President discusses struggling, overcoming adversity
UH President and System Chancellor Renu Khator shared her life as an Indian immigrant with the Women’s Studies “Living Archives Series” on Tuesday.
The event took place in the Rockwell Pavillion of the M.D. Memorial Anderson Library.
Khator came to America with her husband, Suresh Khator, of an arranged marriage to pursue her ultimate goal of getting her master’s degree.
“We’re going to the land of opportunity. We will be in America. You do what you want there. You want to study, I’ll support you, and I’ll make sure you study,” Khator said Suresh told her.
Khator said she married Suresh when she was only 18 years old and that it was a great learning experience that has shaped her life.
“You start falling in love with the person who’s in front of you rather than the stereotype you had in your mind,” she said.
Though they had no money, and she didn’t speak English, Khator and her husband managed.
Khator earned a master’s degree in political science from Purdue University in 1975 and received a doctorate in political science and public administration in 1985.
“There’s always a tunnel somewhere … I’ve been very blessed,” she said.
Khator said she has faced many struggles and felt she wanted to give up at times, but didn’t. She takes pride in the connection she has with the University’s diversity.
“Students here come from different varieties, different sources, different backgrounds, and, in each one of them, I see myself,” Khator said.
Khator never planned on working as an administrator. She ended up in the field through a mentorship program.
“In that mentorship program, I learned so much about the university because I was exposed to big issues,” Khator said.
Khator wanted to get some community service experience, but she admitted that she wanted something that didn’t require much work. She ended up joining the Faculty Senate at the University of South Florida. Later, she got nominated for secretary and accepted.
The faculty suggested Khator consider running for president. She hesitated to accept the offer because she knew that this would make her career in administration official.
She accepted “with one condition: There can be no campaigning.”
Khator is the first woman chancellor for UH and the first Indian immigrant to lead a research university in the U.S. Although statistics show an increase in women in academia, they are still underrepresented. For this and many other reasons, Khator believes women need to stick together.
She said she takes advantage of internship programs and workshops.
“You have to support one another,” Khator said.
Khator closed the interview saying that UH needs to treat students better. She feels this is of utmost importance to UH.
“We have to change the way we treat our students outside of the classroom,” Khator said.
She said creating stronger unity and school pride between faculty, students and members of the University is key to achieving flagship status.
The UH Board of Regents has a nine-point program they intend to implement that includes strengthening the graduation rate. Khator said the University’s graduation rate is 42 percent, which is lower than normal. Normally, the graduation rate is 50 percent.
“It’ll take time, but it’ll happen,” Khator said.