2012 Convocation

Remarks by President V. Lane Rawlins

Watch the video of
Fall 2012 Convocation »

Top 10 University
Accomplishments, 2011-12 »

1. Student Success

1a. Enrollment and Graduation

2. A growing body of excellent faculty

2a. Milestones in research clusters

3. New student union on the way

3a. Student commitment to service

4. Bringing a whole new meaning to green

4a. A shrinking carbon footprint

4b. A first-of-its-kind Zero Energy Research Laboratory

4c. A new chiller plant and chilled water loop

5. A new strategic plan with Four Bold Goals, A new look and theme line, A new attitude

6. A stronger culture and infrastructure for fundraising

7. Online leader and innovator

8. Conference USA invitation: A bigger league in 2013

8a. UNT Athletics on the rise

9. CVAD + COM + IAA artist-in-residence = A performance like no other

9a. Continued recognition in music

10. Excellence in autism

10a. Nationally recognized behavior analysis program

10b. International outreach and partnerships

Sept. 6, 2012
Fall 2012 Convocation

Good morning.

I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to be here with you, and grateful for the introduction. I hate those long, flowery introductions that only your mother would believe. (Audience laughs.) I was introduced one time out in the country when I was president of a land grant institution as, "Here's Lane Rawlins. He's strong as an ox and twice as smart." This is even better than that. (Audience laughs).

Thanks to all those who prepared the program, the food and the presentation. Let's give them all a round of applause. To do an event — even an event like this — is a reminder of how we all depend on each other in all of our endeavors. So when you extend these coordinated efforts in a coordinated way toward a common goal, you have a successful organization.

We heard about some of our goals from our provost, (Warren Burggren), from Rudy Reynoso (president of SGA), from Mark Vosvick (Faculty Senate chair), and from Chris Foster (Staff Council chair). I look forward to working with them as they work toward their goals, which are part of our goals this year.

Planning with a focus
We are engaged in this institution in continuous planning. (Dwight) Eisenhower once said that the plan is nothing, but planning is everything.

You must always be planning. You must always be looking through your strategies and tactics. And you must change them to meet changing budget, political and environmental challenges.

But you have to have a constant. You have to know where you are going the whole time — a kind of North Star, if you will. And I think the four bold goals, which we unveiled this year, act as that North Star for the University of North Texas, helping us set our compass, helping us set our direction through whatever storms or changes or challenges we may encounter.

These goals focus on the student, on the region and on the world, with a focus on the ultimate purpose of what we are doing. The ultimate goal is not to enrich UNT, per se, but that UNT enriches the world. A green light, if you will. I love that symbol. I remember when our consultants first showed us that symbol. There was a group of us there and there was audible, "Ah, that's it. That's us. That's our identity." And I'm not surprised that it's taking hold so well.

As Daniel Burnham, the architect of the Chicago World Fair over 100 years ago, said, "Make no little plans for they have no power to stir men's blood." I assure you that these bold goals are not little plans. They are high goals. They are bold, if you will. I don't know who first came up with the term, bold goals, but it stuck. And I think it is accurate and adequate.

Planning for change
The goals focus on what we want to do. But changes are difficult. To get where we want to go, we can't continue to do everything the way we've been doing it. Change is hard. I related to a group of people the other day that I left an institution, came back after 15 years in a different capacity, and everyone said, "You're going to find a very different institution than you left." But I didn't. That wasn't all bad. Much of that was good.

Most of what we have at UNT, we do not want to change. Let me relate — because I'm an old farm boy — a story, a true story, from my youth. I was born on a farm and raised on a farm. We had a herd of cows. We had about 15 cows and our pasture was about half mile away from where we milked them. So we'd have to drive the cows down to the pasture and we'd have to go get them again. We had a pond out there. And we had a little path that the cows took around the pond.

I went off to college and while I was off to college, my dad drained the pond. I came back that summer and the cows were still taking the path around what was now a nonexistent pond. I came back several years later — I came back every summer — and I helped with the cows. For the next 10 years, the cows still went on the path around the nonexistent pond. These weren't even the same cows. They were different cows. (Audience laughs.) But the path had become a habit.
Now it was a really good thing to do when they first started doing it, otherwise they all would have gone into the pond and drowned. But years later, nobody knows why they were going around the pond.

We have to explore what we are doing when we change. We have to make sure we're not taking paths around nonexistent ponds. I encourage you to have clear plans, strategic plans at all levels, even at the individual level. It's important for all of us to know exactly where we're going.

I know you've heard this quote from Alice in Wonderland. Alice meets the Cheshire Cat and said, "Would you tell me where to go from here." And the cat said, "That depends on where you want to end up." Alice said, "I don't know my destination." The cat then said, "It doesn't much matter which way you go."

If we don’t know where we are trying to end up, then our plans won't mean much.

Providing opportunities
I want you to know how committed I am to this institution. I'm committed to public higher education. I feel honored to have the opportunity to be in a place where people have not resisted the kind of new goals that we have set, but have, in fact, embraced them as part of their culture.

Most of what we outlined as the goals for UNT are bold goals, but they're not new goals for this institution. This is an institution where students have always been valued and been at the center. That's why people come back here. That's why they have fond memories of this place. That's why so many of them have been successful. But as you know, we can do better.

My commitment is based on my own personal life, I suppose. I was born on that little farm that I just described. Nobody in my family had graduated from college. My father hadn't graduated from high school. He made it clear to me as I was growing up that I would go to college. It was never a doubt in my mind or in his mind. And I didn't know why. I guess I thought maybe something magical would happen to me if I went to college. It did. All of a sudden, I began to see things that I didn't know were there. It opened my mind. It opened opportunities. It changed my life.

And I believe that it's an opportunity that should be extended to this generation of people as well. In our generation, it was paid for mostly by the government. But that doesn't happen anymore. Somehow we have to find ways to make sure that this generation is not denied the opportunities that were given to us. And I think this is an institution that is leading the way. I believe in our hearts that we're leading the way. And we're good at it. So I'm going to show you some of the things that we're good at. We're going to do a little Top 10.

Top University Accomplishments in 2011-12 Presentation

Keep the main thing, the main thing
I want to say again how grateful I am to have the opportunity to be with you and to associate with you at what I think is a wonderful time for UNT.

We're going to continue to face many challenges. It's hard to know in public higher education today where the next curveball is coming from, where the next regulation, or budget cut, or whatever, is.

But if we keep the main thing, the main thing and if we're dedicated to it and work together, we can achieve the four bold goals in ways that we have not achieved them before.

You know, it's never over. But to become better has been a commitment of my lifetime, and, I suspect, yours as well. I believe people who are of this ilk tend to gravitate to places where they can influence the next generation. Where they can serve. Where their work means more to them. Whatever that work happens to be, it furthers the work of education.

And I still believe that the society we live in depends on two essential ingredients. It does depend on freedom. But with that freedom, you must pursue knowledge and make intelligent decisions. And education is critical to that.

I'm grateful to all of you for what you do. Thank you.