Newsflash

UST and Houston Methodist join forces to develop MCTM degree

The University of St. Thomas Cameron School of Business and the Houston Methodist Research Institute have joined forces to develop a Master in Clinical Translation Management degree program. The MCTM degree will prepare students to reduce the time it takes for new pharmaceuticals and medical devices to move through research, clinical studies, FDA approval and, ultimately, to the bedside.

By integrating the disciplines of science, medicine, ethics and business, clinical translation managers expedite the translation of research discoveries into effective therapies for patients. Despite Houston’s unparalleled medical research opportunities, academic programs that teach these skills are limited. 
 
Although programs are limited, job opportunities exist in many different types of organizations around the world including large pharmaceutical and biomedical firms and research organizations.
 
According to Dr. Beena George, dean of UST’s Cameron School of Business, “We want to offer our students programs that make a difference.”
 
UST’s Cameron School of Business is highly acclaimed for its high-quality, ethically oriented business education, which enables graduates to serve as leaders of faith and character in our global economy. Students are taught that sustainability and an awareness of community needs are business goals every bit as important as profit.
 
By collaborating with organizations like Houston Methodist, the Cameron School of Business offers numerous opportunities for students to enhance their learning outside of the classroom, including internships, a wide variety of leading-edge courses and an active mentoring network that applies lessons learned on the job to the students’ studies.
 
Houston Methodist is widely recognized for providing outpatient care. This reputation was earned through decades of consistent excellence and an enduring commitment to translational medicine and multidisciplinary research and education. 
 
Houston Methodist Research Institute is housed in a 440,000-square-foot building on the Houston Methodist campus, providing a streamlined approach to clinical translation.
  
“The pace of meaningful innovation has grown increasingly slow and increasingly             expensive. We plan to reverse that trend, effecting true change in the status quo,” said Mauro Ferrari, president and CEO of the Houston Methodist                
 
For more information about the UST Cameron School of Business and the MCTM                   degree program, please visit www.stthom.edu/mctm/ or call 713-525-2100.
 
 

A&M, Rice and UT form NSF hub

 

Rice University, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have received a three-year, $3.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation to become a regional innovation hub that translates academic research into useful technologies with commercial applications.
 
The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program designated three Texas tier-one research universities as the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node and charged them with empowering teams of university scientists and industry experts to develop life-changing products. The NSF supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, as well as research into science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
 
“Universities are the birthplace of new ideas and the epicenter of life-changing research,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.
 
“This new NSF I-Corps initiative is a paradigm shift that will facilitate a cultural change in universities and research centers designed to take re- searchers’ creativity and innovation to the commercial level,” he said. “It will be a driver for higher education and university research to become much more entrepreneurial.”
 
The I-Corps program encourages scientists and engineers to consider how their federally funded, fundamental research projects may become commercial ventures.
 
“The I-Corps program is, no doubt, one of the nation’s signature programs for promoting entrepreneurship and startup creation, and we are, of course, honored by the designation,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at UT Austin, which is the lead partner in the node. “Having an I-Corps node established in Texas represents a unique opportunity for researchers and institutions across the state and region to leverage existing research efforts into new business initiatives that will benefit society at large.”
 
The node offers potential partnerships with 33 institutions in the southwest region representing more than $600 million of NSF funding in fields such as bioscience, K-12 education, materials energy research, geosciences, engineering, psychology, oil and gas, water filtration and entrepreneurism.
 
“NSF looks for broader impacts, so involving schools in our system and region is a way to broaden and advance the I-Corps initiative,” said Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. “One of our far-reaching goals is to teach this process to other universities in the region.”
 
To participate, three-person teams comprising an NSF-funded researcher, a business mentor and a graduate student (known as the entrepreneurial lead) apply to the I-Corps Team program. If accepted, the team is entitled to a six-month, $50,000 NSF grant focused on exploring the commercialization of fundamental research ideas. The team will also attend official NSF I-Corps training at one of the national I-Corps nodes.
 
Nodes, such as the one being created with the three Texas universities, then facilitate an innovation-enhancing training program for the teams and offer support during the process of moving valuable ideas beyond the lab.
 
Training begins with a three-day introductory workshop at an I-Corps node and continues for about six weeks with weekly virtual team presentations and updates with national node faculty members. Training ends with an in-person, two-day session to evaluate lessons learned and next steps. UT Austin will host the region’s first national cohort in October. 
 
The NSF I-Corps curriculum is derived from Stanford University’s Lean LaunchPad course that teaches students effective startup methods and technology commercialization.
 
Other regional I-Corps nodes across the country are located in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley, the D.C./Maryland/Virginia region, southern California, New York City, Georgia and Michigan. The Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node will be the first node in the southwest/midcontinent region of the country.
 
The application for the node was a multi-university effort involving each of the three Texas schools. 
The NSF I-Corps program will build upon innovation programs already advancing breakthroughs at Rice University, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.
 

The Beauty of Transitions: Bringing business smarts and savvy to world of pageants

Running a beauty pageant is very intense. Just ask Cheryl Thompson-Draper, director of the Texas Cinderella Victoria County Pageant. 

Ticking off a list of responsibilities, she said, “The location. The décor. Sometimes you need to have a fundraiser before the pageant to make sure you have money to host it. If it’s part of a national system of pageants, you need to know what the rules are,” she said. 
 
When it comes to rules, Thompson-Draper says that no matter how well you play by them, life has a tendency to throw you curves. 
 
Like so much in life, her involvement just sort of happened, and true to her personality and style — which blends a can-do attitude with Steel-Magnolia-esque grit — she rolled with the punches.
 
As a teenager and after college, she worked with her father at his company, Warren Electric. Then, in serial entrepreneur fashion, she did other things.
 
“Oh, I opened and ran a hobby shop,” she recalled. “Then I sold it, and I went back to work with my dad. Then, I  got a divorce. And, later, when my dad had a stroke, I went back to Warren Electric and stayed there from 1992 until 2002 when we sold the business,” said Thompson-Draper. 
 
In 1998, she was asked to judge the Miss Rodeo Texas Pageant, and while it wasn’t anything she sought out, she thought it sounded like fun. She liked the idea that pageants inspired poise and confidence-building in the contestants, and she looked at it as a way to give back to her community. From that moment on, her ascension into the world of “glitter and tiaras” was swift. She went on to be part of the Miss Rodeo America National Advisory Council, and she was asked to take over the Miss Harris County Fair Pageant. As its director, she built it back up into a major event. Now, she’s doing the same thing with the Cinderella Victoria Pageant. 
 
She readily admits that if you’d asked her years ago if this is what she’d be doing in what she calls “semi-retirement,” she would have laughed. 
 
Turns out, though, she not only likes doing the detail-  driven work of pageants, she also believes they can help empower girls.
“Pageants teach you a lot,” she said, countering the opinion that a beauty pageant is just gowns and vapid smiles. “Our girls have to learn how to present themselves in an interview. Pageants teach them how to lose, and win, with grace. In schools and on teams today, lots of times, everyone gets a trophy. That doesn’t happen in a pageant, and you need to learn how to deal with that, because that happens in life, too.”
 
She should know. When she took over Warren Electric, even though she’d grown up around the company and worked with several of the employees in the past, some people felt she didn’t know what she was doing. So, she had to take the executors of her father’s estate to court to gain both ownership and control of the entity.
 
“I know some folks thought I didn’t have the backbone to run that company, and it took fighting for it every day for months to prove them wrong.”
 
Once in command,  she “did what all the guys did,” joining boards and taking part in civic activities. She was the first woman vice president of the National Association of Electrical Distributors and first woman ever to be named president of the Houston Electric League. Additionally, she was named a Port of Houston Authority Commissioner. And, with that visibility in the community came responsibility, something she tries to instill in what she calls, “her  queens.”
 
“You know, you just keep on keeping on,” she mused. “And you say to yourself, if this is my story, I have to believe in it.
“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent what you do with it,” she said with conviction. “For me, I do what I do with God’s help.
 
“Working on the beauty pageants has been fun, and it’s been an education,” she said. “I call all my girls queens, because they are. I’ve watched them grow and develop…and oh, my goodness, the weddings I’ve been invited to and the babies of my queens I've been blessed to see. That’s a great reward.”
 
Holly Beretto is a staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.

Center for Irish Studies brings heritage of Emerald Isle to Houston's UST campus

In one of the most culturally diverse cities in America, home to a strong Irish presence, something was missing. At least that is what Dr. Joseph McFadden, former president of the University of St. Thomas, believed. 

In 2002, when McFadden returned from a sabbatical in Ireland, Houston had an Irish Society, but it was really just an organization for socializing. There were no programs focused on studying and promoting the history, heritage and culture of Ireland and Northern Ireland. McFadden wanted to change that fact.
 
He conceived of an Irish Studies Program that bridged the Atlantic Ocean, serving as a focal point for the study of Irish history, literature, politics, law, language, music, art, drama, culture and society — not just for the university, but for the community, as well.
Irish Studies courses were already being taught in the history, political science, theology and English departments. The new Irish Studies Center, he envisioned, would enhance the university’s academic mission by concentrating on a broad and coherent study of Ireland and Northern Ireland within an integrating framework of many academic departments and community organizations.
 
On January 23, 2003, the Center for Irish Studies opened on the University of St. Thomas campus. A center of excellence, it is still the only Irish Studies academic and cultural program in the Southwest, and it is listed as one of the top 10 Irish Studies Programs in the country by IrishCentral.com.
 
“It was an area of interest that was not covered. There was a need, and it was filled beautifully,” said Michele Malloy, current chair of the university’s board of directors. Malloy was a new board member when McFadden came to the board with the idea for the center, and she became a founding director of the center’s advisory board. 
 
The center, since renamed the William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies in honor of a man who played a significant role in the Northern Ireland peace process, represents students enrolled in the interdisciplinary Irish Studies minor, the graduate concentration in the Master’s of Liberal Arts’ programs, and others interested in Irish topics. The center also serves the community through its cultural outreach series of lectures and events.
 
Tapping into its roots
Many of the priests and  bishops with The Congregation of St. Basil, which founded the university in 1947, were Irish or of Irish  descent. So were many of the university’s early presidents, making the center, with a mission to preserve and promote Irish heritage and culture, a natural fit at the university, said Lori Gallagher, the center’s director. 
 
“Learning about Irish culture – including Northern Ireland’s struggles for peace – enriches students’ lives. Whether you go into business or law or communications — whatever you do — everything you learn is going to help you be a better-educated person.
 
“When you experience a range of cultures, history and literature, you learn to read more thoughtfully, analyze better, write and communicate well and be a more well-rounded person. The whole point is to help you learn how to think, to make you a better student and a better person,” Gallagher said.
 
That is why the university’s interdisciplinary track for the Irish Studies minor and graduate concentration is special, she said. Students take courses from different areas of study, so they gain a broad understanding of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
 
Walking through history
Part of the center’s mission is to promote peace and reconciliation. Northern Ireland is a model for conflict resolution.
 
Since 2007, the university has offered a study abroad course every other year, with students traveling to Ireland and Northern Ireland for three to four weeks. They meet with government officials at all levels, grass-root workers striving to keep the peace and religious leaders of all faiths in Northern Ireland, visit museums and Trinity College, (where Gallagher received her postgraduate degree in Irish literature), view the Book of Kells, visit  archeology sites and more. The center provides qualified students with generous scholarships to facilitate their study abroad experience.  
 
The Irish government also helps fund the language program and, each year, a  third-year student is invited from Northern Ireland to study  business at the University of St. Thomas on a full-tuition scholarship. 
 
“Those exchange students take what they learn from living in this country, where                 people from different backgrounds work together, and go back to Northern Ireland and try to spread what they have learned to improve the peace, life and economy there,”         Gallagher said.
 
Resource for the community
Many people are naturally attracted to Ireland, its history, its literature and its culture, Gallagher pointed out. Each year, 75 to 100 students take the courses in the Irish Studies program. A visiting professor from Ireland teaches four Irish language courses and other Irish literature and mythology courses that he develops. 
 
But the center is not just about enrolled students. Each year, the center hosts nine to 12 events and lectures, open to the public. Events in 2014 iinclude a lecture on charitable acts of strangers during the Irish famine that began in 1845, a performance of traditional Irish music, and Legends of the Celtic Harp.
 
“Those events give people in the community a chance to reconnect with the heritage of the area and with Northern Ireland and Ireland,” Gallagher said. “Members of the community can also audit classes.” 
 
Gallagher left a career as a trial and appellate lawyer to build the center. 
 
“I really enjoyed practicing law, but I had reached the point where I had accomplished everything I wanted to do in that career,” she said. 
 
When she left law, she was chair of the civil appellate  section and a partner at Andrews Kurth LLP. 
 
Before going into law, she had been interested in teaching, so she reached out to the University of St. Thomas to see if it needed help teaching Irish Studies. At the time, the university was conceiving the center. When they looked for a director, she fit the bill and came in with an open mind for a center that she could build from scratch. 
 
“The most wonderful human assets the center has are Lori and Dr. McFadden,”  Malloy said. “Lori is just unbelievable. She’s indefatigable — a huge reason it’s so successful.”
 
Gallagher hopes to make the William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies stronger and add a few permanent positions in the coming years. She would like to raise the money to fund the positions of a fully endowed chair of Irish Studies, director of Irish Studies, Irish language professor and administrative assistant. 
 
The center is in the midst of a campaign now, with hopes of raising $5 million by 2016.
 
Malloy helped with that fund-raising effort, giving a  $750,000 gift to the center in 2011 in tribute to her father, Gene Malloy, who had been a strong supporter of the University of St. Thomas. 
 
Dave Schafer is a staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.
 
 

Foodie turns love of creating nutritious snacks into thriving regional business

Four years ago, Lisa Pounds sat down at her kitchen table and created healthy recipes that quickly grew into a thriving regional business. And, by the end of 2014, her nutritious and tasty food products will be distributed nationally.

In the beginning, Pounds was trying to create all-natural and delicious food for her young daughter. Chloe’s pre-school served processed chicken nuggets and other fast food shot full of chemicals. Pounds knew that the artificial ingredients in mainstream food maim the body, causing obesity, cancer, diabetes and more.
 
Pounds, a foodie who worked as a commercial insurance broker, began experimenting with all-natural ingredients, forgoing refined sugars and preservatives and using gluten-free or whole grains in her recipes. Her first dish was macaroni and cheese with pureed butternut squash, and she made chicken nuggets from hormone-free ground chicken combined with chickpeas and brown rice crispies. She hired a dietitian and chef to help prepare the meals, and a business idea was born – one that married her business background with her love of food.
 
That idea would eventually become Green Plate Foods, which provides healthy, clean, affordable and convenient foods with ingredients that people can actually pronounce. Oh, yeah, and that are actually tasty.
 
“Most people have a very bad perception of healthy food. They think it tastes like cardboard,” Pounds said. “It doesn’t have to be. And, I love challenging and changing people’s perceptions.”
 
Americans eat more than two  billion cookies a year. Green Plate Foods also serves up zucchini chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and applesauce, and almond butter cookies, sweet potato and flaxseed cookies, not to mention a line of gluten-free muffins and raw fruit snacks. 
 
“We’re not trying to take over every cookie in America,” she said. “We’re trying to give people a healthy option.”
 
Feeding the little ones
Green Plate Foods began as Green Plate Kids LLC in January 2010, with Pounds selling healthy, nutrient-rich lunches to local private schools that didn’t have a kitchen. The lunches offered a variety of options from from all natural “Lunch Kits” complete with hormone-free meats and whole-grain bread, fresh-cut fruit and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies to veggies, hormone-free rice bowels and mac and cheese blended with pureed squash. 
 
She quit her job and within a year, the business was delivering more than 1,000 lunches a week to 13 private schools. By then, Pounds and her staff of three were operating out of a 3,000-square-foot kitchen near the U.S. 59 and Interstate 610 interchange, sharing an office complex with a bridal shop.
 
“We had satisfied schools, parents and children and new referrals right and left,” Pounds said. 
 
But the task of making everything from scratch and delivering turned out to be too much.
 
“We realized we were horrible at distribution, so we decided we needed to make it a scalable business,” said Pounds.
 
So, in early 2013, Green Plate Kids let its clients go and redirected its energy to becoming a food manufacturer with unlimited scalability. Pounds rechristened the company Green Plate Kitchen and focused on commercializing its most popular products.
 
Into the big leagues
Pounds regrew her business, keeping many of its direct accounts, like Texas Children’s Hospital, and continued its home-delivery service. She already had the recipes of popular snacks like the two-bite Nubblers.
 
She sought advice from advisors and business experts and listened to clients. She knew people are more aware now of what they’re putting into their body, and she believed there was a market – a need, really – for Green Plate Kitchen, which in October 2013 started operating under the name Green Plate Foods.
 
And, she made a plan. She focused on sales, product development and marketing and aligned the company with best-in-class manufacturers, distributors and brokers. 
 
“Having a map to where you want to go is essential,” she said. “You can’t drive to New York without a map. It’s the same in business.”
 
Following the map, she admits, hasn’t always been easy. She’s had to learn to say no to local events, sponsorships and catering opportunities that would have gotten the Green Plate name out there, instead forcing herself to focus on her core market. 
 
Quickly, its products, which also include gluten-free almond butter and jelly muffins, were in H-E-B, Memorial  Hermann Hospital, Freshii, My Fit Foods and Whole Foods.
 
The company grew to 12 employees. Chloe, a picky eater, is the unpaid Chief Tasting Officer.
 
Checking her ego was essential, she said. She brought in smart people who complement her strengths and weaknesses. A side effect was that she didn’t feel alone anymore, didn’t feel like the whole business was on her shoulders.
 
And, she listened to those people. “The most important thing is the ability to change,” she said. 
 
That map included plans to expand statewide in early 2014 and expand into more healthcare, academic and hospitality venues throughout the southeast region by the end of 2014. 
 
In January, Whole Foods began offering Green Plate Foods Nubblers dried fruit snacks in 29 of its stores in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.
 
The company maintains a strong presence in the Houston market, and that won’t change.
 
Pounds said. “It’s important to maintain a strong connection to the local community.”
 
All in a day’s work
Pounds doesn’t do the serving at her kitchen table anymore, but that table is still at the center of the action; it’s in the conference room at the office. 
 
In fact, Pounds spends little time in the kitchen these days. Most of the production is done by co-manufactures Pounds has personally selected to maintain the quality she demands.
 
She focuses on building the business and research and development. She comes up with concepts and then works with the on-staff chef to create the new product, which is then taste tested by staff and in a customer location. She meets with clients and speaks at health fairs, women’s groups, mom’s clubs, on television, women’s health symposium and, wherever she can, advocates the virtues of healthy eating. She also maintains a healthy-eating blog.
 
“You can’t be afraid, can’t be shy about marketing your business, she said. “You don’t accomplish anything by sitting  behind a desk. The key is getting our name out there. Otherwise, no one is buying.”
 
“When we’re able to sample and demo, our products sell like crazy,” she said. “I knew we’d be successful. The question was, how successful.”
 
Dave Schafer is a staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.
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