Alum Richard Vara Speaks on Creativity and Journalism in the Digital Era
By Ashley Kilday
UHD alum Richard Vara (Humanities, ’04) has carved a unique path that combines his passion for media and journalism. From his time as a Media Engineer at UHD to becoming a high school teacher, creating and hosting the VCR Show, and recently earning a Master of Digital Journalism, Vara’s diverse experiences shaped his content-creation approach. With an emphasis on ethical journalism and a desire to stay connected to his audience, his journey serves as an example of adaptability and creativity.
A Return to Roots
After a decade of working for UHD’s Multimedia Services, Vara became a high school teacher. However, the allure of returning to his alma mater proved irresistible when he saw his old media engineer position posted. “I wanted to return to somewhere less aggressive,” he joked. In 2020, just as the pandemic hit, Vara joined UHD, bringing his expertise to bear during a time when digital connectivity was more critical than ever.
The VCR Show: Creativity & Connection
Like many during the pandemic, Vara sought to alleviate isolation and bring joy to others through a podcast. Collaborating with a friend, he co-created the VCR Show, where pop culture banter took center stage. The podcast gained traction and continues to publish episodes in 2023. Vara explained, “The training I received doing theater at UHD for so many years as well as the technical training played a significant role in the longevity of the podcast.”
The podcast provided an escape for listeners and allowed Vara to embrace his own unique style. Vara recounted a touching encounter with a UHD co-worker who shared the VCR Show’s profound impact on their life during the lockdowns. Reflecting on the podcast’s success, Vara said, “My show is goofy, it’s weird, and hopefully, people see and embrace that. In 2022, I was the most-shared show globally on Spotify and had more minutes of content than other podcasts in my category.”
Journalism: A New Chapter
Driven by a thirst for more knowledge, Vara embarked on a search for journalism programs, ultimately being accepted into St. Bonaventure’s online master’s program. As the Digital Journalism program’s first Latino graduate, Vara’s dedication and talent were recognized when he was invited to speak at the May 2023 commencement ceremony. He recently made the move from UHD to the City of West University Place where he works as a Communications Specialist.
Skillful Content Creation & A Lasting Impact
Vara credited UHD for the skills he used not only for podcast production but also in his professional career. “Journalism today requires a different skill set,” Vara said. “You need to be able to do your own photos and video and do it quickly to have something ready for social media. A lot of what I’m able to do comes from my training from UHD.”
Driven by his passion for ethical journalism, Vara remains committed to delivering reputable news and storytelling to his audience, infusing creativity and connection into his work. Vara’s experiences, from performing with UHD in Edinburgh, Scotland, to inspiring listeners through the VCR Show, have shaped his journey and cemented his dedication to his craft. He exemplifies the limitless possibilities that arise from embracing diverse interests—another Gator who “gets it.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.