Discovery Park, April 21, 2010
About 40 people attended the first of two Really, let’s talk sessions for spring 2010 hosted by Interim President Phil Diebel at Discovery Park, UNT’s nearly 290-acre research park.
With the session held just two days after news that V. Lane Rawlins had been named president for the 2010-11 school year, many of the questions centered on UNT’s progress going forward. Rawlins is scheduled to start May 14 and will preside at commencement.
Rawlins, who has served nearly 20 years as a university president, will bring a world of experience in heading a major research university, Interim President Diebel said.
Under Rawlins’ leadership, Washington State University became a recognized leading public research university and saw substantial growth in research funding.
In response to a question about how the permanent president would be chosen, Interim President Diebel said the UNT System is using a search committee composed of a broad representation of stakeholders, including students, faculty and staff, as well as a search firm.
The committee is expected to interview candidates in the fall and make a recommendation by next February. UNT attracted a very strong pool of candidates for the one-year presidential appointment, which bodes well for the search for the next president, he said.
Strategic plans, budget
Interim President Diebel said keeping UNT on track has been his focus during his tenure.
UNT submitted its new strategic plan for researchto the state April 1, which outlines how UNT will move closer to Tier One status during the next 10 years.
“It will truly set a new strategic direction for us,” he said.
The university also is nearing completion on its next five-year strategic plan, which lays out the university’s vision and serves as a roadmap for growth. The plan will go to the UNT System Board of Regents for review in May, he said.
“It’s been a very busy period,” he said.
Implementing the strategic plan for research, dealing with the budget and state-mandated cuts, and preparing for the legislative session that will start in January 2011 will be the biggest priorities for Rawlins, he said.
Another student asked how the strategic plan for research would affect Discovery Park. Because much of the university’s research takes place at Discovery Park, the plan calls for creating more space there through renovations and new construction, Interim President Diebel said.
“I think you’ll see very significant changes at Discovery Park as a result of that strategic plan for research,” he said.
The transformation would come about in both the physical facilities and in the type of research taking place there, he said.
The availability of scholarships was another topic that came up. There is another $1 million set aside in the 2011-12 budget for academic scholarships to complement the many need-based scholarships that UNT already offers, Interim President Diebel said.
“It’s very important to this institution and it’s very important to our students,” he said.
The session ended on a light note after the Student Government Association president, Dakota Carter, asked the president if he was ready to get back to retirement and to his golf game. Interim President Diebel retired from UNT in 2007 after 26 years, having served as vice president for finance and business affairs for much of his career here.
Interim President Diebel joked that during his two and a half years of retirement, he had gotten his handicap down very low, but that was no longer the case now that he was back at work.
“But I have been honored to be here. I’ve been honored to follow Dr. Bataille. And I’ve been honored to work with the students, faculty and staff,” he said. “It’s been great to reconnect.”