President Shares UHD’s Highlights, Goals For the Future
By Mark Kramer
University of Houston-Downtown President, Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz highlighted many achievements of the past year and shared plans of exciting things to come during his third annual Report to the Community on Sept. 26. He delivered his address to an audience of faculty, staff, students, and friends of the University in the Wilhelmina Cullen Robertson Auditorium.
The opening of the new College of Sciences and Technology building, record enrollment, legislative support, recognition of programs, and new initiatives focused on continued student success were among several accomplishments noted during the address.
“It is just the beginning of a new chapter for the University of Houston-Downtown,” Muñoz said.
Sciences and Technology Building impressive, innovative
The new College of Sciences and Technology building opened this fall. Located on the north side of Interstate 10 across from the Marilyn Davies College of Business (Shea Street Building), it is the only UH System facility built to LEED Gold Standards in energy efficiency.
“It’s an impressive building that is not only an asset to UHD and its students, it is a tremendous addition to Downtown Houston and our region,” Muñoz said. “The features of this building speaks volumes about our commitment to educating future scientists with regards to sustainability, urban agriculture and protection of the environment.”
Next Up: New Wellness and Success Center
With legislators taking notice of UHD’s growth and listening to suggestions for future needs from faculty, students and alumni, state lawmakers approved authorization to implement a fee that will support a new Wellness and Success Center. This is the first time in three decades that UHD was granted this authority.
Muñoz said the $35-40 million facility will provide spaces for sports, fitness, counseling, studying and socializing.
“The Colleges of Sciences and Technology Building has been called a game changer for UHD, but the game keeps changing and the Wellness and Success Center will continue to make our university a player in recruiting and retaining future and current Gators,” he said.
Muñoz added that the Wellness and Success Center wasn’t the only item on UHD’s Legislative Agenda. The Texas Legislature also provided an additional $4 million that will help the university continue from its recovery from Hurricane Harvey and flood mitigation efforts to prevent future damage to the university. Additionally, UHD will receive a modest increase in state revenue funds to support current and future needs.
UHD’s enrollment hit record numbers this fall with more than 15,000 students registered during its ambitious enrollment campaign. Additionally, the University welcomed its largest freshman class with more than 1,600 new Gators.
“This enrollment indicates that we are moving the needle forward for our institution and setting new milestones,” Muñoz said. “I must credit the culture of our university, which in many ways is a close-knit, hard-working family and community that is comprised of remarkable faculty and staff members.”
According to Muñoz, UHD is graduating more students than ever. The university’s First Time in College graduation rate increased to 28 percent and First Time In College (FTIC) retention rate are strong at 73 percent.
“Based on the tireless efforts of UHD’s faculty and staff that resulted in the University achieving its enrollment and retention goals, a 2.5 percent merit pool for eligible employees was announced,” he said in a message to the community following his address.
Muñoz also addressed the recent economic impact study indicating that UHD contributed $2 billion to the in the regional economy during Fiscal Year 2018. He stated that alumni contribute $1.8 million in added income to the region. Overall, UHD’s impact on the economy has grown by more than 60 percent since 2014, the date of the last such study.
“That is not only incredible, it’s one of the very reasons UHD is here – to produce successful graduates who contribute significantly to the region’s prosperity,” he said.
Awards, increased visibility
Muñoz also spotlighted UHD’s recent Higher Education Excellence In Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT into Diversity Magazine, and the University Advancement team’s award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for overall improvement among public comprehensive institutions.
Such awards complement the University’s increased visibility within the city, he said. UHD’s presence in Houston, however, is becoming more noticeable thanks to numerous campus enhancements. These include blue lighting on the One Main Building, signage along Girard Street and near the Sciences & Technology Building, and new bronze Gators. He also cited forthcoming new electronic billboard and revamped signage on Travis Street.
Fundraising and Faculty Grants
Muñoz applauded UHD’s fundraising efforts as the institution surpassed its stretch goal of $30 million with almost a year remaining in the campaign. He also lauded the research and service to the university community. During fiscal year 2019, award dollars increased by six percent to $4 million and grant proposals were on the rise by 7 percent.
Happy Retirement, Ed
At the conclusion of his report to the community, Munoz recognized Ed Hugetz who is departing academia after 40 years.
Hugetz recently served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and extended his time at UHD to support the university’s PeopleSoft conversion and enrollment efforts as a Special Assistant to the President.
“Ed has been an asset to this institution, and I am honored to have worked alongside him during my first two years at the helm,” Muñoz said. “Now, he is calling it a career after supporting our enrollment efforts this semester. I am profoundly grateful for his service.”
“The Gator Way”
Muñoz describes the efforts of service and support of faculty and staff to the university and its students as “The Gator Way.”
“Your passion for UHD is simply incalculable and it’s what fuels this institution,” he said. “It’s what makes new buildings possible for our students and helps more Houstonians realize their academic ambitions. It is also what made 2019 a year of incredible accomplishments and will make 2020 and beyond just as memorable for our students and our city.”