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Happy Anniversary, President Blanchard!

By Marie Jacinto

You don’t become the second largest university in a city as big as Houston by being mediocre; you do it by creating the perfect combination of accessibility, affordability, and excellence. That’s what we have here at UHD.

Dr. Loren J. BlanchardOn Friday, March 15, 2024, UHD celebrates President Loren J. Blanchard’s third anniversary since taking the helm of the university in 2021. Much has been accomplished in the three short years since he first conducted his listening tour, a series of lively discussions with stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials, and community members. That listening tour, in which more than 1,100 sources provided feedback and insight, led to the creation of the Institutional Compass and, ultimately, UHD’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan: A New Paradigm.

Many of the aspirations in the strategic plan have come to fruition over the past 12 months, and true to the plan’s number one goal, the majority of the accomplishments have centered on student success.

Last spring the physical Basic Needs Center opened, and the university awarded more than $88.5K in emergency grants, a 350% increase over distributions when the center was solely online. Food market distributions also increased with more than 120,000 pounds of food distributed by the fall of 2023.

Dr. Blanchard continues to emphasize the importance of mental health care services—not only for students, but also for faculty and staff. UHD recently joined JED Campus to assess and enhance services for mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention efforts over a four-year period for positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community. This initiative is the latest in UHD’s series of improvements in mental health care services, including restructuring its Counseling Services to increase the number of counselors.  Last year UHD offered more than 3,500 counseling sessions, and more than 150 faculty and staff members, including the entire campus police staff, were trained in Mental Health First Aid.

In keeping with its student success efforts, UHD also initiated

  • The G-TAP (Gator Textbook Access Program), saving students 59% per textbook while granting access to course materials on or before the first day of class.
  • Bridge Grants to Financial Gaps to aid seniors experiencing financial challenges their final semester before graduating.
  • The Gator Success Institute, providing assistance and opportunities for all freshmen and sophomore students while engaging their families to support them in reaching their full potential.

National Attention

Under Dr. Blanchard’s leadership, word is out beyond the Greater Houston region about the excellence of our faculty and our undergraduate and graduate programs. In the last six months, UHD has received the following accolades:

  • Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence program named a “Top Pick for the Very Best Master’s and Graduate Certificate Programs in Artificial Intelligence” by AI Degree Guide.
  • No. 62 overall for Regional Universities of the West, a 16-point increase from 2022-2023, and No. 31 for Top Public Schools in the Region by U.S. News World Report Best Colleges Rankings.
  • No. 1 in Diversity and No. 3 in Student Experience out of the 400 America’s Best Colleges, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Among the Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs (2024) at No. 26, U.S. News World Report Best Colleges.
  • “Notable institution providing high-quality online MBA programs. … UHD ensures that its graduates are well-prepared to succeed in their chosen career paths,” according to

Looking Ahead

In kicking off UHD’s 50th anniversary year, Dr. Blanchard announced UHD’s Campus Master Plan, which dovetails with TxDOT’s highway improvement project to create an expanded campus that is not split in half by I-45 and I-10 and that extends into the warehouse district. The future UHD has a cohesive, pedestrian-friendly campus with increased green space, adequate parking, and additional buildings that support a more dynamic academic environment and residential housing.

He also shared that the future UHD has considerably more academic programming at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Just this past fall, the Department of Urban Education launched a new Master of Educational Leadership. Other new programs on the horizon are a Master of Science in Social Work and a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity. Plans are underway to propose a new B.S. in Manufacturing and Process Engineering Technology, a B.A. in Translation, and additional programming in Computer Science, Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, and Green Technology.

“The work we are doing through our strategic plan will blossom into something the founders of this university never imagined,” said Dr. Blanchard. “Because we dare to stand on the shoulders of all who came before us, to see what they accomplished as evidence of what we can accomplish, and to execute plans that optimize student success, cultivate a dynamic academic environment, and enhance both the reputation and visibility of this great university, we will elevate UHD to the university of choice for the next generation of Houstonians.”

Truly, the best is yet to come. Congratulations, President Blanchard, on three years of excellence in leadership, guiding UHD to greater heights through your stalworth commitment to the campus community and the region we serve.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit