UHD President Speaks at First Town Hall Meeting
By Sheryl E. Taylor
It was a full house for this year's Town Hall Meeting hosted by the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) Staff Council on May 22 in the Milam/Travis Room of the University's Welcome Center.
The hour-long Town Hall featured UHD President Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz—making his first official introduction at a Staff Council meeting—who addressed the FY2018 Budget and professional development for staff and questions from the audience.
According to Staff Council President Dr. Isidro Grau, Dr. Muñoz met with Staff Council Officers prior to the Town Hall to share ideas and updates on Council initiatives.
"Dr. Muñoz's attendance at our Town Hall showed his strong support of UHD staff," said Grau, director of the University's Academic Support Center.
FY2018 Budget & Planning
Regarding the upcoming budget, Dr. Muñoz noted that he is "guardedly optimistic and encouraged" and that he wants to be direct and transparent about the process. He has plans to communicate information about the budget in more detail following the close of the 85th Texas Legislature session. He stated that UHD will be prudent and prepared with its final budget recommendations.
Dr. Muñoz shared that he is committed to creating a merit pool if UHD is in a position to do so after the Legislature has done its work and the budget is finalized.
"We—the Provost, Vice Presidents, Deans, the Budget and Planning Development Committee and Leadership—are all in agreement that a merit pool for faculty and staff is the highest priority."
Dr. Muñoz went on to say that he views UHD staff an integral part of the academic process and that he is fully supportive of creating avenues for staff success at the University.
"The University experience is not created solely by the academic participants, but by the entirety of the environment," said Dr. Muñoz. "In a deep and personal way, I understand the importance of staff professionals to the success of students and the creation of an environment that faculty want to be a part of."
Professional Staff Development
In recent discussions with Staff Council officers, Dr. Muñoz spoke about the creation of a President's Leadership Academy, which would involve a group of nominated faculty and staff members who would participate in a yearlong series of professional modules. Both faculty and staff would equally participate as partners to learn and discuss topics, such as the future of higher education in Texas and the fiduciary responsibilities of the University.
According to Dr. Muñoz, one of the goals of this academy will be to signify participants' aspirations for professional mobility, and an interest in future career opportunities.
"There is nothing more important than investing in people," he said. "We want to be here to transform the lives of our students and our campus. We want you to stay at UHD."
President Muñoz also spoke of his plan to create 'ladders of advancement' for current and future staff positions within the University.
Show Your Gator Pride
Dr. Muñoz took the opportunity to communicate the significance of UHD's purpose and role in the nation's fourth largest city.
"This is an exciting time for UHD," Dr. Muñoz said. "Everywhere I go, people are enthusiastic about the future of this University. We're educating over 14,000 Houstonians. We're providing a pathway to better opportunities for our graduates."
He expressed how UHD is unique in the students it serves.
"No matter where you come from, where your family is from or what language you speak; we will continue to be a campus that is respectful, appreciative, professional and supportive," he said. "We will continue to be an incomparable UHD. We'll continue to educate more first-generation, more diverse and moderate-income students in a major urban environment than any other school in the United States of America. You're already doing it, and we will do more. We need to share with the greater Houston community that this is a University of first-choice."
In closing, he noted the groundbreaking of the new Sciences & Technology Building; UHD receiving the Board of Regents' Academic Excellence Award for improving student performance in gateway courses; and the Board's approval of the state's first undergraduate degree in data science, which will be delivered at UHD—all indicators of the University's commitment to helping students succeed.
Finally, Dr. Muñoz made two requests of the Town Hall's attendees. First, he encouraged departments and offices to contact his office to schedule events where he might meet with staff departments, units and offices. Secondly, he asked the community to proudly wear UHD items to work, such as lapel pins or apparel, or show Gator pride with car decals.
"Let people know where you work; show them how proud you are of where you work," Dr. Muñoz added. "Let people know where you commit yourself and how you're changing the future of this city, state and country."
Next Up for UHD Staff Council?
UHD Staff Awards
Thursday, June 15
2 - 4 p.m.
Academic Building, A300
June Staff Council Monthly Meeting
Thursday, June 29
11 a.m. - noon
Academic Building, A436
Guest Speakers: UHD Police and Houston Police Department Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)
The FY2017-2018 Executive Committee nomination and election is in progress. Staff were invited to nominate their colleagues or self-nominate for a Staff Council Officer and/or Ambassador position.
Presently, the Council is actively seeking volunteers to assist with planning the annual Staff Awards Ceremony. UHD Staff is also welcome to:
- attend monthly Staff Council meetings, Town Halls and the annual Chili Cook-Off
- apply for the Edge Award professional development grant
- participate in community service opportunities, such as the Holiday coat and donation drive
- represent the Council on various UHD committees
Over the years, Staff Council and its various committees have performed many services, including providing recommendations on UHD policies affecting benefits, parking, safety, and training.
"There is value in being active with Staff Council because we serve as a collective voice and advocate on University matters," said Grau. "Staff Council serves as an advisory body to the University president. The Council is dedicated to increasing communication, providing staff-requested organizational assistance, and ensuring that staff issues, concerns, and interests are relayed to University leadership. By working collectively, staff can play an active role in the future of UHD."
To learn more about upcoming events, visit www.uhd.edu/staffcouncil.