It had been seven years since the University of Houston System (UHS) Board of Regents conducted meetings at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD). When the Board last convened at UHD, the Welcome Center had not been constructed, nor had the institution received an extraordinary $10 million gift for naming the Marilyn Davies College of Business.
On Nov. 16, the full Board returned to UHD and experienced an institution that had grown significantly. It was a historic meeting as the Board approved a College of Medicine for the University of Houston, but it was particularly meaningful for the UHD community.
In addition to the Board, UHS Chancellor, Dr. Renu Khator and UHS leadership spent the day on campus. Regents conducted committee meetings and the full Board meeting in the Milam and Travis Rooms of the Welcome Center.
During the Board’s Academic and Student Success Committee meeting, Regents were introduced to a prime example of what the University refers to as ‘Gator Grit’— graduating MBA student Lori Ramirez, who was selected to share her story with the committee members and was joined by her family. A former cheerleader and now a fitness instructor, Ramirez discussed her upbringing in the city’s Northside and her academic journey at UHD.
“My experience at UHD has been nothing short of amazing, and I thank the faculty, staff and my fellow students here for helping me get to this moment,” she said. “I also must thank all of you…the UH System Board of Regents and Chancellor Khator. Your leadership of this University System continues to benefit students like me. You have helped make UHD an inspiring institution for countless students in our city.”
During that same meeting, Dr. Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), announced that UHD has been selected as a recipient of a Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Expansion Grant. This grant, Paredes said, would support a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Applied Public Administration and Leadership degree program, which partners UHD and Houston Community College.
“We’re looking forward to working with UHD to get this program up and running in the next year and a half,” Paredes said.
In between meetings, Board Chairman Tilman Fertitta and Chancellor Khator explored UHD and paid a visit to a history class taught by lecturer Nancy Lopez. It’s not often that students get to hear from UH System leadership … or the owner the Houston Rockets basketball, for that matter. Fertitta was quick to acknowledge a student wearing a Rockets jersey as he began sharing his insights as an entrepreneur and business leader with students.
“Nothing goes unnoticed,” Fertitta told students. “When you come in to work a little earlier and leave a little later, it’s noticed. Every day when you get up, you have to say, ‘I’m going to move the needle.’” And that goes for your schoolwork as well as your professional work. It’s easy to blend in, but it’s easy to be special by working harder than everyone else.”
The full Board of Regents meeting convened at 3 p.m., and UHD President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz welcomed the UH System delegation to campus. A video detailing UHD’s recovery following Harvey preceded Muñoz’s remarks.
“In spite of Harvey, retention and graduation rates are rising,” Muñoz said following the video. “Our fundraising is up … enthusiasm is up … and motivation is up. At UHD, we’re not just going to move the needle, we’re redefining what the needle is.”
Following the full day of Board activities, attendees agreed that UHD has served as an excellent host of these important meetings.
“It was very special to be here today,” said Regent Paula Mendoza, a UHD alumna. “The University did an outstanding job of hosting this meeting. I think it’s important that the Board visit the UHS universities, so to be here at my alma mater was a wonderful experience for all of us.”