The University of Houston Magazine

UH Welcomes Students and Scholars From All Backgrounds

As Campus Changes, Diversity Remains a Focus.

by Mike Emery

International Students gathering togetherNew residence halls, academic buildings and parking facilities are helping transform UH into a bigger and better university. METRO and UH are working to link the campus to the community through light rail. Academically, UH is growing with unique new courses and majors. And through partnerships with the Texas Medical Center and NASA, among other institutions, the university’s research efforts also are evolving.

But as the campus grows in size and stature, the changes have not diminished the university’s cultural landscape. UH remains the second most ethnically diverse major research institution of higher education in the country and the most ethnically diverse higher education institution in Texas.

“UH has a culture that not only welcomes diversity but also celebrates it.
This university is a very welcoming place for students and scholars from all backgrounds.”

— Jerald Strickland
assistant vice chancellor for international studies and programs

UH President Renu Khator discovered this welcoming atmosphere when she arrived on campus in 2008. As the lead voice for UH’s Tier One drive and the first Indian immigrant to lead a U.S. research university, she has been embraced by the campus community.

“Diversity comes in all colors,” said State Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston. “I spoke to a journalism class at UH, and a student asked me if Tier One would change the university. He said that he and many other students wanted the university to remain a place of opportunity for students of all colors. That particular student wasn’t a minority at all. He was white.”

UH will no doubt continue to provide opportunities to students from all backgrounds and is committed to making sure all future Cougars are college ready. In 2012, UH’s new freshman admissions policy will offer automatic acceptance of first-time in- college freshmen in the top 15 percent of their high school classes without requiring college entrance examinations. In 2014, UH will modify these standards to accept incoming freshmen within the top 10 percent of their classes.

These admissions policies will help UH remain competitive on its journey toward Tier One, while maintaining a commitment to a culturally diverse campus.

“With Texas’ large pool of talented students, we can maintain diversity and admit students who are ready to succeed,” said John Antel, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “We will make sure we get the most prepared students from all backgrounds.”

Students have long appreciated this dedication to diversity, understanding that working with peers from other countries and cultures enhances their college experiences.

Erica Fletcher, a senior in UH’s Honors College, was raised in League City, Texas. She also is firmly connected with her South American heritage (her mother is from Brazil). So much so, she incorporates Latina issues into her class projects — including “Marianismo,” a short film focusing on HIV/AIDS among Latinas.

Erica Fletcher“UH’s diversity has had an impact on my education and research philosophy,” she said. “It’s helped me understand cultural sensitivity and cultural differences between populations. Being able to talk to friends and classmates about these issues has been very beneficial. It’s helped me experience other cultures in a relaxed, friendly environment.”

Cultural exchanges such as these reflect the university’s international ties. UH is among the top 25 institutions  with the most international students, serving more than 4,000 students from other countries.

The growing international presence, combined with UH’s existing multicultural element, prepares students for an increasingly diverse society.

“They used to call it the ‘New America,’” Coleman said. “Now, it’s just ‘America.’ Our country is now a mosaic. It’s important that we understand others around us. Diversity is now the norm in America, not the exception.”

The face of the university is no doubt changing. The faces in classrooms and on campus, however, continue to represent a range of local and global cultures. This unique pairing of vision and tradition is fueling its flight toward Tier One and its commitment to excellence.

“UH is consistently ranked as one of the most diverse campuses in the nation,” said State Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston. “This distinction did not happen by accident but by investing significant time and resources into developing the type of programming and learning environment that attract such a diverse student body. I have no doubt that UH will continue with these efforts — and perhaps more so — as it moves resolutely toward Tier One status.”