11:05 AM

UHD Celebrates Grand Opening of New Welcome Center

UH-Downtown held a grand opening for the new Welcome Center on 2-4-16 in Houston, Tx. New interim president Michael Olivas was a featured speaker. photos by John Everett

UHD faculty, staff and students celebrated the grand opening of the Welcome Center Feb. 4 in the company of 200 members of the Houston community.

Located in One Main Building on level 3, the 26,000-square-foot facility provides streamlined services and resources to UHD students. The new center houses a tour room, seminar rooms and student services offices, creating an integrated and striking impression for new and current students. The O'Kane Gallery also relocated to the new area, giving artists nearly three times the space the current gallery occupies.

David Bradley, vice president for administration and finance, kicked off the event with welcoming remarks. He thanked everyone in attendance for being present for such a significant occasion and acknowledged UHD staff members Brian Cokes, capital projects manager, and Chris McCall, assistant vice president for facilities management, for their hard work and dedication toward the completion of this project.

Bradley spoke briefly about the project and the end result.

"What's great about this project is that it was actually four projects rolled into one," he said. "We've transformed a 50- to 60-year-old garage that is now attractive, code compliant and served by elevators; we have a new student services facility, a larger state-of-art gallery and a clear point of entry for new students and visitors."

Mark Cervenka, director of O'Kane Gallery, also greeted the crowd, followed by an address by Michael A. Olivas, interim president of UHD.

"At UHD, we have the best address in Houston. We are where Houston begins — One Main Street. Now we have the most dramatic and best welcome facility in Houston. But the reason for this Welcome Center is UHD students. They are committed to success, and we are committed to making their success possible."

Members of the community had an opportunity to tour the center and view works by Houston artists Trenton Doyle Hancock and Lucinda Cobley.

The new center includes Academic Admissions, Testing Services, Disabled Student Services and Veterans Services, enabling prospective and current students to access resources in a single convenient location. Suspended oak beams draw the eye toward the center's information desk, providing visitors and staff members with discreet lighting to supplement the ample natural light that streams into the spacious interior. Students who enrolled in spring 2016 classes at UHD were among the first users of the new facility.

The center's lobby features a commissioned 29- by 36-foot permanent wall installation by Hancock. Constructed of Plexiglas, "Legends" is an arrangement of painted panels depicting a tree that articulates the familial, nurturing aspect of the University. O'Kane Gallery features an inaugural exhibit by Cobley. The installation, called "matrix," will be on view through March 12.

The audience included numerous Houston community leaders such as Max Castillo, former UHD president; Molly Woods, former UHD provost; Robert Gallegos, city council member for District I; Mike Sullivan, Harris County tax assessor/collector and UHD alumnus; and many more.

Prior to the evening grand opening celebration, an afternoon opening event was held for UHD faculty and staff.