UHD Earns National Honor Again for Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion
Insight into Diversity presents University with HEED Award for Second Consecutive Year
By Mark Kramer
For the second consecutive year, the University of Houston-Downtown is being recognized nationally as a leader in diversity, inclusion and academic achievement.
Once again, UHD has been named a recipient of the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from "INSIGHT Into Diversity" magazine, the largest and oldest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
UHD joins 90 honorees nationwide that were recognized for their outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion and academic success rates. UHD will be highlighted in the magazine's annual HEED Award issue to be published in November.
“Diversity and inclusion are deeply woven into the fabric of the University of Houston-Downtown,” said Antonio D. Tillis, Ph.D., UHD’s Interim President. “As a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution, the University is a reflection of the very community it serves. It is indeed an honor to receive this award, and I applaud those students, faculty and staff who work hard every day to cultivate new programs and initiatives focused on enhancing our commitment to inclusiveness at every level.”
According to UHD Director of Diversity & Inclusion Dr. John Hudson, the goal of the university’s programs is to help others educate others about diverse and inclusive populations.
“Our programs have encouraged a climate of learning about others while promoting awareness among our campus community,” Hudson said. “The combination of new programs and the continued growth of existing ones has made our efforts successful.”
New GatorLEADER Program Promotes Awareness
One initiative that has made a major impact in spreading awareness about diversity and inclusion is the GatorLEADER Diversity Leadership Program that is open to all students and staff. The program began in a face-to-face setting in January, then transitioned to an online format in March. The course curriculum consists of core and elective workshops.
Upon completion of these courses, participants must write a capstone paper sharing their experiences and takeaways from the program.
Hudson noted that more than 300 students and staff have participated in the program and attended workshops since it began earlier this year.
“We're excited to see such a broad spectrum of interest,” he said. “Since the July 4 holiday, we have had a steady increase in participation. Given the demand for the program and the enthusiastic response, we plan to expand the program during the fall semester by increasing the number of required workshops and adding a number of new elective workshops.”
Hudson said the Center for Critical Race Studies (CCRS) is continuing to grow and provide opportunities to build knowledge by serving the diverse cultures that form UHD’s student body.
CCRS' goal is to bring together multiple identities and cultures that form UHD’s student body through the Minority Male Success Program and the Men of L.E.G.A.C.I. program. The purpose of these programs is to expose males of color to a variety of resources with the intent to promote academic, career and professional development of these students.
“Involvement in these programs also has shown a steady increase and continues to provide great insight and learning opportunities for our UHD students,” Hudson noted.
Gator Success Center Makes Difference
The Gator Success Center continues to help in the retention of students of all backgrounds who are 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.
“Since the creation of the Gator Success Center, we have experienced a high level of achievement among our First Time in College (FTIC) students,” Hudson said. “It has helped build the confidence of all students that have entered their doors. It is a wonderful thing to see.”
Investing in Students: Gator Pledge
According to Hudson, the Gator Pledge program has been essential in helping students of various socio-economic backgrounds see their dreams of earning a bachelor’s degree come true. The program helps incoming freshmen with family incomes of $50,000 or less by covering tuition and fees for up to four years.
“The Gator Pledge has made such a huge difference in the lives of our FTIC student populations,” he said. “Through the generosity of others, this assistance has enabled students to focus on success and not financial worry.”
The program complements UHD’s status as the most affordable university in Houston and one of the most affordable in Texas. Additionally, the University is among institutions with the lowest net price tuition in the nation according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education’s College Affordability and Transparency rankings.
“The Gator Pledge gives students greater access to higher education opportunities,” Hudson said.
Still Going Strong
When UHD sought to expand its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in 2018, the Center for Latino Studies was formed and serves as a vital program today.
The Center provides 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, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Grant was awarded to the College of Sciences and Technology for the UHD SynergIE Program, which continues to foster capacity building for diversity, access, and inclusion through various faculty initiatives.
Other programs and activities highlighted in the award include UHD’s continued faculty development, and the university outreach and engagement.
“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding which institutions 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 campuses.”
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.