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Widow of TCEQ internship program namesake addresses 2017 class

Friday, July 14, 2017
ContactAndrew Keese
After Hrs512-695-8072

Part of the experience of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program is not just the time interns get to spend in their respective positions.

Each year, the Leland program hosts a special conference in which top-level TCEQ leaders and keynote speakers interact with interns and offer advice. At Thursday’s conference – titled “Celebrating 26 Years of Impact and Influence” – at the University of Texas’ Pickle Research Center, interns heard a keynote address from Alison Leland, who teaches political science in the Honors College at the University of Houston and is the widow of Mickey Leland, a Houston congressman who died in a plane crash in Ethiopia in 1989 and the namesake for the TCEQ program that started in 1992.

Also speaking during the conference was TCEQ Chairman Bryan W. Shaw, Ph.D., P.E.; Commissioner Toby Baker; Commissioner Jon Niermann; Ramiro Garcia Jr., deputy director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance; L’Oreal Stepney, deputy director of the Office of Water; and many others, including former interns.

“It makes me very proud that after all these years that this program is named in memory of my husband,” Alison Leland told the interns.

She said Mickey became involved in politics as an undergraduate student while he was training to be a pharmacist and was elected in the Texas Legislature at the age of 27. “He was a passionate advocate for the poor and the hungry,” she said.

Among her advice, Leland told the interns to stay informed. “You have to stay part of the conversation,” she said.

She also told the interns to be aware of their appearances, not only in dress but also in speech.

Since its inception, more than 2,000 interns have gone through the TCEQ’s program, which places participants in programs throughout the agency but also in other state agencies and in the private sector.

Shaw pointed out to the interns that many of the leaders at the TCEQ today have been through the Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program.

“It is a great opportunity, and the bar is set pretty high,” he said.

The chairman encouraged the interns to take advantage of chances that are presented to them, both during their internships and in future positions.

Despite the large number of interns accepted, which included 84 undergraduate and 16 graduate students, the positions were quite competitive with more than 610 applicants. Top universities represented as Mickey Leland interns include the University of Texas at Austin with 26, Texas A&M University-College Station with 16, Texas State University with eight, and the University of Houston with five.