UHCL fall commencement Dec. 16 at NRG Arena

November 28th, 2018

Over 1,050 University of Houston-Clear Lake students are expected to graduate this semester. Of those, approximately 892 plan to cross the stage at two commencement ceremonies on Sunday, Dec. 16 at NRG Arena, 1 NRG Park, Houston.

A total of 667 will receive bachelor’s degrees, 377 will earn master’s degrees, and 12 will receive doctorate degrees. Additionally, 164 of 294 summer 2018 graduates plan to receive their diplomas at this commencement ceremony.

At noon, the College of Science and Engineering will confer degrees to 210 candidates and the College of Education will honor 194. UH-Clear Lake’s Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology Larry H. Rhode will deliver the commencement address.

At 5 p.m., 277 candidates in the College of Human Sciences and Humanities will receive degrees, as will 375 candidates in the College of Business. The commencement speaker is UHCL’s Professor of Healthcare Administration Ashish Chandra.

Rohde currently teachers undergraduate and graduate courses in general biology, molecular genetics, developmental biology, tissue culture and stem cell biotechnology. He has played a leading role in developing UHCL’s STEM curriculum, and has spearheaded and chaired a master of science in biotechnology program, which emphasizes laboratory training for graduate students.

His goal is to ensure students get an early start on learning labs skills with state-of-the-art equipment so they can leave UHCL with valuable experience that will help them quickly find careers in the field of biotechnology. For his work in the classroom, Rohde was selected as UHCL’s 2006-07 nominee for the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Award.

At UHCL, Chandra teaches healthcare planning and marketing, foundations in healthcare administration leadership, and healthcare ethics to undergraduate and graduate students. He has served as the chair of the Healthcare Administration Department for four years, and is a prolific researcher in healthcare marketing, consumer behavior and healthcare ethics.

He is among UHCL’s most internationally known professors, having served as the program chair for 12 major international conferences as well as on the planning committee for 20 conferences worldwide. Chandra received the 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award by the UHCL Chapter of the National Society of Leadership Success, and in 2015, he won the Outstanding Professor Award, given by the UHCL Alumni Association.

This fall’s candidates will join over 66,000 others who have graduated the university. UHCL began as an upper-level university in 1974, admitting juniors, seniors and graduate students. The university expanded to admit underclassmen in 2014.

NRG Arena is located beside NRG Stadium and the Astrodome. Guests do not need tickets to attend, but there is a cash-only fee for parking.

Friday, Dec. 14, the UHCL Alumni Association will host Senior Send-off, formally known as Soaring Hawks Celebration, which is a reception for graduates, friends and families from 6-8 p.m. in Atrium II of the Bayou Building. The event is free but advance tickets are required.

UHCL president investiture formalizes her appointment

November 1st, 2018

University of Houston System Chancellor Renu Khator presents the presidential medallion to University of Houston-Clear Lake President Ira K. Blake during the university’s investiture ceremony – an event that marks the official moment when the torch is symbolically passed to a new leader. UH-Clear Lake faculty, staff and students joined other UH System administrators, regents and city leaders on stage. The medallion was worn by UH-Clear Lake’s first chancellor, Alfred R. Neumann, 44 years ago.

University of Houston-Clear Lake President Ira K. Blake celebrated her formal investiture Sept. 20 as the university’s fifth president. As the first woman and African-American president at the university, she said she is living proof of the American Dream.

“I am the daughter of cotton sharecroppers with elementary school educations, who believed that, despite their own lived hardships, this nation could provide opportunity for better outcomes for their children,” she told students, faculty, staff, UH System regents and other honored guests – including her mother and eponym, Ira Kincade.

She said her parents valued “the promise of education, and encouraged all of us children to go as far as our potential and interests would take us – believing simply that education is the key to a better future.”

For the trust and encouragement from all those who invested in her, she is impelled to do the same for others, she said. She shared advice she often heard from her late husband, Vaughn Richard Downey Blake, Sr., “who reminded me that I had a responsibility to help change the lives of regular, everyday people in order to make the world a better place for everyone. In essence, I also had a responsibility – to – the American Dream.”

A university investiture traditionally takes place within the first year of a new president’s appointment. It formally marks the transference of authority and symbols of the office to the new president.  The investiture capped a week of UHCL events surrounding the ceremony. The cities of Houston and Pearland declared Sept. 20 “Ira K. Blake Day,” commemorated in mayoral proclamations. U.S. Rep. Pete Olson and State Reps. Greg Bonnen and Dennis Paul sent their congratulatory greetings. Olson’s greeting included a congressional resolution. Kemah Mayor Carl Joiner was among the guests.

Pearland Mayor Tom Reid spoke in behalf of invited government representatives, and cited his city’s partnership with the university in opening UHCL Pearland Campus and its past president. But, as Reid said referencing President Blake after the past president’s retirement, “we were so, so fortunate to gain a rock star. She is something very special.”

“I knew she would fly high and fast as your new president,” said Bloomsburg University President Emeritus David L. Soltz. “She has studied and learned so much about the university and community, and the many challenges and opportunities that face UH-Clear Lake and all of public higher education.”

UH System Chancellor Renu Khator congratulated President Blake on the accomplishments of her first year, “made possible because of her leadership, but most definitely because of your support. Yours. Yes. Faculty, students, staff, alumni and community partners. It takes a village.”

UHCL to usher in a new era with investiture of Dr. Ira Blake

September 1st, 2018

University of Houston-Clear Lake will host the investiture of President Ira K. Blake  Thursday, Sept. 20, at 2 p.m., as the culminating event in a week of activities commemorating President Blake’s 2017 appointment to the post.

She is UHCL’s fifth president, its first woman and the first African-American to be appointed to the university’s highest office. The theme for the event is “Transcending Expectations,” a focal point for President Blake since her arrival.

Investiture events at universities are traditional ceremonies that formally mark the transference of the authority and symbols of the office to the new president, usually within his or her first year. President Blake’s formal installation as UHCL’s new president will take place in the university’s Bayou Theater and will include a procession of delegates from other colleges and universities as well as from within UHCL.

The event is open to the public and is an opportunity for the community and the university to usher in a new era in UHCL’s history. Her investiture ceremony will conclude with a meet-and-greet reception following the ceremony at 4 p.m. in Atrium I of the Bayou Building.

UHCL’s Investiture Week begins Monday, Sept. 17 with an historical exhibit, a panel discussion with UHCL charter faculty, and an alumni panel event in which graduates share their stories of their professional paths and callings. Other events throughout the week include UHCL Constitution Day Celebration and a Health and Wellness Fair in UHCL’s newly opened Recreation and Wellness Center on Sept. 18.

On Sept. 19, the arts at UHCL will be showcased from 5:30 to 8 p.m., in the Bayou Theater and followed by a reception in the newly expanded UHCL Art Gallery. Investiture Week will culminate on Sept. 21 with the Bayou Theater’s 2018-19 season opening concert, “Mercury: Vivaldi vs. Paganini.”

President Blake holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from George Washington University, a master’s degree in educational psychology from San Francisco State University, and a second master’s degree and doctorate in developmental psychology from Columbia University. She has spoken and published extensively on the topics of language, literacy, culture, ethnicity, socialization and child development.

Clear Lake Chatter: Assistance League Passes Out Awards

August 1st, 2018

Assistance League officers for 2018 line up for their installation at the luncheon at South Shore Harbour Country Club. They are, from left, Assisteens Coordinator Valerie Piercy, Treasurer Sandra Kelver, President Sarah Foulds and Secretary Betty Stoub. President-elect Lisa Holbrook was unable to attend.

ASSISTANCE LEAGUE members gathered at South Shore Harbour Country Club this year for their annual meeting, which includes the installation of officers and presentation of awards to their hard-working members.

And, after many long hours of service to the Bay Area community, outgoing President Ann Marie Doolin installed new President Sarah Foulds and the other new officers who will lead the organization as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Other new officers include President-elect Lisa Holbrook, Treasurer Sandra Kelver, Secretary Betty Stoub, Vice Presidents Karen Douglas, Brooks Cima, Kim Barker and Cathy Wolfe, Marketing Chairman Sharon Klumb, Strategic Planning Chairman Marie Keener, Education Chairman Mavis Irvan and Assisteens Coordinator Valerie Piercy.

The year-end luncheon is also a time to honor some of the hardest working members. Winner of the Sue Brady Award was Kathleen Courville with Marie Keener presented the Sue Holstein Award and Yvonne Perrin, Mary Pergande and Betty Suagee winners of the ABCD Award.

Merrill Crawford was named recipient of the H.O.P.E. Award, the Paul Mitchell Academy won the Glass Slipper Award and Sandra Sellers received the Ada Edwards Laughlin Award.

New Clear Lake Panhellenic officers line up for a photo at their year-end luncheon at the Bay Area Museum. They are, from right, President D’Lisa Johnston, 1st Vice President Cheryl Williams, 2nd Vice President Kathryn Vernau, 3rd Vice President Greta Mae, Secretary Darla McKitrick, Treasurer Kim Barker, Corporation Karen Douglass and Parliamentarian Michelle Richardson. Photo by Jill Reason

C.L.Panhellenic gets new officers
D’LISA JOHNSTON is the new president of Clear Lake Area Panhellenic, which held its year-end luncheon at Bay Area Museum in Clear Lake Park.
Others elected to serve with her include First Vice President Cheryl Williams, Second Vice President Kathryn Vernau, Third Vice President Greta Mae, Secretary Darla McKitrick, Treasurer Kim Barker, Corporation Karen Douglass and Parliamentarian Michelle Richardson.

Also, Sally Jordan was honored with the Citation Award.

But the announcement of the scholarship winners got the biggest smiles from the recipients. Jacy Murdock, Karissa Murdock, Madeleine Pomes and Amie Le were the lucky winners of $8,000 college scholarships.

Bay Area Museum Guild officers get together for a photo after being installed at their May luncheon at the home of Carole Murphy. They are, from left, standing, Co-President Carole Murphy, First Vice Presidents Louise Russell and Gail Devens, Recording Secretary Lois Costin and Corresponding Secretary Sally Jordan; seated, Parliamentarian Kandy Johnson and Co-President Ava Galt. Brandie Corrao and Diana Dornak were unable to attend.

Museum Guild installs officers
BAY AREA Museum Guild members who re-elected Co-Presidents Ava Galt and Carole Murphy to serve another term gathered for their installation at the Guild’s May luncheon at Carole’s lovely Brook Forest home.

Elected to serve with her are First Vice Presidents Gail Devins and Louise Russell; Second Vice President Brandie Corrao, Recording Secretary Lois Costin, Corresponding Secretary Sally Jordan, Treasurer Diana Dornak and Parliamentarian Kandy Johnson,
Others in the luncheon crowd you might have spotted included Cindy Kuenneke, Sandi Allbritton, Barb Spencer, Nina McGlashan, Jan Larson, Donnie Johnson, Angie Weinman, Pat Biddle, Elizabeth Quigley, Terri Monnett and Peggy Clause.

 

EDUCATION is growing all around the Bay Area, Clear Lake Area Chamber members learned at their June luncheon. More students and more buildings.

Speakers were Dr. Greg Smith, superintendent of the Clear Creek School District, Dr. Laurel Williamson, deputy chancellor and president of San Jacinto College; and Dr. Mark Shermis, UHCL dean of education – each of whom have new buildings going up.

Clear Creek ISD, Dr. Smith said, is currently rebuilding League City Elementary and completing construction of a new school, Florence Campbell Elementary, also in League City, with money from the $487 million bond passed in 2017. Work on both should be completed next year. And, while building, they are working to improve school safety.

“The climate in our schools is strong and healthy. Our focus today is on teaching kids how to have kind hearts, not just smart minds. It is simply not enough to teach and assess…We must model and teach a set of core values of caring, respect, trustworthiness and citizenship.”

That’s the good news. But he also had some not-so-good news: Along with thousands of families in recovery mode, the school district is still feeling the effects of Harvey, “with more than $19 million in damages to our facilities, and we have not received reimbursements yet on those damages.With little or no funding. . .from the Legislature, we are facing a significant budget deficit for the 2018-19 school year” and are hopeful the district can negotiate a tax swap with the school board to keep operating at optimal level.

 

New SJC Buildings
Over at San Jacinto College, which was recently named a Top Five Community College nationally by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence, three new buildings are going up and some nine older buildings are being renovated with money from its recent $425 million bond package, Dr. Williamson told the chamber crowd at the Nassau Bay Hilton.

The Center for Industrial Technology, which focuses on welding, pipefitting, diesel, electrical technology, plus heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, opened on the North Campus in March 2017, she said, while the Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on the Central Campus and the Center for Engineering and Technology on the South Campus are both expected to open next spring.

And, for many local industries that have jobs to fill and the 42,000 students San Jac serves annually, the sooner, the better.

 

New UHCL facilities
Dr. Shermis also had some good news for the crowd. The UHCL College of Education dean said the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Classroom Building was opening this fall and the university is working with Clear Creek ISD on STEM classes at both the university and the school district.

The 121,575-square-foot building, being built at a cost of $65.7 million is one of two under construction on the Clear Lake campus.

UHCL also is building a new $38.2 million Recreation and Wellness Center that will serve as the home for the Exercise and Health Sciences program and Fitness and Human Performance program, as well as a host of general instruction classrooms and recreational activities for students, faculty and staff.

A new $24 million Health Sciences and Classroom Building is also expected to open in the spring on UHCL’s Pearland campus, Dr. Shermis said.
Chamber Chairman Bryan Bogle welcomed the crowd and introduced special guests and Dr. Peter Wuenschel, chamber Education Division chairman, provided the invocation.

UHCL geography prof receives his second Fulbright Award

June 21st, 2018

Ever since he was a kid, Jeff Lash has felt the need to get out and discover the world firsthand. Being an explorer at heart seems to have worked in his favor, because now, as an associate professor of geography at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Lash has received the second Fulbright Award of his teaching career – this time to the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Lash will teach courses in geography education and Geographic Information Systems to teachers in training. He and his family will depart for South Africa in January 2019 and return after one year.

“I’m the kind of person who just has to be there and see things for myself,” Lash said. “I have to get out in the world and understand things on my own. It’s also much more fun to teach this way.”

Lash, whose first Fulbright Award brought him to the University of Belgrade in Serbia in 2009-10, said that for his second application, he proposed a 10-month project in which he would teach undergraduate courses designed for pre-service geography teachers as well as introductory GIS courses for both undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Johannesburg.

He said that he felt his second Fulbright Award was the result of a combination of serendipity and good luck. “Last year, I was at a national professional geographers’ meeting and I was giving a presentation about work I’ve done helping high school geography teachers integrate digital mapping technology into their classroom,” he said. “In the audience, there was a woman from the University of Johannesburg who asked insightful questions about my work. The conversation continued after my presentation was over, and finally, she said it would be great if we could find a way to get me to help South African educators to acquire these skills.”

That’s when Lash said he applied for the award to become a visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg, and was thrilled to receive it.

“The primary goal of the project is to help the University of Johannesburg build capacity in the area of teacher training in geography,” he said. “Reports indicate that many South African students exhibit a lack of geography content knowledge, struggle to produce annotated geography diagrams, have difficulty applying geographic knowledge to local conditions, and lack fundamental knowledge of GIS.”

Lash said his teaching activities would enhance pre-service geography teachers’ content knowledge, spatial thinking, problem solving and application of geospatial technology in the classroom.

“This experience at University of Johannesburg will continue my professional development,” Lash said. “I was always the kind of person who had to travel and see the world. That’s why it took me over six years just to get my undergraduate degree. I would start, then quit and move away and travel, then start again.”

During those years, Lash traveled throughout Europe and Central America in between attending college classes. “I just needed to travel,” he said. “I became certified as an English as a Second Language teacher and taught in Costa Rica. I found I liked teaching but preferred teaching about places in the world over teaching the parts of speech. I wanted to find out who teaches about things like maps and cultures and climate. I learned that geography teachers do that, and went on to get a master’s and doctorate in geography.”

Working collaboratively “is how it’s supposed to work. This is the perfect model,” he said. “UHCL’s purpose in sending me to conferences to present information is to share scholarship and ideas so that others can benefit.”

He and his colleagues at the University of Johannesburg are considering ways that their professors could benefit from coming to UHCL. “This is a great time to engage with the world and mature as an institution with international ties,” he said.

“Academic exchanges like this present great opportunities, and one of my goals while I’m there is to explore these options. How could UHCL become a collaborative partner with them? We could all be beneficiaries of my Fulbright experience and produce a better outcome if students and the university at large can benefit.”

For more information about UHCL’s Geography program, visit www.uhcl.edu/human-sciences-humanities/departments/social-cultural-sciences/geography.

STEM Challenge winners named

April 23rd, 2018

Kamryn Smith, Amanda Pastrano and Kana Iwahara from Clear Brook High School in Friendswood participated in the STEM Challenge 2018 at University of Houston-Clear Lake in April. Approximately 127 students from local high schools and colleges participated in STEM Challenge 2018 presented by Bridges to STEM Careers and Pathways to STEM Careers, a partnership between UH-Clear Lake and San Jacinto College. The teams worked together on projects, including constructing a marble maze using limited products such as construction paper and plastic cups.

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Pastrano made the most out of one of her weekends in April when she decided to participate in the STEM Challenge 2018 at University of Houston-Clear Lake. And, she says, she is glad she did.

“When I first heard about it in my computer science class, I thought it sounded very interesting,” said Pastrano. “A teacher called a meeting at school and asked who was interested; several of us decided to go.”

Approximately 127 students from local high schools and colleges participated in STEM Challenge 2018 presented by Bridges to STEM Careers and Pathways to STEM Careers, a partnership between UH-Clear Lake and San Jacinto College. The students divided into 32 teams, some who had already formed teams at their schools, like Pastrano’s, while others were placed in teams by the organizers. The teams also chose from two paths: a programming path and a science path.

“The STEM Challenge allows students to attempt and strengthen their analytical skills without a lot of pressure,” said UHCL Senior Lecturer of Computer Science Krishani Abeysekera, who oversees the challenge at UHCL. “In addition to students meeting and working with students from other schools, they also get to network with people from industry.”

Support for the conference came in part from grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education, with additional support from the UHCL Alumni Association, ESyntaxis Corporation and Flow-Cal Inc. AtLink Communications and Tietronix Inc. provided summer internships for winners of the morning and afternoon challenges. Representatives from all four of the companies, as well as teachers from participating schools, served as judges.

“This was an awesome experience for students,” said Clear Horizons High School Algebra II teacher Carmen Hampton. “I told our Math Club about the STEM Challenge. The students participate in math competitions throughout the years, and agreed this would be a fun event.

“Our school had four students attend the challenge three years ago, but last year and this year, we took the maximum amount of students — 16 or two teams of four for each track: programming and non-programming (science).”

Teams worked together on three projects, a morning project that included exploring ways to stack paper plates with straws, marshmallows and other products along with other logic and analytical problems, while the afternoon assignment included rolling a marble through a constructed maze also using limited products. Students/teams that chose the Programming track participated in a programming challenge, where they had to solve problems using C, Java or Python. Those who did not know any programming chose the Science path and spent that time solving science puzzles and questions.

Winners included the following students:

Overall Winner – Programming Path: Team DAWJ – Clear Lake High School – Arunan Thiviyanathan, Dean Zhou, Joey Muffoletto, William Zhang

Overall Winner – Science Path: CBHS Wolverine 3 – Clear Brook High School – Muhammad Zain, Viet Bui, Mark Logan, Nathan Michael

Station Winner – Logic and Analysis Station: DHS Broncos Too – Dayton High School – Blake Martin, Hillary Waterstreet, Andrew Hicks, Makenna Nugent

Station Winner – Software Design Station: [insert-witty-name-here] – UHCL – Jonathan Goodman, Jesse Lira, Christopher Webb, Matthew Browder

Station Winner – Science Station: Knights of the Night – Clear Springs High School – Connor Marsh, Vijay Joshi, Samir Cayenne, Harrison Mooney

Station Winner – Engineering Design Station: C.A.R.L. – Pasadena Memorial High School – Ryan Shugart, Alexander Moyeda, Laura Mata, Christopher Perez

Internship at AtLinks:

  1. Nathan Dill (UHCL)
  2. Daniel Mina (UHCL)
  3. Peter Banefield (UHCL)
  4. Stephanie Zendejo (UHCL)
  5. Kasra Ghodsi (UHCL)

Interview for Internships at Tietronix:

  1. Matthew Browder (UHCL)
  2. Arunan Thiviyanathan (CLHS)
  3. Dean Zhou (CLHS)
  4. Sharmin Nipa (UHCL)
  5. Daniel Abreo (SJC South)

San Jacinto College – North STEM Coordinator and Professor of Mathematics and Engineering Nathanial Wiggins believes the conference provides a mixture of challenges that are different than many may encounter in school allowing them to apply what they have learned in class a variety of ways.

“The STEM Challenge motivates students because they see other students get internships, and they compete knowing that industry professionals are looking upon them,” said Wiggins.

Although Pastrano’s team did not win, she was proud of the work they had done and noted her team had only included two of her classmates and not three like most of the other teams.

“I want to attend the conference next year, but we will be sure to add another student to our team,” she said.

For more information about the STEM Challenge, contact Abeysekera, 281-283-3831.

Support UH-Clear Lake on #GivingTuesday, Nov. 28

November 20th, 2017

Students, parents, alumni and the community at-large are asked to support University of Houston-Clear Lake scholarships, colleges, departments or other programs on #GivingTuesday, Nov. 28.

The university is seeking to set a new participation record of at least 150 donors who can make a gift of $1 or more to any UHCL fund during the 24-hour period of the global event. In 2016 – the university’s first year to participate in #GivingTuesday – UH-Clear Lake raised $13,413.90 from 110 alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends.

Donors can make a general donation or specify where they would like their gifts to go. Some areas to consider:

  • UHCL Priorities Fund – Used to respond to emerging needs and long-term priorities of the university, this fund allows the president to dedicate funds where UHCL needs it most.
  • UHCL Faculty and Staff Legacy Scholarship Endowment – Established to provide scholarship funds that honor faculty and staff members upon their retirement or upon their passing.
  • Hawk Emergency Fund – Provides grants that can be used for any education related expenses. Students with demonstrated need will be able to pay tuition, replace destroyed textbooks, computers or school supplies and even pay the costs of transportation and food.
  • Hawk Advantage Scholarships – Offered to incoming undergraduate students with unmet financial need, these scholarships provide the means and encouragement to get started earning a degree without delay.

Make a gift in person at the #HawksGivingBack table on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.  in UHCL’s Bayou Building, Atrium I, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, or 9 a.m. – noon at UHCL Pearland Campus, 1200 Pearland Pkwy., Pearland, Texas. You can also give online at www.uhcl.edu/givingtuesday any time throughout the day.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that began in 2012. In 2016, non-profit organizations that participated in #GivingTuesday raised 1.6 million gifts totaling $177 million. Of the money raised, an estimated 17 percent went to higher education, Blackbaud reported. Blackbaud, which provides software services for non-profits and is a co-founder of #GivingTuesday, processed nearly $48 million of the 2016 giving total.

New UHCL president meets the community

October 30th, 2017

New UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Ira Blake, third from left, stops to thank the hosts for the community reception honoring her at Lakewood Yacht Club. They are, from left, League City Chamber President Steve Paterson, Clear Lake Chamber President Cindy Harreld DeWease and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell.

University of Houston-Clear Lake President Ira K. Blake was the guest of honor during a special gathering for the new president hosted by the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, the Clear Lake Area Chamber and the League City Regional Chamber Oct. 11 at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook. Dr. Blake joined the university in August as its fifth president.

Speaking to the crowd, she thanked the organizations for “acknowledging the importance of education to the region and what they provide to UHCL’s competitive, competent graduates.”

Faces in the crowd at the reception for the new UHCL president  included, from left, Vectrus Business Development Director Beth Fischer, MEI Technologies CEO David Cazes and Leidos Vice President Rich Jackson.

 

UHCL deans – Dr. Rick Short of the College of Humanities, left, and Dr. Mark Stermis of the College of Education.

Clear Lake Area Chamber gets update on education

August 1st, 2017

Dr. Greg Smith, Clear Creek ISD superintendent, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, from left, presented an update on education when they addressed the Clear Lake Area Chamber luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

By Mary Alys Cherry

We try not to brag but how many communities have education facilities on a level of those in the Clear Lake Chamber’s membership area?

Not many, we all know, and each year when education officials update the chamber membership, the news just gets better and better.

UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith were back for the second year in a row with some of the year’s highlights and what’s ahead at the chamber luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club.

As he nears retirement, Dr. Staples reported that UHCL’s two new buildings on the Clear Lake campus will open in Fall 2018 with the new classroom building on the Pearland campus to open in Spring 2019, going on to praise Dr. Smith and San Jac President Dr. Brenda Hellyer. “You should be proud to have them heading their respective institutions,” he said.

And, as UHCL thrives as a four-year university and he completes his final year there, he said he got quite a thrill to see the students who initially started the bilingual classes years ago at McWhirter Elementary School – a UHCL/CCISD joint venture — graduate this past June.

He also took time to remind the community that “we must address the number of economically disadvantaged students. In 1995, 11 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged. Today that total is 27 percent.”

Teri Crawford proudly told the crowd that San Jac had recently been awarded a $100,000 prize as it was recognized as a Top Five Community College in the Nation and was a finalist for the third time for the coveted Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for “achieving strong student success outcomes in learning, marketing and equity.”

This year, San Jac has 30,741 students enrolled – 6,598 full time and 22,400 part time – and awarded 4,139 degrees and 2,881 certificates.

And, UHCL is not the only one undergoing new construction. Seven new buildings are underway at San Jac, she said, including a Engineering and Technology Center, a Cosmetology Center and expansion of the Fire House on the South Campus and a classroom building, Welcome Center and Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on the Central Campus with the North Campus getting a Cosmetology and Culinary Center.

Dr. Smith opened his comments by praising Dr. Staples for all his work and noting that he was instrumental in launching and Dual Language Immersion Program at McWhirter Elementary and how proud all were as the first bilingual class graduated. “The program continues to thrive and has expanded to four other schools.”

After noting that a record number of seniors had graduated this past June, and reporting on remodeling work at both Clear Lake and Clear Creek High Schools, he went on to tell of several students who had overcome incredible problems to become a success. “We work to instill a set of core values in our students. To be respectful, trustworthy and understand what it means to roll up your sleeves and give back.”

In his closing remarks, he had some very good news for taxpayers: Instead of a 4.5 cent tax increase for the year because of the recently passed school bond, “due to property value growth, it looks like we will not need to increase the tax rate for the year.”
That brought smiles all around the ballroom.

UHCL breaks ground on two new buildings

May 1st, 2017

Recreation and wellness center.

University of Houston-Clear Lake broke ground on two new buildings March 31, which, when complete, will help train a workforce prepared to tackle 21st century careers in the sciences, engineering and health. These construction projects are a significant part of UHCL’s continued development as a four-year university.

Construction will soon begin on a STEM and Classroom Building and a Recreation and Wellness Center. Both are expected to open the fall of 2018.
“This is truly a historic occasion,” UHCL President William A. Staples said at a ceremony that included civic leaders and university administrators, faculty, staff and students.

Nestled within a 524-acre nature and wildlife preserve, UH-Clear Lake opened doors in 1974 as an upper-level university with a mandate to help train NASA’s aerospace workforce and provide academic opportunities to the budding Clear Lake area. In 2014, it expanded its curriculum to include freshman and sophomore courses. Four academic colleges – business, education, human sciences and humanities and science and engineering –  offer more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees and three doctoral programs.

STEM classroom building

Supporting sciences
The $65.7 million STEM and Classroom Building will contain 121,575 square feet for the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A three-story section will accommodate research labs; a two-story section will house offices and classrooms. The building will include 15 teaching labs for mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, geology, industrial hygiene and environmental safety. It will also house 12 specialty rooms for mechanical-engineering projects, computer-aided drafting, 3-D printing and more. In addition, the building will have a 100-seat tiered lecture hall, an astronomy observation deck, a 30-seat computer lab – and 13 faculty research labs with room for six more

New degree
The new building is designed to support a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering – a degree program long sought by the community’s high-tech industries.

“We couldn’t even dream of offering mechanical engineering if it wasn’t for this building,” said Zbigniew J. Czajkiewicz, dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “We simply don’t have the space right now. The timing is perfect, so let’s start building.”

Supporting wellness
The $38.2 million, 81,709 square-foot Recreation and Wellness Center will include academic and recreational wings, open study spaces, casual seating, food service and private study rooms. An indoor, elevated three-lane running track will provide runners a campus view while overlooking two regulation-sized basketball courts and a multi-activity court for indoor soccer, hockey and other sports.

The entire court space can be converted into an event or dining hall. It will also feature weight and cardio rooms, two multipurpose rooms for yoga and other exercises as well as three teaching labs and two classrooms. The facility is expected to open in fall 2018.

The 2015 Legislature, in a bill marshalled by Rep. Dennis Paul of Houston, approved the center’s construction contingent upon the referendum’s positive outcome and support by the UH System Board of Regents.

“It’s a great honor to be a part of this,” Paul said. “It’s a joy to get something like this built for our local citizens. To be educated right here instead of flying off to some other place across the land.”

The projects represent the largest new facility development in the history of UHCL.  “It’s always a team effort,” Staples said.

In addition to Paul, he acknowledged the support of state Rep. Ed Thompson of Pearland, Rep. Greg Bonnen of League City and Texas Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, as well as the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and the many community friends and donors that helped make it happen.