UHCL professor gives expertise on how small businesses can survive COVID-19

March 27th, 2020

With the arrival of the coronavirus, Bay Area small businessmen and women find themselves facing a number of problems.

One of the most worrisome, and the one affecting so many is what’s ahead for small businesses feeling the financial strain after closing their doors so as to maintain social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the country struggles with the COVID-19 concerns.

UH-Clear Lake Associate Professor of Management Troy Voelker thinks a small business owner could mitigate a potentially devastating financial setback by considering some suggestions.

First, he suggests staying up to date on any bailouts or assistance coming from federal, state, or local government agencies.

“These come along quickly and the landscape will evolve very fast over the next few months,” he says. “Demand for assistance will be very high, so submitting your requests early and thoroughly must be a high priority. I would recommend making researching this topic the first thing a small business owner does in the morning, and the last thing he or she does at night. It’s changing that quickly.”

     Voelker also recommends that business owners maintain close contact with their supply chain and communicate clearly what is going on. “At the beginning of March, before all the shutdowns happened locally, small businesses were already reporting interruptions in their supply chains, especially those with China connections,” he said. “Those interruptions will only become more significant over time, so it’s important to continue communicating with vendors.”

     And, he points out that despite the difficulties, it’s possible to find ways to continue developing revenue.

     “For some businesses this is as simple as moving your consumer interactions to an online or pickup model, while other businesses might find they have ways of deriving revenue they never considered before,” he said. “In some cases, the business might need to identify other non-traditional opportunities for creating revenue. There will be a reduction in consumption over the next few months, so diversifying your revenue streams is a good way to respond to uncertainty.”

Layoffs have become a reality, with many hourly workers in service industries finding themselves stuck at home due to social distancing recommendations. Voelker said it’s important for a business owner to make sure his employees do not feel forgotten.

“Maintain contact with your employees as much as you can,” he said. “Even if you’re able to move to an online model, keeping up human connections while at a distance is just good business practice and an important part of life. Most of us are used to spending a lot of our time at work and the people we socialize with during the week are our coworkers, so separating from that is more stressful than many of us realize.”

This is a good time to address parts of the business that owners have been neglecting or haven’t had time for. “Don’t focus on the negativity of the circumstances,” Voelker said. “Use this time to figure out how to connect with future customers and work on things you haven’t had time for.”

UH-Clear Lake takes COVID-19 action; classes to go online

March 12th, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

To allow faculty, staff and students to address professional and personal matters in response to the city of Houston and Harris County emergency health declarations and to do our part in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, we are taking the following actions at UH-Clear Lake, UH-Clear Lake at Pearland and all off-campus locations.

Classes (face-to-face and online), including lectures, seminars, discussions and/or presentations, will not be held next week (March 16-21). Beginning March 23, classes will be offered remotely (online or alternative format) until further notice.

Students are encouraged to stay home. Hunter Hall and Dining Services will be open for those deciding to return from spring break. Student Housing and Residential Life will be available, and all protocols regarding sanitization and hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus are being followed.

Faculty and staff may work from home to the extent that they are able to perform their functions remotely and with prior approval from their supervisor and Human Resources. All UH-Clear Lake campuses will remain open, and all offices and services will continue to operate until further notice. Research labs will be open, and related services will remain in operation.

Events and programming funded and sponsored by UH-Clear Lake are cancelled through April 30. If you have an event planned during the month of April that cannot be rescheduled, please consult with the vice president of your division.

Facilities will be maintained using sanitization and hygiene protocols as recommended by authorities. This includes increased custodial cleaning and the availability of hand sanitizer dispensers at all entrances, common areas and elevators.

At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at UH-Clear Lake or any other system university. UH-Clear Lake’s Emergency Management team works with local, state and federal authorities on a daily basis. We will keep you informed about any updates as they relate to your work and learning at UH-Clear Lake. Meanwhile, we urge you to follow personal hygiene precautions and exercise social distancing measures as recommended by the CDC and local health authorities.

I understand that these precautionary measures may be inconvenient and disappointing to you, but we hope that these efforts can help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Your health and safety are our priority.

Please find more information about COVID-19 at www.uhcl.edu/health-alert. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us by emailing [email protected]. Further communication for faculty, staff and students will be forthcoming Thursday.


Ira K. Blake, Ph.D.
UHCL President

Software engineering minor offers skills that can be game changer in employers’ eyes

January 9th, 2020

In a job market filled with applicants with plenty of high-level technical skills, employers are looking for resumes that demonstrate “differentiators.” University of Houston-Clear Lake’s minor in software engineering can make the difference on a job application, says Adjunct Professor of Software Engineering Daniel Drew, who teaches many of the courses that encompass the minor.

“Computing science majors have already taken three of the six necessary courses for the minor,” Drew said. “But that program’s focus is primarily on building code. The software engineering minor is a great complement to a computing science major because it encompasses the entire process for building software systems. Students gain the full spectrum of skills.”

Drew said that whereas computing science specializes in using program languages, the minor covers what else goes into the system besides just writing the code. “The courses in the minor offer an introduction to the total discipline of building complex systems,” he said. “Students can learn how to bring concepts and ideas for complex software systems from the formation of initial requirements all the way through deployment.”

Business majors also stand to benefit from minoring in software engineering. “Part of software engineering is learning how to manage software projects,” he said. “For a business major who seeks a career in information technology, this affords them the opportunity to understand the business space better. When you become a project manager, you must understand the business domain to be effective. These courses offer a better understanding of information systems and data structures and how to utilize them in a business environment.”

One of the classes included in the minor, said Drew, is Project Management. “We teach students how to actually manage software projects,” he said. “We’ll offer hands-on experience building project plans with the class as it would be in the work environment.” This is why, he explained, business majors and computing science majors should strongly consider the software engineering minor. “Even for those working in the medical industry, this is useful,” he said. “There are a lot of people who transfer from the clinical side to the IT side. If you’re in an IT industry, you’ll be primed to understand it better than if you just had the business degree.”

The coursework includes two programming courses in C and Java, a course in data structures, an introduction to software engineering, an introduction to software process and project management, and software testing. “The project management and software testing courses are being developed for online as well as face-to-face,” he said. “I’m developing a new software testing course over this summer in which I will use examples of code that is ‘buggy’ to demonstrate various techniques to find the problems and fix the code.”

“The software engineering minor at UHCL is a rare offering among universities,” said Associate Professor and Chair of Software Engineering Sharon White.  “It allows students from many majors to expand job horizons to include positions that integrate software management, process and testing skills into the many IT and project management jobs surrounding most of today’s industries.” She added that the minor also offers students a pathway to continuing their studies in the Master of Software Engineering program. “This is a unique opportunity for students at UHCL.”

Soma Datta, assistant professor of software engineering and pre-engineering program chair, said computer science students with this minor would be able to better organize and apply their programming skills in developing software applications, and business students would be better able to communicate with their clients and technical personnel. “Students whose career plans are to become a project manager or an entrepreneur, the minor in software engineering will give you a leading edge,” she said.

“This is about learning teamwork,” Drew said. “Not everyone can be a project manager, but if you want to work in IT for a company like Apple or IBM, you need this. Very few universities in Texas offer this minor. People interested in this field have to search for this kind of education, but we have it here at UH-Clear Lake. For computing science or business students, this minor can make a big difference.” For more information about UHCL’s minor in software engineering, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/software-engineering-minor

UHCL Year in Review highlights university community accomplishments

January 6th, 2020

The University of Houston-Clear Lake has published online the 2018-19 Year in Review, which showcases accomplishments by students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“As we enter our 45th year as a university – founded for the purpose of training generations of scientists, engineers, managers and astronauts for NASA – we celebrate the partnerships and community friends who made us successful,” President Ira K. Blake says in introducing the report. “While we look back at the year with pride, the anniversary of our inception serves to remind us to always look forward with clarity and purpose.”

The online review accompanies a printed version that is being mailed to university partners and donors. In a new tradition, the annual report covers from fall 2018 to fall 2019, rather than the university’s fiscal year, which begins Sept.1.

The web version expands upon the printed report with video, interactive graphics and enhanced content. To view, visitstories.uhcl.edu/review.

Blake reiterates UHCL’s unique purpose in State of the University address

October 22nd, 2019

University of Houston-Clear Lake President Ira K. Blake says that in order to keep pace with an ever-changing world, the institution will strive to teach present and future students not only how to self-adapt to change, but how to lead those changes.

“Society needs people who know how to be compassionate and honest,” Dr. Blake told students, faculty, alumni and honored guests at her State of the University address on Tuesday. “Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive. They’re emotional. They’re affectional. In other words, you can’t run society on data and computers alone.”

The president evoked futurist Alvin Toffler, “who cautioned that in order to keep up, we needed to not focus on what to learn but also to instruct students in ‘how to learn, unlearn and relearn’ as positive change demands it.”

Dr. Blake expressed her vision of the university’s future with a nod to its 45-year past: created at NASA’s request to support the U.S. space program. “UH-Clear Lake opened in 1974 with the purpose of delivering educational opportunities to NASA’s Johnson Space Center administrators, staff, engineers, scientists – and yes, astronauts,” she said.


“That purpose was inextricably linked to the evolving changes taking place in knowledge, skills, and workforce attributes needed to pursue space exploration to advance humanity and to protect the earth,” she added. “Our purpose from the beginning has been to help to discover, to innovate, to provide solutions to present-day problems – as well as to shape decisions about challenges to making our world a better place, and connecting to other worlds.”

Dr. Blake pointed out that the Johnson Space Center and UHCL recently signed a memorandum of understanding reiterating their relationship “to work together on behalf of students, scientists, faculty, our country and a world that will depend on future generations being better prepared to explore, learn from, develop and protect our universe.”

She also stressed the importance of “bi-directionally beneficial partnerships” with city mayors, community college chancellors, ISD superintendents, principals and teachers, chambers of commerce, city and regional economic development corporations, businesses and agency leaders, noting the close relationship the university has with Pearland Mayor Tom Reid and other Pearland leaders because of the creation of UHCL Pearland.


“UH-Clear Lake’s present-day faculty, staff, students and alumni, grounded in the legacy of our original purpose, have an ongoing commitment to determining what it means to prepare students for a world that is rapidly changing … a world – no, a universe – with emerging new understandings, shifting roles and relationships, and evolving career opportunities – all amidst never-ending new discoveries and new inventions,” she said.

She highlighted the university’s jump in the U.S. News & World Report’s recently announced 2020 rankings where the university tied at number 43, jumping 20 places in the rankings since 2018. She also noted UHCL’s record enrollment in fall 2018 and again in fall 2019, and included an invitation to prospective students: “If you have the desire for meaningful opportunities on a diverse, inclusive campus, in order to learn to make better decisions, to solve problems more effectively, to become more competent, caring and confident in your future roles in the world, our faculty and staff say, ‘Access Granted.’”

Among alumni and community dignitaries in attendance were UH System Chancellor Renu Khator, UH System Regents Durga Agrawal and John Fields, Texas State Reps. Ed Thompson and Dennis Paul, Mayor Reid, and Jared Bargas, who attended in behalf of U.S. Rep. Randy Weber.

View a video of the president’s address at www.uhcl.edu/president/presidential-communications/state-of-the-university-2019-20.

UHCL top public school in Texas in U.S. News regional rankings

October 1st, 2019

In U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings of western regional four-year universities, University of Houston-Clear Lake is the No. 1 public university in Texas, according to the magazine’s Best Colleges report. For the entire 13-state region, UH-Clear Lake placed 18th on the Top Public Schools list.

Widening the field to include both public and private schools, UHCL is in a six-way tie for 43rd in 2020 rankings of Best Regional Universities – West, up from 61st in 2019.
The magazine ranked approximately 130 private and public colleges and universities in a region that includes Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Of the 26 Texas schools on the list, UHCL tied for 9th place among public and private institutions.

Each year, U.S. News sends an extensive questionnaire to all accredited four-year colleges and universities. Data collection for the 2020 edition of the report took place during spring 2019, comparing factors such as SAT and ACT scores, acceptance rates, six-year graduation and first-year student retention rates, student-faculty ratios, faculty counts and salaries, tuition, room and board, other student fees and financial resources.

UHCL debuted on the 2016 Best Regional Universities – West rankings in 81st place. It climbed to 74th in 2017, 63rd in 2018, 61st place in 2019 and 43rd for 2020. Factors in UHCL’s current rankings include:

  • 3.0 peer assessment score.
  • 74% avg. first-year retention rate.
  • 33% of classes under 20.
  • 5% of classes 50 or more.
  • 15-to-1 student/faculty ratio.
  • 1030-1200 SAT/ACT 25th-75th percentile.
  • 41% first-year students in top 25% of high school class.
  • 45% acceptance rate.
  • 6% average alumni giving rate.

“The continued improvement in our regional rankings demonstrates that UHCL is making significant strides in enhancing academic excellence through first-year retention, graduation rates and the strength of its faculty,” said Stephen J. Berberich, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

“I am particularly pleased that UHCL ranks at the top of public regional universities in the state of Texas. This, coupled with our commitment to educating a diverse student population, shows we are meeting the needs of the state.”

UHCL also improved its score for Best Value among western regional public and private institutions, moving up to 25th place from 58th last year.

The university also made the western regional list for Campus Ethnic Diversity, scoring 0.65 on a 1.0 Diversity Index scale, which puts UHCL in a six-way tie for 11th place across the 13 western states.

To find all of the listings in the report, visit www.usnews.com/best-colleges.

University of Houston-Clear Lake offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and three doctoral programs, from its College of Business, College of Education, College of Human Sciences and Humanities, and College of Science and Engineering. For more information about the university, visit www.uhcl.edu

2 UHCL alumni named among magazine’s Most Admired CEOs

September 11th, 2019

Two University of Houston-Clear Lake alumni were among 59 area leaders as Houston Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs of 2019. Both lead divisions of HCA Houston Healthcare.

Honorees were Megan Marietta, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare West, and Jeanna Bamburg, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare Southeast. Bamburg received a bachelor’s in marketing in 1999 and an MBA in 2002. Marietta received a MBA with a concentration in health care in 2004.

Marietta is a member of Houston West Chamber of Commerce; Greater East Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; Greater Lake Houston YMCA and Montgomery County United Way.

Bamburg belongs to the American College of Healthcare Executive’s Southeast Texas chapter; Pasadena Chamber of Commerce; San Jacinto Community College Foundation; Economic Alliance Houston Port Region; Texas Healthcare Trustees Board of Directors and Pasadena Rotary Club.

In profiling the honorees, the magazine asked each awardee the same set of questions. Asked about leadership philosophy, Marietta responded, “People and patients come first. The team is paramount and must be developed to execute successfully. Treat people with respect and listen to others when they share their feedback.”

To the same question, Bamburg replied, “I feel it’s my job to influence and inspire everyone in my organization to do better for our patients. Consistency and leading by example are two mantras I focus on.”

In selecting honorees, the magazine’s judges looked for characteristics such as contribution to company success, civic involvement, career achievement and other factors. Judges selected 17 nonprofit leaders and 42 for-profit leaders for awards.

Meet Hannan Khan, one of Hunter Hall’s new resident advisers

August 14th, 2019

As University of Houston-Clear Lake’s first traditional residence hall prepares to open on Aug. 22, resident advisers are already on campus, preparing and receiving additional training to ensure move-in day is efficient and Hunter Hall’s first residents get off to a positive start to the new academic  year.

Get to know Hannan Khan, a 21-year-old biology major who would like to become a medical doctor.  He is one of the seven Hunter Hall resident advisers ready to help new residents as they transition into life on campus.

Q. What made you decide to become an RA?

Khan: Till now, I have lived away from campus and I wanted to be closer to my professors as well as my fellow students. My first semester I wanted to transfer, but I decided to stay. Now I am active with Student Government Association and I have grown a family here at UH-Clear Lake. Taking care of others is a big responsibility, like what a doctor does. I feel like I’m in training for the role I want—helping people is my main goal.

Q. What are you most looking forward to about living in Hunter Hall?

Khan: I’m excited to meet people living on campus and see the new aspect of life on my own, away from my parents’ home.

Q. What is one thing you’d like residents to know about you?

Khan: I am a first generation American and first generation college student. I am very passionate and competitive, and that’s why I play a lot of sports. I like basketball, football, soccer and ping-pong, but basketball is my go-to. If you want to play ping-pong, I’m the guy! You might not win, but I promise you’ll learn something. There is no such thing as losing, only winning and learning.

Q. What are you doing when you aren’t studying?

Khan: Because I am a science major, there is no “off” because I am learning about the body all the time. When I’m not studying, I am still learning.

Q. What is a goal you have as a resident adviser for the students living on your floor?

Khan: I want everyone to have a good first year experience and a good life on campus. I want to engage with everyone and help people have a positive transition to life here. The best way I can do that is by being right next door to them. I want students to live, learn and engage.

Q. What advice do you have for freshmen or new students?

Khan: College is all about pushing through. Don’t stop, it’s worth it and you can relax later. But right now, you just have to keep pushing. Gaining knowledge is worth the investment.

For more information about Hunter Hall, visit www.uhcl.edu/student-affairs/campus-community/housing/hunter-hall/

UHCL alumni invited to preview new center

July 29th, 2019

Photo from www.uhcl.edu

Check out the weight machines and walk the indoor track during the Alumni Free Weekend Preview event at University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Recreation and Wellness Center, Aug. 2-4. Sponsored by UH-Clear Lake’s Alumni Association and the staff of the Campus Recreation and Wellness, the event will give university alumni and their family and friends a chance to “REConnect” with the university, explore the new facility and showcase fitness opportunities at the center.

Participants will be able to access the Recreation and Wellness Center for free all weekend: Friday, Aug. 2, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 3, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 4, noon – 6 p.m. An alumni rate to join the center will also be available.

“We want our alumni to remember that they can reach their fitness needs just by returning to their alma mater,” said UH-Clear Lake Director of Alumni Engagement Carri Hill. “The Recreation and Wellness Center is an outstanding facility and this preview weekend allows alumni and their friends and families a chance to experience it.”

During the preview, the center will showcase the opportunities that exist with fitness and recreational programming, fitness and wellness education, and partners in the Exercise and Nutritional Health Institute (ENHI), and the Office of Alumni Engagement. On Saturday, noon – 3 p.m., attendees can meet with representatives and experience the following:

  • Group fitness demos;
  • Personal training assessments;
  • Children’s activities;
  • Pick-up sports opportunities;
  • Guided tours;
  • Snacks and refreshments.

In addition, on Saturday night, Aug. 3, 8 p.m., families are invited to be a part of an outdoor movie experience with “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” The animated Disney movie is rated PG and all are invited to bring snacks, blankets and chairs to the area directly outside of the Recreation and Wellness Center. Lemonade, popcorn and other treats are available at the event. In the case of rain, the movie will be moved inside the center.

To find out more, visit http://www.uhcl.edu/rec.

Scholarship fund assists UHCL students still impacted by Harvey

April 10th, 2019

University of Houston System applied for and has received a $500,000 grant, called the Rebuild Texas Fund, to assist students still struggling financially with the aftereffects of the 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

UH-Clear Lake has been designated to receive $200,000 of these funds, which can be applied to students’ financial aid package starting in the fall 2019 academic year.The UHCL scholarship is named the Qatar Harvey Fund Scholarship, in honor of the funds that Qatar has committed for this purpose.“These funds can be used for tuition, books, room and board, and anything related to completion of a student’s degree program,” said UHCL Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships Dwayne Busby.

In order to be eligible for funds, students must be currently enrolled or returning students who withdrew from a UH System campus in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. They must demonstrate an unmet financial need and material or financial hardship due to the hurricane. Undergraduate students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, and graduate and doctoral students must have a 3.0. They must be able to demonstrate via data or anecdotally, the impact of the hurricane on their financial circumstances.

Priority will be given to students who have exhausted all other forms of aid and who are nearing graduation based on credit hours remaining toward their degree.For more information, or to apply for the Qatar Harvey Fund Scholarship, visit www.uhcl.edu/scholarships.

Bay Area Houston Magazine