Update: Cabinet Positions, Legislative News and More
February 7, 2023
Dear Faculty and Staff,
I hope your semester is off to a strong start and that you had a joyful and restful winter break. Here is a brief update for you.
Provost Diane Chase started her tenure as UH System Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and UH Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost on February 1, 2023. Her primary focus will be to implement the strategic plan that you all have so thoughtfully developed. Within the strategic plan, the focus will be on increasing the six-year graduation rate for freshmen and implementing the research plan, which includes adding additional faculty and building core research facilities.
I want to thank Dr. Robert McPherson for stepping in and leading academic affairs with his unparalleled wisdom and humor. He will continue assisting me this semester and then he will return to the faculty of the College of Education, a place, during his deanship, he built into a powerhouse. When you get an opportunity, please thank him for his leadership, if you have not already done so.
Dr. Claudia Neuhauser, Interim Vice Chancellor/President for Research, has begun restaffing the research operations. The staffing now is nearly at the same level it was at before the pandemic started. It might be too soon for you to see the full impact, but I hope you are seeing some relief in pre- and post-award areas. I would like to give Provost Chase a few weeks to get settled in and then hear her ideas on the future of research administration and how it will support her vision of academic excellence. I hope to start the search for the permanent VC/VP for Research in March.
I am thankful to Dr. Dan Maxwell, Interim Vice Chancellor/President for Student Affairs, for helping in the successful transition of Enrollment Services to the Provost’s Office. Since the completion of the transition, he has been placing his full attention on the student experience. I plan to start the search for the permanent VC/VP for Student Affairs by April.
I constantly hear and read about the challenges universities face in re-engaging students in light of the pandemic. I also hear about innovative ways in which you are being successful in re-engaging the students at the University of Houston. I thank you for your continuous efforts and applaud you for staying focused on student success. In recent weeks, we have seen several disturbing incidences happening in California (shootings) and Memphis (police brutality). The reaction to and internalizing of such incidences can be real, traumatic and personal. If you see signs of stress and anxiety among your students or colleagues, please guide them to various resources available on campus, such as our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Coping with emotional stressors is an integral component of student success and the well-being of our employees.
The 88th Texas Legislative Session started at the beginning of January and runs until the end of May. We are asking the state leadership to support our goals of (1) making the University of Houston more affordable for our students and (2) our vision of becoming a Top 50 public university. In a letter, University System chancellors have asked the legislature to help us keep the tuition flat by increasing our base budget by 6.8% and fully covering the cost of other unfunded mandates, which currently amount to millions of dollars. In the face of inflation, which has significantly increased our cost of operation, this funding ask is the only way for us to help our students not face a rise in tuition. As Dr. Harrison Keller, Commissioner for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, has testified in Austin that for the past ten years, universities have been responsible and have raised tuition less than the rate of inflation. Our faculty and staff are doing more with less. We pledge to find more efficient ways to fulfill our mission, but an increase in state funding will be necessary to keep university education affordable in Texas.
In supporting our goal of becoming a Top 50 Public university, we have requested that the state establish at least a $1 billion permanent endowment that would support research and other initiatives critical to obtaining this goal. The revenue from this endowment will allow us to hire additional faculty needed to reduce our faculty-to-student ratio and build the research infrastructure needed to attract more federal funding.
As a political scientist, I know that there is a long road between now and May when the session concludes. However, I am very encouraged by the positive responses that our board members and I have received during our meetings with state leaders. The Houston Chronicle recently wrote an editorial supporting our case as well.
New and Upcoming Facilities
Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership is about to unveil its beautiful addition of the new hotel tower. The entire campus will benefit from the expanded spaces.
The Judy Cook Building in Third Ward, which will house the College of Education’s ACES Institute, is near completion. We should open in late spring or early summer.
Planning for three new buildings is underway: A new academic building for the Hobby College of Public Policy, an academic building in Sugar Land, and the Innovation Hub in the core district of the campus.
The latest addition to the Athletics District will be the Football Operations Center. As required by state law, athletics facilities cannot use state funds and therefore must be funded by philanthropy and auxiliary sources. We thank our generous donors for their support, and we continue to raise funds to complete the project. We will be taking this item to the Board of Regents in a future meeting.
A final decision is yet to be made on the location of the new medical research building that was funded by the Texas Legislature in 2021.
I hope you are enjoying the spectacular athleticism our Men’s Basketball team is putting on the national stage. With the Final Four being in Houston, the excitement and anticipation around the city are palpable.
The Cougar football schedule for this year is out with seven home games including TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Cincinnati.
UH Health Clinics Are Open
UH Health Clinics are now authorized to accept most major medical insurances. Many faculty and staff have already been using the UH Optometry Clinic, which has earned a stellar reputation in the city. Now, the UH Health Family Care Center with Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine doctors offers us a primary care clinic right here on campus. I understand that appointments are quick and that they accept walk-ins.
Thank you once again for all that you do in educating our students and breaking new frontiers in research. I wish you a happy and healthy year!
With warm regards,Renu Khator
President, University of Houston