University Business October 2019 - 29

priorities: the University of Houston's
Carnegie Classification as a Tier One research institution.
Research activity has doubled during
her tenure, and Khator says she plans
another 50% increase over the next five
years. "You can only build yourself on
your region's economy," she says. "We
had to sync the university's strength with
the region's strengths."
Houston is one of the planet's energy
capitals, but it wasn't until Khator arrived
that the university launched its petroleum
engineering program. She also developed
an offshore energy institute to work with
industry.
The Texas Medical Center in Houston is considered the world's largest
health care complex, and in May, the
university received state approval to open
a medical school at the center in 2020.
Beyond academics and research, the
medical school will play a key role in the
university's community outreach efforts.
In one initiative, student medical teams
will adopt a neighborhood family and
monitor their health care needs for four
years, Khator says.
Also during Khator's first three years,
the university received a Phi Beta Kappa
chapter, which she calls "a major milestone" that showed the highly diverse
institution could compete with the nation's top schools. The university's graduation rate has increased by 21% during
her tenure.
To maintain that diversity, students
whose families earn $50,000 or less per
year do not pay tuition or fees. They receive guidance from a beefed up advising
program that pays particular attention to
first-generation students and others who
are at risk of falling behind and dropping out. Khator takes particular interest in first-year students, visiting about
25 freshman classes during the first week
of school each year. "I tell them: 'Just
because you're here doesn't mean you're
going to graduate,'" she says. "I give them
my email and tell them if they think
they're getting caught in the bureaucracy,
send me an email and let me help."
UniversityBusiness.com

MOBILE LEADER-Students and others at the University of Houston can keep
track of President Khator on Twitter. She regularly updates her 91,000-plus
followers on daily activities such as touring campus, getting a flu shot and caring
for Ruby, the stray German shepherd she adopted.

Her goal is to have her team resolve
a student's problem-whether it's related
to grades, roommates, food or anything
else-within three days.
'University on the rise'
In March 2019, the university completed
a $1 billion fundraising campaign-1½
years ahead of schedule. Before Khator's
appointment, the University of Houston
had not embarked on a capital campaign
in 25 years, but she saw opportunity in a
region where about $40 million is raised
for philanthropic causes every year. To
help revamp the university's fundraising
capacity, Khator hired a new vice chancellor to spearhead the campaign. "We
also had to build a credible story that the
university was worth investing in," she
says. "The tier one classification showed
it's not just a neglected university; it's a
university on the rise."
So far, the funding has been used to
build or renovate 16 facilities, including a
new arena for men's and women's basketball, and to create more than 1,000 new
scholarships.
Khator, who joined the NCAA's Division I board of directors in March 2019,
has also worked with her team to build

up the university's other athletic programs because they help with recruitment, fundraising and campus pride. "If
you're going to have an athletic program,
it should be nationally competitive because having a mediocre program is a
liability," she says. "If it's run right, athletics provides support to the academic
mission."
Khator also keeps active, with yoga
and meditation sessions each morning.
In addition, she writes poetry and short
stories in her native language, and has
had some of them published in India.
She often writes about women's issues in
her rapidly modernizing homeland.
"The job is so intense; you need something that takes you to a different place,"
she says. "The destination is one thing;
the journey itself is also a reward."
Matt Zalaznick is UB's senior writer.

More online: How a president
wins Twitter,
UBmag.me/twitter
More coverage on leadership:
UBmag.me/leadership
October 2019 | 29


http://www.UBmag.me/twitter http://www.UBmag.me/leadership http://www.UniversityBusiness.com

University Business October 2019

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