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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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Khator officially next president


Incoming UH President and UH System Chancellor Renu Khator was officially confirmed Monday by the UH System Board of Regents.

Khator’s confirmation came 21 days after being announced the sole finalist by the board in a meeting on Oct. 15 in accordance with the Texas Education Code. She will officially take office in January.

"I am really honored, humbled and thrilled to serve you as your chancellor and president," Khator said in a speech after the decision.

Khator will be UH’s second female president after Marguerite Ross Barnett, who took the office 1990. Khator is the first Indian UH president and chancellor.

In her speech, Khator also stressed that one of her goals is for the University to achieve flagship status during her term as UH president and chancellor.

"In today’s global society, where knowledge is (an) asset and innovation the winning strategy, college education is not a luxury," she said.

Khator also said she wanted the entire UH System to work on improving the University.

"I have a challenge for you as well – find the passion in your hearts," Khator said. "Passion for the University of Houston and also passion for the public mission of higher education. Transform that passion into commitment, then transform that commitment into action."

Khator serves as provost and senior vice president at the University of South Florida and was chosen by a search advisory committee comprised of 20 members including administrators, faculty and one UH student. Led by Regent Leroy Hermes, the committee presented the board with the final three to five candidates in October, who were then narrowed down to a sole finalist. The committee, which has since disbanded, has not released any of the other candidates’ names.

Prior to the final vote when Khator was confirmed, the board met in a closed executive session for six minutes.

Board members said Khator is best suited for the position, and they chose her to be the president and chancellor based on her leadership experience as an educator and administrative official after 22 years at USF.

"Her credentials, her experience, her accomplishments and her personal characteristics meet all of those (priorities) which were adopted by the committee at the outset of the process," Hermes said. "We believe Dr. Khator embodies all the qualities required to lead the University of Houston in its quest for flagship status."

During the search for a new president and chancellor, the committee specified that it looked for experience in academia and leadership; openness in communication and personality traits such as a sense of humor and integrity in a candidate.

"We have very high expectations of what she’s going to do for the University of Houston," Regent Dennis Golden said at the meeting.

USF Vice Provost for Faculty and Program Development Dwayne Smith said Khator will be a valuable contribution to UH.

"She’s open, there is sincerity about her, she’s very bright," Smith said in a phone interview. "She’s able to grasp what I term ‘big picture items’ very quickly."

Administrators and students said that they hope Khator will focus on keeping an open line of communication between different University divisions.

UH Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Foss, who is also provost, said that he looks forward to working with Khator in addressing student recruitment and retention as well as faculty concerns.

"She will have a different and expanded set of responsibilities, but given that she came up the academic ranks and served as the chief academic officer, she will very deeply, very much understand the issues that I deal with," Foss said.

Vice President of Research Donald Birx said one of Khator’s goals should be "to really advance the research agenda and make it a core element of where UH is going, because that’s the distinction of becoming a (flagship) university."

At an afternoon meet and greet with Khator held by the Student Government Association in the University Center Arbor, SGA representatives said they wanted student concerns heard once the new president steps into office in January.

Among the issues affecting students, SGA President David Rosen said he wants Khator to address University affordability, parking and financial aid.

"There are a lot of things that need fixing in this University – parking, financial aid. A lot of these things are moving in the right direction, and all we need is a good captain to steer the ship," he said.


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