13:16 PM

UHD Announces 2016 Commencement Speakers

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) will hold true to tradition and host its 61st commencement ceremony at Minute Maid Park on Dec. 17, recognizing the academic achievements of approximately 1,200 graduates. Adding to the pomp and circumstance at the city's downtown stadium will be a Dec. 18 graduation ceremony at the Bayou City Event Center celebrating more than 200 graduate business students.

Both events will feature distinguished speakers offering timeless advice and congratulations to the fall 2016 Gator grads.

UHD's commencement ceremonies and speakers are as follows:

  • Dec. 17 - Fall 2016 Commencement at Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford St.) will begin at 11 a.m. with guest speaker Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis and student speaker Naiyolis Palomo Garcia, who is earning her bachelor's degree in social work from the College of Public Service.
  • Dec. 18 - College of Business Graduate Programs Commencement will begin at 2 p.m. and recognize students earning Master of Business Administration (9401 Knight Road) and Master of Security Management degrees. Business leader and UHD faculty member Susan Hodge is the guest speaker at this event.

Ellis serves Texas' District 13 and recently was elected Harris County Commissioner. He is one of the most recognized and influential politicians in Texas and founder of the Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP). His crusade for education funding for minority and underserved students began 26 years ago when he was elected to chair the Senate Finance Committee. He was born and raised in Houston's Sunnyside neighborhood and is a product of the Texas public school system from grade school through law school. Before joining the Texas Senate in 1990, Ellis served three terms on Houston City Council, and as chief of staff to the late U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland.

"We are fortunate that Sen. Ellis has agreed to take time from his busier-than usual schedule to share his wisdom with our graduation candidates," said UHD Interim President Michael A. Olivas. "He is an accomplished public servant, and is widely regarded as the godfather to Texas college students, having authored many higher education laws and advocated for many postsecondary benefits. I daresay every single student in a Texas college or community college or university has been the beneficiary of his vision and his generous spirit."

Student speaker Palomo is a Cuban political refugee from Santiago de Cuba. Like many others at UHD, she is a first-generation college student. As a social work major with a concentration in political advocacy, Palomo plans to use her personal experience to advocate for minorities, refugees and social justice.

Corporate businesswoman Hodge will speak to the College of Business graduate degree recipients on Dec. 18. She is the co-founder of Women Leading Together and is an experienced financial executive who has led global organizations with a passion for diversity and developing business leaders. In addition to her responsibilities at Women Leading Together, she is a Corporate Fellow at UHD's business school and teaches classes in leadership.

Olivas will also address the graduates with a few encouraging words.

Students, family, faculty, alumni and friends can follow commencement activities online, including live webcasts, which can be viewed at UHD Live Commencement beginning at 10 a.m. on Dec. 17.

Visit Commencement 2016 for information about how to share memories, pictures and words of wisdom with the Class of 2016.