Colleagues and Friends,
I hope you had a restful yet productive summer. Our new academic year is beginning with some wonderful positive trends. Thanks to your ownership of student success, freshmen-to-sophomore retention is holding at a record high of 82 percent. The academic profile of the freshmen class is beginning to reflect the quality of a Tier One university. For the first time, we are crossing the 1100 threshold on the freshmen SAT average (1115 as of today) and 31 percent of our freshmen come from the top 10 percent of their class. A majority of the freshmen class has also chosen to live on campus, creating demand for more undergraduate housing. I hope you start to feel the difference in your classrooms.
On the graduate side, we are on track to enroll the largest doctoral class ever. Our records indicate that we are also on track to graduate more doctoral students on time this year.
On the faculty side, Provost Antel tells me that we are welcoming more than four dozen new tenure or tenure-track members (with offers still outstanding to a dozen more). This strong roster includes highly qualified faculty and names such as Dr. John Lee, a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In related news, Professor Joseph Colaco, in our Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, and Dr. Benton Baugh, in our Cullen College of Engineering, have recently switched their National Academy affiliations to UH.
As you know, we had a strong legislative session and cleared the pathway to receive additional funding, thanks to National Research University Fund (NRUF), also known as the Tier One legislation. Nonetheless, budget reductions have forced us, and will continue to force us, to increase efficiency. This year's budget passed by the Board of Regents Aug. 17 shows that we are doing more with less and are doing it better. However, our biggest challenge is to retain our talent, both in terms of faculty/staff and of students.
Speaking of the Board of Regents, three new members have just been appointed by Gov. Perry: Spencer D. Armour III of Midland; Roger Fleming Welder of Victoria; and Welcome W. Wilson Jr. of Houston. We appreciate the invaluable service of the regents they’re replacing – Carroll Ray, Welcome W. Wilson Sr. and Jim Wise, whose terms are expiring – and look forward to outstanding contributions from these new appointees. For more information about this, please see http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2011articles/Aug2011/082411NewBORNamed.php.
The football season is upon us. The Cougars first game is against UCLA Sept. 3. We are ranked 36th in the pre-season polls and undoubtedly will be going higher. I hope to see you at all the games, decked out in your Cougar red. Many donors are already voting with their pocket books in support of athletics, including last week’s $10 million gift toward a new stadium. It takes excellence in all areas to lift a university, and I am pleased to see our donors supporting research, teaching and athletics with equal enthusiasm.
Finally, let me conclude by thanking you for expecting great things and delivering even greater results. Several days prior to the first day of classes, 100-plus staff members volunteered to help move more than 1,000 freshmen into our residence halls. This reflects tremendous commitment, and we need more of it to help our students succeed.
There is much to share with you about our progress and plans for the coming year. Of course, there is much to be done to overcome the challenges we see looming on the horizon. I invite you to join me for my Fall Address at 10 a.m. Oct. 4 in the Moores Opera House.
In the meantime, I wish you all the very best for a very productive and rewarding year. It is your leadership that is transforming UH.