When I first came to the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), several faculty and a couple of deans asked me if we would be having a 'big' celebration, what some termed an 'inauguration.' After all, UHD had never had an investiture. I explained that I wasn't fully comfortable with making such a decision and that it should be up to the campus. I was adamant that if we did organize an investiture, I wanted to be sure that we would keep costs low and use the event for fund raising, especially for student scholarships. I also felt we should use the investiture to further build the reputation of the university and its ties to the community.
Well, we certainly did that. With sponsorships throughout the week, in-kind contributions, pledges and actual cash donations, we are figure the campus raised a little more than $450,000, with about $350,000 going to scholarships! That's pretty exciting, especially since we put the scholarship dinner together in less than four months.
We learned a lot through the activities, which everyone enjoyed. So, here are some lessons:
1) Make Sure the Campus Leadership Buys Into the Decision. The Faculty Senate, Staff Council, and Student Government leadership all were directly involved in organizing our events. A vice president and a faculty member co-chaired the Investiture Committee and involved scores of faculty, staff and students in the committee and many more organizing the events.
2) Showcase the Work of Students, Staff, and Faculty. Musical and dance performances by students and faculty were interspersed throughout the week. We set up a permanent faculty publications display in the library and held several well-attended faculty panels. The cheer squad led chants at different events and we introduced the National Championship Powerlifting Team. Students and staff held auditions to see who would sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the event. Student scholastic work was showcased in poster session, alongside displays of faculty art work.
3) Link the Investiture to Existing Campus and Community Events. We were able to connect with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership's Bayou Regatta, a citywide canoe and kayak race that ends near the campus. Also, the Bayou Partnership provided boat ride tours of the Bayou on Friday during Investiture week, where docents explained the history of the Bayou and buildings along the Bayou, including the old Merchant and Mercantile building where UHD now sits.
We also linked with the citywide FotoFest which launched Friday night, which held its opening reception next to the UHD College of Business building. We began the week with the citywide annual Fulbright Arts Festival, which was held at UHD that first Saturday and ended with the Regatta and the 51st Science and Engineering Fair of Houston, which is organized and sponsored in part by UHD. And, we moved a lecture by former Lt. Governor Bill Hobby to Investiture Week, who gave a wonderful lecture, 'A Political Atlas of Texas.' All of this was done without extra cost.
4. Raise Money! When we first began organizing the investiture there was considerable skepticism about our ability to raise any funds during a recession. But, we used the opportunity to meet with alumni, past donors, advisory boards, and several local companies, some of which do business with the university. Everyone was happy to give whatever they could. Sometimes it was a pledge, other times, it was a steep reduction in price, or a donation to the events. Keep track of every penny raised and thank every donor!
5. Keep Perspective: The Investiture is About the University, Not the President. We used the opportunity to strengthen relations with our alumni, our donors, our regents, with the system, with elected officials, and with the community-at-large. Several presidents and delegates came from Texas and from colleges and universities in other states, and from Mexico. Rather than renting a hotel, we held the Scholarship Dinner on campus at our University Events Center. And, we held the Investiture Ceremony at the city-owned Wortham Center. Throughout the week, we used the ceremonies and week-long activities to raise the public profile of the campus. We received wonderful coverage in the press and had good attendance for most of the events.
6. Have Fun. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we ended the Friday events with a staff roundup and Chili Cook-Off. The event was organized by the UHD Staff Council We had live music and lots of booths. Everyone had a great time.
I did my best to attend as many Investiture events as possible. Some I spoke at, some I simply attended and enjoyed. And, I found time to spend with family and friends, many of whom came to Houston for the celebration. Family and friends came from California, New Mexico, Texas and other states. I incorporated them into the activities, but also found time to spend only with family.
All-in-all the UHD Investiture Week was a great success! The campus is much closer now. There is a wonderful spirit among the faculty, staff, and students. As a university, we are moving forward. Yes, at UHD we truly are 'Making a Name for Ourselves.' And, we are 'Changing Lives, Building Futures!'
The Investiture speech can be viewed here.