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President Blanchard's 2023 State of the University Address

More Degree Programs, Increased Graduation Rates, & Greater Alumni Participation Ahead


By Marie Jacinto

2023 State of the UniversitySoprano Renée Richardson of Houston Grand Opera’s Butler Studio electrified the Robinson Auditorium audience, which included University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator, with an aria from Catalani’s opera “La Wally”—and that was just the beginning of the 2023 State of the University event!

When President Loren J. Blanchard took the lectern to deliver the address on Sept. 26, he didn’t hesitate in listing all the University’s accomplishments over the last year, beyond UHD’s exceptional rankings in the recent Best Colleges reports from U.S. News and World Report and The Wall Street Journal.

“This past year, implementation of our strategic plan, a New Paradigm, was in full swing. Our primary goal has student success at its center,” said Blanchard. “Enhancing student success requires more than faculty excellence. It even requires more than robust academic advising and built-in career services. Through the restructuring of our student affairs department as the Student Success and Student Life Division, we can now more holistically address student needs.”

Other accomplishments included:

  • The opening of the Basic Needs Center, which granted emergency funds to 276 students at a value of $88.5K over the past six months, an increase of 350% in monetary value over the previous five months when the Center was solely online.
  • Major strides in student mental health care, with more than 100 faculty and staff plus 50 UHD police officers trained in Mental Health First Aid and an increase in the number of counselors on staff to 6.5 licensed clinicians and five master’s-level counseling trainees. (The University offered 3,406 counseling sessions in 2022-23, more than double the number of sessions the year before.)
  • The restructuring of student advising, an enhanced Academic Recovery Program for students on academic probation, increased scheduling of bottleneck courses, and the addition of evening tutorial services. Degree plans and journey maps for each academic discipline were also created.

2023 State of the UniversityLooking ahead, Blanchard said, “We will continue to increase partnerships and service-learning opportunities, and we will engage more broadly in undergraduate student research. We will also increase credit-bearing internships, fellowships, and practica for undergraduate and graduate students. And in 2024, we will successfully renew our Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement.”

“That’s a big deal, but here’s an even bigger deal,” stated Blanchard. “We aspire to develop new degree programs, moving from 46 to 50 undergraduate programs and from 12 to 20 graduate programs by 2028. Through more programs that meet industry standards, we will increase UHD’s economic development.”

Other goals include:

  • Setting the target six-year graduation rate for 2024 to 36% for first-time in college students—a 6% increase from the spring 2022 cohort rate.
  • Expanding the early alert system for all students, not just freshmen, to provide services before students fall too far behind.
  • Increasing alumni connections over the next academic year by 80%.

He also applauded funding secured by faculty to further the mission of the University, including:

  • A $259,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Vassilios Tzouanas and his team in the College of Sciences and Technology are leading undergraduate students through intensive research in such areas as cybersecurity, machine learning, and process automation.
  • A $2.5 million U.S. Department of Education Title V grant to expand the College of Public Service/Department of Urban Education’s focus on educating bilingual students, led by Drs. Elizabeth Stackhouse and Ron Beebe, and another $2.8 million to support a bilingual e-library project, led by Drs. Irene Chen and Maria Bhattacharjee.
  • $990,000 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, secured by Dr. Angelica Roncancio of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, to support primary prevention efforts to reduce HPV-related cancer disparities in underserved communities.
  • $2.6 million in scholarships provided by the Ted Bauer Foundation over the last five years for undergraduates in the Marilyn Davies College of Business.

Blanchard noted cause for celebration: “This year marks a very special year in the life of our university. You see, in 1974, the University of Houston acquired the assets of South Texas Junior College and opened the doors of what was then the University of Houston-Downtown College (UHDC) at One Main Street. UHDC, which is now our beloved UHD, was from its inception in 1974 a four-year institution. And that means we are on the cusp of the 50th anniversary of the University of Houston-Downtown.”2023 State of the University

Univision President and General Manager Glenn Coleman (shown right) emceed the event, which ended with Richardson’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” echoing the President’s optimism for a bright future for the students and graduates of UHD.

About the 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.