With a population of more than 38,000 students, UH is the third-largest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas. First established as Houston Junior College in 1927, the university rapidly grew to become the four-year University of Houston (UH) in 1934. Although it began its history as a private school, UH passed into state hands in 1963.
The mission of the University of Houston is to “discover and disseminate knowledge through the education of a diverse population of traditional and nontraditional students, and through research, artistic and scholarly endeavors, as it becomes the nation’s premier public university in an urban setting.”
Today’s campus, located in the southeast section of the city of Houston, spans 667 acres. It is widely admired for its lush green spaces, sculptures, and fountains. Internationally celebrated sculptor Jim Sanborn is responsible for several of the creations that grace the daily lives of UH students. In order to navigate the large campus and surrounding urban area, the university runs their own air-conditioned bus service that is free for anyone holding a UH identification card.
An Overview of the Programs
UH awards more than 7,200 degrees a year in nearly 320 different programs. These include 120 bachelor’s degree programs, 139 master’s degree programs, 54 research doctorates, and professional doctorates in law, pharmacy, and optometry. The University of Houston Law Center and the C.T. Bauer College of Business are both considered to be top-tier professional schools.
There is a baker’s dozen of undergraduate colleges within the UH system; 12 discipline-based academic colleges plus an interdisciplinary Honors College. The academic colleges are as follows:
• Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture
• College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
• C.T. Bauer College of Business
• College of Education
• Cullen College of Engineering
• Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management
• University of Houston Law Center
• College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
• College of Optometry
• College of Pharmacy
• Graduate College of Social Work
• College of Technology
UH has a strong research focus, with more than 40 distinct research centers and institutes across the campus. The university is also a leader in interdisciplinary research, with projects in biomedical engineering, petroleum exploration, superconductivity, and virtual technology spanning several departments and research partnerships. Many of the research projects at UH are conducted in partnership with government and private industry. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has ranked University of Houston as a Tier One research university.
Focus on Fine Arts
Opportunities for immersion in the fine arts are many at UH. Students in the School of Art exhibit work in the Blaffer Gallery and in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Performing Arts, which also contains the Moores Opera Center and the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre. As part of their arts program, UH operates television station KUHT-TV and radio station KUHF. When KUHT was first established in 1953, it was the first university-run television station in America. Today, KUHT is the Public Broadcasting Station channel for the city of Houston. Both KUHT and KUHF are housed in the LeRoy and Lucile Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting, where students can also gain real-life experience in television studio labs. There is also a student run network in the Melcher Center, the UH Student Video Network.
Options Off the Main Campus
As part of their continual interface with contemporary needs and challenges, the University of Houston has developed a thriving distance education program. Students can choose from hundreds of online classes, hybrid classes, interactive television-based courses, or small group classes at off-campus teaching centers. All classes are equivalent to traditional classroom-based courses in their work load and credit. UH has developed an online orientation, Pathway to Distance Education, for all students to complete before they begin their first class.
There are three main teaching centers off the main campus: UH-Northwest Campus on Highway 249 at Louetta, UHS at Cinco Ranch in Katy, and UHS at Sugar Land. All three locations offer a wide range of classes; in fact, it is possible to study at a teaching center and, with the addition of distance education courses, earn a degree from University of Houston without ever stepping foot on the main campus.
The university has a summer visiting program for students at other institutions who would like to take classes at UH during the summer without enrolling at UH or withdrawing from their main institution. The summer visiting program allows students to take classes and easily transfer their credits to their main institution of learning.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Roughly 80% of students who apply for admission at University of Houston are accepted. A modest, nonrefundable fee is required for as part of the student application.
Financial aid distribution at University of Houston is at forty-seven percent scholarships per grants and fifty-three percent loans per jobs.
Student Financial Aid Details
The student population at UH is roughly 34% European American, 20 % Asian American, 22% Latino American, 13% African American, .3% Native American, and 8.5% internationally-based.
With no mandatory residency requirements, only 12% of the student population at UH lives in on-campus housing. The three main residential hall complexes are The Quadrangle, Moody Towers, and Cougar Village. The Quadrangle is comprised of several small coed dormitories with a small dining hall in Oberholtzer. All the dormitories in The Quadrangle are scheduled for renovation in 2011. Moody Towers are a pair of 18-story towers, also scheduled for renovation in 2011, with a large dining hall. Cougar Village is a dormitory dedicated to freshmen and Honors College students. It features a tutoring center, computer labs, a fitness center, and a convenience store.
In addition to the dormitories, UH owns several apartment complexes on campus: Bayou Oaks, Cambridge Oaks, Cullen Oaks, and Calhoun Lofts. These complexes are largely inhabited by graduate and professional students.
There are 21 fraternities and 19 sororities on campus. All the Greek chapters coordinate social action and other initiatives together through four governing councils: the Houston Panhellenic Council, The Interfraternity Council, the Multicultural Greek Council, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. All of the Greek chapters come together in the Center for Leadership and Fraternity & Sorority Life, which emphasizes ethical and purpose-based leadership. The university-owned apartment complex Bayou Oaks is home to 13 of the fraternities and sororities, allowing members to live as part of a Greek system while still having conventional residence life and convenience to the campus.
Two important annual traditions in the lives of virtually everyone on the UH campus are Cougar First Impressions and Frontier Fiesta. During Cougar First Impressions the entire faculty and staff of the university welcome students back to school during the first two days of classes with meet-and-greet sessions, mentoring partnerships, and departmental get-togethers. During Frontier Fiesta each spring an entire 19th century “Wild West” town is recreated on the campus, complete with historical exhibits, musical performances, and food and drink.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
The athletics department compete in NCAA Division I and belong to Conference USA. The UH men’s golf team has won sixteen national championships—the second most victorious standing of any NCAA golf team.
The athletics teams are known as the Houston Cougars, and the school’s official mascot is a cougar named Shasta. (For many years the university had an actual cougar on campus, but this tradition was put to a stop in 1989.) The UH school colors are scarlet red and albino white. The red symbolizes courage and inner strength for facing the unknown, while the white symbolizes the goodness and purity of spirit intrinsic to helping others.
Students, faculty, alumni, and sports fans show camaraderie and cheer on their teams by making the Cougar Paw, a hand sign with one finger folded down. It first popularized in the 1950’s when Shasta the cougar caught her paw in her cage door and lost a toe.
An informal pep squad known as the Frontiersmen dress up in classic western wear (cowboy hats, jeans, and dusters) for a variety of university events and games. During football season they run across the field, carrying the University of Houston flag and the flag of Texas after every touchdown.
1989 Heisman Trophy winner Andrew Ware is a UH alumnus. Other alumni athletes include golfer Fred Couples, Olympic runner Carl Lewis, and NBA players Bo Outlaw, Clyde Drexler, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Carl Herrera. NFL players Glenn Montgomery, Craig Veasey, David Klingler, Wilson Whitley, Alfred Oglesby, Kevin Kolb, and Sebastian Vollmer all played football for University of Houston on their way to the pros.
Politicians who attended UH include Republican congressman Ted Poe, former U.S. representative Tom Delay, and U.S. congressman Gene Green.
Alumni of UH in the fine arts include novelists Alice Sebold, Padgett Powell, and Robert Clark Young. Jack Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America and creator of the current film rating system used in theaters nationwide, graduated from UH. WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, who gracefully married art to technology, is also an alum.
- Adair, Wendy. The University of Houston: Our Time: Celebrating 75 Years of Learning and Leading. Virginia Beach: The Donning Company Publishers. 2001. Print.
- Fiske, Edward B. Fiske Guide to Colleges 2011. Chicago: Sourcebooks, 2010. Print.
- Nicholson, Patrick J. In Time: An Anecdotal History of the First Fifty Years of the University of Houston. Houston: Pacesetter Press. 1977. Print.
- Pope, Loren. Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That’s Right for You. New York: Penguin. 2007. Print.
- Prospective Students. University of Houston. Web. 15 Apr. 2011
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.