Renu Khator has been serving as chancellor of the University of Houston System and president of its flagship University of Houston campus, since January of 2008. She broke boundaries and glass ceilings with these appointments, as she became the first female chancellor in the state of Texas and the first Indian immigrant to lead a comprehensive research university in the U.S.
During her first decade of leadership, Renu Khator guided the remarkable transformation of the University of Houston into a top-tier institution that has become nationally recognized for its unique blend of academic accomplishment, research innovation, athletic achievement and dedication to the success of a significantly diverse, determined student body.
Today, UH enjoys an enrollment of more than 46,000 students, awards nearly 11,000 degrees annually, offers more than 275 undergraduate and graduate academic programs and has a $6.4 billion economic impact on the Greater Houston area each year.
Since arriving at UH, Khator has concentrated on making sure the University reinforces the economic and cultural strengths of the city of Houston. To that end, UH has focused on energy, the arts and health care while maintaining an overall pursuit of excellence in the higher education arena. Recognizing that a great city deserves a great public university, Khator launched an ambitious program shortly after her arrival to elevate UH's standing in the academic community. In 2011, in approximately half the predicted time, UH earned Tier One status for highest research activity from the Carnegie Foundation.
That unprecedented success has been followed by a string of similar achievements, including the opening of Houston’s first medical school in nearly 50 years, being awarded a Phi Beta Kappa honor society chapter, more than tripling the number of National Academy members on the faculty, dramatically improving the graduation rates and the launch of a bold strategic plan to become a top 50 public university.
Under her guidance, the University consistently earns accolades for its students' achievements, such as Princeton Review's "50 Colleges That Create Futures" and “Best Value Colleges.” It also ranks 31st in the nation on U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 social mobility index ranking and among the top 100 universities in the world for utility patents.
Reflecting her keen appreciation of the importance and complexity of college athletics, UH Athletics has experienced historic milestones under Khator’s leadership. New training facilities and venues have been launched including the Fertitta Center, the Guy V. Lewis Basketball Training Complex and the Houston Baseball Player Development Center. Most impressively, the Cougars consistently compete at the highest levels, earning conference championships, bowl game invitations and NCAA Final Four appearances. In 2023, UH joined the Big 12 Conference — a hard-fought mission of Khator’s to join a Power Five conference.
She has been named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has served on numerous boards, including Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, TIAA-CREF, NCAA, American Council on Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Greater Houston Partnership. Additionally, she has been an advisor and on committees and councils for several Indian prime ministers. Her alma mater has bestowed an honorary doctorate degree upon her, as has Swansea University. She has been named a Global Education and Institutional Leadership Honoree by the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston, a Houston Business Journal Women Who Mean Business Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Houstonian of the year and inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. In 2014, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee presented her with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest distinction bestowed upon a non-resident Indian.
Born in India, Khator came to the United States and earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from Purdue University. Prior to her appointment at UH, she was provost and senior vice president at the University of South Florida. She is married to Suresh Khator, associate dean of UH Cullen College of Engineering, and they have two daughters who practice ophthalmology, and three grandchildren.