Commencement speaker says he transferred to UHCL and 'got what he came for'
Oscar Lazaro had gone to college, then took time off and worked for four years in the food and beverage industry. But when the pandemic struck, he re-evaluated his job and his life and decided it was time to do something else—starting with completing his bachelor’s degree.
He transferred to University of Houston-Clear Lake from University of Denver, found assistance navigating the process from helpful transfer advisors, and as a first-generation college student, felt supported and represented.
“I had worked four years in fine dining and realized that was not what I wanted to do,” he said. “I found UH-Clear Lake was really accommodating and since I was coming from an out-of-state, private institution, I had transfer credit issues and I needed a lot of guidance.”
He began pursuing a degree in environmental science, then made a slight change in plan. “I wanted to study something that involved both science and business, so I changed to environmental management,” he said. “It seems like a good, practical business-oriented degree that would help me work with small businesses to make positive change. I don’t want to be in a lab, I want to be with people.”
Now as a graduate of the class of December 2022 and a commencement speaker, Lazaro reflects on his time at UHCL and the decisions that brought him here.
“As a first-generation college student, having the face-to-face interaction helped me because I needed that personal guidance and I got that here,” he said. “On a personal level, I feel this campus has been more in line with me. I feel represented here; my previous institution was not as diverse as it is here. That affected me in a positive way.”
He added that he appreciated his professors for seeing his potential and teaching him more than just what was in the textbooks.
“They talked to me about how to network in my industry and they helped me understand my skill set is transferable,” he said. “That helped me see the opportunities in the job market. I got so much one-on-one mentorship, which is a really important thing. I have been a student on more than one campus, and I know that’s hard to find. I have worked with faculty that has invested in me as an individual.”
To students coming in to UHCL, Lazaro recommends joining student organizations. Becoming president of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos, Hispanics and Native Americans in STEM gave him a diverse group of friends and a sense of solidarity.
“I found a lot of people who were trying to process college, trying to navigate academic life, and having other people to relate to helped me feel less alone,” he said. “I also advise them to work on building relationships with their peers and with faculty. Actively focusing on relationships and communication really helps—just talk to everyone, and make sure to listen.”
He said he had worked consistently throughout his time at the university. “I work currently for an environmental nonprofit agency, and I’m also interning with Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership,” he said. “I heard about all these opportunities from going to my classes. All these experiences came up in job interviews, and I know that if I didn’t come to this university, I wouldn’t have known those organizations existed. You learn a lot about opportunities outside the university by coming to the university.”
Lazaro said he will begin working with S&P Global Commodity Insights Commercial Graduate Program when he graduates.
“It’s an 18-month rotational placement,” he explained. “They will put me through the program and then place me wherever they need me. Commodity Insights is their product line for commodity market analysis.”
He said this is the job he had hoped for upon graduating. “This is a commercial sales-oriented role in renewable energy and energy transition,” he said. “I want to make positive change and they have access to global markets.”
Coming to UHCL, he said, was a good decision. “I got what I wanted,” he said. “Now, as commencement speaker, I’ll have the chance to take a moment to acknowledge my family’s support and celebrate our collective efforts, honor everyone else’s family, and acknowledge the importance of support systems in achieving our goals.”
For more information about UHCL's Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management, go online.