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vitalalumni Speaker Series

In keeping with the purpose and intent of our vitalvoices series that brings professionals in the fields of Criminal justice, Social Work and Urban Education to campus to share the relevance of their professional experience and current work, The Center for Public Service and Community Research created vitalalumni

vitalalumni brings CPS graduates back to campus to share their professional as well as personal experience of life pre UHD, at UHD and post UHD. How do their stories and concerns mirror yours? Come and hear from those who've gone before you and be inspired to continue the UHD tradition of Staying Strong. 

Please select the title of the vitalalumni event to be directed to its video presentation.

A Non-Conformist Approach to Life:
A Chat with Houston City Councilmember Mike Knox
March 29, from 5:30-7pm

UHD alumni and current Houston Council Member Mike Knox, At Large Position 1 will join us to discuss his non-conformist approach to life! Council Member Knox ended his high school education, received his GED and joined the United States Air Force. He then earned his college degree from UHD in 1990 in General Studies. Mike realized he had an interest in public safety and crime, which influenced him to join the Houston Police Department as a Police Officer. During his HPD tenure, Council Member Knox worked many gang activity cases which resulted in the creation of HPD's first fulltime Gang Unit. He quickly became a gang expert and authored a book , “Gangsta in the House - Understanding Gang Culture" and public speaker touring the country. Council Member Knox, then left HPD 1995 to peruse a career as a consulting and public speaker on gang youth violence. After 20 years as a public speaker, he ran for office in 2015.


Council Member Mike Knox was sworn in and took office in January 2016.  Mike believes that good government requires good judgment, common sense, reason and logic. Council Member Knox works daily to represent the best interests of the citizens of Houston. Council Member Mike Knox is married to the same woman for 45yrs and is the father of Jason M. Knox, who passed in the line of duty as a Houston Police Officer in May of 2020. 

vitalalumni with Congressman Troy Nehls
September 7, from 5:30-7pm


Congressman Troy Nehls is a proud 2011 graduate of UHD’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice program. Currently, he represents the 22nd Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. His district includes portions of Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Harris Counties. Congressman Nehls served in both Iraq and Afghanistan retiring with the rank of Major and as the recipient of two Bronze Star medals. From 2004-2012, he served two terms as the Constable for Ft. Bend County Precinct 4. In 2012, he was elected as Fort Bend County Sheriff. In 2016, he was re-elected and completed his second term in December of 2020. In 2021, he was officially sworn in as Congressman for Texas’ 22nd District!


Criminal Justice Alumni

Henry Gonzales ('88, M.S. '08)
Executive Director, Harris County Juvenile Probation Department 

Adjunct Professor, UHD's Department of Criminal Justice

Elias J. Rivera ('05, M.S. '11)

Crime Scene Investigator, Harris County Sheriff's Office

Constable Alan Rosen ('95)

Constable, Harris County Precinct 1

Regent Paula Mendoza

Native Houstonian, Paula Mendoza is an entrepreneur, innovator, advocate, barrier-breaker and tireless volunteer recognized not only for the quality of her work, but for the passion she brings to every endeavor.

Mendoza earned a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Houston-Downtown (1995) and recently earned her MBA from the University of Houston-Downtown Marilyn Davis School of Business.  She and her husband of 30 years have one son, a wonderful daughter-in-law, three grandkids and a 16-year-old goddaughter, Natalie, who has captured their hearts.

From UHD to HISD

Leigha Curry, Class of 2005

Leigha Curry is a product of Galena Park Independent School District, a native Houstonian, and a proud graduate of University of Houston-Downtown. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree from Texas Southern University.

Annie Lara, Class of 2007

Currently on the leadership team as a Literacy Teacher Specialist at Ketelsen Elementary in the Houston Independent School District, Ms. Lara also serves as the Campus Testing Coordinator and Gifted and Talented Coordinator and is a mentor/coach to first year teachers and teacher appraiser. Her afternoons are spent with intervention groups for third, fourth and fifth grade students. 

Victor Garcia, Class of 2008

Mr. Garcia is the principal of Port Houston Elementary in Houston's East side where he is finishing his first year as principal and continuing his vision of providing an equitable education for all students through effective instructional and learning strategies. 


Sheriff Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez was elected Sheriff of Harris County on November 8, 2016. Sheriff Gonzalez earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston-Downtown and went on to serve 18 years in the Houston Police Department. He served on the elite hostage negotiation team and was assigned to the Homicide Division as an investigator. After retiring from HPD in 2009, Sheriff Gonzalez served three terms on the Houston City Council. 


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