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Letters to the University Community Reflecting on First 100 Days

May 30, 2008

As you may know, I recently completed my first 100 days at the University of Houston and am currently sorting through over 11,000 suggestions received from the 100 Days Web site. I wish to thank you for your support and would also like to share with you my early impressions about the city of Houston and this great university.

Before arriving at UH, I was well aware of Houston’s ranking as America’s fourth largest city, as well as its acclaim as the energy capital of the world and home to the world’s largest medical center. After several months here, I’ve discovered that Houston is also a fabulous destination for discriminating gastronomists and offers a full array of arts and cultural experiences.

Many who claim to know all about Houston initially warned me of the heat and humidity, traffic and road repairs, and the Galleria crowds and parking issues. But what I’ve come to realize for myself are the various green spaces, ethnic shops and places of real urban life experiences that this unique city offers. The thousands of people who continue to welcome me to Houston and share their stories are living proof that Houston is about diversity—the diversity of people, opportunities and successes. I’ve personally found Houstonians to be very warm, welcoming and unpretentious— a rare trait in today’s world!

My impressions of the University of Houston are the exact same. Certainly, I knew of the many facets that make UH a great university— including our 35,000 students, $88 million research, famous National Academy faculty, many nationally ranked programs and 220,000 successful graduates. However, in only a few months, I’ve learned so much more. Did you know that our annual economic impact of $3.2 billion is the same as hosting the Olympic Games right here in Houston? Are you aware that UH students contribute over a million hours in community service each year, or that the university has hundreds of educational and research partnerships all over the region? Our university is also a true global destination for many—housing students from 133 countries. Proud Cougars are everywhere and most choose to stay in the region and fuel the local economy.

Hundreds of graduates have also told me that if it were not for the University of Houston, they would not have been able to go to college—which helped me realize that, in many instances, UH is about firsts—first generations, first opportunities and first chances at success! The campus community here is second to none— our faculty members are world class, our staff members are dedicated and our students have fire in their bellies. All of these signs point to a university on the move!

People often ask me what keeps me awake at night. I think it is the anxiety that comes from knowing that you are in the right place at the right time with the right opportunity. As I take pride in the University of Houston’s past achievements, I also know that our best days are yet to come because potential is a terrible thing to waste.

So what’s next for us?

Eleven thousand suggestions from the community, both internal and external, contain many “big rock” ideas. While we continue to study these ideas as we chart the course to our next destination, I would like to point out several messages that you have sent. Many of you want to see:

  • A nationally competitive university that offers cutting-edge creativity and innovation to fuel the regional economy.
  • A university that defines its success by the success of its students.
  • A university that partners with its community and builds on its strengths.
  • And, a university that enriches the arts and athletic environment of our region.

We will be setting the university’s destination based on your input. I believe that it takes an entire community to build a great university— faculty, students, regents, staff, alumni, philanthropists, civic leaders, policy makers, businesses, industry and the community itself. We have already begun our strategic planning discussions, and are working to chart our course for the future.

You are part of the community that will transform this great university into a greater one. Every success is a journey, and ours begins today with you.

Renu Khator

P.S. This is a new video produced by our Student Video Network. This amazing group of creative students is responsible for producing videos each semester that are seen by thousands of students, faculty, staff and community members. As you will see in this video we have some truly talented students showing off their Cougar Pride. I salute all of your hard work. Go Coogs!