Major Initiatives Capitalize on UH’s Strengths

by Lisa K. Merkl (’92, M.A. 97)

As the University of Houston builds its reputation, President Renu Khator has prioritized three major initiatives that she believes will provide the clearest pathway to Tier One. Those initiatives, which are the focus of many of the university’s efforts, best capitalize on UH’s existing strengths, as well as the strengths of the city of Houston.

UH ENERGY

Power PlantLocated in the “energy capital of the world,” the University of Houston is a natural hub for innovation and bold approaches to address the energy challenges of today and the future. UH Energy encompasses the brightest minds in UH engineering, law, business, geosciences, technology, research and public policy. Spanning fossil fuels, water, wind, solar, nuclear and biofuels, energy is derived from multiple sources, with essential research being done across a variety of disciplines.

UH Energy team members shape research and energy policy and forge new business approaches to the way energy is created, delivered, used and shared. These leaders also educate tomorrow’s innovators, providing a dynamic environment for students and faculty to exchange ideas and work in partnership with industry, researchers, organizations and the community.

With its location and faculty expertise, UH is uniquely positioned to become “The Energy University.” Underscoring this commitment, President Renu Khator created the UH Energy Advisory Board, comprised of several global industry energy leaders, poised to help guide UH toward its vision. They recognize this is a critical time for Houston to provide national leadership tackling the incredible energy challenges faced by the nation and world.

An integral part of the UH Energy vision includes the creation of the new Energy Research Park located near the Gulf Freeway on land that once housed Schlumberger’s global headquarters. The park is comprised of 74 acres with 15 buildings and 19 acres of developable land. The vision for the complex is for a university sponsored development that includes research, workforce training and industrial partnerships — the three legs of the economic development triangle.

UH HEALTH

Research Lab StudentsWith the national agenda of health care reform and an aging population, the timing is right for the University of Houston to expand its presence in the health care arena. UH is well positioned to make a major impact in research and education in fields spanning biology and biochemistry, psychology, mathematics, pharmacy, engineering, optometry and computer science.

The Texas Medical Center (TMC) makes Houston one of the most important locations for health care in the world, and UH is exploring the best way to build on that. With health-related research making up more than half of the university’s externally funded research, UH is poised to gain an even stronger foothold in TMC, particularly with its recent induction as a member institution.

Collaborations between UH and The Methodist Hospital Research Institute, such as the Abramson Center for the Future of Health, have been working successfully for many years and will continue to grow. Just one shining example among many, the center is home to translational research, genetic research and personalized medicine, patient and provider education, and remote sensors and Web-based programs that are tailored to individuals.

“The University of Houston is increasingly having a positive impact with the 49 member institutions of the Texas Medical Center,” said Richard E. Wainerdi, president and CEO, Texas Medical Center. “Their scientists, researchers and educators are quickly establishing themselves among their peers and creating new opportunities for collaboration and success.”

According to Kathryn Peek, assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives, an advisory board of top health care executives will be created next year, which will give the industry an opportunity to weigh in on research collaborations, essential personnel and professions. The future of UH Health holds promise for an increase in and balance of basic research, applied research, educational programs and community outreach. There also is considerable potential for commercialization of intellectual property given UH’s health-related research.

UH ARTS

ViolinThe arts at the University of Houston are an essential part of the city’s vibrant cultural fabric. Over the years, UH students have been mentored by such acclaimed faculty as the late fiction writer Donald Barthelme and American playwright Edward Albee.

UH Arts includes the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, School of Art, Moores School of Music, School of Theatre & Dance, Blaffer Art Museum, Creative Writing Program, and several other programs throughout the campus. The UH Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts connects artistic disciplines through partnerships on campus and in the arts community, resulting in creative research, crossdisciplinary courses and a range of public programs.

The mission of UH Arts is to educate students and the community by imagining and giving form to the dreams and concepts that shape contemporary culture. Its vision is to be a creative center for the study, practice and presentation of the arts, contributing to Houston’s cultural vitality.

“The University of Houston has exceptional arts programs in all of the major disciplines, making UH a leading force in Houston’s arts landscape,” said Jonathon Glus, president of the Houston Arts Alliance. “UH alumni populate Houston’s thriving arts community, from showing their work in our theaters and museums to managing our many venues. Now, with the new UH Arts initiative, the university is poised to become a leader in the education and presentation of the arts locally, nationally and even internationally.”

On the horizon, an enhanced UH Arts section of campus is being planned, which will become a cohesive neighborhood for the UH community and an important arts destination for the greater public.

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