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michael mendoza

Michael Mendoza – Sustainability Manager

Michael joined the Office of Sustainability team as the sustainability manager in November 2017.

He has a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Houston and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Florida. He worked for seven years in the restaurant industry in Florida before moving to Houston in 2014.

After spending a year as a middle school teacher in Houston, he decided to pursue a career in higher education administration. While pursuing his master’s degree in higher education at UH, he worked as a graduate assistant for facilities and operations at the UH Student Centers, where he helped manage the Student Centers’ sustainability programs.

“They were just starting a sustainability program, and I became the champion for that program,” he said. “It went really well and got me interested in sustainability. We put recycling bins all around the Student Center, created a lunch and learn for sustainability topics, brought in an eco-artist to speak about using recycled magazines to create artwork, and partnered with a master’s in graphic design class to install a sustainable art exhibit.”

The Office of Sustainability has been the driving force behind many important achievements in sustainability and conservation. As sustainability manager, Michael hopes to not only continue that success but also take it to the next level.

“We’ve done a really great job of educating the campus community of sustainability practices,” he said. “Adopting thoughtful behaviors and going green is something relevant and important to every individual. I hope this office can implement action that will truly elevate UH as a sustainable campus.”

Contact Michael:
832.842.9051 (Office)


Melissa Halstead – Sustainability Coordinator

In June 2016, Melissa joined the University of Houston Office of Sustainability where she serves as the Sustainability Coordinator. As a native Houstonian, Melissa is passionate about creating impactful sustainability initiatives that benefit both the University of Houston and the community.  Melissa’s role includes developing and implementing sustainability plans; promoting community awareness through events; leading outreach and communication initiatives; and acting as a liaison between the University, the Greater Houston community and the Office of Sustainability.

Melissa holds a B.S. in Nutrition Science from The University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Liberal Arts in Sustainability and Environmental Management from Harvard University Extension School, and completed a graduate internship in Dietetics from the University of Maryland at College Park. Melissa's is also a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a graduate certificate in Green Building and Community Sustainability. Melissa serves on the executive committee of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition dietetic practice group within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is an active committee member for the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability. Melissa enjoys gardening, hiking, traveling, exploring new cultures and spending time with her family.

“Sustainability is a lifestyle that incorporates an understanding that human survival is dependent on everything – the interconnectedness between our environment, our society, and our economy. The Office of Sustainability is a catalyst for conversations that help cultivate awareness enabling our future leaders to thrive throughout the Houston community.”

Contact Melissa:
832.842.9051 (Office)

Student sustainability team

At the heart of the office, the student sustainability team offers a unique and essential perspective to the sustainability conversation at the university and represents a diverse set of academic backgrounds.

RicardoRicardo Useche – Office and Team Lead   

Degree: Bachelor of Science Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Math

What are some of your hobbies? 
I like to buy broken electronics and fix them. This usually leads to getting new tech for very cheap. Sometimes I’m not actually able to fix them which means I scrap them for parts and hopefully learn something along the way. Besides that, cycling and fishing have become really big things in my life recently.

What’s your favorite quote or saying? 
“If there were no thunder, men would have little fear of lightning.”
― Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

What’s your dream job?
To be part of a team developing a fully-integrated community that maximizes the utilization of resources, both renewable or not. In a sense, to be an efficiency engineer in a sustainable living project.

What does sustainability mean to you?
To me, sustainability is all about improving how you utilize your resources and better educating those who come after you on how to continue proper utilization of resources. 


Diego Rivera – Outreach Assistant   diegorivera

Degree: Pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography/digital media.

What are some of your hobbies?
Photography, filming, sketching with pen or charcoal, painting, reading, writing, exploring.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?
"All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you." – Joseph Campbell

What’s your dream job?
My dream job would be traveling the world as a photographer.

What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability means being able to engage in a symbiotic relationship with the world around you.


TrueTrue Furrh – Outreach Assistant

Degree: Environmental Sciences and Civil Engineering

What are some of your hobbies?
Whitewater kayaking, hiking, backpacking, paddleboarding and watching UH Cougar Football!

What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.
Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”-David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

What’s your dream job?
My dream job is a full-time research position at a major university, ideally in or tangential to sustainability.

What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is moving forward  holistically  in a manner that benefits those who come after us. Resources, land, and finances must be handled responsibly so that we have something to pass on.


EmilyEmily Blanco – Outreach Assistant    

Degree: Pursuing a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in History Minor: Philosophy       

What are some of your hobbies?
I like to spend my free time reading business and law journals, keeping up with the media, and blogging. I also enjoy shopping. 

What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“I feel small; but so are stars from a distance” – Asterismos 

What’s your dream job?
My dream job would be being partner at a Law firm representing large scale fashion companies combing my passion for law and the entertainment world or a princess. 

What does sustainability mean to you?
Making the most of our environment without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 


SydSyd Gonzalez– Garden Assistant  

Degree: Double majoring in anthropology and classical studies

What are some of your hobbies?
My hobbies include sleeping or doing something creative like embroidery or writing. Sleep is something I look forward to every day, and looking back I don’t understand why I hated napping as a kid. As for being creative, embroidery is something mindless I can do while watching a show or movie, on the other handwriting is something that takes my complete focus and patience.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“I know one thing; that I know nothing.” – Socrates

What’s your dream job?
My dream job would be a forensic anthropologist working for a governmental agency. I would like to have the ability to help the disenfranchised.  

What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability to me means the ability to preserve the planet and its occupants, both physically and culturally, in a way that does not do any harm or waste any resources. 


Alex Rogers – Garden Assistant  margaritareza

Degree: Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and Nursing

What are some of your hobbies?
I love to paint; lately gouache is my favorite medium, but I haven't mastered it. I also enjoy creating art in other mediums, like pen/ink, watercolor and pastel. My favorite thing to do is take pictures while exploring new places. I have only been in Houston since July but still have not run out of places to discover. I also enjoy distance running, riding bikes and of course, gardening.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?
If the ocean can calm itself down, so can you.” – Unknown

What’s your dream job?
I would love to one day live in India near the Southern Himalayas and own an orchid nursery. Orchids are my favorite plant species to garden, and I would love to grow them professionally. If this were to ever pan out, I would also teach art classes to children in a studio behind my orchid nursery.

What does sustainability mean to you?
To me, sustainability is more about maintaining our current level of environmental health instead of increasing the health. I feel as though environmental damage is largely exponential, so by finding a place we can secure our resources is the real goal. Sustainability is about working to preserve what we have left so that future generations can rely on the resources we were given, and also about finding new ways to implement those resources in order to conserve more. Sustainability to me doesn't mean everyone has to have a compost pile and a garden, it means the people without the time to do so buy their vegetables from the farmer’s market in order to support those who do. Sustainability takes time and effort, but even those without the luxury to be actively involved can still show support to sustainability.

Auxiliary Services Marketing and Communications Team – Sustainability Support Staff

  • Maria Honey, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, Office of Administration
  • Jessica Wyble, Communications Manager
  • Richard Zagrzecki, Communications Coordinator
  • Mallory Doeckel, Communications Coordinator
  • Loraine Crutchfield, Marketing Coordinator