Dear Cougar Colleagues
September 07, 2016
Welcome to the start of another promising academic year at the University of Houston. This has been a full and productive summer, but I certainly hope you were also able to find time to relax and refresh yourself. We continue to have high hopes and ambitious objectives for our University, and I’m confident that we can continue to move forward with the same level of success we have enjoyed so far.
I want to take this opportunity to give you an update on some significant issues that affect us all.
More Cougars on Campus
We have more students on our campus than ever before, with a remarkable record enrollment of more than 43,800, which is a 2.5 percent increase from last fall’s number. This is a clear indication of your dedication to student success as well as our university’s rising reputation, both academically and athletically. The ongoing success of the UHin4 program points to a changed culture and commitment from all. Nearly 70 percent of more than 4,300 entering freshman class have signed up for UHin4, an impressive participation rate – and a level of engagement we intend to keep increasing each year.
In addition to our new students,103 new faculty members have joined our ranks. They are all very welcome and valuable additions to the University. Significantly, this includes the arrival of five new National Academy members. I am proud to note that three of them are joining us, in large part, courtesy of an $8.5 million grant from the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI). Only the University of Texas, Texas A&M and UH were recipients of these first-ever GURI awards, which are intended to elevate the research capabilities of our state universities.
Chairman Fertitta’s Gift
UH System Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta has made a $20 million donation toward the renovation and expansion of our basketball arena, which will be renamed Fertitta Center. This enlightened and magnanimous act on his part represents the largest individual gift to UH Athletics in our University’s history. We have already been blessed with the considerable benefits of his service and leadership on the board in general. To receive this level of financial support as well is awe-inspiring. The chairman’s incredible generosity is rivaled only by his extraordinary dedication to improving our University.
Campus Carry and Tobacco-Free Campus Policies
During the summer, we implemented the Campus Carry policy in accordance with state law. I fully acknowledge the anxiety that some of you have and also the help that you may need. You can find detailed information on our Campus Carry website and if you have any questions or concerns about this policy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We also revised the campus Tobacco-Free Policy, which eliminates the temporary designated smoking areas and continues our commitment to making UH completely tobacco-free.
Last year’s electrifying on-field accomplishments and phenomenal Peach Bowl victory, combined with our recent win against Oklahoma, make me extremely enthusiastic about this UH football season. And we are gratified to receive the growing level of attention – and incredible encouragement – from those who are interested in UH joining the Big 12 conference.
This season, we will also host a couple of games on Thursdays here at TDECU Stadium, which can be very exciting but also require certain accommodations across the campus. Let me assure you we are working on solutions to keep any complications to a minimum. We will share detailed information with you as the games get closer (Sept. 29 and Nov. 17).
Texas Legislative Session on the Horizon
Although it is still more than four months away, the next session of the Texas Legislature looms large, and there are already predictions of economic concerns awaiting our lawmakers. State leaders have asked state agencies to trim 4 percent from proposed spending for the next two-year budget cycle. As a state university, UH may face a number of challenges maintaining the considerable progress we have achieved, but there should also be welcome opportunities for increased support and legislative relief for various problems confronting us. We look forward to the next session, and we will make every effort to keep the campus community informed about the important issues of interest to us all.
For the past year, we’ve been speaking about our goal to establish partnerships that would work toward elevating the quality of life in Third Ward. As a good neighbor and university dedicated to academic excellence, we are developing ways that UH will partner and collaborate in our shared neighborhood to improve educational outcomes, secure jobs, develop and strengthen businesses, and celebrate the arts and history of the area. Houston faces serious health disparities, and we envision developing a medical school that can help address this need, diversify the physician workforce, and can be delivered in a cost effective way by building upon the existing strengths of our University. The business case to validate this need and for UH to provide a different kind of medical school is still under review.
New Regent Board Officers
Congratulations to the FY17 officers of the Board of Regents, with Tilman J. Fertitta, Welcome W. Wilson Jr. and Spencer D. Armour III all being re-elected to their respective positions as chairman, vice chairman and secretary. They provide wise counsel and dedicated support to our University.
The search for the VC/VP for Research and Technology Transfer is currently underway and the initial group of candidates is expected to be interviewed in October. That same month, I will also announce the search committee for the VC/VP for University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations. Needless to say, the committee will need your help to identify qualified and visionary candidates.
As always, I want you to know how much I appreciate the dedication and drive that each of you contributes, making our University a collective success. Your work inspires and energizes me, and I thank you.
With warm regards,