October 21, 2013

Dear UH Students, Faculty, and Staff:

I am pleased to share new initiatives in the Office of Academic Affairs. We continue to work toward improving student success and national competiveness in support of our Tier One goals. I also hope you enjoy reading about the recognition of one of our outstanding faculty members.

Paula Myrick Short

Provost's Dinner and Dialogue on Health

Following the Faculty Senate's 15th Community Conference on Greater Houston's Health - Urban Healthcare in the 21st Century, the Provost hosted a dinner for 50 guests from the University of Houston, the City of Houston, and Harris County to extend the dialogue around partnerships between the UH Health Science Center and health care in Greater Houston. Provost Short stated, "I believe this is the first step in creating a model Health Science Center that collaborates and partners with the community in substantive and sustainable ways to address the urgent and long-term health needs of the fourth-largest city in the country."

Faculty Senate President Steven Wallace said his table had a very interesting discussion about the gap in health care in the city and county, and how UH could start to fill the gap while still generating enough revenue to make it feasible. Wallace’s table consisted of individuals with extensive experience in health care and with financial expertise. “Having enough expertise around the table made the process productive, while at the same time, keeping us honest. It forced us to come up with realistic ideas that have the potential of being implemented,” he said. Sitting at a different table, Sherry Weesner, chief of staff for Council Member Melissa Noriega said, "I believe that this conference was an important step in helping the City of Houston, Harris County, and the University of Houston expand their working relationship. By working together with the community, important progress will be made toward solving problems the region continues to face."

Christie and Williams-Willis
Council Member Jack Christie and Linda Williams-Willis, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Foundations of Excellence

Recently, it was announced that the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education selected the University of Houston to participate in “Foundations of Excellence,” an initiative designed to study all aspects of the first year of college and to produce a plan for institutional improvement leading to higher levels of student learning and persistence through four years of college. The yearlong program utilizes a model developed by national experts and vetted by more than 300 four- and two-year institutions. The initiative is a major collaboration between the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Vice President for Student Affairs.
Foundations of Excellence

Foundations of Excellence Logo

Throughout the 2013-2014 academic year, a task force comprised of more than 200 members of faculty, staff, students, and alumni will collaborate with the Gardner Institute to develop a comprehensive plan of action for institutional change and improvement. Implementation of the plan is expected to start in June 2014.The task force is led by Teri Longacre, Interim Vice Provost and Dean, Undergraduate Student Success, and Daniel Maxwell, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. As part of the evaluation, task force members will conduct data-driven assessments, gather and interpret evidence, and render expert judgment on the University's approach to educating first-year students. Task force member and Student Government Association President Cedric Bandoh stated, "This initiative is one of the most exciting projects during my tenure as SGA President."

Participation in the program will enable UH to plan and implement a cutting-edge, first-year experience. The goals are to establish a solid foundation for success throughout the undergraduate experience, strategically align student success initiatives, enhance student engagement and learning, and increase retention and timely progression to degree completion.

Kevin Burke Recipient of Arthur Holmes Medal

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) has named Kevin C. A. Burke, professor of geology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, as recipient of the 2014 Arthur Holmes Medal. The Arthur Holmes Medal is one of the three most prestigious awards from EGU and recognizes Dr. Burke's important research contributions in plate tectonics. Dr. Burke has been a professor at the University of Houston's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics since 1983. He has received numerous awards including his field's most prestigious award, the 2007 Geological Society of America Penrose Medal.

Professor Kevin Burke

The European Geosciences Union is a nonprofit international union of scientists with over 12,500 members from all over the world. It is Europe's premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the geosciences and the planetary and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. Dr. Burke will receive his medal and award next spring at the EGU 2014 General Assembly in Vienna.

Graduate Student Orientation

 On August 24, 2013, the University of Houston welcomed 178 graduate and professional students at the inaugural University-wide graduate student orientation sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs in close partnership with the Graduate School and the Office of Academic Affairs. The one-day session featured addresses by President Renu Khator, Senior Vice President and Provost Paula Myrick Short, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services Richard Walker, and Interim Dean of the Graduate School Dmitri Litvinov. The program also covered a multitude of topics of interest to the greater graduate student population including fellowships and graduate assistantships, library and learning services, dining, parking, and athletics.

Graduate Student Orientation Photo
Assistant Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Equal Opportunity Services Richard Baker and Interim Dean Dmitri Litvinov

The idea of an orientation designed and delivered specifically for graduate and professional students was first floated at the Graduate Student Roundtable with President Khator. It also was strongly promoted and supported by the faculty and graduate student representatives serving on the Graduate Education & Policies Committee of the Faculty Senate. The graduate student orientation is among several initiatives aimed at building a stronger vibrant graduate and professional student campus community. Students learned about the wealth of on-campus resources available to them to help them succeed academically and experience an enriching student life while in graduate school. Interim Dean Litvinov stated, "We see the graduate orientation as the first opportunity to keep graduate students from getting secluded in the silos of individual programs, to jump-start their integration into a wider University community, and to help them start building and expanding their professional networks."

Provost Logo

Paula Myrick Short