President’s Fall Address looks toward the future
Students, faculty and alumni packed the Moores Opera House Wednesday for President and Chancellor Renu Khator’s 2016 Fall Address.
The address served as a means for Khator to deliver a summation of the state of the university and popularize her vision for coming years. In particular, she highlighted UH’s achievements and articulated what she thinks needs to change.
“The Fall Address was designed to give us a break from our daily routine,” Khator said. “To reflect on what we have achieved together, and to reaffirm our commitment to the journey on which we continue to travel, the journey toward excellence, the journey toward national competitiveness.”
As in past addresses, Khator emphasized the University’s growth over the past year, including the largest freshman class in the history of the school, a steep rise in graduation rates and the success of the UHin4 program.
“This year’s freshmen class of 4,469 is the largest in the university’s history,” Khator said. “What is equally important is that 95 percent of the class is enrolled full-time and 70 percent of them have signed up for UHin4! In other words, forget about six years — these students are on track to graduate in four!”
A central theme in Khator’s speech this year was how to further expand the University’s national presence, funding and academic rating. She expounded on a series of programs intended to continue inflating UH’s profile including community development in Third Ward, health disparity in the region, faculty improvement and athletics.
Her Third Ward initiative is focused on revitalization and includes four areas of work: education, economic empowerment, health and the arts. Its scope ranges from working with HISD — to help six public schools average academic measures — to using the Bauer College of Business to run a small-business boot camp aimed at growing 25 small businesses in the neighborhood, Khator said.
“I want to stress that our engagement in Third Ward is not purely academic — it is being undertaken with the purpose of empowering the community to transform itself,” Khator said.
The plan to reduce health could entail significant changes to UH. As part of the initiative, Khator wants to open a population health and medical school.
The school would offer not only primary care, but also focus on research related to eliminating health disparities. While still in the planning stages, the school’s current timeline would put its possible approval before the state legislature during this legislative session.
An important highlight during the speech was this year’s record fundraising. As a part of a multi-year $1 billion fundraising campaign, $147 million was gifted to UH this year alone.
“While we will publicly announce the launch of the campaign on Jan. 18, I am very excited to tell you that 60 percent of the funds have already been raised,” Khator said.
The address concluded with an original, satirical song directed by Betsy Cook Weber, director of choral studies at the Moores School of Music, and performed by the Moores School Concert Chorale.
They sang friendly jabs and wishes common among students. One of them includes, “Pay my tuition at U of H.”
The chorale did not fail to echo another familiar refrain, “I can’t find parking and I’m always tardy, I’m on my way to U of H.”