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Previous vitalvoices 2023-2024

The vitalvoices Speaker Series serves as a forum to bring scholars and practitioners alike to speak to students, faculty, alumni and community partners at UHD's College of Public Service. It is our hope that those we invite to speak will share, from the heart, their professional experiences, their knowledge, and how the work they do impacts society as a whole. We like to feature people whose work is interdisciplinary and touches upon the fields social work, criminal justice and urban education.

If a vitalvoices session was recorded, the titles below will link directly to its recorded presentation on our YouTube channel. Please enjoy.

Suicide Prevention: Creating Hope Through Action

Monday, September 11th  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Hosted by: UHD's Dr. Shahnaz Savani with guests, Dr. Robin Gearing from the University of Houston, Jennifer Battle from Harris Health, and Dr. Anish Cherian, live via zoom, from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in India.

Suicide can affect every one of us having a profound impact on those around the victim. By raising awareness, encouraging well informed action, and reducing the stigma around suicide, depression, and other mental illnesses, we can reduce instances of suicide and suicide attempts here in Texas, the U.S. and around the world. Come learn to be the light for someone who may need it the most.


Present Day Predators: Understanding and Combatting Child Exploitation

Wednesday, September 20th  5:30  p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Hosted by: Tony Goodwin and Brandon Poor.

Join our special guests (otherwise known as the Catfish Cops) for an interesting look at the underside of childhood sexual exploitation. Tony Godwin & Brandon Poor are law enforcement detectives with large metropolitan police agencies in North Texas. With over 40 years of cumulative experience, and the last 17 years specifically in the area of online child exploitation, they speak with authority about the vile offenders who are attempting to lure and harm children on the internet. Event held live in C-100 and via zoom.


The Multidisciplinary Nature of Child Exploitation Investigations (Panel Discussion)

Thursday, September 21st  9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Hosted by: Dr. Elizabeth Gilmore (Featuring Tony Goodwin and Brandon Poor, aka, The Catfish Cops)

A HPD police officer, a forensic interviewer, an assistant attorney general, a victim advocate, and the Catfish Cops are joined by Dr. Beth Gilmore to discuss the teamwork involved in combatting this modern day evil. Event will be held live in C-100 and via zoom.


Wednesday, October 4th  5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.


Join us as we learn the hardships and the triumphs of voting through an insider's perspective. We will have guest speakers who have been through the civil rights movement and share their experiences as well as guest speakers who help communities to voice their vote.


Domestic Violence: It's Not Just Physical

Thursday, November 9th  5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Hosted by: Thecia Jenkins of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council

Join us to learn how behaviors considered to be “normal” or “cultural” are, in fact, abusive. Two domestic violence survivor-advocates, along with Thecia Jenkins and her team from the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, and Jessica Bellant of the Bridge, a domestic violence shelter located in Pasadena, TX, join us for a very special vitalvoices presentation.


Judge For Yourself: An Event With Six Harris County Judges

Thursday, January 25th from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Hosted by: Six Harris County Judges

UHD 50 Year Anniverary seal

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a judge? Is there more to the job than just sitting on the bench clad in a robe and armed with a gavel? Is it hard to make decisions knowing the far-reaching impact they can have on the people who come before them? How do they remain impartial when their personal convictions go against a law they’re sworn to uphold?

These and other questions will be answered by a panel of Harris County judges who will join us on Thursday, January 25th from 5:30 – 7 p.m. here at UHD’s College of Public Service. The judges will speak about their experiences and philosophies and talk about the judicial branch, why it’s important, and how the courts work. Don’t worry! We’ll leave plenty of time for Q&A!


Loneliness: An Untold Epidemic StoryUHD 50 Year Anniverary seal

Thursday, April 4
th at 5:30 p.m.

Epidemic is a word typically used to characterize the spread of infectious diseases in communities. However, in recent times, there’s been a shifting focus on how loneliness has reached epidemic levels – across generations, geographies, and cultures. More people are feeling lonely, isolated, and disconnected, with stark physical and emotional consequences. This is not a new phenomenon, but there is an untold story surfacing around the extent and pervasiveness of its impact. Loneliness can occur to married couples, within families, within communities, and inside school classrooms. It can happen to virtually anyone, anywhere. Want to learn more about how this phenomenon can be impacting you? Your children? Your relationships?

Watch them discuss these and other issues related to social disconnectedness. Dr. Matthew Lee Smith of Texas A&M School of Public Health and Dr. Luming Li of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD will join us to discuss the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2023 report “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” Additionally, Dr. Smith will discuss national initiatives to foster social connection and societal cohesion as well as research about innovative strategies to reduce social disconnectedness. Dr. Li will bring it home and talk about the issue as it relates to our own backyard here in the Houston/Harris County area. Officer for The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD.


For further information contact Steven Villano, director of the Center for Public Service and Community Research at