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June Newsletter

June 1, 2022, is Paula Myrick Short Day in Houston

University of Houston Provost Paula Myrick Short has been a driving force in the success of the Hobby School since its inception. To honor her forthcoming retirement and contributions to the school and the University of Houston, June 1 was proclaimed Paula Myrick Short Day by Houston Mayor and UH alumnus Sylvester Turner. Bill Kelly, director of government relations at the City of Houston, presented the proclamation to the provost on behalf of the Mayor during a Hobby School advisory board meeting. Board Chair Alice Aanstoos thanked Provost Short: "We wouldn't have the success we have had without you at the helm."

Virtual Information Session for Graduate Programs

The UH Graduate School is hosting a Hobby School graduate program and certificate program information session, 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 8. Get insight on the application and admissions process, how to fund your degree, career outcomes and more.

How Things Really Work with Dean Granato

Dean Jim Granato shares leadership lessons on focusing on your goals and building trust in the signature video series, How Things Really Work. The video series features short messages from Dean Granato on a diverse range of relevant topics, from public policy to leadership lessons. Watch more on the Hobby School YouTube channel.


Hobby School faculty help guide undergraduate researchers

Hobby School faculty presented information on the Texas electric grid and Winter Storm Uri reports conducted with UH Energy at the Houston Early Research Experience May seminar, “Energy: Where Does Houston Go from Here?” Drs. Gail Buttorff, Pablo Pinto and Sunny Wong shared the fundamentals of qualitative and quantitative analysis and its role in public policy research with the rising sophomores and junior undergraduates taking part in the UH Honors College-sponsored seminar.

Program prepares future professionals for energy transition

Hobby School professors will take part in the Data Science for the Energy Transition summer camp for undergraduate and master’s level students. The camp activities include a team research project and summer internship. The principal investigator is Mikyoung Jung from the UH Department of Mathematics. Hobby School Professors Pablo Pinto and Sunny Wong are co-PI and senior personnel, respectively. They will provide the public policy instruction module on June 20-23. The larger initiative encompasses a team of five universities and multiple energy industry partners. The primary focus is to train university students from diverse backgrounds to prepare for future industry professions.

Pinto discusses global economic policy at 2022 Strategy and Business Environment Conference

Hobby School Professor Pablo Pinto participated in the 2022 Strategy and the Business Environment Conference, an annual gathering of academics in the field of business, government relations, strategy, law and political economy. He discussed a paper titled “A China Shock or a Multinational Shock? The Role of Multinational Corporations’ Value Chains in the Trade Shock” by Profs. Lizhi Liu and Dennis Quinn from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Pinto is the director of the Hobby School Center for Public Policy and is an expert in political economy, globalization, fiscal policy and taxation, political representation and quantitative methods.

Presentation explores reducing polarization caused by misinformation

Hobby School Associate Professor Jessica Gottlieb presented at the Authoritarian Regimes and Backsliding Mini-Conference at the University of Texas Austin on May 17. The paper is entitled “Strategies for Reducing Misinformation Uptake in a Polarized Context: Experimental Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire.”  

Gottlieb is an active board member for Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP), a global research, evaluation and learning network in the study of governance and accountability. In July, she will serve as an instructor for EGAP’s Learning Days, a workshop on causal inference and impact evaluation, in Côte d’Ivoire. The sessions are geared toward training young researchers from sub-Saharan Africa.

Witt receives College of Business award

Professor Alan Witt was awarded the 2022 GREAT Excellence in Teaching Award in April. The annual award recognizes instructors who supersede teaching standards in the Bauer College of Business’s Executive MBA program.  Witt teaches in the UH Bauer College of Business and Department of Psychology, as well as in the Hobby School.

Witt and Hobby School graduate research assistant Dustin Maneethai attended the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference this spring.
The SIOP is an international professional organization of industrial-organizational psychologists. Its mission is to enhance human well-being and performance in organizational and work settings by promoting the science, practice, and teaching of I-O psychology. Witt was named a fellow of both the SIOP and the American Psychology Association in 2005. Maneethai won the 2021 Flanagan Award from SIOP for the Best student paper at the conference – the third doctoral student working with Professor Witt to win the award.

Maneethai has recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professorship in the Hilton School of Hospitality teaching leadership and human resources starting in the fall. He is a UH doctoral candidate in industrial and organizational psychology and has been a Hobby School research assistant for four years. He will continue working with Witt on survey and leadership development projects for the City of Houston. Maneethai’s research interests are organizational support, quantitative methods and diversity.


Introducing the 2022 Harris Fellows

Top left to right: Alexander Desormeaux, Daniel Boyd and Rohit Shajan. Bottom left to right: Amanda Purter, Marie McGrew and Lailla Ahmady
The Hobby School welcomes the 2022 Harris Fellows selected from University of Houston students to work as full-time interns in Harris County government offices during the summer semester. The undergraduates combine supervised academic study and research with practical training. 

Lailla Ahmady, Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2
Daniel Boyd, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee
Alexander Desormeaux, Office of County Administration
Marie McGrew, Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth
Amanda Purter, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Precinct 1
Rohit Shajan, Harris County Treasurer Dylan Osborne
Meet the Fellows

Social Economy and Enterprise Academy benefits nonprofit organizations

This summer, the second cohort of the Social Economy and Enterprise Academy is connecting with nonprofit organizations to develop the skills businesses and organizations search for in high-performing professionals. The 2022 interns will apply classroom learning and theory to support social enterprise ideas, conduct quantitative research or create a venture plan to further the organization’s social goals. The courses are taught by Hobby School Professor Pablo Pinto, director of the Center for Public policy, German Cubas, associate professor of economics and Piruz Saboury, assistant professor of economics.

This year’s partner agencies include: Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement, Communities for Better Health, East Harris County Empowerment Council, Houston Habitat for Humanity, Interfaith Ministries and MECA.


Richard Murray Endowed Scholarship awarded

Political science major Mya Little has been awarded the Richard Murray Endowed Scholarship in recognition of her strong academic performance and passion for politics and policy. The scholarship is named for Professor Emeritus and Hobby School Senior Research Fellow Richard Murray, co-founder of the Center for Public Policy and well-known political analyst and pollster.
The highlight of Little’s recent internship at Houston Crackdown in the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security included being a part of the host team to Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Killeen, Texas native works in the UH Center for Empowerment as a student leader and mentor and is president of the Black Pre-Law Student Association. In addition, Little volunteers time to electoral politics and campus activities.

Spring 2022 Leland Fellow Spotlight

Sarah Imran, who spent the spring semester experiencing government on Capitol Hill as a Leland Fellow, continues her public service journey in the district office of Rep. Al Green as a press assistant. Imran works closely with senior staff on various communication duties in her new role, from compiling news clips and sharing live broadcasts of events to drafting social media posts and press materials.
Before her congressional fellowship in Washington, D.C., Imran served as a senior intern and community relations assistant at the City of Houston Mayor's Office of Complete Communities for two years.

Imran is a senior majoring in political science and economics. She is an active member on campus, volunteering to increase student voter registration. She previously served as an at-large senator for the UH Student Government Association.

2022 CHIP Award recipient and 2022 Harris Fellow is Lailla Ahmady

Lailla Ahmady has been awarded the spring 2022 Civic Houston Internship Program Award. Lailla is a first-generation college graduate who obtained her undergraduate degree in political science with summa cum laude honors from the University of Houston in May 2022. During her time on campus, she was a member of the UH Democrats, Pi Sigma Alpha and the 2021-2022 College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences scholarship recipient. Through the CHIP program, she had the opportunity to work in the office of Houston Council Member Sallie Alcorn, where she gained new skills through policy analysis, research, writing and constituent outreach. Lailla is thrilled to be able to continue her journey in local government and gain further experience working at the county level as a Harris Fellow.

Civic Houston intern news

Nimra Shahzad has accepted a summer internship with the Harris County Commissioners Court's Analyst's Office. She will be working with Hobby School alumnus Will Janowski (MPP ’19, Hobby Fellow, Leland Fellow, Civic Houston Intern) on the county’s report on economic, housing, transportation and health indicators in Harris County. Shahzad performed her spring semester internship with EMGAGE Houston, a Muslim-American civic engagement organization, where she is currently working part time as a civic outreach associate. 
Maia Mendoza has accepted a full-time position as a community liaison with the Harris County Office of Emergency Management where she interned as a spring Civic Houston intern. Mendoza is a recent UH graduate with a Bachelor of Science in political science and public relations with a minor in energy and sustainability.
Anne-Elisabeth Baker (BS ‘22) has a UH degree in industrial design and minor in energy and sustainability. She was a spring Civic Houston intern with Air Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization promoting public health impacted by air pollution and has been recently accepted into the master’s program in environmental management at Duke University. Her passion for the intersection of design, policy and environmental justice inspired her to further her research in reducing plastic waste and implementing programs to help the university community to rethink the everyday use of plastics.
Olivia Garcia has accepted a position as a district aide with Texas Rep. Penny Shaw. As a Civic Houston intern in 2021, Garcia worked with Rep. Shaw and moved into a community liaison position with the TX-District 148 representative. Her vast previous experience in Harris County governmental roles, including at the Harris County Toll Road Authority and Harris County Attorney’s Office, has prepared her for district duties.
Sumaya Siddiqui has accepted a position as a digital coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project, a community voice for equality and justice in and out of the courts. She completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing and certificate in social entrepreneurship from the Wolfe Center for Entrepreneurship. Siddiqui was among the first Harris Fellows cohort in 2021 and was a former Civic Houston intern at the League of Women Voters-Houston and in the office of State Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos.
Ariz Karim has started a new position as government affairs coordinator at Associa, a community management company. The UH political science alumna was a Civic Houston intern in the City of Houston Office of Sustainability, a Hobby Fellow in 2019 (Texas Rep. Armando Walle) and Leland Fellow in 2020 (U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro).


Internship program welcomes new director

Jessica Ruland is joining the Hobby School as the new director for undergraduate internship programs. She will also lead the Civic Engagement Boot Camp and other student projects, foster relationships with intern alumni, develop external partnerships and assist with local and state research. Ruland has a Master of Public Policy from the Hobby School and is a former Leland Fellow and Civic Houston Intern. Ruland comes to the Hobby School from the Greater Houston Partnership, where she spent four years on the public policy team. Welcome, Jessica!

New administrative assistant will work with development office, Hobby School centers

Shanese Valyan is joining the Hobby School to assist the director of development with advisory board and donor administration, as well as the Dean’s office and two centers, the Center for Public Policy and the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership. Valyan comes to the Hobby School from the Engineering Career Center at the UH Cullen College of Engineering. She is a Sam Houston graduate in English and has been at UH since 2018. Welcome to the Hobby School team, Shanese!


Alex Obregon has been named Comcast Vice President of Finance & Accounting. He will serve as chief financial officer for Comcast Houston. Obregon has served on the Hobby School Board since 2017 and has two University of Houston degrees (BS, MBA). He was a Civic Houston intern in 2008 and is a public finance lecturer for the Hobby School’s Master of Public Policy and Certified Public Management programs. Obregon’s most recent position was deputy city controller and chief operations officer at the City of Houston. Congratulations, Alex!


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