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A PUBLICATION FOR ALUMNI, FRIENDS & SUPPORTERS

SPRING 2017

RADICLE IDEA Gets The Green Light

HERE, WE GO

UH Launches $1 Billion Capital Campaign

GLOBETROTTING

Around the World in 3 Semesters


Here, We Go The University of Houston has launched the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its 90-year history, but we are no strangers to setting bold expectations and taking bold actions. Our $1 billion dollar campaign was designed to propel us to the next level—fueling more student opportunities, building on our strengths and transforming our neighborhoods, our city, our state, our nation and the world.


DEPARTMENTS

Spring 2017

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6 Leadership PUBLISHER Lisa Holdeman Associate Vice President University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations

EDITOR

8 Making an Impact 24 Campus Affairs

Keidra Gaston (’04) Executive Director, University Marketing

36 Learning & Leading

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Enita Torres (’89)

68 On the Faculty

ART DIRECTOR

Tom Newton

LEAD DESIGNER

Katie Horrigan

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS

Damisi DeLaney (’11) Rainer Schuhsler

PHOTOGRAPHERS

CREATIVE TEAM INTERNS

Jessica Almanza Brian Boeckman

Ray Hernandez (’17) Jacob Nicholie (’18)

COPY EDITOR

Shawn Lindsey

WRITERS

David Bassity Joelle Carson Eric Gerber (’72, M.A. ’78) Jeannie Kever Shawn Lindsey Lisa K. Merkl (’92, M.A. ’97) Greg Ortiz Francine Parker Mike Rosen (’92) Toni Mooney Smith, M.S. Chris Stipes P’nina Topham

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30

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PRESIDENT Renu Khator

UH grad student finds early Walt Whitman writings.

30 2016 Provost’s

UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON SYSTEM BOARD OF REGENTS

Prize Winner

Tilman J. Fertitta, Chairman Welcome W. Wilson Jr., Vice Chairman Spencer D. Armour III (’77), Secretary Durga D. Agrawal, M.S. (’69), Ph.D. (’74) Joshua Freed Beth Madison (’72) Gerald W. McElvy (’75) Paula M. Mendoza, University of Houston-Downtown (’95) Peter K. Taaffe, J.D. (’97) Roger F. Welder

Zachary Eaton’s winning prose entry ‘People Like That’

68 Professor

Emerita Jean Latting A Champion for Social Issues

Send address and email updates to: University of Houston Gift Processing and Records Energy Research Park 5000 Gulf Freeway, Building 1, Room 272 Houston, Texas 77204-5035 uh.edu/magazine

On the Cover

Send feedback to: magazine@uh.edu The University of Houston Magazine is published by the Division of University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations. Printed on recycled paper The University of Houston is an EEO/AA institution. 04.2017  Copyright © 2017 by the University of Houston

Digital Warrior

A digital version of this publication, with additional content, is available at

uh.edu/magazine

Students embrace a new cold-pressed juice business that’s taking a “radicle” approach.


64 Here, We Go Campaign

40 Preserving the Past

FEATURES

56 Globetrotting

52 Radicle Idea Gets the Green Light

46

48

Hobby School of Public Affairs

Hotspotting Approach to Patient Care

60 Contemplating Creativity


LEADERSHIP Some of our successes have been the result of bold thinking and decisive action, like the construction of a new football stadium, while others have been the result of steady but persistent attempts to move forward, sometimes requiring challenging readjustments and changes in course before achieving the desired outcome. Our earning a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, for example, was the culmination of a tenacious and protracted effort led by a group of staunch faculty members. But what a wonderful accomplishment! In many ways, I point to the Phi Beta Kappa chapter as the achievement I’m proudest of so far, because it validates our transformation of UH into a student-centric university. Simply put, you don’t qualify for Phi Beta Kappa unless you have clearly established a culture that supports your students at every turn. In this issue of UH Magazine, you will find examples of the remarkable range of accomplishments and endeavors taking place here every day. Some are as high profile as launching our extraordinary “Here, We Go” campaign to raise $1 billion for the University or hiring promising new coach Major Applewhite for our nationally applauded football team. Some are less publicized but no less telling, like our continuing community engagement efforts to help the Third Ward improve itself with initiatives like SURE™ (Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship) or the carefully considered development of our academic and clinical resources into a platform for enhanced public health care and a College of Medicine. The subjects of these articles vary, but they have a common theme—this University keeps making progress, taking small steps and large. A dedicated faculty, ambitious student body and supportive community have combined to power us forward. We plan to keep moving in that direction.

MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

With warm regards,

Dear Cougars and Friends,

As I begin my 10th year serving as the president of the University of Houston, I continue to be astonished almost every day at the remarkable progress that’s been made in our collective effort to elevate UH into a nationally competitive institution.

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RENU KHATOR PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON


GETTING TO KNOW

ANTONIO D. TILLIS Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies BY TONI MOONEY SMITH

Tillis is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Lorna Hill “2012 Professor of the Year” award at Dartmouth College, chosen as Fulbright Scholar to Brazil at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, president of the College Language Association (2008-10) and receiving the 2007 Purdue University Faculty Scholar award. While preparing to take the reins of the University’s largest college, Tillis discussed his priorities for CLASS:

What are some of your initial plans as the new CLASS Dean?

My initial plans include learning as much as possible about the culture of UH and the diverse academic units that make up CLASS. In addition, engaging faculty, staff, students and other constituencies in strategic planning to fortify CLASS’ mission, vision as well as short-term and long-term goals. Also, I plan to focus on identifying ways to engage the surrounding community.

What most excites you about your role?

The opportunity of working with a dynamic group of faculty to offer the best comprehensive education for undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, working with faculty to enhance what their academic/ intellectual units do best. Finally, I look forward to working with the administration to advance UH regarding the quality of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Random Facts: I love to sing and to cook. I

H

e had his sights set on becoming an international corporate lawyer,

but after attending a lecture at Howard University given by world-renowned Colombian writer Manuel Zapata Olivella and having an opportunity to meet the author himself, Antonio D. Tillis was so inspired that he decided to take a detour and chart a new course. Today, Tillis is a nationally and internationally acclaimed scholar and author who specializes in Latin American, Afro-Latin American and African Diaspora literatures. On February 1, Tillis joined the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) from the College of Charleston where he was dean of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs and professor of Hispanic Studies. Tillis received his B.A. in Spanish from Vanderbilt University, M.A. in Spanish Literature from Howard University and his Ph.D. in Latin American Literature with an Afro-Hispanic emphasis from the University of Missouri. His array of scholarly, literary, editorial and teaching achievements includes numerous published articles in journals such as the Afro-Hispanic Review, Callaloo, the Hispanic Journal, Mosaic Journal, CLAJ and Transit Circle. He is the author of “Manuel Zapata Olivella and the ‘Darkening’ of Latin American Literature,” “Caribbean-African Upon Awakening: Poetry by Blas Jiménez,” “(Re)Considering Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Brazilian (Con)Texts: A Cultural Studies Reader,”“Critical Perspectives on Afro-Latin American Literature” and “Manuel Zapata Olivella e o escurecimento da literatura latino-americana.”

am a lyric baritone and have sung in classical chorales across the U.S. I look forward to singing in Houston! I enjoy cooking. My favorite dish to prepare is Brazilian moqueca.

First Impressions: UH is a leading research

institution. I was attracted by the University’s commitment to academic excellence its diverse student population as well as its mission to be a premier academic institution. Houston offers, literally, the world to current and future residents. The city’s rich ethnic populations, its strong tradition in the performing arts, as well as its breadth of culinary delights make it an attractive place to work and to live.

Hometown: Growing up in Memphis shaped

my spiritual core, political consciousness, love of the arts and ability to discern great blues and barbecue!

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MAKING AN IMPACT

INNOVATION AHEAD How Innovation is Driving Revitalization in the Third Ward BY SHAWN LINDSEY

T

he University of Houston has expanded its pursuit of excellence with

an eye towards making an impact on nearby neighborhoods. One aspect of the University’s neighborhood initiative is focused on empowering and revitalizing the historic Third Ward. For two years, UH has met with community leaders to identify the neighborhood’s greatest needs and assess how UH might most effectively help the neighborhood improve itself. “Our students, staff and faculty have been volunteering their time and talent to support many organizations in the community,” UH President Renu Khator said. “So, the purpose of this initiative is not to add more but to be focused, strategic and impactful so that the needle can move.” UH’s efforts in the Third Ward cover four major areas—education, economic empowerment, health and the arts—each with clear objectives and operational measures.

education Goal: Provide targeted academic and psycho-social programming through service learning to improve Third Ward schools »» The UH College of Education has partnered with the Houston Independent School District to improve academic ratings at six Third Ward schools. »» Involvement includes funding 20 counselors over two years through a grant, to provide mentoring, tutoring and counseling, and placing 60 Teach Forward undergraduates in four elementary schools to engage with students in one-on-one lessons.

arts Goal: Establish the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts—Project Row Houses Fellowships to build a cohort of next generation leaders in socially engaged art »» In 2016-17, two visiting PRH fellows are primarily funded through a $100,000 multi-year lead gift. »» Fellows will complete creative and applied projects using people-based and arts-integrated approaches to community development.

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economic empowerment Goal: Establish 25 new businesses in the next five years by providing financial training and business mentorship for potential entrepreneurs »» Training is offered through the Bauer College of Business Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship (SURE™) program. Participants are recommended by the Emancipation Economic Development Council. »» Partnership with Project Row Houses in a pilot program to train and find employment for single mothers.

health Goal: Partner with community-based organization to reduce the incidence of obesity through prevention and family treatment »» 2,000 individuals will receive prevention services each year; 800 people will receive treatment interventions over the next three years. »» Train community members to detect early signs of potential mental illness; mental health was the biggest health issue identified by Third Ward leaders.

LEADERSHIP FROM THE MIDDLE Training Community Health Workers at Public Housing BY CHRIS STIPES

A

quarter of a mile northeast

of the University of Houston in the historic Third Ward sits Houston’s oldest and largest public housing complex. On this day in January, a man stands on the side of the street behind a folding table piled high with a bounty of fruit—pineapples, bananas, grapes—earning a little cash in a place short on fresh produce and money. Down the road, a police car sits on patrol across from several abandoned houses. Cuney Homes has more than 500 apartments and, as one resident put it, “The daily struggle is real.” On the outside of the community center is a freshly painted mural depicting African-American leaders. Local kids helped design it. On the inside is another kind of transformation. Alongside UH students, Cuney residents are learning to become leaders in community health. This is where the UH Honors College holds its innovative Community Health Worker Training and Certification Program, marking a new partnership between UH and the Houston Housing Authority (HHA). In 2015, the HHA received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Jobs-Plus Program to help Cuney residents earn more and become self-sufficient. Community health workers (CHWs) often live in the neighborhoods they serve, helping to disseminate health care information and motivate patients to manage chronic health issues while connecting them to available resources. According to program instructor and Honors College professor Dan Price, these frontline workers can change the landscape of health care by reducing cultural and socio-economic obstacles and becoming a


she didn’t do her part of a group assignment, which left some students upset. After realizing the importance of the project and the value of teamwork, enough trust was finally established and everyone was able to contribute. “I love that people come from different walks of life, because it teaches you. We can really learn from each other,” said resident Deerica Cormier, a single mother of two boys who also has several relatives battling illnesses, including HIV and lung cancer.

Doctors, clinics and insurance companies

A mural inside Cuney Homes depicts community leaders.

bridge between doctors and patients. Price calls it “leadership from the middle.” “A lot of the problems that doctors have with reaching some patients effectively stem from cultural misunderstandings. Community health workers are the voices that can make the translation between an expert system that seems foreign and unnecessary and people—the patients—who actually need to understand that medical expertise,” said Price. “Having the workers embedded in the community is really the genius of the model, because it fills the gaps.”

Single mother Timica Sanchez, 33, started taking the free class when it was first

offered in fall 2016 but didn’t finish after giving birth to her fifth child. Now she’s back to finish what she started. “One thing I know about life, through all my struggles, is it’s a learning experience. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge,” Sanchez said. She just landed her first job in more than a year as a cashier but needs a second job to make ends meet. The median income for a CHW in Houston is $30,000 a year. “I already connect friends and neighbors to resources all the time, so why not get paid for it?” Nour Haikal, a UH freshman from Richmond, Texas, was inspired to take the course for a different reason. Her parents immigrated from Syria 30 years ago. Now the 18-year-old pre-law liberal studies major helps local Syrian refugees navigate their health needs. “I’m Syrian myself, so I know what it feels like to be judged and unwanted because you’re different. I can relate to how some of the Cuney residents may feel,” said Haikal. “Hearing them talk about what they’ve been through opens your mind and really humbles you.” Communication between groups from such diverse socio-economic backgrounds has its challenges. Some Cuney residents—many of whom are in the process of getting or already have a GED—were admittedly intimidated about going back to school side-by-side with highperforming college students. One resident was so afraid of being judged for poor spelling that

often hire CHWs to address chronic care needs, including asthma management, diabetes, check-ins with the elderly and even home inspections for mold and lead. Armed with a vision of working with the city to create a community health worker network of hundreds, Price believes it could be “transformative” if they can change the way people think about health care. “If people start taking responsibility for their care differently, with a lot more selfmanagement, that means less people go to the hospital for unnecessary treatment, and the cost for the entire system goes down,” he said. In addition, they encourage class participants to become advocates and activists in the civic realm. “To be able to share what’s going on in their communities with public office holders and elected leaders will change the conversation,” said program instructor Erica Fletcher, a UH graduate and Honors College visiting assistant professor. UH students don’t receive any course credit for completing the program. After 160 hours of training, students and residents alike receive community health certifications from the state. While UH sociology major Dane Hall has no plans to work as a CHW, the experience is invaluable for his future career plans. “It’s important to know what’s happening on the ground and how community health workers operate, because they’re going to play a larger role in how health care and social change is enacted in Houston,” said Hall, who is planning a career in public policy. Change. That’s what Timica Sanchez is trying to accomplish by taking the class. “This opportunity given to us by the University of Houston could be life-changing for me and my family. I’m excited—speechless.”

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MAKING AN IMPACT Champa, an Indian fragrance used in temples and ashrams. Flash forward three years: Over a series of Saturdays last fall, Toatley and several dozen other would-be entrepreneurs gathered at the University of Houston’s Melcher Hall for a crash course in business, learning about the financing, legal issues and accounting principles that could help him move Alchemy Candle Co. from a hobby to a business. The popular program, known as SURE™, Stimulating Urban Renewal through Entrepreneurship, is part of the University’s Third Ward Initiative, intended to empower the community to build upon its own strengths. Saleha Khumawala, Robert Grinaker Professor of Accounting at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, is founding director of the program, using graduate business students to teach financial literacy, help the participants create business plans and otherwise offer assistance. People must meet three requirements to qualify: have a concrete business idea, evidence they are serious about it and a commitment to an underserved area. About one-third of the fall class, including Toatley, were referred by the Emancipation Economic Development Council, part of a coalition of nonprofit groups working to strengthen the historically African-American community as gentrification encroaches. They ranged from a certified electrician trying to launch a general contracting business to a property owner interested in opening a youth hostel. Several have fledgling tutoring businesses, reflecting efforts to improve educational outcomes in the Third Ward. Like Toatley, Landi Spearman was referred to the program by the Emancipation EDC. But while Toatley had few concrete plans and no corporate experience, Spearman had worked for years as a real estate broker and human resources manager, recruiting top executives, engineers and other professionals and helping families settle into new homes and new cities. She was brimming with ambition and armed with her corporate experience—and her

Through the SURE™ program, Cory Toatley was able to gain knowledge on how to turn his candle-making hobby into a full-time business. The program is intended to empower the community to build upon its own strengths.

EMPOWERING PEOPLE Entrepreneurs Learn to Build a Sustainable Economy in the City’s Third Ward BY JEANNIE KEVER

C

ory Toatley didn’t plan to start a business. He was chasing a memory.

Surely there must be a candle with the elusive scent of an incense burned by his college roommate. But if there was, he couldn’t find it. And so, Toatley, a blend of creative old soul and self-reliant Texan, set out to make one. That first candle-making class in 2012, and a second the following year, weren’t about making money. He was following his nose, hoping to create a candle that smelled like Nag

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knowledge of the stress suffered by families during and after a disruptive move—she had founded Destination 4 Relocation, a turnkey concierge service offering everything from help buying furniture and overseeing home design to providing information about area schools. Even with a business background, Spearman found strong support for firsttime entrepreneurs through SURE™. The networking opportunities, both with other students and with the business leaders who serve as guest lecturers, proved especially valuable. “The Bauer SURE™ program creates an environment for motivated entrepreneurs who look like me to network with business leaders and to foster relationships and support,” Spearman said. Networking with another SURE™ entrepreneur even prompted a collaboration, and Destination 4 Relocation offered concierge services to local property owners to prepare and stage their homes for lease through Airbnb for the 2017 NFL championship game.

Through SURE™ and other pieces of

the Third Ward Initiative, the goal is not to fight change but to ensure the changing neighborhood remains welcoming to longtime residents. Instead of Starbucks and Chili’s, the vision calls for more independent businesses like Doshi House, a coffee house on the newly renamed Emancipation Avenue, and the Library Coffee and Wine House on Scott Street, where Heather Davis, an earlier graduate of Khumawala’s program, sells baked goods through her Sweet Luxuries Bakery. “It’s not high-end businesses being brought in,” Khumawala said. “It’s the local community.” Or, as Toatley calls it, the “shop local and shop small” movement, allowing people to patronize friends and neighbors rather than corporate interests moving in from outside. He has always been an artist, making and selling jewelry as a child growing up in Giddings, where he absorbed his grandmother’s love of vintage furniture. Urged by his family to study something practical, he earned a degree in digital media design at Texas State Technical College in Waco. He moved to Houston soon after, working in social service jobs for a decade, helping

friends with interior design or choosing vintage clothing on the side. Candle-making added another component, as he scoured thrift

THE GOAL IS NOT TO FIGHT CHANGE BUT TO ENSURE THE CHANGING NEIGHBORHOOD REMAINS WELCOMING TO LONG-TIME RESIDENTS. stores and online sites for unusual containers and experimented to create new scents. A mix of sandalwood and plumeria yielded the scent he remembered from that roommate’s Nag Champa incense. Leather,

tobacco, cedar and vanilla became “Bachelor Pad,” which quickly turned into one of his best-selling products. Think masculine, without the stinky gym socks. “I was just living in the moment,” he said. “I knew it was probably profitable, or I wouldn’t keep doing it.” Enter SURE™, which puts business acumen on an equal footing with creativity and desire. The candles, made in his apartment’s narrow kitchen, sell for between $20 and $100; the more expensive “vintage” line comes in antique cocktail glasses and other unique containers. “With the Third Ward Initiative, we’re like a fisherman school, giving people the tools they need,” Khumawala said. “We’re teaching people to be financially independent.” The Alchemy Candle Co. isn’t there yet— Toatley works at Doshi House, where he also sells his candles, in addition to selling through Instagram, Facebook and pop-up events. And if he’s not yet ready to commit full time, he now has the business knowledge to move ahead. But not too quickly. Just as the coalition of groups focused on revitalizing the Third Ward wants to build on history, Toatley wants to build his business organically. “I don’t want to do it too fast,” he said. “I want to enjoy it. Everybody doesn’t move at the same pace.”

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MAKING AN IMPACT take on the challenge. “We don’t turn anyone down unless we can’t help them,” Yazji said; although most recipients are children. That’s partly because children outgrow prosthetics too quickly to make a $10,000 state-of-the-art prosthetic hand a good investment. Rafael’s hand was made with a 3-D printer at Cougar Bytes in the UH Student Center; the group has a Go Fund Me account to raise money for its own printer. Wong and Tristen were there when Yazji, Bahrt and other members of eNABLE met in a study room at the M.D. Anderson Library one evening in November to work on Rafael’s new hand. So were Amy Wendt, his elementary school music teacher, and a dozen or more extended family members. Sanchez and her husband, Daniel Ramirez, watched as the students began piecing the hand together. Ramirez gathered a set of extra fingers printed for the hand—a few accidents are to be expected with the hand of an active 8 year old—and tried to memorize the sequence of assembly, hoping to make any needed repairs on his own. From the beginning after meeting Sanchez, he had been struck by how much Rafael was able to do and the effort it took to succeed. Several years ago, he insisted everyone in the family spend the day with their left hands taped shut, wanting everyone to understand the boy’s daily life. “It was eye-opening,” Sanchez said. “It was hard. Even as his mom, I didn’t realize how hard it was.” Still, she had seen how disappointed he was after being turned down for a prosthetic hand before. “I told him, Let’s not get our hopes up. If it happens, it happens. You’re perfect the way you are.” But the excitement grew as the hand began to take shape. Rafael began to plan. “First,” he said, “I’ll see if I can write my name with this hand. I’ll try stuff out.” Sanchez and Ramirez were overwhelmed as their son grasped a cellphone in the new hand. “Oh my god,” Ramirez gasped. “It’s working.” Sanchez blinked back tears as she leaned over to hug Yazji and Bahrt. “I love it,” she said. Rafael Esquivel shown with his prosthetic hand. The prosthetic was produced by a group of UH students using open-source designs and a 3-D printer.

“WE SOLVE PROBLEMS” For an 8-Year-Old Born Without a Hand, UH Innovation Offers a Solution BY JEANNIE KEVER

R

afael Esquivel slowly

raised the Raptor, watching intently as the plastic fingers folded toward the cell phone balanced on his palm. “It’s going to work,” he whispered. “I can’t wait to take this home.” The Raptor, a prosthetic hand produced by a group of University of Houston students using open-source designs and a 3-D printer at Cougar Bytes, gave 8-year-old Rafael a chance for something he had never experienced: two working hands. “This is what engineers do,” Jalal Yazji, a sophomore engineering major, told Rafael and his parents. “We solve problems.” Yazji serves as president of the UH chapter of eNABLE, which he started with fellow Cougar Daniel Bahrt, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering technology. The global volunteer organization provides free prosthetic hands and arms for people who need them. Last fall, Rafael, a third-grader from Humble, became the UH chapter’s third project. His mother, Maria Sanchez, had tried to shield him from the worst of the teasing that

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has come from being born without a left hand. But Sanchez is also a realist. “We say, you have to try harder,” she said. “It’s tough out there.” Rafael discovered workarounds for a lot of things. But when other third-graders at Lakeland Elementary School began jumping rope last fall, his frustration overflowed. “We’ll figure this out,” physical education teacher Tracy Wong promised. That night, Wong’s 9-year-old son, Tristen, found a video about eNABLE on the internet. Wong discovered there was a chapter at UH, and she called Sanchez. Rafael had twice been turned down for a prosthetic hand by a pediatric orthopedic hospital because he coped so well with everyday challenges, Sanchez said. She was reluctant to let her only child get his hopes up again. UH’s eNABLE chapter did not say no. Yazji heard about the organization while designing a prosthetic hand for a high school engineering project. Bahrt, who is vice president of the local chapter, knew computer-aided design software. Together with other friends, they thought they could


SIGNS OF SUCCESS UH Program Creates the First MOOC Taught in American Sign Language BY GREG ORTIZ

E

xactly 200 years after the

nation’s oldest permanent school for the deaf opened in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817, the University of Houston is applying an old standard to accommodate the deaf and hard-of-hearing in online classrooms. UH is the first in the country to apply sign language to a massive online open course, fondly known as MOOC. MOOCs have increased in popularity since they were launched in 2008 as a way to broaden access to college education. There’s no payment required, no institutional enrollment and no way for the deaf to participate because technology such as closed captioning hasn’t been offered.

That is, until UH’s American Sign Language Interpreting program (ASLI) decided to experiment with the first ever MOOC taught in American Sign Language. “The goal is to level the playing field, because if education is available and accessible, then anyone can learn and improve themselves,” said Sharon Hill, coordinator of the ASLI program, about the utility of original MOOCs. “That is great, except for individuals who are deaf.” Hill and her colleagues in the UH ASLI program created the first course, which happens to focus on the history of deaf culture. They plan for MOOCs in traditional coursework to follow.

“Teaching a MOOC in American Sign Language allows many around the world to ‘meet’ a deaf individual and see that limitations do not exist simply because someone is deaf,” said Terrell Brittain, ASLI instructional assistant professor at UH. “It allows them to see that American Sign Language is an authentic and actual language.” “The key reason for undertaking this MOOC is exposure,” Brittain said. “The world needs exposure to the fact that deaf culture exists and is worthy of being studied.” The course, which began in March, lasts six weeks. Brittain provides video lecture content in ASL, and an English interpreter provides a voice over.

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MAKING AN IMPACT

THE DIGITAL WARRIOR UH Graduate Student Makes Literary History as He Discovers Previously Unknown Works by American Poet Walt Whitman BY JEANNIE KEVER

Z

achary Turpin leans

forward, as if admitting to a secret: He wasn’t always a Walt Whitman guy. That started almost halfway through his Ph.D. studies at the University of Houston as he read the first edition of Whitman’s best-known work, “Leaves of Grass.” The scope of the poetry, the beauty of the language, well, Turpin was hooked. And over the course of the next few years, his admiration merged with the digital frontier of literary research to expand what we know about the 19th century poet and author. Turpin, who completes his doctoral degree in English this spring, made international headlines in February with the announcement that he had discovered a previously unknown novella by Whitman, “Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography.” A year earlier, he was credited with finding another Whitman work—a sprawling 50,000-word essay on diet, exercise, sex and the advantages of the outdoors. Ed Folsom, editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, which published both works, said the rediscovered novella is vital to Whitman scholarship, upending the belief that he dropped fiction in the late 1840s to focus on poetry and “Leaves of Grass.” “In this newly discovered novel, I think we can see Whitman discovering why he was going to have to give up ‘plots’ and turn to a very different kind of narration,” said Folsom, who is also an English professor at the

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PHOTO COURTESY OF LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, MANUSCRIPT DIVISION, THOMAS BIGGS HARNED COLLECTION OF WALT WHITMAN PAPERS.

University of Iowa. “We can feel the point at which Whitman gives up plots and embraces the ongoing flow of life … (and) turns his attention to his radical new form of poetry.” With the announcement of the new book, media began calling. Eager readers downloaded the novella from the Quarterly Review website more than 24,000 times within the first few days. “It’s been wild,” Turpin said. But for a few moments—he told his wife, Markie McBrayer, who is completing her Ph.D. in political science at UH, almost immediately —he was the only person in the world to know about this new book by Whitman. It may seem so in the retelling, but the discovery didn’t happen overnight. Turpin, an “Americanist” specializing in mid-19th century American literature, has become a digital literary detective, using modern tools to scour online databases for clues to Whitman’s writings. Working from a laptop, often from the kitchen table or bedroom of an apartment just south of the UH campus that he and McBrayer share with their two children, he had a lot of what he calls “pleasant and instructive failures.” He kept at it. And in May 2016, he entered a few terms from one of Whitman’s notebooks, in which he had outlined a novel about an orphan named Jack Engle. Most scholars assumed the novel had never been written. Instead, Turpin hit pay dirt—a small ad in the March 13, 1852 edition of the New York Daily Times promised “A RICH REVELATION,” a story starting the following Sunday in the New York Dispatch. Whitman wasn’t mentioned, but Jack Engle was. Turpin knew Whitman had written for the Dispatch. And he was off on the next leg of the journey, eventually locating what was apparently the only existing copy of the Dispatch dating to the spring of 1852 in the Library of Congress. A month later, his email pinged. He scanned the PDF of the novella’s opening, searching for names from

Walt Whitman’s handwritten notes provided the clues that helped graduate student Zachary Turpin discover a previously unknown novella.

Whitman’s notes: Engle. Covert. Wigglesworth. Smytthe. All there. “It was surreal,” he said. “While the circumstances weren’t glamorous, the feeling was once in a lifetime, the feeling that you are the only person who knows you found a lost novel by one of the great American writers.” The discovery remained a closely guarded secret—McBrayer knew, helping to transcribe the 36,000 word novella, along with Folsom, a few other Whitman scholars and members of the English department at UH. Wyman Herendeen, then chair of the department, immediately offered departmental funds to cover the $1,200 cost for copies of the full work. In the ensuing months, Turpin wrote an introduction for the novella and revamped his

dissertation, which he already had shifted to focus on Whitman. “Changing a dissertation topic at the last minute isn’t the most comfortable thing,” he said. Still, it felt inevitable. Whitman left a prodigious paper trail, and new notes, letters and newspaper articles turn up occasionally. But Folsom said Turpin’s two discoveries are different, not only booklength but published just before and just after the first edition of “Leaves of Grass” was published in 1855. “They help us fill in that magical time of Whitman’s life when he was inventing an entirely new kind of poetry,” he said. The spring has been busy for Turpin, who will join the faculty of the University of Idaho this fall, but he has tried to also take time to savor both the thrill of the discovery and the ensuing buzz. “What’s been great is to see so many people enthusiastic about poetry, Walt Whitman, literature,” Turpin said. “As a teacher, to see thousands of people reading this and discussing it is great.” And while Whitman wanted to distance himself from his early work, eager to appear as a poet who sprang fully formed with the first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” Turpin thinks he would be fine with the re-emergence of Jack Engle. “His grandest wish, the thing above all, is that he would be the most famous American poet. And to see what’s happening now, I think he’d be delighted.”

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MAKING AN IMPACT

A WISE WRITER ONCE SAID Honors College Program Empowers Youth Through Writing Lessons BY CHRIS STIPES

W

riting isn’t Ian Garza’s favorite subject. The seventh-grader admittedly

uses too much slang, and his battle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, makes it difficult to focus. “I get distracted easily, and staying on task is hard,” he said. Like many of his classmates at KIPP Intrepid Preparatory School in Houston’s East End, Garza, 12, has a lot of creative ideas, but clearly expressing them in an essay is challenging. “It’s getting a lot easier though, because I know my mentor is watching my back,” he said.

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The Writing to Inspire Successful Education (WISE) program connects University of Houston Honors College students from the Bonner Leaders Program to serve as writing mentors for seventh grade students at the public charter school. The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) educates children from underserved communities at 26 Houston-area schools and many more nationwide. “Writing is the foundation for how you think about the world and how you approach everything in your life. It’s the polished version of what you say and is so important for success in college and beyond,” said UH junior Serrae Reed, the WISE project lead. While previously volunteering at a Houston-area high school, Reed was shocked to discover how many teenagers were deficient in basic writing skills. “It was hard to see high achieving students who didn’t have the writing background to compose great essays for their college applications or SAT and ACT tests,” Reed said. “Someone needed to help them sooner.” Now, that’s exactly what she’s doing. In summer 2015, KIPP reached out to UH about forging a partnership, and Reed helped launch the WISE program that fall. It places Bonner Scholars in the KIPP classroom for one-onone writing tutoring four days a week. The goals are to improve test scores, increase confidence and ultimately help more kids go to college. “It’s kind of like cloning yourself as a teacher and then having a younger, hipper version of you to work with students. They’re phenomenal to have,” said Erica Rodriguez, a KIPP Intrepid writing teacher. “The students love working with the mentors because they’re closer to their age and give a different perspective on the lesson we’re writing about.” The results have been nothing short of remarkable. On the 2016 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR writing test, 16 percent of KIPP Intrepid students received “commended” proficiency scores compared to just three percent the year prior—before the UH student mentors arrived. “Before the mentors came, I was always nervous about my essay. Now I feel more comfortable and confident that I’ll get a


“Before the mentors came, I was always nervous about my essay. Now I feel more comfortable and confident that I’ll get a good grade.” Jacob Ortiz, 13-year-old KIPP student

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE HONORS COLLEGE

good grade,” said 13-year-old Jacob Ortiz. “They really believe that we can become good writers and do well in life. They care about us, and that feels great.” The impressive increase marked the first time in school history Intrepid scored above the state average. “This project is really about problem solving, organization and projectbased learning. That’s what the Bonners get out of this,” said Shannon Keen, UH Honors College director of service learning. “They successfully pulled it off in ways I don’t think we could’ve imagined.” Beyond helping students develop ideas, improve sentence structure or use proper punctuation, the roughly 40 UH mentors also open minds to what’s possible. It’s OPPOSITE PAGE: UH mentor Elena not uncommon for a Scott discusses tutoring session to writing tactics shift from essay writing with KIPP Intrepid students. THIS to a conversation PAGE: Mechanical about college. engineering student “When I applied to Kaitlin Miller pictured with KIPP students. college, my parents had just been laid off, so we were really concerned about how we would pay. I had to work really hard to secure scholarship money,” said sophomore mentor Michelle Tran. “Now I can show these kids that it’s possible, and they can do it too.” In addition to the in-person tutoring sessions, mentors upload a pre-recorded video every week with a personalized, line-by-line edit of a student’s essay. “They get very creative by telling jokes, using music or even a clip from a funny online video. It’s really engaging to the kids because it’s

content tailored directly for each student,” said Rodriguez. The Bonner Leaders, who seek out service opportunities to build a better community and alleviate factors contributing to poverty, are now working to make the program even more effective through research. The middle school students rate the weekly videos to gauge the impact of digital learning. It will also help measure student engagement when compared to test results. “We need to focus on the efficacy. If we are going to work in the community, we want to make sure we’re actually making a positive difference. We need to be able to correlate this success to our involvement,” said Keen.

This spring, the WISE program expanded to KIPP Liberation in Houston’s historic Third Ward. “UH does not live in a bubble, and KIPP does not live in a bubble. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. The winners are the children,” said KIPP cofounder Mike Feinberg. “UH, and the Bonner Scholars in particular, have a passion for improving our community. This was a natural fit taking advantage of UH student talents to benefit more children.” Helping more people in need is something Serrae Reed, who’s majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in Spanish and math, wishes even more UH students would do. “Some students have this idea about people living in Third Ward and it’s not positive, but they never go out to meet the people. It’s a shame, because Houston is my home and my community. I embrace it,” said Reed. “Our Bonner founding director, Andrew Hamilton, said ‘Be ashamed to graduate from UH without having won a victory for the people of Houston,’ and that’s my motivation.” Ian Garza’s motivation, meanwhile, is to make his family proud by becoming a better student. “I might like to be an engineer at my dad’s company one day,” he said. “I feel like now I have a better chance to do something with my life.”

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MAKING AN IMPACT

“At UH, you have all the ingredients you need to break out of the traditional mold and into the future of communication.”

COMMUNICATING CHANGE, TRANSFORMING LIVES Why One Donor Continues to Give to UH BY JOELLE CARSON

W

hen Lance Funston (’67) traveled from

Philadelphia to New York to the annual Highlight Houston National Presidential Event (now called the UH Here, We Go Roadshow) in November 2016, he wasn’t necessarily expecting to be called to action. But when the student speaker, broadcast journalism major Kaitlyn Palividas (’17) mentioned attending classes in the Lance T. Funston Communication Center at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication—the building his gift built—he realized what an incredible impact giving to the University can make. One part of her speech was particularly relevant, as building and improving campus facilities is one priority of UH’s Here, We Go billiondollar campaign: “The University of Houston is not the same institution I stepped foot on three and a half years ago,” she said at the event. “And

18 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

that’s the beauty of UH—we are always growing and improving.” Funston had the chance to meet Kaitlyn Palividas later at the reception. “She was surprised to hear that I was alive,” he joked, noting that in many cases, a campus building is named in honor of someone by their family. That encounter illuminated the difference a gift can make, even thousands of miles away from campus. Education is important to Funston and his wife, Christina. Together, they founded the Save A Mind Foundation in 2008, which focuses on raising high school graduation rates for low-income and minority students. “Public education is the key that unlocks opportunity,” Funston said. He believes that UH has a proven capacity to transform the lives of its students. Although Funston majored in political science at UH, his business is communications, which is why his first major contribution to UH was to create the Lance T. Funston Communication Center. The building was completed in 2011 and features a state-of-the-art video production studio, the building’s first formal entrance, and renovated classroom and office space. It has been invaluable in increasing students’ capacities to tell their stories and advance their communications careers—precisely what Funston envisioned. “Communication is a vital skillset—it can be used as a major vehicle of change,” he remarked.

Temple Northup, director and associate professor at the

Valenti School, confirms the difference the facility makes on the student and faculty experience. “Part of what attracted me to the Valenti School was the incredible Lance T. Funston Communication Center,” said Northup, who came to UH in 2011. “Knowing that we have state-of-the-art facilities and an engaged donor base made me confident that this is where I should work. It’s impossible to quantify the impact Lance Funston has had—his generosity has truly had a transformational impact on the lives of so many students.” Another reason the Valenti School is important to Funston is his long friendship with the late Jack Valenti (’42) while he was serving as assistant to the director of the FDIC, William Sherrill (’50) in Washington D.C. after graduation. The communications department was named in Valenti’s honor in 2008. “I know he’s looking down with pride,” Funston mused. “He was always there for his friends—never too busy! From my visits to the Valenti School, I have witnessed the same supportive philosophy.”


That pride is part of the reason that Funston has committed to continuing to give to UH. “I want to finish the work I started with the first building,” he said. In 2014, he had the chance to witness the difference it made in the lives of students firsthand when he visited a class. “It was a wonderful opportunity,” he recalled. “By focusing on the marketing issues facing my companies, I may have learned more than the students did!” As an alumnus and donor, Funston is very happy to see the direction that the Valenti School and UH as a whole have taken. “The communication program is exactly where I’d like to see it,” he added, noting the importance of quality journalism in today’s age and how the resources of a Tier One research university benefits communications students. “At UH, you have all the ingredients you need to break out of the traditional mold and into the future of communication,” he said. Those ingredients include the facilities and improvements that Funston has contributed. New buildings and improvements translate into more opportunities for students, faculty and the communications department.

Funston saw the impact when he heard Kaitlyn Palividas speak and he sees it whenever he visits. “UH has come a long way,” he said, “and I am very grateful to have a chance to be a part of it.” ABOVE: Funston (L) at the end of the UH vs Harvard debate where UH won $25,000 for the University. RIGHT: Lance Funston speaking at the groundbreaking of his namesake center at the Valenti School of Communication.

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MAKING AN IMPACT

A MAJOR OPPORTUNITY FOR THE #HTOWNTAKEOVER Tested by Adversity, Applewhite Brings Passion to Succeed BY MIKE ROSEN AND DAVID BASSITY

20 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017


I

t seems fitting that Major

Applewhite begins his career as a college football head coach at a university about halfway between Baton Rouge and Austin, the two cities that have forged his path. At both ends of this southern interstate region, where football is a metaphor for life, Applewhite shattered records throughout high school and college. The winding but purposeful road he has traveled to Houston, which included stops under two of the most iconic names in football—Nick Saban and Mack Brown—has prepared him to command the movement known as the #HTownTakeover in his own conservative yet confident way. Nothing flamboyant. No grills, no frills. Focused and almost flat on the outside. Intensity within. “I’m really damn competitive,” Applewhite said. “I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m not an attention seeker. Maybe that’s a bad thing in this business for some people. Maybe some people think you have to constantly have an entertainment value to you. I don’t think so as a head coach. I think your team needs to have an entertainment value.” Promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in December, Applewhite immediately hit the road for much of the next two months. Amidst the scramble to hire almost a full coaching staff was the challenge of securing the 2017 recruiting class late in the game as the clock ran down to the February 1 signing day. It’s an effort he describes as taking over in the middle of the game as a backup quarterback. “It’s not truly my recruiting class,” Applewhite said. But he’s excited about what he describes as quality players among the 17 selected. He’s eager about the opportunity to establish a culture within the program. At his signing day press conference, he emphasized success recruiting student athletes who will stay on the straight and narrow. “He’s gonna get his degree. I’m not gonna get a 2:30 a.m. phone call. And, oh, by the way, he’s pretty damn good, too. So we’re gonna be able to win games,” he said in a conversation immediately following.

SUCCESS FROM ADVERSITY

If there was a single defining moment that influenced the way Major Applewhite approaches his responsibilities as a coach, it happened on a Thursday in 1998. Applewhite,

a freshman quarterback at The University of Texas, was on the practice field two days before his first matchup with storied rival Oklahoma, and he kept dropping snaps from under center. “I just remember Coach (Mack) Brown calling me over and him saying, ‘Now Major, you’ve got to get the snap.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll get it.’” What Brown told him doesn’t sound remarkable, and that’s the point. It wasn’t until years later that Applewhite realized the significance of a coach’s calm exterior while anxiety and frustration raged within. He later reminisced with Brown about that day and

the reps on the field, he started paying more attention to the game behind the game. How it unfolded. How the coaches taught. How the players listened. How, sometimes, the message didn’t sink in. And he communicated that to his coaches. “Coach you’re not pressing the right buttons. I’m just telling you; I’m watching it. I know this guy—say it that way. Teach him that way,” he would advise. Applewhite has taken his own advice as an offensive coordinator (the last two years leading UH’s high-powered offense), and football throughout Texas has taken notice. During the search to replace Tom

recalls his coach admitted to being on the verge of vomiting as he watched the football continuously hit the ground. “He knew he was dealing with a 19-yearold redshirt freshman who was 48 hours removed from a huge national rivalry game,” Applewhite said. He then recalled Brown conceded that screaming at him would only have made the situation worse, so he tried to calm himself and his quarterback in the process. Applewhite led his team to a 34-3 victory two days later. While that event left a memorable mark, it was the controversial benching of Applewhite his senior season in favor of Chris Simms that opened his eyes to his future career. Without

UH quarterback Greg Herman, letters of Ward Jr. presents recommendation Applewhite a jersey poured in to UH during the press conference announcing athletic director his promotion to head Hunter Yurachek coach Dec. 9, 2016. from top high school football programs from Katy to Tyler and Dallas to Austin Westlake. They praised him for his intellect and work ethic, leadership, unmatched competitive spirit and his ability to build relationships with his players. “I just felt like this is a profession that if you’re a good man and you do it the right way, you can impact people the same way these people are impacting you.”

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21


Opening celebration against Louisville on November 17.

MAKING AN IMPACT

FAMILIAR UNDERDOG

If the ability to connect with players and being a true student of the game are the marks of a successful coach, then #HTownTakeover 2.0 is poised to win. But the 38-year-old knows that achieving success as a program, similar to winning a game as a quarterback, is a team effort. He’s banking on the legion of Houston fans that has increased significantly over the last few seasons. More and more red is popping up throughout the city, and NFL stars, including J.J. Watt, are appearing on the Cougars’ sideline. “We’ve done a great job the last two years in fan support. TDECU Stadium has been a live environment. It’s important for our football players and staff to create that environment,” Applewhite added, perhaps foreshadowing the shape UH football may take under his leadership. “We’re going to be relentless and aggressive in what we do. We’re also going to be innovative and a little unique. We’re going to bring an entertaining brand of football, something you want to sit in the stands, get there early and stay late for, and support our student-athletes.”

22 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

I’M REALLY DAMN COMPETITIVE, APPLEWHITE SAID. I DON’T WEAR MY EMOTIONS ON MY SLEEVE. I’M NOT AN ATTENTION SEEKER. Recruits and national pundits have taken note. It’s the same support that elevated the Houston program to national prominence in the 1970s under Hall of Fame coach Bill Yeoman. Sold-out Astrodome crowds provided a backdrop for players who would grow to be local legends while inspiring recruits who would follow in their footsteps.

As the Louisiana native traversed between his high school and college careers on the heels of the Andre Ware run-and-shoot era, he took note of the program from afar. He’s mindful of Houston’s winning tradition and its commitment to national prominence. He sees the University’s commitment to resources and excellence in athletics and academics. He refers to the number of Fortune 500 companies and job opportunities located in Houston like he’s pulled it from his recruiting pitch. He’s also aware that Cougar football, which has not soared so high in rankings or prestige in a quarter-century, has been a perennial underdog. Reflective of Houston’s blue-collar, can-do spirit, it has to labor harder and smarter to claw its way to the top, to gain respect and achieve success. Applewhite embraces the challenge. “I’ve lived my life a little bit as an underdog. I just feel like the mentality here fits me, and I fit it.” Though his reserved demeanor favors actions over words, it’s evident that the opportunity to field his team and prove himself can’t come soon enough.


Major’s Road to Houston

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, UT ATHLETICS PHOTOGRAPHY,

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS, RICE ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND UA ATHLETICS

1992-1997 Catholic High School Baton Rouge, LA

1998-2001 The University of Texas Quarterback

2003-2004 The University of Texas Graduate Assistant

2007 University of Alabama Offensive Coordinator

2006 Rice University Offensive Coordinator

2005 Syracuse University Quarterbacks Coach

2008-2013 The University of Texas Co-Offensive Coordinator

2015-2016 University of Houston Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach

2016-Present University of Houston Head Coach

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CAMPUS AFFAIRS

TRANSFORMING THE LANDSCAPE More Than $1 Billion Spent on Construction Projects BY CHRIS STIPES

B

uilding a nationally competitive program in

academics and athletics is not just figurative. Whether it is National Merit Scholars, student athletes or worldrenowned faculty and researchers, facilities are a crucial component to recruiting the nation’s top talent. More than $1 billion in construction projects have been completed

at University of Houston System institutions over the past six years, with much of it happening at UH. Even more transformation is on the horizon—another $1 billion in construction is proposed over the next three years, fulfilling the University’s commitment to building worldclass facilities. Here are a few of the projects that will continue to change the physical landscape of campus in the coming years.

INDOOR FOOTBALL PRACTICE FACILITY Ground Broken: November 18, 2016 Expected Completion: September 2017 Budget: $20 million Square Footage: 83,000 »» The facility will consist of a steel structure, a synthetic turf practice field, A/V and graphics.

HBSB II – HEALTH AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES BLDG. II Ground Broken: July 10, 2015 Expected Completion: July 2017 Budget: $145 million Total Square Footage: 300,000 »» Nine-story facility will integrate teaching, research and clinical programs in the second phase of the development of the University of Houston’s biomedical district. »» New home to the College of Pharmacy

24 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017


CORE RENOVATION Approximate Groundbreaking: December 2017 Expected Completion: Mid 2018 (SERC and Old Science) Budget: $100 million Total Square Footage: 719,000 »» Renovation of the buildings that form the general education core of the campus and are home to a substantial number of classrooms, labs, faculty offices and departmental headquarters. Old Science and SERC are the first ones to be completed within the group, and the others will follow. Final completion for all buildings is still to be determined. »» Old Science – 1939 »» SERC – Science and Engineering Research Center – 2005 »» Roy Cullen – 1939 (shown below) »» McElhinney Hall – 1971 »» Agnes Arnold Hall – 1967 »» Science and Research 1 – 1969

FERTITTA CENTER RENOVATION Ground Broken: March 2017 Expected Completion: November 2018 Budget: $60 million Total Square Footage: 190,000 »» Globally recognized entrepreneur Tilman Fertitta pledges $20 million— largest individual donation to UH Athletics. »» Completely renovate the 50-year-old arena formerly known as Hofheinz Pavilion into a modern-day sports venue. »» The exterior structure and roof will be preserved, but entry experience and building presentation will be completely updated.

QUADRANGLE REPLACEMENT Approximate Groundbreaking: January 2018 Expected Completion: June 2019 Budget: $80 million Total Square Footage: 337,000 »» Quads are the oldest residential buildings on campus, serving students since 1950. »» New facility will have a maximum of 1,200 beds. »» Addressing the needs expressed by international students—there will be smaller residential buildings, with townhouse elements to provide more affordable options as well as kitchens so that meal plans will be optional in those buildings. The size of the communities will be small enough to develop themed learning communities based on academic or personal interest.

SPRING 2017 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine 

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CAMPUS AFFAIRS

CONNECTIVITY A Pathway From the UH Energy Research Park to Campus BY CHRIS STIPES

P

ark your car. Wait for the shuttle. Ride the shuttle

to the University of Houston campus. It’s a daily routine for thousands of students, faculty and staff who park in the economy lots at the UH Energy Research Park (ERP), a 74-acre property along the Gulf Freeway a few miles south of campus. Parking is plentiful, but “it’s a bit disconnected” says senior computer information systems major Patrick Craig. The shuttle has been the only option for those wanting to take advantage of ERP parking. Not anymore. A new bicycle and pedestrian pathway along Brays Bayou, expected to be completed by late fall or early winter 2017, will not only connect ERP to campus but also to 300 miles of trails already in place throughout Houston. “It’s a great idea. It benefits everyone’s health by walking or cycling more,” Craig said. The $30 million Houston Regional Bike/Ped Connections to Transit Project closes five critical gaps of highly trafficked shared-use paths in

26 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

the city. The Brays Bayou section, which cost about $3.4 million, filled the last remaining 1.7-mile gap from MacGregor Park to Old Spanish Trail near the UH campus, leading to bus stops and a light rail station. The 0.6-mile portion connecting ERP to UH has a parallel path for electric carts. “The University is always looking for environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to improve campus life,” said Jason Trippier, director of UHS Properties. “These projects will provide the infrastructure necessary for alternative commuting that will contribute to the economic and physical health of the community.” The project was made possible through donations and a $15 million federal TIGER grant or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant awarded to the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. UH committed to funding a percentage of the project, which totaled more than $468,000 in financial contributions to the Houston Parks Board, including the sale of land along Brays Bayou and conveying easements. “In addition to creating a pathway between the UH campus and ERP, students will have access to a safe environment that is away from traffic and is connected to other major parks throughout Houston,” Trippier said. Now more connected than ever, students like Gracie Benavides are happy to have another option for both parking and biking a new trail. “That’s great! Sometimes the buses take longer than expected, so taking the pathway might be a quicker way to campus. It’s definitely an option I will take,” she said.


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ENERGY RESEARCH PARK (ERP)

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MLK B LV D . Calhoun Lofts

Cougar Place Moody Towers Cougar Village 1

Bayou Oaks

BIKE REPAIR STATIONS Broken bike? No problem. Five bike repair stations have been added at Cougar Place, Cougar Village I, Moody Towers, Calhoun Lofts and Bayou Oaks. Complete with a stand to hold a bike securely off the ground, the free stations have the necessary tools, including a pump, wrenches and screwdrivers to make a repair or perform basic maintenance. According to a survey by the Office of Sustainability, more than one-third of campus residents have a bike, and almost a quarter of UH commuters are currently or were previously bike commuters. Unfortunately, when bikes break they’re often abandoned on campus when all they needed was a quick fix. Now, fixing a flat, pedals, brakes and more is easy and convenient.

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CAMPUS AFFAIRS

CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS AT UH

Jakob Holder Jakob Holder, executive director of the Edward F. Albee Foundation, was among the speakers who shared personal stories and tributes to Edward Albee’s life. The evening included monologues from selected Albee plays, live music and an exhibition of artwork from Albee’s personal collection.

Ronan Farrow NBC News investigative correspondent Ronan Farrow came on campus to interview professor Dipali Rinker about the phenomenon dubbed “drunkorexia,” which she has extensively researched. The story was featured on NBC’s Today Show.

Michael McCaul Congressman and U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul visited with faculty from the Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute (BTI), led by UH. BTI is a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, which brings together leading experts and researchers to conduct multidisciplinary research and education for homeland security solutions.

Tyler Henderson J.J. Watt Three-Time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt shows the UH Cougars hand sign on the sidelines as he cheered Cougar Football during the team’s upset against No. 3 Oklahoma at NRG Stadium.

Hilton College student and chef Tyler Henderson was the star of the campus watch party for the Food Network program “Chopped” in an episode where he competed against established industry chefs. Henderson is also owner and executive chef of Plate, a hip Southwest fusion restaurant in Durango, Colo.

US Paralympic Swimming Team US Paralympic Swimming Team conducted practices and visited with students in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Natatorium in advance of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

28 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne, with students and faculty from the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, focused on the unique problems the city will face in the future.

Thom Mayne


LA Rams quarterback Case Keenum was on hand at TDECU Stadium as the No. 7 jersey was retired from UH football. It was a number he shared with former UH and NFL quarterback David Klinger, who was also in attendance.

Robert Del Grande James Beard Award-winning Chef Robert Del Grande of Café Annie was among several of Houston’s best chefs as well as representatives from the NFL, Houston Food Bank and Houston Super Bowl Host Committee for the Party with a Purpose® kickoff event at UH Hilton.

Swami Ramdev Renowned Indian yoga guru Swami Ramdev took photos with fans and UH students outside of a luncheon in his honor at the UH Hilton.

Buzz Aldrin

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin visited UH’s Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture(SICSA) to hear Coogs’ ideas for habitats and vehicles to use on Mars.

ESPN SportsCenter’s Zubin Mehenti took time to visit with UH President Renu Khator between live reports from the UH campus during football season.

Mark Anthony Neal

ZUBIN MEHENTI’S PHOTO COURTESY OF JOE FARAONI/ESPN IMAGES

Noted American author and academic Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal participated in “A Conversation About Hip Hop and Masculinity” event and pop-up exhibit hosted by UH Libraries and UH Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program. Two weeks later, Neal returned to UH to deliver the John P. McGovern Endowed Lecture “Negotiating Black Masculinity in America.”

Case Keenum

Zubin Mehenti

Dave Isay Founder and president of StoryCorps and author Dave Isay delivered a public lecture and participating in activities with students and faculty as part of the 2016 Provost Summer Read programming. Isay is author of the provost’s 2016 book choice: “Listening is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project.”

Anthony Ervin Four-time Olympic medalist Anthony Ervin shared stories of personal struggle and triumph with UH students as part of the UH Center of Diversity and Inclusion speaker series.

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The 2016 Provost’s Prize

for Creative Writing The University of Houston Provost Prize fuels undergraduate students’ creative writing through acknowledgment of outstanding works of prose and poetry. “People Like That” by Zachary Eaton is the 2016 winning prose entry. “‘People Like That’ is remarkable for its unsentimental empathy and the quirky filigree of detail that brings the world of the story to life,” said Alex Parsons, director of the Creative Writing Program and a Provost Prize judge.

30 


PEOPLE LIKE THAT BY ZACHARY EATON

C

ricket wakes at three in the afternoon and pours himself a bowl of AppleJax and a plastic cup of water. He wears a gray t-shirt over boxer briefs he hasn’t changed out of since Sunday. Today is Thursday. He leaves the bowl and spoon in the sink and moves to his bedroom, to his desk, and loads a small viridian pipe with sticky crumbs of leftover weed stuck to the bottom of his drawer. He smokes by a half-open window and afterward blows the ash over the blocky A.C. units living together in the alley below. Cricket considers masturbation, but remembers he finished himself three times the night before, so he grabs the soiled tissues off his desk and disposes of them in the bathroom. Washing his hands he studies himself in the murky rectangular mirror.

Cricket is a peculiar combination of thin and hairy, with a tangled black beard adding necessary color to his pale complexion. His sunken brown eyes and thin lips combine into a near-constant expression of mild displeasure. When Cricket is idle he often scratches the knotted curls on his neck and grimaces. He doesn’t necessarily hate his appearance, but feels he could possibly, one day, be thought of as an adequately attractive person if only he made the honest effort. Holed up insipidly in his sweaty Houston apartment in the dead of August, Cricket lacks the critical energy. His reflection fashions the pointer and thumb of his rightleft hand into a pistol, presses it gently to his temple, and fires. With his left hand he pantomimes his exploded brains spattering the appropriate wall and imagines the blood and brain-matter leak reachingly for the tan carpet. Cricket nestles in the deep corner of a black leather couch in his living room and plays music softly from his phone in the middle of his chest. He closes his eyes. After a few deep breaths his high settles down and he realizes with dark amusement he only smoked enough to get nervous. He kills another bowl by the balcony and watches gloomy curlicues of smoke drift along the ivy wall and disappear. He takes his first shower of the week and lets the hot water wash away the grime built up from these last few days of self-loathing and isolation. At long last, he leaves his apartment and winds along the sidewalk to the parking garage. Nilla Wafer-colored leaves deck the cement stairway. Cricket drives for Uber in a green 2004 Isuzu Rodeo bought and paid for by his father in more prosperous times. The hot carpet of the interior and grip of the steering wheel remind him of high school and well-trimmed suburban yards. He settles into the driver’s seat and plays a CD, there being no auxiliary jack in a 2004 Isuzu Rodeo, and the Kaiser Chiefs album, Employment, pipes through the fuzzy speakers. “Everyday I love you less and less” is the opening line and title of the first song. The CD, like the car, was not Cricket’s first; his older brother, Charlie, made the purchase during the latter phase of his teenage rebellion, before he left for college in North Texas and hung himself with a guitar string from a wooden beam in his dorm room closet. Cricket activates the Uber Partner app and slides his phone into the mount attached to the dashboard. The first trip request is a woman named Martha, 3.2 miles away. He exits the garage and after a couple turns is on a major road, leaving behind the cluster of apartment blocks and strip centers that comprise his corner of the city. Houston has no zoning laws, or any internal logic that might help a newcomer navigate the network of pothole-ridden parking lots and two-lane blacktops, but Cricket is a native. He grabs Martha outside a tall, reflective office building in Stucker Plaza and takes the HOV lane to a suburban neighborhood twenty-five minutes south, near Cricket’s parents’ house.

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Martha never asks why Cricket only nods or shrugs in response to her feints at smalltalk, content to forgo conversation altogether. Cricket is grateful. A line of oak trees casts a patchwork of shade across the boulevard where Cricket sits his car as he waits for the next rider. He browses his phone briefly and discovers an unseen text message from his father, time-stamped 9:37 a.m. Happy birthday crick. Jorge’s at 6:30? Mom out of town. Dad Sure, Cricket clicks into the message bar. See you then. Son

He leans his head against the steering wheel but is startled by his phone’s vibration from the dashboard. The next rider, he discovers with a feeling close to despair, is someone he knows. A girl he knew in high school, Colleen McSomething. He considers refusing the request but needs the money. Cricket can’t decide if he hopes Colleen knows about Charlie’s death and Cricket’s loss of voice or that the Crown family has become so irrelevant here the news missed her entirely. He isn’t sure which scenario he finds more depressing. He lowers the volume of Charlie’s CD as he pulls to a stop in front of Colleen’s front yard. “Thomas?’ Colleen asks, fitting herself and a giant leather bag into the backseat of the Rodeo. “Didn’t you go to Maxwell?” Cricket nods and taps his phone screen to indicate that she has yet to enter her destination. “Oh, right. Take me near downtown, I guess. I’ll find the address.” Cricket gives a thumbs-up into the rearview mirror and heads toward the freeway while Colleen searches her phone. He increases the volume of his music as the silence between them stretches mercifully close to the point of no return. Cricket accelerates onto the entrance ramp and drums his fingers on the wheel. “I still know some ASL from high school, by the way.”

Cricket turns off the music altogether.

Cricket lowers the music.

“I don’t know if this is weird to say, but he was, like, very handsome. All the underclassmen girls would talk about him.”

“I mean. I guess you can’t sign while you drive.” Cricket smiles in agreement and cranks the music. “Such a shame about Charlie.”

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Cricket and Colleen make brief eye contact through the mirror. She has pretty blue eyes but is otherwise awkward to look at. He turns


his eyes back to the road. “Underclasswomen, I should say.” She leans forward and rests her elbow on the armrest of the passenger seat, tucking her hand impishly beneath her chin. “You look like him, you know.”

he lives in now, which he does not, and he calls it “Yew-ston,” not “Hugh-ston.” He wears a thin salt-and-pepper beard and wears his fatigue in his face.

Cricket tightens his grip on the wheel.

“You’ve got a date?” he asks in thinly veiled disbelief, waving the napkin Cricket is currently using to communicate over the bowl of queso between them. “Well, look at you.”

“Exit here,” she says, and he does, disappointed the trip is ending.

I’m actually sort-of glad to be mute, Cricket scribbles. I can’t possibly say anything to screw this up.

He pulls into a crowded parking lot and stops in front of an elegant-looking furniture store curiously named “Miranda Dreyer.”

“That’s funny, kid. If you had said that out loud I might’ve laughed.” He grabs his Texas-sized frozen margarita and leans halfway across the table. “Your mother and I think it’s time you learn sign, okay? We’ll take the classes with you. We just want to be able to talk without all these damn napkins.”

“It’s my first day,” she informs him. She opens the door and grabs her bag but stays where she is. “Hey, I’m sorry if this is, like, weird, but I get off at 10. I know a place that’s 24/7 if you want to, I don’t know.” Cricket grabs a pen from the cupholder in the console and an old Whataburger receipt from beneath his feet. I’d love to, he writes next to his phone number. But I don’t speak sign. “Oh,” she says. “Okay. See you then.” She clambers self-consciously out of the Rodeo and turns back to wave goodbye, still clutching the crinkled receipt between her fingers.

I understand. He begins to write more, but scratches and leaves it at that. Cricket’s father hands him a small, square parcel wrapped in newspaper. “I got you something.” Cricket can tell already, both by the shape and feel of the gift and by the person giving it, that it’s a CD. “Marty Robbins. Return of the Gunfighter.” Thanks, Dad I love it. “I think you will. Got me through some times, I’ll tell you.” And he launches into a familiar story. Cricket collapses against the wicker back of the chair and sips his own frozen margarita, content to listen to his father construct the narrative that will one day serve as his mythology.

Cricket’s father, Donald Crown, has seen better days. He worked a mid-level job at an oil servicing company for twenty-five years before the market crash, taking frequent road trips to the Permian Basin to sell paraffininhibitors. These days, like Cricket, he drives for Uber. He is a big man, preposterously large, though he isn’t fat exactly. He’s six feet tall, an inch under Cricket, and his legs and arms are still beefy from high school football. He has never left Houston, unless you count the suburb

33


a netherworld of termites. I guess I wouldn’t blame a spider for wanting to kill itself, he scrawls into the notepad Colleen stole from work. “That’s dark,” Colleen says with an approving tone. “I like disgusting little creatures, if I’m being honest.” Explains why you like me. Colleen puts a hand to her mouth. “Who said I like you?” Cricket smiles. He finds it difficult to focus on more than one element of his surroundings at a time and each new distraction is invasive, tearing him from whatever fleeting loveliness currently owns his attention. At the current moment his attention is on Colleen, framed in her slumped, lethargic grace by the rainstreaked window behind her. “Oh. I’m sorry, I have to ask. Can you still make that noise? The cricket noise?” Cricket shakes his head. “Tragic.” She bites a half-eaten piece of bacon and turns to her head to look at the counter where a lone old man nurses a bowl of clam chowder. “That old guy over there, though, is truly tragic. I’ve never seen someone so lonely.” Cricket observes, sleepily and without alarm, a small black spider dangle just above the rim of his half-empty coffee cup. At the moment before the last moment Cricket loops an index finger through the handle and slides the mug clear of the spider’s approach. The creature stops its motion, writhes its fibrous body upside-down, and climbs in the other direction.

Maybe he’s just one of those people who’s meant to be alone.

“You’re a hero,” Colleen says, huddled on her side of the booth with her arms wrapped around her knees. “Or perhaps she wanted to die. Maybe you’re a monster.”

“Forget it. Do you have any weed left?”

Cricket considers the spider’s ascent to the light fixture above the table, where it will no doubt scuttle through a crack in the ceiling into

He pulls Colleen’s arm from under her body and rolls over onto his side. The dim glow of

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“I don’t know. Are there people like that?” Cricket’s pen hovers the pad.


his cracked phone screen tells him it’s 3:27 in the morning. He takes a deep breath and lightly runs his fingers through the cool tangle of hair in the valley of his chest. Colleen snores in the center of the bed. He does not feel restless, but he is certain he will not fall back asleep, so he steps outside to smoke a bowl. Cricket’s patio is nothing special, just a couple lawn chairs left by a previous tenant, but he likes to sit up there when he can’t sleep. The moon is just visible through a thick layer of cloud. He presses his index finger to the crumbs at the bottom of his grinder and half-loads the pipe. He hears the screen-door slide open.

Charlie in his dorm room, cutting a string from the Ibanez Cricket’s parents bought him for Christmas. He teases his chest and takes several deep breaths. He closes his eyes. Colleen, sitting next to him, shifts uncomfortably. The warm June wind laps at their faces until Cricket opens his eyes and motions to Colleen he’s ready to go back to sleep.

“Harder,” Colleen had said. “Deeper. More of a circle motion.” She said this several times, in fact.

The next morning, Colleen is gone. She left him a note on the counter. She had fun, they should do this again, et cetera. Cricket smiles, folds the piece of paper, and slips it into the drawer by his desk. He smokes two bowls, showers, and moves his laptop to the coffee table. He inserts Marty Robbins’s Return of the Gunfighter and skips to track eleven, “Doggone Cowboy.” It’s a song he’s heard before. He used to sing it in the car with his father and Charlie. He remembers some of the words.

These are the worst times for Cricket, the late nights, when his insides cannot stop screaming and he has no outlet for the noise. He imagines

Cricket removes himself from the couch, stretches, and dresses for work.

“I brought you a glass of water,” Colleen whispers as she takes a seat in the folding chair next to him. He exhales a thin stream of smoke and passes her the pipe. “Thank you.” She’s wearing a pair of black Nike shorts and an old t-shirt from the bottom of Cricket’s dresser. Cricket has just lost his virginity.

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LEARNING & LEADING

HONORS FOR HONORS The UH Honors College Gets a Top 10 Ranking BY ERIC GERBER

aying an Honors College has been “honored” may be a little like saying an Athletics Division is “athletic”—sounds redundant. But in the case of the University of Houston’s Honors College, it’s an accurate description and a genuine accolade. The UH Honors College was recently recognized as one of the top 10 public university honors programs receiving the maximum rating of five “mortarboards,” joining the likes of Clemson, Penn State, South Carolina and The University of Texas. The recognition comes from the 2016 edition of “Inside Honors,” a respected annual publication that evaluates honors programs based on criteria such as key courses, class size, enrollment, graduation rate, academic support and student achievement. William Monroe, dean of the UH Honors College, attributed the UH program’s top ranking to a number of factors, but specifically cited “our ‘great books’ signature course, The Human Situation, as a major strength and something that genuinely sets us apart.” In addition, “Another factor in our favor was the average number of honors courses taken by our students,” Monroe said. “The

S

36 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

mean was 1.13 for all 50 programs rated; our ratio was 2.0, which means that on average students take two courses for honors credit each semester.” He also pointed to the UH Honors College receiving the highest rating for students living in honors residence halls (730) and an impressive ratio of staff to students. The UH Honors College traces its origins back to the University’s longtime Honors Program, which became a full-fledged interdisciplinary college in 1993 under founding dean Ted Estess. Monroe assumed the deanship in 2009. Today, the Honors College has steadily grown into one of the University’s defining components, providing an intellectually elite core and a major attraction for the academically ambitious in all disciplines. “I expected to be immersed in a program that valued both liberal arts and professional advancement—and that’s exactly what I got,” said Madison Richards, an Honors College participant graduating in May with a major in management information systems. She’s already signed a full-time offer with Deloitte & Touche LLP. “I enrolled because I wanted to go to college in a big city, but coming from a small town like Bay City, I didn’t want to get swallowed up by a huge university. The Honors College gave me that small-school feel while still being surrounded by all the opportunities that a large university (and a large metropolitan area) has. Being surrounded by peers who are passionate about taking classes both inside and outside of their majors is something I didn’t expect when I first came to Honors,” she said, “but I’ve grown to love that.” While her praise—echoed by many other Honors students—and the Top 10 recognition might suggest the UH Honors College should be content with business as usual, that’s not the case. “Going forward,” said Dean Monroe, “we think that adding experiential learning to our intensive traditional curriculum will bring even more national attention. One of our new taglines is ‘Great Books and Grand Challenges.’ And now that UH has a chapter, we would like to see more students qualifying for membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the gold standard of honor societies.”

THE BACKSTORY OF UH’S ACADEMIC TURNAROUND The Evidence-Based Payoff BY MIKE ROSEN

P

aula Myrick Short recalls

the day she walked in to address the Faculty Senate shortly after she arrived in 2013 and fired off the sobering dose of reality that began an academic cultural revolution. “My first message to the Senate was, ‘You know, folks, Sam Houston State’s graduation rate is 53 percent. Ours is 46. Have we got a problem?’” At that moment, it became clear President Renu Khator’s vision to elevate academic performance to match the University’s recently achieved Tier One research status was in motion, and it was her new Provost who was developing the strategy and delivering the orders. Short, whose background is organizational development and change, says the challenge was how to march students toward degree completion in a timely manner and obtain both student and faculty buy-in. She spent the first year conducting what amounted to a forensic investigation, developing baseline data to understand the University’s needs for resources, including advisors dedicated to minimizing unnecessary credit hours, which in turn lowers cost and shortens time to graduation. “One of my strategies was to get the campus as a group to begin talking about ‘This is where we are; this is where we believe the research says we ought to be. How do we get there?’” Short said. “I was building an evidence-based way of doing business here.” If you are a student reading this article, chances are you are a beneficiary. Seventy


percent of the 2016 freshman class is registered for the UHin4 program, which offers fixed-rate tuition to incoming freshmen who maintain a 30-hour course load and graduate in four years. “The program also holds you accountable,” said Joseph Blount, a junior in the C. T. Bauer College of Business, who enrolled in the first UHin4 cohort. While many universities offer fixed tuition for on-time graduation, Short says UH is unique. Students are required to sign an agreement, adding the psychological element of entering into a contract. Rather than simply expecting students to stay on track or risk program status, UHin4 employs resources dedicated to pushing them along. When a technology professor refused to admit a UHin4 student to a class that was at capacity but he needed it, Short intervened. “We went whippin’ over there and said ‘We have to do something. We’ll work with you. You have to meet the needs of that student.’ Whereas before, the student would fall through the cracks.” “That’s education malpractice,” Short scoffed, when asked how she would respond to those who may criticize so much handholding. “We have a responsibility as educators. We can make or break a student by the way we treat them here.” And that goes for transfer students, too, who were among those graduating, on average, with 151 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree

UHin4 Student Progress Students who enrolled in UHin4 during its first two years, 2014 and 2015, have higher first year retention rates, credit hour completion rates and average GPAs than non-UHin4 students. The percentage of students on probation or suspension is lower for UHin4 students than non-UHin4.

requiring 120. Short and her team spearheaded an effort to coordinate with Houston area community colleges to ensure a future transfer student’s coursework is aligned with their eventual UH degree program. Short says the added benefit of the Houston Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) program is the confidence instilled in students who transfer. “Part of it is being able to see a four-year pathway.” Short has witnessed the culture shift. She established performancefunding models for all colleges. Today those colleges talk about their success measures, whereas before they expected funding. “What we’ve done is create ownership of student success.” Another initiative, called “Purpose First,” ties degree programs to future employment. Using predictive analytics, students learn their degree aptitude and get a realistic view of their desired career. Rather than simply advising, industry has a seat at the table, shaping curricula to ensure graduates are highly qualified. At an engineering career fair in February, one recruiter remarked at the success her international oil and gas services firm has hiring UH students. “I think we’ve come a long way,” says Short, when asked what she sees when she peers out of her office window down University Drive. While the foundation is laid, she concedes, more work lies ahead. President Khator is committed to a 60 percent six-year graduation rate by 2020. Short says the University is on track to get there.

Fall 2014 Cohort – UHin4

3.15

Average GPA by end of 2nd year

3.01

Average GPA by end of 2nd year

1-Year Retention Rate

Percent completing 60 hours by end of 2nd year

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37


LEARNING & LEADING

FOOTBALL, FOOD & PHILANTHROPY Celebs, Chefs & Guests Cook Up Positive Change at the Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose BY P’NINA TOPHAM

H

ouston, we have a party. UH was not left on the

sidelines when Super Bowl LI delivered an estimated 140,000 out-of-town visitors, 1 million participants and $350 million net economic impact to the city of Houston. Instead, the University played site-host and partner to the culinary event of the year and gave students a unique opportunity to learn firsthand the coordination necessary to produce a large-scale event. The Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose, the premier Super Bowl-eve fundraiser dedicated to hunger relief, was hosted under the stars on UH’s Gertner Intramural Fields and provided hundreds of Coogs the opportunity to contribute to an important cause. All 32 NFL cities were represented at the grand tasting event, which paired an NFL legend with a nationally renowned chef to serve more than 3,000 attendees. Famous faces, including 2017 Miss America Savvy Shields, chef Andrew Zimmern, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, chef Richard Blais, actress Alyssa Milano and former NFL cornerback Dante Wesley, mingled with guests and notable Houstonians, including

Chester Pitts and Carl Lewis. The evening ended with a live auction and a performance from Grammy-nominated performers The Band Perry. Event attendees were seeing cougar red—UH Dining executive chef Brent Gorman and UH Hilton executive chef Mark Riley served light bites, and student volunteers contributed to every aspect of the event, from production assistance to working as sous chefs alongside industry legends. The Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management offered a specialized “Taste of the NFL” course, open to students from every college. Based on the tenets of the Taste of the NFL nonprofit, the experiential curriculum combined culinary skills with lessons about food deserts (areas lacking healthy food options) and the impact of poverty on hunger in America. The course allowed students the opportunity to cook with celebrated chef Robert Del Grande, practice knife skills with chef Georgea Pappas and the Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose really was just that. The event brought a national spotlight to UH, gave students invaluable experience and the Cougar community scored a major touchdown in the fight against hunger.

Student cooking lesson with James Beard Award-winning chef Robert Del Grande; UH Dining’s Executive Chef Brent Gorman wows the crowd with lamb lollipops.

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Taste of the NFL by the Numbers:

300+

STUDENT VOLUNTEERS FROM NINE UH COLLEGES/SCHOOLS

408 Coogs assist culinary stars and NFL greats at the 26th Annual Party with a Purpose; “Bizarre Foods” host, Andrew Zimmern; Olympian & UH Alum Carl Lewis; Miss America Savvy Shields.

POUNDS OF FOOD RECOVERED BY UH’S CAMPUS KITCHEN STUDENT PROGRAM

3,000+ EVENT GUESTS

$1 EVERY $1 DONATED RESULTS IN 8 MEALS FOR FAMILIES IN NEED

$25M+ RAISED BY THE TASTE OF THE NFL OVER 25 YEARS

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39


Preserving the

Past 

Archivists are using today’s technology to ensure our history isn’t forgotten By Shawn Lindsey

S

ome scoffed that it shouldn’t be done; others speculated it would be too risky, too expensive for a university to undertake. But on May 25, 1953, the first educational television station in the country signed on from the fifth floor of the Ezekiel Cullen tower at the University of Houston. KUHT-TV was born. The endeavor drew attention nationwide, because using television to deliver instruction had never been done. Everyone, from television critics to members of the Federal Communications Commission, was interested in the innovation to come. That history—a key moment in the evolution of not only UH but also of public television itself—is at risk of disappearing, deteriorating in the old film canisters where they have been stored for more than half a century. It is just one project in a growing field, with archivists at the UH M.D. Anderson Library helping to lead the way as experts use the latest technology to save pieces of our past.

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“I think there really is a danger of a lost generation,” says Christian Kelleher, director of special collections. “We’ve probably already lost a lot of information—whether it’s email or digital publications, reports, photographs that were created and born digital in this interim period. We hadn’t yet developed tools to preserve them, so they got lost, and there’s no recovering them.” The records of those early days at KUHT are tangible evidence of the efforts that went into developing the station, led by UH President Walter W. Kemmerer. The initiative—and the expense and delays it incurred—would later lead to his resignation. Despite misgivings from some of the UH Board of Regents, Kemmerer had the backing of politicians like Mayor Roy Hofheinz and philanthropist and Board Chairman Hugh Roy Cullen, who a few years earlier had paid for the construction of a 285-foot oil derrick to serve as the first transmitter and antenna for KUHF radio. “Dr. Kemmerer felt that UH was particularly well suited for exploring education television because we had so many working students,” said Emily Vinson, audiovisual archivist in UH’s Special Collection at the M.D. Anderson Library. “The opportunity to have classes in the evening, attend the lecture from your home and fill out workbooks and mail them in was really unique.” UH’s longest serving faculty member, the late Richard Evans, Professor Emeritus in the department of psychology, was one of the pioneers, interviewing the foremost psychologists of the day, such as Carl Jung, B. F. Skinner and Erik Erikson as he became the first professor in the country to teach on public television. “Dr. Evans not only had many programs that he produced himself and starred in, but he also was really into the analysis of the effectiveness of educational programming. I think he saw the potential in ways that maybe other universities didn’t,” said Vinson. The programming was cutting edge. “Mexicania” introduced viewers to the Spanish language and Mexican culture. At a time when “separate but equal” doctrines

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were legal, UH, the “white college,” partnered with neighboring Texas Southern University, the “black college,” for the program “People are Taught to be Different.” It featured an African-American cast from TSU performing a script written by an African-American professor. The film centered on universal emotions shared by people despite cultural or racial differences. “It is an interesting part of Houston history and an interesting moment in history of the University of Houston, which had not embraced diversifying,” said university archivist Mary Manning. “Yet, it also shows UH’s early commitment to the working class person’s education. Educational television expanded higher education opportunities for people who had to work during the day, who are the students UH served.” Today, the KUHT archives—more than 2,000 films and 12,000 videos—are housed in a humidity- and temperature-controlled facility on the second floor of the M.D. Anderson Library. A digital preservation effort is underway to save many of the reels that were damaged due to improper storage in the decades before the archives returned to UH. As each reel or tape is digitally preserved, the programs are made available to the public. Considered “primary source material,” it is of particular interest to documentary filmmakers and scholars. It is also part of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting project, a national initiative led by the Library of Congress and WGBH, Boston’s PBS station, to catalog all public broadcasting produced in the United States. The KUHT collection includes a number of formats—from U-matics, to Hi8, Betacam and DVCAM. Many were short-lived, and the machines to play them are rare or obsolete.


A LOOK BACK AT 1953 Politics: Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated; Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. Research: The double helix structure of DNA and REM sleep were discovered; Jonas Salk announced his polio vaccine. Pop Culture: Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra were household names; Chevrolet’s first Corvette rolled off assembly line; Hugh Hefner debuted first issue of Playboy. Television: Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky; the FCC approved the first color television. (It would be another 15 years before most TVs were color.)

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“Our two biggest challenges are obsolescence of machines and then the high cost of having them transferred,” said Vinson. UH Special Collections continues to secure funding to transfer the material one batch at a time. Two hundred videos from the collection are currently available online, primarily from the 1950s and 60s. Another 300 with a focus on Texas news during the 1990s, taken from “Almanac” and “Capitol Report,” are being transferred with funds from a TexTreasures grant from the Texas State Library and Archives. Those videos will be available in August. The digital preservation effort is time consuming and expensive, something that many archivists—from the M.D. Anderson Library to the Library of Congress—are facing as they struggle to keep up with how quickly technology changes. At UH, the issue goes well beyond the KUHT archives. Today, archivists say many of the collections include both analog and digital assets, such as hard drives, digital photos, email and computer disks and drives of varying formats. Kelleher says a significant amount of material from the second half of the 20th century has already been lost due to rapidly changing technology. Bethany Scott is the coordinator of digital projects for Special Collections at UH Libraries. She uses digital forensic technology, initially developed for solving crimes, to analyze hard drives, disks and even whole computers that are donated as part of an archival collection. “It was only once institutions like UH started acquiring lots of digital files and assets and started noticing that, for example, we don’t have a floppy disk drive anymore. We can’t open this file or that anymore. We don’t have the software,” said Scott. In many instances, an emulation of the old software is set up to open files. Archivists and librarians have developed a set of best

practices for digital preservation, which includes preserving the metadata by creating disk images, recording everything known about the file and taking specific preservation actions, or “microservices.” UH uses specialized software to track these actions and record information about them. “A strategy of digital preservation is having multiple copies of something in case one of them fails,” said Scott. UH Special Collections has 10,000 feet of shelving filled with archival material from its 13 collecting areas, which includes rare books, the university archives, Houston and Texas history, LGBT history and Houston hip hop. “It’s enough of a challenge to have to figure out how to find the document that will help the student or researcher in that amount of material,” said Kelleher. “How do you do that when you have an endless amount of primary source material online that was produced on Twitter?” For those tasked with preserving our history, it’s the next big issue. “How do you document what happened with the Occupy (Wall Street) movement, when so much of it was not formally documented on paper?” said Kelleher. “There is not a formal organization that produced material—it sort of lives in the ether online.” But hope is not lost. The most damaged film from the KUHT collections now sit in a freezer. They are mostly deteriorated, but Vinson is hopeful they can one day be saved. “As technology gets better, maybe it will catch up and there will be a way to transfer them.” In the meantime, she continues the work of migrating the films out of the old cans and into better plastic housing, “helping them live as long as possible.”

This 18th century Ethiopian prayer book in UH Special Collections is written on animal vellum, which is far more durable than paper and can last more than a thousand years. It’s a stark contrast to many of the digitally born materials received today. A digital preservation effort is underway to keep present-day works from being lost forever.

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UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON 1952-53 Enrollment: 10,423 UH played its first bowl game, the Salad Bowl, in Phoenix in 1952 and defeated Dayton 26-21. KUHT-TV began broadcasting on May 25, 1953 as the country’s first education television station. The Cougar Sign is rooted in a 1953 mishap with Shasta I, when her front paw got caught in the car door en route to UH’s first game against The University of Texas. When UT students heard Shasta lost a toe, they mocked her by raising a hand with the ring finger tucked in. Cougar fans adopted the gesture as a symbol of pride and determination.

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T

he Hobby Center for Public Policy long has been known for political polling and data-driven studies of public policy. So when the Hobby School of Public Affairs was launched in the fall of 2016, enveloping the Hobby Center but also offering interdisciplinary graduate degrees, it had to define its mission. It will reflect Houston, said former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, for whom the school is named. Not just Houston, although the school’s work is heavily tilted toward public issues at play in Houston and in Texas. All public affairs schools necessarily offer curriculums that span the breadth of the subject, Hobby acknowledged, and the school is engaged in a wide range of projects. Equally important, Hobby said, is the way in which the mission is approached. “The school is built around Gov. Hobby’s belief in data-driven research emphasizing rigorous quantitative analysis,” said Jim Granato, professor of political science and executive director of the Hobby School. “While researchers with the school are working on a number of public policy issues, from voter ID to energy, our approach is always the same—to listen to what the data tells us.” Equal to the data, he said, is the emphasis on ethics. “The ethics of the research process is inseparable from technique. There must be transparency to how the analysis and data collection were conducted and an assurance that others have the opportunity to replicate the results.” That approach is an extension of Hobby’s wide interests and pragmatic view of public affairs, reflected in the title of his 2010 book, “How Things Really Work: Lessons From a Life in Politics.” Hobby—now the elder statesman of a family known in Texas for its long line of public service—is the son of William P. Hobby, former publisher of the Houston Post, Texas’ 27th governor and the namesake of one of Houston’s major airports, and Oveta Culp Hobby, who served as the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, first commanding officer of

the Women’s Army Corps and as chair of the board of the Houston Post. Hobby himself served as Texas lieutenant governor from 1973 to 1991, longer than anyone else elected to that position. His career also includes stints as a naval officer, professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin and as chancellor of the University of Houston System from 1995-1997, among a raft of other appointments. Less well known is his more than decade-long affiliation with the University of Michigan’s Summer Program in data and statistics. And at 84, he continues to keep an eye on the school that bears his name, maintaining a relationship that has steadily grown since the UH Center for Public Policy was founded in 1981; it was renamed the Hobby Center for Public Policy in 2010. His support has ranged from providing the lead gift for the creation of the Hobby School to his instrumental role in building support among public officials across the state. The Hobby School conducted several polls before the November 2016 election, correctly reporting that Democrat Hillary Clinton held a sizeable lead over Republican Donald Trump in Harris County but that Trump would carry the state. A post-election survey in Harris County measured the impact of voter education programs. Other topics on the Hobby School plate include the Texas voter ID law and the Texas Lottery. With every project, the focus is on the process in order to ensure the results are meaningful. “In my experience, public policy schools often have little impact on public policy,” said Paul Hobby, a businessman and son of Bill Hobby. “Like well-intentioned political candidates, they often don’t focus on unintended consequences that manifest in practical application.” He suggests an approach of auditing public policy after it has taken effect in order to determine the true impact, rather than predicting the expected impact, could change that. “But it’s not my school. It’s his,” the younger Hobby said, gesturing at his father. “It’s not my school,” the elder Hobby responded. “It’s Houston’s school.”

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POLITICS, POLICY & POLLS: A HOUSTON POINT OF VIEW

THE HOBBY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS IS TRAINING STUDENTS FOR CAREERS IN PUBLIC LIFE, VIEWED THROUGH THE LENS OF THE CITY. BY JEANNIE KEVER


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Student Hotspotters take an interdisciplinary approach to patientcentered care. BY LISA K. MERKL

“Tom has progressed from HIV to AIDS and is suffering from an open wound on his leg, anemia, incontinence and numerous opportunistic infections. He’s had the open wound for over a year now and has been in and out of the hospital a number of times for it. We continue to be challenged by his undiagnosed psychosis, as well as borderline personality and bipolar disorders, all of which he has never received long-term treatment for despite his lengthy and numerous hospital visits.” So opens a discussion of a final patient case conference made up of students participating in a national hotspotting collaborative. This pilot program at the University of Houston brought together an interdisciplinary team

of six students from different health-related fields to understand critical issues surrounding high-cost patients who frequently turn to emergency rooms for problems better handled by primary care doctors and social workers.  

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As health care costs continue to rise, providers are trying to find these patients and get to the root of their problems. The purpose of the hotspotters is to take a holistic approach to intervening in these patients’ medical lives to ensure they receive adequate and efficient care, as well as ease the strain on health care resources.

College and Nicholas Tolat, who is not only a law student at UH, but also is in medical school at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Often referred to as super-utilizers, these patients have complex care needs, struggle to navigate the intricacies of the health care system and have medical and social barriers that keep them from getting the quality care they need. Compounding Tom’s problems, he doesn’t have a primary care physician, has no one to advocate for him and is currently homeless, living in his mother’s car. A typical super-utilizer makes more than 10 emergency room visits and is hospitalized four or more times a year. They constitute the sickest 5 percent of patients, yet account for more than 60 percent of health care costs.

When the care team last met, their patient “Tom,” whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, had declined significantly despite their very best efforts. When they last saw him in December, he was very weak, pale and out of breath. He was unable to walk without a cane or assistance. With this additional stress, his mental health also was deteriorating, causing issues with his family, who would no longer allow him to come into the house due to the disturbing behavior resulting from his untreated psychological disorders.

Starting in fall 2016, the students partnered with Dayna Gurley, an intervention manager and medical social worker from the Patient Care Innovation Center in Houston, to meet with and follow four high-utilizing patients. In addition to patient visits, students met as a team monthly to discuss their patients and develop interventions to help them reduce emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

“How these students deal with the various roadblocks, whether it’s the imperfections of the system or the patient appearing to sabotage his own care, they have been amazing in staying with it and persisting to work on ways to meet all the different challenges that keep popping up,” said David Wallace, one of their preceptors in this project and a clinical associate professor of pharmacy at UH. “They are amazing in their stick-to-it-iveness, and for them to keep on plugging away at it is remarkable.” Others would have long given up on Tom, including the system, but not this group of determined students, despite all the tremendous difficulties and so many of their efforts falling through, usually at the very last minute. “It almost seems like he’s slipping through the cracks rather than falling through them,” said Dr. Stephen Spann, planning dean of UH’s proposed College of Medicine and faculty advisor to the group. “Despite every effort, he slips through each time, and you just can’t get your hands around it to help him.”

The Interprofessional Student Hotspotting Learning Collaborative is a six-month program, hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and Primary Care Progress. It trains interdisciplinary teams of professional students how to work with complex medical and social needs, using a patient-centered approach. UH was selected as one of 30 schools across the country to participate.

The UH students chosen to collaborate as hotspotters were Shajuan Alexander from the Graduate College of Social Work, nurse practitioner Sanjay Abeyadeera from the College of Nursing, Meagan LeGrand from the College of Optometry, Rebecca Kessinger from the College of Pharmacy, pre-med student Alyssa Nguyen from the Honors

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While this is an extreme case, Spann points out that the same thing happens with many clients,


saying it’s very easy for these patients to get labeled as noncompliant or difficult. “We’ve got to figure out why this patient is being labeled and how to overcome it,” Spann said. Whether the system failed him or the patient didn’t always do his part, the fact is that his issues have not been addressed. “There have been a number of system failures when it comes to this patient,” said Tolat. “One of the biggest external system failures is the fragmentation in care. We know he’s been to one hospital at least 35 times in the last year, as well as visiting three other hospitals numerous times. The lack of communication between the hospitals was a huge problem and barrier to improving his health.”

us as a team that this journey has been so challenging. We can’t imagine how he would’ve navigated this on his own, especially with poor family support.” Despite the challenges, the hotspotting team from UH is using the experience to propose better health care practices and institutional improvements when dealing with high-utilizing patients. The effort supports the mission of UH Health and proposed UH College of Medicine to close the gap in public health disparities. Upon completing the program in January, each team participated in a conference in Philadelphia to share their experiences in a final presentation, summarizing their work with a patient. While they also followed three other patients during their six months of hotspotting, the UH team decided to present Tom’s story, because it presented just about every challenge you could encounter as a hotspotter—truly a textbook case. But this is not a textbook. This is real life.

Tom would go to one hospital ER, receive care, get discharged and then

the next day go to a different hospital ER and get the same kind of care without the hospitals communicating with each other. As a result, he would bounce from hospital to hospital, receiving the same care without ever really resolving his health issues. The students also encountered internal system failures with the tendency for nurses and other health care providers to label patients with such tags as noncompliant, difficult, drug seeker and hypochondriac. As a result, when nurses would provide care to a patient, they would be coming in with preconceived notions about them. So, whenever the patient did anything to support the notion, such as not following through with wound care recommendations, as was the case with Tom, it ultimately affected subsequent care a patient would receive from other health care providers. “It’s extremely hard to navigate the system, even with a team helping you out,” Tolat said. “We were there to help and tried to obtain some kind of continuity of care. Despite our best efforts, progress with this patient was very slow and difficult. It’s really been striking to

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rad·i·cle /’radək(ə)l/

noun: botany noun: radicle; plural noun: radicles

The part of a plant embryo that develops into the primary root.


I

t was a pinch-yourself moment for Clark Neumann. The budding entrepreneur and new University of Houston graduate had a potential new business partner in artist and philanthropist Barbara Hines. And her husband, Gerald Hines, the founder and chairman of a global real estate firm, was reading his business plan.

“Right before I graduated in spring of 2015, I got a call from Ken Jones,” recalls Neumann. “He said, ‘There’s this lady, and she wants to start this fresh vegetable juice company on campus. And, she wants someone to help her do it.’” Jones, who was then director of the University’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, was referring to Barbara Hines, a member of the UH Board of Visitors. She and her husband are long-time supporters of UH; the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design is named after him. “I wanted to do something for the university that would benefit students—helping the university in a way that I would have an involvement,” Hines said. “My husband has written checks, but I wanted to do more than write a check. I thought, ‘What I

really want for these kids is to have good energy and lifelong nutrition habits.’” Jones, now executive director for the Center for Industrial Partnerships at UH, said one student immediately came to mind. Clark Neumann was part of the entrepreneurship program and was also interested in healthy foods, plants and sustainability. “There are a couple of things that make a business work, and we could come up with all the support requirements, but the most important piece is: Who will champion this idea,” said Jones. Hines said she was impressed with Neumann’s presentation. “I thought, ‘This is someone who can create my vision and move it forward.’”

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Just a few years earlier, Neumann was beginning a circuitous journey through college. He started out in theater, wanting to be an actor. He switched to geology “for a minute” and then was undeclared until, feeling pressured to find a major, he discovered entrepreneurship as he leafed through a list of possibilities. Following a year and a half of pre-business classes, Neumann applied for and was accepted into UH’s C. T. Bauer College of Business and its nationally ranked undergraduate program, the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. Along the way, he fell in love with plants. “I told people ‘I am going to have a farm one day and grow food and provide it to my community.’” Neumann and Hines first met in the summer of 2015 to discuss her idea of producing fresh

vegetable juices, pressed daily. They planned to sell on campus using a mobile cart, offering a healthy food option for students. She provided the startup funding, and he began the yearlong process of working through the details—from the supply chain and recipes to packaging and branding for their company, Radicle Fresh Juice. “Even the simple idea of cold-pressed juice took a lot of planning,” said Neumann, co-founder and CEO of Radicle Fresh Juice. “How do I make cold pressed juice? What do I make it on? Where do I get that machine?” Developing the recipes was hard. “I tried it on my friends and, at first, a majority of it wasn’t good. It was terrible juice,” he said. “Fresh green juice had been part of our daily routine for years,” Barbara adds, “so we began with our housekeeper Lucy’s recipe, the

green drink that we offer our household every morning.” Finally, the ingredients and a menu came together. Radicle Fresh Juice launched on the UH campus in fall 2016. Every weekday morning, Neumann arrives at the Cougar Woods dining hall by 6 a.m. to receive produce and make juice. He produces five different juice

“We’re having a hard time keeping up with the convenience store orders, which is a good problem to have,” said Neumann. “They keep doubling and tripling orders.”

blends, primarily from vegetables to keep the sugar content low, but apple is used sparingly. By 9 a.m., he sets out on a tricycle with a full cart and sells all day. Radicle juices sell $5.50 for an 8 oz. bottle and $7.50 for 12 ounces. By 4 p.m., he’s washing vegetables, labeling bottles and prepping for the next day. “He runs the show,” said Hines. “We meet up a couple of times a month and talk about the next step. It was like it was meant to happen. I think that sometimes when you’re


WHY THE NAME RADICLE FRESH JUICE? “Radicle is the first part of any root that comes out of a seed. Any plant. All we sell are plants. We want to be the radicle at UH: that primary root that comes out of the seed that starts a system that provides life to the University—that’s what tied it in for me.” – Clark Neumann, co-founder and CEO, Radicle Fresh Juice

on the right track, things happen easily and click together.” Neumann credits the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship for the opportunity to run a company. “The University having that mindset of wanting to help us (students) and put us in places that are going to help us grow and innovate—all of that ties together.” Neumann has added to his sales force by hiring four part-time employees since August, all UH students, and he’s looking to hire more. The company invested in a second cart this spring and made its debut into three oncampus convenience stores in January.

“We’re having a hard time keeping up with the convenience store orders, which is a good problem to have,” said Neumann. “They keep doubling and tripling orders.” He and Hines want Radicle Fresh Juice to become the root of something even bigger by creating a “financial legacy.” The company is committed to gifting back “a majority of Radicle’s profits” to the institutions it serves. To that end, Radicle has introduced a new juice, Coog Fuel, a mix of apple, spinach and beet that is the official juice of the UH’s capital campaign, “Here, We Go: The Campaign for the University of Houston.” A portion of

proceeds from Coog Fuel will be donated to the campaign. “The sky is the limit,” said Hines. Radicle Fresh Juice is in talks with other universities to replicate the business model. Sprouting ideas and having them take root is what the University of Houston is all about, Jones said. “I’ve traveled to lots of universities, and you don’t see this level of entrepreneurial ingenuity that goes on and a willingness to try things,” he said. “And that really is a top-down type of a mindset that I think President Khator has manifested across the campus.”  

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By Chris Stipes

GLOBE An Inside Look at an Exclusive Hospitality Master’s

Sitting in the lobby of the Hilton University of Houston, Davide, a Swiss-born entrepreneur who spent much of his life in Paris, took time to fully reflect on the globetrotting educational voyage he was about to complete. He recalled a brief encounter during his first-ever visit to Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok. The 26-yearold graduate student had immersed himself in the vibrant culture and even learned to speak the native language when he made a compelling cross-cultural connection. “I was talking Thai with a taxi driver, and he had this light in his eyes. I was a foreigner, but I made the effort to integrate, respect and understand his culture. To see the joy he had interacting with me was a wonderful feeling,” he said.

TROTTING


First-of-its-Kind Program

Experiencing different cultures and understanding how businesses operate on a global level is the goal of a firstof-its-kind master’s program run by three world leaders in hospitality management education, including the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. The 18-month adventure took 27 graduate students from 22 different countries to three continents and more than a dozen world-class cities. “As soon as I heard about this program, I was absolutely passionate about it. Instead of competing against each other, the schools worked together to really bring an added value and competitive advantage to their students,” said Davide. Ki-Joon Back, Hilton College associate dean for research and graduate studies, and Eric Hilton Distinguished Chair Professor, helped develop the groundbreaking program to mold future global hospitality leaders. The challenge, he says, is connecting the gaps between cultures to better prepare students when multinational companies expand to different locations. “We don’t want to make them bookworms. Yes, we want them to be very sophisticated, smart decision makers by going through rigorous academic programs, but we also want them to speak to the industry in their languages and to deal with the industry’s actual problems,” said Back, who administers the program at UH.

Global Learning

The hungry, yet humble inaugural cohort, all of whom speak at least three languages, started their three-

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semester trek towards receiving a Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business in September 2015. The first leg of the journey took them to Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland. The focus of the semester was honing analytical skills, especially in finance and strategic decision-making. Once-in-a-lifetime “business field trips” to Paris, Berlin and Rome followed, where students met face-to-face with top executives from global brands. “We’re definitely making a mark on the other side of the globe,” said Jennifer Glickman, Hilton College’s director of international programs. “Our students want to be able to market themselves and have something very distinctive and unique that will put them ahead of other job applicants. This program does that.” For recent University of Houston Hilton College grad Shuchang Zhang, 23, the second semester was a homecoming of sorts. She and her classmates traveled to her native country of China for a semester at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In Hong Kong, the studies shifted to operations management, revenue and service

excellence. The aspiring hospitality consultant already had plenty of stories to share with family and friends about more field trips to Macau, Shanghai and Beijing. “Everything has been so memorable. Hilton College is quite famous in China. I knew this was going to be quite a unique program. I chose it for the school’s reputation,” Zhang said. “The networking is amazing. You get to visit headquarters of major companies, meet industry leaders and talk with them.”

Real-worLd Experience

Zhang got to do much more than just “talk” to industry leaders—she and the other graduate students actually went to work for global hospitality companies during their rigorous capstone consulting project. Under the supervision of a faculty mentor, teams of three spent the summer at one of nine partner companies. They were tasked with solving real-world business problems. “They really understand what’s going on in the industry rather than just reading about it in a book. Students deal with actual decision makers and share their own experiences about what’s really going on. They examine what’s not working, what’s working well and


analyze how they made their decisions to understand the whole process,” said Professor Back. Zhang consulted for Swiss hospitality corporation Michel Reybier and was asked to develop a client-relationship strategy. Meeting face-to-face with the CEO and other top executives at the company headquarters was admittedly intimidating but at the same time, she says it was an invaluable learning experience. “They know what they want, so they ask you a lot of questions you never thought of. It really takes you out of your comfort zone, and you have to try extra hard to be prepared to talk to them,” said Zhang.

Competitive Advantage

According to Back, relationships and networking are the most important takeaways from the consulting projects. “The students already are connected. The companies already test-drove you. They already know, ‘Wow, this kid is smart, I want to offer them a job right now,’” he said. The final semester of this exclusive program brought the cohort to UH’s prestigious Hilton College in fall 2016. Hospitality technology, organizational

behavior, leadership strategies and even advanced wine appreciation were the focus in the classroom, while much of the learning was done in the field. “Most of us will have jobs we could not have had with another master’s degree. Your self-confidence is on steroids, and you feel you’re really ready to go into the job market and kick it,” said Davide. During more field trips to Washington, D.C., New York and San Antonio, the aspiring hospitality professionals visited the Smithsonian, as well as Hilton Worldwide headquarters in nearby McLean, Virginia. They talked industry politics at the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Plus, they got a dose of media 101 inside the USA Today newsroom. Cumulatively, it was a rare glimpse inside the hospitality industry from varying perspectives. “What do I get out of this? Happiness. I want our students to become better than me—that’s my success. I want to help develop better leaders. That’s my happiness,” said Back. Already endorsed by dozens of industry leaders, this global master’s program allows students to choose which of the three educational institutions from which they will earn

their degrees. They also receive a certificate from the other institutions. The program’s second cohort expanded to 42 students and 15 capstone partner companies. “It was an amazing journey to travel through so many different continents,” said Zhang, who received her degree from UH. Now she’s a Cougar for life. “This has been an incredible opportunity for me.”

“We’re definitely making a mark on the other side of the globe,” said Jennifer Glickman, Hilton College’s director of international programs 59


creativity

Contemplating

An artist considers art, science and creativity through a groundbreaking collaboration with researchers from the University of Houston BY JEANNIE KEVER

Jo Fleischhauer is talking about scent, cinnamon and green moss, about memory and sensation, art and creativity. Her brain, undoubtedly, is making connections—why does cinnamon evoke fuzzy feel-good memories of childhood and cookies, while the scent of moss sparks a flashback to a specific moment years past, involving a pigment made out of moss. What that means is still a mystery, but science is on the case. Questions about the scientific underpinnings of creativity aren’t new; people have been thinking, talking and writing about the issue for more than a decade, but the advent of more sophisticated mobile brain-body imaging technology has brought the answers closer than ever before. Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, Cullen professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is among the field’s leaders, funded by the National Science Foundation and other organizations to study brain activity in people engaged in dancing, playing music, creative writing and viewing and producing visual art. Fleischhauer, a Houston-based artist known for large and thought-provoking sculpture installations, is part of the search, as researchers track her brain activity during the research and planning phase of a major installation which will incorporate both pollen and the sense of smell into a work of art. Contreras-Vidal’s initial goal is to learn more about the neural basis of creativity or what happens in the brain as people perform creative acts. One study of one person—n=1, in scientific terms—won’t provide all the answers, he said. But already researchers are sifting through large amounts of neurodata they believe will yield insights useful for education, medicine and neuroscience, as well as for artists and the arts. With such wide parameters, it might be easier to describe what doesn’t interest these scientists and artists. “I’m not interested in illustrating their work,” Fleischhauer said. She and other artists involved with Contreras-Vidal and the graduate and undergraduate students on this and related projects say it’s not about creating cool pictures. It’s about the discovery of knowledge. That starts, of course, with data. A lot of data. Researchers track Fleischhauer’s brain activity as she works through ideas and possibilities—walking on a treadmill, researching the botanical aspects of pollen, using a kit of essential oils and other scents to spark ideas about incorporating the olfactory sense into a three-dimensional project, all while wearing a wireless, 20-channel headset that provides a continuous electroencephalogram, or EEG reading of her brain and

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SPRING 2017 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine 

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It’s about the discovery of

knowledge

Scientists know scent can evoke powerful feelings, but research involving artist Jo Fleischhauer seeks to identify what is happening in the brain during that process.

62 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

includes sensors to monitor head movement. A smartphone app links the brain activity with time of day, physical location and the weather, and she keeps a journal to track her thoughts and feelings, what medications she has taken, even whether she has been drinking coffee. She wears it at home, where a video camera provides additional cues as she ponders aspects of the project, and at her studio just east of downtown Houston, on the treadmill at the gym and while walking dogs, a side job. Going out in public wearing the headset, made by a San Diego company, Cognionics Inc., using a 3-D printer, seemed awkward at first. “In the beginning, it was almost like getting used to wearing a prosthetic limb,” she said. Over time, it grew more comfortable, both physically and mentally. Most people don’t ask about it when she is out in public. Those that do—Art! Science! Brainwaves!—are intrigued. Wearing the headset necessarily changes things, to an extent. “It is making me much more conscious of what I’m thinking,” Fleischhauer said. “I am much more analytical, more conscious about remembering the threads.” She knew ideas often began to flow after about 30 minutes on the treadmill so she now uses a stopwatch, clicking it when an idea arrives and, once off the treadmill, rushing to match those points to the specific idea. Initially, everyone was searching for an “Ahha!” moment, when everything clicked into place. It turns out that for Fleischhauer, at least, inspiration isn’t one discrete moment in time. “I’m finding my moments; they’re accumulations of lots of different things,” she said. Anything—from detailed research or a trip to the museum to watching television and listening to music—can trigger an idea. And when it happens, the headset records her brainwaves as the researchers describe it, “in action and in context,” something that can’t be done in a laboratory setting. Her work long has incorporated science. A 2015 installation at The Mariago Collective was inspired in part by the announcement that buckyballs—soccer ball-shaped structures made up of 60 carbon molecules, first discovered at Rice University in 1985— had been found in the Magellanic Clouds close to the Milky Way. Before that, she was artist-in-residence for The University of Texas Health Science Center’s department of nanomedicine and biomedical engineering. She worked with Blaffer Art Museum and composers from Rice University on an installation at the downtown Market Square


Clock Tower in 2013 and years before had used MRI brain scans transferred to umbrellas for an installation near Minute Maid Park. She is married to a scientist, and conversations blending art and science are dinner table staples. For this project, she is both using science as part of her art—the research about pollen and scent—and serving as a partner in the research. Allowing researchers to tap into her brain activity—in some ways, the most hidden and intimate part of life—requires enormous trust. “At first, I was very guarded in the journal,” she said. “Now, I’m much more likely to write, I’m frustrated. I’m excited.” Contreras-Vidal knows an 18-month commitment and the requirement to be both physically and emotionally honest is asking a lot. “She’s really brave,” he said. “She’s really open. In part, that’s because we’re working as a team.” Fleischhauer provides the data, but she also controls what she provides, deciding when, where and for how long to wear the headset. That’s part of what sets this experiment apart from others exploring the connection between the brain and creativity. Contreras-Vidal said most previous work has taken place in a lab or other controlled setting, often involving people looking at art on a computer screen, as a one-time event. The length of this study will allow researchers to learn about the creative process as it evolves. Using a successful working artist like Fleischhauer is even more unusual. Contreras-Vidal has collected data from dancers and musicians during public performances, but he also has approached the topic from the other side—tracking brain activity in 1,400 people as they moved through exhibitions at the Menil Collection and Blaffer Art Museum. Colleagues from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education are collecting data from a contemporary art museum in Mexico, and Contreras-Vidal regularly fields requests to participate from other museums around the world. Initial findings on brain activity and technical information about the headsets have been published, and the researchers, including Fleischhauer, are preparing to publish early results from this experiment, as well. They are analyzing the reams of data using machine-learning algorithms to tease out the impact of time of day, weather, location, activity, music, medications and other factors. Contreras-Vidal said they have noticed differences in brain activity depending on what Fleischhauer is doing, as well as time of day. The goal isn’t to make Fleischhauer a “better” artist but a more “efficient” one, perhaps suggesting the best times or places to tap into creativity, he said. For her part, Fleischhauer doesn’t expect the process to ultimately change what and how she creates. “It’s obviously feeding into what my experience is, but at the same time, when I am on the treadmill, it’s almost like a meditation. I’m not conscious of (the headset). As soon as I open my eyes, it becomes a very different thing.” Understanding the connection between the brain and creativity has clear implications for art education and other educational projects, Contreras-Vidal said. But the possibilities for medicine and neuroscience are huge, too. Tracking brain activity after someone takes a medication could lead to more individualized decisions about dosage and timing, he said, part of the move to personalized medicine. “It can lead to better diagnostics, better devices, better therapies,” he said. “That’s a spinoff.” Contreras-Vidal is an investigator with the BRAIN Center, a collaboration between UH and Arizona State University, to develop new neurotechnologies for diagnosis and treatment of physical and cognitive disabilities. Better technologies, designed in part

YOUR BRAIN ON ART

1

8 6 Number of relevant features for classification

4 2 0

2 Exquisite Corpse artwork. Three artists collaborated to create the work. Brain activity of Subject #1 and #2 are shown on the right. A darker color indicates more relevance of those electrodes for automatic classification for “Making the artwork” vs. “Rest”. Possible interpretation: Subject 1’s artwork is figurative, and it required fine motor movements to create the mustache and eyebrows of the face. The central-left and parietal electrodes are activated. The central-left area is over the motor cortex for the right hand, possibly contributing information to make fine motor movements. The parietal areas are associated with spatial planning, which can relate to the smooth repeated traces. For Subject 2, the process was more abstract: focusing on shape and color to create his artwork. There is activation of the frontal and occipital electrodes. The frontal lobe is associated with decision making, while the occipital lobe is involved in processing visual information. The cortical areas activated may relate to the artist’s bold use of color and the organization of the paper strips in his work.

with input from experiments like the one with Fleischhauer, can lead to medical breakthroughs, he said. He sees a future in which mobile brainbody imaging headsets could become as ubiquitous as earbuds, leading not just to precision medicine but even precision shopping, similar to the way Facebook uses algorithms to tailor what users see in their feeds. In fact, Facebook is investing in technology to address some of the same issues. Contreras-Vidal isn’t worried about a downside to the devices and the endless stream of data, but then he pauses. “I think it will be a benefit. On the other hand, we need to be careful, that just because we like one thing, we are not prevented from learning something new. “It is a very careful balance.” SPRING 2017 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine 

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THERE ARE NO “HAPPY ACCIDENTS” AROUND HERE.

Our success is not owed to serendipity, or happenstance or fate. Generating a $5.3 billion-plus economic impact on Greater Houston each year? That’s no typo. A quarter of a million alumni didn’t pop up overnight, and it’s no coincidence that more than 150,000 have stayed in Houston, driving the workforce. We’re the University of the city that went to the moon without waiting for the stars to align. At the University of Houston, we’re not interested in strokes of luck. We pursue strokes of genius. And when lightning strikes, we won’t have to steal the thunder. Because we’re prepared to earn it.

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HERE, WE GO. 65


Here, we go forward, further, faster. Here, we go boldly. And here, we go all out: fueling opportunity, building on our strengths and transforming lives. It’s been more than 25 years since UH’s last major fundraising campaign—and look how far we’ve come since then. We’re a Tier One Carnegie-designated research university, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and growing at an unprecedented rate, both in size and prestige. Now, we’re taking those achievements to the next level, embarking on a historic fundraising campaign that will culminate in $1 billion raised by 2020. Believe it or not, we’re already more than halfway to our goal: from the beginning of the “silent” phase in 2012 to the launch events on January 18, we’ve already raised more than $684 million.

THERE WAS CERTAINLY a standout moment at the VIP Public Campaign Launch event on January 18: the announcement that the John P. McGovern Foundation has made an incredible commitment to the UH College of the Arts. In recognition of this transformational gift, UH will rename the college for former art student Kathrine G. McGovern (’61). The Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts is the first college at the University named after a former student and also the first named after a woman.

FACULTY AND STAFF are an integral part of the “Here, We Go” campaign, as Faculty and Staff Campaign co-chairs professor Michael Olivas and Dr. Augustina Reyes made clear. The married couple have served UH for decades in numerous capacities— professor Olivas most recently served as the interim president of University of Houston-Downtown—and are further demonstrating their commitment by pledging to match up to $100,000 of faculty and staff campaign contributions. “We are so honored to be co-chairs of the Faculty and Staff Campaign because of what it means to this great institution and what it means to our mission,” Dr. Reyes said. “You are all great scholars, teachers and service people—you bring that greatness to the University.”

“I cannot think of a better investment than in this great institution. My background is in art, and I had my first formal art training at UH in the late 1950s and 1960s,” Mrs. McGovern said. “Houston has world-class art and artists with some uniqueness that comes from our geographic location and our history. I think the future is very bright for the Houston art scene.” With supporters like McGovern fueling the College of the Arts, UH students and faculty will play an even bigger part in our transformation into a nationally prominent arts city.

WE ARE GRATEFUL for the commitment and loyalty of our volunteer partners, including four Houston luminaries who are leading the way to success by acting as our campaign co-chairs.

Beth Madison (’72)

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John L. Nau, III

Marvin E. Odum, III (M.B.A. ’95)

Tilman J. Fertitta (’78)


We’re focusing on the five following priorities that will help us get where we’re going. The great thing about the “Here, We Go” campaign is that your gift—no matter the amount—makes a tangible difference in the lives of students, faculty and countless others touched by the UH community. Every donation made to UH contributes to our $1 billion goal, no matter where you choose to give. You can give to the area that ignites your passion, whether that’s your college, a specific research fellowship, building funds or student scholarships.

SCHOLARSHIPS

COMMUNITY

OPEN DOORS WITH SCHOLARSHIPS AND FELLOWSHIPS

CREATE A VIBRANT AND HEALTHY ECONOMY

STUDENTS

ATHLETICS

ENRICH STUDENT LIFE WITH STATE-OF-THE-ART FACILITIES

BUILD A NATIONALLY RELEVANT ATHLETICS PROGRAM

FACULTY ATTRACT AND RETAIN TOP FACULTY

Learn more about the campaign and how to get involved by visiting,

herewego.uh.edu

“Together with support of the Houston community, our business and industry partners, students, alumni and friends around the world, we have the momentum to meet and exceed our goals. It’s an ambitious campaign, but when the University of Houston dreams, we always dream big.” - Renu Khator, chancellor of the UH System and president of UH 67


PROFESSOR EMERITA

JEAN LATTING BY FRANCINE PARKER

J

ean Kantambu Latting seldom shied away from

speaking about issues that are dear to her, such as social justice, peace-building and empowerment, during her 37 years at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW). Now, three years after teaching her last class and bidding farewell to her friends and colleagues across campus, Latting is still championing social change, and UH continues to be a part of her life. “I have always allied with the less fortunate—people who want more than they had and were kept from getting what they wanted because of structural impediments. Helping people overcome such obstacles is an important part of what social work is about,” Latting said. “The social work profession is as big as life,” Latting continued. “There is no aspect of life in which social workers cannot play a role. So teaching students about a field as big as life is tremendously exciting, expansive and rewarding. I learned in every class I taught.” It was the desire to teach and pursue her lifelong dream of a social work career that led her to accept a position as a lecturer at UH in 1979. Recently separated and with a young daughter to support, Latting moved to Houston. She was eager, determined to succeed and glad to be close to family. Her mother and three sisters, one of whom was a student at the UH Law Center, resided in the city. At that time, UH was a growing campus, struggling to shed its image as Cougar High. For Latting, life at the college, which was then the Graduate School of Social Work, had its challenges, including political divisions. When she joined the faculty, she was one of only three African American faculty members.

68 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

“I always felt accepted by my white colleagues” Latting said. But, Latting noted she did face difficulties forming bonds with her peers because of cultural differences as well as the demands of motherhood. “Instead of hanging out with my colleagues, I had to help my child with homework or I had to attend parent-teacher conferences,” Latting said. That first year, Latting juggled responsibilities both on and off campus while finishing a chapter of her dissertation, which she completed in 1980. She then was awarded a doctorate in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and immediately promoted to assistant professor at UH. Latting’s first opportunity to teach came unexpectedly just months after arriving on campus when a federally funded center where she worked was defunded. Latting, who was scheduled to transfer to an academic position in two years, was thrust into the Tools for Decision Making class after the semester had already started. The situation, she recalled, was “challenging at best, but I loved the subject matter and eventually won over the students whose curiosity and dedication to the field won me over,” Latting said. She, admittedly, pushed her students to excel. Over time, Latting said she gained “a reputation of being a tough but informative teacher.” Despite or perhaps because of her reputation, Latting was honored with the first Faculty of the Year Award presented by the school’s student association in 1987. The award was the beginning of many awards and honor society inductions for Latting. In 2003, the UH Alumni Association bestowed on her the Outstanding Faculty Member


Award. In 1994, she received the Cachet Award for Outstanding Educator from the nonprofit organization Women Helping Women. Latting’s other accolades included being listed in Who’s Who in America from 2003 to 2006 and Who’s Who in American Education in 2006. Two of her most distinguished honors were being selected as a member of the UH chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society in 2007 and UH’s Phi Alpha national honor society in 2012. She specially treasures a professorship named in her honor and endowed in 2005 by a Houstonian she greatly admired— the late philanthropist Maconda Brown O’Connor, who also was a social worker.

Outside the classroom, Latting was

just as active, chairing two dissertation committees and serving as interim director of the African American Studies program from 1991 to 1992. She authored a book, wrote more than two dozen articles and book chapters and was a member of dozens of campus committees. One of her notable achievements was creating GCSW’s Center for Organizational Research and Effectiveness. In spite of all her academic accomplishments, Latting remains humble and grateful for the students she taught throughout the years. “They enter our college hoping to make a difference in the world and deepen their knowledge of how the environment impacts the individual and vice versa. They are bright; they are eager; and they care. What else could a faculty member want?” Latting asked. “We (social workers) have a saying ‘the self as instrument’—IT people use computers as their tools of the trade. Our tools are ourselves. So we have to learn how to use ourselves to foster in others the willingness to improve their lives and to improve the lives of others.” Latting’s compassion is deeply rooted in her childhood. As one of five children in a blended family, Latting grew up in one of the most prominent African American families in Memphis, then a segregated city. There, she often heard stories about “people helping people” and rising above adversity, Latting said. Those stories of resilience and lessons of citizenship inspired her. “When I was nine years old, I dreamed of opening a home for children who were crippled, which was the term that was used back then,” Latting recollected. Her father, an attorney, and her mother, a homemaker, wanted her to pursue a career in

law, medicine or a similar profession. Latting, though, had a different calling, one that she discovered as a sophomore enrolled in an introduction to social work and sociology class at Douglass Residential College, Rutgers University. The professor, Latting remembered, discussed her work with the poor, prostitutes and other people who were disenfranchised. Most importantly, Latting said, “She humanized them. She taught us not to judge them.” That was a turning point for Latting, who decided then that social work was her calling. Ironically, with that decision, she would follow the footsteps of another family member: her grandmother, who was

THE SOCIAL WORK PROFESSION IS AS BIG AS LIFE, LATTING CONTINUED. THERE IS NO ASPECT OF LIFE IN WHICH SOCIAL WORKERS CANNOT PLAY A ROLE. awarded a master’s degree in social work from Chicago’s Loyola University in 1933.

After graduating from Rutgers with

a bachelor’s in sociology- economics and a minor in psychology in 1965, Latting worked first as a social caseworker in Bronx, New York and two years later was hired as a community organizer at a settlement house in the Two Bridges neighborhood in New York City’s lower East Side. During this time, Latting, a self-described rabble-rouser, protested for tenant rights and welfare rights and against the Vietnam War.

She would later take that drive and energy to Columbia University School of Social Work, where she received a master’s degree in community organization and planning in 1971. Latting remembered those years fondly. “It was glorious to be in your 20s in New York City in the 1960s,” Latting said. “There was nothing else like it.” Since those rabble-rousing days and her years on campus, Latting has slowed down … just a bit. Her days are spent working as a leadership coach and consultant and researching such topics as leadership development, workplace diversity and social change. She also is working on a book exploring social change in pluralistic environments. Now remarried, she and her husband often travel to Austin to visit their grandchildren and their daughter and sonin-law, both of whom also found their calling as social workers. When she’s not on the road, consulting or with other family members, Latting is at the gym, where she lifts weights twice a week, exploring philosophical questions with friends around the country and enjoying music whenever she can. “I love musicals and plays. I don’t attend as much as I would like, but I took my granddaughter to see ‘Alexander Hamilton’ in New York last spring, and I’m still a Michael Jackson fan,” Latting said, laughing. Looking back, Latting, who received the professor emerita title in 2008, readily admits that she doesn’t miss the rigors of academic life. Yet, she is as committed to social work and the college as she was in 1979. Just last year, she served as keynote speaker at the college’s fall research conference. Latting also is impressed with the college’s updated vision—to achieve social, racial, economic and political justice from local to global—and its new dean, Alan J. Dettlaff. She is equally impressed with UH’s progress. “The university has risen in stature due in large part to President Khator’s leadership. I think she has a stronger marketing sense, and that’s the difference,” Latting said. “People in the community,” she added, “want Houston to be great, and they want the University of Houston to be great. In the past few years, I have seen pride in the university increase in the community, and that’s wonderful.”

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69


ACHIEVING A LIFETIME OF HEALTH UH Professor Discusses New Institute to Address Public Health BY LISA K. MERKL

E

zemenari M. Obasi,

associate professor in the UH College of Education’s department of psychological, health and learning sciences, is on a mission to improve public health. Together with his co-director Lorraine Reitzel, he led the effort to launch a new

70 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

institute focused on HEALTH—Helping Everyone Achieve a LifeTime of Health—by bringing together community-based common sense with science. The interdisciplinary group of scientists joining Obasi and Reitzel behind the HEALTH Research Institute aim to make improvements within communities that bear a disproportionate burden of disease and who are oftentimes disenfranchised, marginalized or underserved. While the research will be empirical in nature, they will work with the community to make it translational. Ultimately, this will give grass-roots leaders and organizations in the community tools they can use themselves to better serve their health needs and be part of their own solution. By putting the science into real-world practice, this puts the power into the hands of the people who will be using it day to day.

What inspired you to create the HEALTH Research Institute? One of the motivating factors for me

coming to the University of Houston was its focus on health-related issues. UH is brimming with untapped potential and home to many strong researchers in the health arena, many of whom want to collaborate. The impetus for the institute was to bring people together in an organized way, so we could collaborate in the most effective way possible. The HEALTH Research Institute creates an infrastructure to serve as a home base to leverage all these talents. In doing so, we intend to magnify the collective impact we’re having on communities. With Houston being one of the most diverse places in the country, we aim to lead the conversation as it relates to minimizing and eliminating health disparities.

What are your goals for the institute?

We want to start a conversation around how to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have a fulfilling life. In doing so, you begin to think through issues of equity and ways in which certain groups have been


“Ultimately, this will give grass-roots leaders and organizations in the community tools they can use, themselves, to better serve their health needs and be part of their own solution.” disadvantaged. Oftentimes, we have communities that get left out of the conversation and suffer as a result. We want to make sure we’re an entity that focuses on everybody and doesn’t leave certain segments behind. Ultimately, when you take steps to solve health care issues such as cost and access, everybody wins, because we all pay for it one way or another. For instance, if uninsured people receive assistance for health care, premiums are adjusted for those who have insurance to account for it. If we understand what makes certain subpopulations more at risk, we could begin to design strategies for preventing the incidence of some of these issues across time.

How do you plan to achieve those goals?

Currently, we don’t really have a clear picture of what’s happening, because these communities historically haven’t been involved in health-focused research studies. White middle class communities have traditionally been the focal point of defining what health is, what the risks for diseases entail and how to intervene to improve health. So a lot of our medical practices are based on that literature. That’s fine to do if those findings always translate to other populations, but we often find they don’t. We plan to identify important factors that affect health among

underserved groups based on their interactions with their environment or cultural context. Our job is to figure out what the knowledge gaps are and use this information to improve prevention and intervention efforts for these communities.

What kind of impact do you envision this institute will have on the community?

We’re hoping to build sustainable partnerships that allow everyone to have a voice in the solutions. When communities have a say and can participate, there’s a much greater investment in the process and implementation, as well as a sense of ownership. Together, we can leverage our lived experiences and scientific expertise to promote health equity and eliminate the disparities that we know exist in some communities.

What do you, personally, find rewarding or fulfilling about the creation of this institute?

From my perspective, it’s always important to make the world a better place than what you inherited. For me, it’s more meaningful when I can begin to take the work I’m doing from a science standpoint on the research side and demonstrate how it’s actually helping people’s lives.

By the Numbers: Illustrations of Health Disparities Source: HEALTH Research Institute

Hispanic

41% African Americans are affected by HIV/AIDS in America. 14% don’t know they’re infected.

46% African Americans lead the country in years of potential

Black BREAST CANCER

White

African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other racial group.

life lost (YPLL) when considering all causes of death in comparison with the general population.

70% Latino and African American populations are 70% more likely to have diagnosed diabetes in comparison to their European American counterparts.

7 in 10 new HIV diagnosis among Latinos occur in gay and bisexual men.

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TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT? That is the question a UH researcher answers about edible insects BY CHRIS STIPES

S

itting down face-to-face with UH assistant

professor Tiffany Shin, it was evident we weren’t alone. Piled high on an elegant, white dinner plate placed on the table between us laid dozens of dried, edible insects—their beady, empty eyes seemingly staring into mine. It was a visually unappealing platter of crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and silkworms there for our dining pleasure. I was distracted and somewhat disgusted by the thought of eating a crunchy carcass—yet very intrigued. At least two billion people worldwide eat insects as part of their traditional diet, with more than 1,900 species used as food. For most Westerners, however, eating bugs is unfamiliar and considered “too gross.” Shin, an accomplished researcher who joined the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management in fall 2016, is hoping to change that perception.

72 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • SPRING 2017

“It will take a lot of time and education to catch up, because it’s never been part of the diet in the United States. The majority of consumers still can’t get over the disgust factor,” Shin said. Shin shifted her research focus to entomophagy, or eating insects, several years ago after the United Nations pushed bugs as an alternative food source. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) argues population growth, climate change, food waste and unsustainable practices make it necessary to find another option rich in protein and nutrients. “It just made a lot of sense to me. I really bought into that argument. The world is growing quickly, and we need more food. If we can provide equal amounts of nutrition for human beings as beef and other meats while using less land, water and money, then why not utilize something that’s more environmentally friendly and easier to farm?” Last year, Shin co-authored the first research to look at the consumption of edible insects from both a psychology and marketing perspective. Consumers, she learned, don’t want to see pictures of insects on packaging, and the marketing language needs to be ambiguous. “They really don’t want to see the shape of the bug. It’s all about how it’s presented. They don’t want to know too much. But if it’s healthy, I think they’re more willing to try.” Growing up in Korea, snacking on a bowl of silkworm soup with rice was “just part of the culture and history,” said Shin. Now, as the head of global academic research and foreign public relations at the


Korean Edible Insect Laboratory (KEIL), she’s working to lessen the risk perception of edible insects. KEIL, started in 2011, has grown to an $8.4 million a year company selling edible insect products for both humans and pets. “One of the biggest challenges is people don’t understand the difference between edible insects and harmful insects, like cockroaches you see in your toilet. They hear the trigger word ‘insect’ and immediately have a negative attitude. In Korea, for example, they change the name of bugs to more appealing terms. It has been a successful strategy to promote insects to the general public.” Insects are ground into powder to make mealworm cookies or combined with grains and nuts to make cricket energy bars. Others are hydrolyzed to Tiffany Shin, assistant professor at the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, is promoting a protein source many find unappealing—bugs.

extract nutrients and protein to produce pasta or even ice cream. “We discovered that you need to powder and extract it to stay in disguise in order to increase customer acceptance.” In the coming years, the ambitious researcher has a vision to incorporate edible insects into the UH dining experience while also educating Houstonarea restaurant owners about the benefits. Shin believes the industry is “ripe” for young entrepreneurs and would eventually like to teach a course about the role insects can play in sustainability and food security. “I think Houston is the right place to start this journey and promote edible insects, because we’re so diverse,” says Shin. “People come from all different backgrounds with different degrees of acceptance.” Hesitant at first but feeling adventurous, this writer did sample a cricket cookie and one dried silkworm. I’m glad I did. Will you be next?

Comparison of Average Protein Content Among Insects, Beef and Fish SPECIES

PROTEIN CONTENT

Locusts and Grasshoppers

14-28

Silkworm (Caterpillar)

10-17

Palmworm Beetles

7-36

Yellow Mealworm

14-25

Crickets

8-25

Cattle (Beef)

19-26 16-28

Fish

(g/100g fresh weight)

Source: FAO of the United Nations

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Professor H. Burr Roney teaches a telecourse in biology.

ON MAY 25, 1953, THE FIRST EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION STATION IN THE COUNTRY SIGNED ON FROM THE FIFTH FLOOR OF THE EZEKIEL CULLEN TOWER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON. KUHT-TV WAS BORN. IT LATER BECAME ONE OF THE FOUNDING STATIONS OF THE PUBLIC BROADCASTING SERVICE (PBS).

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University of Houston Magazine Spring 2017  

University of Houston Magazine Spring 2017