When she looks back on her time at University of Houston, Lauren Duhon credits the scholarship and grant she received as vital to enabling her to pursue her ambitions.
"It was the difference in me going to UH or not. I'm not sure if I didn't have the financial backing if I would have been able to go back to school," Duhon said. Without it, she wouldn't have had a chance to get her Master's in Public Policy at the Hobby School of Public Affairs.
Duhon was in the middle of her studies when COVID hit in spring 2020. She reflects on the uncertainty felt by many students at that time. "I distinctly remember leaving class ahead of Spring Break only to never return to campus until graduation day."
Despite the tumult, she persevered and finished her degree. She commends UH with how they adapted to the pandemic, "UH made it as easy as possible given the circumstances for us to continue our education." She cites the program's extracurricular events as imperative to her professional development.
"We were given a lot of opportunities to attend events and network with different entities and elected officials,” said Duhan. “I knew I wanted to pursue working for the government in some capacity, either locally, statewide or federally, and those opportunities were beneficial to me as a professional."
After graduating in 2021, she did get to work for the government, taking a job in the Austin office of the U.S. Economic Development Administration as an economic development specialist. Her awareness of the enormous difference financial support can have in someone's life is something she witnesses firsthand in her work. In this position, she oversees economic development projects and grants for Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. On her LinkedIn profile, she describes herself as "a representative for those states to advise and to connect individuals to necessary resources." Her goal is to work with "grantees, economic development districts, universities, state and local governments, non-profits and other entities to find solutions that help grow resilient, thriving communities."
She understands the impact a donation has on a person's life: "The donations matter and do make an impact. For me and for many others I know, it made all the difference in being able to pursue continuing their education."