Message from UHD President Loren J. Blanchard: First 100 Days
Dear UHD Community,
This week marked my first 100 days at the University of Houston-Downtown. It’s been a rewarding experience for me to serve the students, faculty and staff of this remarkable University, as well as to support this great city and our growing region.
Words cannot fully express how glad I am to be here. These days have passed so quickly, yet they have been invaluable for me as I have strived to meet the high expectations I hold for this institution and myself in the role of its leader.
My first few months have provided innumerable opportunities for me to learn about the culture, trajectory, and potential of this University, and I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts regarding what I have experienced during this time.
Foremost, as I joined the University during a pandemic, the health and wellbeing of our community remains a primary objective. UHD has maintained the commitment to provide a high-quality education in a setting that maximizes the safety and necessary precautions to protect every person who interacts with our campus. In doing so, the University hosted multiple forums with world-renowned health experts to discuss the prevention and treatment for COVID-19. Further, we solidified partnerships with H-E-B and Methodist Hospital, in addition to UTHealth and the City of Houston, to ensure our campus constituents could access the COVID-19 vaccination. The Curative testing kiosk located next to the Jesse H. Jones Student Life Center opened recently and continues to offer COVID-19 testing free of charge. Each of the above noted efforts will ensure that our students, faculty and staff will be ready for the opening of the 2021-22 academic year.
During these 100 days, I also embarked on a Listening Tour involving both internal and external stakeholders. I thank all of you who attended the Listening Tour or who completed the survey to give voice to your individual thoughts about the University’s past, present and future. Your insights are invaluable, and I have already taken steps to make changes and to give thoughtful consideration to your ideas and recommendations. As a direct result of the lessons gleaned from the Listening Tour, I plan to share a summary as well as specific action items during my address to the University in the early fall. A website will launch within the coming weeks to further document details from the Listening Tour, and a date for this event will be announced soon.
I also used my first 100 days to familiarize myself with the University from the inside out. I became well acquainted with the most important asset of our campus – our students – through classroom visits and other interactions. I heard firsthand about their experiences as Gators and their dreams and goals for their futures. I am heartened to see the efforts they are putting forth in our classrooms and throughout the local community, and I look forward to hearing great news about their accomplishments for years to come.
Student success remains the cornerstone of this institution, and I have used this time to understand what UHD has done so far and what more we will do to ensure every student is met with the utmost service and instruction to support their goals.
Then began the work of looking outward to the community to fully understand the University’s relationship with the region. I was not surprised to see that UHD continues to be a thriving force in our city and state, thanks in large part to the hard work and support of our faculty, staff and alumni.
I know, however, that the institution can—and will—play a larger role in supporting the academic aspirations of the community’s underserved student populations and addressing other issues related to equity and inclusion. We have the socio-intellectual capital … and more importantly, the passion … to effect change in the lives of so many Houstonians.
But we cannot do so as a singular institution. Through strategic partnerships we can address issues affecting our region and enhance our role as a premier urban institution of higher learning. I have already met with more than 50 community leaders who will all play an integral role in furthering the mission of UHD and will no doubt support our efforts in the community.
I must say that each and every leader I have met impressed upon me the important work taking place here and why they view UHD as a treasured asset to our region.
To summarize these first 100 days at UHD, I am encouraged by the overwhelming show of support toward our students and their success; I am continuing to explore ways to bolster the excellence of our faculty and staff; and I am implementing processes that will enhance equity and opportunity for all who work, learn and interact with our institution. Simply put, this time spent learning about UHD has provided great clarity regarding the University’s strengths and opportunities. Looking ahead, I will work with our campus community to put plans into action that will directly benefit our ability to make a critical difference for students as well as to strengthen the transformational impact UHD and its alumni make on the region.
These first few months have created a great launchpad for my role as President, thanks in large part to the work that was already taking place. I stand on the shoulders of leaders who came before me, students who walked our hallways, faculty who taught and mentored in our classrooms and staff who gave care to our students. I will endeavor to sustain the momentum they have established as we work together to create an even stronger university for future generations of students. These 100 days have been especially informative as I have begun the work of creating UHD’s Pillars of Excellence, which I will share with you soon.
Thank you for being a valued member of the UHD community, and for genuinely welcoming me into the University family. If we haven’t had the chance to meet yet, I hope to connect with you very soon.
I close this 100 Days Message with a quote from Ralph Ellison:
“Education is about building bridges.”
The University of Houston-Downtown has certainly built bridges and will continue to construct many more that link our institution with opportunities that support our mission, our students and our growth as a University for all Houstonians.
Thank you all for making this institution a responsive and caring University that stands committed to excellence.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown