Interim President John M. Rudley extends fall greetings

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Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Welcome back for what promises to be another great year for the University of Houston. Of course, if you just came to the university, we’re delighted to have you among the newest members of our Cougar family.

This academic year is a milestone for UH as we celebrate our 80th anniversary. This also is the 30th anniversary for the University of Houston System. Over the next few months, you will have the opportunity to learn more about our history and of the rich heritage you share with Cougars around the world.

Eighty years may sound like a long time, but in the life of a university, 80-years old is really 80-years young. And, as with any young institution, we’re going through a period of transition.

I’m sure you noticed the mature oak trees down the middle of Calhoun Street. Those trees came from the parking lot next to Melcher Hall, the future site for Calhoun Lofts. At $96.5 million, it is the largest construction project in our history. When completed two years from now, Calhoun Lofts will be a mixed-use facility that will house nearly 1,000 students in our professional disciplines. It also will include classroom and retail space, among other uses.

We also spent more than $1 million repairing and resurfacing our parking lots and developing new surface parking lots with more than 200 additional spaces. And, we have plans for a $9-million parking garage on Calhoun Street across the street from Melcher Hall, which will include 900 – 1,000 spaces.

This summer we started the first phase of our UH Jogging and Recreation Trail that goes around the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. The next phase, to be developed with the city of Houston, will connect to the bayou south of the campus. It will include a new park southeast of Wheeler Avenue and Calhoun Street and a link to the hike-and-bike trail Harris County is creating along the bayou. Future phases will encircle the campus and tie into the bayou south of Cullen Oaks.

I want to express our appreciation to the state Legislature for approving $56 million in new tuition revenue bonds we will use to refurbish and bring up to standards many of our outdated science labs. We also will receive over the next two years an additional $23.4 million from the Higher Education Fund to maintain and improve our facilities and to purchase equipment. These funds are absolutely necessary for us to provide our students with modern classrooms and our faculty with functional and up-to-date facilities in which to conduct research. Toward that end, we have allocated $6 million a year for the next five years to finish out the research space in the Science, Engineering Research, and Classroom Complex or SERCC. This will allow us to finish one floor per year starting this fiscal year.

These and other projects are part of our master plan (www.uh.edu/masterplan) for transforming the look of the campus over the next two decades. I say this because our current and scheduled construction projects will be inconveniences, there is no doubt about it. But, I want to tell you that I would rather have inconvenience caused by construction and campus growth, than to get around campus easily because we are not growing.

Also this summer, we continued work on the reaffirmation of our accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The reaffirmation process requires the broad involvement of our university community, and we want to thank everyone participating in this important project. Development of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is an integral part of this process. The QEP reflects and affirms the proposition that student learning is at the heart of the mission of all our university.

You are here at Houston at a great time in our history, and I know you will add to our growing prestige around the nation and the world. Let me say, once again, that we are happy to have you with us, and we wish you great success as you continue your career with us.

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