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UHV assistant provost, alumna named to 40 Under 40 list

A University of Houston-Victoria administrator and an alumna have both been named to the Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list out of hundreds of nominations of business professionals and community leaders from the Houston area, the publication recently announced.

Karla DeCuir, UHV assistant provost for distance education, and Kristen Sayegh, a Whitley Penn tax partner, were both recognized this month in a special section of the weekly edition of the journal. The Houston Business Journal received hundreds of nominations and applications for the highly competitive 40 Under 40 awards, according to a news release from the publication.

Karla DeCuir

“It is always a great day when our staff and alumni are not only recognized for their hard work but for the impact they have in their fields and communities,” UHV President Bob Glenn said. “We are proud of both Karla and Kristen, and we know that this is not the last time we will hear about their accomplishments and achievements as they continue to make their mark in the Houston area.”

According to the journal, nominees had to reside in the 10-county Houston area and be under 40 years of age as of Dec. 31, 2021. The editorial team then reviewed applications and evaluated nominees on leadership, overcoming challenges and community involvement.

DeCuir joined UHV in 2016 and previously served as the university’s senior director of enrollment management and external affairs until this spring. In her new role, she focuses on developing the teaching center for online learning at UHV Katy and how UHV can better serve the Greater Houston area regarding recruitment efforts and partnership agreements with colleges, corporations and school districts. Those partnerships include the Katy Independent School District, Houston Community College, Lone Star College, Wharton County Junior College, Blinn College and Geico. In addition to its education partnerships, the university has community partnerships with the Katy Area Economic Development Council, the Katy Fulshear Area Chamber of Commerce, the Houston West Chamber of Commerce and the West Houston Association.

Kristen Sayegh

DeCuir has more than 15 years of professional experience in enrollment management and partnership development in higher education. In 2021, she was recognized as a National Latino Leader during the sixth annual National Latino Leadership Conference and received the “Smashing the Glass Ceiling” award from UHV. She is the president of the UHV Latino Faculty and Staff Association and serves as the chair of the UHV Diversity & Inclusion committee and the UHV Katy Instructional Site Strategic Committee. She is also a member of various volunteer organizations, including the Texas Diversity Council – Gulf Coast Chapter, the Cy-Fair Chamber of Commerce, the Katy Economic Development Council, and the West Houston Associate Education and Workforce Committee. In 2020, she earned an executive Doctor of Education in professional leadership with an emphasis in special populations from the University of Houston.

She thanks her mentors who have helped her develop professionally, including Jose Cantu, UHV vice president for enrollment management; Ron Salazar, a UHV professor of management; Laura Murillo of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Richard Phillips, associate vice chancellor of community engagement at the University of Houston.

“I was surprised and felt honored when I learned about my nomination, and I am humbled to be on the list,” DeCuir said. “I appreciate the opportunity to mentor others, and I am thankful for the guidance and recommendation letters from mentors. It is an amazing feeling to be recognized from millions of people in the Houston area.”

Bob Glenn

Sayegh joined Whitley Penn in 2012 and was named a partner of the firm at the beginning of this year. Her tax practice is centered on working with families, entrepreneurs, closely held businesses, and high net worth individuals focusing on estate planning, financial planning, federal and multi-jurisdictional income tax planning, and professional accounting services. Recently, Whitley Penn merged with Elliot Davis LLC to form Elliott Penn LLP, a business solutions firm with approximately $400 million in revenue that will have a national presence as a Top 25 firm, according to a recent Whitley Penn news release.

Sayegh is a member of the Houston Business Estate Planning Council, the Houston Estate and Financial Forum, the Texas Society of Certified Public Accounts and the St. Rose of Lima School Advisory Board. She serves on Whitley Penn’s Innovation Council and is involved in recruiting efforts at several universities. She also regularly prepares and presents on tax legislation, both internally and externally. She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Houston Skyline and was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to Hong Kong in 2011. She was named UHV’s 2021 Young Alumna of the Year and was named a Houston Business Journal 2021 Woman to Watch Honoree.

Sayegh is a double UHV alumna and in 2009 received a Bachelor of Business Administration and in 2011 earned a Master of Business Administration. During her time at UHV, she was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Perry to serve as the student regent on the UH System Board of Regents. She also was a member of the UHV softball team as a pitcher and designated hitter, and was a member of the 2009 team that won the NAIA Association of Independent Institutions softball championship and advanced to the national championship. She was named A.I.I. Player of the Year, a First Team All-American, and a member of the A.I.I. All-Star Team.

Sayegh thanks her mentors and supporters she works with at the firm, including Nathen McEown and Tommy Byrd. Both McEown and Byrd have helped her developed her skills and emulate what type of leader she wants to be, she said.

“It is such an honor to be named to the 40 Under 40 list, and I appreciate the nomination and recommendations from my colleagues,” Sayegh said. “It’s just an incredible feeling when I look at the other people who are on the list. It is a real honor.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region, offers courses leading to more than 65 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, Education & Human Development, and Nursing. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus as well as teaching sites in Fort Bend and Harris counties, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. Since its founding in 1973, UHV has provided students with a quality university education from excellent faculty at an affordable price.