April Newsletter
04/03/2024, 09:00:02 AM

April Newsletter

Public Officials of the Year Honorees Named  

Join the Master of Public Administration program in recognizing four exceptional Houston area public officials who exemplify the highest standards in public service at the 2024 Public Officials of the Year Luncheon on Friday, April 19, at the Student Center South at the University of Houston


The honorees reflect the values held by the graduate program by serving their communities through dynamic problem-solving, innovative and ethical leadership and tackling complex challenges. The recipients are Austin Bleess, city manager for the City of Jersey Village; Greg Babst, emergency management coordinator, Fort Bend County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; James Huguenard, member of the Board of Commissioners of the Memorial Villages Police Department; and Olivera Jankovska, director of the Houston Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement. 


The annual awards ceremony benefits the scholarship fund for Master of Public Administration candidates. This year marks the first time the Master of Public Administration will host the awards luncheon as part of the Hobby School since the graduate program joined the school in the fall of 2023.

Table Sponsorships and Tickets

The Hobby Hour: Misinformation in a Technology Era

How has social media accelerated the reach and influence of misinformation and disinformation campaigns? Expert panelists discuss the unique impact social media platforms have on the dissemination of misinformation, the potential ban of the popular social media application TikTok and possible policy solutions and intelligence tools on the next Hobby Hour.


Technology entrepreneur Bryan Jones will explore the history of information warfare and deception campaigns in politics and elections. Joining him is cybersecurity expert Chris Bronk, whose research interests and background are at the intersection of technology, national security issues and public policy. Dean Jim Granato will moderate the virtual conversation. Tune into the Hobby School’s Facebook, X and YouTube channels at noon on April 30.

Lecture Examines Police Culture and Behavior

The Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership will host renowned sociologist Michael Sierra-Arévalo at 2 p.m., Friday, April 5, in the Honors College Commons at the M.D. Anderson Library as part of its restorative justice lecture series. Sierra-Arévalo will discuss his book, "The Danger Imperative: Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing," which delves into the underlying forces behind police behavior through research and field examination, drawing from over 100 interviews and 1,000 hours with law enforcement officers. An expert in public safety, he seeks to understand the intricacies and cultural framework of modern policing in America.


Sierra-Arévalo is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and associate director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Attendees can purchase a copy of the book at the lecture for signing by the author from Kindred Stories, a local bookstore in the Third Ward community. Registration is free but required.


Program News


Leadership Program Seeks 2024-2025 Cohort Applicants

The Hobby School is recruiting students for the Next Generation Leadership Academy, a leadership development program and collaborative initiative in partnership with The Volcker Alliance, a national nonprofit with a vision of an empowered public sector workforce, now through May 31.


The program offers mentoring, training, internship assignments and networking opportunities for undergraduates eager to make a difference in their communities through a career focused on public service and social impact. Directed by the Hobby School's Emily Janowski, NextGen aims to develop young leaders like Aryan Trivedi by providing them with the necessary skills and tools to address tomorrow's challenges. 


Trivedi entered the academy in the fall of 2023. He applied for the program to develop his leadership skills and learn how to create positive societal change through public policy solutions. 

Click here to learn more about the program's benefits, requirements and application process.

Two Students on Winning Team at Regional NASPAA Computer-Simulated Competition

Five Hobby School graduate students participated in the 2024 NASPAA Competition, Host Nations: The Refugee Simulation, on March 2. Dahlia Chaudhury, Abigail Culver, Anastasia Inman, Christian Pelaez and David Ramirez spent the day at Rice University for the regional student competition sponsored by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration. Participants gathered at a dozen universities worldwide for an immersive learning experience using a computer simulation designed for public service education. Other host sites included campuses in Bangladesh, Egypt, Brazil, Hungary and across the United States. 


This year’s competition tackled policy issues associated with forced migration through computer-based simulated gameplay. Using real-world data, the simulation placed students in leadership roles within a time-sensitive, fast-paced environment where they worked together to solve complex policy issues. Pelaez and Inman were on the winning team selected by the judges, with peers from Texas A&M University and Rice University. They advanced to the final competition.


NASPAA is the global standard in public service education. Experiences like the student simulation competition provide hands-on opportunities for students, preparing them to address complex challenges collaboratively.

Conference Examines Energy Transition Landscape

Hobby School’s Gail Buttorff and Pablo Pinto are lending their expertise in organizing and participating in an upcoming daylong symposium on critical issues in energy hosted by UH Energy, The Gulf Coast Hydrogen Ecosystem: Opportunities & Solutions, on Wednesday, April 17, at the Theater Room in the UH Student Center South.


A range of experts from academia, the energy sector and government will convene for an in-depth analysis and discussion on how hydrogen fits within the energy transition, examining the opportunities, solutions and benefits of establishing a hydrogen ecosystem. Panel discussions will explore the integration of hydrogen into the energy landscape, covering various aspects such as technology, business, policy regulations and community impact.


A networking reception and poster session will follow the symposium. Lunch and dinner will be provided to registered attendees.


Student Scholars Convene Panel on the Ethics around AI

As artificial intelligence pushes the boundaries of our technological capacities, leaders are faced with navigating ethical standards in civic life. The Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership scholarship recipients Kita Adams, M.Ed., Corissa Barrow, M.A., LMFT, Abeeha Arshad, Kalena Holeman, Amani Itani, M.A., and Michael King, recently convened a panel of experts from diverse backgrounds to explore the challenges posed by artificial intelligence across disciplines such as law, education, government and business. The cohort of University of Houston undergraduates and doctoral candidates range in academic pursuits and interests from higher education and English to counseling psychology and political science. 


Panelists Jennie Hoelscher, privacy officer and assistant general counsel at the Texas Department of Information Resources; Nikolas Guggenberger, assistant professor at the UH Law Center; and Susie Gronseth, clinical professor in the UH College of Education, discussed the new challenges and possible solutions presented by the rapid growth of artificial intelligence technologies. Meng Li, professor and director of the Human-Centered AI Institute at the Bauer College of Business, moderated the panel. 


The Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center offers scholarships and student-led programming related to personal and political ethics, as well as public seminars and lectures, to encourage the study and practice of ethics in public policy research and service professions. 

Professionals Share First-Hand Career Experiences

In March, Hobby Schools students were visited by public service professionals who shared their experiences and expertise and provided first-hand accounts from their mission-oriented careers. 


Program Director Jessica Ruland O'Connor welcomed Victor Treviño, III, Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 6, Place 1. Treviño spoke about his early career as a teacher, his roots in the Houston community and his history of community service. The two-time Coog stressed to the interns serving in local government offices, nonprofits and consulting companies the importance of remaining active in their community, regardless of their career goals. 


In the public management course taught by Hobby School's Sara Sands, Evan Mintz of Arnold Ventures shared the power of storytelling, coalition building and the critical role of data and research in guiding his executive communications work at the philanthropic company. Mintz also shared the commonalities of our missions, underscoring the desire for evidence-based solutions to solving pressing policy issues and his path from law school and the newsroom to content creation. Integrated classroom visits, public lectures, internships and community events prepare Hobby School students for impactful careers.

Celebrating Tomorrow’s Leaders at Commencement

The Hobby School will recognize nearly 40 graduates at the 2024 spring commencement at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 9, in the Cullen Performance Hall. This marks the first class of students to earn an undergraduate degree in public policy from the Hobby School, which launched the bachelor’s programs in the spring of 2022 to complement graduate degree offerings in public policy. This is also the first time Master of Public Administration graduates will cross the stage as part of the Hobby School. Texas State Rep. Armando Walle will serve as the commencement speaker.  


Hobby School graduates share the goal of making a difference in their communities and have skills that are transferable across a range of fields.

Faculty and Staff News


Gottlieb Named Distinguished Professor

conference featuring research on global topics examining government, urban networks, bureaucracy, polarization and state-supported rebellion. Gottlieb's research focuses on the political economy of development, political polarization, government accountability, gender, clientelism, state capacity and taxation in new democracies with a geographic concentration in Sub-Saharan Africa. She was recently featured in the UH Scholars Walk, a digital installation that spotlights scholars making a significant impact across academic disciplines and elevating the university's research profile.  

Hobby School in the News


Media activity around the primary election reports led by Hobby School researchers Renée Cross and Mark P. Jones, which surveyed Texans' opinions on candidates and issues, continued in March, informing the public of trends and opinions. Cybersecurity expert Chris Bronk provided his expertise for a podcast episode by the Voice of America on how AI impacts disinformation globally, making it easy for fake news and content to spread. Cross and Jones summarized the latest developments in policy and politics on Houston Public Media's Houston Matters show, and a mention of a 2023 report on gambling in the state resurfaced, hinting at a potentially hot topic in the 2025 Texas biennial legislative session.


March media mentions included coverage from The Texas Tribune, Glasstire, Forward Times, ABC News, KHOU-11, KPRC-TV, The Hill and KERA.

Complete List of Hobby School Media

Hobby Happenings


Hobby School Happenings captures lectures, events, application deadlines, programs and collaborations hosted or co-sponsored by the Hobby School and its centers. Mark your calendars and join us for the next Hobby School happening.


Friday, April 5, Noon to 1 p.m.
Moral Luck, Normative Ambivalence and the Vagaries of Care
Elizabeth D. Rockwell Care Lecture Series


Friday, April 5, 2 to 3 p.m.
The Danger Imperative: Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing
Michael Sierra-Arévalo, The University of Texas at Austin
Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center Restorative Lecture Series
Honors College Commons, M.D. Anderson Library


Wednesday, April 10, 9 a.m.
Houston Matters Political Roundup, Renée Cross
Houston Public Media’s News 88.7
Listen Online


Wednesday, April 17, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Gulf Coast Hydrogen Ecosystem: Opportunities and Solutions
UH Energy Symposium Series

Theater Room, Student Center South


Friday, April 19, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
2024 Public Officials of the Year Luncheon
Tables, Tickets and Information


Monday, April 22, 5 to 7 p.m.
How Things Really Work: Hobby School Student Workshop

Garnet Coleman, Former Texas State Representative
Chase Untermeyer, Hobby School Professor of Practice
Room 144, Bates Law Building


Thursday, April 25, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Government & Non-Profit Career Mixer
Multipurpose Room, Student Center South



Tuesday, April 30, Noon to 1 p.m.
The Hobby Hour: Misinformation in a Technology Era


Thursday, May 9, 7 p.m.
Hobby School of Public Affairs Spring 2024 Commencement
Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston


Friday, May 31
2024-2025 Next Generation Leadership Academy
Application Deadline


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