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MAKING HISTORY A look at UH’s rich athletics history GAME ON Biology students use Xbox technology to look inside the human body BACK IN TIME Inside the Hilton Hospitality Archive



The Art Of The Matter University of Houston leverages the arts as an engine to drive innovation and excellence. Our programs encompass music, visual and literary arts, dance, theater and design classes that awaken the senses and shape the cultural landscape. Students use their experiences and thoughts to ignite the imagination. They articulate stories by merging song, choreography, drama, vision and determination. We are home to one of the world’s best university chamber choirs, one of the nation’s best opera programs, a leading creative writing program and a thriving industrial design program. We also are making bold strides in revolutionizing the approach to arts leadership. The fusion of an interactive experience as well as classroom practice nurtures a blooming breed of experts who are reinventing, refreshing and mastering the creative world. FALL 2015 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine



Drilling Deeper Into Responsible Energy The University of Houston fuels the energy industry. We drive research and development while fostering leadership and technology incubation. Developing new methods for companies to prosper while preserving workplace safety and the environment is our full-time job. Energy companies continue to expand into deeper waters to mine for oil. Exploration into the unknown always brings its hurdles, but this is not a bad thing. It forces us to rethink current technology and invent new ways to solve old problems — and we’re the experts. We work to find the best method of supplementing the industry while also protecting human and marine life. UH tackled this challenge by leading a national research center for subsea engineering and other offshore development issues. The overarching goal is to improve the sustainable and safe procurement of resources in the Gulf of Mexico while also preserving our natural habitat. UH plays a key role in influencing energy’s future.





Making Water Safe to Drink Water covers a majority of the Earth’s surface, yet less than one percent qualifies as safe to drink. The effects leave a devastating mark — according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 500,000 deaths occur each year due to contaminated water. While access to potable water is problematic for much of the global community, our research at University of Houston is pointing toward a potential answer to this crisis. In much of the developing world, clean water is difficult to come by or a commodity requiring both laborious work and significant currency to obtain. UH civil engineering Assistant Professor Debora Rodrigues forged a tool to combat this issue. She developed a nanocomposite coating used for purification that helps remove heavy metals, radioactive materials and microorganisms from available water supplies. If implemented on a large scale, her discovery can improve health conditions across the globe.





Fall 2015 PUBLISHER Richie Hunter Vice President for University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations

EDITOR Keidra Gaston (’04) Interim Executive Director, Marketing and Communication


Enita Torres (’89)


Alese Pickering (‘98)


Katie Horrigan Rainer Schuhsler


Brian Boeckman Jessica Villarreal


Shawn Lindsey


Sam Byrd Melissa Carroll Sarah Dugas Mike Emery Esmeralda Fisher (’03, M.A. ’13) Eric Gerber Joelle Jameson Jeannie Kever Lisa Merkl (’92, M.A. ’97) Greg Ortiz Francine Parker Marisa Ramirez (’00)




UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON SYSTEM BOARD OF REGENTS Tilman J. Fertitta, Chairman Welcome W. Wilson Jr., Vice Chairman Spencer D. Armour III, (’77), Secretary Durga D. Agrawal, M.S. (’69) and Ph.D. (’74) Garrett Hughey Beth Madison (’72) Gerald W. McElvy (’75) Paula M. Mendoza, UH-Downtown (’95) Peter K. Taaffe, J.D. (’97) Roger F. Welder

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 Send feedback to: The University of Houston Magazine is published by the Division of Marketing, Communication and Media Relations. Printed on Recycled Paper The University of Houston is an EEO/AA institution. 10.2015 | 70,000 Copyright © 2015 by the University of Houston

26 Defining the 38 Bringing Labs 50 Houston Future

to Life

From cybersecurity and protecting our coasts to discovering hidden ancient civilizations, UH’s national research centers are seeking answers to society’s biggest questions

Students Learn with Pioneering 3-D, Simulation Technology

Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense and the Game of the Century: a book excerpt


10 Leadership

A message from the President / Getting to know the Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics / Student Regents bring new perspective to the Board

14 Making an Impact

From helping the entertainment industry replicate the ambience of historic hotels and restaurants to providing job training to veterans and building global partnerships — UH is making a difference.

20 Campus Affairs

Provost Prize recognizes writers on the rise / Texas legislature supports the University’s agenda / UH Center for Diversity and Inclusion brings coogs together / UH is building for the future in Sugar Land



34 Learning & Leading

UH student is recognized by Glamour magazine for research and community engagement initiatives / Entrepreneur and UH alumnus is included in Forbes’ 30 under 30 / Student interns assist with the “Super Four Experience”

42 Innovation & Insight

Center for Mexican American Studies welcomes new director upon longtime director’s retirement / Professors’ research and initiatives strengthen awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder

52 On the Faculty

In his own words, Professor Richard Murray reflects on 50 years at UH / Professor Emeritus: Robert Heath



42 Alumni & Friends

A profile on distinguished UH alumna, Thusnelda Valdes / News and Announcements from UH alumni

65 Coogs With a View

A few of our favorite Instagram photos of daily life around campus.

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


MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT Imagine that you are helping lead a major university in a large city. You are faced with

a critical choice. Should the university focus on being nationally — and even internationally — competitive? Or should the primary emphasis be on local relevance? The answer is yes … to both. At the University of Houston, we have made a commitment to achieve national prominence and to serve as a key resource for our community. These two objectives are not mutually exclusive — but undertaking both can certainly be challenging. The trick, I believe, is to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, but always look upward and onward. That expanded perspective is perhaps best exemplified by UH’s recent selection as the home for three vital, federally funded national research centers — one for offshore energy, another for a Homeland Security-driven program focusing on borders, trade and immigration issues and a third

10 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

for advanced superconductor manufacturing. Clearly, our national profile is on the rise. And, UH continues to enjoy international acclaim in the arts and athletics, with our Moores Concert Chorale earning a number of awards in European competitions while the Men’s Basketball team recently undertook a remarkable 10-day tour through China, introducing a number of opponents and cheering crowds to Cougar-style excitement. As exhilarating as such recognition may be, we never want to lose sight of our obligation to serve the city that gives us our name — the University of Houston. I’m proud to say that we are doing so in countless ways, large and small. I am even prouder to say we are now moving forward with what may well be UH’s most ambitious community initiative to date. To meet a clear and growing demand in the local health care arena, UH is exploring the possibility of a medical school specializing in community-based preventive and primary care. To help direct this crucial exploration, I have named Dr. Stephen J. Spann as Special Assistant to the President and Planning Dean for the Medical School. A dedicated physician and seasoned health care administrator with experience at Baylor College of Medicine, UTMB and Johns Hopkins, he is helping us prepare and evaluate an ambitious program that would be academically desirable, financially feasible, and, most importantly, a program that complements the already strong offerings in the city of Houston. The win-win result would be additional health care resources for our community and expanded opportunities for our students to participate in a rewarding interdisciplinary and integrated learning experience. So, as this issue of the University of Houston Magazine shows, we are carrying on our efforts to play a fundamental role in our community while establishing a national reputation for excellence at the highest levels. Just because we are an anchor institution doesn’t mean we can’t soar … With warm regards,


as a burgeoning athletics program. It was the opportunity to be a part of something very exciting and part of the building process of an institution like UH.”



Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics BY GREG ORTIZ


fter an accomplished

tenure as the University of Houston’s associate vice president and chief operating officer for intercollegiate athletics, Hunter Yurachek was elevated to vice president in April. During his 14 months as COO, Yurachek made a lasting impact on UH Athletics as an integral part of the national search and hiring of football and men’s and women’s basketball coaches. He oversaw the $500,000 remodel of the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms, worked closely with the architectural design firm on plans for the new $25 million basketball development facility and spearheaded the $500,000 enhancement to the Athletics/Alumni center.

Before coming to UH, Yurachek spent four years as the director of athletics at Coastal Carolina University and was named the 2014 FCS Athletic Director of the Year. Under his watch, the Chanticleers won 29 Big South Championships, made 30 NCAA appearances and hosted two FCS football playoff games and a NCAA Baseball Super Regional. Yurachek shared his vision for the future of Houston Athletics.

What initially drew you to UH Athletics? “It was an exciting time, looking at the University of Houston and the leadership under President Khator. UH was an up-and-coming institution that was rebranding itself, not only as an institution with Tier One status but also

What are your long-term goals for the athletics program?

“In five years, I expect to be able to say we’ve taken care of the infrastructure at UH. Hofheinz has been renovated, we have an indoor football practice facility, the new track and field stadium is done, the new tennis complex is done, we’ve completed renovations to the baseball and softball fields and all our sports teams are able to train and compete in great facilities. From a revenue standpoint, I expect to say we are becoming more independent, and we can subsidize our athletics budget. I also expect to say we’re winning conference championships and contending for national championships.”

If you are taking some time to disconnect from work, what can we find you doing— what are your other interests?

“Most of the time it’s doing something with my children. I’m actively involved. I have three boys, one in college, one in high school and one in grade school. It’s really about working with them on their own sports. I coached my youngest son’s 7-on-7 football team in the spring, assisted with his baseball team and I will coach his basketball team in the winter. I’ve done this for all of my boys. It’s my passion outside of Athletics. This job calls for you to spend a lot of time at the office and doing things that are associated with your job. When I have some time away, I spend it engaging with my boys and my wife, Jennifer, and doing whatever activities they want to do.”

What do you like most about Houston?

“The people. There are tremendous people in the city and within the campus community. Everybody you come in contact with is very genuine and welcoming. The opportunities to do things. We came from small towns like Conway and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which swell to about a million people during the summer but then drops back to 50,000, to being able to go to a Texans game, an Astros game, a Rockets game or a Dynamo game. The fine arts in the community. The concert opportunities and the wealth of things you can do in this community are endless.”



LEADERSHIP German discussed her priorities for the Libraries:

Q: What are some of your initial plans as the Libraries’ new dean?

One of my first priorities is to get to know the culture of UH, the librarians and staff of the UH Libraries, our donors and the other deans across the University. I’ll be on a listening tour so that I can get a sense of the environment here and what’s important for the Libraries to be doing.

Q: How do you envision UH Libraries 5, 10, 15 years from now?



University of Houston Libraries BY ESMERALDA FISHER


or the first time in 18 years, a new leader of the University of Houston

Libraries has been appointed. Lisa German, formerly of Pennsylvania State University Libraries, began her new role as dean of Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair on August 3. At Penn State Libraries, German served as associate dean for collections, information and access services, where she was responsible for planning, organization, policy development, implementation, assessment and direction. She has also published extensively in these areas. “Lisa German is a highly regarded research library administrator and has exceptional experience and leadership skills,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Paula Myrick Short. “She brings to the University a strategic vision that will move the Libraries’ role in teaching and research forward.” German has participated in the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians at Harvard University and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Research Library Leadership Fellows Program. She is the recipient of several awards from the University of Illinois and the American Library Association — Association for Library Collections and Technical Services.

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Libraries have been in existence for thousands of years and in many ways we’re still doing a lot of the same things, but we’re doing it differently. Librarians are great at connecting people with each other and with information, and teaching critical thinking skills. We’ll continue to do that, but we’re also in a great place to create new services like makerspaces and technology sandboxes, where people can try out new things. The library is a central place for people to come together, to create, to experiment, to learn and to imagine. Sometimes we refer to it as the “third space” (classrooms and living quarters would be the first two spaces). Campus partnerships are very important to us. The Libraries are in a perfect place to offer more services that facilitate faculty and student research and to preserve the important scholarship that UH produces.

TEXAS CONNECTION: Her grandmother and grandfather met in the town of Marlin, TX when he was stationed here in the Army and she worked in the library on the base. “My father has great memories of Texas as a boy; he would spend the summer here. He said he could always tell he was getting close to Texas when he saw the Dr Pepper billboards.” LIBRARIAN FAMILY: Her daughter, also a librarian, formerly worked at UH Libraries and is now at Texas A&M Libraries. RANDOM FACTS: She is an avid knitter and reader, and loves exploring the city. She has three daughters, a grandson and two dogs named Simba and Nala. FIRST IMPRESSIONS: “I’m very excited

about coming to Houston. It’s going to be a great adventure. UH is an aspirational place, and I’m looking forward to working with the tremendous people here.”


Student Regents bring fresh perspectives to board. BY MIKE EMERY


arrett Hughey isn’t the

first Student Regent for the University of Houston System, but he’s likely the fastest person to serve in this position. Hughey, a student in UH’s Law Center, earned NCAA All-American Honors as a member of the Cougar track team. Now, the native of Argyle, Texas is following in the footsteps of several quick-thinking leaders who provided a voice for students on the UHS Board of Regents. “My goal is to be a useful resource for the voting Regents by effectively conveying the student experience,” said Hughey, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in History at UH before enrolling in law school. Hughey is the 10th UHS Student Regent to serve on the Board. In 2005, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation requiring public university systems to include one nonvoting

Garrett Hugey

student regent. Since then, the Board has heard students’ perspectives on everything from academic policies to parking spaces. Among those who contributed time and energy to the Board was Asit Shah. If Hughey needs any Student Regent pointers, Shah has some advice. “Enjoy the experience. Live in the moment. Speak your opinion, and get out of your comfort zone,” said Shah, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in the C.T. Bauer College of Business. “When I joined the board, I experienced a culture shock. After a while, I recognized that the more I stood true to myself, the better the experience would be.”

Shah — a native of Richmond, Texas —

served as the Board’s youngest Student Regent during a whirlwind (and historic) 2014–15 academic year at UH. It kicked off with the opening of TDECU Stadium and concluded with Matthew McConaughey’s headline-making presentation at the University Commencement. During that year, Shah balanced schoolwork with the many responsibilities of a UHS Student Regent. He served on the Facilities, Master Planning and Construction and Academic and Student Success committees. Likewise, he lent insight to UH’s Foundations of Excellence initiative, which is focused on creating positive experiences for first-year students. Hughey’s workload will be no less busy. He’s balancing Board

Asit Shah

obligations with law school – already no small task. He also serves as an articles editor for the Houston Law Review and is a member of the Law Center’s honor society, the Order of the Barons. “Law school has taught me how to advocate and how to analyze problems,” Hughey said. “I plan on utilizing that training to advocate persuasively and analyze rigorously on behalf of the student body.” According to Shah, Hughey will have many opportunities to learn from his fellow Board members. Shah recalls many lessons during his term as Student Regent. “Every person you meet in life has the potential to teach you something you did not know,” Shah said. “Good grades and high test scores may measure your aptitude to learn, but don’t let these numbers stop you from pursuing your goals. Persistence, patience and passion are incredibly important in having a fulfilling career.” For Shah and Hughey, however, the role of Student Regent is much more than an educational opportunity. It’s a chance to return the favor to a university system that has helped them grow personally and professionally. Unlike Shah, Hughey didn’t know very much about UH until track and field coach (and Cougar legend) Leroy Burrell recruited him. During his first visit to campus, he decided that he wanted to run wearing UH’s red and white. Although impressed with the University, he never imagined the success he would achieve as a Cougar. In 2012 and 2013, Hughey was named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll. He also earned NCAA All-American honors in 2013. “I believe being the Student Regent gives me the best platform to give back to the UH System, which has provided me with so many great opportunities,” Hughey said.”




GOOD CORK, BAD CORK New research on corks keeps the wine from going bad.


f the wine tastes bad,

it may be the cork’s fault. New research from the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management indicates chemicals from contaminated corks are transmitted to the wine and spoil the contents. Lecturer Aaron Corsi and Associate Professor Jay Neal found electron-beam irradiation to be a safe and cost-effective way for cork producers to eliminate the problem. “The most common chemical responsible for taint is 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, or TCA, which is transmitted to wine via contaminated cork, wood barrels or other winery surfaces,” Corsi said. “Once a wine is tainted, there’s no way to fix it. So we focused on reducing or eliminating the most common molds known to cause TCA on corks.” Corsi and Neal inoculated the four most popular kinds of cork used by manufacturers with six different molds known to produce TCA, and then treated those corks with

14 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

electron-beam irradiation. They used equipment at the SADEX Corporation in Sioux City, Iowa. After an incubation period, they found no sign of the molds, and the corks maintained their structural integrity. E-beam irradiation, which uses highenergy electrons to destroy pathogenic microorganisms, mold and spoilage bacteria, has already been approved by the FDA for use on food products like ground beef, poultry and spices. “While any wine drinker can identify the off-putting aroma and taste of tainted wine, most are likely unaware of TCA and the role it plays in that phenomenon,” Corsi said. “Instead, their experience leads them to make negative judgments about the quality of individual wineries’ products and even the restaurants that serve them. By eliminating the molds that cause TCA through e-beam irradiation, we can reduce that negative experience for consumers and the negative impact it has on the industry.” –Marisa Ramirez

Serjio Brereda on the road with Journey of Hope last summer.

Going the Extra Mile University of Houston student Serjio Brereda has been traveling across the country as one of the many faces of Adaptive Athletics, which promotes specialized sports for students with disabilities. He, along with 27 cyclists and nine crew members of the Journey of Hope, trekked cross country spanning from the West Coast to Washington, D.C., raising money to bring awareness for individuals with disabilities and their capabilities. “Being on the crew for Journey of Hope 2015 is part of my life’s mission. It’s a chance to give back to my community of people, make their voices heard, inspire and be inspired by the team I work for. This adventure is the journey of a lifetime,” he said. The Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity member’s life changed in 2010 when he was diagnosed with a virus that attacked his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed but not discouraged. After receiving the devastating news that he would not be able to walk again, Serjio was determined to beat the odds by any means necessary. After the diagnosis, Brereda began two years of intensive therapy, including routine sessions and numerous hospital stays where he pushed himself beyond the limits. After therapy, he returned to school with a new outlook and intention. Brereda also serves as the Adaptive Athletics’ development coordinator, managing the team’s fundraisers, handling corporate sponsors and additional duties at the foundation’s friendship visits throughout the summer. The Journey of Hope is an event hosted by The Ability Experience, which was founded by the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity in 1977. To date, members have raised more than $15 million for The Ability Experience. This year, the Journey of Hope aims to raise more than $500,000 in support of people with disabilities. –Sarah Dugas

A UNIQUE COLLECTION Impressive archives offer a compelling look into the history and growth of the hospitality industry. BY SAM BYRD


he Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and

Restaurant Management is home to one of the most extensive hospitality industry archives in the world. Located in the Massad Family Library Research Center, the Hospitality Industry Archives houses more than 15,000 resources, including books, restaurant menus, oral histories, corporate papers, photographs, films and memorabilia. The collection is so expansive that if someone stacked all the materials together, it would stretch more than 5,000 feet. The Archives stores items that portray the hospitality trade through the ages. The typical fare of cookbooks and photos are present, but the more exotic artifacts include Conrad Hilton’s dog tags from World War I, Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding album, McDonald’s toys from The Flintstones movie in the 1990s and a 1967 Sunday newspaper Batman comic that shows Conrad Hilton giving the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder a personal tour of a Batman Hilton.

Other interesting items include displays about Colonel Harlan “Kentucky Fried Chicken” Sanders, Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame and Vernon Stouffer, the legendary microwave meal czar. The Archives act as a touchstone to the hospitality eras of the past and present, and the information contained in the collection benefits researchers and students around the world. The list of people who have accessed the Hospitality Archives ranges from reporters at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times to members of the entertainment industry. “It’s always fun when Hollywood calls. We’ve been the go-to source for Hollywood regarding duplicating the distinct look and feel of hotel lobbies, hotel rooms and restaurants,” said Hilton College’s Mark Young, Ph.D., director, archivist and historian for the Hospitality Industry Archives. Cinema moguls like Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg have depended on Young’s knowledge and the Archives to recreate accurate depictions of hotel lobbies and rooms. “The most fun was helping the producers of ‘Mad Men.’ They called us because they knew nothing about Conrad Hilton. We educated them on what he was like, and they incorporated him as a character into the TV show,” said Young.

Clockwise from top left: Conrad Hilton’s iconic Stetson hat and case (c. 1950s); Howard Johnson’s Cola in a steel can (c. 1960s & 1970s); a plate from the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room, NYC.—Conrad N. Hilton bought the Plaza hotel in 1943 and sold it in 1953; Keymatic Rolodex Address Book (c. 1950s); Menu from a dinner held at the Waldorf-Astoria for Prince Henry of Prussia (1902); Elizabeth Taylor and Nick Hilton’s wedding album. It was the first marriage for both bride and groom. (1950)




Going Home A University of Houston professor returns to Nepal, determined to make a difference. BY JEANNIE KEVER


hen people from around

16 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

Gnawali, an assistant professor of

computer science, returned to Nepal in early May, shortly before a major aftershock roiled a region still struggling from the initial quake, which had killed more than 8,000 people and injured three times as many. Once there, Gnawali worked with local experts and software engineers from Facebook and General Electric to organize the ReNepal Hackathon, where students and software professionals built programs designed to boost the recovery and increase the country’s resilience.

Gnawali was inspired to help organize

the ReNepal Hackathon after seeing the energy from CodeRED, a Houston hackathon held last spring and sponsored by UH student organization CougarCS, as well as the University’s RED Labs. Some people held similar events in the United States to brainstorm ways to help Nepal rebuild. “I thought it would be more effective if we could do it in Nepal, because they know the challenges better,” Gnawali said. The Additional Inspector General for the Armed Police Force and a team leader from the United Mission to Nepal explained the needs. “Their message was, basically, Nepal needs a lot of inexpensive, robust technology,” said Gnawali. Winning projects dealt with recovery from trauma, speeding search and rescue through a cell phone application that reports the location of missing people and a method for more broadly and quickly broadcasting information to the public. “The destruction is massive,” Gnawali said. “I want to help, partly because I’m from there, and partly because I have the connections, and I can do something.”


the world began sending blankets and bottled water to Nepal after April’s devastating earthquake, Omprakash Gnawali knew he needed to do more. A faculty member at the University of Houston, Gnawali’s ties to Nepal ran deep — he grew up in Kathmandu, the capital city and the epicenter of the April earthquake, and is involved with recruiting efforts there for the Computer Science Department. “I had a responsibility and the connections,” he said. His family now lives in the United States, where Gnawali earned his undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. But Gnawali had periodically returned to Nepal, including a 2014 trip with computer science professor Rakesh Verma to recruit graduate students to UH and forge research partnerships with universities there.

International ties are important, said department chairman Jaspal Subhlok. “Faculty members in Nepal are invited to collaborate with outstanding research groups in the department,” he said. “My colleagues have already visited them, and we expect researchers from Nepal to visit us in coming years. At the same time, we are getting a stream of outstanding students into our graduate programs.”

But the 24-hour coding marathon at Kathmandu Engineering College was just part of Gnawali’s efforts. He also raised money — including contributions from the UH Nepalese Student Association — to build 130 galvanized iron shelters for families, allowing some people to move out of tents and makeshift shelters as monsoon season began. The Nepalese Children’s Education Fund (, a nonprofit organization he started with friends in 2002 as a student at MIT, will provide longer term support for some students, as well as rebuild a few of the most severely damaged schools. Subhlok said Gnawali’s work illustrates a traditional role for faculty. “Dr. Gnawali’s mission in Nepal is a great example of how a university faculty member can make Gnawali raised money to a meaningful build simple galvanized difference to the iron shelters, allowing more than 100 families community by to move out of tents simply taking the and makeshift shelters time to share their before monsoon season. expertise when it is desperately needed,” he said. “This noblest of faculty roles is becoming rare as universities around the world become more like businesses.”

LIFE AFTER SERVICE Hilton College pairs with Diageo to help veterans get jobs in the hospitality business. BY MARISA RAMIREZ

A program that pairs the University of Houston Conrad N.

Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management with Diageo, a global leader in beverage alcohol, is helping Houston veterans by teaching “Learning Skills for Life.” The program, designed to train unemployed and underemployed individuals, provides both life and business skills needed to secure employment in the hospitality industry. Faculty and staff from the college are instructing participants in the areas of restaurant, banquet and beverage service. Following the four-week program participants will have certificates in beverage and food handling, and will receive career counseling and networking opportunities. Diageo and the Hilton College are partnering with U.S. Vets, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and atrisk veterans; Houston Launch Pad, a nonprofit organization that provides job development, skills training and transitional housing; Glazer’s Inc. beverage distributors; and Combs Wine and Spirits. Once veterans are accepted to the program, there is no charge to participate. “The veterans in our program are coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, and many are in the process of rebuilding their lives after facing significant challenges. Some are currently working in the industry and are looking to develop their careers, while others view this program as a springboard into a new direction. No matter what their background, our students never fail to bring an inspirational attitude to class,” said Anna Johnson, Hilton College manager of engagement. “The goal of the Learning Skills for Life Houston program is to help prepare veterans for stable and successful careers in the hospitality industry, and Diageo is excited to bring this opportunity-rich program to the Houston market,” said Danielle Robinson, Diageo’s Alcohol Policy Director. “We are honored to have the opportunity to give back to servicemen and women who have served our country.” The Houston course complements a successful program launched last year at Diageo’s North American headquarters in Norwalk, Connecticut. The Norwalk program boasts a 98 percent graduation rate, with 82 percent of participants placed in jobs upon graduation.




NEW DEGREES School of Nursing · Nursing, BSN · Nursing (second degree), BSN · Nurse Administration, MSN · Nurse Administration (bridge), MSN · Nurse Educator, MSN · Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences · Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, B.A. Conrad N. Hilton College · Global Hospitality Business, M.S. · Hospitality Administration, Ph.D.


he University of Houston has implemented

new degrees and certificates this fall, giving students the opportunity to explore different subjects. One, in particular, is the dual degree (Bachelor of Science/Master of Science) in Computer Information Systems/Information Systems Security. The program will focus on technical information, security issues and ethics. The program also equips students with the skills to develop security systems for water plant facilities. Students will graduate from this program with the experience necessary to effectively and efficiently overcome challenges they may face on the job. Student success is the University’s top priority. In every degree program offered at UH, the distinguished faculty is dedicated to providing students the knowledge and experience they need to graduate job-ready and immediately start fueling the economy. “Our academic program offerings continue to reflect the Tier One status of the University of Houston. These academic offerings serve to benefit our students by allowing a blending of the exemplary research of our faculty with the advancement of scholarship in our classrooms and academic disciplines. The academic offerings also provide a primary venue for systematically addressing quality-of-life issues in the Houston community with the needs of business and industry,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice chancellor/senior vice president and provost. —Sarah Dugas

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Cullen College of Engineering · Geosensing System Engineering, Ph.D. · Petroleum Engineering, Ph.D.

DUAL DEGREES · Political Science, B.A./M.A. College of Technology · Computer Information Systems/Information Systems Security, B.A./M.S.

CERTIFICATES C.T. Bauer College of Business · Corporate Finance · Global Energy, Development, and Sustainability · Investment Banking Private Equality · Investment Analysis · Oil & Gas Accounting College of Education · Museum Education Natural Science and Mathematics · Interactive Game Development

The Rail Thing

While there’s always been a lot of talk about staying on track at the University of Houston, the phrase took on another meaning this summer with the opening of the Purple Line, the new METRORail service that now connects UH to BBVA Compass Stadium, Minute Maid Park, the Theater District and other downtown destinations. Or, in the other direction, you can travel through MacGregor Park and down Martin Luther King Boulevard to Palm Center. The light rail operation has two campus stops — UH South/University Oaks on Wheeler near Calhoun, and Stadium/UH/TSU on Scott near Cleburne. The fare is $1.25, but full-time students can save 50 percent on METRORail (as well as local and Parkand-Ride bus service) by signing up for a Q-Card.

TEACHING LOCALLY, THINKING GLOBALLY Asian American studies reaches outside UH, Houston and the U.S. BY MARISA RAMIREZ


he 20 year anniversary

of the UH Asian American Studies Center is a celebration felt around the world. Since 1995, the center has created a global classroom where students, executive and community members alike can explore its philosophy that education can connect all people from different walks of life and different parts of the world. “Being nurtured and educated in two cultures instilled in me the idea that people should learn from one another, and leaders should have international knowledge to function effectively at a global level,” said professor and center director Yali Zou. “As the flow of people, ideas and goods among regions increases internationally, it is imperative that global professionals and leaders gain insights into the cultures, attitudes and mindsets of those with whom they wish to collaborate.” With course offerings that include an Asian American Studies minor, China Study

Abroad Program, Visiting Scholars, and research and internship projects, Zou has left her mark as a resource for future global professionals. “More than 1,000 students have enrolled in classes, but more than 2,000 international government officials, business executives and educational leaders have participated in the Global Leadership Program,” she said. The Global Leadership Program is the center’s flagship program for participants from any country to gain insight into other cultures, while taking individually designed courses in theory, transnational understanding and global collaboration. “I hosted many institutional leaders, government officials and business executives who visited UH to learn more about American institutions, management and leadership,” she said. “During the training, our participants visit corporations, banks, schools and community centers and those institutions generously provide professional knowledge,

practical skills for effective leadership.” And when local business leaders want to connect with Chinese counterparts, Yali Zou is on speed dial. Her international networking trips date back to former Houston Mayor Lee Brown’s administration and includes relationships with community organizations, such as the Greater Houston Partnership. Recently honored with an endowed professorship in the College of Education, Zou says the future for the Asian American Studies Center includes an expansion into more career fields. “We’re developing new proposals to attract more leaders from different countries and developing new minors to explore issues such as Asian/Asian American health disparities, leadership in Asian Americans, international education and international comparative research projects,” she said. “If one country wants to interact with the world on the global stage, it has to learn about other countries.”




THE REWARD OF CREATIVE WRITING UH Provost’s Prize shines spotlight on rising writers. BY MIKE EMERY


he University of Houston

has long been a haven for aspiring authors and passionate poets. In recent years, UH’s undergraduate literary community has expanded its presence locally and nationally. In an effort to fuel students’ creative output, the University created a new award that will recognize outstanding works of prose and poetry. This year, UH will present the first Provost’s Prize for Creative Writing. The award recognizes two student writers during the academic year. During the fall semester, the Provost’s Prize spotlighted an undergraduate prose writer. This spring, a poet will be acknowledged. Award recipients earn a cash prize of $2,500. “I am honored to establish the Provost’s

20 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

Prize for Creative Writing at the University,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “We are the ‘House that Innovation Built,’ and innovation demonstrates itself in many unique ways.” The Provost’s Prize complements the growth of UH’s undergraduate creative writing initiatives. In 2006, UH students created the national journal Glass Mountain, which provides an outlet for undergraduate literary voices. The journal’s staff extended the reach of Glass Mountain through public readings, the fall Write-a-Thon and the annual Boldface Conference. Glass Mountain’s adviser, Audrey Colombe, is eager to see submissions emerge from all areas of the University. “What’s particularly special about the

Provost’s Prize is that it’s open to any undergraduate student, regardless of his or her major,” said Colombe, associate professor of English. “Speaking as someone who earned an undergraduate degree in the sciences, I believe that creativity inspired across disciplines is being recognized here.” While the cash prize is certainly enticing to students, Colombe said that the opportunity to be published should be a major incentive for prospective Provost’s Prize applicants. “When writers are published, they see their work in a new way,” she said. “I’ve heard from many writers that when they see their work in print, they see it through other people’s eyes. They also see the strengths of their writing.” To read the winning entry, visit


in several other states, this is welcome news in Texas. However, it should be noted that even after this increase, the per-credit hour man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the funding for Texas public universities is still $6.11 lower than in FY legislature is in session.” But the University of 2011. And, there are several legislatively Houston System and UH enjoyed mandated tuition waivers (including the much“very positive” results from the debated Hazlewood Act) that must be honored. recent 84th Texas Legislative session, says Jason UHS GOES 7 FOR 7 “These are likely to grow in the future, Smith, vice chancellor and vice president for which will demand pragmatic economic governmental and community relations. UH Health and Biomedical policies on our part to meet these obligations,” “We had proposed a very ambitious $63 million Sciences Center 2 Khator cautioned. agenda, but I can confidently say it was a very At the governor’s request, the legislature successful session accomplished through a UH Sugar Land $54 million Academic Building created the new University Research Initiative, team effort of legislators, their staff, and our which will provide matching funds to recruit administrators, faculty, staff, students and UHCL STEM and $54 million the top research professors (Nobel Laureates, alumni,” he said. “In general, the state budget Classroom Building members of the National Academy of Sciences represents a significantly greater investment in UHCL Pearland and Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and higher education and will help our universities $24,624,000 Health Sciences and their equivalents) to Texas universities. This continue to grow and improve as a result Classroom Building should be of particular benefit to UH, where of investment in infrastructure, while also $60 million UHD STEM Building such efforts have already been underway. allowing us to provide an affordable education “UH is dedicated to recruiting the most to our students.” UHV Campus Expansion $60 million and Land Acquisition distinguished and brightest minds to our UH President Renu Khator, echoing campus and will aggressively utilize this those sentiments, said, “I feel that we were UH Katy Building and $46,832,000 opportunity,” said Smith, “so we thank the heard, and our optimism and hard work have Land Acquisition governor for his dedication to university been rewarded.” research. He is passionate about the future of In particular, the session produced crucial Texas and understands the important role that legislation authorizing $3 billion in bonds UH plays in it.” for the construction of much-needed buildings at state universities UH also received a “special item” appropriation of $4 throughout Texas. All seven UH System project requests are included in million for its Hobby School of Public Affairs. The University this vital bill. was also granted 16 acres of Texas Department of There was also a notable 50 percent increase for the state’s Transportation property, valued at $10 million, Higher Education Assistance Fund (HEAF), which supports adjacent to the UH-Sugar Land campus that will be building maintenance and infrastructure improvement. When used for expansion. it goes into effect in FY 2017, it will provide an increase of $26 “Now that the state of Texas has made these million every year to the four universities in the UH System. commitments to higher education, we must respond In addition, the legislature approved a $1.22 per by being prudent and effective stewards of this semester credit hour increase in the enrollment-based generous support,” President Khator said, “and funding, which is perhaps the most significant source of make sure we put these public funds to the stable state support for public universities. Considering the best use possible.” economically constrained situation


ark Twain may have famously joked that “No





reins of the fledgling center, she and the CDI staff have tirelessly worked to develop programming aimed at engaging, empowering and educating the campus community. The center was established through the efforts of UH’s Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services. In 2012, the division launched a five-year strategic plan. Included in this plan was the initiative to build a learning community that embraces inclusion. From this initiative, a task force recommended the creation of a campus center that supported UH’s multicultural student community.

“We did not want to create just any

BRINGING COOGS TOGETHER UH’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion creates cultural conversations. BY MIKE EMERY AND SHAWN LINDSEY


iya Blair remembers when she first arrived on the University of Houston

campus. She was interviewing for the position of director at the newly created Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). Blair was instantly — and pleasantly — surprised when she stepped foot into Cougar Country. “I looked around and felt like I was in New York,” she said. “It was amazing to see students from so many different backgrounds on one campus.” Blair is no stranger to diversity as she previously worked with multicultural centers at other major universities. UH, however, provided her with a much different landscape. “I had to change how I viewed diversity,” she said. “I couldn’t use the same lens I used at other institutions. This would be a positive challenge for me.” Blair was certainly up for that challenge when she became CDI’s director. Since taking the

22 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

center,” said Richard Walker, vice president of student affairs and enrollment services. “We needed a center that would take into consideration our already diverse campus community and move us into greater engagement on matters of inclusion and equity. The goal of this center is to create interactive experiences where students can learn, grow and expand their knowledge with one another through a multicultural lens.” The center opened its doors in fall 2014. During its first year on campus, CDI launched its fall and spring speaker series. Its first guest was awardwinning journalist, Students (from left) Soledad O’Brien, Carlos Cazares, Andre’ who brought her Brown, Itay Porat, acclaimed “Black in Katherine Lephuoc and Ai Nguyen attended the America” tour to the CDI sponsored event, University’s Cullen Cultural Conversations: Performance Hall. #LoveWins in September. This event offered insights on the African-American experience from O’Brien and a panel of distinguished guests — UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes, author Julianne Malveaux, St. Louis Alderman Antonio French and activist and rapper Chuck D (appearing via Skype). Other CDI initiatives include Cultural Conversations, roundtable discussions on timely topics; Cultural Connect Week, a weeklong celebration of diversity with events and lectures; and Diversity Institute, a symposium (presented in partnership with UH Counseling and Psychological Services) exploring issues in diversity. The center also delivers diversity workshops that are open to all members of the campus community. Workshop topics include microagressions (subtle signs of bias),

inclusive language and barriers. Such programming is more than welcome at UH, the second most diverse major research university in the country. “We want to make diversity an experience,” Blair said. “We don’t want this to be an experience that only happens in our office. We want diversity to be an experience that the entire community contributes to.” CDI is located on the ground floor in the UH Student Center South building. With worktables, computers and a lounge area, it offers students a versatile space for studying and socializing. Students can host meetings there or engage with CDI staff members. They also can simply retreat to its cozy confines and catch up on homework. Students not only can use the center as a resource, they also contribute to the center’s mission by volunteering as CDI Ambassadors. In this role, they can help promote the center and volunteer at its events. Support roles aren’t limited to students. Faculty, staff and students contribute their time and energies to the center in a variety of ways. Supporters have included the Jack. J. Valenti School of Communication (providing student volunteers at the “Black in America” event), C.T. Bauer College of Business, Center for Mexican American Studies, and the Asian American Studies and African American Studies programs. “We’re still new and have a long way to go in reaching the community,” Blair said. “But when we have sought assistance, everyone has been very helpful and receptive.” Anyone who works or studies at UH knows that no two Coogs are alike. Faculty, staff and students regularly engage with peers of different ethnicities, spiritual beliefs and cultural backgrounds. According to Blair, conversations on diversity need to continue. CDI is a perfect catalyst for these dialogues, she said. “We can always learn more from each other,” she said. “We’re on one of the most diverse campuses in America and in one of the country’s most diverse cities. It’s the perfect setting for everyone to step out of their comfort zones and learn from each other.” The CDI is a place where various cultures on campus can come together. In its efforts to showcase the University’s diversity and social inclusiveness, the center collaborates with several UH centers and groups that are doing their part to engage and educate the campus community.

WOMEN & GENDER RESOURCE CENTER The Women and Gender Resource Center (WGRC) at UH is open to all students, staff and faculty. Located on the second floor of the Student Center-North, both men and women can find information and seek private referrals on issues such as healthy relationships, unexpected pregnancy and other women and gender related issues. In addition to free supplies, such as hygiene and sexual health products, the WGRC provides a number of internal services, such as lactation space, Dress for Success Houston referrals, salary negotiation workshops, and a host of other programs and involvement opportunities.


A.D. BRUCE RELIGION CENTER For more than 50 years, the A.D. Bruce Religion Center has been the focal point of on-campus religious and spiritual activities. It is home to 11 charter campus ministries, three student organizations and two chapels—the University Chapel and the Meditation chapel. The A.D. Bruce Religion Center offers space for worship, study and discussion. It has also been the place where Cougars have celebrated weddings and baptisms, cheered at recitals, been enlightened by lectures, prayed for those in need, and remembered friends and loved ones who have passed away.


LGBT RESOURCE CENTER The LGBT Resource center, which opened at UH in 2010, empowers LGBTQ students to develop their authentic identity to become proud, successful members of the UH community. The LGBT Resource center is located in the Student Center North and offers a variety of programs, including peer mentoring and a speaker’s bureau, which is comprised of a trained panel of volunteers who speak to classes, student organizations and assist with presentations to the campus. One of the resource center’s cornerstone programs is Cougar Ally Training (CAT), which trains faculty, staff and students to increase awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Allies are given a placard to display in their workspace, creating a safe and open environment for anyone to discuss issues of sexual orientation.


URBAN EXPERIENCE PROGRAM The Urban Experience Program (UEP) at UH is a place where students can find the tools needed to achieve their dreams. Participants in the program are given the guidance to ensure minor obstacles don’t become major setbacks in their college careers. UEP is open to all students who want to experience everything that UH offers. UEP offers help finding scholarships, professional networking and real world internships, financial literacy education, career counseling, post-graduate preparation and more. From mentoring to a referral network of on- and off-campus services, UEP provides social support and civic leadership opportunities to students.







he 84th Texas Legislative

Session was transformative for UH Sugar Land, which received $54 million in capital construction bonds for a new classroom building as well as the transfer of a deed to 16 acres of land at the front door of the campus — stretching from the Interstate 69 frontage road to the campus entrance on University Boulevard. “If UH is going to continue to meet the higher education needs of the Houston area, we need to be building where people live,” said Provost Paula Myrick Short, UH senior

24 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

vice president for academic affairs. “There is tremendous growth in Fort Bend County. We are grateful for the incredible support of the legislature, which will help further develop this campus and expand higher education opportunities in the region.” UH Sugar Land recently transitioned from a UH System (UHS) institution to a University of Houston campus. The UH System flagship institution will become the exclusive provider of baccalaureate and graduate programs at the Sugar Land campus. The nursing program transitioned to the UH School of Nursing this fall, having previously operated as a UHVictoria program, and additional programs are on the way. A large portion of the UH College of Technology will occupy the new 150,000-sq.-ft. building, to be funded with the capital construction bonds. It is expected to open during the 2018-19 academic year. The C.T. Bauer College of Business and College of Education are also slated to offer programs there in the next two to five years. The evolution of UH Sugar Land spans 20 years, beginning with the enrollment of 100 students in a UH System partnership with Wharton County Junior College in 1995, which would eventually lay the groundwork

for what has The UH Sugar Land campus is located become UH Sugar in a spacious facility Land — now an at the intersection approximately 266of US 59 South and University Boulevard, acre campus with just northeast of the three buildings, Brazos River. 250,000-sq.-ft. of academic program support space, approximately 200 faculty and staff and just under 5,000 students. An additional 2,600 students are projected to attend classes at the campus in the next five years. “Everything about UH Sugar Land and its growth can be attributed to years of grassroots-level support and partnerships along the way,” said Richard Phillips, UH System associate vice chancellor for system initiatives.

In 1998, a 250-acre parcel of land was

transferred from the Texas Department of Transportation to the UH System to build the campus. It was followed by more than 15 years of private giving and public support, which included major allocations and gifts by the UH System, the city of Sugar Land, the George Foundation, state lawmakers,

community-based capital campaigns and Fort Bend County. A long-term lease with Wharton County Junior College, and

This provides a significant step forward in the delivery of higher education expansion in the Greater Houston market.


partnerships with local industry and the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council have also been instrumental in the growth of the institution. “We have been in a partnership to expand UH’s presence in Sugar Land for decades. The $54 million allocation by the state is a watershed moment. It is critical in terms of seeing the expansion we’ve been working towards realized,” said Jeff Wiley, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council. “This provides a significant step forward in the Sugar Land’s City Hall, located in eastern delivery of higher Fort Bend County, education expansion is approximately 20 in the Greater miles southwest of downtown Houston. Houston market.”

Wiley says the next steps will be raising

private funds for operational support and expanding curriculum and workforce training, which is important in attracting new businesses to the area. He is a member of the UH Sugar Land Advisory Council, a six-person board representative of the community, established by UHS Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator in 2010. The council makes recommendations on how the campus could best be developed and programmed to meet local education and industry needs. “We don’t expect to be known for everything, but we want to be known for something at UH Sugar Land. Nursing, allied health, technology and innovation are pretty good stepping stones to an identity,” said Wiley. As for where UH Sugar Land goes from here, you might say the outlook is pretty sweet. The city of Sugar Land has leased 52-acres of campus to construct festival grounds, which will benefit faculty, staff and students, as well as enhance infrastructure. UH Sugar Land will continue to seek new partnerships with the largest industries and employers in the region, such as Fluor, Schlumberger and Texas Instruments. While no construction is planned on the recently acquired 16-acres of land transferred from the Texas Department of Transportation, Phillips said having the land is a vital part of developing a long-term master plan for the campus. In addition, nearby development will bring even more amenities to the vicinity of campus. “Timing is perfect. We have $30 million in new parks and hike and bike trails, and a $70+ million performing arts center being developed in the immediate area of campus, not to mention mixed use commercial, residential and retail options adjacent and in close proximity,” said Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson. “Becoming a campus of Tier One University of Houston provides the accountability needed to execute a plan, and the new facility will provide the capacity and opportunity to realize it. I’m excited to see what’s in store for UH Sugar Land; the best is yet to come.”

SALUTATIONS A new University of Houston System sexual misconduct awareness and prevention training. Salutations provides new UH System students valuable information about healthy and unhealthy relationships, issues related to sexual misconduct and ways to protect themselves, prevent occurrences and report incidents. The name, Salutations—is a play off its definition “… a gesture of respect, homage or polite recognition, especially one made to or by a person when arriving or departing.” This online situation-based training exposes students to issues connected to sexual misconduct through student commentary, interviews with subject matter experts and scenario enactments that depict incidents involving domestic violence and various forms of sexual assault. In addition to providing information and resources available to students, such as how to anonymously or confidentially file a report, the training also addresses institutional processes and the rights of victims and the accused. All new UH System students are required to successfully complete Salutations training, mandated by the federal government as part of the federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act), a 2013 amendment to the Jeanne Clery Act. Students who do not participate in the training will be prevented from registering for classes the following semester. This mandatory training builds on the UH System’s commitment to creating a safe learning, working and living environment. “The idea is to reduce the risk of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking occurring on our campus,” said Richard Baker, UH System associate vice chancellor for equal opportunity services. If we can eliminate it, that would be the ultimate goal. In the meantime, we are going to continue to make our students aware of these important issues, give them the tools needed to help prevent these things from happening and respond appropriately when they do happen. Students with questions about Salutations should contact the Title IX coordinator at their university. —Sarah Dugas For more information about the training, visit






hen President Renu Khator stepped onto the stage of the Moores Opera House for her 2014 Fall Address, she issued a challenge. “Our next defining moment in research will come not from incremental growth, but from getting a large, federally funded national research center,” she said, pledging the University of Houston’s intellectual capital to answer some of the country’s most pressing questions and suggesting two key areas would be subsea engineering and superconductivity. Less than four months later, the pieces began to fall into place. UH was selected to lead a national research center to study and develop new technology for offshore energy exploration and production. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last summer named UH to lead a multiinstitution Center of Excellence for Borders, Trade and Immigration Research. And the University has embarked upon an 18-month planning process to create the Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute. The three join the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, which became the first national research center at UH when it moved here in 2010, and the National Wind Energy Center, which was established the same year. The National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, known by the acronym NCALM, is funded by the National Science Foundation and operated jointly with the University of California-Berkeley.

CARGO CONTROL: About 90 percent of global trade involves maritime transportation; about one-third of that is containerized cargo. The sheer volume requires enhanced security measures.

The National Wind Energy Center was created with funding from the Department of Energy as part of a federal effort to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy; construction on the nation’s first offshore wind farm has begun off the coast of Rhode Island, a signal that some of the key technical issues have been resolved. UH is home to more than two dozen research centers, some drawing investigators from across the campus and others confined to colleges or departments. All add to the University’s body of work related to society’s most critical issues. But Ramanan Krishnamoorti, interim vice president/vice chancellor for research and technology transfer, says these national research centers stand out, established with substantial external funding after peer-driven evaluation and competition. “It puts us on the map as a serious place in research, with a critical mass of experts working in areas that can have an impact,” says Krishnamoorti, who also serves as chief energy officer at UH. “It means we are recognized as able to take a large problem and address it for society’s benefit.”


The University’s newest research center will draw expertise from around the nation to focus on some of the most sensitive issues of the day. Jeh Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), criticized “the emotion and partisanship” surrounding the immigration debate during a June talk in Houston. It should instead be ruled by data and research, Johnson told his audience. “Facts are too often drowned out by demagoguery, suspicion, exaggeration and misperception.” To provide some of that data, DHS asked UH to lead the new Center of Excellence on Borders, Trade and Immigration Research, funded by a $3.4 million, renewable grant and involving researchers from a dozen universities. “The center will serve as a national think tank, considering both policy and technology, and it will provide breadth and depth to these complex issues faced both in the U.S. and globally,” says Ioannis A. Kakadiaris, the center’s director and principal investigator and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor of computer science. His management team includes: Maria Burns, director of the Center for Logistics and Transportation Policy, as Education and Workforce Development Lead; Ioannis Pavlidis, Eckhard Pfeiffer Professor of computer science, as Technology Research Lead; Shishir Shah, associate professor of computer science, as Technology Transition Lead, and Luis Torres, associate professor in the Graduate College of Social Work, as Policy Research and Transition Lead. Lan Ni, associate professor of communication, will serve as Media and Communication Lead. Research associated with the new center includes Burns’ work on improving security at the nation’s ports and Kakadiaris’ groundbreaking research on facial recognition systems. Facial recognition has implications not just for national security but also for any situation involving the use of forgotten or stolen personal identification numbers. It is faster than swiping a card, less invasive than a thumbprint scanner and more secure than a PIN. Facebook and photo sharing app Picasa use the technology, which relies upon algorithms to analyze multidimensional data in search of meaningful information, to identify and tag users in photos. But national security isn’t about listing who was at the high school reunion, and its underpinnings — passport verification, border security, safeguarding sensitive data — require a more complex level of detail. Kakadiaris has worked in the field for more than a decade, and early on, he recognized the value of facial recognition and other biometric technologies for border security, including speeding up the process of checking passports as people enter and leave the country. That already happens on TV. Real life is harder, and current technologies can be affected by dim or uneven lighting, different facial expressions and side or partial facial views. The system has to be both accurate and able to function under a variety of conditions, Kakadiaris says.

Burns’ research involves innovative technology assessment for security and cargo detection protocols, aiming for the sweet spot between speed and security.

His lab, the Computational Biomedicine Laboratory, has made important strides in the field — including creating facial recognition software that uses a three-dimensional snapshot of a person’s face, developed from a single 2-D image or a series of 2-D images from various viewpoints, to create a unique biometric identifier. Kakadiaris’ team opened a new research area by proposing to have a two-dimensional image to match with a 3-D image of a subject. That is more difficult than matching 3-D to 3-D, and the work continues. He says facial recognition has advantages over the use of fingerprints to prove identity — an increasingly common technology, often used with cell phones — including the fact that it doesn’t require the subject to touch anything, or even to be aware of the process. That brings up a thorny issue, and Kakadiaris says researchers take seriously the need to protect public privacy while increasing national security. “One has to be mindful of the individual and the context in which it is applied,” he says. Burns faces a similar dilemma with her work on global trade and transportation. About 10 billion metric tons of cargo is transported by ship around the world every year, more than two billion of which is traded to or from the United States. Population growth and new trade agreements will push the volume higher. Markets and consumers expect transport to be as fast as possible, she says. “It’s the era of instant gratification.” But ensuring the cargo arriving on U.S. shores is secure — and is what the shipping documentation and hazmat labels claim — takes time, in the form of inspections and scanning. Burns’ research involves innovative technology assessment for security and cargo detection protocols, aiming for the sweet spot between speed and security. She represents the transportation sector on the Private Sector Advisory Council, created to advise the Texas governor on homeland security. She also is chair of the subcommittee on supply chain security at the National Academies, the umbrella group for the National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. About 90 percent of global trade involves maritime transportation; one-third of that is containerized cargo. The sheer volume requires enhanced security measures. The challenges go far beyond illicit drugs, counterfeit purses and the public perception of illegitimate trade and transport and include cybersecurity, cargo theft, sea piracy and hijacking, terrorism and money laundering. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards are also a threat. Ensuring only legitimate cargo and passengers land at the nation’s ports begins long before a ship nears U.S. docks. Technology can help in tracking the ships beyond U.S. borders, but the task also requires an awareness of global geopolitics and specific security situations. FALL 2015 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine


Burns looks for patterns of security breaches and investigates new risk management and contingency planning strategies to address the challenges and safeguard key ports. “Our research is trying to build a resilient transportation system, which means we identify and mitigate vulnerabilities while exploring contingency planning for the speedy recovery of our system,” Burns says. The new DHS Center also includes an education component, teaching current workers about the latest technology and research, as well as training future workers. “We’ll get them ready to serve our nation and to serve the industry,” Burns says.

SUBSEA SYSTEMS INSTITUTE Five years after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, industry and government are focused on preventing the next disaster, even as the long-term consequences continue to be tallied. Cue the Subsea Systems Institute, announced in January and dedicated to the study and development of technology for safe and sustainable offshore energy exploration and production. Krishnamoorti, who serves as principal

30 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

UH long has had close relationships with energy companies; it started a master’s degree in subsea engineering in 2013 – one of just a handful in the world.

investigator, says the goal isn’t to tinker with the status quo but to produce radical change. “Our vision is to create an institute that is recognized around the world as the undisputed leader in transformative deepwater technology,” he says. “We’re not focused on making incremental improvements.” UH already was active in offshore energy, offering the nation’s only subsea engineering program and working with industry to solve technical problems. The Subsea Systems Institute solidifies its stature. Bill Maddock has been hired as director; PROTECTING he is an engineer with 30 years of experience OUR COASTS: in the offshore and marine fields, including UH works with industry stints with BP America and ExxonMobil through the Ocean Energy Safety Institute Development Company. to offer both government Initial funding came from the federal regulators and industry the latest offshore safety RESTORE Act, which collects penalties from information. The Subsea the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Systems Institute will distributes them to pay for research aimed at also test equipment and conduct research protecting the region. to promote safety and Texas established two Centers of Excellence efficiency in the Gulf with its initial $4 million RESTORE payment: of Mexico and the Alaskan Arctic. the Subsea Systems Institute and Texas OneGulf, led by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The UH Law Center is part of Texas OneGulf. UH partners at the Subsea Systems Institute include Rice University, the NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College and Lone Star College. Industry is another key partner, helping institute researchers identify problems and funding certain projects. Chuck McConnell, executive director of the Energy and the Environment Initiative at Rice, says industry relationships will be crucial to the institute’s success. “Technology only transforms if it is adopted by industry,” he says. “Our focus and strategic direction will be set by our industry partners.” UH long has had close relationships with energy companies; it started a master’s degree in subsea engineering in 2013 — one of just a handful in the world — and re-started an undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering in 2009, both at the request of companies who needed those skills. The UH Energy Advisory Board is filled with executives from global energy companies. The University also works with industry through the Ocean Energy Safety Institute, collaborating with Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin to offer the latest offshore safety information to regulators and industry. The Subsea Systems Institute will go beyond those efforts, Krishnamoorti says, testing equipment and conducting research to promote safety and efficiency in the ultra-deep Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan Arctic. It also will oversee workforce training through area community colleges and universities. Toby Baker, commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, says the state’s scientists are ready to get to work. “Through these dedicated financial resources, we can now get to work and focus on the research and development needed to protect and revitalize our Gulf Coast and enrich our state’s economy impacted by this disaster,” he said in announcing the Subsea Systems Institute and Texas OneGulf.

The institute will be governed by the three lead partners — UH, Rice and NASA — and representatives from industry. It will be modeled in part on a similar project in Norway, where North Sea drilling has spawned world-renowned technology centers in conjunction with Bergen University College. The Subsea Systems Institute, like the facility in Norway, will take advantage of geography: With more than 3,600 oil and gas companies in the Houston area and with almost 20 percent of all U.S. oil production coming from the Gulf, institute leaders say the city is an obvious choice.

NATIONAL CENTER FOR AIRBORNE LASER MAPPING Like so many people before him, the director of the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping came to Houston in search of opportunity. Ramesh Shrestha had worked with Joseph Tedesco, now dean of UH’s Cullen College of Engineering, when both were at the University of Florida, where NCALM was founded in 2003. Tedesco’s recruiting efforts came at the perfect time. “I was trying to grow the center, and the 2008 recession happened,” Shrestha says. “Florida was one of the worst places hit. I moved here to expand.” NCALM now has six faculty members and approval to hire three more, up from just three in 2010. It has launched master’s and Ph.D. programs in geosensing systems engineering and sciences, and its researchers have moved beyond laser mapping to other geosensing technologies — geosensing equipment records and measures environmental data in a way that can be linked to a specific geographic location — including satellite data analysis and multisensor signaling. But their core technology is LiDAR, or light detection and radar, a field pioneered in part by Shrestha and Bill Carter, chief scientist for NCALM, who have worked with lasers since the 1960s. The center is the model of a modern research organization, funded by the National Science Foundation but guided by an entrepreneurial spirit to provide high-quality scientific data to academia, government agencies and private industry. It has been involved in seminal work in archeology, energy, environmental studies and homeland security over the past decade. Using thousands of laser pulses per second to produce richly detailed, three-dimensional topographical maps, NCALM has found a previously unknown ancient settlement in Central America, measured the impact of a warming climate in Antarctica and searched for crumbling levies, eroding coastal areas and the lingering impact of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond producing scientific data and making it publicly available, Shrestha says the center is developing new geosensing technologies, as well as training the workforce

NCALM IN HONDURAS: This aerial photo of the archaeological site of “Las Crucitas de Aner” shows a series of rectilinear mounds which are representative of the monumental archaeology of Northeastern Honduras.

that will use them in the future. The latter objective is well underway, with a master’s degree program approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2012 and a Ph.D. approved last spring. The interdisciplinary program — the only one of its type in the world — involves faculty from both the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the Cullen College of Engineering, where Shrestha is Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Professor of civil and environmental engineering. Three dozen graduate students are enrolled, and the number is expected to grow along with the faculty. That’s just to keep up with demand as technological advances lead to new uses. New geosensing techniques allowed Craig Glennie, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-principal investigator at NCALM, to work on the discovery of an inexpensive, cell phone-based earthquake early warning system.



Breakthroughs in LiDAR technology have been even more remarkable. LiDAR works by shooting thousands of short laser pulses from a specially equipped airplane to the ground and back, calculating the distance by measuring the time between transmission and detection of the reflected signal. That information, along with details about the plane’s movement and location, are used to produce a topographical map. The newest equipment sends 900,000 laser bursts per second to the terrain below, a 300fold increase over the 3,000 bursts per second that was state-of-the-art in the mid-1990s. “Back then, we dreamed of one million pulses per second,” Shrestha says. “We’re almost there.” More pulses provide more detail, critical for some assignments. Although modern LiDAR can penetrate water, it can’t pass through ice, foliage or even clouds. But a new technology under investigation by NCALM could solve that dilemma — the system uses radar, which would be able to deliver data currently available only from satellites equipped with interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR. NCALM researchers also are finding new ways to adapt LiDAR: Glennie developed a helicopter-based system, which Shrestha says is less expensive and can fly lower than the traditional airplane-based system, hovering directly over a small space to provide amazingly detailed maps. The center has been funded by NSF from the beginning, most recently through a $3.18 million, five-year grant approved in 2013. The money covers operational costs, including salaries for graduate students and some researchers. It doesn’t cover the cost of collecting data, and outside researchers contract with the center for their projects. Researchers funded by NSF get a discount. Many NCALM projects are in the United States, but it is best-known for work in some of the most remote corners of the world. That includes Honduras, where researchers used airborne LiDAR to map a remote region of the rainforest in 2012, uncovering evidence of a previously unknown ancient civilization. Their findings were verified earlier this year when NCALM researcher Juan Carlos Fernandez Diaz returned to the site on foot, accompanied by Honduran and American archeologists, a documentary film crew and a reporter and photographer from National Geographic. The resulting publicity spread around the globe, bringing a heightened profile for the center and for the possibilities of LiDAR. Back in center headquarters in the UH Energy

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Research Park, there was a brief pause to enjoy the moment. And, then it was on to the next project.


EVERY DAY SUPERCONDUCTORS: Lightweight and powerful, superconductors already are here — if you have had an MRI, you have benefited from a superconductor.

Superconductor manufacturing is hard. Understanding the benefits of creating an Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute in Houston, however, is easy. “In the near-term, it would be a lot of jobs, a lot of federal funding,” says Venkat Selvamanickam, director of the Applied Research Hub at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH. He is principal investigator for a $500,000 planning grant, awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to guide a consortium of academia and industry as it prepares for the proposed Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute. The institute would eventually become self-sustaining, but the potential rewards for society would continue to grow beyond the economic impact of the facility itself – increased energy efficiency through the use of superconducting wire and other devices, better medical diagnostics, a surge in high-speed transportation. “The value of this technology is known, but after 25 years, it hasn’t happened on a wide scale,” Selvamanickam says. That’s where the planning process comes in. Lightweight and powerful, superconductors already are here — if you have had an MRI, you have benefited from a superconductor. They also are used in other health care applications, along with energy, transportation and other fields. Among their advantages? Increased efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. But as Selvamanickam suggests, the industry isn’t fully formed. Tools to surmount the technical barriers that have prevented today’s small-volume manufacturing from expanding to low-cost, high-volume production will be developed during the 18-month planning period. Selvamanickam will lead the work – his research with superconductors

includes developing high-performance superconducting wire, with support from agencies including U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, Army Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research and the Advanced Research Projects AgencyEnergy (ARPA-E), which funds early-stage, highimpact energy technologies. His lab is noted for improving the performance of the wire fourfold over the past few years. Although UH is leading the process, the Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute isn’t about the University or any one researcher. It will serve the superconductor industry, and a number of company executives are part of the effort, which has no less lofty a goal than maintaining the United States as a leader in the field. Governments in Asia and Europe spend 10 times what the U.S. government does for superconductor research, says Michael Tomsic, president of Hyper Tech Research, an Ohio-based manufacturer of superconducting wire. Foreign governments finance large demonstration projects, while the United States has not, he says. With or without U.S. investment, experts say the industry is growing, including for utility transmission lines, fault current limiters, wind turbine generators and motors and generators for trains, ships and aircraft. But no company — or university — can do it alone. Tomsic says solving the obstacles to high-volume manufacturing and increasing the power and efficiency of superconductor devices will take work from industry, academia and the federal government. “These improved superconductor products can lead to billions of dollars of manufacturing in the U.S. and thousands of jobs,” he says. Hyper Tech Research is one of about 30 companies involved in the effort, and Selvamanickam says more will be added. Technical hurdles to large-scale manufacturing are just one hindrance. Lowering costs, improving reliability and convincing end-user companies to switch to superconductor technology must be addressed, too. There have been numerous test projects, including the world’s first demonstration of thin film superconducting cable in the electric power grid, a project led by Selvamanickam in Albany, N.Y., before he joined UH in 2008. “The key is the wire itself,” he says. “It has to be cost-effective. It has to be available from multiple companies at high volume.” That’s required to convince utilities and other companies to upgrade their existing equipment. “They’re concerned about capital costs, they’re concerned about ROI (return on investment),” Selvamanickam says. “They have existing generators, transformers, motors. Even though they’re not ideal, they already have them.” He predicts companies will come around once the manufacturing hurdles are removed, as they realize the advantage of superconducting devices and

Increasing the power and efficiency of superconductor devices will take work from industry, academia and the federal government.

A GROWING INDUSTRY: Wind turbines, utility transmission lines, and motors and generators for trains, ships and aircraft all utilize superconductivity technology.

grow comfortable with the reliability of both products and supply. The consortium first has to agree on the challenges, as well as on a handful of projects to tackle first. Like Tomsic, Selvamanickam is confident the market is there. He’s not so confident that the U.S. will remain a leader without a boost from the Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute. China and Korea are among the countries pushing ahead, with significant government support, he says. “They are using a lot of the know-how developed in this country,” he says. “It’s not too late. I think there is an opportunity to recoup some lost time.” FALL 2015 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine



THE GLAMOUR OF GEOLOGY UH student Vanessa Alejandro receives national recognition for research and community engagement initiatives. BY SAM BYRD


ome young girls dream of being a princess or

a gymnast, but University of Houston Honors College student Vanessa Alejandro had other aspirations. She has held a deep-rooted interest in earth sciences since childhood. Growing up in the Houston area, she spent her childhood enjoying outdoor activities like catching crawfish and riding on four wheelers with her cousins and siblings. One might say this was the spark that ignited her interest in the environment. As she grew older, her love of earth science also grew. As a student at Dawson High School in Pearland, Texas, she began to engage herself in environment conservation projects, she founded the school’s recycling campaign and actively participated in her local environment club.

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Upon completing high school, she turned her attention toward finding a college to further her education in earth sciences. For Alejandro, there was no other choice than UH. “I enrolled at UH for the Honors College. I wanted the experience of attending a small liberal arts college as well as a large research university,” she said. With UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Alejandro found a perfect fit located close to home. The college had already been making bold strides in its research initiatives, and it offered a geology program — a field Alejandro wanted to pursue. Attending UH came with an added benefit. Ever since high school, she dreamed of starting a club that would allow its members to explore and show their peers the wonder of the outside world. UH provided her the springboard to launch such a group. This was the genesis of Warriors of the Wild, a nonprofit group dedicated to educating Houston-area children on environmental and animal conservation through interactive presentations and outdoor field trips. The group has expanded so much over the last few years that the project has spread to other cities. Warriors of the Wild has started operating in Galveston and College Station, all while continuing their strong presence in Houston. The Warriors estimate they’ve performed for more than 4,000 students since the group launched. “It’s amazing to be able to transform the playground they see every

“I strongly believe if I want to have an impact on a global scale, I need to immerse myself in different countries and the issues they face, so when I begin to address these problems, I can have a more varied perspective.” day into a completely different world and show this magical world full of insects to these kids. One of our goals with Warriors of the Wild is to teach children they are part of something bigger. They are part of a global ecosystem full of incredible plants and animals,” Alejandro said. “Experiences like this push me to keep on doing Warriors of the Wild.”

As a geology student, her coursework

has taken her many places. She’s traveled to Florida, Arizona, Montana and Germany. Her current focus for her Honors thesis is to examine the nature and behavior of the rare element ikaite, which took her to the Antarctic Archipelago. She has visited many different parts of the country and experienced triumphs in academia and within her community, but she has faced challenging hurdles as well. In 2012, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent radioactive iodine treatment to battle the disease. Alejandro is a fighter, though — both in the classroom and in the doctor’s office. She didn’t let cancer or her treatments prevent her from reaching her goals. Instead, it was Vanessa (far right) with during her treatment Warriors of the Wild program teaching that she gained students at Briargrove the motivation to Elementary in push even harder to Houston, TX. achieve them. “When treatment was over and I had to go back to a ‘normal life,’ I had to ask myself what type of life I wanted to live,” Alejandro said. “Basically, I had to make the choice to really live, and I decided by living I wanted to make more of an impact.” Make an impact, she did. Alejandro made UH history by becoming the first Cougar to ever receive the Udall Scholarship. The Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall

Foundation awards scholarships to college students who are pursuing careers in the environment, tribal policy or Native American health care. Alejandro was selected as one of the recipients among nearly 500 candidates nationwide. Since then, the praise for her ambition and work has continued to flow. Last spring, Glamour Magazine spotlighted Alejandro as one of the Top 10 Women in College for her work in the community and her academic prowess. She joined an elite group of nine other young nonprofit founders, outstanding athletes and social influencers. “I was absolutely ecstatic when I first found out. I was so dumbfounded that I had been chosen. Then, when I was flown out to the photo shoot, everything became so surreal. It’s such an honor,” Alejandro said. “I’m extremely happy that I was able to share this with my family and that I was able to make my parents proud.” Alejandro isn’t done with her work yet. She’s currently working on the “Exploratorium” project, which would offer a

fun-filled, science-based zone for area school kids to play and explore but also learn about the earth and the environment. Alejandro is making a significant impact on the places and people around her. After graduation, she plans to continue positively benefitting the world and encouraging further development in sustainability. “I am hoping to teach English in South Korea through the Fulbright Program. Then, I plan on traveling to other countries like Finland and teaching English there or working on projects in the sustainability sector,” she said. “I strongly believe that if I want to have an impact on a global scale, I need to immerse myself in different countries and the issues they face, so that when I begin to address these problems, I can have a more varied perspective.” As a scholar, community influencer, star of Glamour Magazine and budding leader in environmental sustainability, Alejandro has earned her laurels. As she moves forward pursuing her goals, greater success is in her future.




UH ALUM AMONG RISING ENERGY INNOVATORS Entrepreneur Casey McNeil included in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Energy. BY MIKE EMERY


e’s launched two companies and was recently

named as one of America’s rising business stars. Casey McNeil is indeed a Cougar success story, and the alumnus is quick to credit the University of Houston’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and C. T. Bauer College of Business for honing his professional acumen. Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from UH, McNeil has been listed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Energy list, spotlighting young visionaries. The esteemed publication cited McNeil’s innovative venture REEcycle — focused on recycling rare earth elements — for his inclusion on this select list of young professionals. Being named among the movers and shakers of the energy world is reason to celebrate, but McNeil didn’t revel too long. Instead, the accolade inspired him to reach even greater levels of success. “My initial reaction to making Forbes’ list was that I needed to prove that I was worthy to be on it,” he said. “At this early stage in my career,

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I think I still have a long way to go. Still, it shows that my hard work is paying off, and I’m being recognized. In the entrepreneurship world, a distinction such as this is very motivating.” McNeil started REEcycle at UH with classmates and current partners Susan Tran and Cassandra Hoang. The company reutilizes rare earth elements that help power cellular phones, wind turbines and clean energy technologies. The team’s business plan for REEcycle earned top honors at Baylor’s New Venture Competition and the Department of Energy’s regional and national Clean Energy Business Plan Competitions. McNeil said that his current success wouldn’t have happened without his partnership with Tran and Hoang. Although all three teammates have graduated, they’re still at their alma mater, operating REEcycle at UH’s Energy Research Park. He’s grateful to still be on the campus that helped him grow personally and professionally. After all, it was through UH that he met his partners. Likewise, he received invaluable insight from UH faculty — including professors Ken Jones, James Kane and Dave Cook — at the Wolff Center (ranked No. 2 in the U.S. for training undergraduate entrepreneurs). McNeil grew up in the Houston suburb of Clear Lake. After graduating from Clear Lake High School, he enrolled as an accounting student at UH. He quickly discovered that he was not destined to be an accountant and took a breather from his studies. He ventured to Silicon Valley to contribute his talents to a startup company. Diving head first into the world of startups was the biggest decision he made as a young professional, he said. McNeil realized, however, that he needed to advance his entrepreneurial skills. After learning about the Wolff Center, he returned from the Golden State to continue his education. It was a decision that he has never regretted. “Being part of the Wolff Center has been my single most lifechanging experience,” he said. “It is the single biggest reason that I am where I am today. Without the Wolff Center, I wouldn’t be with REEcycle, and I wouldn’t be running my other company.” That other company is Vendera, the venture that led McNeil to Silicon Valley. Vendera works with large companies to purchase their old or unused mobile devices and resell them to consumers. Both Vendera and REEcycle reflect McNeil’s sense of corporate social responsibility. Each organization has green leanings and promotes reusing resources and keeping landfills free of electronic devices. McNeil admits to not fully embracing sustainable practices prior to Vendera and REEcycle. Now, however, he’s very conscious of the importance of recycling. “After being involved with these two ventures, I can’t even throw away a paper towel without becoming upset,” he said. “When you understand how much waste is produced, you gain an overwhelming awareness of the issue.” Houston, he said, is making strides as a sustainable city. It also is emerging as a unique market for entrepreneurs such as himself. While Silicon Valley is a hotbed of niche technical advances, the Bayou City’s businesses — including REEcycle and Vendera — are centered on solving problems. For McNeil, that’s the true measure of successful entrepreneurship — achieving profits while serving society. “Many Silicon Valley businesses are focused on attracting countless users to a viral concept before turning a profit,” he said. “In Houston, we’re focused on turning a profit but also creating real solutions that can help people.”

ON THE COURT AND IN THE FIELD, UH STUDENTS GEAR UP FOR A SUPER FOUR EXPERIENCE An education isn’t only earned in the classroom. Sometimes it’s gained in up-close experiences. BY MARISA RAMIREZ


loser than courtside. Closer than

the 50-yard line. For a group of University of Houston students, school is in session at the 2016 NCAA® Final Four® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and the 2017 professional football championship when both events are hosted by the city of Houston. Dubbed “The Super Four Experience,” students from the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) and the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) will work closely with the staff from The Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and the Houston Local Organizing Committee in the areas of event planning, event management, sports marketing and communications, budgeting, project management, facility management, guest services and sport governance. “These super-trained, student-interns will play an active role in the planning and execution of these huge, global events,” said David Walsh, HHP clinical assistant professor. “This inside look and hands-on experience will be extremely valuable to these future professionals who will be far and away more qualified than other graduates when it comes to finding a job in these areas.” The four-semester, field-training experience began this fall. Up to 35 students will earn credits towards their hospitality and sports and fitness administration degrees. The behind-the-scenes training will support their classroom instruction, with each semester tailored to the requirements and needs of each event. “This is a great opportunity for our students and for our two departments to collaborate,” said Anthony Caterina, lecturer at the Hilton College. “Our hope is to provide an experience that will propel our students into the industry.” Students pursuing studies in hospitality will be the next generation of hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs, fluent in all aspects of the global industry: lodging, restaurants, food and beverage management, spa management, sales and marketing. Students who pursue studies in sport and fitness administration find careers with professional sports franchises, municipal recreation programs, corporate wellness programs, or as business personnel in the sports industry to name a few.

“We are excited to participate in this unique project. Our partners at the NCAA have encouraged the Houston Local Organizing Committee (HLOC) to engage with our host institutions so students can get real hands-on experiences and we can get the benefit of energized and motivated students working on the 2016 Final Four in Houston. This should be a win-win,” said Doug Hall, president and CEO of the HLOC. The 2016 NCAA® Men’s Final Four® games will begin with two semifinal games on Saturday, April 2, culminating with the championship game on Monday, April 4. The professional football championship will be February 5, 2017. While the games will be at NRG Stadium, they each also bring multiple ancillary events, encompassing venues around the city that will be open to the public at little to no cost. “We are fortunate to have the energy and brainpower of the University of Houston and its talented students to help Houston prepare for hosting these major spotlight events, which take a community effort, “said Sallie Sargent, president and CEO of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee. To participate, students were required to have a 3.0 minimum grade point average and be in good standing with the University, as a sophomore, junior or first-year graduate student. They also had to submit a statement of purpose, indicating how such an experience would benefit them and provide three references. Students also may be eligible to transfer six credit hours to a master’s program at HHP. “The networking and experiential learning opportunities gained from working just one of these events will provide me with skills to jump start my career and succeed,” said student Jose Alberto Garcia. “I’ll be getting the chance to work with two of the world’s biggest sporting events, while still engaging in classwork related to the tasks assigned by the organizations.” Walsh says a growing trend in the sport and fitness industry involves guest relations and the many facets to creating a meaningful, successful large scale sporting event. “We hope we can set a new trend for teachers, practitioners and students in experiential learning pedagogy,” said Walsh. “It’s truly a win-win-win situation for our departments, the student and the host committees.”



BRINGING LABS TO LIFE Students Learn with Pioneering 3-D, Simulation Technology BY LISA K. MERKL


ealth care education is coming to life at the University of Houston, with pioneering technology transforming the way students learn. Professors who previously relied primarily on textbooks, models and illustrations to teach their students are now bringing patients into living classrooms. But these aren’t just any patients. They’re different ages and ethnicities, each with their own maladies and idiosyncrasies. UH is among the first in the nation to employ two new cutting-edge technologies for training the next generation of health professionals.

OPTOMETRIC CLINICAL SKILLS SIMULATION LAB In the last year, UH College of Optometry students began hands-

The simulators have two components. The patient interface is a smooth black sheet of plastic with a 3-D face, and that face turns into the patient you’re examining.

on training in a first-of-its-kind simulation lab that offers them 24/7 access to virtual patients. The Optometric Clinical Skills Simulation Lab, which will better prepare students to administer patient care when they start clinical rotations, is the only one at an optometric program in the country and the largest in the world. “When students come in this room and see the technology, they’re blown away,” said assistant professor Heather Anderson, who led the initiative to bring the simulation lab to UH. “The simulators have two components. The patient interface is a smooth black sheet of plastic with a 3-D face, and that face turns into the patient you’re examining. The simulators take on the demographics of whatever cases are programmed into the computer, so now we can have the students examine elderly eyes, diseased eyes and eyes from all different ethnicities.” This is done through an augmented headband-mounted light that’s used to obtain a view of the retina through a handheld lens in a procedure called indirect ophthalmoscopy. It’s the same headband worn by professionals, but instead of having plain lenses to look through, it has LED screens mounted in it to create the images of the lifelike patients. The other component of the simulators is a touchscreen computer that brings up the different patient cases and faces. All images are based on actual clinical cases, so the images the students see are derived from real patient retinal photographs. “When you look through the LED screens, you see a patient that’s blinking and moving their eyes and looking back at you with the ethnicity and age of the patient you’re examining,” Anderson said. “The simulators are very realistic in that they do get tired. They’ll blink and close their eyes if you remain in one position with the light for too long and don’t give them breaks. They respond the way a patient would, so if you spend too much time exposing the retina to the light, you’ll even see a tear come down the cheek of the virtual patient.” In the traditional academic setting, students use each other as patients during their earliest lessons in optometry. Typically, though, they have healthy retinas, so students aren’t getting real-world exposure to diseases until they start with clinical rotations. Additionally, to teach students how to detect disease in the back of the eye requires that the patient be dilated. It becomes difficult for a student ‘patient’ to be dilated frequently when they need to go home and study, since dilation lasts several hours. With this technology, students gain 24/7 access to dilated patients and can examine the retinas of these virtual patients any time they want. Another benefit is that students traditionally have been taught disease through photographs, textbooks and computer images and are



The technology records precisely what students see, their examination skills and, ultimately, the quality of patient care they provide.

not physically examining patients with these diseases until they get to the clinic. This technology enables them to go through the physical examination process to see diseased eyes and better prepare for that detection before they’re administering patient care. The curriculum built into the software is extensive, teaching pattern recognition to familiarize students with a variety of pathologies, as well as giving them practice in diagnostics and proper equipment usage. Students are quizzed after each exercise and cannot progress to another case until they’ve mastered the previous level. The simulation equipment maps out the parts of the retina the students have looked at, so now their professors are able to objectively quantify how successful students have been in examining 100 percent of the retina. This gives faculty an objective way to analyze a student’s progress. In current practice, when students are learning these techniques, their professors are looking over their shoulders in a little mirror that reflects what the students see. It can be difficult to quantify how fully the student has examined the retina. This technology, however, records precisely what students see, their examination skills and, ultimately, the quality of patient care they provide, with data stored on each student’s activities, tracking their progress and performance.

In addition to the simulators now being able to tell faculty how

much of the retina students examined, they also reveal how much time it took them. This allows faculty to know if students are doing an efficient exam that would be acceptable to a patient’s comfort. Another evaluation tool used in conjunction with these simulators is a series of multiple choice questions about each case as to whether or not students correctly identified the pathology and then identified the correct treatment strategy. “Many of the diseases we’re looking for have dimension to them, so if you look in a patient’s eye that is simulating a retinal detachment, you can see the depth of the retina floating as it’s detached,” Anderson said. “It’s very realistic. Seasoned doctors have gone in to examine the equipment and say it feels so natural. You put the headband on and feel like you’re examining an actual patient.” Feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive. Among the features that most seem to appeal to them is the realistic aspect of having authentic patient cases that relate directly to actual human beings,

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giving them an idea of what to expect when they get to clinical rotations. Another aspect students find advantageous is that the mistakes they make while initially learning on these virtual patients don’t have consequences for real people. Some students are so enthralled that they’ve hunkered down for marathon training sessions, with 10 students completing the first semester’s worth of training by the end of the first weekend the lab was open. The 10 Eyesi ophthalmoscopes — five each of both the direct and indirect models — are designed to train for the examination of the retina and were designed by ophthalmologists and simulation technology experts in Germany at VRMagic, a provider of virtual reality medical training simulators for eye care professionals. Joining Anderson in the effort to bring the Eyesi system to UH were assistant professor David Berntsen and clinical associate professor Amber Gaume-Giannoni. With this new technology, students gain exposure to more than 200 clinical cases of pathology built in to the patient simulators. This mode of education capitalizes on the philosophy of pattern recognition to identify disease presentation and gives all students an equal opportunity to gain exposure to a variety of eye conditions. When the simulation lab opened in the fall 2014 semester, secondyear optometry students were given first crack at it. In spring 2015, access was also granted to first-year students. Ultimately, students will be able to benefit from the simulators through all four years of their time at the optometry college, as well as during their residencies.

BODYVIZ TECHNOLOGY TAKES BIOLOGY CLASSES TO NEW DIMENSIONS In the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, new

technology is helping research faculty transform the way undergraduate biology and biochemistry students learn about human anatomy, physiology and pathology. The BodyViz system was acquired at the start of the spring 2013 semester. UH was only the second institution in Texas to introduce this technology and the first to use it for higher education and research. The other, at Houston Methodist Hospital, is using it in a clinical setting as a part of surgical planning. UH is one of only a handful of higher education institutions across the country to offer this technology outside a clinical setting. At UH, the BodyViz enables both students and faculty to tackle research questions using 3-D visualizations of MRI and CT scan data from actual living patients. It gives them an opportunity to explore inside the human body. The software is especially advantageous for researchers and students working toward careers in science and health care, as more and more doctors and surgeons are using 3-D visualization programs, like BodyViz, in professional medicine. “We are training the future health professionals. They’re going to be tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, physician assistants, optometrists, pharmacists and dentists,” said Tejendra Gill, instructional professor in the department of biology and biochemistry and director of laboratory instruction. “We need to expose them to this state-of-the-art

technology, because they will be using these types of tools in those fields all the time. Understanding and being able to manipulate these images opens up the sciences beyond the classroom, giving them the experiences of what it’s like to be a professional. These are skills they can take to professional schools.” The BodyViz system allows for visualization inside the bodies of living humans and takes it a step even beyond access to cadavers. While both are important, undergraduates at college-level institutions don’t usually have access to cadaver labs. “It’s as close to a cadaver lab as you can get,” said Chad Wayne, an instructional associate professor of human physiology in the department of biology and biochemistry. “In essence, it’s a virtual cadaver lab, which has its own advantages, such that you can analyze the architecture of the human body and see the relationship between the organs, blood vessels, bones, muscles, cartilage and tissue that you wouldn’t normally get to see. In a cadaver, while it will still be there, it’s compacted and doesn’t always look right.”

UH was only the second institution in Texas to introduce this technology and the first to use it for higher education and research.

In working with BodyViz, users put on 3-D glasses, pick up an

Xbox video game controller and manipulate images of body systems, organs and tissues from a wide cross section of patients. They can fly in, out, through, around and up close to detailed, three-dimensional scans of real body parts, systems and all that makes them up. Using the Xbox controller and mouse, students can rotate the image or cut through it by moving a virtual knife in any given direction to slice through a particular structure for a deeper look. It goes beyond what a textbook and traditional lectures can do, giving life to the material that students are learning in the classroom. “Users are able to peel away layers with the Xbox controller to see the distinct structures of different organs and other systems in color for a very good 3-D view inside the body, giving them a way to better see the interplay between function and structure,” Gill said. “By stripping away these layers, students are able to see the spatial relationships between the internal organs that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see in a regular textbook. Using the virtual knife to cut through the body in any direction, students can go inside not only to study the organs, but also until they get to a specific pathological condition, revealing an unprecedented look inside at any kind of malformation, fracture, tumor, aneurysm or growth a person may have.” Another benefit, he says, is that these images are coming from authentic patient cases, so the images they see were created in real-time from living human beings.

“To understand structure, students need to hold, touch and manipulate it. In traditional lecture classes, the only exposure students really have to the human body is the illustrations that are very cartoonish and drawn in a perfect or ideal structure, which is not true to life. And in the laboratory, you have plastic and clay models, again crafted to match an ideal, but humans are imperfect,” Wayne said. “The advantage of the BodyViz system is it really allows you to see what it looks like in a living, breathing human being. You really are seeing what it will look like inside a human if it were actually functional, so you get to see all the quirks and the different things.” Both professors say this immersive type of technology has led to more inquisitive students, widening their horizons and leading to more creative thinking. “This is an investment we’re making in the education of our future generations,” Gill said. “We’re providing them the tools and resources to help them stand out, not just teaching them the chapters, but also the concepts. It forces them to move beyond just regurgitating information and lets them develop problem solving and critical thinking skills.” Echoing the sentiment, Wayne says, “BodyViz forces students to look at anatomy as more of a concept. By doing so, all of a sudden, it’s no longer that pretty picture in the book or the pretty plastic model. It becomes a tangible reality. Ultimately, it’s the concepts that will drive students forward in their education.” The professors both have witnessed firsthand how thrilled students have been with the BodyViz system and how it has stimulated their thinking and inspired them to go on in pursuit of advanced degrees, training and jobs in the medical field. Gill says their classes and labs are filled to the brim, with more than 500 students using the BodyViz each semester. “By being exposed at a very early point in their education to start seeing how this technology works, we’re arming them with the skills that will allow them to succeed,” Wayne said. “If you can ignite their passion early on, they’re going to excel and going to pursue it.” Installation of the BodyViz system was supported by the UH department of biology and biochemistry and by a UH Quality Enhancement Plan Curriculum Development Grant awarded to Gill and Wayne, who jointly wrote the grant and received generous support from Dan Wells, who is now the dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. While mostly pre-health majors in the areas of biology, nutrition, kinesiology, and health and human performance have been using BodyViz, it’s open to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers, regardless of major.

BodyViz screen capture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.






or 34 of its 42 years, the University of Houston Center for Mexican

American Studies (CMAS) has had Professor Tatcho Mindiola at the helm. Director since 1980, Mindiola will retire this fall. Pamela A. Quiroz, a professor of sociology most recently from the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), will succeed him. “It has been quite a ride, and I have enjoyed every minute, but it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life,” Mindiola said. “I always knew I would know when it was time, and this is it.” Mindiola’s association with CMAS began in the tumultuous days of the 1970s, when civil rights demands were heard on university campuses across the nation. The Center for Mexican American Studies was born into this climate in 1972, the year Mindiola became the first joint appointment at UH, hired as faculty in the sociology department and Mexican American studies.

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“Members from the Mexican American Youth organization, a student group on campus, wrote the proposal, sat on the university committee and lobbied the administration to establish the Center for Mexican American Studies,” he said. “Many doubted that it would survive, but the skeptics were proved wrong. More than 40 years later, we are not only still here but thriving.” In his three decades of leadership, Mindiola has grown the center to become an academic unit with several major components: teaching, research and publications, recruitment and retention, leadership training, academic advising and community service. “Houston is an important city for Latinos, and the future of the University must include a Center for Mexican American Studies that plays an important role in pursuing greater educational attainment, research about the Latino community and celebration of culture heritage,” he said. CMAS now offers a broad spectrum of public and scholarly programs, such as the Visiting Scholars Program, the Graduate Fellowships and the Academic Achievers Program. To date, CMAS has recruited 39 visiting scholars from across the country to pursue research on the Latino experience, assisted more than 58 graduate fellows to hone their research and mentored hundreds of at-risk high school students to become the first in their families to graduate from college. CMAS also offers students the opportunity to minor in Mexican American studies. “Although we’ve made important strides, we still have a ways to go before we achieve greatness,” Mindiola said. “Central to our long-term success is funding. Our established endowment begins to ensure our long-term viability to significantly raise the educational level of our community.” Professor Quiroz began her tenure at the University of Houston and the Center for Mexican American Studies in fall 2015. She says two words attracted her to CMAS — Tatcho Mindiola. “He is a personal hero of mine. I believe in today’s world we often lose sight of our heroes. We need them to inspire us. Tatcho inspires me, and I am honored to follow in his footsteps,” she said. A sociologist, Quiroz’s research interests focus on identity development as it occurs in different social contexts: the impact of school organization on the development of

student identities; how English speaking Latinos navigate ethnic identity and ethnic authenticity; the intersecting identities of people who engage in personal advertising and the identity development of transracially adopted children. “Children are frequently touted as our future and as our most prized resource, yet as a collective, they represent another disempowered, marginalized and exploited group whose interests are rarely served,” she said. “Latino children are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population, and it is imperative we attend to their well-being.” Quiroz has been a faculty affiliate for the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at UIC and a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for the Advancement of the Behavioral and Social Sciences. She has published extensively in various

academic journals, including the Journal of Family Issues, the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Childhood and the Sociology of Education. Among the articles she has authored: “Adoption in a Color Blind Society” (Rowman and Littlefield), “School as Solution to the ‘Problem’ of Urban Place: Children’s Perceptions of Safety, Migration & Community” (Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research) and “The Silencing of Latino Student ‘Voice’: Puerto Rican and Mexican Narratives in eighth grade and high school.” “I look forward to working with staff, colleagues and administrators to carry on the work of CMAS and to build on existing relationships (and develop new ones) to serve the Latino community,” she said. “Part of that effort involves broadening the center’s reach, promoting interdisciplinary collaborations and expanding its research After 34 years at the University of component.” Houston Center for Mindiola says he is Mexican American most proud of laying Studies, Professor Tatcho Mindiola the foundation for retires this fall. CMAS’ future, which includes a growing endowment. He’s hopeful the coming years will include a focused effort to establish a major in Mexican American studies, develop a more public research agenda and the construction of a physical facility for the center. Mindiola says his future plans will include reading, writing and devoting time to his health and family. The University has conferred on him the title of Professor Emeritus. “I have had the benefit of working with dedicated people, colleagues, staff, donors, legislators and partners, who have made CMAS what it is today, and to them I say ‘thank you,’” he said.

“Many doubted that it would survive, but the skeptics were proved wrong. More than 40 years later, we are not only still here but thriving.”

Legacy of New Scholars at CMAS

The Center for Mexican American Studies always has been about increasing knowledge about the Latino community. It also has been a fierce advocate for students who will use and generate this knowledge. For example, the Visiting Scholars program began in 1986 with goals of generating research about the Latino community and attracting scholars interested in tenure-track positions. Visiting scholars are in-residence for one year, researching in the fall semester and teaching in the spring. To date, the program has recruited experts in the fields of history, art, sociology, psychology, music, anthropology, political science and English. Its scholars have generated such research as: Latino Violence on the Border: The Case of Houston 19852000; Mexican American Women in Houston: Work, Family and Community 1900-1940; Brown, Not White: School Integration and Chicano Movement in Houston and Urban Speak: Poetry of the City. Similarly, the Academic Achievers Program recruits underrepresented students who are the first in their families to attend college and whose circumstances put them at risk for dropping out of school. AAP mentors students from middle school through college graduation. Through a rigorous schedule of tutoring, mandatory study halls, academic counseling, workshops and leadership training, AAP students have achieved higher grade point averages and graduated at rates nearly twice that of UH Latino students who do not participate in the program. “Our students’ dedication to their own future inspires us to continue our support of them,” said Rebeca Trevino, program manager. The program was recognized by the national organization Excelencia in Education as one of the “2014 Examples of Excelencia.”




CHILD CENTERED, AUTISM AWARE Three studies to strengthen children, families, mental health professionals BY MARISA RAMIREZ


oncentric circles share the

same center, like an archer’s target or ripples following a pebble in a pond. There is one center, one focus. It’s how College of Education assistant professor Sarah Mire describes her research on children and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). “Autism spectrum diagnoses affect not only the child, but also the family, the school and mental health providers,” she said. “I focus on the contexts of the family, the context of community mental health and the context of school. What’s happening around the child?” Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD describes a group of disorders in brain development that may manifest as challenges with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently estimates that approximately 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with ASD in the U.S. Though research is ongoing, no single cause of ASD has been identified, but early intervention improves the effectiveness of treatments and therapies. “It’s not as simple as saying ‘we’re just going to focus on what’s happening to that child.’ Instead, we want to be taking into

44 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

consideration the contexts around the child, because people in the family or the school or other providers are extremely important,” she said. Mire joined the faculty of the Department of psychological health and learning sciences in 2013. One of the core faculty in the college’s doctoral program in School Psychology (and also an alum of the program), Mire has embarked on three studies, each investigating the ripples that form after a spectrum diagnosis.

The list of stress-inducing aspects of

having a child on the spectrum is endless: navigating services inside and outside of the schools, getting an accurate diagnosis, parental mental health, conflicts in relationships or employment. Mire’s study worked with 400 families across the country and Canada to ask how the stress changed the perception of their child’s diagnosis and how this affected treatment- and service-seeking for these families. “Stress coupled with the family’s perception of an ASD diagnosis impacts treatment planning for the child,” she said. “It can take a toll on the child’s educational experience as parents feel they’re constantly fighting for their

kids. Stress is far reaching and wide ranging. Understanding it allows for positive outcomes.” The families were recruited from the Simons Simplex Collection at Interactive Autism Network (SSC@IAN). The SSC is an international repository of genetic samples and other data from families whose children have ASD diagnoses. Her study will contribute new information about family stress, parent perceptions and treatment pursuits of SSC families. She anticipates completing her study by the end of the year. A second study builds on this research by investigating how parents’ stress and perception of their child’s diagnosis impact their participation and their child’s success in therapies to treat challenging behaviors. Behaviorally based therapies strive to understand a child’s problem behavior and replace it with appropriate behavior. Working with behavior analysts at the University of Houston Clear Lake, Mire is investigating whether participating in behavior therapies brings about a positive change in the way parents perceive diagnosis and if that increases the effectiveness of the child’s treatment. “If we find behavior therapy positively changes the perception of their child’s diagnosis — if it feels more empowering to them and reduces stress, not only affecting the child but also the family context — these kinds of findings might expand treatment effectiveness and potentially expand funding for families to receive that treatment more often,” Mire said. “On the other hand, if we find aspects of behaviorally based treatments increase parent stress or negatively impact families’ perception of the child’s diagnosis or treatment, then providers may need to do something to offset that.” Stress flows both ways. Mire is working with a community mental health agency in Orange County, California to test an innovative training method for mental health professionals who feel that their abilities to assist clients stops when their clients have an emotional or behavioral disorder along with an ASD diagnosis. “A lot of times, community mental health professionals who don’t have a lot of experience with ASD will say ‘well I know how to do family therapy, but if their child has autism, I can’t do it.’ That’s not true. They can,” she said. “It’s a terrible position for these providers to feel like they’re in, because they want to be helpful, but feel they can’t. It’s also bad for families — oftentimes it’s single

parents working more than one job who feel like nobody can help them.”

Mire and her research team, UH*sparc

(School Psychology Autism Research Collaboration), developed a 10-session, web-based training model that focuses on training providers to screen for, diagnose and treat children with ASD who also have mental health diagnoses. At the end of the study, these community mental health professionals will be surveyed to see if their knowledge or attitudes have changed about their abilities to provide mental health services to children with ASD and their families; such changes often are first steps toward improving service delivery. “We are studying if this is an effective way to train community mental health professionals to do something different with the kids who come into their clinics with spectrum diagnosis, so they don’t have to say, ‘sorry we don’t do autism,’” she said. There is no cure for autism, but there is more public awareness, more specific diagnostic criteria and more recognition of the genetic factors at play. One reason autism research is important is that it’s affecting more people. “If parents and health professionals feel informed, supported, empowered — that can only be positive for the children of ASD,” Mire said.

1 in 68

children are diagnosed with ASD in the U.S.

‘Aspies’ Bring Their Unique Challenges to UH Professor Byron Ross, assistant clinical professor in the University of Houston department of communication sciences and disorders, almost pursued a career in psychiatry. “People always told me I was a good listener,” he said. “The career surveys I took in school always suggested psychiatry as a career.” But there is a group of UH students who are glad he did not. The group doesn’t have a name or a set number of members, but all in the group have one thing in common: all are on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), specifically Asperger’s Syndrome. They meet with Ross once a week during the semester. “I wanted our meetings to be a social skills therapy. I sent out an invitation to the 28 individuals who were associated with the Student Center for Disabilities,” he said. “The ones who responded didn’t want a ‘social skills group.’ They wanted someone to talk to.” The Asperger category of the spectrum describes individuals who are high functioning, with average to above average cognitive abilities and language function. Typically, they exhibit repetitive patterns of behavior, social communication struggles and interaction challenges. These can be mild or severe. “Many in the group have adopted the term ‘Aspies,’ which has become a positive label to self-identify with,” he said. “One article I’ve read suggested that some people with Asperger’s Syndrome consider themselves to be the evolution of the human brain. They’ve been taught not to lie, so they don’t. They focus intently. They’re passionate about topics.” Ross is careful not to call their weekly meetings “therapy.” The meetings are not required. Students come when they can. The purpose is just to talk. “Turning in assignments on time is an issue.

For example, one student, who is very smart, felt he had to do one school project at a time, all the way through until it was finished, before beginning another. This put him very behind,” he said. “Other topics are roommates, girlfriends, becoming part of an organization — all big issues. We talk through strategies.” The weekly meetings are also part mentoring as Ross listens to their challenges with schoolwork or relationships. Like one student who spoke with Ross every Friday during one taxing semester. “Talking about the problems I was dealing with and discussing possible causes and solutions clarified a lot of confusion and helped me put everything in perspective,” he said. “With a thorough understanding of the ASDrelated stress and its effects on academic success, Dr. Ross proved an invaluable resource for me in keeping my head above water during the school year.” Ross, whose research interest includes eye contact, or what he calls “flicker gaze,” the sideways glance typical of some with ASD, aims to teach his students in the manner in which they learn. “One thing I teach is dynamic skills and static skills. Static skills are things like following a recipe. It never changes. This is their strength. Dynamic things, like conversations, are not their strength, because they change all the time,” Ross said. “What I try to do is make dynamic situations static, like using something I’ve developed called a ‘conversation rollercoaster.’ It provides typical conversation greetings and what words to use to end conversations. Dynamic things become static.” The sessions culminate at the end of the semester with a celebratory meal. Ross says he’s always proud of them. “People with autism do conventional things in unconventional ways.”




POLITICS, POLICY AND A LEGACY OF TEACHING Professor Richard Murray Reflects on 50 Years at UH. BY MARISA RAMIREZ

ifty years ago the Astrodome was opening its doors for its inaugural event, a football game between the University of Houston and the University of Tulsa. Philip G. Hoffman, for whom the building that houses the UH Department of Political Science was named, was president of the University. Col. W. B. Bates, whose name adorns a student residential facility, was chairman of the UH System Board of Regents. And Richard Murray, whose name would become synonymous with Houston and Texas political analysis, arrived on campus. To call Murray an institution, would be an understatement. His UH classes and community lectures fill up quickly with those who want a front row seat to hear his insight fueled by his passion for the living, breathing creature that is Texas


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Politics. Some — not him — have called these enthusiasts “Murray groupies.” But he sees himself as a servant to the research and to those who wish to learn from it. His résumé includes directing the Center for Public Policy and the Survey Research Institute, tracking the changing demographic and political tides in the city and state, sharing his analysis with media and community groups, and teaching more than 20,000 UH students (by his estimation), including many who went on to political careers. Richard Murray is more than a soughtafter resource, expert or lecturer. He is a respected professor, researcher and mentor whose name elicits reverent tones from colleagues and former students. “He’s been a trusted friend for so long, but I still call him Professor Murray,” said State Sen. John Whitmire, a former student of Murray.

PROFESSOR MURRAY LOOKS BACK AT 50 YEARS WITH UH. Richard Murray: “Teaching and research weren’t always my goals. I always wanted to get out of the rural poverty I grew up in, in Southeast Louisiana. After you pick the 10,000th strawberry, you don’t learn much from number 10,001, but when I started at LSU in 1958, I thought I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. A five-hour calculus class convinced me that another path was needed. I had always enjoyed history and politics, so I switched my major to government. I thought I would go to law school, but my professors convinced me that the country needed more college professors. I finished work on my Ph.D. in political science in 1965. I was hired by UH to teach political theory, but gravitated to American and Texas politics. A good move given, I rather quickly got involved in local politics,

especially with the restive African-American community. Among the leaders I got to know was State Sen. Barbara Jordan, who subsequently ran for a new congressional seat in 1972. (She became a national political star in D.C. in the 1973-74 Watergate hearings.) I chose to accept a job here as opposed to the University of Georgia, or the University of Kentucky or Penn State, and a big factor was my desire to teach in a big, interesting city — Houston filled that bill.” “I was a 22-year-old student in Professor Murray’s class some 45 years ago. I went to his office one day, because I needed an extension on a paper that was due. He was studying a redistricting map. It was the first time the county had single member districts. It was 1971. He showed me the map, asked where I lived and said no one was serving in that area. He pointed out the demographics and we agreed the district was written for me. I went home and told my parents I wanted to run for office. I did and got elected.” — State Sen. John Whitmire, longest serving member of the Texas Senate Richard Murray: “I calculate I have had about 20,000 students in my classes and my greatest satisfaction comes when I see how UH has changed their lives for the better — and I like to think I made some contribution in some cases. My favorite class over the years has been one focusing on current presidential elections. As an LSU undergraduate in 1960, I got caught up in the Kennedy-Nixon election that fall, and I remain fascinated by these contests every four years. I taught my first presidential elections class at UH in 1968. I have learned that every presidential election shares some things, like the need to secure 270+ votes in the Electoral College, but each one is also different in important ways. I expect 2016 will be no different. The political climate at UH and in the nation was most interesting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The war in Vietnam deeply divided Americans and my students. The one time in my teaching career when I lost control of the classroom was after the Kent State National Guard shootings in 1971 that killed four students. A brawl nearly erupted — probably the low point of my decades of teaching at UH. Personally, I had soured on the war in Vietnam within about a year of arriving at UH, but I did not take a high profile role in the anti-war movement. Meanwhile, I had begun to appear on local TV as an election analyst in 1968, which raised my community profile, although I don’t think I got any smarter with the exposure over the years.” “He taught me important lessons about the use and limitations of polling data. The first time we worked together on a poll for my television station, before we went into the field, he told me I should ask questions about issues the mayoral candidates weren’t talking about. I thought about it and told him we should question voters about banning smoking in bars and restaurants. The response was so overwhelming; I asked candidates about it during a live televised debate. Sure enough, the next mayor pushed through an anti-smoking ordinance. His (Murray’s) expertise and institutional memory are irreplaceable. He’s

always shared his guidance and counsel, not only with politicos but also with the reporters who cover them.” – Doug Miller, KHOU reporter Richard Murray: “My involvement with the UH Center for Public Policy dates back to the early 1980s when the dean of the College of Social Sciences, George Daly, launched the center. I served as director of surveying for about 15 years and became director in 1996. However, I did not want to give up classroom teaching. I did a few things as director that laid the foundation for future growth. These included getting my former student, State Sen. John Whitmire, to successfully carry a bill in the Texas Legislature giving the center a broad legislative mandate in the general area of public policy. I also worked closely with Mayor Bob Lanier on several projects and encouraged the continuing interest of former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby in working with the center. He was instrumental in getting a line item appropriation in the state budget in the 1990s. The most important contributions I made were hiring Renée Cross in the late 1990s, and recommending the hiring of professor Jim Granato, then at the National Science Foundation, to be director of the Center for Public Policy. Now the renamed Hobby Center for Public Policy seems poised to become a major force in the Houston metropolitan region.” “It seems like I’ve had thousands of ‘lessons’ with Dick Murray, because I learned something from him in every conversation. Students and elected officials have benefited from his insight, his intelligent analysis and his real-life understanding about how politics and government really work.” – Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack Murray initiated a government internship program for juniors, seniors and post-baccalaureate students, now called the Civic Houston Internship Program (CHIP). To date, more than 1,200 students have been placed in local political and nonprofit offices. Additionally, several students have been awarded the Richard Murray Endowed Scholarship, established to honor his service to UH and Houston. In 2004, Murray was awarded the Bob Lanier Endowed Chair in Urban Public Policy at the University of Houston. Richard Murray: “Bob Lanier, in my opinion, was one of the three greatest American mayors of the 20th century, along with New York’s Fiorello La Guardia and Chicago’s Richard M. Daley. Elected in a highly racially polarized contest in 1991, Lanier quickly built a broad racial and ethnic coalition. I am honored to fill a chair bearing his name. I have continued as director of surveying, while resuming full-time teaching in the political science department. What’s next? Short term, I plan on teaching full-time for a couple more years. Life is a journey, and I have been most fortunate that my road led to Houston and the University of Houston — enough said.” “He has shared his political wisdom with thousands of students and mentored scores of public officials, including me. He founded the Center for Public Policy (now the Hobby Center for Public Policy) to provide quality research on public affairs. Thank you, Professor Murray.” — Former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby




THERE’S NO DEBATE Robert Heath is a star professor. BY FRANCINE PARKER

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obert “Bob” Heath has

done everything but whittle away his retirement years. The nearly 74-year-old professor emeritus remains quite busy, but not as one would imagine — golfing, fishing or sailing. Instead, Heath devotes much of his time focused on academic work — issues management/public relations topics dear to him. In the four years since he taught his last class at the University of Houston in 2011, Heath has published three books, has two books in press, finished two book proposals, traveled to academic conferences across the U.S. and Europe and served as a visiting professor at two distinguished European universities; surprisingly Heath achieved all these accomplishments all while continuing “to carve 21 acres of livable space out of brush and woods” from land 18 miles northeast of La Grange, Texas. “I have recently become proficient at growing olives,” Heath said, referring to the projects he and his wife share on land they purchased in 1996, 15 years before he received a professor emeritus title from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences’ Jack J. Valenti School of Communication. “We have two pet Holstein steers to help as groundskeepers. These are my second pair (Black and Decker) to replace Salt and Pepper who shuffled off the mortal coil, but not to the slaughter house,” Heath added. Heath’s dry wit and intense teaching style are legendary among countless UH students. But it is his research and publications that have made him an internationally renowned scholar of public relations, crisis and risk communication, issues management and business-to-business communication. His publications include more than 120 articles and chapters and 22 books, including second editions and multi-volume collections. Among the many books Heath has authored are “The Encyclopedia of Public Relations” and “Today’s Public Relations.” Both are used in university classrooms. His numerous accolades are evidence of his legacy in the field of public relations and include the 2007 Issue Management Council’s W. Howard Chase Award. This award recognizes contributions to the evolution of issues management. Heath is also the recipient of the 2007 Public Relations Society of America Excalibur Legacy Award, which

acknowledges outstanding contributions to the profession from someone who has been active in the field for 25 years or more. This summer, Heath received yet another honor: A two-day international public relations conference, held in Barcelona, Spain, that paid tribute to his research.

A career as a professor, though, was

far from Heath’s mind as a young man living on a small farm just outside of Hotchkiss, Colorado. At that time, Heath’s passion was for the theatre, which he pursued at Western Colorado State University (WCSU) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After failing to be cast in a major role in a play, despite being assured that he was “star material’’ by a professor, Heath eventually joined the debate team. “I never did theatre again after I became interested in debating,” said Heath, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in speech communication and theatre from WCSU in 1963. Several years later, while working as an instructor and director of forensics at the University of New Mexico, Heath applied to Purdue University’s doctoral program but was denied admission because, he was told, he lacked “academic promise.” “Out of desperation, I went to the University of Illinois, which gave me a fellowship, Heath explained. “The woman who taught communication theory established the foundation of my academic career. She taught the work of Kenneth Burke.” Heath not only wrote his doctoral dissertation on Burke, an American literary and language theorist, he also drew extensively on Burke’s theories throughout his UH career, which began in 1971. At that time, Heath said UH provided faculty a lot of academic freedom to develop curriculum and conduct research. In those days, Heath’s research focused on the rhetoric of social activists during the anti-war protests, the civil rights movement and the environmental movement. By the mid-1980s, just as the nation had changed, so had UH. The University’s student population and faculty had grown and so had its administration, Heath noted. As for him, Heath continued teaching large sections, averaging about 15 hours per semester “to generate credit hours and teach specialty courses to keep the program prospering,” he said, adding proudly that UH offered one of the best risk communication programs in the world.

“I am a traditionalist in that I believe in the elitism of academics, meaning universities should offer an environment where academic ideas and innovation are encouraged, which translate into a superb education for students. That is why I have committed my life to conducting research and developing publications which lead to world-class ideas and which strengthen the academic experience of students,” Heath said. In the classroom, Heath admitted working his students hard but rewarding them with good grades when they excelled. He also gave them an opportunity to conduct research, noting that he co-authored 22 articles with master’s-level students. “I tried to instill in my students that they must have a thorough understanding of their discipline both intellectually and ethically,” Heath said. Although his teaching and research took precedent, Heath also held several administrative positions, including associate director of the School of Communication, Graduate Studies and Curriculum Development.

Now with his UH career behind him, Heath enjoys spending time with his wife

his grandmother who blazed a trail in her youth and inspired him. “My granddad on my mom’s side moved from Kansas to Colorado in 1898. In 1909, he sent a letter to my grandmother, asking her to marry him. They hadn’t seen each other in more than 10 years,” Heath said. “My grandmother, who had a eighth-grade education, was a certified teacher as well as a reporter, typesetter and proofreader for a small newspaper in Kansas. She was an amazing woman. “She often read Eleanor Roosevelt’s ‘My Day’ column to my two cousins and me,” Heath said. “She impressed upon us the notion that we should aspire to achieve.” Her inspirational rhetoric greatly influenced the young men, one of whom received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Heath’s other cousin became a veterinarian. And clearly, there is no debating Heath’s success, which can’t be measured by “stacks of awards and plaques” alone, but by his research, record of publication and former students, many of whom have found their own success. So, what’s next for this veteran scholar? “More writing and researching, of course,” Heath said. He and Jaesub Lee, another UH professor,

That is why I have committed my life to conducting research and developing publications which lead to world-class ideas and which strengthen the academic experience of students. of nearly 50 years, daughter and four grandchildren, and traveling to such countries as Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand. Heath also takes pleasure in genealogical research. “My wife’s family members were Confederates. My family was mostly Union supporters. I’ve only found two Confederates in my family,” said Heath, who owns 80 books on the Civil War and subscribes to the magazines Blue and Gray, and Civil War Times. Although 22 of Heath’s male ancestors fought in the Civil War, it was

continue to conduct a longitudinal study of the risks people who live near the Houston Ship Channel face. They recently learned an article from that work will be published in the journal Risk Analysis. And on the off chance academic boredom ever sets in, Heath noted he always has his woodworking shop and farm. “I produced a good potato crop this year,” Heath said. “Raccoons ate most of the peaches, but I don’t take these things too seriously. Now, we wait for the olives to produce.”



BLAZING THE TRAIL An excerpt from the book Houston Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense, and the Game of the Century by Robert D. Jacobus

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OPPOSITE: The Game of the Century, UH vs UCLA, held at the Astrodome (1968). LEFT, clockwise from top: Coach Guy Lewis discusses tactics during a timeout (1967); Warren McVea running for 99 yards; McVea bursts into the Tulsa secondary; Don Chaney challenges a UCLA guard as the Cougars apply the press; Aerial shot from the Game of the Century

New Book Chronicles Courageous UH Players and Coaches Leading the Struggle for Racial Equality On January 20, 1968, the University of Houston Cougars upset the UCLA Bruins, ending a 47-game winning streak. Billed as the “Game of the Century,” the defeat of the UCLA hoopsters was witnessed by 52,693 fans and a national television audience — the first-ever regularseason college game broadcast nationally. But the game would never have happened if Houston Coach Guy Lewis had not recruited two young black men from Louisiana in 1964: Don Chaney and Elvin Hayes. Despite facing hostility both at home and on the road, Chaney and Hayes led the Cougar basketball team to 32 straight victories. Similarly, in Cougar football, Coach Bill Yeoman recruited Warren McVea in 1964, and by 1967, McVea had helped the Houston gridiron program lead the nation in total offense. Houston Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense, and the Game of the Century, a new book by historian Robert D. Jacobus published by Texas A&M University Press, features first-person accounts of the players, the coaches and others involved in the integration of collegiate athletics in Houston, telling the gripping story of the visionary coaches, the courageous athletes and the committed supporters who blazed a trail not only for athletic success but also for racial equality in 1960s Houston. University of Houston Magazine is pleased to offer this excerpt from the book.




Although slow to integrate, Houston did not see the violence prevalent in many Southern cities in the 1950s when the roots of the Civil Rights movement were being planted. The Bayou City simply was not in the national limelight and quietly remained the largest segregated city in America — remote and out of the sight and mind of the movement’s leaders. Although Houston was in transition like the rest of the South after Brown v. Board of Education, it was still very much a Southern city. Segregation and racism were still the way of life there. Racist attitudes particularly became apparent at UH football and basketball games against opponents with African American players on their rosters. These opponents first appeared in 1953 and faced blatantly racist home team fans through the early 1960s. In spite of these harsh attitudes, the city of Houston and the University of Houston eventually stood at the forefront of change, with UH becoming the first major college in the South to integrate its athletic programs. This began with UH officially integrating its student body in the summer of 1962. Philip G. Hoffman, UH president from 1961 to 1977, explained, “Integrating was the right thing to do. However, we did not want a Mississippi or Alabama on our hands. We decided to integrate in the summer when there weren’t as many students on campus. We also had a local media blackout for a week so as not to publicize the event. My resolution was to get the best possible students on campus regardless of their color. The later recruiting of black athletes was a by-product of our integrating the school.” By 1963, however, the athletic department had not yet integrated. In the midst of Coach Guy Lewis already trying to get basketball integrated in the early 1960s, Coach Bill Yeoman came to UH in late 1961. Planning to recruit black athletes in the fall of 1963, he met with local black community leaders at a dinner at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel. The leader of the black community was Quentin Mease, the director of the South Central YMCA, and there were also in attendance prominent doctors, lawyers and businessmen. Mease said, “Bill got up to speak to the crowd and said, ‘I’m prejudiced, all right.’” “All their eyes lit up,” Yeoman said, “and they showed concern until I said, ‘I’m prejudiced against bad football players.’” Once Yeoman started to recruit black athletes and install his newly developed Veer Offense, the UH football program was headed in the right direction. So, by the summer of 1962, UH was officially integrated, and they had their basketball and football coaches in place — setting the stage to decide exactly which players would be the ones to integrate their respective sports … The question was who the African American player was going to be that would change the face of college athletics, not only at UH, but also throughout the South. When it came time for Yeoman to recruit his first black player, he said, “I was too stupid to realize people had a problem down here. I wish I could say it was a conscious decision, and I mulled it over and contemplated doing it, but I just didn’t pay any attention to it. I went to Athletics Director Harry Fouke and President

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Hoffman, and I told them I was going to recruit Warren McVea, a magnificent athlete who could roll with the punches.” There was no better known high school running back than “Wondrous Warren” McVea, as he was known. He was unquestionably the most-sought-after recruit in the nation by the spring of 1964. A native of San Antonio, McVea attended Brackenridge High School, which he helped integrate in the early 1960s. Playing halfback, McVea led the Eagles to an 11–3 record and a Class 4A state championship in 1962, the largest high school classification at the time. Every major college in the country wanted McVea. During the 1963 season, Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson came in person to watch McVea play. Apparently McVea ran wild in the game, and Wilkinson said afterward, “I’d lock him in the trunk of my car and head for Oklahoma, but, from what I saw tonight, I’m sure he’d get out.” The last piece of the McVea recruiting puzzle was, of course, Bill Yeoman himself. “After I visited and saw how he acted around his mom,” the coach remembered, “I knew we had a chance to get him. We were the closest major college to San Antonio that actually had integrated. I knew he wasn’t going to go too far from home.” Once McVea was signed, no one in Houston really knew what to expect in terms of the social ramifications of signing the first black football player in UH history. Would McVea be accepted just like any other player, or would the racism that had been prevalent to opposing players from the early 1950s up until 1963, the previous season, reappear?

As much hype, publicity and excitement as the recruitment of McVea brought to UH, the signing of Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney to the Cougar basketball program in the spring of

1964 brought little fanfare. Ironically, the least heralded of the three African American recruits was Elvin Hayes. “The Big E” ended up having the more illustrious college and professional career. Hayes came from the small Northeast Louisiana town of Rayville. He stood tall in the background with his record. He led his high school team to the Class 2A state championship as a senior in 1964, but was considered a relative unknown compared to McVea or Chaney. Coach Lewis only found out about Hayes when Isaac Moorehead, the head basketball coach down the street at Texas Southern University, was afraid Hayes was going to sign with nearby Grambling, which played in the same conference as TSU. Moorehead hoped Lewis might be interested in getting Hayes to visit UH. When the time came to recruit Hayes and Chaney in the spring of 1964, Coach Lewis focused mostly on Chaney and trusted his longtime assistant coach Harvey Pate to handle Hayes. “We signed Elvin and Don on the same day. Harvey dropped me off in Baton Rouge to sign Don, and he went to Rayville to sign Elvin. Don’s mother was probably the biggest factor in him coming to Houston,” Lewis recalled. “I told everyone in my neighborhood I was going to Loyola, (but) my mom made the decision for me to go to Houston,” Chaney confirmed. “She was big on the Civil Rights movement, and she felt this was an opportunity to be a pioneer. The way she presented it to me, it made sense; it would be a challenge. I must say, too, that I admire Guy Lewis for the commitment he made in recruiting black athletes. He never mentioned it, like he had done all of this before. Once we got there to Houston, he didn’t treat us any different. Everything was team.” Recruiting Hayes was less certain. “For a while,” Pate said, “I thought we weren’t going to get Elvin. Then one day Elvin’s sister called and said Elvin wanted to go to Houston. I got in the car with Guy, dropped him off in Baton Rouge so he could sign Don, and then I drove to Rayville all night to go sign OPPOSITE: Coach Lewis with Elvin Hayes and Elvin the next day. Don Chaney You know, Elvin is THIS PAGE from top: the best player I ever Don Chaney grabs a rebound tipped by Ken recruited. He’s the Spain; Big “E” jumps best player UH has center against Lew ever had. He put UH Alcindor in the Dome.

on the map. Some people talk about these other players like (Clyde) Drexler and (Hakeem) Olajuwon being the best. They were great players here, but they both got better after they went to the pros. Trust me, Elvin was the best.

When Warren McVea, Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney arrived in the summer of 1964 to attend UH, the city, the university and its fans underwent a transformation. Before this historic arrival, the Houston fans’ treatment of opposing African American athletes from visiting schools was generally poor and unsportsmanlike. It started with terribly segregated hotel accommodations and continued unmercifully with verbal harassment during the actual games. While not entirely incident-free, UH students appeared to welcome their new fellow Cougars. Interestingly, the acceptance of McVea, Hayes and Chaney transpired fairly quickly. Years later, some of the coaches, players and fans close to the athletic program provided insights about that transformation. In 1965, when Jerry LeVias became the first African American scholarship football player in the old Southwest Conference, his experience was entirely different from what McVea faced the year before. LeVias was the subject of hate mail, death threats, confrontations at social events and racism in class. McVea, however, encountered relatively few problems when he arrived on the UH campus. Why was it different? SMU was a rich, elitist school, and UH was a working-class, urban institution. UH students, faculty, administration, and — yes — many alumni wanted a winner so badly that skin color was no problem. The three new Cougars looked like a growing number of UH students. Identity was more easily established. Native Houstonian Bill Worrell experienced McVea’s arrival from a unique perspective. Worrell was a UH cheerleader, a member of the Cougar baseball team and a resident of Baldwin House, the athletic dormitory. “Warren was well-liked,” Worrell remembered. “I had several classes with him. UH, I felt, did an overall excellent job with integration. One thing is that the UH campus had become pretty liberal by the mid-to late 1960s. Blacks on campus started to have a voice, led by campus activist Gene Locke. We also elected a black Homecoming Queen, FALL 2015 • UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine


Chaney grew to be accepted by their fellow UH athletes and the vast majority of their fellow collegians. What remained, however, was facing the white people in the stands and on the Houston streets with the same courage and dignity.

As new students at UH in the fall of 1964,

Lynn Eusan, in 1968. As far as I know, we were the first college in the South to do so.” When Hayes and Chaney arrived in the summer of 1964, before the fall semester started, they, like McVea, faced a few obstacles, but for the most part, the transition was fairly smooth. “It took Elvin a little more time to adjust,” Worrell recalled. “He was from the country, and he had a slight speech problem. Both he and Don were kind of quiet at first. Both of them were smart, though. I also think that since UH is on the fringe of the black community in Houston, that helped them adjust when they first got here.” That doesn’t mean everything was perfect. “I used to hear some racial slurs at first,” Chaney recalled. “Sometimes we’d be sitting in the lounge at Baldwin House watching television with about 25–30 other guys in the room, and someone would shout out the N-word. That didn’t last that long, though.” Hayes’ situation was slightly more challenging. “When school was close to starting, I naturally thought Don and I would be roommates. But that was not the case. It was a difficult time for us, especially me. We had been brought up in a totally black environment. I had more problems than Don. I lived in a totally segregated society prior to coming to Houston. People in my life had tried to limit contact with whites as much as possible,” Hayes said. “I also learned that there were a lot of players in the dorms who hadn’t ever been around blacks … Eventually it worked out. By the time I was a sophomore, I was just one of the team.” Gradually, the pioneering African Americans adapted to their new integrated social environment thanks to well-laid plans that counteracted as many natural conflicts as possible. McVea, Hayes and

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McVea, Hayes and Chaney officially become “Kittens,” as players for the freshman football and basketball teams were called. Freshmen were not eligible to play varsity sports during this period of American amateur sports history, so these three recruits would have to wait a year to show the college sports world their abilities. As expected, all three had an immediate impact, with both the football and basketball freshmen teams, setting school records for wins … and setting the stage for McVea, Hayes and Chaney to move into the national spotlight during their upcoming seasons … The UH freshman basketball team, the Kittens, with Hayes and Chaney as members, integrated numerous East Texas junior college gyms their freshman year. The Cougar football team quietly blazed a trail of integration in college football venues throughout the South, integrating stadiums in Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia from 1965 to 1968. The buildup to Warren McVea finally taking the field as a varsity player member of the rivaled the hype around his recruitment and freshman season as the school’s first African American player. The upcoming 1965 football season had another apparent tinge of excitement — the Cougars’s new home field was set to open, the Harris County Domed Stadium, where indoor football would be played for the first time in history. The debut of both the Astrodome and Warren McVea led NBC to televise the first-ever indoor football game to a national audience — also the first time the Cougars appeared on national television. The Tulsa Hurricane pulled off a mildly surprising upset with their 14–0 season-opening victory in history’s first indoor football game. McVea experienced a nightmarish first college varsity game, carrying 11 times for a mere 21 yards and fumbled the ball away four times. The would-be superstar had big problems with the rockhard Astrodome grass playing field. McVea overcame a horrendous start to his college football career and redeemed himself over the Cougars’ final four games and certainly proved himself an able pioneer for the integration of college football in the South.

Although not achieving the same high level of publicity — some would call it hype — as McVea, the two black UH sophomore basketball players, Hayes and Chaney, in fact generated an impressive amount of optimism and anticipation going into the 1965–66 season. While the 1965–66 basketball Cougars didn’t lose their first game on national television like McVea and the football team, they also got off to a rather rocky start, dropping the first three contests. But, after that inauspicious start to their varsity careers, their season turned out well, posting a 23-6 record. Meanwhile, Warren McVea’s highly anticipated second season as wide receiver in Coach Yeoman’s high-powered Veer Offense was overshadowed when the NCAA placed UH on probation, with no television or bowl appearances allowed for the 1966, 1967 and 1968 seasons. Nevertheless, McVea was less injury-plagued and the arrival of additional African American players (fullback Paul Gipson, flanker Don Bean and backup fullback J. B. Keys) encouraged him. Another change for the 1966 Cougar football team was the new playing surface

in the Astrodome. After the disastrous attempt to play on grass in 1965, stadium officials replaced the dead grass with a new synthetic playing surface called Astroturf. That season included one of the finest performances ever by a UH football team, with UH rolling up a 73–14 blowout over highly ranked Tulsa Hurricane before 42,061 fans at the Dome. The 8–2 record the Cougars fashioned in 1966 matched the season record of Houston’s 1952 team. The team led the nation in total offense with 437.2 yards per game and wound up second nationally behind Notre Dame in scoring, averaging 33.5 points per contest. As for Warren McVea, his 1966 season was his best in statistics and durability — the two not being independent of each other. It proved to be his best season at UH …

Because of their strong finish to the 1965–66 season and the return of experienced juniors Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney, optimism and expectations for the basketball Cougars ran sky high. Like Warren McVea in his junior season of football, Hayes and Chaney were no longer the only black faces on the team, joined by Melvin Bell, Theodis Lee and Andrew Benson. Not long after the season got underway, UH athletic director Harry Fouke and J. D. Morgan, his UCLA counterpart, confirmed in a joint statement what had been in the rumor mill: UH would host UCLA next year on Jan. 20, 1968, in the Dome. The classic match-up would pit two of the top teams and the two top players in the college game — Lew Alcindor and Elvin Hayes. (But) this highly successful season concluded with UH in Louisville for their first Final Four in school history, offering a preview of that heralded match-up as UH fell to the top-ranked UCLA Bruins. Overall, 1966–67 went down as the greatest in history for UH sports. The football Cougars finished 8–2, ranked 19th in the nation, and was the national leader in total offense, the 1966–67 basketball season ended as by far the most successful in school history, the Cougars finishing at 27–4. The excitement of these successes helped set the stage for the senior seasons of Warren McVea, Elvin Hayes, and Don Chaney — seasons that packed more thrills and excitement than ever before.

September 23, 1967, in what is still considered the biggest day in UH football history, was also “Wondrous” Warren


McVea’s greatest day Yeoman circa 1960s RIGHT from top: Warren as a Cougar. In front McVea heads goalward of what proved to be on the 99-yard play; the official stadium Coach Yeoman on the headset; Coach Yeoman count of 75,833 discussing a call with Michigan State game official; McVea faithful, Houston streaks toward the end zone after outrunning blasted the thirdthe Michigan State ranked Spartans, defense. 37–7: McVea racked up 155 yards rushing on only 14 carries … While the racial slurs toward McVea and others who followed him had begun to fade, during the Ole Miss game in Oxford that year provided a grim reminder: Several of the African American players received death threats, including McVea. Coach Yeoman remembered, “They said they were going to shoot him if he scored a touchdown.” In retrospect, the 7–3 record and No. 16 AP ranking was somewhat disappointing. Although the oft-injured McVea’s statistics fell off in his senior year, he still won a number of honors and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. McVea, however, had continued along with his other African American teammates to blaze the trail of integration on football fields across the South. The back-to-back weekends in October when the Cougars integrated the state of Mississippi were truly the defining moments of a successful season. Their efforts, which we now know included facing death threats, changed the course of history in American football. Integration would become the rule and not the exception — a fitting, long-overdue rule of conduct on football fields everywhere in the nation.

As the 1967 football season wore down, anticipation for the Cougars’ basketball grew like rush-hour traffic on the Gulf Freeway. And excitement grew, even as the NCAA announced it was outlawing the dunk shot this season. While many basketball aficionados believed the NCAA was aiming the rule at Lew Alcindor, Coach Lewis said, “I read somewhere once that UCLA Coach Wooden himself said that the dunk was directed at ‘that crazy bunch from Houston.’” The season schedule included several tough opponents, however, the game on the UH schedule that everybody had been eyeing for more than a year was that Jan. 20 showdown with top-ranked UCLA in the



Astrodome. Interest in the game was reaching a peak, since both teams stood a good chance of being undefeated by tipoff. Ten days before the ‘Game of the Century,’ it officially became a sellout. Astrodome officials were now expecting a record crowd of more than 50,000. Press interest was also becoming intense. Sports Illustrated assigned three reporters to cover the game. It was going to be the first-ever national broadcast of a regular-season college basketball game. When the Game of the Century arrived, UCLA got some good news: Lew Alcindor, who’d sat out an earlier game with a scratched eye, was cleared to play. The results are part of sports history. On that night, before 52,693 screaming fans, UH scored the biggest win in the basketball program’s history as the Cougars won a heart-stopping 71–69 victory, ending the Bruins’ 47-game winning streak. Hayes was spectacular, especially in the first half, when he rang up 29 points. For the night, the Big E hit 15 of his first 20 shots and ended up with 39 points on 17 of 25 shots. He also pulled down 15 rebounds. His counterpart, Lew Alcindor, had but 15 points on 4 of 18 shots from the field and 12 rebounds. Afterward, Lew Alcindor said, “I have nothing to say. About anything.” When asked by a reporter if Elvin Hayes was the best player he had faced, Alcindor replied, “Oh, I guess so.” Years later, Hayes would observe, “It just created euphoria and an atmosphere for college basketball that wasn’t there previously. I think that game kicked the door down, opened the windows, and knocked the roof off the house. What we have today in March Madness is what I think the game in 1968 started.” The two teams would meet again in the post-season playoffs. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the rematch with UCLA must have also meant a lot to the defending national champions. Before a jam-packed, pro-UCLA crowd, the No. 2 ranked Bruins demolished the No. 1 ranked Cougars, 101–69, ending Houston’s 32-game winning streak. But what a sports legacy Hayes and Chaney left at UH! For his three-year Cougar career, Hayes averaged 31 points and 17.2 rebounds per game, which are still school records. He also set school single-season scoring and rebound records, with averages of 36.8 and 18.9 his senior season. For his Cougar career, Don Chaney scored 1,133 points in three seasons, an average of 12.6 points per game. In addition, he averaged 5.3 rebounds per game. For their three years on the UH varsity, despite the 0–3 start to their sophomore year, Hayes and Chaney led the Cougars to fashion an 81–12 record with trips to the Final Four in 1967 and 1968. More important, Hayes and Chaney — along with Warren McVea and Hall of Fame coaches Guy V. Lewis and Bill Yeoman — helped open the doors for the integration of major college sports in the state of Texas and throughout the rest of the South. “You know, Martin Luther King did a great thing,” Coach Yeoman once observed, “but he owes a lot to the University of Houston.” As Houston Cougars in the 1960s shows, he was not exaggerating …

TOP: Lew Alcindor guarding Hayes. Hayes outscored Alcindor 25 to 19. BOTTOM: The Game of the Century with 52,693 fans in attendance.

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UPCOMING SIGNINGS AND READINGS December 5 | 2-4 p.m. Katy Budget Books 2450 Fry Rd. Houston, TX 77084

December 12 | 11 a.m. Blue Willow Bookshop 14532 Memorial Dr. Houston, TX 77079

December 6 | 2-4 p.m. Barnes and Noble First Colony Mall 16535 Southwest Fwy, #4000 Sugar Land, TX 77479

December 12 | 4-6 p.m. River Oaks Bookstore 3270 Westheimer Houston, TX 77098

December 10 | 6-8 p.m. Barnes and Noble Westheimer Crossing 7626 Westheimer Houston, TX 77063

December 19 | 10 a.m.-noon Mugz Coffee Bar 503 FM 359, Suite 190 Richmond, TX 77406

About the Book: Houston Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense and the Game of the Century by Robert D. Jacobus. With forewords by Wade Phillips and James Kirby Martin. 272 pp. $29.95. Texas A&M University Press.


CLASS NOTES News and announcements from UH Alumni


CHARLES DOYLE (M.B.A. ’61) has been named to the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame. Charles T. “Chuck” Doyle is the chairman emeritus/founding director of the board of Texas First Bank. He was among just five individuals who have served their industry, community and state. The Texas Bankers Hall of Fame was established by the Smith-Hutson Endowed Chair of Banking at Sam Houston State University to recognize outstanding bankers.


DAVE BARRETT (FS ’74) won first place In “Broadcast Radio Networks and Syndicators Feature and Human Interest Story” for producing a piece called “Beatles 50th Anniversary” for the World News Roundup. He also won his third Edward R. Murrow Award for a one minute and 19 second piece that tells the history of our nation’s anthem. GLEN BOUDREAUX (’73, J.D. ’76) has been selected for inclusion in the 2016 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America.” He is a commercial litigation attorney for Jackson Walker L.L.P. in Houston, Texas.

ANNE WALTERS ROBERTSON (’74, M.M. ’76), the Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities at the University of Chicago, was recently inducted into the American Philosophical Society. The American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.”


THOMAS FENSKE (’76) published his first novel, “The Fever,” a story about a man’s lonely obsession with trying to find a legendary lost gold mine in western Texas. JIM LOVERING (’68, ’75) was recently elected to Grand Knight of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church Council #6358 in Schertz, Texas.

RHONDA SWEENEY (’79), current president of the Moore’s Society in the Moores School of Music, spends two months in Hawaii each summer. She proudly wears her UH visor when on the island.


During his three-day visit to the island of Barbados, CARL LEWIS (FS ’82), along with William Blackburn, associate head track and field coach at the University of Houston, conducted the Scotiabank Springer Memorial Power Play Sprint/Jump Clinic at the National Stadium and delivered a motivational speech to more than 400 children. ALEX LOPEZ-NEGRETE (’81) and his wife, Cathy, founded Lopez Negrete Communications, Inc., the nation’s largest Hispanic owned and operated agency. They recently won their fifth Gold Advertising Research Federation David Ogilvy Award in the Travel and Leisure category. Their “Vamos a Pescar” campaign, created for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, recognizes and engages Hispanics in their love of recreational fishing and the outdoors. Governor Greg Abbott has appointed former University of Houston System Board Chair NELDA LUCE BLAIR (J.D. ’82) to the Stephen F. Austin University Board of Regents. Blair is currently the CEO of The Blair Law Firm, P.C. in The Woodlands, Texas. RICHARD P. BEEM (J.D. ’85) has been elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors at the Union League Club of Chicago,



a 136-year-old non-partisan civic, cultural and philanthropic organization, where he will chair the library committee. Beem is the founder and managing partner of the Beem Patent Law Firm.

BRUCE TOUGH (’76, J.D. ’80) has been elected to the Houston Area Research Center Board of Directors. Bruce currently serves as Chairman of The Woodlands Township.

ROSEMARY SCHATZMAN (M.B.A. ’89), was named in H- Texas’ “26 Most Beautiful Houstonians 2015.” Schatzman concentrates much of her time on raising money for organizations centered around children, family and related health and human services groups. Her primary focus is helping further the mission of the March of Dimes to reduce birth defects and infant mortality. She serves on the board of Dec My Room and is on the Advisory Boards for Child Advocates and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Television and film historian ROB RAY (’80) has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Classic TV Preservation Society.

MIKE PEDE (’89) will be inducted into Rancocas Valley Regional High School’s Athletics Hall of Fame in Mt. Holly, NJ in October. Pede, currently the Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations at UH, also was recently added to the Board of Directors of the Council for Alumni Association Executives, the leading national organization for alumni relations professionals. LAURA GIBSON (J.D. ’84), a partner with Ogden, Gibson, Broocks, Longoria & Hall, L.L.P. was sworn in on May 21, 2015 as the President of the Houston Bar Association. Gibson is the fourth woman president to lead the HBA in 145 years. SCOTT HUNTSMAN (’83) has been named Louisiana managing director for Deloitte Consulting, L.L.P. In his new role, Huntsman will oversee a growing number of business professionals offering audit, advisory, tax and consulting services and be responsible for the strategy and direction of Deloitte activities in Louisiana. SUE SHIRLEY HOWARD (’81) travelled to Krakow, Poland — and didn’t forget to bring her Cougar backpack!

58 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

SENATOR DAVID R. HEITMEIER, O.D. (’87) will receive the American Optometric Association’s prestigious OD of the Year Award at the group’s June meeting in Seattle. A Louisiana State Senator, Heitmeier is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare. Heitmeier has been credited with bringing billions of federal dollars to Louisiana Hospitals through policy changes on how Medicaid dollars are received by the state. The senator practices in New Orleans and will soon add his eldest daughter into the family business upon her graduation from UHCO. RICKY A. RAVEN (’83, J.D.’86) has joined Reed Smith, L.L.P. as a partner in the firm’s Houston office. Raven is a member of the firm’s US Commercial Litigation Group. His practice focuses on civil litigation, toxic tort, products liability, personal injury and fracking litigation. QUENTIN BROGDON (J.D., M.B.A. ’89) has joined the Crain Lewis Brogdon, L.L.P. law firm in Dallas, where he will continue representing seriously injured plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits. GINGER HANSEL (’76, ’80), a College of Technology graduate, was recently named Vice President of the ESD Association which is an international, non-profit association dedicated to advancing the theory and practice of electrostatic discharge (ESD) avoidance. She currently works as the Director of Marketing and Program Management at the Austin consulting group, Dangelmayer Associates. MARK POLIMENO (’88) and his wife, Teresa, published Mother Teresa’s

Fine Italian Foods Cookbook. This beautiful hardbound fully illustrated cookbook includes over 170 entries, including appetizers, antipasto, soups, pastas and seafood recipes. Mother Teresa’s Fine Foods also provides packaged pesto and pasta sauces which are shipped all across the country and local cooking classes and catering. Their company is based in Clute, Texas.


BRUCE WICK (O.D. ’91), alumnus and Emeritus Professor in the College of Optometry, and his wife, Susan Stubinski, won the Rockwell Mixed Pairs Bridge Tournament this May. This is the first North American Bridge Championship title for both of them. Formerly the associate director of Houston’s innovative Writers in the Schools Program, BAO-LONG CHU (M.F.A. ’95) has accepted a position with the Houston Endowment as a program officer. Chu will focus on Houston Endowment’s Arts and Culture portfolio. ERIC ANSON (’99) recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a Ph.D. in Kinesiology. Anson’s dissertation dealt with gaze stability during walking. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. JONATHAN G. COOK (’96), along with collaborators Derrick Ferguson and Brent Whiteside, recently won the 2015 Worldfest International Film Festival in Houston. Collectively known as The Starving Scriptwriters, they were awarded the Jury Award, the highest award given for screenwriting at the festival, for their adapted screenplay, “Appointment In Jerusalem,” based on the novel of the same name. JUDGE RONIQUE BASTINE ROBINSON (L.L.M. ’96) published, “From Divorce to Deliverance, Divorce Doesn’t (Have to) Mean Devastation.” Robinson is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney with nearly

25 years of experience. Robinson is also a municipal judge for the City of Stafford in Fort Bend County where she has served since 1999 in addition to being a public speaker. STUTI TREHAN PATEL (J.D. ’96) has been appointed Associate District Court Judge in Fort Bend County, Texas. Her swearing-in took place on July 27, 2015. ROBERT C. KRAMP (’96) has returned to Houston as CBRE’s director of research and analysis for the Texas/Oklahoma region. Kramp will lead the commercial real estate firm’s 14-person research team in the two-state region. He most recently served as a senior vice president and national director with JLL’s Americas Research team supporting the Midwest and Great Lakes region. DAVID DUONG (’95), who graduated Cum Laude from the University of Houston, has been promoted to Partner at Fragomen Worldwide. He received his J.D. from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and has been exclusively practicing immigration and nationality law since 1998. Duong takes a personal approach to immigration, working closely with clients to create simplified, customized and reliable support and solutions. LAURA BOWEN (’94) recently received Houston Area Association of Personal Consultants’ Outstanding Contributions to the Association award. Additionally her company, ExecuTeam Staffing, a 2014 Cougar 100 honoree, earned a first place team award for Blended Services — Administrative Support. GRIFFIN D. VANCE IV (’96), entertainment lawyer and graduate of UH’s Radio, Television and Film department, joined Sentai Filmworks as their Director of Operations, Business & Legal Affairs.

Cougar Experience Scholarship Your gift to the Cougar Experience Scholarship program will promote student success and cultivate a next-generation campus experience at the University of Houston. Visit and make your gift today. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Dickey, Division of University Advancement, at 713.743.2789 or via email at

After leading Houston Baseball to an American Athletic Conference title and to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, head coach TODD WHITTING (’95) has been honored as the



ABCA/Diamond South Central Regional Coach of the Year.

recognized for synthesizing DNA 100 times more efficiently than current methods.

SHAVORRIAN MITCHELL, MSHRM, CFC, CSP (’94) was promoted to Accounting and Compliance Manager at Dean’s Professional Services, a National, Award-Winning, Staffing, Staff Development and Consulting firm located in Houston, Texas. She also oversees the company’s community service and diversity initiatives.

DANIEL MORENO (’03) recently became the youngest-ever general manager of downtown’s exclusive Petroleum Club of Houston. He looks forward to membership growth, and plans on keeping the Petroleum Club at the forefront of Houston’s thriving private club scene. “I love private clubs, because you get to see the same faces every day,” he says.

STACIE VIRDEN (O.D. ’97) received the city of Waco's "Best" Award for Best Optometrist.

DEREK RICE (M.S. ’09) was honored as the 2014 University of Houston Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Distinguished Alumnus at the 17th Annual Robert E. Sheriff Lecture in November.

SHANA D. LEWIS, LPC-S, NCC (’98), the Clinical Director of Living Well Professional Counseling Services, PLLC in Bellaire, TX, recently founded Her VOICE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering survivors of domestic violence to live healthy lives through mentorship and education.


Blank Rome, L.L.P. announced that BILLY C. ALLEN (J.D. ’06) and SEAN PATRICK MCDERMOTT (’00, J.D. ’07) have joined the firm as partners of Blank Rome’s intellectual property and technology group. Blank Rome is an international law firm representing businesses and organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-up entities. JEREMY RINCON (’08), co-founder of Clarus Glassboards — a 2014 Cougar 100 honoree — was awarded Ernst & Young’s prestigious 2015 Entrepreneur of The Year honor, along with Clarus President, Andrew Philipp and co-founder Robby Whites. Clarus is the leading designer of innovative glass dry erase boards and work space architectural systems, and its executives were recognized for demonstrating excellence and extraordinary success in the areas of innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their business and community. EMILY LEPROUST (PH.D. ’01) made Fast Company magazine’s List of 100 Most Creative People in Business 2015. Leproust is the cofounder and CEO of Twist Bioscience. She was

60 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015


ANDREW J. COBOS (M.B.A., J.D. ’11) was the keynote speaker at the University of Houston’s Patriot Cord Ceremony for ROTC students on May 8. He also was recently appointed to the Texas Veterans Land Board by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. He will oversee six programs that provide benefits and services for Texas veterans, military members and their families. Cobos is an attorney in McKool Smith’s Houston office where he focuses on complex commercial and bankruptcy litigation.

WISAM NAHHAS (BBA ’11) and NOUR BAKI (BBA ’13) conceived an on-demand gas delivery service that launched June 1, 2015 on the University of Houston campus. With support from Bauer College’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, FuelMe has customers download a mobile app and register, before they indicate their location and how long they’ll be there. A certified fueler from the FuelMe team fills up the car, and once the transaction is complete, the customer is emailed a receipt. “No one likes going to the gas station, and with FuelMe, you’ll never have

HAVE AN ITEM FOR CLASS NOTES? Did you celebrate a new addition to your family? How about a big promotion? Did you receive an award, tie the knot or publish that book you’ve been working on this past year? Inspire and inform your Cougar Family with a Class Note. Share your latest accomplishments with us so Coogs across the world can celebrate with you! Send your class notes to Also send us your photos so we can add a face to your announcement. For best quality, photos should be submitted in at least 3” x 5” size at 300 dpi (or 900 x 1500 pixels).

to waste time there again,” Baki says. AADIT KAPADIA (’11, ’13), Director and CoFounder of “MyIndMakers,” launched an online platform in January 2015 with two partners. The website,, includes independent views (op-eds and blogs), weekly podcasts, catchy surveys and smart interviews on various topics. Issues regarding world policies and matters related to India and the United States are regularly covered. JENNIFER A. BARTH (M.S. ’12) had her published research recognized by the selection of her photomicrograph as the cover photo for the April 2015 issue of the international journal, Sedimentology. The cover photo was selected from the article, “Cool Water Geyser Travertine: Crystal Geyser, Utah, USA.” The research was supervised and co-authored by Henry Chafetz, UH professor of geology and carbonate petrology. SHEED ITAMAN (’12) is a 2015 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He is currently in Delaware State University’s Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Master’s Degree Program. ABIGAIL LAMB (’12) is a 2015 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She is currently pursuing

a Ph.D. at University of Michigan and is doing genetics research. The first TSO Network Rising Star award was awarded to PHONG PHAM (O.D. ’12) of TSO Kingwood. The award is intended to recognize an emerging leader within the TSO Network whose record reflects ongoing and exceptional growth in contribution to the profession and increased levels of leadership and responsibility. HEATHER PORTER, NÉE LATIMER, (O.D. ’13) married Michael Porter on December 13, 2014. XIN (LINDSAY) LAN (PH.D. ’15) received a National Research Council — National Academy of Sciences postdoctoral fellowship to work with Dr. Pieter Tans in the Global Monitoring Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. Lan will be in the Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases Group working on various aspects of greenhouse gases on the global scale. SUZELLE PALACIOS (’15), a recent graduate of the UH acting program, performed sonnets to a full house at the Brazos Bookstore as part of the Houston Shakespeare Festival. Soon, Palacios will be continuing her theater studies at the Old Globe Program in graduate studies at the University of San Diego. PHILLIP SAMMONS (’13), a graduate of the Moores School of Music, has been selected to participate at the 26th annual Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival in Houston. Only 100 musicians across the country are chosen to participate in this event. After earning a bachelor of music degree at UH, Sammons worked at Kids’ Orchestra in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while completing a Master of Music degree in clarinet performance this year at Louisiana State University. Following the Texas Music Festival, Sammons will become the new music teacher at Horn Academy in Bellaire.

Four Ways to Use Your IRA or Retirement Plan to Make a Gift to the University of Houston

1 2 3 4

Name the University as Beneficiary Your retirement account administrator will have the necessary forms.

Name the University as Beneficiary to Create a Charitable Gift Annuity Create an annuity stream for family members for life.

Name a Charitable Remainder Trust as Beneficiary Benefits family during their lives with remainder to the University.

Use Your Required Minimum Distribution to Make Your Annual Gift to the University

Contact the Office of Gift Planning | | 713.743.8680

On May 24, 2015, KELSIE MORRISON (O.D. ’15), and her husband, Marty Morrison, welcomed their son, Marty Tucker Morrison. Tucker weighed 8 lbs. 13 oz. and was 22 1/2 inches long.



IN MEMOR I A M We mourn with the families and friends of the alumni the University of Houston community has lost the past year. The following members of our UH family have passed away since April 2015. It is our hope that their loved ones be comforted and that they live on in memory. The University of Houston will honor and celebrate the lives of alumni, as well as students, staff and faculty, who died in 2015 at the annual UH Day of Remembrance. This interfaith service will take place in March 2016 in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center’s University Chapel. It is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Mr. Edward B. Adams (M.Ed. ’54) Mrs. Suzon Lapat Adam (M.Ed. ’55) Mr. Arnold Eugene Ahrens (M.B.A. ’82) Mr. Arnold F. Alanis, Jr. (’98) Ms. Mary A. Anderson (’63) Mr. Jack C. Andrews (’92) Ms. Brenda Jean Austin (M.Ed. ’91) Mr. Edward Allen Baggett (’70) Mr. Wayne Emil Barloco (’83)

Mr. Robert Jack Golden (’52) Mr. James D. Gray (J.D. ’15) Mrs. Myrajane E. Hall (’71, ’72) Mr. Rayford Lee Hamil (’65) Ms. Marjorie Cox Hamilton (’62, M.Ed. ’71) Mr. Clifton L. Hammer (’66) Ms. Peggy L. Hardt (M.Ed. ’88) Mr. Guy W. Head (’49) Mr. Emanuel A. Hebert (M.S. ’68)

Dr. Daryl W. Nooner (Ph.D. ’66) Mr. Larry R. Novosad (’70) Mr. Cleveland Eugene Odom (M.Ed. ’70) Mr. Charles F. Oehlert (’71) Mr. William Gene Ogletree (’69, J.D. ’76) Ms. Dorothy Pitcher (’49) Mr. Jack Polk (’56) Mr. Carlos E. Pomares (M.A. ’71) Mr. Quinton M. Priday (’56)

Dr. Elizabeth Estes Barry (’72, M.Ed.’75, Ed.D. ’83) Ms. Bobbie Carroll Bayliss (’81) Mr. Roger Michael Bender (’75) Mr. Henry E. Benson (C. ’64) Mr. Edward A. Blackburn, III (’73) Mr. Glenn Blanchard (’72) Mr. Harold C. Block (’58) Dr. Elizabeth Bole (Ed.D. ’87) Mr. Ken D. Bolin (’66) Mrs. Raymona B. Bomar (M.S.W. ’79) Mr. Glenn H. Bowden (’70) Mr. Richard M. Bradley (’53) Mr. James Alvin Buchanan (’70) Mr. Dennis L. Callihan (’75) Mr. Harold Carson (’62) Ms. Claudine Collom (’64) Ms. Clara E. Cox (’63) Mr. Charles B. Crawford (’56) Mrs. Janet Crouchet French (’88) Mr. David L. Crowell (’53) Mr. Harold V. Denton (’58) Mr. Robert W. Dickson (’51) Mrs. Charlyn D. Dumm (’74) Mr. Frank M. Eldridge (’70) Mr. Lynn H. Enderli (’56) Mrs. Ann Armstrong Epler (’69) Arthur J. Farley, M.D. (’63) Mr. Robert G. Florance, Jr. (’57) Mrs. Helen C. Foltz (’49) Mr. Gerard G. Fossati (M.Ed. ’69) Mr. William Walter Fritsche (’68) Dr. Dan D. Fulgham (’50) Mr. Robert Lee Galloway (’64) Mr. Clyde C. Garrett (’49) Mr. Leslie C. Gau (’49) Ms. Rose Wong Hing Gee (’50) Mr. Leo J. Gleinser, Sr. (’60)

Ms. Judith Mulkey Hernandez (’79) Mr. Christopher Adam Hoeller (’11) Mr. Francis Dale Hokanson (’63) Mr. Joseph H. Hugghins (’48) Ms. Darlene Marie Jiles (M.S.W. ’91) Mrs. Shirley S. Johnston (’46) Mr. William E. Johnson, Jr. (’79) Mr. Charles Edward Jones (’59) Mr. Alfred (Fred) T. King, III (’67) Ms. Ann L. Knox (’64) Mr. A. W. Kolkhorst (’57) Mr. Edward E. Krause (’49) Mr. Leonard W. Kubin (’66) Mr. Sieh-Chang Kuo (M.S. ’74) Mr. Earl C. Lairson (’57) Mr. Nicholas Lance, Jr. (M.S. ’78) Mr. Dean Kirk Langsdorf (J.D. ’92) Mrs. Mary Linda Letbetter (J.D. ’82) Ms. Margaret Fogarty Lonero (’72) Ms. Imogene G. Longbotham (M.Ed. ’58) Mrs. Carolyn Magnuson (M.A. ’01) Mr. Robert Graham Manry (’87) Mr. Jimmy L. Manuel (’62) Mr. Patrick C. Marrero (’61) Mr. Clarene W. Maxcy (’56) Mr. David Holcomb Miller (J.D. ’86) Mr. Don Kent Milner (’72) Mr. Peter C. Moller (’65) Mr. Jose Jesus Monsivais (J.D. ’95) Ms. Kathryn Elizabeth Moody (’79) Mr. Bedford Forrest Moore, Jr. (’52, ’56) Ms. Saranne Motley (’94) Ms. Jean D. Myers (M.Ed. ’62) Ms. Jo Nelson (’73, J.D. ’75) Mr. John D. Newcomb (’60) Mr. Nels J. Nielsen (’71) Mr. Ira L. Nix, Jr. (’57)

Dr. Robin B. Reamer (M.Ed. ’91, Ph.D. ’95) Mr. M. Evan Reindl (M.B.A. ’70) Mr. Thomas J. Reynal (’58) Mr. Bobby G. Reynolds (’53) Mrs. Monica J. Richards (J.D. ’95) Ms. Mary L. Ridge (’71) Mr. Reed Winslow Robinson (’68) Dr. Gwendolyn J. Hale Samples (Ed.D. ’85) Ms. Gloria Marie Sanders (’84) Mr. Gary A. Schippers (’83) Ms. Florence Schwartz (’51) Ms. Janet L. Sellers (’74) Mr. Melvin Eugene Seyffert (’75) Mr. Edwin E. Sidebottom (’51) Dr. Dennis Lee Smith (O.D. ’66) Mr. Larry G. Soape (’97) Mr. James R. Spradlin (’67) Mr. Hollie M. Stanley, Jr. (’68) Mr. Dale A. Steele (’67) Mr. Richard Lee Stotter (’67) Ms. Harriet J. Strieber (M.Ed. ’61) Dr. Monso Pittman Tatum, Jr. (’73, ’78) Ms. Cynthia Hammond Touchstone (’80) Dr. Martha H. Tyson (M.A. ’67, Ph.D. ’68) Mr. Joe H. Urbanovsky (M.Ed. ’52) Ms. Bettie P. Utter (’71) Mr. Juan B. Vallhonrat (’62) Mr. Carl J. Vitera (’59) Mr. G. David Waddell (’78) Ms. Susan Jean Walstad (J.D. ’80) Mrs. Velma Galny Whitaker (’44) Mr. Thomas H. Whitby (’61) Mrs. Anita Greathouse Whitney (’87) Mr. Charles B. Wilder (’50) Mr. Thomas Michael Wilkinson (’83) Mr. Gary T. Wilson (M.B.A. ’94) Ms. Jennifer Trapp-Cordova Windham (J.D. ’86)

62 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015



husnelda Valdes is perhaps one of the University of Houston’s

most well-versed alumni on the UH experience. Not only did she earn her undergraduate and graduate degrees at UH, she also spent her career counseling students on campus. All in all, Valdes has spent 46 years at the University, dedicated to the student experience — whether it was her own, or one of the many students she guided through the years. If you had told her when she was a teenager that she would counsel patients and university students as an adult, she probably would have laughed at you; at that point, she was studying mathematics in Havana, and although signs of Cuba’s militarization and turn to a dictatorship under Fidel Castro were springing up, she could not know that she would have to flee to the United States in 1961. But everything has unfolded as it was meant to be. “I lost my first love, the beautiful city of Havana, where I was born," she reminisced. "But I love Houston and would never want to live anywhere else.”

Now retired, Valdes remembers when Interstate 45 was Houston’s only freeway, the only stores at the site of the future Galleria were Sakowitz and Joske’s, and hardly any restaurants were open past 9 p.m., but the road to Houston took time to build. “When we left Cuba, we were not allowed to bring anything except a few clothes,” she said. “My husband, two little girls — Cecilia and Maria — and I arrived by cargo ferry at West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1961.” Their third child, Luis, was born during their time in Florida. Her husband, Dr. Luis G. Valdes, was a surgeon who passed away three years ago after the couple celebrated 54 years of marriage. He couldn’t practice medicine in the United States until he took his board exams. The family eventually would leave

Thusnelda Valdes with her sons Dr. Luis A. Valdes and Dr. Ignacio H. Valdes



Florida so he could work in a short-staffed Veterans Affairs hospital in the small town of Dublin, Georgia, where their fourth child, Ignacio, was born. Dr. Valdes was then offered a residency in Nashville, Tennessee, and the family spent two years there as he worked grueling hours to obtain his license. Finally, he received an offer to join a surgeon’s practice in Houston in 1966. One can get a sense of this history from reading Thusnelda Valdes’ novel, “The Lost Years,” which she published under the name Maria Mencio-Becker in 2010 after taking a creative writing class at UH. “I chose to write the novel as historical fiction because I had the freedom to tell stories about people whom I knew personally and were still alive at the time,” she said. “It allowed me to paint a larger

cut down. She returns to campus about once per year. “I’m glad the University has achieved the status that it has at present and that the campus offers so much more to the students in terms of housing, dining facilities and activities,” she said. “I have some nostalgia for the smaller, quieter campus that UH used to be, but the essence of reality is change, not permanence.” After falling in love with psychology during a VA extension course she took while they lived in Georgia, Valdes enrolled at UH as a junior. “Attending the University helped me to become the scholar I always wanted to be,” she said. “I learned to be persistent, see advisers, professors and University personnel. It made me a stronger person.” She initially wanted to work in a mental hospital, but in 1974, she found her calling at

“Attending the University helped me to become the scholar I always wanted to be. I learned to be persistent, see advisers, professors and University personnel. It made me a stronger person.” picture to portray the Cuban communist revolution and its consequences.” She also was able to use her skills as a psychologist during the writing process: “To this day, I continue to be captivated by the construct of personality. The concept of personality also helped me with character development in my novel.” When Valdes resumed her education at the University of Houston in the 1960s, she was reminded of the turbulent times in revolutionary Havana, though on a different scale. “Those were the years of the Vietnam protests and the flower children. Having just come from Cuba, the protests worried me because of what I had experienced back there, but the following years were peaceful.” At one point, she recalled, students chained themselves to the trees where the Science and Research Building now stands to protest the trees being

64 UNIVERSI T Y OF HOUS TON Magazine • FALL 2015

UH’s Counseling and Testing Services (now Counseling and Psychological Services). The Center was founded by Frank Stovall, Valdes’ academic adviser, to help WWII veterans readjust to civilian life, and grew to encompass all student experiences. Five years later, she became one of their staff psychologists. Her preceding student experience at UH, which involved processing her dissertation on IBM cards and printing it from a huge computer in the basement of the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building, prepared her for that position, in addition to her role as an adjunct professor. “Studying the human mind and group dynamics changed the way I look at the world,” she said. “Theories about learning became a pillar of my understanding of human behavior. In fact, I also applied the principles at home with my four children!”

Valdes’ studies have certainly influenced her children: her son, Dr. Luis A. Valdes (M.S. ’88, Ph.D. ’90), also is a psychologist who has spent much of his career applying behavior principles to patients in mental hospitals. Her youngest son, Dr. Ignacio H. Valdes (M.S. ’90), works in the mental health field as a psychiatrist. Both are proud UH alumni. Her expertise had a direct impact on student success at UH, and she found particular satisfaction in advising international students, who have unique reactions to their new educational environment. “They needed to learn the American approach of questioning and debating ideas rather than memorizing them.” Valdes not only drew from her experience as an international student, but also as a student who had started her college career on a completely different path — “That is why I highly recommend that students receive career counseling.” She is glad that UH has continued to expand its career resources for both undergraduates and graduate students, noting that one benefit of attending UH is that it is big enough for students to study different fields without changing schools. The lessons she learned as a student still factor into her daily musings — how genes, family and society affect people’s lives — and she applauds the advances in the health care field that UH students and graduates are practicing. “I sometimes wish that I could do it all over again and study psychology at the advanced stage where it is now,” she said. Her zest for learning and new experiences is reflected in the completion of “The Lost Years” — an effort that was 20 years in the making. Although she says that many good books have been written about the uprising, they are mostly in Spanish, and the Cubans who read them already know the story. Plus, they are rarely written from a female point of view. “I chose to write my book in English and as a novel to reach a wider audience, including my own children and grandchildren because this is their family’s history,” she explained. Despite recent positive developments in Cuba/U.S. relations, Valdes does not anticipate that she will ever return. “I will only go back to Cuba if there are true changes there. By changes I mean free elections, respect for human rights and freedom of religion and of expression.” After all, Houston is her home now. “Recently, my cousin from Miami came to visit,” she said, “and I proudly showed him around our marvelous city: the city of the future.”



Where do you go on #TravelTuesday? What memories do you revisit on #ThrowbackThursday? What are you wearing on #CougarRedFriday? Every day, Coogs share Instagram photos of all the interesting things they do. These photos are a few of our favorite glimpses of daily life around the @universityofhouston campus. #GoCoogs! 1
















H O U S TO N , T E X A S P E R M I T N O . 5 9 10



LAST LOOK The Alley’s production of All My Sons performed at UH’s Wortham Theatre.

The Alley Theatre concluded a successful season at UH and moved back into its downtown home after completing a $46.5 million renovation. During its time on campus, UH School of Theatre & Dance students were able to perform in several Alley Theatre productions, Alley staff members were guest speakers during classes, and the Alley made permanent improvements to UH’s Wortham Theatre. “The Alley Theatre would like to extend a profound thank you to the students and faculty for welcoming and embracing us during our year away from home,” said Alley Theatre Managing Director Dean Gladden. “We hope Alley patrons will continue to visit and enjoy performances on the UH campus.” —Melissa Carroll

Profile for uhmagazine

University of Houston Magazine Fall 2015  

University of Houston Magazine Fall 2015