The Greater Houston Partnership announced a new mentorship-focused initiative in the region. Photo via Houston.org

A mix of corporate and university organizations have teamed up with the Greater Houston Partnership for a new program that enables mentorship for local college students.

The GHP announced PartnerUp Houston, a new regional mentorship initiative, this week. Ten companies — including Calpine, Boston Consulting Group, and HP — have agreed to provide professional mentors and a handful of universities will offer the mentorship opportunity to students. The local universities that are signed on include Houston Christian University, Rice University, Sam Houston State University, University of Houston, and University of St. Thomas.

“Since 2017, the Partnership has facilitated collaboration between higher education leaders and the business community to strengthen the region’s talent pipeline and ensure more opportunity for Houstonians,” says Partnership Chair Thad Hill, who serves as president and CEO of Calpine, in a news release. “We believe a robust, regional mentorship program like PartnerUp will help accelerate career outcomes for students and help Houston area employers identify and cultivate great talent.”

The program is still seeking individuals and corporate partners for mentors. Those interested have until January 20 to opt in and can head online to learn more.

The program is a collaboration between the GHP and Mentor Collective, which has organized more than 250,000 successful mentorship matches since its founding in 2016.

“The United States increasingly lags behind the developed world in economic mobility," says Jackson Boyar, co-founder and CEO of Mentor Collective, in the release. "Proactively bridging these equity and skills gaps requires local employers and post-secondary institutions to collaborate on initiatives that allow students to acquire professional experiences and skills.”

“Institutions enrolling and graduating a diverse class with strong employment outcomes are those implementing holistic student support, including career mentorship," he continues. "Mentor Collective is proud to play a role in the PartnerUp Houston initiative and offer the technology needed to scale high-impact practices that drive student and economic success.”

A new UH-led program will work with energy corporations to prepare the sector's future workforce. Photo via Getty Images

University of Houston leads data science collaboration to propel energy transition

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Five Texas schools have teamed up with energy industry partners to create a program to train the sectors future workforce. At the helm of the initiative is the University of Houston.

The Data Science for Energy Transition project, which is funded through 2024 by a $1.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation, includes participation from UH, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston-Victoria, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and Sam Houston State University.

The project will begin but introducing a five-week data science camp next summer where undergraduate and master’s level students will examine data science skills already in demand — as well as the skills that will be needed in the future as the sector navigates a shift to new technologies.

The camp will encompass computer science and programming, statistics, machine learning, geophysics and earth science, public policy, and engineering, according to a news release from UH. The project’s principal investigator is Mikyoung Jun, ConocoPhillips professor of data science at the UH College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

The new program's principal investigator is Mikyoung Jun. Photo via UH.edu

“It’s obvious that the Houston area is the capital for the energy field. We are supporting our local industries by presenting talented students from the five sponsoring universities and other Texas state universities with the essential skills to match the growing needs within those data science workforces,” Jun says in the release. “We’re planning all functions in a hybrid format so students located outside of Houston, too, can join in.”

Jun describes the camp as having a dual focus — both on the issue of energy transition to renewable sources as well as the traditional energy, because that's not being eradicated any time soon, she explains.

Also setting the program apart is the camp's prerequisites — or lack thereof. The program is open to majors in energy-related fields, such as data science or petroleum engineering, as well as wide-ranging fields of study, such as business, art, history, law, and more.

“The camp is not part of a degree program and its classes do not offer credits toward graduation, so students will continue to follow their own degree plan,” Jun says in the release. “Our goal with the summer camp is to give students a solid footing in data science and energy-related fields to help them focus on skills needed in data science workforces in energy-related companies in Houston and elsewhere. Although that may be their first career move, they may settle in other industries later. Good skills in data processing can make them wise hires for many technology-oriented organizations.”

Jun's four co-principal investigators include Pablo Pinto, professor at UH’s Hobby School of Public Affairs and director of the Center for Public Policy; Jiajia Sun, UH assistant professor of geophysics; Dvijesh Shastri, associate professor of computer science, UH-Downtown; and Yun Wan, professor of computer information systems and chair of the Computer Science Division, UH-Victoria. Eleven other faculty members from five schools will serve as senior personnel. The initiative's energy industry partners include Conoco Phillips, Schlumberger, Fugro, Quantico Energy Solutions, Shell, and Xecta Web Technologies.

The program's first iteration will select 40 students to participate in the camp this summer. Applications, which have not opened yet, will be made available online.

The Data Science for Energy Transition project is a collaboration between five schools. Image via UH.edu

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University of Houston team places in prestigious DOE collegiate challenge

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A team of students from the University of Houston have placed in the top three teams for a national competition for the Department of Energy.

The inaugural American-Made Carbon Management Collegiate Competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, or FECM, tasked the student teams with "proposing regional carbon networks capable of transporting at least one million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from industrial sources," according to a news release from DOE.

“With this competition, DOE hopes to inspire the next generation of carbon management professionals to develop carbon dioxide transport infrastructure that will help drive technological innovation and emissions reductions, new regional economic development, and high-wage employment for communities across the United States,” Brad Crabtree, assistant secretary of fossil energy and carbon management at DOE, says in the release.

GreenHouston, the University of Houston team mentored by Assistant Professor Jian Shi from the UH Cullen College of Engineering, took third place in the competition, securing a $5,000 cash prize. Sequestration Squad of University of Michigan secured first place and $12,000 and Biggest Little Lithium of the University of Nevada won second and a $8,000 prize.

The UH team's proposal was for an optimized carbon dioxide transportation pipeline for the Houston area. The presentation included cost analysis, revenue potential, safety considerations, weather hazards, and social impact on neighboring communities, according to a release from UH.

“We chose the greater Houston metropolitan area as our target transition area because it is a global hub of the hydrocarbon energy industry,” says Fatemeh Kalantari, team leader, in the release.

“Our team was committed to delivering an optimized and cost-effective carbon dioxide transfer plan in the Houston area, with a focus on safety, environmental justice, and social engagement,” she continues. “Our goal is to ensure the health and safety of the diverse population residing in Houston by mitigating the harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions from refineries and industries in the area, thus avoiding environmental toxicity.”

With the third place win, GreenHouston will get to present their proposal at DOE’s annual Carbon Management Research Project Review Meeting slated for August.

"We are thrilled to see the exceptional work and dedication displayed by the GreenHouston team in this competition," said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH. "The team’s innovative proposal exemplifies UH’s commitment to addressing the pressing global issue of carbon management and advancing sustainable practices. We wish the students continued success."

The team included four Cullen College of Engineering doctoral students from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – Kalantari, Massiagbe Diabate, Steven Chen, and Simon Peter Nsah Abongmbo – and one student, Bethel O. Mbakaogu, pursuing his master’s degree in supply chain and logistics technology.

The prize money will go toward funding additional research, refining existing technologies, addressing remaining challenges and raising awareness of CCUS and its project, according to the release, as the team feels a responsibility to continue to work on the GreenHouston project.

“The energy landscape by 2050 will be characterized by reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air quality, and a more sustainable environment,” Kalantari says. “The transition to green energy will not only mitigate the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on climate change but also create new jobs, promote economic growth, and enhance energy security. This is important, and we want to be part of it.”

The team of students plans to continue to work on the GreenHouston project.

Houston college to launch new smart building degree-program in the fall

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Houston Community College will launch a new 60-hour Smart Building Technology program this fall, the college announced last week.

The program will train students on the installation of low-voltage controls, such as audio/visual systems, energy management, lighting controls, security cameras, burglar and fire alarm systems, retail and grocery store automation, medical automation and more, according to HCC. Students will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree after completing the program.

“This program is both cutting edge and down to earth,” Matt Adams, instructor and program coordinator for HCC’s Electrical Technology program, said in a statement.

"A lot of new technology is coming into this industry, but a lot of the technology is the same as it has been for the last five to 10 years," he went on to add. "What is new is the integration of it all, making it all work together, to make people’s lives better.”

The Smart Building Technology program will be part of HCC Central’s Electrical Technology program in the Architectural Design and Construction Center of Excellence (COE). According to the college, it's one of the first programs of its kind.

Adams says that the earning potential in this line of work starts at around $50,000 a year, with the potential to earn double that with additional learning and training.

In late 2022, HCC and partners also received a $1.8 million grant from JP Morgan Chase to launch a new certificate program to help residents who come from some of Houston’s most underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods find career opportunities in the clean energy, disaster response, utilities, trades and manufacturing fields. Partnering employers included The City of Houston, Harris County and TRIO Electric.

Meanwhile, Houston Methodist and Texas A&M University graduated the inaugural class from its School of Engineering Medicine earlier this month.

Graphic courtesy of HCC

Houston expert: How technology can be used to bridge the health equity gap

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Progressively over the last decade, the health care industry has become increasingly aware of the role that social determinants of health play in the health outcomes of patients.

Social determinants of health, or SDOH, are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, and they have a significant impact on a person's health and well-being. Examples of SDOH include income, education level, housing, and access to healthy food.

One of the key challenges facing health care organizations and providers is how to address health equity gaps, which are the differences in health outcomes between different populations. Health equity gaps are often caused by social determinants of health, and they can be particularly pronounced among vulnerable populations such as low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in rural areas.

Experience management technology has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing these equity gaps. This technology uses feedback, behaviors, and other relevant SDOH data in order to understand the unique needs of different populations and develop targeted interventions to improve their health outcomes.

One of the key ways that experience management technology can help decrease health equity gaps is by segmenting populations by social determinants of health. By collecting data on patients' demographics, such as their age, race, income, and education level, health care organizations can gain a better understanding of the SDOH that are most relevant to each population. This information can be used to develop personalized actions that address the specific needs of each population, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, health care organizations could use experience management technology to gather feedback from patients on their access to healthy food. By segmenting the patient population by zip code, health care organizations could identify patients in rural areas who do not have easy access to quality care facilities and providers. These patients could then be targeted with interventions such as transportation assistance programs or care coordination programs, which could help address their specific needs.

In addition to segmenting populations by social determinants of health, experience management technology can also help health care organizations gather insights into patient behaviors. By integrating data on patients' health behaviors, such as adherence to treatment or missed appointments, health care organizations can develop targeted interventions that encourage healthy behaviors.

For example, health care providers could use experience management technology to collect data on patients' treatment habits. Patients who report low adherence to treatment could be targeted with interventions such as treatment education programs or care coaching, which could help them develop healthier habits over time.

Finally, experience management technology can help health care organizations gain insight into their patient’s end to end journey. By integrating data from multiple sources, such as electronic health records, patient feedback, and social determinants of health data, health care organizations can develop a more comprehensive understanding of patients' health needs and brand expectations. This unified illustration allows health care organizations to improve business outcomes such as lower readmission rates, and create loyal patients that will refer their friends and family in the most important and sensitive moments in their lives.

In conclusion, experience management technology has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing health equity gaps by segmenting populations by social determinants of health, understanding and acting on their unique needs through feedback, behaviors, and dynamic integrations. By leveraging this technology, health care organizations can develop unique solutions that improve the health outcomes of vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in rural areas.

As the health care industry continues to evolve, experience management technology will play an increasingly important role in addressing health equity gaps and improving the health and well-being of patients across the globe.

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Ariel Jones is the head of health care provider solution strategy for Qualtrics XM, an American Experience Management company providing software solutions for customer and employee experience.