President's Update - University of Houston
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President's Update

April 17, 2019

Dear Cougar Colleagues –

As we pass the midway point to another successful semester at the University of Houston, I hope you find time to be outdoors and enjoy this beautiful April weather in Houston.

Here are some items of interest for you.

Legislative Priorities:  

  1. Approval for the UH Medical School was among our top priorities during this legislative session. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted to formally recognize the medical school in the state’s Education Code and included the $20 million in start-up funding in their budget.  We thank State Reps. John Zerwas and Garnet Coleman for their leadership and the entire Houston delegation for their unwavering support. The Senate Higher Education Committee also unanimously passed the bill supporting the UH Medical School, and it has been placed on the uncontested agenda for approval by the full Senate. Sens. Joan Huffman and Borris Miles have taken the leadership role; however, once again, the bill has received full bipartisan support.   
  2. Funding for the Law Center building was our No. 1 priority for TRB (tuition revenue bond). The House has provided $50M for the building. The Senate has not yet acted on any TRB funding, but we remain hopeful. 
  3. On enrollment funding, the House and Senate have passed their own versions of the budget, but the good news is that both have provided additional funding to support new enrollment. While we remain grateful for the increase, we are also reminded that our base formula funding is still below the funding level in 2011 when the Legislature imposed a severe cut.  I continue to make our case in Austin that our faculty and staff are doing more for less but we do need help to maintain the quality of instruction.  

Out-patient Clinic Opens on Campus:   In conjunction with establishing the Medical School, UH is supporting the Lone Star Circle of Care in operating an out-patient clinic on campus. This facility will serve as a training ground for students, research lab for faculty and a clinical space for practitioners. But above all, it will serve the health care needs of the surrounding community as well as our faculty and staff. Stay tuned for more information about how you can access the clinic for your medical needs.

Record-breaking Freshmen Applications:  More than 30,000 prospective freshmen have already applied for admission to UH for Fall 2019! It goes without saying that your attention to student success is why the interest in UH is rising consistently. But I must admit that the tremendous buzz about the University resulting from the upcoming medical school and our trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 has also contributed to this increase.   

Beyond the Billion:  What do you do after raising a billion dollars?  You have to go “beyond the billion.” This will be our new campaign tagline for the next 18 months as we use our momentum and continue to raise additional funds for scholarships and endowed professorships. Improving campus identity by using public art and gateways also remains a priority.

New Leadership:    

  1. Dr. Paul A. Pavlou will join Bauer College as Dean and Cullen Distinguished Chair in July.  He currently serves as Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives at the Fox School of Business at Temple University.
  2. Dr. Michael Twa has been appointed Dean of the College of Optometry. Dr. Twa joins us from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he serves as associate dean for research and graduate studies for the School of Optometry. He begins his duties in June.
  3. Gaston Reinoso will join us as Associate Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Human Resources in July.  He comes to us, after a national search, from LSU, where he served in a similar capacity, and the University of Akron prior to that. 
  4. In addition, the Office of the Provost reports that searches for 105 faculty lines on the FY19 Faculty Hiring Plan are underway.

Budget Transparency Initiative:  To spark transparency and innovation, I asked Provost Paula Short and Vice President Jim McShan to lead a committee of faculty and staff with the goal of making the University budget transparent. Their committee has held several meetings, and the report should be completed by the end of May. At that time, I will share it and seek your input.

Construction Update: The Old Science Building project will be completed by summer’s end; however, the space will not be assigned to anyone for several years. We need the building as “swing space” to temporarily house faculty and staff while the other five core buildings undergo renovation. The next building up for renovation is Roy G. Cullen Building, which will be taken off-line in the late summer. Work on Cullen Boulevard also begins this summer. The goal is to make Cullen Boulevard bike-and pedestrian-friendly while improving storm water retention underneath it to prevent campus flooding.

How Sweet Can It Get? Congratulations to our Men’s Basketball team for their appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16!  Our Cougars had waited more than 30 years to join the Sweet 16 dance but now under Coach Kelvin Sampson’s helm, we have had a chance to go dancing again and again. Congratulations are also due to our Track & Field teams for their nationally dominating performances as well as the Women’s Swimming and Diving Team for winning the conference championship.

Let me end by thanking you for your leadership in making the University of Houston a great learning place for our students! You continue to break barriers and push ahead on the path of excellence.  It is a joy to be on your team!

With warm regards,

Renu Khator