A New Era: UHD Begins Quest To Become An Anchor Institution
By Mark Kramer
The Investiture of University of Houston-Downtown President Loren J. Blanchard signified a new era and the beginning of the University’s quest to become an anchor institution.
Last year, President Blanchard established the UHD Institutional Compass, which is designed to chart a course for new levels of success, including strengthening justice, strengthening student success and equity, supporting institutional excellence and infrastructure, and growing as an anchor institution.
To that end, Blanchard spotlighted the unveiling of a new strategic plan during the Investiture Ceremony called “A New Paradigm.” The vision of the plan will define the culture of UHD and focus on the contributions to the social, intellectual, and cultural lives of their communities, and will require dedication from the University community.
“Within this plan, we have given voice to a new mission that honors our diversity, reaffirms our commitment to nurture talent and generate knowledge, and emphasizes our moral responsibility to foster socioeconomic mobility for a just and sustainable future,” Blanchard said. “As we near our 50th year of service to students, I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate our golden anniversary than to share this renewed purpose and mission for UHD with the rest of the world.”
Blanchard added that in addition to internal efforts, support from external partners will be crucial. “We invite existing and future collaborators to join us in affecting organizational changes so that we can indeed become a model public, urban university,” he said.
The seven strategic goals of the plan include:
- Enhancing Student Success - Optimize lifelong student success and engagement
- Strategic Partnerships – Cultivate a diverse portfolio of institutional partnerships
- Dynamic Academic Environment – Cultivate a dynamic academic environment
- Engaged Faculty and Staff – Be the employer of choice
- Sustainable Operations – Maximize our operational portfolio
- Elevated Visibility and Recognition – Enhance the reputation and visibility of UHD
- Impactful Knowledge Creation – Promote knowledge creation and dissemination.
A detailed overview of each facet of the plan is provided on UHD’s Strategic Plan website.
In addition to the Strategic Plan, Blanchard also noted during the Investiture Ceremony that he would like to enter into a new compact between UHD and Houston communities to become the nation’s first G1 university.
“This is a classification that elevates the importance of providing generational transformation for students today and tomorrow,” he said. “The generational mobility is transformational and timeless and will leave an impact not only on our graduates, but also on their families for generations to come.”
To view the UHD Investiture Ceremony, visit the Investiture Livestream website.
The Power of Partnerships
The Investiture Ceremony hosted a wealth of leaders, friends, and guests from across the state and nation to share their appreciation of UHD and Blanchard being installed as the University’s seventh president.
Distinguished leaders and guests included: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, UH Chancellor and President Dr. Renu Khator, University of Houston System Board of Regents Chairperson Tilman Fertitta, U.S. Representative Shelia Jackson Lee, President of the University of Detroit Mercy Dr. Antoine Garibaldi, The Reverend Gregory Han, former Houston Poet Laureate and UHD Professor of English Dr. Robin Davidson, Father Orrin Halepeska, musical guest Bridget Bazile, and 14 nationwide university delegates.
Congratulatory videos from Texas State Senators Borris Miles, Carol Alvarado, and John Whitmire as well as Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, State Representative Mary Ann Perez, and others were featured.
“To say that I feel overwhelmed is an understatement,” said Blanchard. “Overwhelmed with gratitude. Overwhelmed with joy. Overwhelmed with optimism for all that lies ahead for the University of Houston-Downtown.”
Strong Showing Of Support From Alumni & Friends
The Investiture celebration culminated with a joyous and exciting Alumni & Friends Celebration Dinner. Close to 500 guests, alumni, and friends joined together at the Four Seasons Houston for an evening honoring outstanding alumni and dedicated supporters of UHD.
Guests kicked off the evening with a fun-filled cocktail hour complete with a silent auction, wine pull, fun photo booth mirror, and artwork exhibition featuring UHD student artists. The special event supported the UHD Compass Points Fund, an investment in the success of UHD students guided by the UHD Institutional Compass.
According to Vice President of Advancement & University Relations Jay Zambrano, more than $200,000 was raised at the event.
Univision’s Grace Olivares, who served as emcee, introduced a special welcome from UHD President Blanchard, a presentation of this year’s alumni award recipients, and a special moment of recognition and appreciation of UHD Alumni Council Chair Laolu Davies-Yemitan (’05, MBA ’22) .
Outstanding UHD alumni and dedicated supporters of UHD included:
- Distinguished Alumna: The Honorable Paula Mendoza (’95, MBA ’17)
- Alumni Service Award: Phillip Ellison (’94)
- Alumni Entrepreneur Award: Marcus Bowers (’11)
- Alumna On The Rise: Maria Del Pilar Montes (MBA ’17)
- Distinguished Friends Of The University: Tommy Harper and Harry Gee
“I would like to say to our Gator alumni that we see you and we appreciate you,” Blanchard said. “We will continue to increase our engagement with you through development of our national alumni association, designed to be the forever home for our 62,000 Gators and counting.”
Working Together: UHD’s Future
The new UHD Mission Statement, as noted in the Strategic Plan reads: The University of Houston-Downtown is a community of diverse faculty, staff, students, and regional partners dedicated to nurturing talent, generating knowledge, and driving socioeconomic mobility for a just and sustainable future.
The statement reflects that UHD is an institution that is driven by public purposes, and it clearly addresses the University’s role in serving the needs of the region and the city.
“Our vision is forward-looking and reveals the new paradigm that will establish the culture of UHD for the next 20 years,” Blanchard emphasized. “Promoting institutional and inclusive excellence and engraining them as practices in every area of the University will get us to this point and establish us as a university of choice. UHD is not just a university in Houston, we are a university for Houston.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.