Welcome Back, Faculty and Staff - University of Houston
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Welcome Back, Faculty and Staff

August 28, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome back!  I hope the summer offered you the opportunity to take a break from your daily routine, refresh yourself and reconnect with friends and family. This time last year, we were battling with floods and fury brought by Hurricane Harvey. In my 10 years at the University of Houston, this was probably my most humbling moment, watching people suffer and yet offer their helping hand to those in even greater need.  We, as a Cougar Community, endured and prevailed and, in the process, established a new definition of what “Cougar Strong” really means. Now it is our challenge to institutionalize that spirit and continue building a caring and compassionate campus for each other.

As we begin this new academic year, we expect to enroll a record number of new and returning students at UH. Of course, some are enrolled at our Sugar Land and Katy sites and many are taking online offerings. In fact, one-fourth of all our students now enroll in at least one online course, signaling a changing pattern of preferences in the face of traffic and time pressures. On the other hand, students are enrolling for more credit hours per semester. Therefore, you may see the same or more students on campus and in your classrooms. I thank you for your unwavering commitment to their educational experience and success.

This year is the launch year of the QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan), a special five-year program to take students’ learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom. We have dedicated half a million dollars in this year’s budget to take the first steps in supporting faculty and programmatic needs to begin this ambitious, faculty-led program. You will receive more information as the QEP implementation committee finalizes its plan. For more information, please contact the Office of the Provost.

This summer, we also announced another ambitious initiative called Research Preeminence: 50 in 5 that aims to increase our research efforts and scholarly output – in publications, research expenditures, awards, and creative works – by 50 percent in five years. In addition, the initiative calls for doubling the number of our national research centers from 5 to 10.  Provost Short and VP Elnashai are leading this effort and will reach out to you with more details in the coming months. Having achieved Carnegie’s Tier One status and Phi Beta Kappa designation, we are setting our eyes on other national and global systems of recognizing university-wide excellence.

The UH College of Medicine is likely to be the topic of public and legislative conversation this year. Since the establishment of the UH College of Medicine by the Board of Regents in 2017, we have been taking necessary steps to (1) get approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board toward offering an M.D. degree; (2) finalize our partnership with hospitals and clinics; (3) seek approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national accrediting body; (4) build the leadership team for the College of Medicine; and finally (5) raise funds to support the start-up. You can follow the progress in each of these areas by visiting the UH College of Medicine website. For specific questions or opportunities for collaboration, please contact Founding Dean Stephen Spann or Provost Paula Short.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the Cougar football team. Ed Oliver, our exceptional defensive tackle, is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the nation’s top player. We kick off the 2018-19 season against Rice on Sept. 1 and our first home game is Sept. 8 against #19 Arizona. It should be an exciting season, and I hope to see you at one of the tailgates. However, if you are not into sports, I invite you to check out many of our music, theater and arts events that hold just as much promise.

I wish you the best and hope to see you around campus. Please mark your calendar for my annual Fall Address on Oct. 10 at 10 a.m. It will be an honor to see you there as I highlight our collective achievements for the past year. Please remember to show your pride on Cougar Red Fridays by wearing red. As always, I am grateful to you all. Thank you for your dedication to our students and our University.

With warm regards,
Renu Khator