May 20, 2022
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Congratulations and thank you on another successful academic year! Last week, we graduated nearly 6,000 students in multiple ceremonies thanks to you! These graduates are special because in order to graduate they had to climb over the COVID-19 mountain and deal with enormous unpredictability. Needless to say, they could not have made it to the finish line without your guiding hand. Once again, thank you for everything you do every day for our students and our university.
Now for the update:
Chairman Fertitta Makes a $50 Million Transformational Gift
On Thursday, Chairman of the UH System Board of Regents and his family made a $50 million gift to the College of Medicine. In return, the UH College of Medicine will now be known as the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine. This is a transformational gift that will not only strengthen the capabilities of the college but will also help faculty, staff and students fulfill their mission of serving the underserved in Houston and beyond. Future generations of students will forever be indebted to the Fertitta family for this visionary gift.
Shell’s Gift of $10 million Launches the UH Energy Transition Institute
As an interdisciplinary initiative, the UH Energy Transition Institute, will focus on three areas: de-carbonization, hydrogen and circular plastic. With the help of matching funds from the state and the Aspire gift, this Institute is expected to draw an investment of $50 million and allow us to be a part of redefining Houston’s energy future.
Primary Care Clinic for Faculty and Staff
The UH College of Medicine’s primary care clinic on campus, staffed by the College of Medicine faculty, is equipped to accept third party medical insurance. The clinic will roll out enrollment for faculty and staff in the fall. Conveniently located in the health district, it will be yet another benefit available to the campus community.
Best of the Best!
With the addition of two faculty members as the newest members to the National Academy of Engineering, UH now is home to 21 members of the national academies. Pradeep Sharma, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was elected into the National Academy of Engineers (NAE), the highest honor an engineer can receive. Similarly, Professor Leon Thomsen, research professor of geophysics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, was elected into the NAE for his storied achievements over a long career in industry and academia.
In addition, Keliy Anderson-Staley, associate professor in the Kathrine G. McGovern College of Arts, received the highly esteemed and competitive Guggenheim Fellowship for her creative and unique approach to photography. This is the University’s fourth Guggenheim in the last five years.
Equally exciting is the announcement of Professor Cedric R. Tolliver of English as one of only 33 scholars to be named as a National Humanities Center Fellow for 2022-23. Dr. Tolliver will devote a year to research and writing a manuscript on the intersection of African American literature and national security.
I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud our staff whose steadfast support is critical to us achieving our goals and vision. You are the backbone of the institution and on Friday, May 20 we will hold a Staff Appreciation Lunch in your honor. Your work matters.
Provost Search Extended
We had hoped to fill the position of the provost and senior vice chancellor of Academic Affairs by mid-May; however, the condensed time line made it impossible to secure a sufficient number of strong candidates to give us some real options. After a lengthy discussion with search chairs and the search firm, we feel that more time needs to be devoted to the search. I must say that the committee has done a splendid job but the task is challenging given the enormity and complexity of the position. The search will continue through summer and fall months. I will be back with a communication in July to announce an interim provost.
In April, we introduced new options to allow faculty and staff to have flexibility as we settle back into the new normal. What we are experiencing is not the normal; but only a journey that will lead to a new normal in due course. It took two years for the pandemic to destabilize the old normal. We can expect that it will take two years for the new realities to build a new normal. Meanwhile, we will continue to face external challenges: shortage of talent, broken supply chain, rising mental health issues and rapidly growing inflation, to name a few.
Our challenges are compounded by the fact that we are unlikely to generate new revenue this year because summer enrollment is down and fall enrollment is almost flat. While we can explain this challenge by pointing to enrollment decline in feeder colleges and to Houston’s hot job market for students, we cannot solve our budget problems through explanation. It is my intention to work through the budget and find ways to increase compensation without having to impose any budget cuts this year. Meanwhile, I urge you to do anything possible to encourage continuing students to return to campus and enroll. I would urge you to find new ways to work efficiently and smartly as we move forward. The value added for the University of Houston is our on-campus learning environment. Please ensure that students have full opportunity to find classes and services in person on campus.
As an interesting footnote to this topic is our record-breaking number of applications from new freshmen and master’s students! Clearly, you have built a powerhouse here that is drawing attention and attracting students who did not consider UH before.
Athletics Continues to Shine
Cougars have swept the conference championships in Swimming and Diving, Women's Outdoor Track and Field, Men's Outdoor Track and Field, and Men's Basketball, which made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Our men’s golf team just finished competition in the NCAA Regionals and our track and field programs each placed runner-up last weekend at the outdoor championships. All these wins put us closer to our strategic goal to build a nationally relevant athletics program. Go Coogs!
Thank you for all that you do to make this institution the Tier One university that it is. None of these successes would be possible without your commitment, focus and energy. I appreciate each one of you and wish you the best as we spring into a new season.