Dear Cougar Supporter –
As our campus prepares for intensive summer school classes and an amazing array of summer camps for the community, it is an appropriate time to look back at the remarkable fall and spring semesters we enjoyed.
Most notably, the University of Houston awarded nearly 8,000 degrees, a clear indication that our investment in Student Success is paying dividends. Even in these challenging economic times, UH has increased the percentage in its latest budget specifically dedicated to Student Access and Success (to 65 percent). With our upgraded admission standards, enhanced academic advising and expanded instructional resources, I’m confident UH’s graduation rate will continue to rise.
This improvement isn’t compromising the diversity that has been a traditional strength of our university and a valuable characteristic of the city for which we are named. In fact, UH has recently received official recognition as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (as well as an Asian American-Serving Institution) by the Department of Education, reflecting the importance these two populations play in the overall composition of our student body. Significantly, we are the first Tier One university in Texas to qualify for that designation – and one of only three nationwide.
Speaking of economic challenges, there will be no tuition increase for undergraduates in the upcoming academic year, providing financial relief and, I hope, another boost in our students’ noble efforts to complete college. Keeping higher education affordable remains a crucial part of our formula for Student Success, so I’m especially proud of UH’s status as a “best value” university (Princeton Review) and our No. 12 ranking in the nation for graduating students with the least amount of debt (U.S. News & World Report).
Another important aspect of our commitment to Student Success has been the ongoing transformation of UH into a residential campus. Since my arrival in 2008, the percentage of students living on campus – where they make better academic progress – has been doubled. Today, we have about 6,000 students in our residence halls and, with the addition of Cougar Village II and the redevelopment of Cougar Place next year, that number will go up to 8,000, giving us the second largest on-campus population in the state!
In addition, our Stadium Parking Garage, with 2,300 new spaces, has just opened while our stunning West Dining Hall and an expanded Blaffer Art Museum are both rushing forward to completion.
These are just some of the notable changes to our campus. If you haven’t been here in a while, please come visit us! You’ll be astonished by the many improvements being made, thanks in very large part to the invaluable assistance and encouragement of supporters like you.
With that in mind, I am pleased to share with you that I had the rare privilege of announcing a generous $5 million gift from UH College of Optometry alumnus Doug Barnes and his wife, Molly, during the commencement ceremony. The expression of pleasant surprise and the noise of thunderous applause are still vivid in my memory!
Your UH is definitely getting bigger and better.
Our outstanding faculty continues to shine. Thus far in 2012, UH has earned its highest number of national faculty awards since the Top American Research University (TARU) began counting in 1999. This accomplishment assures UH a spot on the Top 50 list in this category for public universities in 2012. As you know, TARU recognition is a crucial factor in determining Tier One status. We also have seven new recipients of National Science Foundation CAREER awards – the second highest number in Texas for these coveted NSF grants given to promising junior faculty members.
UH’s reputation continues to flourish, particularly in vital arenas such as energy leadership. Certainly, the Texas Tribune’s selection of UH as the host for its recent “Energy and the Environment” symposium is proof positive of that – as was our increased presence at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference. Our recently launched Energy Research Park, with its innovative vision of bringing researchers, commercial interests and industrial associates into a single 75-acre complex, is attracting considerable attention, and we are forging a number of powerful partnerships as a result. Given Houston’s prominence as the energy capital of the world, UH must stay on course to become The Energy University.
On another front, our continued success on – and off – the playing field earned us an invitation to join the Big East Conference. We will begin competing in this prestigious league in 2013. On a related note, I have been asked to serve on the search committee for the Big East Conference’s new commissioner, a responsibility I take quite seriously.
Now, as you have heard, we will be building a new football stadium on the site of Robertson Stadium, a major development not just for UH but the entire community. Our impressive new stadium and our Big East affiliation will usher in another prominent chapter in our school’s history.
So, I hope this information is refreshing news as summer’s heat arrives. If you would like to learn more about UH’s progress during the past year, I urge you to explore my President’s Report, which is available online at http://www.uh.edu/presidents-report/2012/.