Khator talks student success at 2013 President’s Fall Address
The past year has been one marked by great change at UH. The University Center is undergoing renovations, academics and research are booming and a new stadium is being built from the ground up. President and Chancellor Renu Khator celebrated these changes, among others, at the 2013 President’s Fall Address held Wednesday morning at Moores Opera House. Yet Khator also discussed the University’s shortcomings and the areas where there is room to improve.
“These last five years we have witnessed many changes. We have launched initiatives, constructed buildings, shaped our recruiting of students and hiring of faculty, organized and re-organized our (efficiency.),” Khator said. “The question that I would like to raise is, and the basis of my (speech is): ‘So what?’”
“So what if buildings have been built? So what if initiatives have been launched? So what if recruiting and hiring practices have been changed? And so what if efficiency has changed? Has any of this made a difference in the lives of those we seek to educate and support: our students and alumni? Or those we call our biggest treasures: our faculty and staff. Or those we call our community: the city, the state and the nation.”
Khator went on to discuss the achievements the University has made in the past year, such as more students in the STEM programs, excellence in law and research and the fact that the campus now has over a million square feet of labs.
“I think that (the speech) encapsulates this growing momentum. We are at a place often thought of as sort of a commuter school. It is a commuter school no more. It is an institution, it’s soaring, it’s headed to the next level and I think the excitement is palpable,” said UH Moment Media Relations Representative Mike Garrity.
“Even looking at the challenges, I think it was really important that Dr. Khator challenge everybody at the end, (to) really just say, ‘We have challenges we still need to work on.’”
One of UH’s most prevalent issues has been its lackluster graduation rates. The UH News and World Report lists the university’s four-year graduation rate as 16 percent, and Khator has been working since her appointment in 2008 to change that.
“We are on the top list of global universities … producing global executives. But our challenge is not about the graduates,” Khator said. “It’s about the one who is left behind, who drops out and who quits. Our Tier One chance (fails) if we fail to embrace each and every one of our students and get them across the finish line to graduation. That is our operation, that is why we exist. I know it’s a huge undertaking and it will require every single one of us to help and change the pattern. But all I know is that everything is possible if we want it bad enough.”
Khator then cited the University’s fixed-tuition program, formed by Provost Paula Short as a plan to help improve the four-year graduation rate by promising incoming freshmen a fixed tuition rate as long as students graduate in four years.
But student enrollment and retention is improving, and the University’s current freshman class is considered one of the best, boasting record-shattering SAT scores and a full 35 percent of students from the top 10 percent of high school classes.
“I think that what gives me the most joy is to see (that) the retention of our students has really improved, because that tells me that tells me the many things that we started to do were right on the spot,” Khator said.
UH also has a reputation as an unsafe campus, largely due to its location and the burglary and robbery alerts that often hit student emails, an issue which Khator rebutted.
“Over 120 security officers and over 600 cameras help keep our campus safe. By the way, this is twice the personnel and technology that we had two years ago,” Khator said. “FBI data … shows that our university is safer than most others in the city, and the fact is that it is a safer place than the city as a whole.”
Above all, Khator emphasized that, though the University’s ranking and organizations are important, at the end of the day, the most important thing to her and the University is students’ success.
“Throughout the whole address, the (focus) was over student success. She said it — ‘No excuse.’ So having someone at the top (saying that) … you don’t hear that a lot,” said UH Student Government Association President Cedric Bandoh.
“All of our emphasis should be on making sure that all students that come through our doors are successful.”