Dear UH Faculty and Staff,
What a wonderful sight it was to see a multitude of more than 40,600 students on campus during the first week of classes! The university is buzzing with more people, more smiles and more red, spurring all of us to work harder and focus our efforts on the success of each and every student.
Our record enrollment encompasses a modest growth in undergraduate students and a robust growth in doctoral students. I want to express my gratitude to the faculty who allowed me the privilege to visit their classes and reach out to almost all of our new students. In the first three days of the semester, I visited 32 lower level undergraduate classes to greet some 9,600 students in person and to give them one single message - their graduation is our goal, but it has to be a two-way commitment, theirs and ours.
As we continue to improve our support and services for our students, they also must commit to the common habits shared by students who succeed:
- Make an academic plan and stick to it.
- Attend classes regularly and make use of professors’ office hours.
- Join or form study groups.
- Engage in campus activities and enjoy campus life.
- Enroll for classes early and apply for scholarships/financial aid early.
- Be a full-time student and live on campus.
- Take pride in your education and school. Wear red on Fridays!
It is my sincere hope that we can keep our students motivated and give them every opportunity to succeed. I thank you for volunteering as Cougar Movers and at the Cougar First Impressions booths all over campus. It was hot, humid and uncomfortable out there, but well worth it. Your personal commitment and touch will go a long way in giving our students a good start. Thanks also to the hundreds of PALs who have already started emailing our freshman students.
I would like to briefly share with you information on several topics:
The Class of 2016: The Class of 2016 is the strongest class ever, selected from the largest pool of applicants ever at UH. More than 23,000 students applied for 3,300 freshmen slots. Thirty-three percent of the enrolled class ranked in the Top 10 percent of their high school and scored an average of 1134 on SAT. The class consists of 34 National Merit Scholars and 54 Tier One Scholars! The class is more diverse than any other entering class at other Tier One universities in Texas, and these students come to us from all across the state. Our student recruiting offices in Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin have helped us broaden the Houston brand and keep young talent in Texas. Any student who was not able to get in UH was referred to our sister universities in the UH System, because our objective is to help close the gap in educational attainment for Texas. I thank all of you for your continued commitment to our students.
Construction on Campus: The campus is being transformed before our eyes! Among the many construction projects are the renovation and expansion of the University Center, a new west dining hall (with nut-free and gluten-free food), the health and biomedical sciences building housing optometry facilities and neurosciences research, the general classroom and business building that houses the new Insperity Center, Blaffer Art Museum renovations, and two residence halls, Cougar Village II and Cougar Place. Our most pressing challenge remains deferred maintenance of our facilities, because no such fund was ever established for this purpose. We are starting to dedicate more and more HEAF resources for deferred maintenance, which means that less funding is available for new construction.
Athletics Complex: The university has raised $85 million from donors, the student referendum, and other financing toward the $105 million needed for the athletics complex facilities. The Board of Regents has given us permission to begin the project, which means that this is the final football season to be played in Robertson Stadium. Demolition of the stadium will begin immediately after the last game of the season. Construction will start in January 2013, with an expected date of completion of August 2014. Similarly, $25 million has been raised toward the $40 million total cost of bringing Hofheinz Pavilion to modern standards and building a basketball practice facility. The design phase of the arena is expected to begin in January.
National Recognition: UH continues to keep its place on national lists, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Top American Research Universities (TARU), the Princeton Review’s Best Undergraduate Colleges, and The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Best Colleges to Work For. We are also ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 7 in the nation for Intellectual Property revenue among all universities without a medical school (public or private), according to the latest report of The Chronicle of Higher Education. There is much to celebrate, but much remains to be accomplished. Our six-year graduation rate continues to be a source of embarrassment, and it prevents us from reaching higher national rankings on the U.S. News & World Report.
Executive Changes: Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Grover Campbell has retired, and we filled that position with Darrin Hall, who comes to us from the City of Houston. Darrin headed the governmental relations office at City Hall and is well experienced in the field.
Community and Alumni Support: I have always believed that great universities are built by great communities, and the more relevant we become to the community, the more support we will receive from them. Once again, we topped the $100 million mark in annual private giving. The two largest gifts came from our alumni in Dallas and Austin, a sign of growing pride and relevance around the state.
Finally, I invite you to join me at 10 a.m. October 3 at the Moores Opera House for the Fall Address - our opportunity to get together to celebrate our accomplishments and reaffirm our focus and direction. We have invited all former and current members of the Board of Regents to join us as well. I look forward to seeing you at the Fall Address.