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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Mail Bag

Letter to the editor: Consider the words of MLK

The following is a continuation of running guest essays by faculty members for UH’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. this week.

—The Daily Cougar editorial board

Today, when the most persistent question in higher education is “What have you published?” and the most urgent question for faculty is “what grants have you brought to the university?,” we should consider the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

As one of many community liaisons for the university, I am fortunate to have a broad knowledge of how the Cougar Pride is answering this question.

Together, we provide two million student community-service hours within our 2.1 million Houston population.  Last year, the Graduate College of Social Work alone completed 142,620 internship hours, in partnership with over 150 agencies, to address challenging issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence, mental health counseling, and changing public policy.

Dr. Gavin Gerondale, along with 200 optometry students from our Mobile Eye Institute reached 12,397 people in 280 excursions to sites such as area schools, juvenile detention facilities, religious centers, health clinics, and homeless shelters. One effort involved busing over 100 Burmese refugees, from war-torn Myanmar, to UH College of Optometry to receive eye care.  During a separate excursion, a student was able to help a homeless man who suffered a retinal detachment from being pistol-whipped. Services were provided in partnership with a hospital to restore his sight.

UH students also provided more than 12,000 community service hours to HoustonPBS to support “America’s largest classroom.” UH staff and students support a public signal that reaches 33 counties in southeast Texas with 24,000 hours of family-oriented television ranging from Sesame Street to NOVA every year.

Our College of Engineering is also answering the question in an innovative way. They created a program called RET which connects 13 nationally-recognized researchers and their world-class nanotechnology labs with middle and high school students from low-income neighborhoods, where tomorrow’s engineers are often overlooked and underrepresented. Every year since 2004, RET infuses 12 bright teachers, 61 percent minority, with enthusiasm and skills to prepare 1200 middle and high school students, 93% minority, for engineering fields.

Our UH family is answering Dr. King’s question in profound ways.  Like sand on the seashore, regardless of whether each grain is seen, each individual contributes to the beauty of the whole. So many community projects are not mentioned here, not because they are insignificant, but because of the small space of the editorial.  UH is working on a way to make all of your efforts more visible.

Now, you answer life’s most urgent and persistent question.  What are you doing for others? Contact me with your answers at [email protected].

— Larry Hill, research professor at the Graduate College of Social Work

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