Pedro D. Morales
Close to 2,000 people, including prospective University of Houston students, some parents and high school counselors, braved near-freezing temperatures early Saturday to attend the Fall Cougar Preview.
Cougar Preview is an event designed to showcase the campus' 14 colleges each fall and spring.
This fall, however, a record number of responses obliged organizers to schedule an additional opening session at the University Center, since the crowd exceeded the Cullen Performance Hall's capacity.
UH officials said they were pleased with the turnout even though it was lower than the expected 3,000, calling the event "a new surge of excitement and interest for the University of Houston."
"The bulk (of visitors) are prospective high school seniors,but there were many older transfer students from all over the state," said Susan Zwieg, UH's director of Student Outreach Services.
She also pointed out that some Honors College prospects had come from states as far away as New York and Wisconsin to attend the Honors Banquet, which took place at the University Hilton Friday evening.
Most of the students who attended the banquet were also among the crowd shivering outside the Cullen Performance Hall Saturday morning waiting to tour the different colleges after attending an opening session there.
They were addressed by UH President Arthur K. Smith and Elwyn Lee, vice president for Student Affairs. Smith emphasized the importance of the undergraduate college experience, while Lee spoke about the "outstanding" programs UH offers.
UH Ambassadors led groups of students to various academic sessions taking place at various colleges and departments.
Tyrene Houston, assistant director of admissions, highlighted the important role UH Ambassadors play in "recruiting prospective students to the university."
She recognized, however, that even though most visitors were serious about attending UH, the Admissions Office did not know how many would actually enroll.
Zwieg agreed, saying that it's hard to evaluate the impact such an event would have on overall enrollment.
"It's too big to track," she said, "but we'd like to think 40 percent (enrollment) is a high gauge of success."
Topics covered in the academic sessions ranged from what it takes to succeed in college and in the job marketplace, at the College of Business Administration's presentation, to the importance of graduate school, presented by the College of Social Sciences.
Honors College Dean Ted Estess stressed the benefits of the honors program at UH.
"I don't know of any university in the state that has done more for honor students than the University of Houston in the last 20 years," Estess said.
In addition to the academic sessions, conferences on scholarships and financial aid, housing, student life and campus organizations were scheduled to answer any visitors' questions.
One session geared toward parents of prospective students was "Everything Parents Should Know About Student Success," an informational discussion on residence hall life, discipline and safety issues led by a student panel.
Gary Palmer, who had come from San Antonio with his two daughters, said the event was both informative and exhausting.
"Overall, it is pretty good," he said, lounging in a chair at the UC. "I had no idea (UH) was this big."
Alex Rodriguez and Sophia Jimenez, two students from Houston's Lamar High School, said attending Cougar Preview affirmed their desire to study at the university. Rodriguez pointed out that the experience renewed her interest in business administration and Mexican-American studies.
"I guess it will attract me to this school even more," he said.