Happy New Year! From President Loren J. Blanchard
Happy New Year and welcome to our Spring semester 2023! I hope your holiday break afforded you the time for reflection, relaxation, family, and friends. May this letter find you recharged for a new year filled with new beginnings and new initiatives here at UHD!
Within days of the new year, UHD was featured on the front page of the Houston Chronicle with the headline “UH-Downtown intent on doubling graduation rate” above a photo of our exuberant December 2022 graduates. The article outlines our greatest aspirations over the next five years to improve graduation and retention rates dramatically while ensuring our students feel a real connection to UHD.
I am happy to report we are well on our way to achieving our goals, especially the strategies surrounding Student Success. By last Fall, we had already taken the first big step by transforming our advisement to a case-management approach so that every student has a Student Success Coordinator, guiding them throughout their college career. This January finds us implementing recommendations from the National Institute for Student Success to:
- Provide consistent academic support and reduce D or F grades, withdrawals, and incompletes of gateway courses;
- Improve systematic first-year support; and
- Increase support of student financial wellness.
Last Fall also saw the launch of our Basic Needs portal on our website to support students experiencing housing, food, and transportation insecurities. I am pleased to announce that we were recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for more than $900,000 over three years to fund our Basic Needs Program. Coupled with the recent state grant through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, we are positioned for the next three years with $1.3 million dollars to address the critical needs of UHD students to keep them academically persistent and engaged. Specifically, these funds will be used to supplement the Food for Change Market and provide access to emergency hot meals from UHD’s Food Service as well as to provide public transportation prepaid cards and emergency transportation, housing, and dependent-care grants.
I am constantly inspired by the compassion and caring for others that I witness in UHD students, faculty, and staff. This month, GatorServe, a longstanding UHD tradition that brings us together to complete projects in service to our community, will take place at the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for the MLK National Day of Service on Saturday, January 14, in honor of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. We will volunteer on that day to make a difference with animals who often become like family members to many in the greater Houston community.
After much anticipation, the new Wellness and Success Center, in the heart of the UHD campus adjacent to the College of Sciences & Technology, opens the week of January 15, highlighted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with elected officials. I am confident that you will be quite proud of this facility, designed to help the campus and Downtown community members to meet our wellness goals. I know that our students, in particular, will be happy to use this Center, which their advocacy and support helped to bring to fruition at UHD.
Finally, congratulations are in order for Drs. Elene Bouhoutsos-Brown and Eszter Trufan in the College of Sciences & Technology, who were awarded a U.S. Department of Education grant of $1,160,037 for their Experimentium: Inclusive By Design program over a three-year period. This research initiative will build on their experience in generating chemistry lab instructions for multiple modalities (online, hybrid, and in-person) to create a curated collection of customizable, uniquely accessible and inclusive Open Educational Resources chemistry lab experiments.
In short, 2023 is off to a wonderful start! May this Spring Semester be filled with even greater achievements and growth in a supportive learning environment that fully embraces its vision of becoming an inclusive University of choice for Houstonians seeking to contribute to the social, intellectual, and cultural lives of their communities.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown
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.