UHD Staff Members Advocating for Texas Students, Higher Ed
By Mike Emery
Each day, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) staff members work diligently to support student success on campus. Many Gator staffers also contribute their time and energies to addressing higher education issues affecting students at UHD and across Texas.
Organizations such as the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) and Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education (TABPHE) are focused on advocating for underserved students and advancing higher education in the state.
Daniel Villanueva, assistant vice president for enrollment management, recently was elected president-elect of TACHE. This leadership role will undoubtedly add to his workload, but Villanueva is proud to serve this organization and support students. Joining him as a TACHE leader is Liza Alonzo, director of Alumni Relations and Events, who serves as the association’s Gulf Coast Representative.
“It’s important that UHD have representation in TACHE,” Villanueva said. “There are many issues affecting Latino students throughout Texas. It’s important that our students’ stories are shared when advocating for them. Who better to spotlight the challenges faced by UHD students than those work with them on a daily basis?”
Alonzo concurs. She said that UHD has long been an example of how institutions of higher learning can support underserved student populations. Through her and Villanueva’s leadership roles in TACHE, other institutions in Texas can follow UHD’s example.
“UHD is an excellent testing ground for programs and initiatives aimed at helping all students,” Alonzo said. “When we showcase what we’re doing at UHD, we can impact students at other universities around the state.”
Among Villanueva and Alonzo’s tasks with TACHE are coordinating its 2020 conference, which will be in Houston. The last time the organization hosted this annual event in Houston was 2006.
“This would be important for our city, but also for UHD,” Alonzo said. “Our students can meet other Latinos in higher education, who are doing amazing things. And, faculty and staff can learn from peers across the nation. It’s a win for both Houston and UHD.”
This year’s TACHE conference was conducted in Austin. Coincidentally, the TABPHE conference also was hosted in that city. In attendance were UHD staff members Ceshia Love, interim executive director of Admissions and Financial Aid; Dr. Jemma Sylvester-Caesar, director of FTIC Retention Services; Chetiqua Matthews Herron, director of Talent Acquisition & Management; and LaTasha Goudeau, director of Financial Aid.
During their visit to Austin, participating staff members met with Dr. Thomas Lindsay from the Texas Public Policy Foundation; Texas Representative Dr. Lynn Stucky; and members of Texas Representative Armando Walle’s staff. Topics addressed during these interactions included access and affordability.
"It is very important for staff members to attend conferences like TABPHE and have the opportunity to participate in discussions and workshops about the future of higher education," Sylvester-Caesar said. "Events such as these help us to better understand the issues facing all students but more importantly, African American (AA) students. They also help higher education professionals such ourselves better prepare our craft to assist these students in resolving their challenges so they can finish their degree and become productive citizens."
UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz concurs. Organizations such as TACHE and TABPHE are strengthened through the contributions of University Community members, he said. As a result, students at UHD and throughout Texas benefit from their knowledge and hard work.
“UHD community members play a critical role in supporting higher education in our state,” said UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “Their expertise and insights are essential in informing policymakers and facilitating change for colleges and universities. I commend our many dedicated Gators, who work hard for our students … and the students of Texas … through their participation in organizations such as Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education and the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education.”
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.