Theme from town halls: Changes improving student experience
Whether it’s the opening of a new dining hall last semester or
the completion of two more residential facilities later this
year, changes are taking place to improve the college experience
for students at the University of Houston.
That was apparent during the Food Services & Student Housing
Town Hall meetings held on campus Jan. 23 and Jan. 24. Over the
next year, many changes are on the way for UH Dining and Student
Housing and Residential Life. These were explained to students
and staff who came to hear the dining and housing strategic
vision for 2013-14.
The biggest accomplishment for
UH Dining over the past year
was the opening of the Cougar Woods Dining Hall at Wheeler and
“We are very excited about that facility and its potential,”
said Amber Arguijo, marketing manager for UH Dining.
Besides Cougar Woods, other new restaurants to open recently
include Taco Cabana in the Stadium Parking Garage, Tandoori
Night in the UC Satellite and Subway in the Cougar Xpress Mart
in Calhoun Lofts. The food trucks that serve students at two pad
sites on campus also have been a hit.
The renovation of the University Center will bring even more
dining changes. When the first phase is complete in about a
year, McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, Panda Express and Starbucks will
open. The second phase will bring in Freshii, a sustainable
organic restaurant that will serve such foods as burritos, rice
bowls, soups and salads.
The prices for the meal plans that UH offers students will
remain the same for the upcoming year. To help streamline the
many plans that are offered and to remove some of the
redundancies between plans, the Lifestyle 21 and All Access 5
options will no longer be offered.
“We want to provide a plan that enhances the perception of value
on campus, and we also want to sustain the high quality, variety
and viability of the program in the years coming,” Arguijo said.
Housing and Residential Life is busy preparing
for the opening of two new residential facilities in the fall:
Cougar Village II and Cougar Place. In addition, the university
will be taking over management of the Bayou Oaks apartment
Cougar Village II, geared toward freshmen, will have a
state-of-the-art classroom and will house 1,144 students. The
suite-style double rooms will have compartmentalized bathrooms,
said Don Yackley, executive director of Student Housing and
Residential Life. In addition, the community space is designed
such that students will have more interaction with one another.
The 799-bed Cougar Place is designed for sophomores but will be
open to all upper-class students. It will have three
state-of-the-art classrooms. Most of the rooms are part of
four-bedroom, single room suites that have kitchenettes with a
refrigerator, sink and microwave.
Starting this year, new students can use a service called
RoomSync through Facebook to help find suitable roommates. It
will be extended to returning students the following year. Also
this year, Housing is unveiling 11 academic-themed communities
that will allow students to live in proximity to one another
based on academic interests.
“We are really also about student success. Housing is our
vehicle, but the road is helping students be successful,”
Housing staff has spent time this year revamping the first year
experience program for the fall, and spent a lot of time
developing a sophomore year experience. Another program on the
horizon is MAP-Works. It is a technological tool that will take
feedback from students on how they are doing academically and
socially and it will let staff know if they are having a
challenge with any particular area. Staff can then help the
student get connected with campus resources in the area in which
they are struggling.
Housing has gone completely paperless over the past two years,
including the application process and the room assignment
process, Yackley said. Although a 3 percent increase in housing
rates is expected, the rates will remain the same at Calhoun
Lofts and Cambridge Oaks. Also, students will no longer have to
pay a $300 security deposit. Instead, they will make a $300
pre-payment that will be refunded several weeks into the
Housing at UH, Yackley said, is a pretty good deal.
“Our rates compared to other Texas schools, on average, are a
better bargain and less expensive,” he said.