THECB Awards $250,000 Grant To UHD’s Impact Learning Office
By Sheryl E. Taylor
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) awarded UHD’s Impact Learning Office (ILO) its first grant—$250,000—to provide experiential learning opportunities for Gator students.
“ILO is creating a hub for high-impact educational practices (HIPs) to make it easier for students to discover opportunities and for the UHD community to gather information to create even more HIPs in the near future,” said Dr. Poonam Gulati, Executive Director of ILO. “This is the first grant we applied for and received. We are always looking for funding to benefit our students.”
HIPs have been shown to be beneficial for college students from different backgrounds, and the UHD community is engaged in several HIPs. The ILO works across all academic departments to ensure that students have opportunities to participate in service learning, research, study abroad opportunities, and internships. The colleges and their academic programs also offer courses that incorporate HIPs, some of which allow for students to conduct independent research or participate in faculty-led research activities. Other courses may allow students to carry out a service-learning project in the community.
In the book, “High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter,” author George D. Kuh defines a set of teaching and learning practices whose positive impact on students has been established by educational research. Data from the National Survey of Student Engagement is presented to explain the benefits for all students, particularly those from groups traditionally underserved by higher education. Kuh also presents evidence that underserved students are the least likely to have access to these high-impact practices.
According to Gulati, ILO is uniquely aligned with President’s Blanchard’s Four Points of Excellence—Ensuring Student Success, Strengthening Justice, Strengthening Institutional Excellence & Infrastructure, and Growing As An Anchor Institution.
“High-impact experiences, such as internships, provide on-the-job experience where students receive marketable skills, including critical thinking, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and many others,” emphasized Gulati. “These skills assist our students to be successful at UHD and in landing jobs or admission into graduate programs. Internships are open to all students, and we typically see a diverse set of students who apply for and gain internships. When students gain such experiences and become stronger candidates for positions, it reflects on UHD and student success. The community beyond our campus appreciates the excellent students that UHD is producing.”
This Spring and Summer, thanks to the THECB grant funding, UHD students held internships with a $20 hourly stipend. Such funding enabled students to pursue internships in their field of interest rather than a more traditional job that may not have offered a high-impact educational experience.
A survey conducted by the ILO concluded that internships are the most desired high-impact experience among UHD students across all colleges. “Such experiences provide exposure to fields that students may be interested in pursuing, networking opportunities, and skills that help them now and well into the future,” said Gulati.
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.