2004 President’s Report to the Community Breakfast
Dr. Castillo Remarks
Anniversary years offer a special time for celebration, reflection and anticipation.
We celebrate our successes – both past and present, and we anticipate an
exciting future that holds both opportunities and challenges.
We are a university that is 30 years young. We have accomplished quite a lot in
a very short time.
Consider this: Our enrollment has nearly quadrupled since our first year. We’ve
expanded our table of academic programs. In 1974, there was only one
bachelor’s degree – in criminal justice. Now, we have 42 programs, both
undergraduate and graduate.
And, we are on the cutting edge in many areas – for example, in technology.
In 1974, the Internet was only an idea. Now, it’s an essential part of our day-to-
day operations. Our students can apply for admission and register for classes
They have access to the latest software at computers stationed throughout the
building. And, they can connect to the Internet using the wireless network that’s
available throughout our campus.
We occupied only about one-fourth of the old Merchants and Manufacturers
Building. Today, our campus has expanded six times over.
Campus expansion may be the most visible milestone of this anniversary year.
We opened our new Commerce Street Building for classes this fall. It’s a
beautiful facility that gives us a more visible presence and solidifies our standing
as Houston’s Downtown University.
In addition to classrooms and labs, the building houses our College of Public
Service, which comprises the departments of urban teacher education and
The lobby on every floor has a large mural by our own art professor, Floyd
Newsum. Another aesthetic feature at the front steps of the building is a 25-foot
lighted architectural structure that we’ve been referring to as a beacon.
We plan to add a pair of beacons on either side of the One Main Building later
The new building is a symbol for the new era that UHD is entering. We’ve
expanded beyond the boundaries of our two bayous. We’re no longer all “under
one roof.” For the first time, our students have to walk outside between classes.
We also soon will have the grand opening for the Willow Street Pump Station.
After years of planning, the facility is available for community use as a
conference and exhibition space.
For those of you who are not familiar with its history, the Willow Street Pump
Station was built in 1902 as part of the very first municipal utility system. UHD’s
commitment to historic preservation received additional acknowledgment – we
have secured a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
To make it all complete, we’re working with the Downtown Management District
to create a university district at this end of downtown. We plan to put banners up
the Main Street Bridge that will accent and define our campus setting.
These new extensions of our campus mean that UHD has added more than
300,000 square feet to our physical plant over the last seven years – not too
shabby for a resource-challenged university.
We have had to expand our facilities to keep up with our growing enrollment.
This fall, we officially topped the 11,000 mark – 11,408, to be exact. Overall,
enrollment was up by four percent over last fall.
Our off-campus enrollments continue to climb.
At Sugar Land, the number of SCH’s increased 25% in just the last two years. At
The University Center in The Woodlands, SCH’s are up 64%, and they almost
doubled at Cinco Ranch.
Enrollments in online courses are really taking off as well. We offer 40-to-45
sections of primarily upper division courses each semester. SCH’s are up 38%
from Fall ’02. This fall, nearly ten percent of all students are taking at least one
Again, this is simply a classic example of meeting demand, and in the case of our
online instruction, giving our students the opportunity to thrive in a technological
UHD meets community demands in yet another significant way – by creating
access for community college students who wish to complete a baccalaureate
degree. The number of new transfer students increased by nearly six percent
UHD is at the forefront in creating productive partnerships with area community
colleges – as well as public schools. In order to address state goals for higher
education, we have to close those gaps.
So a key factor is ensuring that the K-through-16 pipeline enables students to
move up through the system to completion of a four-year degree.
That’s why UHD has been so active in a number of pre-collegiate programs that
cultivate future college students. An example is our Houston PREP program that
works with middle and high school students interested in the sciences and math.
Houston PREP creates a bridge to programs like our Scholars Academy for high-
performing students in sciences, technology, engineering and math. I’m happy to
report that the Scholars Academy is a finalist this year for the Texas Star Award,
sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Just a few years ago, we received the Star Award for the program that we now
call the Ketelsen Summer Academic Institute.
Another important achievement for our university is the reaffirmation of
accreditation for the College of Business from AACSB International, the lead
accrediting agency worldwide. Only one in four undergraduate business schools
earn this distinction.
The dean of our College of Business – who passed away a month ago –
provided tremendous leadership in this effort.
The next important project in the business college is the development of an
M.B.A. program. We hope to have it up and running in the next two years.
This semester, a pair of new master’s programs made their debut:
The Master of Security Management in the College of Public Service, and
The M.S. in Professional Writing and Technical Communication in the
College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
By next fall, we plan to begin offering a new bachelor’s degree in Spanish for
When you look at all that we’ve accomplished in this last year, I think you could
say that UHD is truly “on track.” I mean that quite literally.
I’m speaking, of course, of MetroRail. The light rail system has generated
tremendous energy and enthusiasm at our institution. And, it is helping us
strengthen public awareness of UHD.
Consider this: our name is in lights at the front of every car that heads
northbound along the seven mile route.
And just to put icing on the cake, Professor Floyd Newsum’s name is seen on
plaques at two of the light rail stations that he designed in the Midtown area, and
on sculptures in Main Street Square.
We couldn’t pay for this kind of exposure.
Of course, the best news is that the light rail provides our students with an
attractive transportation alternative. Nearly 1700 students have purchased Metro
U-Passes this semester – that’s more than 10 percent of our student population –
giving them unlimited access to Metro buses and light rail at a bargain rate.
The line runs right past Houston Community College, which is ideal for students
who are transitioning between our two institutions.
It was gratifying that UHD was chosen as the location for the grand opening
celebration for the rail system on New Year’s Day. And the very next morning,
incoming Houston mayor Bill White launched his first day in office by holding a
prayer breakfast in our auditorium.
Here’s another kind of visibility. UHD is now the site of a web-based weather
station. A web-cam is mounted on the South Deck overlooking Buffalo Bayou
and the downtown skyline. We’re listed on the Channel 2 website, and we
occasionally will be mentioned on the air during weather reports.
While UHD has many accomplishments to celebrate, we are also using this 30th
anniversary to anticipate future opportunities and challenges.
We are formulating UHD’s strategic plan for the next five years at the same time
that the UH System is engaged in a similar process.
We’ve had hearings to gather input from our various constituents, including
community leaders, alumni, faculty, staff and students. I’d like to once again
thank those of you who provided testimony for the panel.
The information shared at the hearings resulted in strategic principles and
initiatives that we will capitalize on.
Two of these initiatives will extend our geographic reach and provide access to
even more transfer students.
We will collaborate in the creation of a UH System multi-institution
teaching center – or MITC – at the Texas Medical Center.
There are a number of existing logical tie-in’s for us. We have had great
success in placing interns in undergraduate research positions at
institutions such as the UT-Houston Health Science Center and Baylor
College of Medicine.
An initiative with very rich potential for UHD is the development of a new
UH System MITC in the 290/Cypress-Fairbanks area, which is the
Cy-Fair College, which is part of the North Harris Montgomery Community
College District, experienced a 26% increase in enrollment this fall and
they just opened their doors a year ago!
That’s a clear indicator of the need for higher education access in that
We already have a productive partnership with NHMCCD that includes joint
admission agreements. We can expand that relationship by first focusing on a
teacher education program in the Northwest Corridor. We will be implementing a
Bachelor of Applied Technology, which would complement an existing associate
degree program at the community colleges.
Another initiative addresses our ongoing space deficit. The Commerce Street
Building may have given us 90-thousand more square feet, but we still have a
215,000 square foot deficit.
So we plan to open a new building by 2008. We’ve already secured the land we
need – a tract directly to the west of campus – just off Milam. It’s currently being
used for overflow parking.
We would like to put a building there – or, just north of the railroad tracks on
property owned by private developers.
One essential part of the plan is that we must be able to connect to the original
campus with a vehicular and pedestrian bridge. We also plan to include more
Given the current climate in Austin regarding funding for higher education, we are
taking a novel approach to make this project a reality. We’re hoping to use a
public/private partnership, working with a private developer who would provide
the up-front funding and handle logistical challenges on our behalf.
We’re working on a request for proposal, or RFP, that will solicit bids from
developers who are interested in working with us on this basis.
I met with Talmadge Heflin, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, to
discuss this idea, and I received positive feedback. He thought this could be the
prototype for the rest of the state.
We’re asking the upcoming session of the Legislature for $30 million in tuition
revenue bonds for financing this next building.
I have been laying the groundwork for this “legislative season” by meeting with
The day before yesterday, while I was in Austin to testify for the State Finance
Committee, a reference was made that all universities are making requests for
tuition revenue bonds. So I think it’s more likely that UHD will end up funding half
on a local level.
The state economy may be better than it was two years ago, but I believe that
higher education will take a back seat to public school funding. Most Austin
observers expect that the legislature will be hard-pressed to bring support for the
state’s poorer districts up to an acceptable level.
In fact, when I testified at a hearing of the Joint Interim Committee on Higher
Education this past summer, the committee told us that there will no additional
money to put into colleges in the next biennium.
At the same time that we face this dismal news, the state’s expectations remain
high for higher education institutions who are charged with “closing the gap” over
the next decade.
We have had increased costs as a result of our growing enrollment, so we have
had to pass the burden on to our students through increased tuition. Still, we are
24th out of the 35 state institutions – in tuition and mandatory fees.
During recent legislative testimony, I made the point that, as an open admissions
university, we cannot be compared to institutions like the University of Texas or
Texas A&M. Yet, we must respond to the same state accountability measures.
These include our ability to graduate transfer students and students in under-
represented minority groups, and we do well in these areas. In the most recent
five-year period on record:
The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded increased 33%.
The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-American
graduates was up 36%, and we had a 38% increase in Hispanic
Roughly 65% of students who transfer to UHD with at least 60 SCH’s
graduate within four academic years.
The number of community college transfer students who graduated
I expect all numbers related to transfer students will show a positive trend, as we
pursue additional partnerships with community colleges.
Because we anticipate flat state funding, we are stepping up our advancement
efforts to include private support. And, we are becoming even more proactive in
obtaining federal funds for our academic and student support programs.
UHD’s mission positions us as a new generation institution. In the truest sense,
we represent the inevitable direction that higher education must take in the
future. UH-Downtown students reflect the world in which we now live, and even
more so, the world of tomorrow.
We must maintain momentum as a university that responds to the real needs and
demands of society.
UHD should be proud of all that we have accomplished – not just in these past
several years, but throughout our 30-year history.
We may be resource-challenged, but we’re also innovative in finding solutions
that override these resource limitations, and we’ve done it while remaining firmly
grounded in our mission.
And all along the way, for all of these three decades, we have been blessed by
community partners and friends who are in harmony with our goals. As I said
earlier, you understand that it’s really all about our students. You grasp the
import of UHD’s role in educating one of the most diverse student populations in
the nation. They are worth the investment, because they are the face of the