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UH introduces new innovation-focused programs

In the fall semester of 2019, undergraduate students can choose to minor or major in a few new innovation programs. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

The University of Houston took a step forward in educating Houston's future innovators. The university has created two minor programs and a major focused on innovation.

Undergraduate students now have the option to major or minor in Technology Leadership and Innovation Management or minor in Applied Innovation. All three options begin in the fall semester of this year in the College of Technology. According to the college's dean, Anthony P. Ambler, the college is also interested in adding a master's and a PhD. program in Innovation Management or a post-graduate certificate program.

"We are about giving people the right tools to innovate," says Ambler in a release. "How do you get more people to the position where they are able to innovate?"

All of the programs are affiliated with two out-of-state institutions: the University of Maine's Foster Center for Innovation and Ohio-based Innovation Engineering.

UH previously offered Innovation Leadership classes, and one was taught by David Crawley. His class and the new programs focus on the tools students need to develop "to solve problems and develop meaningfully unique opportunities," Crawley says in the release.

"I always thought of creativity as something that comes upon you in the middle of the night, or in the shower," says Ahmad Mohamad, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology, who took Crawley's class last semester. "But there are techniques you can learn to help you come up with these creative solutions."

The Technology Leadership major replaces the Organization Leadership and Supervision degree, but students currently majoring in this program will be able to continue on with the new degree program, according to the release.

"Learning how to innovate — how to identify unmet needs, creatively develop solutions, and then bring them to reality – amplifies the workplace value of all other technical and business skills," says John Jeffers, director of geosciences at Southwestern Energy, in the release. "Whether innovating within an organization as an "intrapreneur", or stepping out to create something new, people who are familiar with the mindset and practice of innovation have an enormous advantage."

These programs aren't the only thing UH is doing to advance innovation in Houston. The university has recently revamped its Energy Research Park to be the Technology Bridge. The institution provides space and resources for early-stage, research-based startups. Read more about the UH Technology Bridge here.

Courtesy of UHAnthony Ambler is the dean of the UH College of Technology.

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Building Houston

 
 

Emily Cisek, CEO and co-founder of The Postage, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss tech optimizing after-life planning, B-to-C startup challenges, and a national expansion. Photo courtesy of The Postage

Anyone who's ever lost a loved one knows how stressful the process can be. Not only are you navigating your own grief, but you're bombarded with decisions you have to make. And if that loved one wasn't prepared — as most aren't — then the process is more overwhelming than it needs to be.

On top of that, Emily Cisek realized — through navigating three family deaths back to back — how archaic of a process it was. Rather than wait and see if anything changed, Cisek jumped on the market opportunity.

"I just knew there had to be a better way, and that's why I started The Postage," Cisek, co-founder and CEO of the Houston-based company, says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "My background had historically been in bringing offline businesses online, and I started doing some research on how I could make this space better. At the time, there really wasn't anything out there."

The tech-enabled platform allows users of all ages to plan for their demise in every way — from saving and sharing memories when the time comes to organizing pertinent information for the loved ones left behind. And, as of last month, users can no generate their own last will and testament.

"We launched the online will maker — it wasn't in my roadmap for another six months or so — because every single person that was coming in was looking at something else on our platform, but then going to the will part and asking, 'Hey is this something I can create here?'" Cisek says.

Recognizing that this was a good opportunity to generate new users, Cisek quickly added on the feature for a flat $75 fee. Then, members pay $3.99 a month to be able to edit their will whenever they need to and also receive access to everything else on the platform.

Cisek saw a huge opportunity to grow with the pandemic, which put a spotlight after-life planning. The silver lining of it all was that more people were discussing after-life planning with their family members.

"We're having more open dialogue about life and end-of-life planning that I don't see any other scenario really bringing that to light," she explains. "In some ways, it's been positive because having the conversation with people has been easier than it had been before."

While anyone can access The Postage's platform, Cisek says she's focused on getting the word out nationally. Following some imminent funding and partnerships, national marketing and growth campaigns are on the horizon.

Cisek shares more on her career and he unique challenges she faces as a B-to-C entrepreneur on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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