1. The UNT Spirit
1a. The students of UNT: Bright, driven, creative
1b. The faculty and staff of UNT: Loyal, hardworking, generous
2. Student Excellence
2a. High-caliber students
2b. A green light to greatness for 8,300+ graduates in 2012-13
3. Faculty Excellence
3a. Salute to Faculty Excellence
3b. 1,500 teachers, researchers, scholars and artists at the frontiers of discovery
4. Showcase events: Distinguished speakers, alumni celebrities and record crowds
5. Arts and Sciences Excellence
5a. UNT's research advances
5b. UNT's leadership in the arts
6. Campus Expansion: A new bridge, student union, bookstore and more
7. Diversity Progress: A more diverse campus community
8. Athletic Advancements: A new era begins
9. Growing Alumni Pride: Strengthened alumni ties and engagement and honoring Eagles who soar
10. Growth in Excellence
10a. Honors College growth and prominence
10b. International expansion
10c. Library success
10d. College of Engineering growth
Sept. 4, 2013
Fall 2013 Convocation
Thanks to the student leaders, the faculty leaders, and the staff and faculty who are here today.
This is my fourth convocation. I guess I'm going to do it until I get it right, so we'll see what happens. (Audience laughs.)
This is a great start to a new year. To me, the campus seems more crowded than ever -- at least more people are walking in the middle of the street than I've ever seen. (Audience laughs.)
Increasing enrollment and retention
Enrollment will be up. It puts us exactly on our target, and our measures of quality again show progress in the quality of this year's freshman class. The growth of continuing students -- by the way -- shows that this community took seriously our understanding that we need to keep students here. When students make a commitment to come to the university, let's be there for them. We've reached out this year through some programs, but basically it gets down to individuals. It appears that our retention rate has significantly increased and I really appreciate that. And I know a lot of students appreciate that.
Benefiting from the legislative session
It was an interesting year. The legislative session has finished. You know none of us are safe while they're in session. (Audience laughs.)
The good news is that they increased the formula funding somewhat, which took a little bit of the pressure off in some ways. The bad news is that they failed to authorize the TRBs (Tuition Revenue Bonds) for the two new, significant buildings that we need. I would tell you the reason if I knew the reason. It looked like an ideal time and we thought it was going to happen, but it didn't happen. They only do this once every two years and they haven't done it at all since 2006, while the enrollment of students at Texas institutions has increased. It's about time we get some new buildings.
They added a few unfunded mandates, but all in all, it was a financially beneficial session for us.
We also are seeing a number of other changes. Our University of North Texas System is developing new system-wide services in payroll, computing, human resources and purchasing -- and we're caught in some changes there. But we will make that change be effective. We will make these new services be the best in the country because we have to and because it's necessary for us to be the kind of university that we've said we're going to be.
Another change is that UNT Dallas is now a separately accredited institution.
And we have a lot of new people around campus. Is anybody here new? Do we have anyone planning to retire, other than me? (Audience laughs.)
Well, we do have turnover. We have new people coming in, but it's the same UNT. It's the same Four Bold Goals.
You remember a few years ago that I told you the story about the ax. A farmer says he's had the same ax for 40 years -- it's had 10 new handles and three new heads -- but it's a great old ax. (Audience laughs.) That's kind of the way that universities are. There is something about us that makes us very special -- our Mean Green spirit.
So the hiring freeze has ended. The budget is balanced. (Audience applauds.)
Enrollment is up. (Audience applauds.)
Stand up, Elizabeth. Dr. With has a new title of Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and she didn't sleep for about a month -- I think -- because of this. So she can get a good night's sleep now.
And the football team won its first game. (Audience applauds.)
Making college valuable
Someone sent me an article the other day that's called, "Is College Worth It?" And I thought, "You've got to be kidding. You've really got to be joking." What a stupid question. (Audience laughs.) You know, you can ask, "Should it be cheaper?" But is college worth it is a stupid question.
I grew up on a little farm in Idaho. My family gave me everything they knew how to give me, including sending me off to college. And through that, a lot of things happened to me. I gained new economic opportunities. I began to see doors open -- not just doors that were closed, but doors that I didn't know existed. I got my mind opened -- the opportunity to study Shakespeare, to think about art, to spend the time in an astronomy class -- and then to pursue a career in a field of my choice.
Is college worth it? It's a stupid question.
Now, our job is to make college as valuable as possible. I feel so passionately that the opportunity to learn is the opening of doors and the widening of skies. The more I can share that with others, the better my life will be. And that's why I fell in love with UNT. UNT is one of those places that really believe in this.
Helping students thrive
You know, I helped pen the Four Bold Goals, but they were a part of your fabric long before we wrote them down. This is a place where students have always thrived. And if we can make it better, then we can step down at some point. And I hope this happens when you're ready to retire, you can look around and say, "I had the chance to work with these people who helped us do some things that made a real difference."
So this last year was a great year, and I have a little Top 10 presentation about it.
I may not get a chance to speak to all of you before the presidential transition takes place -- although it doesn't look like it's happening with the speed of light, or any other speed that I can think of. (Audience laughs.)
Let me ask you to do something for me -- to embrace whoever the new president may be with the same love and energy that you've shown me. Thank you very much.