Editor’s Note: We invited members of the University of Houston System Board of Regents to share their thoughts with our readers, choosing to answer one of three questions:
- What is the strongest (or best) memory of your own college experience?
- What is the University of Houston’s greatest strength?
- What are the greatest challenges facing higher education today?
Their responses provide a quick glimpse into the individuals who help shape the policies and establish the direction of the University of Houston. For detailed information about the board, you can visit www.uhsa.uh.edu/board-of-regents/board-members/.
Jarvis Hollingsworth, Immediate Past Chairman
The greatest challenges facing higher education today are 1) ensuring continued access to higher education 2) keeping higher education affordable and 3) increasing completion rates. There are many reasons why these areas present significant challenges to higher education institutions today, but one of the most compelling is the changing demographics of our college campuses. While this increased diversity is a wonderful and very positive development, it also presents challenges as our institutions of higher education must develop strategies to ensure access, affordability and completion to a broader cross section of students from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds than ever before. Higher education’s ability to successfully educate and prepare this ever-changing demographic of students for the workforce of the future will have a major impact on our nation’s ability to continue to compete in a more global world.
Tilman Fertitta, Chairman
The University of Houston’s greatest strength is that it is located in one of the most vibrant and biggest cities in the world and it has some of the greatest leadership in Houston overseeing the future of the school.
Welcome Wilson Jr., Chairman Vice Chairman
Our greatest strength is passion. The passion of the students, faculty, deans, staff, alumni and, more than anything else, of Renu Khator, our great leader and president. If you expect to go where no university has gone before, break records and make historic advances in academics, research and recognition, you must have passion. UH does.
I am very proud to be a graduate of the Cullen College of Engineering. Professors like Dr. Ben Rhodes, Dr. Charles Donaghey and many others were amazing and influential in shaping my future. My education exemplified UH’s commitment and dedication to teaching. They put their heart and soul into educating every student. I came here in 1968 — 46 years ago. I had no idea Houston would become my home. My education at UH prepared me well for starting my business. I was fortunate enough to continue to work to support my family while finishing my education. UH makes this possible—go to school and have a part-time job. This is how my dreams were achieved. I believe one can achieve any goal with hard work, persistence and determination. My life’s philosophy is to always be optimistic and not to dwell on negative things. These things were further instilled in me and my family during my time at UH. It has a very special place in my heart; we, the alumni, must keep the torch of knowledge, excellence and innovation growing and glowing. I am very honored to serve as a member of the Board of Regents. I am delighted for this new opportunity to make a difference and shape the future of this remarkable institution under the leadership of Chancellor Renu Khator. Go Coogs!!
From my perspective, the greatest challenges facing higher education today are the reduction in funding for public institutions, the imbalance in college readiness, particularly among Latino and African American youth, and the proficiencies required for a growing STEM workforce. Student success requires preparation in elementary, middle and high school. Many Latino and African American students are not receiving the academic support to master math and science, which are key to the degrees and programs for the current work force demands. Once enrolled, the journey to completion can be peppered with challenges. Financial hardships and balancing work, family and life concerns can extend a student’s college career beyond the expected term. Higher education institutions must consider these factors in scheduling and fee-set ting and offer flexibility in its graduate level programs. UH is proactive in this respect and its corporate stakeholders are able to have employees pursue advanced degrees while working.
My experience at the University of Houston was enlightening for this small–town boy. I lived just a few miles from campus but was late for my first class because I had never experienced anything like Houston traffic or UH parking. I was forced to adapt quickly or be left behind. I soon decided to major in economics. The study of how we allocate resources, goods and services was fascinating to me. Being a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was also an important part of my UH experience. But my fondest memory is meeting my future wife at a Pike party in September of 1974. UH has played a significant role in my life. I feel fortunate to be able to give my time, energy and support to the University of Houston.
Asit R. Shah
UH’s greatest strength is its receptivity to change. Many institutions are set in their ways and respond slowly to technological improvements, a global economy and growing enrollment. Our diversity, students, location and leadership create a University that constantly outperforms expectations. We encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and, as a student, I know this makes for a powerful learning environment where we all strive for excellence. Whether it is 1927 or 2014, Houston’s hometown institution is committed to providing a globally competitive education that’s affordable. It’s what makes UH strong, purpose-driven and cutting-edge.
Peter K. Taaffe
This University has many strengths:
- Our students. They reflect what the city of Houston is all about— they come from many different backgrounds and are working hard to make this city, country and world a better place.
- Our administration. We are served by excellent leaders at each of our UH System campuses.
- Our faculty. We are fortunate to have world–class faculty who are leaders in their fields.