UHV faculty member embraces culture, technology

A Hurricane Katrina survivor from New Orleans, Nicole Eugene accepted a position at the University of Houston-Victoria just in time to watch another massive storm tear through her new city.

Nicole Eugene

Hurricane Harvey threw the start date for the soon-to-be assistant professor of communication into question and left her wondering what she would return to after evacuating Victoria to her sister’s home in Rosenberg.

“Because I started during Harvey, it was a weird start,” Eugene said. “It wasn’t what normally would happen like, ‘Let's introduce this new person to what it’s like to be here.’ That wasn’t happening because school started late.”

Luckily, Eugene, who describes Victoria as “super friendly,” was able to quickly bond with her fellow UHV School of Arts & Sciences colleagues. They began a chain of text messages that kept each apprised of the university’s post-storm plans and what they would need to do to adjust.

“Once we started classes, getting to know the students and getting to know the faculty – that helped,” Eugene said.

Launching into her work teaching “Interpersonal Communication,” “Intercultural Communication,” and “Public Speaking” courses let her regain a sense of normalcy as Victoria began to rebuild. Long a proponent of understanding among different cultures, Eugene said she enjoys seeing how her instruction affects students.

“Culture is a part of our everyday lives. It’s a part of the world we live in, so it’s important for them to be able to navigate that,” she said. “Sometimes, by making them talk, they discover things about themselves they never had to before.”

Eugene’s coursework encourages students to take a closer look at a population different from theirs and has elicited studies on everything from quinceaneras to Italian cooking to veteran culture.

“It’s great because I get to teach issues I really care about,” she said. “I like the enthusiasm and creativity (my students) show in putting together something they’re proud of.”

Eugene also embraces technology in her teaching style, encouraging students to interact through online videos describing what they’re learning. The recordings help her students practice public speaking skills in a controlled environment.

When she has free time, Eugene enjoys caring for her cat and going for runs early in the morning to avoid the punishing Texas heat. She’s also an avid reader who once sold books and art.

Along more academic lines, Eugene hopes to finish a book proposal and publish more writing from her dissertation which focused on a narcolepsy support group. Through UHV, she participates in a task force with the intention to incorporate more focus on critical thinking into the core curriculum.

“It’s a good way for students to see what we’re seeing,” she said. “Then everyone knows what they can improve on.”

Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s three schools. To nominate a faculty member, contact Ashley Strevel, UHV communications manager, or call 361-570-4296.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Nicole Crapps