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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Administration

President Khator’s Fall Address highlights achievements


Renu Khator Fall Address

President Renu Khator speaks about focusing on student success at her annual Fall Address. | Shivani Parmar/The Cougar

President Renu Khator gave her annual Fall Address on Thursday, highlighting the accomplishments of the last year, as well as her goals for the University in the next few years.

The Moores School of Music’s Concert Chorale opened the address with a rendition of “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon. President of UH Faculty Senate Vallabh Das introduced the President. 

This address was the first fully in-person address since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Khator began by detailing the pivot to online learning and how the pandemic was a new battle for the University.

“Last year I was here, in this empty Moore’s Opera House while you joined me from your screens,” Khator said. “We keep moving forward, and it takes more than resilience to do so. It takes tenacity. Tenacity makes us move forward.”

The greater theme for the address was the new UH Strategic Plan, more specifically, the University’s goal of being named a Top 50 school in the United States. 

In order to reach that goal, Khator said UH needs to improve in two areas; the graduation rate and the University’s overall national reputation. 

Student Success

To improve graduation rates, Khator said focusing on student success should be the priority.

The current graduation rate is 62 percent and Khator mentioned her goal of bumping that number to 70 percent in the next five years. This would help UH attain the top 50 university status. Four-year graduation rates are also up 125 percent since 2008. 

While enrollment rates in the past year have remained flat, the address highlighted how the University received the most freshman, out-of-state and international applicants than ever before. Although finances remain a barrier for many college students, Khator said. 

“It is not surprising that the number one barrier for students was, and continues to be, financial,” Khator said. 

Khator then went on to thank the school donors, showing appreciation for $232 million in financial aid distribution. She also said she is committed to keeping the UH degree affordable.

Khator celebrated the University’s $1 million endowments revealed at the last UH Board of Regents meeting. 

In wrapping up the student success portion of her speech, she celebrated the mental health resources the school provides to students, especially through the pandemic.

“It is clear that we support our students and when we do so, they reach for the stars,” Khator said. 

Improving national reputation

Speaking on areas of improvement, Khator mentioned how research and graduate students are the backbones of a research university.

The University received over $200 million in research funding and also ranked third in the state in research expenditures. This called attention to programs by UH faculty around COVID-19 research, climate change and healthcare.

“Great research is only possible with great faculty,” Khator said. 

She also spoke to UH’s need to improve in the social justice and racial equity arena, spotlighting a task force created in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Clearly, our work has just started and we have much work to do in this area,” Khator said.

The President talked about the number of facilities improvements and projects the University is working on including building the College of Medicine, the John M. O’Quinn Law Center, renovating the Hilton College of Hotel Management and turning the old UC Satellite Student Center into a New Auxiliary Retail Center called “The Hub.”

Pivoting to athletic achievements, Khator celebrated UH entering the Big 12 conference. 

“Over the years we have patiently, strategically and methodically invested in our athletics,” Khator said. “Without a great academic standing, it would not have been possible to enter such a great conference.”

The President also spoke to her goals to grow campuses around the city, including UH Sugar Land and UH Katy, in an effort to ensure the growth of the University system as a whole. 

“Every day I come to work, I come with optimism and pride,” Khator said to conclude her address. “Our best days are yet to come.” 

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