Laura Gillespie" />
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Monday, September 25, 2023


Khator praises ‘powerful’ undergrad experience

Correction: Originally this article stated that the overall graduation rate is 48 percent for UH students, when in fact the six-year graduation rate is 48 percent, measuring only first time in college freshmen and not including transfers.

When UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator came to the University in 2008, she hit the ground running, determined to create a student body that’s bigger, louder and, above all, better educated. Khator boasted the benefit of not only her initiatives, but the work of the entire UH community Wednesday morning at the Moores Opera House in her annual address.

Khator broke down what makes a “powerful” undergraduate experience into access, relevance, success and affordability. In the past year, the University has been nationally ranked in access, relevance and affordability.

“But ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in its taste,” she said. “Success is not about what we try to do, but what gets done. Are students succeeding and graduating?”

Succeeding, yes, but student graduation rate remains lackluster. UH’s six-year graduation rate, which does not include transfers, is 48 percent for first time in college freshmen, making the University on par with other Texas Emerging Research Universities, but far below other Public Tier 1 Universities, which have a graduation rate of 71 percent.

Khator cited the high freshman retention rate as one of her proudest achievements of the past year, and hopes to continue to develop the UHin4 program, which sets a flat tuition fee if students graduate in four years. Nearly half of current freshmen are enrolled in the program, far beyond her original goal of 30 percent.

Khator called the Class of 2018 “larger, stronger and more diverse than ever before,” with an average SAT score of 1143, 32 National Merit Scholars and 96 percent enrolled full time. Nearly half are living on campus, fitting the widespread vision of making the University more of a traditional college experience.

Student Government Association President Charles Haston cited growing numbers of students on campus – including mandatory freshmen housing – as one of the first projects he and Khator will tackle in the coming year.

That’s not the only way UH is becoming more traditional. Around 4,000 students showed up to the Cage Rage pep rally, and 10,000 came to the first football game at the newly-minted TDECU Stadium.

Along with the stadium, Khator highlighted the University’s infrastructure achievements, with the new University Center, the Grove and Cougar Place.

“If you want to see the most visible sign of change, walk on campus with a visitor,” Khator said in her speech. “I have yet to walk with anyone new to our university whose first words are not ‘Wow, wow and … wow.’”

Among construction projects yet to be completed are the Multi-Disciplinary Research and Engineering Building, Houston Baseball Development Facility, Phase Two of the University Center and the Health and Biomedical Sciences 2 building.

Khator cited the tremendous achievements of faculty and students in the past several years: from studies in scientific papers and books published about language and the arts, to lucrative national awards won and two new National Academy Members, the University is showing its credentials as a powerhouse, not just in Texas, but nationally.

Khator highlighted significant faculty members, such as Betsy Cook Weber, a professor who will serve as director of the Houston Symphony Chorus, and Leonard M. Baynes, the new UH Law Center Dean.

The University has far surpassed its faculty’s philanthropic goals, with $27.7 million given this year.

In the year to come, the University will implement a beefier health program, a College of Arts and completed Sugar Land satellite campus.

In order to spread the University’s name nationally, Khator discussed a new ad initiative in Houston airports, declaring “This is the house innovation built’ in a new “Powerhouse” campaign.

Khator rounded off her speech by stressing the importance in ensuring minority and low income student success, as Hispanic students, low income and non-traditional students have a lower chance of going to college or completing their degree.

“As disturbing as these trends are, they make us relevant to the nation,” Khator said in her speech. “Our diversity makes us a prototype… the University of Houston is today what other universities will be in 20-25 years.”

The speech was bookmarked by the UH jazz band and women’s chorale, the latter of whom performed “Happy” by Pharrell Williams with a twist – saying how happy they were to be a Cougar.

“I hope (the UH community) got out of this speech how much they have accomplished together, but how much is still to be done,” Khator said afterward. “This is like a celebration, so it’s my chance to be able to tell faculty and staff how hard they work and what the results are.”

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