These are ideas that were received and processed through April 22, 2011. More suggestions will be added periodically.
- There seems to be many missed opportunities by not only UHD but also the other campuses when it comes to capital expenditure. Because the universities in the system more or less operate autonomously, communication is not fostered between the campuses and only after large purchases have been made do we learn that another campus was shopping or buying the same thing. Discounts can be gleaned from having greater bargaining power when multiple campuses go together on a purchase, even if the capital expenditures come from the individual university. For example, the software used for the Rec Center at the main campus is different from the software used at UHD Sports & Fitness, and that is different from the software used at the Clear Lake campus Rec center. Would there have been an overall discount if each campus announced that they were in the market for a particular product/service?
- Make every Friday UHD Pride Day. Staff, faculty and students would be encouraged to wear UHD apparel/colors, and it will be a casual day for staff. This is a way to encourage pride in our university, which will help UHD grow in numbers and reputation. Except for money spent getting the word out, this will be an extremely inexpensive way to help the UHD budget (in the end). You could even offer prizes (of more UHD apparel!) for individuals or departments who show the most pride, etc.
- When marketing the university (using old or new name), provide staff/faculty with polo shirts to wear on Fridays or during the week (long sleeve polo shirts would be nice), at staff meetings, university functions or conferences in TX or other states. New students can get t-shirts as a part of their NSO; current students can get a discount at the bookstore for university t-shirts.
My proposal would be to use current staff (no additional/newly funded positions) to develop a separate Office of Retention and Student Outreach. This office would oversee the following programs:
First Year Student Experience - Includes the following areas:
• New Student and Transfer Orientation (shift focus from enrollment to retention)
• Support and strategic planning for Welcome Week Activities, from a retention focus
• Support and strategic planning of a FTIC/Orientation Course offered which would be required in the first semester of each student's initial enrollment.
Early Alert and Intervention
• Work closely with faculty to create a strong program which connects at-risk students to support, early in the semester
• Peer Mentoring Program for at-risk students
Intrusive Academic Counseling/Advising
• Focus on a cohort of students in remedial coursework.
• Require students in these cohorts to meet with an Academic Counselor/Advisor before each semester starts, within the first month of class, and at midterm.
There are many other areas this department could focus on in the future, if it is established and supported appropriately.
Retention is, in my opinion, the most critical issue the University of Houston-Downtown is facing. Even more critical than the budget shortfall. While there are many initiatives currently underway, I believe it takes a coordinated, strategic and across-the-board approach that is managed by a department whose sole focus is retention and retention only.
- There are a several classes that students typically struggle with and often repeat in summer sessions away from their parent institutions. One of these classes is Organic Chemistry. Last year all sections of this class were filled to capacity at both UHD and LSC in summer session. Clearly, there is demand. Is it feasible for us to offer more sections of this class over the summer? My understanding is that the sessions currently offered at UHD are four weeks whereas those at LSC are longer (five or six weeks?). Given the difficulty of this class, an extended session might be advantageous. Could we devise a way to offer this as a hybrid class with on-line lecture content and full day in-person labs? Michigan State University has developed a very nice virtual organic chemistry textbook with links to online interactive problem sets. http://www2.chemistry.msu.edu/faculty/reusch/VirtTxtJml/intro1.htm
- Please consider setting up an online "Greensheet" of sorts, (perhaps a database that can be accessed off the web) where departments or individuals can list extra furniture or equipment or office supplies that they no longer need. This might help offices that need an extra chair to locate one without having to purchase a new one. Or, for those offices who find they don't need as many adding machine rolls or binders, they can just list their excess supplies and then first come, first served!
I would like to propose relocating (or eliminating) the Smoothie King operations in the Coffee House. This is a prime location on our campus that is widely requested and highly requested for campus events and evening events. When we do this, the event is disrupted from the loud noise of the blenders going and the loud music played on the Smoothie King employees' radio.
When the campus first built and opened the coffee house area, it was not widely used or highly requested. Times have changed as well as the number of requests and the type of events our campus now holds.
I propose we either move Smoothie King to the cafeteria area or to the SSB (which has a space originally built out for a café and is not being used) and open the coffee house to campus use. I would take the Smoothie King area and use it for events and catering out of it for Aramark or our other caterers. We currently have no catering area for outside companies to stage or serve out of. It would be a great location rather than the back hallway behind the Special Event Center (where all of the food deliveries come in and are constantly being disturbed by delivery companies). In the evenings, at 5 p.m., the area can then be occupied by Aramark to serve "bistro" food and appetizers as well as soft drinks, beer and wine.
- Have a number of days per year for volunteer furloughs. There are some employees who would not mind the resulting decrease in compensation. Include employees with contracts on the imposed 4-day furloughs per year, if any part of their pay comes from the state. The president says we are all in this together, apparently not, if all sacrifices are not equal. Not including all, in the furlough thing, is offensive, morally wrong, and not to mention, fiscally illogical. Staff members get very few perks and in most cases are paid less.
- See if we can get the State of Texas to do a cost-benefit analysis of UHD's remaining part of the UH System. We may be saving money by being part of this system, or we may not. It would be good to find out so people would have an answer to a question that is often discussed. It would also be good for UH to have a better grasp of our relationship to the system. This might lead to more cohesive planning and cooperation.
- Begin to offer eight-week courses throughout the academic year online. Students will be able to register for more courses and will be attracted to enrolling in these courses because they can completed them in a shorter amount of time.
Many workers in the Houston area work 9/80 schedules. This translates into their having every other Friday off. This population, the size of which would need to be determined, might be interested in classes that meet for an entire day every other week - 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon.
Incorporation of this into a hybrid format could open the door to hybrid science classes with labs. Effective labs are almost impossible on-line. However, taking advantage of an alternate week schedule, classroom materials could be on line with a full day of lab alternate Fridays.
My thinking is that the 9/80 working population is a particularly attractive one as because their companies are likely able to contribute to the educational needs of their employees. Thus, these students may be especially eager to pursue higher education should the opportunity be made available. Again, this latter issue would need some supporting market research.
- How many departments have an up-to-date list of their majors? I know at least one department does not and no effort is being made to have one. If a dept cannot keep their list of majors current and up-to-date (within ~10-20% accuracy), then there is no way that dept can monitor their 6-year graduation rate or any other rate for that matter. The University should make it a policy that every dept office keeps a current list of its majors with all relevant information.
Maybe we could have more auctions where faculty and staff could buy some of the things deemed as 'trash' or donations because people 'need' new stuff, like furniture, artwork, library books, electronics, laptops and PCs.
Establish an in-house recycle program where we can drop off stuff like office supplies at a 'trading post' and others can 'shop' there instead of ordering new whenever they need something like that. There could be a bulletin board there that people could post stuff they are looking for or have in their office that they want to get rid of so they don't necessarily have to bring it to the trading post if there is a lot or its too big. Facilities sort of does that for file cabinets and furniture now, but it's not commonly known that it's available for adoption. One person could be in charge of keeping the 'trading post' organized and keeping track of what comes in and out. We had that at AMGEN Corporation and it worked quite well.
- Curb waste and over ordering.
- I know that the licenses to library databases can be quite costly, though I suspect that the cost to academic institution to be less than what I experienced in the private sector. Nonetheless, would it be worthwhile to have a look at the electronic databases currently available through our library and evaluate them on some sort of cost/use basis? I recognize that access to information is essential for the operation of a university, yet, there may be a core portfolio of database resources that could serve this need in a more efficient lower cost manner. I know from my experience that the information in some databases overlaps and that I could save clients considerable expense by searching and downloading hits from less expensive databases first.