Letters to the University Community

Faculty and Staff Update

December 9, 2013

Another semester has come to end. We continue to move the needle but also face enormous challenges as we push forward. Many achievements are worth celebrating as we move toward the holiday season. Here is a quick update on issues of importance to you. 

New Board of Regents Members: We are pleased to welcome the three newest members to our governing body, the UH System Board of Regents. They are Dr. Durga D. Agrawal, president and CEO of Piping Technology & Products, Inc. and former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Ms. Paula M. Mendoza, a native Houstonian, entrepreneur and past Chairman of the State of Texas Ethics Commission; and Mr. Peter K. Taaffe, an attorney with the Buzbee Law Firm who received his degree from the UH Law Center, where he has served as an adjunct professor. They are worthy additions and will help provide the prudent leadership we have been so fortunate to enjoy from the board.  

UH Health: Since health care is such an essential enterprise for the city of Houston, we have made it one of our primary endeavors at the University. To maintain that commitment and to help launch the Health Science Center we are undertaking, Provost Paula Myrick Short has named Earl Smith, dean of the College of Optometry, to serve as our interim Chief Health Officer. His appointment underscores the extraordinary importance we place on this area of study and research. With the help of the faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community, the Health Science Center team will carry out the development of a strategic vision as its first task. 

UH Energy: The UH Energy is thriving, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti. The Energy Advisory Board has been expanded to 21 top energy executives and the new subsea engineering program is going online.One of the start-up companies in the Energy Research Park, C-Voltaics, grabbed the most prestigious Goradia Prize for Innovation in Houston. This is the first of many successes to come. The University of Houston, in partnership with UT and Texas A&M, launched a significant federal initiative, the Ocean Safety Institute. On another note, we thank Schlumberger for their generous gift in support of the park.  

UH Arts: After careful consideration, Provost Short has announced the position of the Chief Arts Officer. The search for this transformative position is now open. Recently, I attended a performance by the students of the Moores School of Music and was once again blown away by their talent and drive. 

UH Athletics: After an 8-4 season this year, the Cougars are headed to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., to play the Vanderbilt Commodores on Jan. 4. The team lost four close games by a total of only 20 points!  The new football stadium is taking shape and scheduled to open in August 2014.  The UH basketball season is still young. I hope you will come out and support the team as it begins its competition in the American Athletic Conference, one of the strongest basketball conferences in the nation. 

Student Success:  We place a priority on Student Success and that success can take many forms. One of the more intriguing is UH’s inclusion on a new list of 100 universities worldwide that produce the most millionaires. UH joins UT, SMU and Texas A&M as the only Texas schools that qualified for that select category, Times Higher Education reports. That same publication also cited UH in another study ranking schools that have educated the most Fortune Global 500 CEOs.     

We are working hard to increase the graduation rates of our freshmen and transfer students. To this end, I have charged a UH System Blue Ribbon Task Force with “Closing the Gap” and increasing college completion rates by our diverse student body. The sheer number of students from the underserved population requires that we identify and implement strategies that are numerically scalable and financially sustainable. It also requires that we work as a system and look at the issue comprehensively and synergistically. 

Finally, the Texas Legislature’s HB 29 requires that we offer a “4-year fixed tuition to students.” This requirement forces us to embrace the notion of students graduating in four years and asks us to create an environment in which they could succeed in a timely manner. Our “UH in 4 Program” is in response to this legislation.   

Campus Security: Chief of Police Ceaser Moore has added new security officers to his force. He and his colleagues are committed to keeping our campus safe, but they need our vigilance and cooperation. Please stay alert, inform the police of any suspicious activity and help students maintain a safe personal environment. We will continue to do everything possible to keep the campus safe.

Commencement: On Dec. 20, we will graduate another group of outstanding students. Every time I stand on the stage for these ceremonies, I am reminded of your passion and hard work in bringing these students to the finish line. Please accept my gratitude for your role, however direct or indirect, in the success of our students.   

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season!

Warm Regards,
Renu Khator

P.S. If you have any questions or comments regarding this information – or anything else – please contact me at president@uh.edu. As always, I would be happy to hear from you.