Khator addresses community involvement, UT expansion at annual Staff Focus meeting
During her annual Staff Focus informational meeting Monday, President and Chancellor Renu Khator stressed the importance of helping the community surrounding the University.
“Now that we are at this point, I feel it’s time we engage the neighborhood,” said Khator, who has been in talks with local leaders.
Projects proposed to come to the neighborhood around UH include a Walmart Supercenter and a large apartment complex, said Khator, who added that two other developments are in the works, one of which could involve a strip center off of Scott Street.
Khator said there is a strong focus on retaining the communities that live near campus.
“When development comes, we don’t want the historic nature to be disturbed and the people who live there to be displaced,” Khator said. “Growth happens by enabling people, not displacing them.”
The University wants to help improve education, health, and the economy around the University, with goals of improving failing high schools and creating as many as 100 new jobs per year, Khator said.
“We don’t want to do this for some sort of badge of honor,” Khator said. “We want to do this in the feeling of cooperation. We can prosper together because we are part of this neighborhood and just want this neighborhood to succeed along with us.”
Khator said the new $146-million medical school set to be completed in 2019, will play into the greater partnership between UH and its community.
“It’s going to be a very specialized and very different kind of medical school,” Khator said. “(The school will be) a way to connect us to the surrounding neighborhoods as part of a larger campaign to improve the areas surrounding the University of Houston.”
The school’s objective is to train primary and preventive care physicians who are willing to work in community-based clinics.
“It’s about population-based health training, not specialty care,” Khator said. “Because we don’t want birth defects, early deaths and emergency visits. We want people to be healthy overall.”
During her speech, Khator also made mention to the University’s recent addition of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.
“You cannot get Phi Beta Kappa unless you have the culture for undergraduate students,” Khator said. “There’s a lot of foundational things that are so critical to institutions, so that’s what qualifies you for Phi Beta Kappa.”
Khator said the process for applying to Phi Beta is intensive.
“They have a years-long process where they come in and review everything and turn every stone over,” she said. “Getting Phi Beta Kappa here, for me, was the most significant achievement for the University during my time here.”
In the academic sphere, Khator mentioned the University’s commitment to student success and plans for the graduation rate.
“Right now graduation rates are doing well, but they are not where they need to be,” Khator said.
The graduation sits at 51 percent graduating in six years. Khator said she hopes to increase that number to 60 percent and surpass the national average of 58 percent.
While increasing graduation rates is a goal, so is increasing the University’s revenue, Khator said.
Khator went on to mention the University’s goal of making it into the Power 5 and becoming more nationally relevant.
“We need to be competing at the highest level because right now we’re not getting the revenue we should be getting,” Khator said, adding that being in a Power 5 conferences could bring in upward of $20 million for UH.
Khator said the renovations and expansions to the baseball and basketball facilities are nearing completion, but Ws must start accompanying them.
“At the end of the day, if you’re not winning and you have everything else, who cares?” Khator said. “You’ve got to win.”
Khator took time at the end of her speech to address UT’s proposed Houston expansion and said, “though we are not the strongest opposition to it, we are the most vocal.”
Khator said although many groups are opposed to what some University officials have called a land grab, at this time she believes there is no real plan for the expansion.
Although the news of the expansion was alarming, Khator said she doesn’t want UH to “be defined by how we react to somebody else’s actions.”
“We’re going to stay focused on the kind of work that we can do that nobody else can do,” Khator said. “I cannot believe that any other system could come here and help the community. We are it.”