UHD Breaks Ground on Student Wellness & Success Center
By Mike Emery
Houston’s second largest university soon will become even larger.
On Nov. 12, University of Houston-Downtown broke ground on its newest campus addition, the Student Wellness & Success Center, assuring current and prospective students that they will have expanded resources for fitness, recreation, wellness, and of course, learning.
The ceremony was streamed live on Facebook and many supporters attended the event in person. These included members of the University Community, representatives from the University of Houston System (including Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator and members of the UHS Board of Regents); and elected state officials including Rep. Mary Ann Perez (a UHD alumna), Rep. Christina Morales, Sen. Borris Miles and Sen. John Whitmire. These dignitaries addressed the significance of this building, then put blue shovels to soil to further commemorate the occasion.
Ultimately, the Center will offer expanded recreational and fitness facilities; additional areas for studying and socializing; spaces for learning about health and wellness; and a demonstration kitchen for lessons on nutrition.
Construction on the Center (located next to UHD’s College of Sciences & Technology Building) is scheduled to begin in Spring 2021 and expected to be completed by 2022. The project will span 72,000 sq. feet and is budgeted at $38 million. Longtime UHD collaborator Vaughn Construction is serving as the project’s general contractor and SmithGroup is overseeing its design.
“This is an iconic project, and a special one for defining the University of Houston-Downtown,” said University of Houston System Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator. “The new Student Wellness & Success Center is important for all of Houston. It’s a shining example of what higher education institutions represent in Houston.”
Complementing Khator’s comments, UHD Interim President Antonio D. Tillis, Ph.D. shared insights on the importance of the Center for enhancing student life at the University.
“It will help UHD establish new traditions and provide new spaces for learning and leisure,” he said. “The Student Wellness & Success Center will be another transformative addition to the city’s higher education landscape and another reason why more students are selecting UHD as their university of choice.”
Tillis also expressed optimism that COVID levels in Houston should subside by the time the Center opens its doors in 2022, so that it may serve its mission of supporting the health and wellness of the UHD Community.
Assembled speakers also shared the story behind the Center.
Sen. Borris Miles offered details on how he and other lawmakers worked to support House Bill 1277 (authored by Rep. Perez) during Texas’ 86th Legislative Session, which authorized a dedicated student fee for this project.
“Students visited my office in 2019 to discuss this project, and I could feel their energy and enthusiasm,” he said. “I was honored to carry it into the Senate on their behalf.”
Perez echoed the sentiment and applauded her alma mater. She particularly credited student leadership for its hard work in advocating for this building.
“It was a collaborative effort on the legislative side, but no one worked harder than those students who testified in Austin,” she said. “They were outstanding during hearings and made a passionate case for the Center.”
Perez and the other speakers in attendance also commended past President Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz for helping drive this project. Likewise, former Interim President Dr. Michael Olivas was acknowledged for his role in helping secure the land on which the Center will be built.
Additional remarks were delivered by former UH System Regent and UHD alumna Paula Mendoza, UHD Vice President for Administration & FinanceDavid Bradley, UH System Regent Jack Moore, UHD Student Government Association President Alan Modrow, UHD Sports & Fitness Director Richard Sebastiani, UH System Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Jason Smith, Sen. Whitmire, UHD Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and Provost Dr. Eric Carl Link, Clint Menefee of architectural firm SmithGroup, and Tom Vaughn of Vaughn Construction.
“UHD is growing by leaps and bounds,” Mendoza said. “With the passion and perseverance of everyone here, the University will continue to expand and serve even more Houstonians.”
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.