Gator Community Officially Welcomes President Blanchard to UHD
Virtual Reception Featured Q&A with University Stakeholders
By Mike Emery
The stage was set (virtually) for a Gator-sized Welcome Reception for new UHD President, Dr. Loren J. Blanchard.
Conducted on Facebook, the event provided students, faculty, and staff with an introduction to President Blanchard and an opportunity to hear from some important UHD stakeholders.
Moderated by David Bradley, Vice President of Administration & Finance, Blanchard's Welcome Reception kicked off with a performance from UHD's Mariachi Los Caimanes' rendition of the classic "Cielito Lindo."
Bradley then handed things off to noted business leader, Houston Rockets owner, and Chair of the University of Houston System (UHS) Board of Regents Tilman Fertitta.
"He (Blanchard) is going to lead the University of Houston-Downtown with new strategies and a new outlook. We're so proud to have him," Fertitta said. "He is definitely going to do great things."
UHS Chancellor Renu Khator echoed support for the new UHD President.
"We knew we would be lucky to have him here," she said. "With his experience and passion for supporting underrepresented and first-generation students, I know his commitment is unparalleled. UHD is such a special place, and Dr. Blanchard is the right leader for this University."
President Blanchard then had an opportunity to introduce himself to the audience of UHD supporters and take questions from students, faculty, staff, and friends of the University.
Before engaging in a Q&A with the Gator Community, President Blanchard announced his Listening Tour's start. The first forum will take place at 10 a.m. on April 20. The tour, Dr. Blanchard shared, will provide him with the opportunity to hear directly from students, faculty, and staff, learning more about the University of Houston-Downtown’s points of pride and areas for development. At the conclusion of the tour, a town hall meeting will be conducted to share his experiences on the Listening Tour.
Former Staff Council President and Director of the Academic Support Center Dr. Isidro Grau kicked off President Blanchard's questions. He asked how President Blanchard will engage the entire UHD Community in supporting student success.
"I believe wholeheartedly that student success is a campus-wide responsibility," he said. "Part of my mantra has been that if we have found a student qualified to enroll at the University of Houston-Downtown, then we have a collective responsibility to ensure their success."
Blanchard added that this responsibility extends to everyone at UHD regardless of their role. All faculty, staff members and alumni, he said, are essential in providing support to students and guiding them to their end goal … graduating from UHD.
Debora Evans, Manager of Shipping & Receiving and UHD's Mail Room (clad in an "I Am a Gator" T-shirt and holding a foam UHD No. 1 hand) asked about his experience with school pride during his short time on the job.
Without pause, Blanchard cited the recent Bayou Bash as an excellent example of Gator Pride.
"This was an opportunity for the Student Government Association and other volunteers to hand out T-shirts and food," he said. "Although everyone was socially distanced and wearing their masks, you could still feel the excitement and energy that stems from their pride in attending UHD."
Dr. Blanchard also referenced a recent experience in purchasing a cell phone. A woman in line noticed he was wearing a UHD mask and declared, "Go Gators." A conversation ensued, and the woman identified herself as an Urban Education graduate student. In turn, he introduced himself as UHD's new President.
"She told me that her journey had been a very tough one, but all of the things she has been able to accomplish would not have been possible without the support of the students and the faculty here at the University of Houston-Downtown," he said.
UHD SGA Vice President Liboria Chavez was also on hand to welcome President Blanchard and ask how he will identify UHD's goals during his presidency's early stages.
"Listening becomes a major part of strategic planning," he said. "My commitment to UHD is to ensure that I will be in a regular position to listen and to learn. Part of that work is already under way as it relates to the work of faculty, staff, students, and alums in the development of our Bridge Plan, which will inform our Strategic Plan. There already is a spotlight being placed on our need to enhance student success and student access … as well as faculty and staff excellence … also, looking carefully at areas of research and programmatic design … and lastly, never taking our feet off the pedal when it comes to quality and excellence at UHD. These are just a few of the areas that I will expand on after I complete the Listening Tour that will help build the Bridge Plan and lead us to the Strategic Plan."
The event closed with a final question from Natalie Boehm, Assistant Director of Academic & Student Affairs. She asked whether he and his family had yet to sample Houston's noted restaurants.
President Blanchard said that barbecue was the first on the list of things to try in Houston (as finding good barbecue was a tall order in Southern California).
"I have received so many great recommendations for restaurants since arriving here," he said. "But I'll add that I am a fan of the performing arts and know that the University of Houston-Downtown is in the heart of the Theater District and cannot wait until the theaters and symphony come back online."
The event concluded with a brief video featuring UHD Community members welcoming President Blanchard to the University. Before the footage rolled, moderator Bradley thanked all of the participants for their time and the Information Technology staff who oversaw the event's production. Bradley also thanked President Blanchard for providing insightful responses to the community's questions.
"I’d certainly like to thank him for the time he’s given us today and the time he’s going to give to UHD in the weeks, months, and years ahead,” Bradley said.
The complete program is still available on UHD’s Facebook site and can be viewed with or without a Facebook account.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second-largest university in Houston—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 more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 60,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).
For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.