Prof receives award for 45 years at UHCL, recalls 'early days'
In 1974, a very small regional university in the Clear Lake area opened its doors. It was named University of Houston at Clear Lake City, and it had very few students and professors. The campus consisted of just one building and its future in the community was somewhat uncertain.
Two years later, Suzanne Brown, then teaching math education at Alvin Community College, reached out to an education professor at the new university and asked him to speak to her students about transferring when they completed their courses at ACC.
"That was Dr. Frank Matthews, and that invitation I made to him was the connection that brought me to the university when they were looking for a math education professor," said Brown, who just received her service award from University of Houston-Clear Lake for 45 years' service.
She is currently among the longest-serving faculty members at the university, which is approaching its 50th year of operation. She added that she and her husband were both employed at ACC when she came over to UH-Clear Lake. She's now department chair and associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction.
"We stayed because we were just happy here," she said.
"Back in the early days, we had interdisciplinary faculty suites, so I was in an office with professors who were not all in the College of Education," Brown said. "We interacted with faculty outside our own content, and it was like that for a number of years. Then they broke us into departments and we were moved into suites with colleagues from our own college."
She remembered that when she first began her career, the student population was older. "A lot of students were in their mid-30s and they were very serious students," she said. "There were only about 30 universities in the country that were like ours, only teaching upperclassmen and graduate students. All the faculty had come from 'typical' institutions, and not very many of the faculty were local hires- we were brought in from other places."
Alfred R. Neumann, UHCL's first president, was a "Renaissance man," Brown recalled. "He made it a point to have a lot of social activities so that everyone would get to know each other. And we were all expected to go out and market the university, so I gave presentations about math anxiety in the local school districts."
Brown said she was proud to see the College of Education receive two national awards for its undergraduate preparation program for teachers. "We received an Association of Teacher Educators Award, and the Christa McAuliffe Award," she said. "Our students have great opportunities and we as professors are very involved with what they're doing."
Her relationships with her students, she said, are incomparable. "I really like that aspect of our university," she said. "We say we are student centered. We really are."
She added that after 45 years, she continues to look forward to each day with her students. "This is my second tenure as department chair in Curriculum and Instruction," she said. "I have two more years, and then I'll make some decisions about my future. Right now, I'm considering going back to faculty after being department head. I still want to be with my students and I would like to stay close and watch my grandchild grow up."
She said watching the university grow from something so small to its current status with over 9,000 students and eight buildings has been a pleasure. "We started with faculty who were trying to understand what to do in this new environment, and we were trying to get the community to understand what University of Houston at Clear Lake City was," she said. "It's night and day from where we started. It's been amazing to see our reach in the community now."
For more information about UHCL's Teacher Education program, go online.