Dear Faculty and Staff –
Welcome to the spring semester! As I begin my 10th year serving as president of the University of Houston, I am humbled by what we have accomplished so far and am confident that we can take advantage of the new opportunities that await us. I am also encouraged by the energy, enthusiasm and intelligence I see around me every day as you continue to make our University better in so many ways. For that, I thank you, and I remain grateful to be a part of this ambitious undertaking.
Now, I would like update you on some key issues as we begin the spring term.
‘Here, We Go’ Campaign
We have officially launched our $1 billion “Here, We Go” campaign that is comprehensive and touches all units on campus. Our goal is an ambitious one considering that we have not had a capital campaign in 25 years, but the good news is that we have already raised $684 million of that targeted amount during the quiet phase of this campaign. The public launch on Jan. 18 was made special by a $20 million endowment gift that names our newest college as the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts. Almost 130,000 donors have contributed to the campaign so far and 94,000 of them are first-time donors to the University, with nearly half of them friends from the community. The campaign focuses on raising money for student scholarships, endowment chairs, academic programs and facilities. The faculty/staff campaign is being co-chaired by the husband-wife team of Dr. Michael Olivas and Professor Augustina Reyes, who have challenged to match dollar-per-dollar all gifts from faculty and staff up to $100,000. This campaign is your campaign, and we need your help in taking it to the finish line.
The 85th session of the Texas Legislature is now underway, and higher education in general faces a number of challenges. Several bills, including the biannual budget, have been filed that directly impact us. Three introduced bills either tie university tuition to performance or re-regulate it. Both budget bills – from Senate and the House – do not fund new growth and the Senate version asks for a base budget cut. Our Governmental Relations website offers our complete legislative agenda and VC Smith will provide frequent updates that you may read at your leisure. Your board members and I will be spending a good deal of time in Austin making our case and offering feedback to legislators.
Please note that UH Day at the Capitol will be held March 1. In case you are interested in joining hundreds of others, please contact the Office of Governmental Relations.
In a UH System matter, after a long and wonderful tenure at UH-Clear Lake, President William Staples has decided to retire, and I have started the search for his replacement. Meanwhile, at UH, Provost Short has begun the search for the Deans of the College of Technology and the McGovern College of the Arts.
I have also decided to not fill the position of the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Marketing, Communication and Media Relations and to instead have the division led by an AVC/AVP who reports to me and who will be a member of my leadership team. In anticipation of a tough fiscal environment ahead, it is prudent to create efficiencies and direct resources where they are most needed. With this in mind, I have asked Ms. Lisa Holdeman, who has served in an interim capacity since April 25, 2016, to become the AVC/AVP of the Division of Marketing, Communication and Media Relations, effective immediately. Lisa has graciously accepted.
New Security Alert System
We are in the process of implementing a new emergency communication system called "UH ALERT" that will help us receive more timely alerts in case of emergency. While our communications team will provide alerts in a variety of ways, including email, web posting, social media, phone, digital signal, it goes without saying that the quickest way to reach you is via text message. Please go online and submit your mobile number if you have not already done so. By the way, we will be testing the new UH ALERT system this week. These messages should be clearly identified as Emergency TEST, so please do not be alarmed should you receive one.
Super Bowl LI and UH
Our TDECU Stadium will be used as a training and practice facility by one of the Super Bowl LI finalists, the New England Patriots. As a result, it is likely that you will see extra traffic and security on campus. Also on Feb. 4 – the day before the big game – UH will serve as the host site for “Taste of the NFL,” a fundraiser dedicated to hunger relief. This gourmet tasting event will be attended by thousands of guests, including football legends, nationally renowned chefs, media, and celebrity supporters. Many of our students are involved in the event, which should give them valuable, hands-on opportunities to participate. This highly sought-out event will, once again, showcase our campus on the national stage.
Recently, I was interviewed by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. The far-ranging conversation touched upon a number of significant issues, like graduation rates and legislative funding, which concern us all. If you would like to view this informative video, it is available on my webpage.
I hope the winter break was refreshing for you all, and you are looking forward to another rewarding spring semester.
With warm regards,