Listen closely enough and perhaps you can still hear the echoes of the excited cheers and enthusiastic applause that resonated across our campus recently.

Within a short period, we held a rally celebrating our football team’s upset victory in the Peach Bowl, installed our new Phi Beta Kappa honor society chapter and hosted the nationally televised Republican presidential candidates’ “Super Tuesday” debate.

Those were wonderful milestones and something that our Cougar community — and Houston — should take pride in.

But recalling such accomplishments doesn’t inspire me as much as looking ahead to the next chapter of the UH story. If the past seven years have been transformative for UH, what we plan to do during the next seven will be even more remarkable. So, let’s not dwell on what UH has done, but what UH intends to do.

For example, in keeping with our commitment to community engagement, we are preparing an ambitious plan to help our historic Third Ward neighborhood empower and improve itself. Guided by a number of community partners, UH will assist with expanding educational opportunities, providing additional health care options and encouraging economic initiatives — in short, helping the historic Third Ward transform itself into a “Tier One” neighborhood. While constructive in itself, it will also allow us to develop a practical model to improve other neighborhoods.

Similarly, we will continue refining our research capabilities to deliver real-world solutions to real-world problems, like working with TxDOT to improve structural integrity in bridges and freeways, developing “smart cement,” improving air and water quality, and extending the life of construction materials by coating them with a molecular-level waterproofing agent.

What is particularly inspiring, though, is the expanding role our students are playing, honing their research abilities working alongside seasoned faculty members and, increasingly, taking the initiative to drive their own projects and even launch their own start-ups. By emphasizing such hands-on opportunities, we’ll ensure that innovation is a fundamental part of our students’ DNA, that the entrepreneurial spirit is not just acceptable but encouraged — two traits that are vital to Houston’s character. Increasingly, we want our Cougars to be not just job-ready, but life-ready.

Finally, we are taking bold steps forward in UH’s commitment to health care, having broken ground on our second Health and Biomedical Sciences Building, an enormous development both in scope and purpose. The nine-story, 300,000-square-foot complex — which will cost more than our football stadium — will serve as the cornerstone for our expanding health care initiatives and plans to establish a unique UH medical school to train preventive and primary care physicians while serving in community-based clinics.

What motivates me today is the UH of the future, with forward-looking plans in community improvement, in targeted research, in public health care and, at its core, an even more ambitious definition of student success. We believe this is a formula for a stronger UH and, as always, a stronger Houston.

With warm regards,

Renu Khator
President, University of Houston