Students in the Spotlight During Mayor’s Internship Program Luncheon
By Mike Emery
Each day, the students of the University of Houston-Downtown work hard to effect positive change on campus and in our communities. Whether it’s through volunteer work or civic engagement, Gators are making a difference in our city.
This summer, seven students took their service to a new level as participants in the inaugural City of Houston Mayor’s Summer Internship Program. On Sept. 28, these students shared what they learned from working alongside city leaders during a special luncheon hosted by UHD President Loren J. Blanchard and attended by special guest Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“I strongly believe in experiential learning,” President Blanchard said. “The opportunity to take what is learned in the classroom and apply it in a work setting is invaluable to our students and will have a meaningful impact on their careers.”
“To have interns from the University of Houston-Downtown has worked extremely well,” Mayor Turner added. “We’re not just bringing them in to do filing or sorting papers. We want them to receive real-world experience. They have put together my press statements, helped with our commercials, staffed events in the city and addressed a number of needs within our community.”
Following remarks from President Blanchard and Mayor Turner, attendees heard from the interns themselves. Clarissa Chavez, Michelle Duvall, George Farhat, Anayansi Rendon, Linda DiFronzo, Ebuka Ezike and Fahimul Karim delivered presentations that showcased their work for the city and the skills gained during these summer internships.
Junior Finance major Clarissa Chavez offered a glimpse into her experience working with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. She said the experience enhanced her technical and soft skills and helped her further recognize the importance of diversity and inclusivity.
“Serving as an advocate for Houstonians with disabilities helped me see things from a new perspective,” she said. “It’s definitely something I will take with me for future jobs and for the rest of my life.”
Senior Communication Studies major and Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President Michelle Duvall also detailed her experiences as an intern with Houston Public Works’ Communications Team, particularly launching the city’s first TikTok account. She discussed how she learned to be flexible during video shoots and how her first TikTok post went viral.
The knowledge gained from overseeing the city’s TikTok account will support her efforts as a student leader, she said.
“SGA has launched its first TikTok account,” she said. “I am taking the skills I learned from my internship and applying them to our communications efforts, so we can make students more aware of the different services offered on campus.”
The seeds for the City of Houston Mayor’s Summer Internship Program were planted following a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March by Mayor Turner and then-Interim UHD President Dr. Antonio D. Tillis.
Students applied for internships during Spring 2021, and then assigned to work in the following City of Houston Offices: Mayor's Office of Education; Mayor's Office of Complete Communities; Mayor's Office of Persons with Disabilities; Mayor's Office of Economic Development; Houston Municipal Television (HTV); Mayor's Office of Government Affairs and Houston Public Works.
As a direct result of this program, two student participants—George Fahrat and Fahimul Karim—have earned full-time positions with the City of Houston.
Dr. Creshema Murray, Special Assistant to UHD’s Office of the President, served as the principal liaison to the City of Houston and coordinated the internships. She also was in attendance during this luncheon as were the following dignitaries: UHD Dean of Students Dr. Meritza Tamez, Student Government Association President Shamika Jefferson, College of Humanities & Social Sciences Dean Dr. Wendy Burns-Ardolino, Marilyn Davies College of Business Dean Charles Gengler, and Vice President of University Advancement & University Relations Johanna Wolfe. Shannon Buggs, Director of the Mayor’s Office for Complete Communities also joined the event.
“This is a win-win for the city … a win-win for the students and a win-win for the people of Houston,” Mayor Turner concluded. “I’d like to thank Dr. Murray, the University of Houston-Downtown, and most importantly, I’d like to thank the interns.”
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.