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Interview with President and rector of the University of Houston, Renu Khator

President and rector of the University of Houston, Renu Khator:

"So I just feel that given that what I saw in the sample of students of BHOS, I think your country is in very good hands".

Within the business trip to Azerbaijan on the invitation of the rector of Baku Higher Oil School Mr. Elmar Gasimov, the delegation of the University of Houston led by Dr. Renu Khator, the rector and president visited Baku Higher Oil School. At the end of the visit programme, Renu Khator gave an interview.

Renu Khator was born on July 29, 1955 in India. She was awarded BA degree in Engineering from Kanpur University, India. Later got her MA and PhD degrees graduating from Political Sciences at Purdu University. Renu Khator, as one of the renowned scientists in international environmental policy, is the author of many books and articles on this field. Prior to her appointment to the current post, she had some 22 year experience at the University of Florida. Since 2008, R.Khator holds the dual titles of chancellor of the University of Houston System and president of the University of Houston. She was the UH System’s first woman Chancellor and the first Indian immigrant to head a comprehensive research university in the United States. Currently Mrs. Khator is the member of American Council on Education, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Technology Center, the Texas Medical Center Policy Council, Council on Foreign Relations and is one of the famous rectors of the USA.

It should be mentioned that each year, University of Houston holds a number of events related to the history and culture of Azerbaijan, as well as annually commemorates Khojaly Genocide.

1. What do you think about the US–Azerbaijan relations in the sphere of education?

- There is a natural relationship between Azerbaijan and Texas, just because of our common interest in oil, in petroleum: and that has to do with how we are going to manage our resources in most efficient manner, in more effective manner and how we can do the latest cutting edge research. Our education systems, I think, have lot in common as well. I have met with several institutions in the last two days. It seems like they have similar interests in terms of building, centers for excellence particularly as we relate centers for excellence in oil and gas exploration. So I think we have a lot of things in common and we can do a lot of exchanges in terms of faculty and students. There are very good opportunities for students from Azerbaijan to come to the University of Houston and we definitely see opportunities for common research.

2. As BHOS and University of Houston signed a joint Protocol on Cooperation, what do you think are the perspectives of this cooperation?

- We were very excited and very delighted to have this Cooperation Protocol signed between our two institutions. I think Baku Higher Oil School is committed to preparing the workforce of tomorrow in this field as are we. BHOS is also very interested in research and that is our interest, too. So through this document I think we are going to start student exchange between the two countries and we will also see some advanced programs, degrees at the University of Houston for the students here who will graduate from BHOS and can come to the University of Houston for advanced degree programs. We do hope to receive some faculty from here and we will definitely attempt to send faculty and students from the University of Houston. We will also try to identify common research project with the faculties.

3. Well, you have attained a special status. Generally literacy, intelligence and will are the most important things to succeed. And what else do you think are important for achieving the success?

- I generally say that the three factors common for any leadership in any field. First of all you should have the courage to dream and courage to dream big. As I mentioned to the students of BHOS, it takes the same amount of effort to dream big or to dream small. Mine was to dream big. Your dreams will push you forward even against the adversity. Second thing what I say always is you need passion, so do not have a dream or a vision or a goal for which your heart is not in line with. Because if that happens you will not make too much progress within the fast time and when the blocked roads come, you are thinking whether should I go or should I give it up. So make sure you have a passion for whatever you decide to do. The third thing I would say is humility which is very important and always knowing that you are not the one doing all these things so many people are involved in. There are so many people helping you and it is your obligation to help others and there is a bigger force than you as a person because I think that gives a different kind of synergy to a leader. Those are the three characteristics that I see common in leaders generally, but somebody had asked me the question about how important is luck and I would say luck is very important.

4. As a successful person whom are you grateful for your achievements?

- I always say that I am grateful to the people who have traveled my life journey with me. To start with from my parents, particularly my mother. I have even written a whole article on my mother because having been born in India in a very conservative family my mother always encouraged for me as well as my brother to work hard. For instance she never approached the two of us differently; I mean she treated both of us exactly the same. So that was very important. And after that I was lucky enough to get married to a man who valued education, but more than that I mean he is a big feminist in his heart and he just promised me that he will support me in my vision and he has stood by me, in front of me, behind me for forty years. So he has a lot to do with it. Then I have had many friends who celebrated my success and encouraged me, so they are very important. At the same time I have formal mentors, people who I went to saying "you know I need help in this thing or that thing" or "could you just advise me?", and I think all of those have been very important. But the last thing I always say, I love to read biographies and autobiographies of very successful people. Because I am always fascinated in what kind of people they are and how did they do all these things that seem impossible. And I think somewhere those readings and really help me as well. So I think there are just so many people to thank. I would say it is very important that you recognize the help of others and at the same time you feel an obligation to help others.

5. You have already met the students of BHOS. What are your general impressions?

- When I had very short time with the students I was very impressed. First of all their English was very good, not just the language but their expressiveness and the way they could express their emotions and feelings, and articulated questions were just incredible. I thought the topic that they chose for questions showed their maturity and overall I was just very touched by their hunger for education and their love for what they can do with their future. So I just feel that given that what I saw in the sample of students of BHOS, I think your country is in very good hands.

6. You are successful in your career and, moreover, you have a successful family life. How do you manage both, what is the secret beyond it?

- Well, that is a good question. I think I am just very blessed to have a family that supports one another. I mean we have two daughters and daughters take a pride what I do and my husband also takes a lot of pride what I do. I don’t differentiate between the time when I am working and when I am with my family, because everything is just together. But other that, I do yoga, I keep close touch with my family back in India because I get a lot of energy, lot of satisfaction from all of those connections back home, my mother, my sisters and brothers. So I think that these all just help.

7. During your visit you had both official meetings and some non-official ones. So, what are your impressions about Baku and BHOS?

- So I must admit that I really did not have much idea about what I would see in Baku. It is my first visit and I was not quite well informed about the vibrancy that I’ve found here. I have been just blown away by what I have seen in general, outside of the meetings, the social things. I mean the progress here, the feeling of great optimism and great future, furthermore beautiful architecture and just people that are so much full of love and humility. I am very positively impressed. I have been more impressed even with the things I have seen here in the Fire Temple, Flag Museum, Carpet Museum and just walking on the Boulevard here. It feels so good. So I think I will be coming back here often.