Enhancing UH's Reputation a Goal for Regent Mosbacher

March 6, 2008

This is the fourth in a series of Q&A interviews with the four new UH System Regents. The other interviews featured Nelda Blair, Carroll Robertson Ray and Jacob Monty.

UHS Mica MosbacherMica Mosbacher is a Houston-based fundraiser, philanthropist and former journalist. She is a board member of Strake Jesuit Preparatory School and American Hospital of Paris and serves as a trustee of Houston Ballet. Additionally, she has been active in fundraising for Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and Houston Area Women’s Center, as well as MD Anderson Cancer Center. Mosbacher also serves on the national council of Best Friends, Best Men. Currently, she is spearheading an effort to build a public art piece in Houston on tolerance. She attended Hollins University and The University of Texas at Austin. Mosbacher, whose term on the UH System Board of Regents expires Aug. 31, 2013, replaced Raul Gonzalez.

Q What is your opinion of the state of higher education in America today? What’s working, what’s not ...?

A One of the greatest strengths in America is our diversity—our so-called melting pot of many immigrants and cultures. I was interested to read in USA Today that last year more women earned degrees than men. This is a significant shift from the early 1950s. More students from all races and backgrounds are attending college than ever before. The opportunity to earn a degree from a college or university is the strength of our country. This increasing diversity in our colleges and universities strengthens our democracy. Our country’s diversity enhances global competiveness. Diversity fosters respect and helps build communities, where individuals are able to compete through their contributions to society.

In Houston, we have broad ethnic diversity. In our city, our society is open, and there is room for any individual to join the leadership in our community through his or her efforts, work ethic and ambition. Our country’s more than 3,000 universities and colleges are as diverse as our culture. This diversity is one of the strengths in our college system. UH is one of the most diverse research universities in the world. There is an opportunity at UH to learn from others who are different from ourselves. We have a chance to enhance our education when we listen to those who hold different beliefs and come from different social environments. Education within the diverse setting of the city of Houston is part of UH System’s strength. Diversity within UH classes, as well as its environment, prepares students to make major contributions in an increasingly complex and competitive global society. UH reaches out and is working hard to maintain a diverse learning environment. Hugh Roy Cullen’s vision was that this university, started during the Depression, be one for working men and women. He did not want the school to be only for those with upper-income families. UH has achieved this goal.

However, there are challenges. To most people who immigrate to America, there is an expectation to improve their lives. They come, partly, because of the opportunity for a higher education. Our country is proud to be the land of opportunity. Enrollment is increasing each year at a fast rate. As costs of higher education and tuition continue to soar, the main challenge is to make education affordable to lower-income families. While financial aid is available, the number of students graduating with debt is increasing at a rapid rate as well. Though American colleges and universities are thought to be the best in the world, there is a struggle to keep up with worldwide competitiveness. The UH System does a good job providing financial aid to a large percentage of its more than 57,000 students.

Q For the uninformed, how would you describe what it is a UH System Regent does?

A The diversity and synergy of the UH System is reflected in the backgrounds of its regents as well. I am one of three female regents recently appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. The Board of Regents is the governing board and has several fiduciary and mandated responsibilities as outlined by the Texas Education Code. We, as regents, will seek to nurture UH and help it achieve its full potential and mission. Among the responsibilities of regents is to appoint the president and chancellor of the UH System. Last year, the board selected our chancellor and president Renu Khator. I believe she will lead UH into an exciting new decade. She has accomplished more in her first six weeks at the university than some people accomplish in a lifetime. Her leadership style and initiative to reach out beyond the system and connect with Houstonians will help to greatly enhance the stature of the university and bring new opportunities.

Q You studied communications at The University of Texas at Austin. How did you choose that major and that school?

A I began my college career at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., in 1971. Hollins offered a short term between the fall and spring semesters. I was accepted as an intern news reporter at KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Houston. At the time, there were no female reporters on the staff of Channel 2. Legendary news veteran Ray Miller gave me the confidence to cover some local news events, and I had the opportunity to work on camera. His belief in me encouraged me to develop my writing skills. As Hollins had no communications department, I transferred to the University of Texas. There, I worked at The Daily Texan and, later, for the Senate Education Committee. My father was concerned that I would not be able to be self-supporting as a journalist, but I embarked successfully on a career in communications within the oil and gas industry and later worked as a feature writer and contributing editor for statewide and local publications.

Q What’s your favorite place (or two) on the UH campus?

A One of my favorite places on campus is the A.D. Bruce Religion Center with its two beautiful chapels in a lovely garden setting. I am also a sports fan, and Robertson Stadium during football games is one of the most exciting and dynamic spots on campus. Go Cougars!

Q Do you know the words to the UH “Fight Song”?

A I am a Texas Ex and am just learning the proper hand signal. That is a considerable adjustment. I know to make sure only the third finger is bent. A student told me the day after the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade that I would get a finger broken if I used the Hook ’em Horns sign. I like to say I didn’t attend UH, but I got here as fast as I could. I am proud to be an honorary Cougar. As for the fight song, I am working on committing it to memory. Cougars fight for U of H ...

Q Little known fact—one of our former regents (Michael Cemo) played drums in a popular rock band in the 1960s. Is there anything that surprising in your background?

A I am a victim of an assault during my childhood, and I have worked for several years as an advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault programs in Texas. During the last legislative session, I was honored to work with Houston freshman representative Ellen Cohen, who introduced a bill to fund sexual assault programs. Gov. Perry signed the bill into law. The legislation provides more than $25 million over two years to fund aspects of sexual assault programs, including the Texas Association of Sexual Assault’s ‘Speak Up Speak Out’ public service ads.

On a lighter note, I am also a champion horsewoman for equitation and three-gaited horses and still ride for pleasure.

Q You’ve worked as a print journalist and completed an internship at one of the local TV stations. What's your view on media today—getting better, getting worse, or just changing ....?

A My view of the media is that many news stations have given in to mounting pressure to maintain ratings and provide more entertainment rather than straight news. When I studied journalism, a professor emphasized the importance of ethics and demonstrating no bias in news reporting. Our job as reporters, he said, “was to state the facts without usage of adjectives that might color the meaning or interpretation of an event.” Sadly, some news reporting seems to be more aligned with editorial pieces and commentary instead of "just the facts, and nothing but the facts."

Q If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about UH (or the UH System) tomorrow, what would it be?

A That UH would have Tier-One status.

Q What’s the biggest misperception the public has about UH?

A I think the UH System has been underestimated and perhaps has not had the international recognition that it so richly deserves. Dr. Khator and her leadership will be working hard to enhance its status as a top university.

Q What would you like to have accomplished by the end of your term as a regent?

A I am deeply honored to serve as your regent. As I toured the campus recently, I came away feeling that the campus is a very special place. I have met already some incredibly accomplished faculty members and students. I look forward to the next six years, as I feel all of you will greatly enrich my life with your talents and knowledge. I will do the best job that I can to represent your university and to work with my fellow regents to accomplish our President’s 100 Days plan and the UH System goals. I know that my life will be enriched by this experience, and I am lucky to have the privilege to attend your university for six years.University of Houston standard.