UHD Earns National Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award
By Mark Kramer
The University of Houston-Downtown has been named a national recipient of the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
UHD was among 92 honorees from across the United States that were recognized for their outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion and academic success rates. UHD will be highlighted in INSIGHT into Diversity’s annual HEED Award issue to be published in November.
“The University of Houston-Downtown has long maintained a commitment to diversity on its campus,” said Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “As a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution, UHD serves students who are reflective of the evolving demographics in Houston and our nation. The HEED Award reflects the hard work of faculty and staff in supporting student success and promoting cultural inclusiveness on campus. It’s also symbolic of our diverse student body, who enrich our city through excellence in the classroom and the community.”
In 2018, UHD demonstrated its ongoing commitment to enhancing the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion with the appointment of Erika Harrison, the university’s first diversity officer. Harrison’s first objective focused on working with the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to expand its programs and resources to faculty, staff, and students.
The same year, UHD launched its Center for Latino Studies and appointed Dr. Bonnie Lucero as the Center’s founding director. The Center is committed to providing a socially-empowering curriculum for the existing Latino Studies concentration (part of the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities program). The Latinas Achieve and Emerging Scholars of Color programs are two primary initiatives designed to provide research and promising strategies designed to meet the needs of UHD’s diverse student body.
In addition, UHD 2018 welcomed the announcement of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Grant awarded to the College of Sciences and Technology for the UHD SynergIE Program. The program is designed to foster capacity building for diversity, access, and inclusion through various faculty initiatives.
UHD also led the effort to reinstate the Texas Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (TADOHE), a chapter of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). More than 35 strategic diversity leaders from across the state gathered at UHD in June to discuss diversity and inclusion in higher education.
Additional promising practices highlighted in the award include the Center for Critical Race Studies and the Gator Success Center. The Center for Critical Race Studies creates an opportunity to build knowledge by bringing together the multiple identities and cultures that form UHD’s student body. One program that was created through these efforts, the Minority Male Success Program and the creation of the Men of L.E.G.A.C.I. program. The purpose of the program is to expose males of color to a variety of resources with the intent to promote academic, career and professional development of these students.
The Gator Success Center helps in the retention of students of all backgrounds completing their academic careers at UHD. The center provides assistance and opportunities for all freshmen and sophomores, so that they will excel in college and reach their full potential as independent learners through peer mentoring and academic coaching. The center also serves as the hub of activities for the First-Year and Second-Year Experience Programs.
Other programs and activities highlighted in the award include UHD’s continued commitment to first-generation college students, faculty development, and the university outreach and engagement.
“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED recipient,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”
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.