Gators Came Together in Austin for ‘UHD Day at the Capitol’
By Sheryl E. Taylor
Gator Community members arrived in Austin by planes, trains, and automobiles (okay, maybe not planes and trains, but definitely by buses and cars) for UHD Day at the Capitol during the 88th Regular Session of the Texas State Legislature.
The Texas weather was cooperating, and the excitement of the day was in the air. In the early morning hours on March 8, two coach buses filled with eager Gators headed to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers to advocate for their beloved University. On March 7, President Loren J. Blanchard hosted an evening reception for legislators, supporters, and friends of UHD.
Upon arrival, the traveling Gators headed for the House chamber, where Representatives Christina Morales and Mary Ann Perez—a UHD alumna—read a special UHD proclamation. The Gators then found their way to the Senate Gallery to hear Senator Borris Miles read a proclamation, followed by acknowledgments from Senators John T. Whitmire and Carol Alvarado. Faculty, staff, students, and supporters gathered for a catered BBQ lunch and some inspiring words from Whitmire, Morales, Alvarado, Perez, SGA President Jesus Nieto, and President Blanchard. Whitmire encouraged Gators to register to vote and get to know their legislators to truly make a difference in their communities.
The objective of UHD’s Day at the Capitol is for Texas lawmakers to put a face to the Gator stakeholders who have a vested interest in the University’s strategic goals. For the 2024-25 biennium, UHD is requesting $67 million new funding in part for its Student Success initiatives to help improve students’ socioeconomic mobility by earning their college degree. To that end, the University requested funding in support of its Strategic Plan:
Special Item Request ($22M):
- Enhancing Student Success ($12M): Mission-driven to enroll qualified students including low-income and first-generation, UHD must effectively provide the most basic needs to ensure student success.
- Mental Health Services
- Financial Literacy Training
- Course Redesign to Eliminate Learning Gaps
- Increase Academic Support through Academic Tutoring and Peer Mentoring Support
- English as a Second Language Institute
- Gator Leadership Academy
- Dynamic Academic Environment and Impactful Knowledge Creation ($10M): The creation of the Social Enterprise and Impact Center to provide an interconnected hub between UHD’s academic community and alumni businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to provide innovation, research, and new entrepreneurial ventures.
Capital Construction Assistance Program ($45M):
- UHD Public Safety and Emergency Operation Command Center Building ($20M):A greater synergistic connection between UHDPD and Emergency Management Services that will provide health and safety for all UHD constituents.
- Property Acquisition ($25M): The Campus Master Plan includes additional instructional and laboratory space, additional parking, command center building, and expansion of campus life spaces on real estate tracts adjacent to the campus.
“UHD is a university on the rise, and I felt enormous Gator Pride to be with our students, alumni, and University leadership in Austin for UHD Day at the Capitol,” said President Blanchard. “The students and alumni who made the trek to Austin are true leaders and represented UHD beautifully through one-on-one meetings with our legislators. Through their meetings, they have helped to build the case for greater state support for UHD to improve its student success outcomes and increase its footprint in the Downtown Houston community.”
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 more than 15,000 students, boasts more than 64,000 alumni, and offers 46 bachelor’s degrees, 11 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences & Technology. 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 awarded UHD 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.