: Keep kids entertained with inflatables and games in Cougar Alley outside Gate 1.

• Turnkey Tailgate Package: Plus more available spaces, outside TDECU Stadium.

• Group Packages: Accommodate 10-60 people, or more when you customize.

• Premium Add-Ons: Complete the experience with parking passes, game tickets, media packages and catering.

2023-24 Football Schedule

Sept. 2: UH vs. UTSA

Sept. 9: UH @ Rice

Sept. 16: UH vs. TCU*

Sept. 23: UH vs. Sam Houston

Sept. 30: UH @ Texas Tech*

Oct. 12: UH vs. West Virginia*

Reserve Your Spot

Before Cougar Alley sells out! Season-long reservations booked before Aug. 1 receive a 20% discount.

Oct. 21: UH vs. Texas*

Oct. 28: UH @ Kansas State*

Nov. 4: UH @ Baylor*

Nov. 11: UH vs. Cincinnati*

Nov. 18: UH vs. Oklahoma State*

Nov. 25: UH @ UCF*

More Season Tickets Available

• Women’s Basketball

• Soccer

• Volleyball

*Big 12 Conference Game


UH Athletics had a record-smashing final year in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).

Highlights included:

Men’s Basketball

• School single-season record for wins

• 33-4 overall record

• AAC record tie with a 17-1 league mark

• Fourth consecutive NCAA Sweet 16

• Top six leaders in both national polls

• Ninth season led by four-time AAC Coach of the Year Kelvin Sampson

Swimming & Diving

• Successfully defended its AAC title for the seventh consecutive season

• Clinched the title with 1,311.5 points

• Bested the program’s previous 2021 high of 1,009 points

• Head Coach Tanica Jamison named Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season

• Diving Coach Bob Gunter named Women’s Diving Coach of the Year

A Decade of Domination: 2013-23

• 559 regular season victories

• 41 AAC championships

• 8 straight years with 4+ conference titles

• 660 AAC honors

• 92 Houston Athletics teams represented in the postseason

Volleyball Records

• Most successful season in history

• 30-4 record, including 15 sweeps


• Conference title since 1999

• NCAA Sweet 16 entry

• Win against a ranked opponent since 2003

• 30-win season since before the NCAA’s adoption of volleyball

AAC Statistical Leaders

• Aces per set (1.55)

• Team assists (1,627)

• Team kills (1,759)

• Team service aces (197)

Get Tix! Call the Houston Athletics Ticket Office at 713.GO.COOGS (713.462.6647) or book online at UHCougars.com/Tickets. CAMPUS BULLETIN SPRING/SUMMER 2023 09 ON THE FIELD


Exploring the organizations that keep our school spirit fierce.

When it comes to school spirit, the University of Houston Cougars are fierce. From the beloved live cougars that have filled Shasta’s shoes to the dedicated students who live out the Cougar spirit each and every day, there are many who contribute to the palpable UH pride that permeates across campus and beyond.

In the impressive mascot pushups, the recognizable BLAZE siren and the traditional Friday wearing of red, the power of Cougar pride can be seen, heard and felt in tailgating lots, game-watching parties and sports bars across the country. Meet the groups leading the charge.

The Spirit of Houston

As the backbone of UH pride, the Spirit of Houston consists of several groups led by industry professionals and made up of passionate students who dedicate countless hours to perfecting performances, mastering halftime shows and truly demonstrating what it means to show Cougar spirit. Groups include:

• Cougar Brass Basketball Pep Band

• The Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band

• UH Cheer

• UH Cougar Dolls

• UH Feature Twirlers

• UH Mascots

The Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band

Known for its diehard support of Cougar sports teams on and off the field, the Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band is the largest spirit organization on campus. These talented students devote their evenings, weekends and game days to perfecting energetic performances in a variety of musical styles. They bring their all to events across campus and around the country. Any UH student with high school band experience can audition for one of the 270 coveted positions.



For 75 years, the Frontiersmen have been fearlessly and actively promoting Cougar spirit and supporting the University in any and all endeavors. Recognizable by their light-wash jeans, tan dusters and cowboy hats, the Frontiersmen play an active role on campus and hold many key student leadership positions. Their duties range from displaying the Texas and UH flags during football games to participating in on-campus events, such as Frontier Fiesta, to representing UH at community events and charities, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Sunshine Kids, Cougar Cookers and the “H” Association.

Student Section, Bleacher Creatures and Coogs of CV3

Nothing quite compares to the sea of scarlet you see flooding the stadium, punctuated with outstretched Cougar hand signs and body paint , while fans’ hoots and hollers ring in your ears. Revving up the excitement in the student section of the game day crowd are the Bleacher Creatures and Coogs of CV3. They are members of UH’s “organic” spirit groups, and they are among the University’s most passionate student fans—known for clever antics, wearing costumes and making the student section the place to be on game day.

Did You Know?

The iconic UH Cougar hand sign, which is made by folding the ring finger of the right hand toward the palm of the hand, dates back to 1953, when Shasta I lost a toe in a cage door.

University of Texas students caught wind of this accident and mocked the cougar’s injured paw by making the sign during a



Research debunks commonly held beliefs about the negative impact of tattoos and video games.

Do Tattoos Make You Less Employable? Nope.

There’s an old stereotype: You’ll never get hired if you have visible tattoos. Turns out, tattoos are not a turnoff—at least not to customers. According to research from UH Associate Professor Enrica Ruggs published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, American views about tattoos have shifted. In her experiment, consumers viewed the same “job candidates” with and without temporary tattoos with no clear positive or negative skew. Additionally, tattooed employees were evaluated more positively and had just as many sales as their untattooed coworkers.

Dinner Time Interactions Influence Children’s Future Relationships With Food.

Chew on this: Gone are the days of the “clean plate club” and using desserts as bribes to trudge through servings of broccoli. UH research shows that these parental directions can lead to lifelong overeating. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Appetite, found that tactics such as bringing a positive attitude to the table and being responsive in the moment tend to be more successful in guiding children on paths to healthy eating.

Video Games Do Not Cause Cognitive Setbacks in Children.

Good news for anxious parents: New research funded by the National Science Foundation finds no links between video gaming and cognitive ability, “regardless of how long the children played and what types of games they chose,” says UH Associate Professor Jie Zhang, one of the study’s researchers. The null finding was published in the Journal of Media



Dive Deeper

Learn more about this research at uh.edu/studiesshow.

Sedentary lifestylers take heart. Though it’s only 1% of one’s body weight, the soleus muscle effectively elevates muscle metabolism for hours if activated correctly.

Marc Hamilton, a biology and biochemistry professor at UH, made the disruptive discovery of the unassuming posterior leg muscle found in the calf, trademarking the movement the “soleus pushup”. His research, published in the journal iScience, suggests the exercise is more effective at sustaining an elevated oxidative metabolism to improve blood glucose regulation than intermittent fasting, weight loss and even exercise.


A potent physiological movement might be the solution to health issues caused by inactivity.
Achilles Tendon Tibia Femur Fibula Soleus Muscle


The gift earns the UH College of Nursing a new name and much more as it leads in rejuvenating the field of nursing.

Andy and Barbara Gessner’s support will fund scholarships, fellowships and more for the new Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing.

The College of Nursing is now the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing, in recognition of a transformational $20 million gift from UH alumnus Andy Gessner (’68) and his wife, Barbara. The Gessners’ support comes at a critical point in the nursing profession, which is experiencing a significant labor shortage, and is inspired by the many selfless nurses they know, including their late mothers, Gertrude Smith Gessner and Mildred Roberson Pottenger.

The shortage of registered nurses in Texas is projected to increase to more than 57,000 by 2032, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. However, ambitious students are taking action, and as a result, enrollment in the UH nursing program has increased by 141% since 2018.

“We’re all going to need a nurse at some time in our lives, and there’s just not enough in the workforce or being educated for the future. The primary intent of our gift is to make more nurses available when we need them, now and in the future,” Andy Gessner says.

The donation will support the ambitions and achievements of UH nursing students, who are stepping up to the plate. In 2020, 100% of UH’s first-time test-takers passed the nursing licensure exam, putting the college in the top 8% of nursing schools in the U.S. In 2022, 99% of graduates who earned their Bachelor of Science in nursing were employed—the only exception being a graduate who was expecting a child.

Additionally, the gift will fund endowments for scholarships, graduate student fellowships, adjunct faculty support and marketing and communications.

“We believe in the value of an education,” Barbara Gessner adds. “I think most of the world’s problems could be solved through education, which is why we are so passionate about supporting the University of Houston.”

Kathryn Tart, the college’s founding dean, believes the success of the college and its students will only increase thanks to the Gessners’ incredible generosity, saying: “This gift will have a lasting impact on the nursing profession and our great city, state and beyond for many years to come.”

Keep Reading

Find more on Dean Kathryn Tart’s vision for the future of nursing on page 52.

generosity will significantly contribute to the ongoing success of the college and its students.

Tart believes the

Gessners’ Dean Kathryn Tart (far left) meets with Andy and Barbara Gessner on a tour of the college’s facilities at UH at Sugar Land.


Cyvia Wolff reflects on the top-ranked Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship’s remarkable streak of success.

The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the University of Houston’s C. T. Bauer College of Business, continues its reign as the premier undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the U.S. It was once again awarded the prestigious designation as No. 1 program in 2023 by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship Magazine, marking its fourth consecutive year to earn the top spot (and seventh total). Since its renaming in 2007, the center has consistently secured a place among the top 10 programs.

According to Cyvia Wolff—who, along with her late husband, Melvyn, made the center’s work possible with their $13 million founding donation—the recognition comes with good reason;

the scholarship opportunities, 500 mentors for 39 students and a track record of successful careers post-graduation are just a few.

Students from the program have created 1,640 businesses in the past 10 years. Simply put, the center elevates entrepreneurship education year over year through an immersive program and experiential learning—and produces a tangible result beyond its doors.

Entrepreneurship became important to the Wolffs after Melvyn, a University of Houston graduate, took over his family’s small furniture business, Star Furniture, and transformed it into one the most successful retail furniture companies in the country. It became part the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio in 1997.

Cyvia Wolff (center) and students from the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship stopped in Madison Square Park during a recent trip to New York City, where they met with entrepreneurship leaders.

“I would consider him an entrepreneur because of the way he reengineered the business and made it very successful,” Cyvia says. “That’s why Melvyn and I became interested in the program—he developed it, and we became the fertilizer.”

Cyvia credits David Cook, the center’s director, with turning their investment and vision into a wildly fruitful program. The students not only learn from their mentors in the Houston area but also visit well-known entrepreneurs across the country. They create business plans, raise money and have access to countless hands-on experiential learning opportunities. Cyvia even holds an annual dinner with some of the scholars.

“Some people like [Jeff] Bezos are set up for success no matter what,” she says, “but there are others who need some help along the way. This program is there to help you when you fail—and everybody fails. You know, Thomas Edison said he didn’t fail 10,000 times—he just learned 10,000 ways not to do it. The school is there to help you when you need it after you’ve graduated too. Many of the students come back to be mentors.”

Looking to the future in an increasingly unstable financial world, Cyvia believes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education are more advantageous than ever—the former providing real-world experience that students don’t get in many college courses, and the latter helping to stimulate the economy.

“Aside from the values that [the center] teaches, and aside from the knowledge it teaches, you learn to start an actual business within this program,” she says.

Many of those businesses that begin in the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship find true success out in the real world, a testament to both the Wolffs’ legacy and the power of entrepreneurship.

Cyvia Wolff remains highly engaged with the Wolff Center, attending the annual studentled fundraiser Wolffest and meeting with program leaders as they plan for the future.


The more things change, the more they stay the same. UH students through the decades embody the Cougar spirit.


Students flash the iconic Cougar hand sign at a game in Robertson Stadium, which hosted its last football game in November 2012. It was razed and replaced by TDECU Stadium, which opened in 2014.


Lynn Eusan Park covers 4.6 tree-filled acres in the center of campus and has become the gathering spot for diverse groups, just as its namesake would have surely enjoyed. Lynn Eusan was the first African American homecoming queen at UH, making her the first at a predominantly white university in the South. The park was dedicated in her name in 1976, following her death.


Between 1989 and 2012, Shasta existed only as a costumed mascot. Here, the Shasta mascot sits on one of the two bronze cougar statues flanking the front of the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building, UH’s primary administrative building.


A Cougar Guard member stands behind the ferocious Shasta V—the last female cougar of the original continuous line who served as UH’s live mascots. Since then, the tradition has been reimagined at the Houston Zoo. Two reflection pools now mark Shasta’s former on-campus den.




Nature Is Healing

Preston Gaines’ pandemic hobby-turned-art form lifts a looking-glass to our relationship with the natural world.

Like the rest of the world, in spring of 2020, Preston Gaines was confined to his apartment due to the COVID-19 lockdown, transitioning to remote work and finding new ways to spend the time he suddenly found on his hands.

A talented young architect charting a promising career with the firm PGAL, Gaines turned his attention to the spaces in and around his Third Ward apartment complex. He began gardening the common areas and amassing a collection of houseplants.

The hobby quickly became an obsession. Gaines contacted a local company that supplies plants to offices and struck a deal to acquire their surplus stock. His apartment was soon teeming with plants. Gaines says the drive was partly therapeutic, partly self-expressive. “It was a time when many people sought comfort in activities that brought them joy,” he says. “For me, that solace was found in nurturing plants.”

What Gaines didn’t anticipate was his houseplants' transformative effect on his career.

Blooming Passion

Gaines’ interests span the gamut of art, architecture and design. He grew up in Crowley, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, in the rural fringe of the metro area.

“My childhood was characterized by endless open land, fields and gravel roads that surrounded our home,” he says. “Our adventures were reminiscent of the whimsical 1988 Japanese animated film by Hayao Miyazaki, ‘My Neighbor Totoro,’ where two young sisters discover magical creatures living in the forest near their home.”

While considering career options, architecture appeared to be the most practical route to transform these creative experiences into a realistic career path. But the lockdown allowed Gaines to rediscover whimsy. His architectural practice evolved in a new, multidisciplinary direction that has been, well, organic.

Grow With the Flow

Gaines staged a warehouse festival event, "Grow with the Flow, " combining art, nature and community empowerment. He included plants to experiences through interactive workshops, discussions and performances designed to foster a sense of belonging, collaboration and growth. He experimented, combining design, video and graphic elements into his immersive installations.

These projects led to collaborations with Project Row Houses and the Museum of Contemporary Arts Houston. In August 2022, he left his architecture job to focus on art and became the University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts Artist in Residence.

Mixing Mediums

Gaines’ work isn’t easily pigeonholed. A wall-sized projected image of technicolor flowers references the pop art of Andy Warhol and psychedelic album covers of the 1960s. His natural subjects' abstract geometry feels inspired by nature and somehow otherworldly. Paired with living plants, it teases an ontological disconnect between how we experience the natural world.

Gaines collects various dynamic experiences and creative tangents into a concept he coined “Inanimate Nature”—“the idea of transcending boundaries between the natural and artificial while delving into the symbolic and philosophical dimensions of mathematics and geometry.”

At its core, Gaines’ work pursues the sensual experience of nature that harkens back to the Houston artist’s pandemic-inspired reengagement with the natural elements that provide solace during global trauma.

“Art can impact communities by providing a platform for selfexpression, healing and empowerment,” Gaines says. “My interactions with various communities and organizations within Houston have fostered a strong sense of social responsibility and a commitment to using my art to uplift and empower those around me.”


Keeper of Memories

The Smithsonian Libraries is the world’s largest library system, housing nearly 2 million books. The UH alumna in charge of them doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.

University of Houston alumna Tamar

Evangelestia-Dougherty (’96) first experienced libraries not only as a place of learning but also as a refuge.

Growing up the daughter of a single mother on Chicago’s West Side, there were times when her family experienced homelessness. That’s when the Chicago Public Library became more than just a place to find free books—it served as a shelter to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. At 14, EvangelestiaDougherty earned her first job shelving books there.

“Libraries made me feel safe,” she says. “I like them, and they like me. I know that’s a strange thing to say, but it seems like I was always able to get a job in one.”

At the Smithsonian, EvangelestiaDougherty is responsible for overseeing some of the United States’ most precious historical collections and cultural archives. Decisions made around how to acquire and appraise archives and then catalog, digitize and disseminate these materials play a powerful role in shaping the collective understanding of our nation’s history. And yet, EvangelestiaDougherty jokes that when she tells people she’s a librarian, they still think of the “stereotype of the bun and the glasses shushing people.”

“People don’t understand that it is really the science of information,” EvangelestiaDougherty says. “It’s cultural heritage. It’s keeping memory.”

While attending the University of Houston, Evangelestia-Dougherty worked late shifts at the Fred Parks Law Library on San Jacinto Street. She studied political science with a minor in Japanese and planned to pursue a legal career. But libraries continued to draw her in. After college, her experience working as a special collections assistant in Princeton University Library’s rare book and manuscript reading room inspired her to pursue a Master of Library Science at Simmons College (now Simmons University) in Boston. In 2021, Evangelestia-Dougherty was named the inaugural director of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, perhaps the most prestigious library job in the country.

Evangelestia-Dougherty entered the librarian profession in the early 2000s, at a time when the way in which American institutions preserve cultural memory was being called into question. Historically, dominant cultural narratives have excluded marginalized communities, she says, and exerted undue influence on the stories our artifacts and collections tell.

Much of Evangelestia-Dougherty’s work has been leading institutions toward more representative and inclusive narratives of the past. Sometimes that means advocating for social accountability through reparative justice, like when she helped repatriate the diary of Fidelia Fielding, an important elder of the Mohegan Tribe, from the Cornell University Library to the Tantaquidgeon Museum—the oldest Native American-owned and -operated museum in the U.S.

The biggest challenge, she says, is learning to approach the past with as unbiased a view as possible. That’s not always easy. There have been times when digging through the archives has unearthed uncomfortable personal details that challenged her views on historical figures she had once admired.

A good librarian and archivist, she says, must try to maintain an ethical compass that points toward the truth. It is a mission that reflects EvangelestiaDougherty’s personal experience of the library as a cultural sanctuary.

“Librarians,” she says—“we’re very powerful in that we are the ones who facilitate the memories of things you see.”

“Libraries made me feel safe. I like them, and they like me.”

Behind the Vaccine Against Fentanyl

Lead researcher Colin Haile speaks from the lab about the discovery that shields the brain against one of the world's deadliest drugs.

In September 2022, the Los Angeles Unified School District made an announcement that sent chills down Colin Haile’s spine. Narcan—an emergency medicine that can temporarily reverse the effects of opioids like fentanyl—will now be available in all K-12 schools, the district said. Fentanyl overdoses had become so common that the district was now, in its own words, facing a “community crisis” that required a dramatic response.

For Haile, an addictions researcher and UH research associate professor of psychology, the news was yet another confirmation that his current project is critical.

“Even before we started this work, roughly five or six years ago, there were signs that fentanyl use and overdose deaths were on the rise,” Haile says. “Now, it’s gotten to the point where fentanyl is taking tens of thousands of lives each year, and we’ve got to do something about this.”

And he is.

Haile is part of a UH research team that has spent the past five years developing a vaccine that, in tests thus far, has proven to block fentanyl from reaching the brain. This development is essential, since fentanyl’s ability to quickly reach the brain is the reason the drug is so addictive.

If the FDA approves the anti-fentanyl vaccine for mass use—and Haile is confident they will—it will be a historic breakthrough in the fight against a uniquely dangerous opioid. FDA approval would also mark the end of a challenging development process in which Haile and his team have relied on a blend of creativity, grit and in-depth science savvy.

“It’s been a long and difficult road,” Haile says, recapping his team’s work thus far. “But we’re optimistic about the road ahead.”

“We’ve got to do something about this.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were more than 106,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021. The majority involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which took 70,601 lives.

Haile, who speaks in a calm, measured tone, has a scientist’s zeal for the practical and a natural aversion to exaggeration. Still, he is quick to point out just how dangerous fentanyl can be.

“Two grams can kill an individual, and a few grains of some of its derivatives can compromise someone,” he says. “One derivative, carfentanil, is used in veterinary medicine to anesthetize large animals like elephants.”

He pauses.

“And we’re talking about a drug that can be found on the streets, sometimes hidden in other illicit drugs.”

When people consume fentanyl, they’ll feel euphoric effects—and, often, respiratory depression. They’ll lose control of their diaphragm, and the walls of their chest freeze up, resulting in what’s called “wooden chest syndrome.”

This reaction is all because of the drug’s mad dash to the brain, which Haile's vaccine has been proven to prevent.

The innovation is a departure from typical vaccines. It’s best to rely on Haile’s explanation to understand how it works:

“In a prototypical vaccine, you’re vaccinated with a piece of bacteria or virus you want to be protected against,” the researcher says. “Your body recognizes it as foreign, then develops antibodies against that pathogen. What we’ve done here is [produced] a vaccine that [creates] antibodies against a chemical: fentanyl. We vaccinate, and the individual develops anti-fentanyl antibodies, which bind to the chemical and prevent it from getting to the brain, instead keeping it in the blood until it is eventually eliminated from the body.”

The vaccine completely blocks fentanyl’s effects for 5-6 months in trials with rats. It remains to be seen how enduring the antibodies are in humans.

Vaccinating against an opioid is a unique proposition; however, Haile has worked on developing other vaccines against substances associated with

use disorders, including anti-cocaine and anti-methamphetamine vaccines. Even still, the team encountered several roadblocks during their multiyear journey.

At one point in their studies on mice and rats, Haile’s group noticed extremely low levels of antibodies in the test animals, despite fentanyl’s effects being fully blocked. They spent weeks searching for the answer, ultimately discovering that the problem lay with one reagent used in the detection of anti-fentanyl antibodies. The reagent was replaced, and, lo and behold, the measure of the antibody levels shot up.

FDA’s seal of approval and subsequent clinical trials are the only hurdles standing between the vaccine and availability for wide use.

If it’s approved, the vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection. Meanwhile, Haile is developing a vaccine film administered under the tongue.

Of course, Haile is the first to admit FDA approval is a significant hurdle. But he’s also quick to point out that his team’s vaccine is almost entirely comprised of ingredients in other available vaccines, including ones for pneumonia and meningitis. Once on the market, it would be available for both people struggling with opioid use disorder and potentially first responders who come into contact with fentanyl users during their job.

At another point, vaccine components were clumping together during the synthesis. The team remedied that, too.

“There are issues we’ve had to solve over the years, but, fortunately, we’ve solved all of those,” Haile says.

He isn’t one to dwell on roadblocks. In fact, in conversation in mid-April, Haile was brimming with optimism. The team’s litany of tests thus far proves that the vaccine works in rats and mice, which means the

“People may get discouraged when they see this won’t be on the market for a few more years, but I want to point out that the individuals in our clinical trials will benefit,” Haile says. “I’ve been contacted by numerous folks around the United States wanting to be in this trial, probably hundreds—mostly parents who desperately want to help their kids address their addiction or prevent them from overdosing and potentially dying.”

“I know this vaccine,” he concludes, “will save lives.”

“I know this vaccine will save lives.”

The Power of Data

Dean Catherine Horn believes researchers have the responsibility to solve society’s most pressing issues—starting with making education more equitable.

Catherine “Cathy” Horn has worked at nearly every level of education. Now, as dean of the University of Houston’s College of Education, she wants to fix the education policy problems she’s witnessed, both during her time as an educator and through the massive database she now has access to that indicates patterns in student resources, performance and other metrics across the state.

Horn, a former Fulbright Research Scholar, directs both the UH College of Education’s Institute for Education Policy Research and Evaluation and the Education Research Center (ERC), which works with “researchers, practitioners, state and federal agencies, and other policymakers to help inform upon critical issues relating to education.”

Now in its sixth year, the ERC connects data from the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission. It’s one of three such centers in Texas, which is one of only a handful of states offering this kind of access.

This data allows researchers like Horn to follow Texas students from K-12 to postsecondary institutions and into the workforce, as long as students remain within the state, and provides valuable insight into how students are—or aren’t—being supported through resources.

The goal is to help policymakers gain a deeper, more holistic understanding of the pain points and successes within Texas’ education system. We asked Horn about the ERC’s impact on education policy and how she thinks research can make Texas schools more equitable.



We’ve had a really strong, positive investment, especially over the past two legislative sessions, in seeking to ensure that those who are interested in education are well prepared and those who choose to go into the profession experience the kinds of conditions, including salary, that really motivate them to stay in the career.

There was a lot of discussion in the recent legislative session about the role of funding in the pre-service experience (e.g., funding while going through college). Our work helps inform that. We know, through the research that we’ve done, that there are salary differentials that cut across regions within the state. We’ve been able to help document the space where we have a chronic need for critical teaching areas and where there are bright spots— districts where there are education preparation providers, for both sides of the experience, that are really shining stars.


The important question for me is, “How should researchers be helpful?” I think that our work and good policy research, in general, do two things: One, it asks and rigorously answers truly important questions. Policymaking is a messy, complicated enterprise, and asking the right questions matters in helping inform how good policy is developed.

The other piece is, how you represent that rigorous work matters. There are very smart, thoughtful policymakers in Austin who are trying to learn all that they can. But, they are not education scholars, nor should they be. Part of the ERC’s responsibility, which I think has been difference-making, is ensuring that we are representing what we know in ways that are both accurate and accessible to a very smart lay audience.



After finishing my master’s degree, I taught students within Houston ISD who were designated as “struggling.” What I learned from that experience was that state education policy and, in particular, the district testing policy at the time had unintended consequences of undervaluing these students’ strengths and constraining their life chances in ways that, from my perspective, were just completely unacceptable. So, that sent me off to grad school.


In my Ph.D. work, I focused on the critical transition from completing high school to accessing and potentially enrolling in college and how policy can either facilitate or impede that transition, particularly for students who have historically and currently been marginalized and minoritized by our society. We have to look at that really carefully, because we want to make

progress as easy and smooth as possible for everyone. This space is so crucial and so consequential in the multiple encounters students have with policy on all points in that journey. I just dove right in, more or less, and haven’t left.


In my office, I have a series of photographs of a ship canal that a very dear friend took. These images have important personal, embedded messages—really powerful reminders of what it is to be in the work and doing the work, and that we should all be leaning into our strengths. My friend who took the photos is a physicist. That’s his day job, but he’s incredibly talented in a way that encourages me, every day, to show up with my whole self.


This is a weird thing to say, but I like the walk around Hermann Park. There’s a very clear path that takes you around the full perimeter. It’s one of the big, original parks of the city. I love it because it’s old, grand and peaceful, and it’s so often filled with the joy and complexity that I love about Houston.

Catherine Horn is dean of UH’s College of Education and director of the Institute for Educational Policy Research and Evaluation and the Education Research Center. She completed her undergraduate degree at Rice University, her master’s degree at UH and her doctorate in education research at Boston University and is a former Fulbright Research Scholar.


Following Ancient Roads to Find Modern Success

Diane Z. Chase has spent nearly 40 years uncovering the secrets of an ancient Maya civilization in Belize. Now she’s applying those archaeological findings to her role as UH’s new provost.

The Classic Maya civilization collapsed between A.D. 800 and 1000. For centuries afterward, hundreds of timeworn sites lay forgotten, until archaeologists began exploring their remains in the 19th century.

One of those archaeologists is the University of Houston’s new senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, Diane Z. Chase. For nearly 40 years, Chase has been fascinated by the remnants of an ancient city in Belize called Caracol. Caracol has been uninhabited since around A.D. 950, but Chase is just as interested in its glory days as she is in its downfall—even collapsed civilizations offer lessons in success.

That’s as true in the field as it is in her new role at UH, which she assumed in February after a harrowing drive to Houston through a snowstorm. Luckily, Chase seems more than up for an adventure.

Uncovering Our Past

Caracol was (re)discovered in the jungles of western Belize in 1937—relatively late compared to most Maya sites. At that time, archaeologists conducted limited excavations on the area. Their sites focused on the stone monuments and altars in Caracol’s “downtown.”

Little did they know this was only the surface of a city that had supported some 100,000 Maya in the second half of the first century. That’s more than twice the population of Belize City, the largest metropolitan area in modern-day Belize.

“No one knew how big or important the site was because [relatively little] research was done,” Chase says. She and her husband, Arlen Chase, started the Caracol Archaeological Project in 1985, and their research has revealed groundbreaking insights about the Maya who inhabited the area millennia ago.

Ever since then, the Chases have been reassembling pottery, excavating tombs and surveying the agricultural layouts of the 77-square-mile site to reconstruct what ancient life was like in Caracol and have pieced together a coherent picture from their findings during that time.

The goal is to think about how an ancient civilization compares to today, Chase says about archaeology and anthropology: “Are there things they were doing that we might want to try? Are there mistakes they made that we don’t want to repeat or replicate?”

Past Collides With Present

The earliest inhabitants of Caracol arrived between 600 and 900 B.C., although it wasn’t until A.D. 250 that the classic “peak” period of the Maya civilization began, ushering in a 650-yearlong age of advancements such as pyramids, hieroglyphic texts and widespread trade.

“Are there things [ancient civilizations] were doing that we might want to try? Are there mistakes they made that we don’t want to repeat or replicate?”

Chase’s work in Caracol revealed another advancement of the era: an intricate agricultural field system integrated into the city’s urban infrastructure.

“There are road systems that guide you around the city, and there are agricultural fields located amongst the households. So, the city itself was agriculturally sustainable,” she says. “The economy was well set up so that you could access a market to get the things that you didn’t have in your household pretty easily.”

Chase says roads are an important piece of the archaeological puzzle in Caracol. Her son, Adrian, who recently completed his doctorate in anthropology, is currently working to determine travel routes between sites around the city. The data will help identify neighborhoods which, when coupled with new technologies like ancient DNA analysis, can help answer questions about family relationships, migration influxes and curious zoning patterns around the city. But in the Chases’ line of work, finding answers just means asking more questions.

One of the technologies Chase is most excited to leverage at Caracol is light detection and ranging (LiDAR), which collects complete aerial images of archaeological sites by penetrating dense jungle canopies. She says they were the first archaeological project in Central America to apply LiDAR to their research.

Incidentally, the data from that first LiDAR flight back in 2009 was collected by the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM), which is based at and operated by UH’s Cullen College of Engineering.

“I knew about the University as an outsider. I knew it was growing. I knew that it was increasing in reputation and stature,” Chase says. “Since I’ve come, I’ve realized how much more there is here: the depth of the culture, the experience. I’m getting to know a new place and a new culture, essentially.”

A New Culture to Uncover

Chase was confirmed as the University’s chief academic officer in February. She drove 1,500 miles from Claremont,

California—where she served as vice president for academic innovation, student success and strategic initiatives at Claremont Graduate University—to her new home in Houston, accompanied by her husband, who’s joining the faculty at UH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

As someone whose life’s work is about analyzing cultures, Chase is already impressed with Houston’s “real richness”—from the city’s diverse music scene to its unique style of Tex-Mex.

“Anyone coming into a new position has to first learn more about the place: the people, the culture,” she says, adding that she’s excited to transfer

together as a team really effectively, and it’s something that is important in terms of student experience.”

Chase calls success a “participatory process” and cites improving crossdiscipline research at UH as a key objective in her plans. She says undergraduate research, in particular, depends on building transferable skills and crossing new boundaries.

“I’ve realized from research on the ancient Maya [that] I can explore, with other colleagues in fields outside my own, things that are of importance today,” she says, “whether those are things about collapse, urbanism [or] sustainability. Those are things that I

her anthropological expertise to her role as provost. Using the University’s strategic plan as her roadmap, she’s ready to uncover new grounds of student excellence on campus.

“One of the keys to student success— and honestly, the faculty and staff’s success—has to do with a sense of engagement, belonging to the community,” she says. “That’s absolutely true of an archaeological enterprise that works

can certainly share with others as well as how easy and how hard it is to break out of your discipline.”

Come next academic year, undergraduate students at UH will be able to join Chase at the Caracol Archaeological Project for accredited research opportunities. Even after nearly 40 years of excavation there, she’s confident the ancient civilization has plenty left to teach us.

During a recent visit to Caracol, Provost Diane Z. Chase and her husband and research collaborator, Arlen Chase, were interviewed for a segment about their work on CBS Saturday Morning.

The Spirit World

Blair Ault is having visions—visions of a whole new world of craft whiskey on the horizon.

You could see Blair Ault (’10) as a storytelling Alice in Wonderland of whiskey. Whether this is because she approaches the world with inquisitiveness and whimsy or because she fell down the rabbit hole of whiskey more than 10 years ago is yours to judge.

Until recently, the 34-year-old who is currently brand ambassador for the woman-founded, Texas-based craft distillery Milam & Greene, cohosted the podcast Whiskey Women along with fellow Houstonian Janet Thielke. Episodes feature female guest speakers chatting about everything from cocktail-themed costume tips to tarot card readings, interspersed into discussions around whiskey tastings and news and sustainability in the industry.

The lineup speaks volumes about a desire to imbue whiskey with an element of freshness.

Kentucky and Tennessee have long been bastions of whiskey. Gifted with abundant limestone-filtered water sources and ideal climatic conditions for growing corn, propitiously situated to distribute to the old fortresses of drinking and furnished with generational legacy distilleries, they make up what could now be called whiskey’s old guard.

But Ault shows the new face and voice of an American craft whiskey landscape that has grown robustly over the past few years—from mere dozens of distilleries to more than 2,000—and claimed a significant share of the American craft spirit realm.

Through the Looking-Glass

Ault came to the world of whiskey through an unusual route. A high school teacher who taught everything from theater and

Whiskey Myth-Busters

➤ Myth: Bourbon has always been America’s spirit. The truth: George Washington had a rye distillery.

➤ Myth: The law says bourbon should be made in Kentucky. The truth: Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law what bourbon was in America, but he made no suggestion as to where to make it.

➤ Myth: Whiskey is “a man’s drink.” The truth: Around one-third of whiskey drinkers in the U.S. are women.

English to computer and social science, she also worked shifts at downtown Houston bars Little Dipper and Poison Girl to “escape the school life for a bit.”

She became more invested as people would come in wanting to have conversations. Soon, she was through the looking-glass.

For this whiskey nerd enamored of tales and debate, “Whiskey was the most fun to have conversations about, partially because there are so many myths out there,” she says.

One myth: that whiskey is not for women. And yet Ault found in Milam & Greene a whiskey with two names on the bottle that stood for (nonmythical—a rarity) women. That’s when the picture began to coalesce.


Ault has distinct preferences and found them in a Milam & Greene rye that surprised her. “Previously, I hated on ryes because they were too spicy,” she says. “I couldn’t pick up any of the vanillas, the bananas, the fruits. But the Milam & Greene rye tastes like blackberry pie to me.”

Her motto is that if she’d order it as dessert, she’d like to find it in her whiskey. Which is not to say that peaty, smoky Scotch doesn’t have its place—merely that there is a whiskey for everyone.

“The future of whiskey is going away from everyone being attracted to the biggest brands,” Ault says. “People are interested in diving deeper.”

Whiskey Dreams

What else is out there? Regional whiskies, ranging from New York’s spicy, sweet ryes to Pennsylvania’s grassy, fruity ones to Southwestern whiskies made with smoked grains. These are expressions of terroir.

Some craft distilleries use only locally sourced grains or grains harvested by human- or animal-powered machinery. Some are blending—once considered a Scottish proclivity—to discover new flavor profiles, while others are chasing flavor complexity by aging in casks that once held vermouth, sherry or port.

Podcasts and a rise in neighborhood whiskey clubs have created a more educated consumer, sleuthing for new, nuanced flavors.

“It appears that consumers are tiring on single barrels to identify delicious whiskey, but single rickhouse seems like it might take its place—knowing that a bottle was created from barrels that sat in a particular spot,” Ault says.

If Ault were the denizen of a multiverse, she would live three distinct realities. In one, she continues as the “wildly curious academic person” who recently pursued a library science degree, bemoans the dearth of academic work on whiskey and imagines speaking at conferences or writing articles to help fill the gap with research and insight.

Second, she champions the cause of bartenders. (Ault serves on the board of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s Houston chapter.)

Third, she is a maker, crafting whiskey from various grains. “I’m so bored with yellow corn as a distillate. I feel like we’ve done it to death,” she says, laughing but also absolutely serious.

Whiskey makers around her are employing heritage grains in small batches, using heirloom corn or shifting mash bills to exclude corn entirely. “That’s my dream: Play with the grains, the still, the casks, and make something unique— something I haven't had before.”

The New Guard

In a final world, she draws attention to sustainability and proposes the unorthodox (“unpopular,” she says) notion that, for environmental reasons, the whiskey community ease regulations prescribing charred new oak barrels for every batch of bourbon. She is among those who worry that “so many trees have to go into so many barrels” every year to keep up with demand.

“In the other multiverse where I’m an activist, I’m preserving the forests and our water supply by changing the laws. We can value the second-fill barrel as much as we value the first fill,” Ault insists. “I want to taste what it tastes like in a newly charred oak barrel. And then I want the second fill. And then move it over to a cabernet cask and see what happens.”

This echoes the spirit of a new, adventurous generation of distillers— some of whom now have zero-waste distilleries—intent on liberating tradition while respecting savoir faire. She expects the whiskey revolution to emanate from newcomers, distillers and master blenders who bring expertise.

“Creative, fun conversations about whiskey can only happen if we are good industry stewards, whether that means being sustainable or inviting people who have never made whiskey before,” Ault says. “Because we have to think about what the consumer wants next. It will come from the mind and voice of someone who’s not already doing it.”

As for Ault, she will continue to tell stories and share conversation around a spirit she and the new whiskey guard believe can be precious without being stuffy.

Whiskey Fortune-Telling

Ault shares her predictions and predilections.

What’s most exciting on the whiskey horizon?

“While I do look forward to creating a personal library of bourbon made in each of the 50 states, I am even more excited to see how distillers explore the terroir they choose and find ways of working with the environment to create delicious liquids.”

Will the craft whiskey scene continue to expand?

“It only makes sense that as laws around regulating alcohol creation and distribution start to ease, more places in the U.S. will be given their shot at creating spirits.”

What whiskey should we try?

“I just found a bottle of Starlight Distillery’s Tokaji-finished bourbon. It’s funky, which I’ve come to appreciate!”



Alumni share their favorite books they read in classes at UH.

“The Odyssey,” Homer (Zayd Latheef, ’23)

“Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace,” Gordon MacKenzie (Kristen Reeves, ’22)

“White Noise,” Don DeLillo (Matthew Cragg, ’21)

“Ceremony,” Leslie Marmon Silko (Ersie-Anastasia Gentzis, ’20)

“Night,” Elie Wiesel (Rebeca Trejo, ’14)

“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” Isabel Wilkerson (Konstantinos Vogiatzis, BBA ’20, MSACCY ’21)

“Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs,” Michael D. Coe, Javier Urcid and Rex Koontz (Celina Sandoval, ’10)

“The People Code: It’s All About Your Innate Motive,” Taylor Hartman (Anely Narvais, ’17)





Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson saw the potential for a historic rebound. He was right.


Kelvin Sampson arrived at the University of Houston in 2014 with a coaching resume that included 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, a Final Four berth and an AP National Coach of the Year award.

And he felt sure he could restore the moribund Cougars—whose men’s basketball program hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1984—to their former heights. He just needed to recruit some fans, of which there were scant few.

So, in Sampson’s early seasons, before home games, he would gather a couple of members from the school band and hit Cullen Boulevard. The bandies would play the fight song, and the coach would hand out pamphlets and cajole undergrads, professors, staff, whomever, to get over to Hofheinz Pavilion before tipoff.

“I would go disrupt the student center,” he says. “I’d go into classes. I’d walk around campus just begging people to come to the game.”

Given the feverish state of UH hoops of late, Sampson’s campus tours sound quaint. But back in the fall of 2014, no one could’ve known what lay ahead for the program: weeks of national No. 1 rankings, a Final Four run, NBA Draft picks, 232 wins over the next nine seasons and strings of sellout crowds who now enjoy a $60 million overhaul of their storied on-campus arena.

“I would go disrupt the student center. I’d go into classes. I’d walk around campus just begging people to come to the game.”
Coach Kelvin Sampson (center) with members of the Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band.

The revival of the basketball program has highlighted a resurgence for UH and its varsity sports—a run of success that will culminate in a leap to the Big 12 Conference beginning in the fall of 2023.

Nothing against the American Athletic Conference (AAC), where UH has competed since 2013—but the Big 12, by comparison, is stacked. The Cougars’ launch will mean fatter budgets, greater TV coverage, stronger competition and a higher profile across UH’s six varsity men’s and nine women’s sports.

By just one metric: As part of the AAC’s revenue distribution in 2021-22, UH received $8.52 million. In the same year, Big 12 member universities received $42.6 million apiece, a figure likely only to increase, especially once a $2.28 billion TV extension with ESPN and Fox takes effect in the 2025-26 season.

The conference upgrade amounts to the biggest boost in athletic stature for UH since 1971 when the (now defunct) Southwest Conference invited UH to join as its ninth member. Along with the University of Cincinnati, Brigham Young University and the University of Central Florida, UH earned an invitation to join the Big 12 in the summer of 2021, a few weeks after the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin announced they’d be decamping for the Southeastern Conference by the fall of 2024.

Getting UH literally into the same league as Texas was no short hop.

A decade ago, Sampson saw UH’s untapped potential and hitched his star to the University. He attributes his success since then to the willingness of UH to invest in the future and the consistency that he and his staff have built—in no small part because they are, both figuratively and literally, a family.

The Band’s Back Together

Kellen Sampson was confident he could recruit the city of Houston. During a season in Nacogdoches as an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, he had gotten to know the city’s high schools and youth leagues. When his father, Kelvin, called him up in early 2014 to talk about possible coaching jobs, the men had plenty of options—and maybe a chip on their shoulders.

After head coaching stints at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana, Kelvin was working as an assistant coach with the Rockets. He deeply wanted another crack at college coaching after waiting out a fiveyear administrative penalty from the NCAA stemming from recruiting violations at Indiana. Kellen, who played guard for his dad at Oklahoma and was on his staff at Indiana, had been fired after a humbling run as the assistant coach at Appalachian State.

Kellen and Kelvin Sampson at the University of Oklahoma.

A chance to rejoin his father, return to familiar recruiting territory and build a program almost from the ground up was tantalizing. The decisive factor was the city itself. The fourth-biggest city in America was, in Kellen’s read, a place that produced excellent players who preferred to stay close to home, if possible.

“I was honest,” Kellen says now. “I said, ‘That’s a really good job. We could get that thing turned around pretty quick.’ There’s so many good players here within a 20- to 30-mile radius. Native Houstonians like Houston. They like the weather. They like the diversity. They like the different pockets of life and action. They just need a reason to come.”

Kelvin accepted the job and brought with him a staff ready to put down roots.

From the first group the coach brought in 2014, assistant coaches Hollis Price and Kellen Sampson, along with trainer John Houston and special assistant K.C. Beard, have been steady on the sideline for nine years and counting. The associate head coach, Quannas White, played for Kelvin at Oklahoma and arrived at UH in 2017. Lauren Sampson, Kellen’s sister, joined the program in 2016 as director for external operations.

The head coach makes a point of building a staff with deep ties. “I saw Houston as an opportunity,” Kelvin says, “to kind of get the band back together again.”

From the Ground Up

The coaches’ first question was how to make UH a local talent destination.

Between 1982 and 1984, Coach Guy V. Lewis, guard Clyde Drexler and center Hakeem Olajuwon led UH to three straight Final Fours. Olajuwon declared himself eligible for the 1984 NBA Draft in part because he hoped to stay in Houston, and, indeed,

“Native Houstonians like Houston. They like the weather. They like the diversity. They like the different pockets of life and action. They just need a reason to come.”
Coach Sampson with his 2014-15 coaching staff. Together, they reclaimed the Cougar legacy of basketball excellence.


The Big 12 Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Texas, UCF, UH, West Virginia. (Texas and Oklahoma will head to the Southeastern Conference in 2024.)

Old Rivals

UH’s move from the AAC to the Big 12 will revive some choice historical rivalries from the Southwest Conference (active 197296), with Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech and Texas, whom the Cougars will host on Oct. 21 for the first time since 2001.


With 17 total national titles, UH ranks sixth among the 12 universities that will compose the conference after this season.

Strong Suits

Recent national titles include:

➤ Men’s Golf (Oklahoma State, 2018)

➤ Women’s Basketball (Baylor, 2019)

➤ Men’s Outdoor Track & Field (Texas Tech, 2019)

➤ Men’s Basketball (Baylor, 2021; Kansas, 2022)

the Rockets picked him first overall and won two titles with him at center—the second with Drexler at his side.

The legend of the “Phi Slama Jama” teams thus stretched across two decades of basketball in the city, and Lewis, Drexler and Olajuwon all went on to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

UH fell on leaner times in the years after Olajuwon and Drexler went pro. Between the 1984 National Championship Game and Kelvin Sampson’s hire in the spring of 2014, the program had just an 0-4 record in the NCAA Tournament.

But the Sampsons could see that the University was positioned for, well, a rebound. Wider improvements during the tenure of Renu Khator, UH’s president since 2008, made the University an attractive landing spot for a sought-after coach—as well as an attractive Big 12 applicant.

Under Khator’s watch, UH moved up to a top-tier research university in the Carnegie classification, established the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine, built the UH Technology Bridge research park and a slew of new student housing, and raised $1.2 billion in the “Here, We Go” capital campaign.

In athletics during the past decade, UH opened the $128 million TDECU

football stadium, built the Guy V. Lewis Development Facility for the men’s and women’s basketball programs, completed a 100,000-square foot indoor football practice facility and tricked out its baseball facilities.

Historically strong seasons for the two biggest revenue sports—football and men’s hoops—followed. A decade that produced five top-25 finishes by the football team and six by the men’s basketball team raised the Cougars’ visibility.

The backdrop of fundraising, capital improvements and sustained attention by University leaders—including the UH System Board of Regents and successive athletic directors Mack Rhoades, Hunter Yuracheck and Chris Pezman— made it possible to build nationally competitive programs. Also key was the support of Tilman Fertitta, the Rockets owner and entertainment magnate who serves as the chair of the board and who

UH basketball in the 1980s was the era of the legendary "Phi Slama Jama" teams. Left: Guard Clyde Drexler. Right: Center Hakeeem Olajuwon.

put $20 million toward the basketball arena renovation.

“Coaches and players win games, but administrators win championships,” Kelvin says. “Hunter and Mack found a way to get that money to build that practice facility. Hunter, President Khator and Tilman Fertitta found a way to get the arena renovations started. And then the timing was good, because we started winning.”


Wishing to Winning

Winning, ultimately, is what answered the question of what would make UH hoops a destination again. But in the early going, it took a couple of leaps of faith from local talent.

The first was a commitment by Galen Robinson Jr., out of Westbury Christian in southwest Houston, a 20-minute drive from campus.

Named the city’s top high school player in 2015 (that’s the Guy V. Lewis Award, if you’re sensing a theme), the 6-foot-1 guard wasn’t merely one of the best players in the state. He was the son of Galen Robinson, who scored more than 1,100 points for the Cougars in the 1990s. And he was a wellknown, popular player.

“He made it cool for a Houston kid to stay home,” Kellen Sampson says. “He gave us a North Star— somebody we could point to and say, ‘Hey, Galen did it.’ Today, we call him the Godfather.”

More top talent followed. Damyean Dotson, a guard out of Houston’s Jack Yates High School, transferred from Oregon for his junior and senior seasons—and wound up getting picked in the Second Round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks.

Rob Gray, a guard who transferred from a junior college in Big Spring, Texas, developed into one of the top shooting guards in the country and hit the layup with 1.1 seconds remaining against San Diego State in 2018 that advanced the Cougars out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1980s.

The heights the program has hit since then just keep escalating. The Cougars opened the new Fertitta Center in December of 2018 with a win over the No. 18 Oregon Ducks. They went to the Sweet 16 that following March, and in the next NCAA Tournament, held in 2021, they advanced to their sixth Final Four in program history.

The timing couldn’t have been any better to make a final impression on the Big 12. Now, after six straight seasons of finishing first or second in the AAC, what comes next amounts to a challenge the likes of which UH hasn’t experienced in years.

“A little scary, but also exciting,” Kellen says. “Are we good enough? What do we need to do to get good enough? There are questions we’re asking ourselves that we haven’t asked ourselves in five years. Because the answer was, ‘Yes.’”

Inaugural game at the Fertitta Center in December 2018 against the No. 18 Oregon Ducks.
“A little scary, but also exciting. Are we good enough? What do we need to do to get good enough? There are questions we’re asking ourselves that we haven’t asked ourselves in five years.”

A Family Affair

The night before the first Cougars home game this fall, the Sampsons will do what they’ve done before every home game Kelvin has coached since 1987.

He and his wife, Karen, will have the players and coaches over to their house. Their dog will bark at the freshmen until they get used to them; Karen will bake cookies. And as a team, everyone will break down film at the family home and go over assignments for the next day’s game.

The head coach will tell his players they’re part of a family. That’s an arrangement that comes with a lot of accountability.

But it also comes with a great deal of warmth—and the heat that fuels the Cougars these days.

“It doesn’t matter who we play—when we walk onto that court at the Fertitta Center, that place is electric. You can hold up an old matchstick and light it in there,” Kelvin says. “We’ve gone from, ‘We can’t get anybody to come to our games’ to now, our fans are disappointed if we’re not in the Final Four every year. That means two things. One, we’ve lost our sense of reality. The other side of that is our fans are excited about this program and they have high expectations. And that’s exactly where you want it.”

From top left, clockwise: Tonya, Kellen, Karen, Kelvin, Kylen, Lauren and Maisy Sampson at the 2023 NCAA Tournament; UH team in China in 2015; the Sampsons at the Final Four in 2021; players at Coach Sampson’s home.

Most Memorable Victories in UH Sports History

➤ No. 5. Al Lawrence wins the NCAA cross country championship as he leads the Cougars to their first team national title. (1960)

➤ No. 4. The men’s golf team shoots a 291 to win its second straight—and 16th overall—NCAA championship, a total that remains the most of any men’s golf program in the country. (1985)

➤ No. 3. Quarterback Andre Ware wins the Heisman Trophy as the top player in college football after a record-breaking junior season. (1989)

➤ No. 2. Track phenom Carl Lewis, a six-time All-American during his two years at UH, wins four individual medals in the Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. (1984)

➤ No. 1. Eventual top overall NBA draft pick Elvin Hayes leads the No. 2 Cougars to a 71-68 upset of Lew Alcindor and the No. 1 UCLA Bruins—arguably the top college player ever, on the greatest college dynasty of all time. The so-called Game of the Century, held in front of 52,000 fans at the Houston Astrodome, snapped a 47-game win streak for UCLA and was the first NCAA regularseason game ever broadcast on live TV. (1968)

UH Tennis: A Global Racket

The most eclectic program among UH’s varsity sports may well be the tennis program. There, head coach Helena Besovic (of Sarajevo, Bosnia) and assistant coach Giorgia Pozzan (of Milan, Italy) have assembled a roster of 10 athletes, each from a different country.

Represented on the 2022-23 roster were Argentina, Bolivia, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Latvia, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and Ukraine. Oh, and New Jersey, which, while not its own country per se, can feel like a land quite foreign from Texas.

As a young teen, Besovic moved from war torn Sarajevo to Barcelona, Spain, where she studied and played youth tennis; later, she earned her Ph.D. in Spanish literature at the University of Missouri. At UH, she also teaches Spanish, one avenue Besovic says helps her understand her athletes’ varied cultures. The team travels to away matches by van, and they get to know one another in part by rotating who controls the playlist along the way.

The city of Houston is a key to her recruiting abroad. It has a worldwide reputation, tennis-friendly weather and a huge international airport. But Besovic says the jump to the Big 12 will help her fill a conspicuous absence on her roster: that of Texas talent.

Playing in one of the top conferences in the country will help players achieve and keep top rankings.

“I’m really hoping we’ll be able to attract more of the local kids,” Besovic says. “Once we join the Big 12, kids will know if they come to the University of Houston, they’ll be able to compete against some of the best universities in the country.”


The Great Energy Transfer

The University of Houston is leading the charge toward a new energy era.


Two years ago, Texas’ failing electrical grid became a global sensation, and the state was thrust into the spotlight of the developing energy crisis conversation. This past year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine again brought the push for alternative sources with a renewed sense of urgency to the top of agendas as oil became scarce.

Moving the energy industry into the future will require a deep investment not only in developing new and greener technology and infrastructure but also in a dynamic and motivated new workforce. This core concept forms the foundation of the UH energy initiative. It was with this common objective in mind that the University of Houston, Shell USA Inc. and Shell Global Solutions (US) Inc. began discussions about how to usher in a new energy era.

“What they were looking at was what really is important for both entities going forward,” says Joe Powell, Shell’s former chief scientist and chemical engineer. “And what type of collaboration could help achieve some of these very significant societal goals— which involve decarbonization and a move to the circular economy—but then also the problem of workforce development and how we excite students to choose careers in energy.”

In 2022, the two entities came together to open the Energy Transition Institute at UH, with Powell nabbed as its founding executive director. The institute will lean on a $10 million initial donation from Shell and a total of at least $52 million overall in contributions. Through a just and equity-driven pathway, the institute will focus on the production and use of reliable, affordable and cleaner energy.

“Energy is the lifeline of the world's economy—in order to improve human development, you need to have access to affordable, reliable energy.”

“Energy is the lifeline of the world’s economy—in order to improve human development, you need to have access to affordable, reliable energy,” says Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH. He sees the institute playing a pivotal role in a societal reckoning about the impact of climate change. “We’re thinking about the global challenge of improving quality of life for the 11 billion people who will be on the planet by 2100.”

Taking Shape

The institute will focus on four key workstreams.

First, it will recruit expert faculty to collaborate with researchers across UH as they dive into the energy transition.

Second, it will seek to impact policymakers through education and public-private partnerships. A new UH Energy Transition Index will track the industry’s progress. Recruitment of policyminded faculty will assist in the efforts. “There’s a lot of headline debate about

who’s responsible for global warming and what the solution should look like,” says Powell. “What we want to be at the University of Houston is a trusted voice in the conversation to really show some of the complexity and trade-offs.”

Third, as the institute looks to become the global academic leader of the energy transition, it will keep equity at its core, informing policies that address our most pressing challenges to provide secure, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for all. As one of the most diverse public research universities in the country, it will seek to combat issues in all communities, from the disproportionate environmental health risks that hit lowincome communities to the burdens of energy infrastructure and affordability.

Efforts will include developing relationships with other universities and institutions that serve communities impacted by these inequities and collaborating with grassroots organizations to research and address environmental justice initiatives and energy equity.

Finally, the institute will emphasize workforce and talent development by

helping the current workforce better understand topics on sustainability, facilitating opportunities with Shell and other partners and integrating experts from Shell into UH experiential learning programs.

“We’re really here to empower the various schools and departments within the University of Houston by having a magnet to expand both the research dimension in this space of energy and circularity but also in the workforce development and student training aspects,” Powell says.

“We’re looking to have Houston as a center of innovation similar to what you see in Silicon Valley and in Boston for medicine.”

As the institute takes shape, it will focus research efforts on three key areas, cementing its reputation as the “Energy University:” hydrogen, carbon management and circular plastics. The institute will work closely with UH’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise Data Science Institute. “Data science will be driving a lot of new innovation and ways of working in the new energy and circularity economy,” Powell says.

Energy Transition Institute Founding Executive Director Joe Powell
Vice President of Energy and Innovation Ramanan Krishnamoorti

Hydrogen Energy Production Process

How it’s generated:

Hydrogen is produced through various resources, including natural gas, nuclear power, biomass and renewables such as solar and wind.

How it’s harnessed:

Hydrogen is separated from other molecules and transformed to create fuel through one of four processes: thermochemical, electrolytic, direct solar water splitting and biological.

Harnessing Hydrogen

Some see hydrogen as a top candidate for the future of clean energy, but squeezing out the full potential of the most abundant element in the universe will take much more research and development. With the Energy Transition Institute, the University of Houston is taking a step to lead the vector into the future.

Proponents of hydrogen point to its capacity to fuel cars and heat homes while reducing carbon emissions. The institute’s efforts will focus on industrial, storage and transportation capabilities. Powell sees hydrogen powering heavy-duty transportation, improving air quality by pumping trucks with hydrogen made from clean energy sources. “You can think of it as the diesel fuel of the future,” he says.

One of the biggest challenges to the continued growth of wind and solar is the disparity in its availability—across regions and countries. Hydrogen, again, can help. Hydrogen can be transported through gas pipelines or in liquid form via ships, making it a leading option to store and transfer renewables.

Powell says he’s already been working with regions and countries with abundant wind and solar opportunities. He sees South America, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand as leaders. “Essentially, bringing in the energy from regions of the

world that have the most intense and durable wind and solar, and distributing it to areas that don’t have quite as good local resource access,” he says.

Of course, there’s value in transferring energy via hydrogen even before the global renewable energy infrastructure reaches maturity. Had the technology been available and policy interests aligned, the U.S. and other allies could’ve easily shipped energy reserves last year when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused an energy crisis throughout Europe.

As the institute gets its footing, it won’t be the only hydrogenfocused entity in the city. In 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law earmarked $7 billion to create six to 10 clean hydrogen hubs nationwide. UH is the lead academic partner on a proposal, the Leading in Gulf Coast Hydrogen Transition (LIGH2T) Hub, in partnership with the Southern States Energy Board and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, as well as other organizations. Of the 79 applicants across the country, LIGH2T was one of just 33 projects encouraged to move forward with a full application. Already, the Texas Gulf Coast region produces about a third of the hydrogen used in the U.S., according to Houston Public Media.

“When you think about hydrogen, two-thirds of all the hydrogen pipelines, 95% of the hydrogen infrastructure is here in


How it’s stored:

Hydrogen is stored as a gas or a liquid, making it a leading clean energy candidate, as it can be transported and distributed via pipelines or ships.

How it’s used:

Hydrogen is used to generate power and heat while reducing carbon emissions. UH’s Energy Transition Institute will focus on its industrial, storage and transportation capabilities.

the greater Houston region,” Krishnamoorti says. “If we want to take that next huge leap and start to integrate both incumbent and new technologies, this is where we’ve got the infrastructure in place.”

Carbon, Plastics and Beyond

For all the discussion over the past two decades around plastics, we recycle only about 8% of all plastic waste today. Meanwhile, 4% leaks back into the environment, damaging wildlife ecosystems.

“The question is,” Powell says, “how do you reengineer that economy so that there are incentives to be recycling material and not have it lost as waste that falls outside of the system?”

If there’s a place tailor-made to tackle the problem, it’s Houston. No city in the world has a larger concentration of petrochemical manufacturing facilities. But the challenge is a stout one; while some plastics can be mechanically recycled, others need to go through a chemical conversion process— requiring significant energy as they’re broken down into new materials and made ready for reconstruction. Hence, the institute’s central theme around creating a cleaner and more efficient system of collection, sourcing and sorting.

Over time, Powell envisions a complete transformation of the plastics life cycle. Today, the products are largely made from

crude oil and, for the most part, thrown into landfills at the end of their life. In the future, we’ll have “complex multicomponent recycle streams” that reuse the waste material, incorporating clean energy and human-made approaches, like direct air capture of carbon dioxide to curb greenhouse gases. “That’s a very exciting area,” Powell says. “It’s a little bit less developed in terms of having integrated solutions laid out.” That just means there’s opportunity for leadership.

Whether focusing on circular plastics, decarbonization or advancing hydrogen initiatives, the institute will look to keep the state at the center of conversation on the future of energy and climate change. Since the failure of the state’s electrical grid two years ago, the headlines and social media images here haven’t always been flattering.

But for all its imperfections, Texas has something other regions do not: a global voice. “How do we keep Houston’s ecosystem and Texas’ ecosystem at the forefront of transforming the world?” asks Krishnamoorti. “We’ve been seen as the energy leaders. We’ve not necessarily been seen as the sustainable energy leaders.”

With the help of the Energy Transition Institute, that could change.

3 4

It Doesn’t End at the Border

University of Houston professors aim to transform immigration policy and advance migrant health research at the Texas-Mexico border.

In early March 2020, law professor Parker Sheffy was traveling back to the University of Houston from Matamoros, Mexico, when he learned that the world was shutting down.

“I was getting push notifications about everything from the rodeo to the NBA being canceled,” he recalls.

Sheffy and his colleagues from the University of Houston Law Center’s Immigration Clinic were already dealing with a challenging situation: For the past year, the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy had required asylum seekers to await their court dates in Mexico, leaving thousands of migrants waiting in makeshift tent encampments along the border, with little access to legal aid.

As a top-tier research institution in Texas, just a few hours north of the border, the University of Houston has many professors and researchers equally committed to unveiling and, ultimately, alleviating the many challenges migrants face in the historic situation at the Texas-Mexico border.

As part of the University’s multidimensional efforts at the

border, three UH professors have spent their careers focusing on legal representation, mental health and a holistic approach to immigration policy reform.

Houston and the Border

The work of immigration lawyers is often at the mercy of changing policies, as well as changes in migration patterns due to geopolitical crises, natural disasters and, most recently, a global pandemic.

Sheffy and his colleagues at the Immigration Clinic work with students to adapt to the changing needs of their clients, whose cases are part of a mounting backlog.

The clinic provides pro bono legal representation, specializing in representing asylum applicants; immigrants who have been the victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and crime; children; and those fleeing civil war, genocide or political repression.

Over the past decade, the number of pending asylum cases has grown from over 100,000 in 2012 to more than 800,000


at the beginning of 2023. The backlog was compounded by the implementation of Title 42, a public health regulation that went into effect in March 2020 and allowed immigration officials to turn away asylum seekers at the border. Since then, encounters between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and migrants and asylum seekers have been recorded at the highest level in two decades.

Jeronimo Cortina, an associate political science professor at UH, describes the current situation as “very dire,” noting that, even with the ending of Title 42—which effectively closed the U.S. border to almost all asylum seekers while it was in effect, until May 2023—the continuing increase in asylum seekers and migrant arrivals hasn’t corresponded with a significant change in immigration policy.

Cortina has provided commentary on border and national politics for media outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.

“If the policy is not responsive to what is happening at the border, then the policy—regardless of the administration—is going to fail,” Cortina says. “Immigration is not something that you can stop, it’s something that you have to manage.”

In Houston, where 1 in 4 individuals are foreign-born, the UH Immigration Clinic’s work is crucial, Sheffy says—in part because that proportion is only going to continue to grow. Each semester,

the clinic takes on between seven and 13 law students, all of whom are assigned anywhere from three to five cases. Because of the timeline of most asylum cases, students might inherit a case that the clinic has been working on for years. And while the clinic functions as a nonprofit, its structure also allows students and faculty to take on more complex cases than a traditional nonprofit might.

“For most nonprofits, the objective is to provide as much representation as possible,” Sheffy says. “Therefore, the complexity of the cases isn’t necessarily the priority. Because we don’t have those same constraints, and because we’re a teaching institution, we’re able to accept more complex cases.”

Sheffy and his colleagues have provided representation before the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and even the Supreme Court.

Migration and Mental Health

The Immigration Clinic collaborates closely with UH faculty across other disciplines. Starting in 2013, when the clinic began taking on an increasing number of cases involving unaccompanied minors at the border, Jodi Berger Cardoso, an associate professor of social work at UH, worked with them to provide mental health evaluations.

“Because so many asylum seekers experience extreme trauma, we do a forensic health evaluation,” Cardoso explains. “As a result of that trauma, it makes it very difficult for them to recall their story, which is often the only thing that they have, because there’s no paper evidence; they’re fleeing their country.”

These in-depth assessments were critical to building cases for those children and also laid the groundwork for Cardoso’s interest in studying the effects of family separation. “At the time, there weren’t a lot of people interested in immigration-related trauma,” she says.

Cardoso first became interested in the subject when she was in the Peace Corps. Before she was a trained social worker, her time as a volunteer in Ecuador positioned her in a community that was deeply affected by migration. Many of the parents in the town had left to the U.S. or Spain to provide for their children, who were left behind with grandparents or siblings.

After returning to the U.S. for her master’s in social work, Cardoso noticed similarities between the children she met in Ecuador and the children she was working with in clinical settings who had also experienced family separation.

“I saw kids demonstrating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder and depression,” she recalls. “That was the beginning of my interest in migrationrelated factors that contribute to mental health in children; most of my career has focused on them.”

Since then, Cardoso has worked closely with her clinical students in UH’s Graduate College of Social Work to identify the specific circumstances these children face, training them to rethink their treatment methods in response to those challenges.

“There are unique stressors that impact immigrant children and their families,” Cardoso says. “How I’ve helped train social workers is to identify those factors and consider how we can think


about our intervention and prevention processes in a culturally attuned way.”

For decades, it has been common for many immigrant children to experience a separation from one or both of their parents in the process of migrating. In some cases, the separation is a result of the parent or parents migrating ahead of their children. In others, it’s a result of immigration policy.

“Family separation is typically not one discrete event; it’s a series of multiple separations across different developmental periods for children,” Cardoso says. “I think that is a big deal.

“Kids have ongoing separations from multiple caregivers. Sometimes they reunify with some caregivers, and sometimes they never see others again. What we know about trauma is that it’s cumulative, and the kind of trauma that you experience matters. So the longer children are separated from their caregivers, the more difficult the impact is.”

There currently are no accepted interventions that specifically target the circumstances families are facing— something Cardoso and her colleagues are working to address.

“We’re really starting to think about how we can build an intervention from the bottom up that will address some of the attachment distress that results in many children due to multiple separations,” she says. “I have been identifying this problem for the last 10 years, and there are a whole host of unique challenges that aren’t characteristic of existing interventions.”

Repercussions Past the Border

Cortina says that while attitudes toward immigration have varied over time, conversations about policy should take a holistic view of the issue.

“You can’t just have one side of the equation when you’re thinking about family separation and immigration,” Cortina says. “You have to take into account the push and pull factors. The push factors are going to be, for example, violence, lack of economic growth, insecurity, etc. And the pull factors are going to be the need for migrants to be incorporated into the labor market.”

Regardless of the cause, Cardoso makes one thing clear: “Family separation, especially when forced, can create toxic stress in kids. I hold that very strongly. The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly articulates that forced family separation or any kind of family separation has adverse effects on children’s development.”

Over at UH’s Family Studies Lab, director Amanda Venta is utilizing her background in clinical psychology to better understand how family separation affects the physical and mental health of immigrant children and their parents.

For 12 years, Venta has worked with children and families affected by migrationrelated separation. In that time, she and her colleagues have observed levels of trauma

“We’re really starting to think about how we can build an intervention from the bottom up that will address some of the attachment distress that results in many children due to multiple separations.”

exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder that vastly exceeded the rates observed in youth across the U.S.

“The average level of PTSD symptoms among the kids we’ve seen exceeds the clinical cutoff,” she says. “Their score is higher than what’s [classified] in the published literature as really significant PTSD.”

Venta has observed that these symptoms don’t just end after reunification.

“Being undocumented in a family that is of mixed status, living in a community where you experience discrimination, living in a country where you experience xenophobic attitudes—all of that continues to expose kids and their families to trauma,” she says. “That is going to have serious consequences for their health.”

In December 2022, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities awarded Venta a $1.5 million grant to better understand the toll migration can take on the body, in what will be a first-of-its-kind study. Venta and a team of researchers from UH, Rice University, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Northwestern University will begin collecting data this summer.

The study will be an international effort, with the team interviewing 400 adults in Texas and Mexico, whom they will follow for a year as they go through the process of seeking asylum, using connections in the community, “so that people who are going through one of the most difficult moments in their lives will open their hearts and take the time to talk with us,” Venta says—“in a way that will hopefully revolutionize immigration policy and science regarding immigrant health.”

New Insights

By collecting blood from participants in addition to interviewing them, Venta and her colleagues hope to answer questions that haven’t yet been studied in immigrant communities.

“What we suspect is that these experiences of serious and chronic stress lead to an inflammatory state in the body,” she says. “If inflammation is elevated, then the individual will be at higher risk for a variety of physical and mental health conditions.”

In recent years, Venta says she’s seen higher levels of PTSD, health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia due to extreme weather conditions and infectious diseases that are difficult to avoid in the tent encampments. Immigration policies pushing asylum seekers into Mexico have also exposed them to the threat of kidnapping, extortion and violence as they awaited their hearings.

“One of my collaborators in South Texas, Alfonso Mercado [associate professor of psychiatry at UTRGV], has been doing pilot work with these families, conducting interviews in the tent encampments, and hearing stories from parents whose kids suffered sexual abuse living in the camp,” Venta says.

“There have been major weather events—hurricanes and winter storms—and these families have had to weather those events in an informal encampment. What we’re seeing is that, in a way that wasn’t true previously, trauma exposure is now embedded into our U.S. policy.”

A Complete Picture

Ultimately, the researchers in each field are working toward a shared goal: to create a more complete, more accurate picture of what really occurs when people migrate to the U.S.—and how that affects them and the population more broadly.

Venta, whose work aims to recontextualize the trauma immigrants face in their journeys not as an immigration issue but as a health problem, hopes they can put all that data “to one significant take-home message.”

The trauma embedded in the system is negatively affecting the health of people who will ultimately be living and working in our communities,” Venta says. “Ultimately, I think policy needs to reflect that immigrants are an integral part of the U.S. workforce and of the fabric of our nation. Their health should matter to all of us.”

“People who are going through one of the most difficult moments in their lives will open their hearts and take the time to talk with us—in a way that will hopefully revolutionize immigration policy and science regarding immigrant health.”
Many immigrant children experience family separations forced by immigration policy. Researchers at UH are studying the adverse impacts of this.


Students and alumni reminisce on the best of campus life.

“The tables on the second floor of the library overlooking the atrium. It’s a great place to meet friends, study for a class and have some laughs in between.”

“Watching the sunset from the Lofts.”

– Christine Vo, ʼ17

“RA training before move-in, late-night food trucks, hanging and studying with my friends in the library.”

– Fatou Jallow, ʼ19

– Jeremy Yarbrough, ʼ23

“Participating in the Holi festival at Lynn Eusan Park.”

– Kevin Kao, ʼ14

“The William R. Jenkins Architecture, Design, & Art Library!”

– Gerald Sastra, ʼ24

“My first football game as a member of the Spirit of Houston!”

– Kayla Huhn, ʼ24

“Hanging out by the fountains by the education building with friends.”

– Jairo Razo, ʼ14




Where Would We Be Without Nurses?

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public started hearing about the sacred moments that have always been a part of the nursing profession. Many of these moments were heartbreaking; others were uplifting.

For instance, there were the times we held iPads in front of our patients so they could say goodbye to their families. Then there were the births: Amid the chaos of a global crisis, we helped bring new life to our world.

As nurses, we take these moments incredibly seriously. And as a nursing leader, it’s part of my job to help prepare nurses for every sacred professional moment they will encounter.

Nursing leaders like myself and my colleagues at the University of Houston must be champions for our nurses. And right now, our state’s nurses need champions more than ever before.

The Nursing Shortage

At some point over the past several years, you’ve likely heard of the ongoing nursing shortage affecting hospitals and clinics across the country.

Recently, nearly 100,000 nurses left the workforce due to pandemic stress, and almost 800,000 nurses intend to leave by 2027, according to a 2022 survey by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. However, UH students are bravely countering that trend. Enrollment has increased by 141% since 2018, and program leadership is deeply committed to both our students and the statewide pipeline of nurses.

Our incredible faculty are always thinking about the future of our profession and the health care industry at large, and in order to keep our students happy, healthy and prepared for long-term careers, we’re addressing this nursing shortage on multiple fronts.

Taking Action

In the early days of my career, it took me well over an hour to shop for a few groceries. I was a nurse, and it seemed like I couldn’t go to the store without running into former patients, their families and other members of the community.

Unfortunately, many nurses now live in fear when running errands or traveling throughout their own communities. There’s been a link between misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and an increase in violence at hospitals, and many of our colleagues take long, circuitous routes home to avoid being followed. Some of our fellow nurses have been attacked or even killed at work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social service workers are five times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall, and 1 in 4 nurses reported being physically assaulted in a 2019 American Nurses Association survey.

This is why my UH colleagues have joined other nursing leaders and state lawmakers to draft and file an important new law. I’m happy to say that Senate Bill 240 has passed, giving nurses a more active role in the now-mandatory development of robust violence prevention programs in their hospitals.

Our nurses need this protection, and our university is ready to do everything we can to help them get it.

Kathryn Tart, founding dean of the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing, tackles the ongoing nursing shortage.

Prioritizing Wellness

Students’ first lecture at the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing is about wellness. It focuses on taking care of yourself as a nurse, covering topics including time and stress management, self-care, diet and exercise. It sends a vital message to our students: We care about you outside the hospital, too.

Though the course was part of our curriculum before the pandemic, we’ve since doubled down on this investment in our students. Just as we equip our future nurses with the technical knowledge they need to excel, we must also provide tools they need to build healthy lifestyles.

We also prioritize mentorship, connecting students with talented teachers and veteran nurses who model the kinds of healthy behaviors crucial to longevity and resilience in health care. I’m immensely proud of a lot of things we do at the Gessner College of Nursing, but our focus on wellness may be our “secret sauce.”

Furthering the Industry

Many of our students have a job offer in hand well before they graduate. In 2021,

every student who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing was employed upon graduation, and in 2022, 99% were employed—the only exception being a student who was expecting a baby.

After they walk across that stage, they graduate with one of the highest incomes and the lowest debt relative to others in their profession. While these facts will always bring us joy, we’re not stopping there; we want to strengthen the nursing pipeline across the state of Texas.

That’s why I meet and strategize with my fellow university deans across the state multiple times a year—and we’ve already achieved great success.

Research shows that the higher a nurse’s level of education, the better the patient outcome, including fewer deaths, infections and falls and shorter lengths of stay. We set out in 2020 to raise the percentage of nurses with bachelor’s degrees in the nation to 80%, and we have so far in Texas raised it from approximately 42% to 64%. Universities and community colleges across the state are continuing to work hard to meet our goal of 80%.

We’re focused on removing every possible barrier standing between nurses and the careers they want through a collaborative, strategic approach. This takes many forms, including advocating for nurses at the highest levels of state government; investing in grants, scholarships and other valuable subsidies for our students; and encouraging young men and women who are brilliant and caring to join this noble profession that will give them a good salary and a lifetime of making a difference in patients’ lives. We want to make sure our nurses mirror the population we serve.

Caring for the Carers

We know this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; sometimes, money isn’t the sole barrier. But by getting to know our students as mentees, we develop lifelong relationships that endure every season of their careers. When a UH grad needs someone to turn to, we’re there.

Think about it: Everyone, at some point, will receive care from a nurse. They’re often one of the first people we see when we enter the world, and one of the last people who tend to us in our final moments.

If nurses are caring for people through every chapter of life, then it’s only right that we do everything we can to support them in every chapter of theirs. That’s why we’re leaving no stone unturned as we look out for the caretakers who bring so much comfort, peace and expertise to our communities and our loved ones: so we can ensure our patients have the best support possible for all the sacred moments to come.

The UH Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing has been active in drafting legislation that gives nurses a more active role in their safety.
Kathryn Tart, Ed.D., MSN, RN, is founding dean of the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing. Her master’s degree in nursing concentrates on her clinical background in medical-surgical nursing with a focus in cardiac care. A UH alumna herself, she earned her doctorate at the UH College of Education.

Tip Your Robot

Meet Servi, the robot waiter that might be the first wave in an increasingly tech-driven dining experience.

Every year, we take students from the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership to the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. We pay attention to everything, but we ask them to take a particular interest in restaurant tech. Last year, a robot named Servi stole the show.

A year later, we have our very own Servi maneuvering through the aisles between tables at Eric’s Restaurant, a dining option at the University of Houston’s on-campus Hilton Hotel, to deliver hot food to delighted diners.

It works like this: The expeditor—restaurant lingo for the person who takes food off the counter after the chef readies and releases it— places dishes on the robot and types in the table number. Servi takes off through the restaurant, stopping for traffic as it goes, offering a polite “excuse me” here or there, and eventually meets a waiting

server at its final destination. The server takes the food off the robot and presents it to the table. Servi is good for 12 hours on a four-hour charge and, so far, has yet to call in sick.

Supplementing Staff

The reaction has been astonishing. Not only is it written on customers’ faces, but it’s also apparent in the books—sales for the year are up. People want to sit down at the restaurant with the robot.

A question I’ve been getting a lot: So, you’re cutting back on labor? Well, no.

Folks in the restaurant business know all too well how difficult it is in our current market to hire good workers. The industry has been operating understaffed since before the pandemic, which, of course, accelerated the challenges. If we can make smart use of technology to lighten the load on our overburdened staff, we should.

That’s what the hospitality robot does. It supplements our labor force so they can focus on the more important aspects of their job, like serving customers and creating an enjoyable experience. They now spend more time in the dining room, where they’re more valuable. Their reaction, too, has been overwhelmingly positive. I thought some staff might be reticent, but they dove right in.

Robot service has been around for several years, but only recently has its cost fallen in line with its value. Now that we’ve reached this point, I’d expect to see more machines gradually sprouting up at restaurants. Ours happened to be perfect as an early adopter; we don’t have bumps in our flooring or steps up or down, and we rarely change our table arrangement—all variables that can give Servi fits.


Restaurant Robots’ Future

Some people in the industry have pointed out that this is a people business, one in which you can’t replace the human touch. And I don’t disagree. But I think we must augment our teams to provide the greatest level of service. If we learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that we can’t just keep doing things the same way and expect different outcomes.

It’s all the more important that we’ve invested in Servi here on campus. At Hilton College, part of our mission is to introduce students to the future of hospitality. They get to see and work with it but also actively engage with research around how customers respond. There is no question the future will include dynamic changes driven by technology. The robot-aided kitchen is coming. We’ve already seen robot burger flippers, complete with a temperature probe for perfect timing.

I would envision that our deployment of Servi will evolve and that we’ll eventually invest in more of the machines. We’re hoping to introduce it next to the ballroom, where it can swerve through guests, occasionally stopping for folks to grab an hors d’oeuvre.

The company that makes Servi, Bear Robotics, says that in future iterations, Servi will be equipped to independently navigate the halls of the Hilton, the only internationally branded hotel in the world placed inside a university hospitality program. Servi will ride elevators to the correct floors by signaling them via Bluetooth. We’ve all had the experience of calling down to the front desk, asking for something simple like extra towels or toothpaste, and being told that the staff is incredibly busy and that they’ll get to you when they can.

They’re not lying—like restaurants, hotels are feeling the strain of being understaffed. However, hotels should be able to provide a greater level of attention and care for their guests, and robots could be the answer.

Even with that addition, we’re likely still scratching the surface of all the ways robotics could affect hospitality. I am excited for that future and thrilled to have Servi leading the way.

Dennis Reynolds is dean and Barron Hilton Distinguished Chair of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership. He has a B.S. in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from Golden Gate University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Hotel Administration from Cornell University.


Murder Most Cozy

UH lecturer Robert Cremins discusses our paradoxical appetite for murder mysteries—while devouring them nightly.

Who among us hasn’t binged a true crime podcast on a rainy road trip? Taken shelter in an Agatha Christie book with hot cocoa when it’s frozen outside, or shivered deliciously over a Stephen King in the summer, lost in suspense while your popsicle melts? Told ghost stories at slumber parties, your friends’ faces eerily backlit by flashlight so they look unrecognizable? Walked up to the haunted house? Or played Clue?


The strange juxtaposition of these experiences can be summed up succinctly by a streaming service category Robert Cremins came across while flipping to find his next show: Cozy Murders.

Cozy murders? The phrase—its wrongness, its aptness—stuck out to Cremins, an Irish writer and lecturer of 13 years at the University of Houston’s Honors College.

Abstractly, the phrase makes no sense, and yet we instinctively know what it means—know that feeling of peeking at the darkness from the safety of our bubble.

And while Cremins was looking for the next cozy murder to watch, he was far from alone. The murder mystery genre is back with a vengeance—and there are plenty of interpretations as to why. “Who brought the classic whodunnit back from the dead?” GameRant asks.

The Guardian calls it a “Killer Comeback,” Collider a “renaissance,” the Daily Beast “a sign of our times.”

All agree: Our appetite for murder is alive and well. What that says about us is open for interpretation. But the genre has always been a lodestone for playing out social anxieties, subverting norms and unraveling uncomfortable truths.

Coincidentally, maybe, we stand at the centennial of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction—a period that spanned the 1920s and 1930s, went from roaring to ravaged almost overnight and became defined as the interwar period between World Wars I and II. While Golden Age detective fiction may have tangled with the macabre, it is largely recognizable by one common trait: It is primarily, atmospherically, paradoxically, cozy.

Why would reading about death, particularly in a time haunted by it on such a vast scale, be comforting? And does this echo across the intervening century now, as we

emerge from three years of a global pandemic; watching a virus strike, seemingly at random, seemingly with no one to solve it; unable to say goodbyes; being locked inside and wishing we were somewhere else?

In fiction, the murderer has a motive. They are apprehended. Questions are answered. Life isn’t so simple. Whatever the reason, there’s no shortage of mysteries to enjoy this summer. Cremins recently hosted a discussion about the phenomenon at UH Honors College’s annual event The Great Conversation, an intimate, open-forum seminar held over dinner in April. We talked to him about the genre, its prevailing popularity and (of course) what he’s been watching.


My wife and I are empty nesters right now, and we’ve been watching murder mysteries at night. We enjoy them with a bit of ironic detachment. We gleefully ran through the British shows—“Inspector Morse,” “Inspector Lewis,” Inspector this and that—which all have the same 30 British actors. We had this running joke that if we ran out of things to watch, we could always fall back on “Midsomer Murders.” Then the pandemic happened—and suddenly we had burned through about 20 seasons of it. It was a comfort, an escape.

Although we were being a bit meta, watching these shows, I did become fascinated with the appeal of this genre. I once saw on one of the streaming services the category Cozy Murders. Two things struck me: Firstly, that’s a weird paradox, even an oxymoron. And second, I consume this like ice cream. So what is the appeal? Like any good professor, I started to over-intellectualize this.

What to Read



One thing that strikes me that people find so appealing about “cozy mystery” is that you take a step back. In the Golden Age, with [Agatha Christie’s beloved amateur spinster detective] Miss Marple, you’ve got a cozy, quaint setting where there would be little serious crime. When there is a crime, it’s a rupture in the social fabric. The detective solves it and reestablishes the status quo.

George Orwell helped define this in “Decline of the English Murder,” which crystallised after WWII. The twist, the interesting thing, is that now, good, old-fashioned murder has been brought back by popular shows that recapture this era. And it’s still puzzling why you’ve got this juxtaposition of “murder most foul” in a beautiful, quaint setting.


I taught an aesthetics class five years ago, and I set an assignment to connect a major idea from the class to a cultural product. Edmund Burke’s conception of the beautiful and the sublime was a popular choice. As consumers, we are drawn to the sublime— an aesthetic emotion Burke conceives as a fearful fascination with a vast, overwhelming force that could destroy us.

Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon is a sublime experience; you don’t want to get too close to the edge, but you’re drawn to it. Contemplating the ocean, outer space, looking into the abyss is the sublime. Looking at daisies, wildflowers, is beautiful; it’s small, delicate, fragile; we want to protect that. We’re drawn to both of those experiences.

Even better is watching other people do those things. This can explain the attraction to horror. Cozy mystery activates both of those aesthetic emotions, the sublime and the beautiful. This is what’s occurred to me; I don’t know if it’s deeply original, and I haven’t turned it into an essay, but I think it is a good theoretical framework.



I worked with a student, Naomi Zidon (’21), on her research as a Mellon Scholar at UH. She’s now doing an MFA in documentary filmmaking at Northwestern University. We’re proud of all our young alums, but she is a real rising star. I want to give her credit for helping to advance my thinking, because she gave a memorable presentation, for that aesthetics assignment, considering the true crime podcast phenomenon—this would have been around

the time the podcast “Serial” was a big deal—through the lens of Burke’s influential beautiful/sublime theory, and that was excellent. That was a really cool classroom experience.


In the cozy mystery, there’s only a limited amount of information: a few set characters, a few red herrings, the “tiny unforeseeable detail” Orwell writes of in “Decline of the English Murder.” All of that is going to synthesize into a solution. Today, there are so many things beyond our control. In the tsunami of information, very little of it resolves into truth, insight. I think in the past few years, we’ve given up the illusion of control. There’s also been a movement to recenter the victim. There’s a yearning there for justice.

We discussed some of these ideas at The Great Conversation too, which was a really wonderful experience. You’re always learning when you’re teaching or giving a talk. People were really responsive and really enriched my thinking, just like in


the classroom. One of the guests, Jodie Koszegi—a former assistant dean of the Honors College—was saying how it was interesting that the detectives in these cozy murders, if you go back to the Golden Age, are amateurs. They’re not from the police. They’re from the community, so it’s the community helping to restore the status quo.


I moved to Houston 30 years ago with my wife, then my fiancée, who is from here. We met in England, at the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program. Voltaire said “one must cultivate one’s own garden.” That is a return to the beautiful. Here in Texas, you’ve got limited options. One thing that really helped people in Britain and Ireland during the pandemic was the idyllic weather, and a lot of people rediscovered their gardens—literally. I rediscovered mine as well, until the summer kicked in. But I do try to cultivate my little corner of Houston. There are beautiful places in Houston—but you have to drive to them. Once you know Houston, you can navigate to them.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What to Watch

“Inspector Morse:” This is the starting point for murder mystery TV. And you can’t go wrong with the setting in Oxford.

“Granchester:” You’ve got the best of both worlds: a Miss Marple England—the idyllic English village, the vicar, the thatched roofs—plus the collegiate setting, as it’s only a mile from Cambridge.

“Murder in Provence:” This has to be the ultimate British murder mystery fantasy. Murder plus romance. Fun fact: I brought a group of Honors College students on a study abroad trip to Shakespeare’s Globe to see Roger Allam, the show’s lead, as Prospero in “The Tempest.” This is common of the people who show up in those programs.

“Endeavour:” Allam also plays Inspector Thursday in this spinoff of “Inspector Morse.”

Robert Cremins is a member of UHʼs Honors College faculty specializing in Irish and American fiction and nonfiction. He is the director of the pre-professional program Creative Work and the author of “A Sort of Homecoming” and “Send in the Devils.” He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College Dublin and his Master of Arts in creative writing from the University of East Anglia.


Gearing Up

The field maintenance crew readies the stadium for Big 12 Conference play.

Last Look

For more than 75 years, the Spirit of Houston Marching Band has embodied the vibrant energy of the University of Houston. The band has a storied history and is widely known for its musical prowess and ability to captivate audiences. This photograph was taken on Sept. 29, 1956, at Robertson Stadium—the predecessor to TDECU Stadium—where the University of Houston defeated Mississippi State 18-7.

PO BOX 867 HOUSTON, TX 77001-0867

Articles inside

Murder Most Cozy

pages 58-63

Tip Your Robot

pages 56-57

Where Would We Be Without Nurses?

pages 54-55

It Doesn’t End at the Border

pages 48-51

Hydrogen Energy Production Process

pages 46-47

The Great Energy Transfer

pages 43-45


pages 34-41


page 32

The Spirit World

pages 30-31

Following Ancient Roads to Find Modern Success

pages 28-29

The Power of Data

pages 26-27

Behind the Vaccine Against Fentanyl

pages 24-25

Keeper of Memories

page 23

Nature Is Healing

page 22


page 20


pages 18-19


pages 15-17


page 14


pages 12-13


page 9


page 8

Introducing: Shasta VII

page 6


pages 4-5

Letter From the President

page 3

Murder Most Cozy

pages 31-33

Tip Your Robot

page 30

Where Would We Be Without Nurses?

page 29

It Doesn’t End at the Border

pages 26-27

Hydrogen Energy Production Process

page 25

The Great Energy Transfer

pages 23-24


pages 19-22

The Spirit World

pages 17-18

Following Ancient Roads to Find Modern Success

page 16

The Power of Data

page 15

Behind the Vaccine Against Fentanyl

page 14

Nature Is Healing

pages 13-14


page 12


page 11


page 10


page 9


page 9


page 8


page 6

Introducing: Shasta VII

page 5


page 4

Letter From the President

page 3

Murder Most Cozy

pages 31-33

Tip Your Robot

page 30

Where Would We Be Without Nurses?

page 29

It Doesn’t End at the Border

pages 26-27

Hydrogen Energy Production Process

page 25

The Great Energy Transfer

pages 23-24


pages 19-22

The Spirit World

pages 17-18

Following Ancient Roads to Find Modern Success

page 16

The Power of Data

page 15

Behind the Vaccine Against Fentanyl

page 14

Nature Is Healing

pages 13-14


page 12


page 11


page 10


page 9


page 9


page 8


page 6

Introducing: Shasta VII

page 5


page 4

Letter From the President

page 3
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