Imagine that you are helping lead a major university in a large city. You are faced with a critical choice. Should the university focus on being nationally — and even internationally — competitive? Or should the primary emphasis be on local relevance?

The answer is yes ... to both.

At the University of Houston, we have made a commitment to achieve national prominence and to serve as a key resource for our community. These two objectives are not mutually exclusive — but undertaking both can certainly be challenging. The trick, I believe, is to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, but always look upward and onward.

That expanded perspective is perhaps best exemplified by UH’s recent selection as the home for three vital, federally funded national research centers — one for offshore energy, another for a Homeland Security-driven program focusing on borders, trade and immigration issues and a third for advanced superconductor manufacturing. Clearly, our national profile is on the rise. And, UH continues to enjoy international acclaim in the arts and athletics, with our Moores Concert Chorale earning a number of awards in European competitions while the Men’s Basketball team recently undertook a remarkable 10-day tour through China, introducing a number of opponents and cheering crowds to Cougar-style excitement.

As exhilarating as such recognition may be, we never want to lose sight of our obligation to serve the city that gives us our name — the University of Houston. I’m proud to say that we are doing so in countless ways, large and small. I am even prouder to say we are now moving forward with what may well be UH’s most ambitious community initiative to date. To meet a clear and growing demand in the local health care arena, UH is exploring the possibility of a medical school specializing in community-based preventive and primary care. To help direct this crucial exploration, I have named Dr. Stephen J. Spann as Special Assistant to the President and Planning Dean for the Medical School. A dedicated physician and seasoned health care administrator with experience at Baylor College of Medicine, UTMB and Johns Hopkins, he is helping us prepare and evaluate an ambitious program that would be academically desirable, financially feasible, and, most importantly, a program that complements the already strong offerings in the city of Houston.

The win-win result would be additional health care resources for our community and expanded opportunities for our students to participate in a rewarding interdisciplinary and integrated learning experience.

So, as this issue of the University of Houston Magazine shows, we are carrying on our efforts to play a fundamental role in our community while establishing a national reputation for excellence at the highest levels. Just because we are an anchor institution doesn’t mean we can’t soar …

With warm regards,

Renu Khator
President, University Of Houston