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President Flores: UHD is strong and well positioned for the future

Friday, September 09, 2011 / UHD Public Affairs

UHD President Bill Flores forecast a strong future for UHD and told faculty, staff and students at the Fall Convocation last week that the University is well positioned for the coming years.

“Since my arrival two years ago, we have been working to change our business model by re-focusing our budget on strategic priorities, expanding our market into new service areas and expanding to 13 degrees online...with more planned,” he said. “We now have a very different administrative team and a new focus. We have a new vision and mission statement. I expect us to increase our graduation and retention rates and to generate new resources. I am confident we are on track to being a much stronger, nationally recognized university.”

Education, in general, is facing some challenging times in the face of federal and state cutbacks in funding, Flores said. Students are incurring more debt as the government has reduced need-based financial aid.

“Yet, even with these circumstances, UHD has achieved national recognition and I expect us to gain even more as we continue to grow,” he said. UHD now ranks 37th among colleges and universities for graduating Hispanic and African-American students. UHD is nationally recognized for community service as well as its excellent programs such as the Scholars Academy, he said. During the past year, the University has received a number of grants, awards and honors that are a tribute to the hard work of the faculty and staff.

UHD recently received a $1 million National Science Foundation-Noyce Teacher Scholarship Grant to train secondary math teachers. UHD received a state-wide Star Award for partnerships between the Urban Education Department and the Lone Star College District and the University was named for the fourth time to the President’s Honor Roll for community service. University fundraising has tripled over last year. Enrollment at the new UHD-Northwest has reached 1,400, and the new MBA program is set to launch in 2012.

In the last two years, the University has developed a draft strategic plan and a preliminary master plan. The University redirected resources to open UHD-Northwest and focused on retention, graduation and the main mission of student success, he said.

New student success initiatives include adding electronic transcript review, enabling freshmen to declare majors, expanding freshmen success courses, offering more mentoring, instituting more orientation programs and requiring more advising for at-risk students, he said.

The 2011 legislative session posed some challenges for higher education and resulted in $10 million in biennium funding cuts for UHD.

“Thanks to the Budget Reduction and Efficiencies Task Force and recommendations from faculty and staff, UHD is not in any imminent financial danger,” Flores said. “Long term, it is critical that we increase student enrollment and greatly improve retention and graduation rates. We must retain students. Every student is important.”

The University will use any additional funds for student success programs and scholarship support. The funds will help strengthen the Academic Advising Center, develop high impact practices, create an Honors Program and expand the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

The University initiatives include adding faculty in key areas, expanding distance education sites and developing an Office of Global Citizenship. The University also plans to let the community know about the quality work and achievements of faculty, staff and students with a marketing and branding campaign.

Jerry Johnson, assistant professor, presented a report on behalf of the High-Impact Practices Steering Committee that addressed incorporating high-impact learning practices throughout the curriculum to transform learning. Key components of such practices are writing intensive experiences, capstone courses, collaborative assignments and projects, service learning and internships. Studies indicate a direct correlation between the number of high-impact experiences students have and the number of students who graduate.

“Implementing high impact practices is the key element of our vision statement. Creating high impact experiences for UHD freshmen, transfer and returning students will transform UHD,” Flores said. “We are building a university that is stronger, makes better use of its resources and that is equipping its students for success. I am enthusiastic about UHD and its future.”

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