Renu Khator is in her second decade as president of the University of Houston, having assumed the post, as well as the UH System’s chancellorship, in January 2008.
UH, the largest and oldest of the four UH System universities, enrolls more than 46,000 students, offers 261 degree programs and awards nearly 10,000 degrees each year. During her tenure, UH has experienced record-breaking research funding, enrollment and private support, highlighted by the “Here, We Go” campaign which surpassed its $1 billion goal in February 2019, eighteen months ahead of the campaign’s scheduled completion.
Born in Uttar Pradesh, India, she earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Kanpur, and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in political science and public administration from Purdue University. Prior to her appointment at UH, she was provost and senior vice president at the University of South Florida, capping a 22-year career at that institution.
Her current international, national and state appointments include, among others, member of the Board of Governors of the NCAA, member of the Board of Directors of the NCAA Division I, member of the Board of Directors of the American Athletic Conference (which she chaired from 2017 to 2019), member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Empowered Expert Committee, member of The Philosophical Society of Texas and Chancellor Representative on the Executive Committee of the Texas Council of Public University President and Chancellors. She has been inducted into the Texas Women Hall of Fame.
Locally, she is a member of the Advisory Board of the Texas Medical Center, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Board of Advisors of the Indian-American Chamber of Commerce of Houston, among others.
She is the former Chair of the American Council on Education and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Business-Higher Education Forum, the Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Academic Advisory Council and the NCAA Division I Presidential Forum, among others.
Among the institutional accomplishments Khator is most proud of are the elevation of UH to Tier One status in 2011, being awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 2015, establishing a College of Medicine in 2018 and improving graduation rates 10 points in 10 years.
Statements and Quotes
“The University of Houston has a $6.4 billion impact on the economy of the region and supports over 61,000 jobs. Nonetheless, Houston is under transformation. Other than being strong in oil, gas, medicine, port trade and NASA, Houston vies to be a top destination for innovation and start-ups. In order to do so, Houston will not only need a larger workforce, but also a workforce that is hungry for innovation and that is not afraid of trying, failing and trying again. The University of Houston must rise to the occasion and be the engine that fuels Houston’s future economy. We will be looking to establish stronger partnerships and deeper collaborations in the region.”
— Fall Address 2019
“As we move forward, we have to remain focused on the big rocks that we have already started to move. Our first and foremost priority is to ensure that our students – regardless of the backgrounds they come from, and the risk or reward they bring with them – are successful. While we graduate nearly 10,000 students every year, we still have several who leave us without fulfilling their dream of a college education. We must always keep asking, what can we do more to help them be successful? And then do it… I also applaud the Board of Regents and the faculty for dreaming big and thinking forward, and for launching the UH College of Medicine to fill the shortage of 6,000-plus primary care physicians in Houston and Texas. With a strong portfolio of health care disciplines in the University, it is possible for us to introduce a program in medicine and help do what this University has always done – serving the people and the community!”
— Fall Address 2018
“I am gratified to share examples of tangible progress…. Our graduation rate has improved nearly one percent a year for the past 10 years. Enrollment has grown steadily, averaging a 3 perce nd administrative space required of a Tier One institution. And, most important, 88,000 students have enjoyed the life-affirming, society-enhancing experience of earning degrees at UH in the past decade.”
— President’s Report 2017
“Our values of mutual respect and accountability are clear. Our expectations of an environment that is free of harassment, discrimination and fraud are even clearer. Our faculty and staff in all units — academic, administrative and athletic — expect that their colleagues maintain the highest level of ethical and moral behavior. Our zero tolerance policy toward harassment, discrimination and fraud is protected by a strong compliance infrastructure. However, in the end, it is up to us — individually and collectively — to uphold these values.”
— Faculty/Staff Update 2018
Khator's Climb: An Ambitious President. A Houston University Set on Change. And the 10 Years that Elevated Them Both.
"The consensus around the country is that she is one of the best higher education leaders in the U.S.," said Raymund Paredes, Texas' higher education commissioner. "Houston is lucky to have her."
— Houston Chronicle
“I look at higher education like a pyramid. You need to have your base very strong, with enough college educated people to fuel your economy. But you have to have the pinnacle, which means you have to aspire to be the best in innovation and research in the world. So you can’t just talk about college completion, the lowest level. You have to think about both axes, lowest and highest, when you discuss funding higher education.”
— Texas Tribune
“We are in an experiment to make sure that diversity and excellence are not put in two mutually exclusive categories,” Khator said. “Because we are such a diverse university, we are very important for the country. We are the prototype of what universities will look like.”
— The New York Times