Growth and Accomplishments
The following are just a few of the many activities and points of pride during Dr. Blanchard’s second year in serving as president of the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD).
- After planting the seed for a new strategic plan through the development of an Institutional Compass and then creating that plan, the implementation of the 2022-27 Strategic Plan: A New Paradigm began in 2022—with Student Success as the number one priority.
- The reorganization of the former University College and Student Life into the Student
Success & Student Life (3SL) Division began in March 2022. This essential infrastructure
change incorporates student activities and student health services along with career
services and the Academic Support Center. It includes Upward Bound and the Talent
Search Program along with the Gator Success Center and the Center for Diversity and
3SL also tackles food, housing, transportation, and medical and mental health insecurities. These measures ensure that more students will have the ability to stay in school instead of “stopping out,” graduate in a timelier manner, and enter the workforce with degrees of value, becoming the leaders in their professions and communities. Ultimately, improved retention and graduation rates affect socioeconomic mobility for generations to come.
- A new approach to advisement was undertaken during spring 2022. While students previously interacted with varying advisors, now, UHD Academic Success Coordinators follow a given cohort of students throughout their academic careers at UHD, providing many points of contact along the way. Advisement is also embedded in the students’ particular areas of study, and students are now introduced to career-enhancing opportunities such as internships and service learning much earlier in their academic journey.
- UHD was included in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) Student
Success Implementation Cohort alongside Sam Houston State University, Midwestern State
University, and Tarleton State University. The THECB solicited the help of the National
Institute for Student Success (NISS). Over the summer of 2022, UHD began a three-month
diagnostic phase filled with data collection, interviews, and surveys. NISS then offered
strategies relative to the strategic plan, including the following recommendations
to improve Student Success outcomes at UHD:
- Coordinate academic advising;
- Provide consistent academic support and reduce D or F grades, withdrawals, and incompletes of gateway courses;
- Improve systematic first-year support; and
- Increase support of student financial wellness.
- The Campus Community, special guests, and dignitaries celebrated Dr. Blanchard’s Investiture Ceremony in May 2022, alongside a barbeque luncheon and the Alumni & Friends Celebration Dinner.
- Over the last year, the implementation of UHD’s Wayfinding Project is creating a more welcoming campus where guests and community members can arrive at their destination without the stress of getting lost along the way. The project includes new exterior and interior signage for the One Main Complex, the Girard Street Building, the Welcome Center, and several parking garages.
- UHD ascended in its U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings from last year’s
categories and appeared on new lists as well. UHD is considered a Top Regional University
(West) with a ranking of 78, ten points higher than last year. UHD is highly ranked
in these lists as well:
- Top Public Universities in the West: ranked 40 (+5) (ranked 45 last year);
- Top Performers on Social Mobility for Regional Universities (West): ranked 27 (+5) (ranked 32 last year); and
- Undergraduate Business Programs (overall): ranked 247 (tied) (+31) (ranked 278 (tied) last year).
UHD now appears in these listings for Regional Universities (West) across the United States:
- Least Debt;
- Economic Diversity; and
- Ethnic Diversity.
- UHD rose 25 points to No. 55 among the 2023 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration by U.S. News & World Report and by one point to No. 26 as Best Online Master's in Criminal Justice Program.
- The President’s Lecture Series continued with such lectures as “Supporting Students Starts with Basic Needs”; “Breaking the Ceiling through Innovation & Entrepreneurship”; and “Social Justice and the Arts: Downtown Powerful Art Mural Spaces.”
- Over the last year, the following leaders have joined the President’s Cabinet: Deborah E. Bordelon as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost; Javier “Jay” Zambrano as Vice President of Advancement and University Relations; and Kim Thomas as Vice President for Administration and Finance.
- UHD served as a polling location for the first time in its history when Harris County residents could vote in the Academic Building for the 2022 Houston-area and Texas midterm general elections on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
- As UHD deepens its community partnerships, the University co-sponsored the inaugural Northside Festival, which took place near the College of Sciences and Technology building on Nov. 1, 2022. President Blanchard served as the Grand Marshal of the Greater Northside Management District’s 9th Annual Tour de Northside bike ride that morning.
- UHD received $943,724 from the U.S. Department of Education for its Basic Needs Program. The award will fund a Basic Needs Center to provide for immediate students’ needs, build a staff to support those needs, and collect data through a case management process that connects students to comprehensive resources.
- A new era for the University of Houston-Downtown was ushered in with the official opening of its Wellness & Success Center. Designed by SmithGroup in association with HarrisonKornberg Architects and built by Vaughn Construction, the $39 million, 75,000-square-foot facility not only expands UHD’s footprint and visibility, it also establishes a dynamic core and recognizable landmark for fostering and nurturing an on-campus community.
- UHD was named a Fulbright Top Producing Institution for U.S. Scholars by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. This recognition is given to the U.S. colleges and universities that received the highest number of faculty applicants selected for the 2022-23 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. UHD Faculty Fulbright Scholars are Ms. Natacha Poggio (Department of Arts and Communication) and Drs. Edmund Cueva (Department of History, Humanities, and Languages), Shahnaz Savani (Department of Social Work), & Rahul Verma (Department of Business Administration).
- UHD was featured twice on the front page of the Houston Chronicle in early 2023 with these headlines: “UHD Intent on Doubling Graduation Rate” and “Building a Campus Community,” highlighting the new Wellness & Success Center.
- Upon the invitation of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Dr. Blanchard joined other area educational leaders on the Superintendents Float at the Annual Black Heritage Society Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.
- The “Seal Your Success: UHD in 2023" Campaign, aimed at demonstrating to high school seniors that a college degree is attainable and to boost fall enrollment, was launched in February 2023. As part of the campaign, UHD President, Dr. Loren J. Blanchard and other university leaders are visiting 12 high schools in Houston and surrounding communities over a two-month period.
- In Feb. 2023, Dr. Blanchard testified in front of the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations – Subcommittee on Article III and the Texas Senate Committee on Appropriations – Subcommittee on Article III testimony regarding UHD’s legislative appropriations request.
- As part of Black History Month 2023 celebrations at UHD, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis “unveiled” the Remembrance Murals from the South Deck of UHD with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and State Representative Senfronia Thompson in the audience.
- UHD leadership, students, and alumni visited Austin on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, for “UHD Day at the Capitol” during the Texas State Legislature’s 88th Regular Session. Proclamations were read in the Senate by Senator Borris Miles and in the House by Representatives Mary Ann Perez and Christina Morales. Mariachi Los Caimanes serenaded the UHD contingency over a barbeque lunch and in the open-air rotunda before UHD students and alumni met one-on-one with Texas lawmakers.
- UHD was awarded $2,470,225 by the U.S. Department of Commerce to upgrade the UHD bilingual e-library in support of connectivity and literacy skills of the Hispanic community. Additionally, this project will have a dramatic impact on workforce development and, ultimately, the local economy, as the City of Houston seeks to increase the literacy skills of Houstonians by one level. The benefits of this project will extend beyond Houston since access to the bilingual e-library will be available worldwide.