July 5, 2022
Dear Faculty and Staff,
With the midsummer heat upon us, it is hard to believe that we will be welcoming our students back to campus for the fall semester in just a few weeks. Despite the pandemic and the economic activity dominating the news and conversations, I am thrilled to announce that we have set a record for freshman applications at the University of Houston. More than 38,000 prospective students see UH as a step to creating a rewarding future. While new applications are up, we see a challenge in bringing our current students, particularly those who started during the pandemic, back to campus. This is a nationwide trend, but we must find ways to overcome this challenge.
Today, I wish to share with you some important and exciting updates.
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Robert H. McPherson, dean of the College of Education, to serve as the interim provost effective August 1, 2022. He has agreed to serve in this position until it has been permanently filled. The provost search will continue through the summer and fall months.
Dean McPherson has served as dean of the UH College of Education since 2011 and has more than 40 years of leadership-related experience in higher education, K-12 public education and professional psychology.
Dr. McPherson has led a strategic and successful effort to increase the rigor and relevance of the College of Education’s teaching and research activities. He knows the University, believes in its vision and is passionate about helping us achieve our next milestone. Please join me in congratulating Dr. McPherson on this exciting new appointment.
In our efforts to meet the ambitious goals set forth in the new strategic plan, Enrollment Services is transitioning to the Office of the Provost. In our journey to become a top 50 public university, it is important that all academic decisions related to student access and success are integrated and reside in the provost’s office. Transition will begin immediately, giving Provost Short some time to set the groundwork.
Enrollment Services includes the following departments:
- Office of the University Registrar (OUR)
- Scholarships and Financial Aid
- Campus Solutions Services
- Integrated Enrollment Services
- Enrollment Services Research and Reporting
- Enrollment Services Communication and Marketing
Daniel Maxwell will continue to serve as interim vice president and vice chancellor for the Division of Student Affairs, which will now focus exclusively on enhancing support and experience for both residential and commuter students.
After robust enrollment growth in 2020, we experienced flat enrollment in 2021. This year, summer enrollment was down by 5% and the fall enrollment is expected to be flat again. As you know, our state funding is dependent on enrollment growth — a flat enrollment means a flat revenue from the state and a flat budget for us.
That said, our expenses cannot remain flat because the talent market is tighter than ever, and we want to recruit and retain the best talent possible at the University of Houston. We know that the cost of goods and services are on the rise and inflation is impacting the household budgets of our faculty and staff. Our alternative work options may provide some reprieve, but it is not enough to offset the adverse impact. Therefore, as we plan our budget, our goal is to award merit and promotion increases to faculty and staff. It is easier to do so with a university wide budget cut, but our goal is to do so without imposing any budget cut. To this end, we will look at efficiencies and central reserves to meet our goal.
We further recognize that some staff compensation categories have fallen as much as 15-20% below the market. Almost every vice-presidential division is reporting difficulty in hiring staff. While this is not unique to our university or our sector, we have to prioritize compensation adjustments for the most compressed categories.
As we move forward, I urge you to consider how you and your unit’s work has changed, and how technology could assist in re-engineering the workflow. We cannot forgo our mission, nor can we sacrifice our goals. We will have to find ways to work smarter.
Colleges of Engineering and Technology Merger
After a thoughtful and careful analysis, I am proposing to merge the Colleges of Engineering and Technology. During the past several months, a 10-member faculty task force from the two colleges has conducted a SWOT analysis, gathered input from stakeholders and recommended to me that this merger could benefit students and researchers alike if done properly.
In August, Interim Provost McPherson will conduct one last round of town hall meetings to gather any additional issues and/or suggestions regarding the merger. At the conclusion of these meetings, the Office of the Provost will begin the implementation process, with the hope of formally creating a merged unit in January 2023.
Let me end by thanking you for your tireless efforts and leadership in making the University of Houston a great place of learning and discovery for our students! I hope you find time during the summer to take a break and re-energize yourself.