2020 At a Glance - University of Houston
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Sets Pace for Exciting Growth to Come

Creative public policy at work for the world

The year 2020 demonstrated, painfully, the critical challenges and disparities facing Texas, our region and our communities. The issues that dominated 2020 — especially regarding the crucial role of health care access, the need for racial justice and healing across all parts of society and the importance of voting access for every citizen — are all rooted in the need for better policy and administration.

On these issues and many others, the Hobby School of Public Affairs is putting creative, solution-oriented public policy to work for the world.

For the Hobby School of Public Affairs, the year 2020 was transformative.


  • Senator Kirk P. Watson was named the school’s Founding Dean.
  • The University of Houston approved the hiring of three new full-time faculty members and one visiting professor for the Hobby School (more than 600 applications were received for the full-time positions).
  • Faculty hiring recommendations from the Hobby School’s Working Group on Racial Justice were activated.
  • The Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center for Leadership and Ethics was launched with a $6.5 million endowment.
  • The design phase of the remodeling of the Hobby School’s home neared completion.


A SAMPLE of our 2020 Successes

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Preparing graduates to rethink the way government, business and communities work


  • The School made substantial progress toward the creation of a new undergraduate program in Public Policy, which we expect to be offered beginning in Spring 2022.
  • The Master of Public Policy degree program is moving forward in the formal accreditation process of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration.
  • The 2021 Hobby Fellows were prepared for their work in the 87th Texas legislative session by attending meetings and an orientation with speakers, including Dean Kirk Watson and former Hobby Fellows, now working in government and law.
  • While classes were mostly virtual in 2020, they offered great engagement. For example, a final project by one group of Master of Public Policy (MPP) students offered solutions to inadequate internet access for Houston Independent School District students. These Hobby students are now planning advocacy strategies to implement their solutions.
  • In the Spring 2020 MPP capstone class, students worked on multiple projects relating to topics such as attitudes toward environmental issues, risk assessment of hazardous materials incidents and incentives for the development of renewable energy in Texas. This work was done on behalf of various groups, including the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Houston Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Station and Texas advocacy groups.


Driving evidence-based research and analyzing data to produce innovative answers to difficult policy questions



Working with and listening to communities to develop solutions that address their practical needs

  • UH students worked more than 200 hours in Fall 2020 — in collaboration with the League of Women Voters-Houston, BakerRipley and the Harris County Clerk’s Office — on get-out-the-vote efforts and a Civic Engagement Boot Camp.
  • Dean Watson served on the Houston Mayor’s Task Force on Police Reform and the Hobby School researched best practices to inform the Task Force's work.
  • The School launched the Hobby Hour, a monthly online broadcast featuring vibrant discussions with public officials, business leaders and journalists, all moderated by Dean Watson.
  • The Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership hosted multiple “Think & Do” sessions with the Center for Civic & Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI) on housing, healthcare and voting.


Implementing policies in real-world environments through empathy, partnerships and communication


  • Following the release of the Hobby School’s Impact of Hurricane Harvey report, the findings were shared in a panel discussion for the Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, offering specific insights on how vulnerable populations were affected by the hurricane.
  • Hobby School students partnered with their University of Houston Medical School counterparts for the Vote Safe social media campaign, educating the Houston community on how to vote safely during the fall election cycle.
  • The Hobby School hosted an array of public online events, averaging six per month, on a wide range of topics, including Medicaid expansion, housing disparities, carbon management and foreign policy.
  • Numerous Hobby School faculty and leaders were interviewed on local, national and international media outlets — some almost daily during election season — to provide expertise and insights regarding UH research and reports.