International student finds connection, purpose at UHCL
December 13, 2018 | UHCL Staff
For three years, Johanna Jacob worked overnights at her job consulting with the Disney
Consortium in India. She knew she was not fulfilling her purpose in that job, and
she knew there had to be more to life. Her first time on an airplane was a trip across
the world to begin her master’s program in computer science at University of Houston-Clear
Lake and along the way, she found out that indeed, there is more to life. As she graduates
on Dec. 16, Jacob, 27, feels she’s getting much more than a diploma.
“Before, I felt like I was just earning a check,” she said. “I had to take that job
because my family was struggling, but I wanted to pursue higher education in the U.S.
It was always a big dream of mine to study here. I began my quest to find a university,
and I applied at several places, but UH-Clear Lake was the first to admit me.”
She’d done a great deal of research, Jacob said, and found that UHCL had a great record
of diversity in their graduate programs. “I connected with peers who were already
here and got a lot of great feedback about the university. I knew I had made a good
decision,” she said. “It was everything I expected.”
Now, Jacob says her goals have changed. “I have found my ultimate passion, which is
research and teaching,” she said. “I grabbed every opportunity I could here to contribute
to that. I am well prepared to begin the next season of my life.”
One of those opportunities, Jacob said, was joining the Texas State Teachers Association.
“That’s where I met (Professor of Instructional Design and Technology) Jana Willis.
I went to a meeting and happened to sit next to her,” she said. “Dr. Willis is the
kind of person who always is full of information and inspiration. She told me she
needed technology instructors at KidsU, which is a summer camp program for children.
So I got a job in the summer of 2017 as a co-instructor, and became a primary instructor
It was that chance meeting that led Jacob to discover what she wanted to do in life.
“The opportunities fell into my life to confirm that what I need to do is give back
to the academic community,” she said. “By getting my doctorate someday, I will do
that. There are so many initiatives for education here at UHCL, and one chance meeting
with Dr. Willis led me to that great opportunity at Kids U, and I am so thankful.”
“In our roles as teacher educators we at times encounter individuals who have a passion
for teaching and working with others to help them grow academically,” Willis said.
“For these individuals, teaching seems to be almost instinctive. I knew within a few
minutes of speaking with Johanna that she had that passion, and after watching her
work with students of all ages in KidsU I also knew she had that instinct. I often
told her she was a ‘natural’ in the classroom and that there was a classroom somewhere
that had her name on it.”
Currently, Jacob works as a research assistant on a grant funded through the National
Science Foundation for revamping the traditional Computer Science program to meet
modern day cyber
security education challenges. She has also served as a student ambassador for the
College of Computer Science and Engineering, and enjoyed interacting with prospective
students about their opportunities at UHCL.
After graduating, Jacob hopes to begin a doctoral program in computer science. “I
would like to stay in Texas for sure. I’m considering University of Texas at San Antonio.
They have a cyber security program that is in collaboration with the Department of
Defense, and that is the area of my interest.”
Jacob will be speaking to her fellow graduates at commencement. “I was at the commencement
of a friend of mine last year, and it was so awesome,” she said. “I thought it would
be interesting if an international student would witness about their experience at
UHCL, so I expressed a desire to share my story.”
She said that at UHCL, she “discovered herself. This is where it’s been most conducive
for me to grow and improve myself,” she said. “I would love to come back here and
For more information about international student admission, visit www.uhcl.edu/admissions/apply/international. For more information about UHCL’s Master of Science in Computer Science program,