Rebecca S. Jones
African-American News & Issues
HOUSTON- Natural-born leader, loyal public servant and a proven professional exemplify the distinguished gifts and qualities possessed by Mr. Bruce A. Austin. Austin’s humble beginnings emerged out of the United States’ fourth most populous city, Houston. At an early age, he was made aware of all of the perils and ills associated with being a Black man. However, he decided that failure was not an option for him and set his sights on becoming not a victim of adversity but a victor.
Austin graduated from Wheatley High School and proceeded to attend Texas Southern University. There he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, MPA in Public Administration (specialization in policy analysis and administrative law), and JD – Juris Doctorate. With an ever-learning desire to further advance himself, he continued his quest for learning by engaging in study through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (budget formulation and federal budget processing) and attended the Department of Agriculture Graduate School (negotiation, administration, contracting and systems operations).
Additionally, Mr. Austin proudly served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. During his tenure, he was nominated for the U.S. Navy Sailor-of-the-Year award and was awarded a Presidential Management Internship. He served in the United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, in the Offices Administrative Counsel, Information Technology, Controller and Personnel (management analyst, staff coordinator, budget analyst, personnel analyst and deputy United States Marshal) and in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for Administration.
Upon his return to Houston in 1984, Austin served as special assistant to Commissioner El Franco Lee and later as Harris County’s director of Housing and Community Development. During his service there, he was very instrumental in many aspects and was a grave asset to the department. While serving as director, the agency became the first non-federal organization to receive the Vice President’s Hammer Award.
In 1986, Austin launched a career in the field of education. Since that time he has dedicated himself to the art of teaching by serving as an adjunct professor in the graduate schools of the University of Houston – Clear Lake and Texas Southern University. For six years, he served as director at-large, Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Washington, DC; region director, Southwestern Region ACCT; and a member of the Joint Commission on Federal Relations.
In 1989, Mr. Bruce Austin was elected to the Houston Community College Board of Trustee, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board. He has held various leadership positions on the Board over the years, including previous service as chairman from 1990 to 1992 and again from 2000 to 2002, as well as deputy secretary of the Board in 2006. Throughout his career at HCC he has maintained the position of being one of the longest tenured HCC Trustees. Accordingly, he has guided the institution over the past several decades and diligently served the constituents of District II. Austin has been a passionate, strong and vocal advocate for ensuring the accessibility and affordability of education and workforce development, especially for those in underserved communities. His record is one as a stalwart of doing what is best for the institution, and he has provided a historical framework for the institution, its policies as well as its important and evolving role in the community.
To date, Mr. Austin has held numerous leadership positions, including serving as Past President, of the Houston Chapter of the American Society of Public Administration. He has also received national awards, including the National Performance Review Award from Vice President Al Gore and the Western Region Trustee of the Year Award from the Association of Community College Trustees. He is a member of Pi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society for Public Affairs & Administration; he has also served on the Board of the Fraternity’s Alpha National Housing Foundation.
Mr. Austin has remained adamant about educating students from all walks of life. Thus, he has led by example. As a result, his post-education studies include: The Cambridge Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (Community and Economic Development Program).
During an interview, Mr. Austin explained that it is his heart’s desire to ensure that students are appropriately trained for the ever-competitive demand of business.
Within his role at HCC, Austin has dedicated himself to ensuring that programs are developed to determine how students can change their destiny in a positive way. Mr. Austin also made reference to the people of the community that he works in as he stated, “one thing I like about the people in Acres Homes, is that they are deeply concerned about changing the community”.
Continuing, Austin expressed the joy that he has experienced while serving at HCC. “Community colleges can be supportive in many ways and they add a tremendous amount of possibilities for students”, added Austin. He continued, “They can prepare them for four-year colleges and universities and also assist with developing students with the skills necessary to meet and operate in top of the line industries.” Mr. Austin went on to convey that community colleges serve to align higher education with the people of the community. He recognized the fact that there are two community colleges in the district of which he operates in, Lone Star and Houston Community College. Austin believes that rather than competing with one another, it should be a priority of the two institutions to determine how they may work together to promote one common goal.
Mr. Austin further emphasized the importance of creating ‘industry clusters’ within the community. Industry clusters are, “groups of inter-related industries that drive wealth creation in a region, primarily through export of goods and services” (SD Association of Governments). Cluster industries are geographically concentrated and inter-connected by the flow of goods and services, which is stronger than the flow linking them to the rest of the economy. Thus, he stated that by individuals within the community creating clusters, it can help to: advance them in the industry of which they are a part of, help to better market services, explore new markets, advance connections within the workforce, keep businesses current with trends, facilitate greater innovation and commercialization, maintain a competitive edge and generate an immeasurable amount of profitability within a company, organization or similar. He concluded that, “The bottom line is that it is a new day and enriching one’s skills is mandatory in regards to succeeding in an ever-changing, globally competitive society.” Ultimately, Austin demonstrated a genuine love and passion for the community and those of whom are a part of it.
Mr. Austin is a poet and artist and is fairly conversational in French, Spanish and Tagalog.
African-American News & Issues is proud to highlight the accomplished Bruce A. Austin and would like to commend him on his exemplary service to members of the Black community and onward.