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University of Houston President Aims for Brighter Future Through Education

A dynamic educator, born and raised in India, now leads a major university a large U.S. city. Renu Khator combines the discipline and work ethic she learned at home as a child with the openness and optimism she says she found in [the Southeastern U.S. State of] Texas. In this week's Making a Difference we report on the woman who leads the University of Houston system.

It is springtime in Houston and Renu Khator is ready for the rodeo.

Texas is home to native from India

This native of India says she feels right at home here in Texas. "I love Texas," Renu Khator exclaims. "People here are so embracing and so welcoming."

Khator, whose first degree came from an Indian university, now shares her experience and diverse outlook with faculty and students in [the Southwestern U.S. state of] Texas.

Since October, 2007, Khator has served as both president of the University of Houston and chancellor of the affiliated system of metropolitan area campuses.

She has fought for more funds from the state to support what she sees as a bright future for this school.

Tomorrow's universities

"Tomorrow's universities are going to be located in global cities. Where else can you find a better global city than Houston? It is the fourth largest city in the country," she explains. "We have the second-largest number of foreign consulates here. We have about 640 foreign companies here."

She also sees Houston's key position in the international energy business as a base for expanding research programs here.

Discipline and high expectations

Renu Khator believes the discipline and work ethic of her Indian parents helped her succeed and she believes almost all students can excel when challenged.

"I do believe that, sometimes, if you set expectations high, people will rise to the occasion," she said. "Many times I see here that we allow our kids to quit too soon."

She rejects the idea that Asian students are inherently better at academic pursuits. "I have seen just about as many American families who have just the same kind of values."

In January, the government of India recognized Renu Khator's work in education by naming her to the Prime Minister's Global Advisory Council.

She sees many opportunities for her native land and her adopted country to work together on problems such as the current recession.

"There are several pieces of the economy in India that, if they get synergized with the American economy and American opportunity, then, together, we can pull out of this American recession and global recession." Renu Khator says she has learned that most challenges can be overcome through hard work and a spirit of cooperation.