13:45 PM

From The President's Pen

UHD President Loren J. Blanchard

Welcome to my newest forum, “From the President’s Pen.”

This monthly column is a new vehicle that will allow me to further engage with the University of Houston-Downtown Community and share my thoughts about what’s happening on our campus. It also is a perfect platform to address other topics related to higher education and student success. You can find these updates in our e-newsletters UHD News and Gator Update as well as on our online news sites.

I think it is fitting to use this first entry as a retrospective of what we have accomplished this semester. The most visible change that has taken place is our return to campus for the fall semester. What a difference it has made to have students, faculty and staff back in our hallways, classrooms, laboratories and office spaces.

The reason we were able to return is owed in part to the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations. UHD worked closely with Houston Methodist and H-E-B to host on-campus vaccinations and booster shots. Our Curative testing kiosk (available daily for Houstonians) and safety protocols around campus strengthen our efforts to keep community health at the forefront as well. These actions reflect how UHD does its part to keep our campus and the community safe, and they serve as further indication of our status as an anchor institution within the region.

I must say that our clinics are picking up steam with a consistent flow of community members arriving to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine if not booster shots. We are currently in talks to expand on these services by offering vaccinations for the flu and shingles.

We also hosted speaking engagements with some of the region’s and nation’s most renowned health experts – Dr. Peter Hotez, Dr. David Persse and Dr. Stephen Spann – who helped us to understand how vaccinations work as well as offer a time for the UHD Community to ask their own questions and find skilled counsel regarding any lingering concerns.

These critical conversations on COVID-19 also served as a launchpad for the new President’s Lecture Series on Justice, Equity, and Inclusion. Each month, I’ve been honored to host panel discussions addressing timely, relevant topics. These events (featuring the insights of faculty and community stakeholders) have become a highlight of the semester, and I look forward to this series continuing to grow.

Other highlights of the semester have included the on-campus return of Open House (where I met several hundred future Gators) and the recent Ring Ceremony (an event honoring those students scheduled to graduate in December).

We also have welcomed University supporters to campus, including those who attended the State of the University Address in September, and others, including Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis (to name a few).

As much progress as we’ve made these last few months, there is still more road to travel. We have made significant headway in formulating our Strategic Plan and preparing for our reaffirmation of accreditation review with the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools. Detailed information about the strategic plan can be found online, and you will be updated on any major developments related to the reaccreditation process.

While I have waxed nostalgic over a semester to remember, let’s not lose sight of this fall semester’s finishing line quite yet. There is more work ahead, including finals and of course, the 71st Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 18 at NRG Park.

So, together, let’s work to ensure a successful close to 2021 at UHD and prepare for the promise and growing success that lie ahead for our campus community.