A University of Houston-Clear Lake education has empowered three generations of one family to discover and explore their passions.
When Sarah Elam graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, she joined her grandmother and mother as a UHCL alumna.
Not only have they shared an alma mater, all three have discovered more about themselves through their education at the university.
Patricia Ware, Sarah’s grandmother, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities in 1983 and a Master of Arts in Literature in 1987. Discovery came in her creative writing classes, where she was inspired by the personal stories of her classmates.
“Creative writing gave me an outlet that I needed very badly, I didn’t realize until I came here the benefit of being able to express your feelings. That was the most important thing to me, being here. I enjoyed every minute of it" said Patricia Ware.
Sarah’s mother, Tracy Elam, earned a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences in 1984. Her degree laid the foundation for a successful career she discovered later in life – teaching.
As a veteran biology tutor for Barbers Hill Independent School District, Tracy often draws on experiences from her science courses and work in clinical research to give meaningful connections and examples to her students as they prepare for standardized testing.
“The background has helped me so much in the field. It actually applies to them. That’s what catches their attention, it isneat to see the light come on and feel like you’ve made a difference" said Tracy Elam.
Tracy and Patricia’s studies at UHCL overlapped, and the two recalled sharing a psychology class.
For Sarah, the older of Tracy Elam’s two daughters, attending UHCL was part of discovering her ideal career. In going outside the classroom onto the UHCL campus with her environmental science classes, Sarah discovered her love of working in the outdoors and her goal of becoming a park ranger.
“I liked being outside doing actual research,” she said of a particular project where students measured trees, tracking the growth based on data collected by previous students over the course of several years. “It made the science more hands-on and applicable.”
Through all three journeys, the women had both the university and each other for support.
Sarah recalled that her grandmother’s curiosity and interest in her environmental science made her, in turn, a better student.
“I’d teach her what I learned, and I could remember it better,” said Sarah Elam.
Tracy said Patricia has always encouraged her children and grandchildren to challenge themselves and avoid easy answers.
“You always made people think,” Tracy said to her mother during the group interview.
As part of that encouragement, Patricia has enjoyed seeing each member of the family become an expert in a different area of study.
“Our conversations are always interesting because we each have a different field,” said Patricia Ware.
The three UHCL alumni encouraged current students to get involved in the university, advice each of them has taken to heart – Patricia was a two-time short story winner in the UHCL’s literary journal Bayousphere, Tracy was an officer in the science club and both of them traveled together in a study abroad trip to China when the country first re-opened to tourism in the 1980s.
“It’s important to try and get involved, I still have very good friends I met while attending UHCL. We still have those connections" said Tracy.
Looking ahead, Patricia and Tracy anticipate a bright future for Sarah as she uses the knowledge, skills and passion she learned at UHCL to keep exploring the world and discovering more about herself. Just as they have, empowered by a UHCL education.
For 40 years, UH-Clear Lake has empowered individuals to find their passion and pursue their goals. This #UHCLempowered profile series celebrates the students, alumni, faculty and staff who impact their communities and the world. Follow #UHCLempowered hashtag on social media to learn more about how the university is changing lives.
To empower the next generation of UHCL students, find out how you can support the university at www.uhcl.edu/giving. For more about the university, visit http://www.uhcl.edu.