Luncheon with Dean Flumerfelt

Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) hosted a successful luncheon on November 26th with Dr Raymond Flumerfelt, Dean Cullen College of Engineering. The event was well attended by members of the IACCGH and leaders and members of several local minority Chambers of commerce. The attendees had an opportunity to network with their peers and have their minds expanded by the insightful talk given by the Guest Speaker.

The Executive Director of the IACCGH Chitra Shanbhogue welcomed the guests and was the Master of Ceremony for the program. Mr. Jagdip Ahluwalia, Vice President of IACCGH, kicked off the luncheon by commending the efforts of Ingrid Robinson, Donita Riley both of Pennzoil-Quaker State and Carroll Cocchia (Native American Chamber of Commerce leader) for helping create an alliance of the entire minority Chambers in the city. He invited Ms. Ingrid Robinson, Manager of Diversity at Pennzoil, to give a brief summary of what opportunities minorities can avail off in the workforce today. Ms. Robinson explained the diversity division is very young and came into existence only a year ago. The focus was to provide opportunities for women and minorities to compete for business opportunities. Recently Pennzoil has opened an International division in which there are a lot of opportunities for mangers etc, said Ms. Robinson. She urged everyone to fill out the paper work to get on their database allowing Pennzoil to contact minorities when there are business opportunities. She promised to work with the IACCGH to set up a link from the Chamber website to the Diversity website.

Following a delicious lunch Dr. Durga Agrawal briefly summarized the many credentials and achievements of the Dean. Dr. Flumerfelt took over as Dean of the Cullen College of Engineering in August of 1998. Before which he was a faculty member for seventeen years. Dean Flumerfelt participated in securing a 50 million dollar grant from the State of Texas for Engineering and Science Building. In his quest to set up the Cullen College as a leading institute of engineering he has set up an Engineering Leadership Board. This is the first of many steps towards making the college a Tier I institute similar to UT and Texas A & M.

The Dean addressed the room full of people with eloquence and interesting facts about the history of education in the US. He stressed the need for the City and the University to work together to ensure one benefits from the other and vice-versa. He hopes to achieve a Tier I quality of education at U of H College of Engineering without it being exclusive and hard to get into like other Tier I institutes.

Dr. Flumerfelt enlightened the audience about the new global challenges that everyone should be prepared to face. He stressed that the “Social Contract” of yester-years was in the past and now there is a permanent downsizing by all companies. He strongly recommended two books to learn more about the Global Marketplace, “Future of Capitalism” and “Building Wealth” both by Lester Thurow. He listed four events that have caused changes in the global marketplace. First was the fall of communism, second was demographic changes, where there has been a brain drain from poor countries to the US. The Indo-American community, said the Dean, was a prime example of this segment of the population. Third, he said, this era is governed by the “Brain Power” industry versus the “skills industry”. Fourth and final event is the new global economy in which products can be made, bought and sold anywhere in the world without any geographical barriers. With this changing capitalism new risks have evolved, said the Dean. The mean incomes have dropped even though GDP has risen by 20%. Females joining the workforce saved the new capitalism. In 1990s alone two and a half million jobs were downsized, said Dr. Flumerfelt. He said another book “Straight from the Gut” by Jack Welch talks about the new trend in out sourcing and being central to global competitiveness.

The numbers of science graduates in the US have always been well below Asia and Europe. In 1996 the number of engineering and science graduates were about 63,000 versus 343,000 in Asia. But US has the most number of PhDs mainly from Europe and Asia. This is a resource US and Universities count on heavily.

Switching tracks, Dr. Flumerfelt, gave tips on how to stay in the running and improve ones marketability. He pointed out it was the smaller companies which offer more opportunities versus large corporations He urged new graduates and old ones to maintain their mobility by constantly updating their knowledge, sharpening their expertise and thinking like entrepreneurs instead of like engineers. Keep abreast of the new trends and business opportunities and do not pigeon hole oneself by becoming too specialized in one field, he advised. Houston is the hotbed of entrepreneurship said the doctor. He recommended Universities adapt their curriculums to suit the demands of the new global marketplace. His recommendations, to universities, are that they should enhance learning abilities of the students by providing a strong knowledge base to build on. Degrees need to be wider, for example Engineers should also leave with a working knowledge of finance, marketing and law. Thereby allowing them to see the big picture similar to MBA students who only see the big picture and not the details. What the Dean would like to see is a hybrid of students who have the ability to be detail oriented and also see the big picture.

This very interesting and informative talk was followed by a question answer session that involved active audience participation. Mr. Ashok Shah, President Elect of IACCGH, gave the vote of thanks and echoed everyones sentiments when he commended the Dean on the quality of the informative and mind expanding talk given with such ease and eloquence. Business reporter Ed Mayberry of KUHF 88.7 FM covered this event. The Deans comments were aired both on 26th evening and 27th morning. For information about the IACCGH and its futures activities please log onto: Or call 713-624-7131

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