Message from President Loren J. Blanchard: Reflecting on Two Years of Progress
Dear Gator Community,
Today marks my second anniversary as president of the University of Houston-Downtown. As I reflect on my time at UHD, I am proud of and thankful for our accomplishments. Over the past two years, numerous developments stemmed from our 2022-27 Strategic Plan: A New Paradigm. We have made notable progress toward multiple interrelated goals, with our first goal, Enhancing Student Success, grounding us every step of the way.
Among our many accomplishments, we recreated student affairs as the new Student Success and Student Life Division. Dubbed 3SL, the new division incorporates student activities, health services, career services, and academic support. It includes Upward Bound, the Talent Search Program, the Gator Success Center, and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion. To meet the basic needs of our students, the division also tackles food, housing, transportation, and technology insecurities.
Another key organizational change at UHD is our approach to academic advising. We transitioned into a case management approach, embedding advising in areas of study. This new strategy maximizes the likelihood that each Gator will have the same advisor for the full duration of their studies. We are on our way to all Academic Success Coordinators knowing each advisee by name, strength, and interest, equipping them to inform students of available services and to introduce career-enhancing, service learning and summer opportunities.
Most recently, we opened our new Wellness and Success Center (WSC), which is buzzing with activity daily. The WSC fosters a sense of belonging on campus while providing a place to exhale between classes or before the commute back home. Students meet there regularly to eat, exercise, play basketball, study, or sometimes simply to relax. The WSC, like 3SL, is a testament to our commitment to meeting the needs of our student body, which is an essential part of maximizing their success.
Though we have and will continue to work hard, our accomplishments over the last two years, and those on the horizon, require more than our efforts. We rely on both public and private funding to reach our goals. A number of funders support our work, including the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Houston Endowment, Greater Texas Foundation, C.T. Bauer Foundation, and UHD Lone Star STEM Scholars, to name a few. Through these partners and numerous others, we received more than $30 million in awards, with the funding announcements for the last six months topping the amounts for the entire previous year. We also increased the number of awards from private foundations and in support of research, yet another sign that UHD is a university on the rise. To date, we have over $8 million pending in grant applications, positioning us for great outcomes for the next fiscal year as we continue advancing our institution and its programs. We are deeply appreciative of the support of our vision, recognition of our progress, and belief in our potential by these external partners.
Our accomplishments over the last two years are too many to outline in a single letter. To see a full list of highlights, visit our new Growth and Accomplishments page. We will update this page regularly with new developments, allowing our Gator community and the community-at-large to celebrate and tout our achievements.
Even as this communication reaches you, new developments are unfolding. On March 21, our Office of Disability Services will open its new Assistive Technology Lab, a continuation of our efforts to meet students’ diverse needs. On March 22, the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) will host its showcase, celebrating the Gator commitment to experiential learning through which our students collaborate with external partners across the Houston Metroplex to address real-world challenges. Through these experiences, our students are not only gaining knowledge, they are also developing the skills and dispositions needed to engage with their communities as active citizens and future leaders. Our very own alumnus, graduate student, and mental health counseling intern, Miguel Garcia ('22), is the keynote speaker.
Mr. Garcia's participation is fitting for the Community Engagement Showcase as we have begun discussions on developing a Mental Health Action Center that will increase mental health awareness, support suicide prevention, and provide immediate and long-term services through an on-site mental health agency open to the public. This agency will provide clinical services and case management, while also serving as a training ground for UHD students, like Garcia, who are pursuing degrees and licensure in mental health fields.
As a Campus Community, we are working diligently from our strengths and in view of our potential. You have heard me say that UHD is a university with a view. Our literal view, characterized by the landscape of Downtown businesses and enhanced by giant murals designed to spark conversations about social change, is a reminder of our commitment to a just and sustainable future, the socioeconomic mobility of our graduates, and the consequential growth of our beloved city. It is important to note that our view is not passive. Rather, it inspires us to act on the viewpoint that we are the anchor institution of Houston—an agent of change, uniquely positioned for strategic partnerships with businesses and community agencies. Our greatest opportunity is found in the critical challenges of our city. And in the face of these challenges, we will do our greatest work. As an anchor institution, we have both a civic and moral imperative to prepare our students to work and to serve. We are carrying the emerging dreams of our students and their families, dreams that when fulfilled will not only change their lives but will change their children’s lives and enhance their communities. Our students are Houston’s next generation of business professionals, entrepreneurs, teachers, social workers, mental health professionals, scientists, activists, politicians, and community leaders. They are the next torchbearers who will invest not only in their individualistic concerns but in the broader concerns of our nation, beginning right here at home.
As we enter our third year together, let us continue to emphasize institutional excellence and ensure that when our students graduate from UHD, they will carry with them a new dream and a new desire to positively impact our community, state, and nation. We are the University of Houston-Downtown, a university with both a view and a viewpoint, an institution of hope and courage—the anchor institution of Houston.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown