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Welcome Back, Faculty and Staff

September 5, 2019

With Labor Day Weekend behind us and the fall semester fully underway, I want to welcome you back from what I hope was a wonderful summer. I look forward to working with you to make this another productive and pleasing session for us all.

Our FY2019-20 has started with a bang: first, the ceremonial signing of the bill to create the UH College of Medicine, followed by the announcement of the largest gift in the University’s history, and then the announcement of funding for the new UH Law Center building.

Below, I’d like to share these items and other news that may be of interest to you.

Show of Political Support for UH: On Aug. 21, we had the rare opportunity to welcome Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and 20 other state legislators along with Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Lina Hidalgo to our campus for the ceremonial signing of HB 826 that creates the UH College of Medicine. It is my understanding that the last time a Texas Governor was on UH campus to sign a bill was in 1963, when the University of Houston was taken over by the state and became a public university.  

The signing ceremony also gave us a perfect opportunity to release the impressive new architectural renderings of the $80 million College of Medicine building to be constructed on the 43-acre tract of undeveloped land across from MacGregor Park.  The land, purchased in 2008, was selected as the site of the future home of the UH College of Medicine because of its proximity to our other colleges, allowing us the opportunity to grow this into a comprehensive Life Sciences Complex over the years. I invite you to visit the renderings of the building at https://stories.uh.edu/2019medicinebillsign/index.html

$50 Million Anonymous Gift: It is heartwarming that the single largest gift in the history of the University of Houston has been given to us after the successful completion of our campaign target of a billion dollars. To me, this gesture signals that our supporters stand with us beyond the billion to help us fulfill our big dreams.  The $50 million match gift is exclusively dedicated to attracting high caliber faculty by underwriting endowed chairs and professorships in four interdisciplinary areas: energy, infrastructure, population health and global engagement. The anonymous donor’s interest is in supporting primarily interdisciplinary STEM research that finds practical solutions. However, the donor is also interested in ensuring that STEM graduates have a basic understanding of the geo-political realities in which they will work and lead. The gift, which provides matching funds designed to inspire another $50 million in investments from additional donors, will make the total impact as much as $100 million. Provost Paula Short and Vice President Eloise Brice will soon be sending out more information about the gift and the parameters for its matching challenge.

Approval of New Home for UH Law Center: In its August meeting, the Board of Regents approved $78 million for construction of a new building for the UH Law Center along with the new home for the Hobby School of Public Affairs in the renovated McElhinney Building. If you recall, theTexas Legislature approved $45 million for both of the projects. The remainder of the funding has been secured through donors and university bonds.  The UH Law building’s original plan called for a $90 million facility, which means that we must either raise the remaining $12 million before the design phase or construct the building in two phases.

Enrollment Update:  With more than 46,000 students enrolling this year, our enrollment remains unchanged from last year. However, the profile of those enrolled has changed significantly. Our freshmen class has grown 10% to a record number of 5,605!  With these numbers, the freshmen to transfer student ratio is now 56-44, a dramatic change from the 40-60 ratio just a few years back.  We had a record number of applications from prospective freshmen and therefore succeeded in yielding a freshmen class that is not only greater in number but also stronger than ever with an average SAT of 1,225.   

Faculty Staff Merit Increase: The Board of Regents approved a 2% pool toward merit increases for faculty and staff. The new raises went into effect Sept. 1, 2019.

New Faculty and Staff Hires: The University of Houston welcomed 123 new faculty and three dozen new staff members this fall. I had the occasion to welcome new faculty during the faculty orientation and found their talent and enthusiasm to be inspiring. Among these new faces on the campus are Dr. Paul Pavlou, dean of the Bauer College of Business and Mr. Gaston Reinoso, chief of Human Resources. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to all of our new colleagues.

UH Strategic Plan: Given that the University has gone through some fundamental changes—creation of the colleges of medicine and the arts, adoption of 50+ degree programs, and expansion of UH in Sugar Land and Katy – it is time for us to come together and think strategically about the future directions of the University of Houston. We intend to roll out the process and tools for engagement within the next 3-4 weeks, and I request you to join me in this very significant journey.

UH in Katy and Sugar LandWe have opened two buildings on our two instructional sites in Sugar Land and Katy.  The new College of Technology building, at the long established UH at Sugar Land site, is a 100,000-square foot facility with state-of-the-art classroom, training and research spaces. And the newly developed UH at Katy site, near the intersection of Interstate 10 and the Grand Parkway, has opened a building that houses programs from the UH College of Nursing and the UH Cullen College of Engineering.

More Parking: Parking Garage #5 (at Entrance 18 and Elgin in the Arts District) has just opened with 2,500 spaces. Parking Garage #6 (at Entrance 1 and University Drive), is under construction to provide an additional 2,500 spaces.

Go Coogs!: Our Houston Cougars opened their football season clawing against No. 4 Oklahoma on their home field in Norman. While the team lost this challenging game, it has tremendous talent, and this promises to be a great season. Come and support your student athletes as they start their home season at TDECU this Saturday against Prairie View. If football is not your thing, there are 15 other NCAA sports at UH to keep you engaged and cheering!

This One is For You!:  As you can imagine, I receive a lot of emails from students, mostly asking for help in fixing up things that have gone wrong like closed classes, missing check from Financial Aid or parking tickets.  But this year, I received an unusual number of emails or verbal messages telling me about what has gone right.  Here is one example:

“Dear Ms. Khator -- I just wanted to introduce myself…I have to admit UH was not my first choice when I began exploring options.  At the insistence of my parents, I reluctantly completed the application and came for a tour. I am so glad I did. The love I felt from everyone on campus and the tremendous amount of support throughout the process completely floored me. I was accepted into a number of universities all across Texas, but I have chosen to be at UH…I am grateful for this opportunity and I am excited for this to be my home for the next four years.” 

That email was sent to me, but it was meant for you.  It is a reminder why we do what we do every day of the week despite all the challenges.

Please join me on Oct. 2 for this year’s Fall Address and allow me to highlight what we have been able to accomplish together. I wish you a very productive semester and year!   

With warm regards,
Renu Khator