May 21, 2007
Official Message from the President
Dear UNT Community Members:
The University of North Texas recently took an important step forward in its institutional history by inviting peer reviewers to visit our campus and engage our students, faculty and staff members. We asked them to offer their observations about how we might advance in some key institutional areas - research, academic affairs, student development, information technologies, and advancement.
Just one year ago, the UNT System approved a new mission statement and strategic plan for UNT, which outlines its vision as a student-centered public research university and sets some ambitious targets for that work.
Within a few short months of that approval, a search committee had recruited me to lead this institution and the Board charged me with bringing UNT to this new level. It was the challenge of that task which first drew me to this job, and which now energizes my days. I continue to see great promise at UNT, even as I have become more acutely aware of the challenges that face us on this journey.
The crux of our challenge as a university community is to maintain our existing centers of excellence and strengthen our contributions to research and creativity, even as we enhance our capacity to engage a student body that is growing in size and diversity. Some claim that "student-centered" and "research" cannot exist well in the same institutional mission statement. I disagree. I have seen it done in exemplary institutions, and I have seen its seeds within UNT. This is why I joined the university. It is the work that I am here to do.
In order to move more quickly down this path, we invited a team of highly experienced peers, under the direction of former University System of Georgia Chancellor Dr. Stephen Portch, to help us identify both the strengths we can devote to our new mission and the barriers that would hinder our progress. This is their report. It brings a consistent message - in order to move strongly toward our goal, we must reshape the university, reallocate resources, and align our practices with our goals.
Some of our current policies and patterns of behavior were crafted for a differently focused university and developed well before the world of higher education became so highly competitive, assessment-focused, and technology enhanced. These policies and patterns of behavior must be adjusted to new realities. Our organizational structure must be refined to promote better collaboration and clearer alignment of resources and priorities.
A second clear message within this report is that UNT has the energy, vision and drive to accomplish its goals. We have much to do to reach our goals, but we can reach them.
We already have begun the work. Some of the issues identified in the report were evident to me when I became president, and changes related directly or indirectly to their recommendations were underway when the peer review team arrived.
However, other portions of the report will require considerable discussion among key university constituents. The individual sections examine the university from a variety of perspectives, each with its own unique frame. As a result, some of the specific recommendations seem contradictory, posing very different solutions to identified barriers. Even so, a closer analysis reveals a consistency regarding the underlying challenges.
The UNT community must work together to identify the right strategies to meet our challenges, determine which recommendations might take priority, and identify those recommendations which might not be consistent with our historical strengths or may not provide sufficient benefit in relation to their cost.
Dr. Portch and I maintained an interactive dialogue throughout this process. This has allowed me the opportunity to prepare some brief administrative observations, which follow certain sections of the report. These observations provide further information about the progress we already have made and set the report in the current context. In times such as these, progress is - and must be - a daily reality. This report sets the stage for the next steps in that progress.
Because you are a big part of the future, we are seeking your feedback on this information.
You are encouraged to carefully review and assess this information and provide us with your feedback, which you may offer anonymously if you wish.
As you are reviewing this information, please note these reports are recommendations. Not all of the recommendations will be accepted and those that are accepted may not be implemented exactly as recommended by the review teams. We will schedule open forums where students, faculty and staff members may participate in open dialogue about the recommendations.
We will collect comments electronically until July 15 and intend to use those comments to shape the forums we are planning for the fall. In addition, please note that our campuswide conversations will be ongoing through next year as we update and revise the UNT Strategic Plan for presentation to the Board in May of 2008.
It is very clear that UNT has embraced "Discover the power of ideas" as both a motto and a mantra and we ask for your patience, energy and efforts as we renew our commitment to making a difference for our students, for our communities and for ourselves.
With green pride,
Gretchen M. Bataille