|UST Political Science Alumni Find Jobs in City Hall|
The average Houstonian wouldn’t believe what it takes to run this city, but a few University of St. Thomas graduates could give them a back-stage tour. Behind the scenes, hundreds of dedicated employees answer the call to public service to provide the vital everyday municipal functions Houstonians have come to expect.
Among those public servants in the City of Houston are Cameron Waldner, Mark Cueva, Katy Price, Jesse Bounds and Ed Gonzalez – just a few of the UST graduates whose jobs run the gamut from directing Volunteer Services and Educational Special Projects to Assistant to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and City Councilman.
“There is a long and rich tradition of UST graduates who establish careers in public service,” said UST Political Science Department Chair Dr. Jon Taylor.
UST graduates in the political arena include former Congressman Ken Bentsen, current State Rep. Garnet Coleman, CenterPoint Energy's Chief State Lobbyist June Deadrick, Harris County Office of Emergency Management and Adjunct Professor Michelle Carnahan, as well as Adjunct Professor Mike Upchurch and Ed Gonzalez’s service on the Piney Point and Houston City Councils, respectively. UST students also benefitted from former UST Political Science Professor Tom Bass' service as both a State Legislator and County Commissioner.
Taylor said the Political Science Department has a strong internship program which regularly assists students seeking entry-level experience in local government. Current undergraduate and graduate students work on a host of campaigns and in a variety of government and legal offices.
“Internships expose students to the mechanics of government and the inner workings of politics as well as give them a leg up on finding careers when they graduate from St. Thomas. Internships can be as valuable as classroom teachings in helping students determine where they want to go in life.”
Mark Cueva serves as the assistant to the director of Educational Special Projects for the City of Houston. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UST in 2008. Cueva benefitted from UST connections at City Hall, landing his first internship in Educational Special Projects after Taylor alerted him to the opportunity.
“What separates a St. Thomas education is the emphasis on personal growth,” Cueva said. “The University’s Catholic liberal arts foundations guide students to have meaningful dialogue that transcends learning for the sake of getting a grade.
“Professor Tom Bass was very influential in my education,” Cueva said. “He brought a personal experience to politics and helped me understand the human side of politics. He helped me see that what we do is not just about ordinances and policies. It affects the lives of our constituents and has the ability to provide more opportunities to address the needs of the people.”
Cameron Waldner, City of Houston director of Volunteer Initiatives, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2006 and a Master in Liberal Arts (MLA) with a concentration in political science in 2008.
“The UST political science professors such as Dr. Taylor and Dr. Jean- Philippe Faletta taught me how to do in-depth research, made me more aware of my surroundings as a citizen and gave me a fuller perspective of how faith reflects in the modern political world. I see that in practice now as I work with politicians who have to balance their own faith with their constituency.
“It’s always interesting to see that connection of faith in the workplace,” Waldner said. “When you are active with your faith, it is evident in the way you carry yourself in a day-to-day basis.”
In the same office, Katy Price works closely with Waldner, where she serves as assistant to the director of Volunteer Initiatives. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UST in 2006, and is currently working on an MLA with a concentration in political science.
“I am forever grateful for all the reading and writing we had to do at UST,” Price said. “The liberal arts education at UST has taught me to think on my feet and has truly prepared me for my career.”
Jesse Bounds, assistant to Michael Moore, Mayor Bill White’s chief of staff, graduated from UST in 2005 with a joint major in political science and international studies. Since he was hired at the City of Houston, he has seen the pool of UST graduates grow.
“St. Thomas produces smart graduates who are ready for the professional workplace,” Bounds said. “The Mayor’s Office has hired several St. Thomas graduates for full-time positions and opened the doors with internships because we know they are well trained in communication, writing and research skills and make excellent employees.”
Houston City Councilman Edward Gonzalez earned an MLA with a concentration in political science from UST in 2007. Gonzalez won the runoff special election to fill Houston City Council District H on June 13.
“My time at UST really prepared me for my position on the Houston City Council,” Gonzalez said. “Earning my MLA gave me depth of knowledge about the community, and has enabled me to serve the broad and diverse constituency in District H.
“The idea of the common good, trying to treat our fellow neighbors well, making things better for others and thinking beyond ourselves are values that were reinforced and enhanced by my UST experience. UST gave me additional hope for my efforts in the community.”