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Civic Engagement Boot Camp

The Civic Engagement Boot Camp is an interactive session designed to teach the skills necessary to create positive change. The workshop will develop and enhance the abilities required to lead effectively within any environment.

The workshop focuses on various aspects of civic leadership, covering the following topics:

  • Building individual capacity
  • Understanding governmental structures and processes
  • Developing representation on local government and nonprofit committees and boards, and neighborhood organizations
  • Building multi-sector (private, public and nonprofit) collaborations
  • Using new and traditional media
  • Broadening the civic participation of young people
  • Acknowledging multiple perspectives and articulating a position

The boot camp features speakers with expertise and success in public, private and nonprofit leadership positions. While group exercises and discussions may sometimes pull you outside your comfort zone, the outcome is strengthened civic responsibility and the tools to make a difference in your community.

2023 Civic Engagement Boot Camp


Date: Friday, September 15, 2023
Location: Bates Law Building | The Heritage Room (Second Floor, Room 201)
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

This event has reached full capacity and registration is now closed.

Should you wish to join the waitlist or want to receive future updates on similar events, please email Jessica Ruland O'Connor at

Election season is picking up for local candidates on the ballot in November. University of Houston students interested in positive change in their community can register for the 2023 Civic Engagement Boot Camp hosted by the Hobby School on Friday, Sept. 15, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in the Heritage Room at the Bates Law building.

The workshop and speakers will focus on voter registration and education, how to get involved in local government and be a civic leader. Topics will include voter outreach initiatives, the power of the youth vote, voter resources, the upcoming City of Houston election and how the region’s demographics impact voter turnout and election outcomes. Attendees will also learn about National Voter Registration Day and other important election dates.

Lunch will be provided for registered attendees. Contact the Hobby School’s Jessica Ruland O’Connor at with any questions.


10 a.m., Welcome and Introductions
Jessica Ruland O'Connor, MPP, Program Director, Internships Programs, Hobby School of Public Affairs

10:10 a.m., History of Houston City Government
Julia Ossemi-Seied, Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications, Houston City Council Member Sallie Alcorn

11 a.m., Voter Outreach Programs & Initiatives 
Laila Khalili, Director of Capacity Building, Houston in Action
Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, Director of Policy, Houston in Action

12 p.m., Lunch

1 p.m., Civic Engagement Opportunities & Resources
Annie Johnson Benifield, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Lone Star College-Tomball

2 p.m., History of Voting in Harris County
Hector DeLeon, Senior Advisor of Government Affairs, Harris County Clerk’s Office

3 p.m., Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrar Training


Jessica Ruland O'Connor, MPP
Jessica Ruland is the director of internship programs at the Hobby School and works with alumni and community partners. She has a Master of Public Policy from the Hobby School at the University of Houston and is a former Leland Fellow-Washington, D.C. and Civic Houston Intern. Previously, Ruland worked in the public policy division at the Greater Houston Partnership.

Julia Ossemi-Seied
Julia Ossemi-Seied serves as the deputy chief of staff and communications director for Houston City Council Member Sallie Alcorn. Beyond her communications work, Ossemi-Seied focuses on transportation policy at the local and regional levels. She previously served as the communications director for former Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Davis, where she was heavily involved in educational events and initiatives. Ossemi-Seied holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Houston and is a former Civic Houston Internship Program participant.

Laila Khalili
Laila Khalili specializes in collaborative partnerships. As director of capacity building at Houston in Action, she facilitates and builds relationships with the grassroots leaders, representatives of academic and research institutions, philanthropic partners and community-based organizations that make up Houston in Action. Throughout her career, Khalili has worked to advance equity through education, advocacy and community organizing. The East Texas native received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Houston.

Juan Cardoza-Oquendo, MPA
Juan Cardoza-Oquendo is the director of policy at Houston in Action. Before HIA, Cardoza-Oquendo worked as a policy and community engagement coordinator with the office of Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. His policy and advocacy experience includes founding the Dallas office of the Workers Defense Project and Faith in Texas, an organization that organizes faith communities in North Texas. The Houston resident has focused on integrating policy advocacy with grassroots organizing throughout his career. Cardoza-Oquendo has a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Annie Johnson Benifield, Ph.D.
Annie Johnson Benifield is the former president of the League of Women Voters of Houston, the first Black woman to lead the nonpartisan organization for voter education and civic representation. Benifield taught government for more than 30 years in higher education. She has earned numerous awards, including the 2023 Yellow Rose of Texas Award for exceptional community service, one of the highest awards bestowed to women by the Texas Governor. She holds several board and leadership positions in her efforts to promote equity, civic representation and leadership in local communities and organizations.

Hector DeLeon
Hector DeLeon is the senior advisor for government affairs and public engagement for the Harris County Clerk’s Office, working with the office’s stakeholders. He is a contributing columnist for La Política Online and the originator of The Hector DeLeon Perspective, a private, think-tank-style web journal charting the electoral, political and cultural trends of American Latinos. His career, including 16 years at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, has focused on naturalization, voter registration and mobilization, civic engagement and Latino electoral empowerment.