New Year, New Leadership

Dr. Loren J. Blanchard Takes the Reins at UHD

​​​Dr. Loren J. Blanchard

It goes without saying that 2020 was a period of transition for the University of Houston-Downtown. A new year, however, brings new perspectives, new resolve and very soon, new leadership to UHD.

Dr. Loren J. Blanchard will join the University as its next President on March 15. An esteemed higher education veteran, Blanchard emerged as the sole finalist for this position in December 2020 following a national search.

"I am honored by the opportunity to serve as the University's seventh President," Blanchard said. "UHD is an imp​ortant asset to the city of Houston and plays a key role within the University of Houston System. I look forward to joining this vibrant campus community and working alongside students, faculty and staff in continuing its momentum toward higher excellence."

Blanchard arrives at UHD from The California State University (CSU) where he served as Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs and a Professor in the College of Education. Although he and his family are relocating from the West Coast, Blanchard is very much a product of the Gulf Coast region and eager to return.

"I am quite familiar with Houston," he said. "I am originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and this city was a regular vacation spot for my family. We would spend quality family time attending Astros baseball games and enjoying the Astroworld amusement park. We also had (and still have) many relatives and close friends in the city, so it feels very natural to call Houston home and to be a part of this great institution."

Prior to his role at The CSU, Blanchard held a number of higher education leadership roles, including Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xavier University in New Orleans; Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic & Multicultural Affairs at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center; and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Louisiana System of Colleges and Universities. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Georgia; a Master of Education in Educational Administration & Supervision from McNeese State University; and a Bachelor of Science in Speech Pathology Education from Xavier University.

UHD, he said, is very much within the "temple of his familiar" (a saying adapted from the title Alice Walker's popular 1989 novel "The Temple of My Familiar") and allows him the opportunity to continue serving students from diverse backgrounds.

"Many of these students are counting on higher education, and UHD in particular, as being a ladder to success," Blanchard said. "I was compelled to become a part of the University to continue serving students and helping ensure their success in our classrooms and ultimately, within our community."

While Blanchard plans to be a hands-on President, he's counting on the full support of the UHD Community in supporting students from the day they first enroll until they graduate.

"Once students are registered for their first classes, the clock begins ticking on our responsibility to make sure they persist and graduate," Blanchard said. "That happens through the support, guidance and feedback we provide to them. It is equally important that they graduate with a degree of value, one that empowers them in the workforce or in their graduate or professional studies."

Students are needing this support more than ever as the institution continues to navigate COVID-19. Blanchard said the health and well-being of the University Community are his top priorities as incoming President, and he wants to make sure the University remains a safe place for learning and working. In doing so, he plans to work closely with the different campus teams tasked with leading UHD's pandemic response efforts and closely monitoring the advice and counsel of medical and public health officials and city leaders.

Additionally, he wants to ensure that UHD continues to support students' online learning endeavors during the pandemic by providing access to technology and devices. Likewise, he would like to increase faculty training for effective online instruction as the majority of UHD classes continue to be delivered virtually.

Beyond the pandemic, Blanchard views UHD as a critical part of Houston and the surrounding area. He sees the University as an institution that can emanate energy, ideas and imagination to stimulate economic and intellectual activity within the region. The University's Strategic Plan, he said, will no doubt help guide its role within the external community, as well as its critical mission of serving Houstonians as a premiere urban institution of higher learning.

"UHD's role as an urban university has meaning and value," he said. "It deepens our responsibility to Houston and to helping it meet its goals."

As 2021 begins, so does a new era for UHD. Blanchard is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work, but in doing so, he'll hit the ground listening and learning. He said he'll meet virtually with different members of the UHD Community and other constituent groups to gather feedback and input. These meetings, he said, will not only help bring him up to speed on the University, but to further connect him with the campus community that he's heard so much about.

"When I interviewed for this position, I met with faculty, staff and students who informed me of the tight-knit, family atmosphere at UHD," he said. "There's a great sense of care that strongly compelled me to be a part of this institution. I want to ensure that the University extends this caring culture to the Greater Houston community, so that we can together reach new levels of excellence across multiple fronts."​