Bruce Hall, Oct, 19, 2010
In the lobby of Bruce Hall, President V. Lane Rawlins sat down with about 30 students for his first Really, let's talk session of the fall 2010 semester.
President Rawlins, whose tenure started in May, introduced himself to the crowd, saying that he was lured out of retirement because he missed working with students. President Rawlins retired as president of Washington State University in 2007 after seven years.
"I missed the opportunity of being there when minds are being opened and transformed, when you’re growing up and thinking about the future," he said.
Together, they addressed students' questions, which touched on spending, international outreach efforts, sustainability efforts and the university's drug policy.
Tuition and how it is spent was the topic of the first question.
Rawlins emphasized that as a public university, UNT is a nonprofit, service-oriented entity. He explained to students that UNT, like most universities, spends a majority of its money on its people.
Increasing scholarships for students and attracting nationally known faculty and researchers is a priority for the university, he said.
"We want faculty doing research primarily because we want faculty here who are on the cutting edge of their fields, who are thinking about what tomorrow is going to be," he said. "So when you are exposed to that faculty, you’re exposed to people who are going to lead you into tomorrow, not tell you what yesterday was."
Putting students first is the university's ultimate focus, Rawlins and Provost Burggren emphasized.
"There’s a big caring here for your educational process," Rawlins told students. "So, if you feel that there is a particular area where we’re failing to put the right people in the classroom, we want to know that."
International outreach efforts
UNT's partnerships with countries around the globe also came up for discussion.
Internationalization is one of UNT's objectives as an institution, Burggren told students.
It can range from enhancing study abroad opportunities, creating exchange programs or developing productive research relationships with universities in other countries, he said.
Rawlins added that becoming familiar with people from diverse cultural backgrounds can be an important part of students' undergraduate education.
"I think we’re really pushing it in every dimension we can find, with the hope that when you graduate from UNT your appreciation of this diverse world in which you live will be heightened," Rawlins said.
International relationships also benefit faculty and research.
"It's also life-changing for our faculty and for our staff to open their eyes and work with scientists from around the country," Rawlins said. "We have a wonderful arrangement with the southern-most university in the world in Chile, and that experience for many of our faculty and researchers has been really enlightening, and it incidentally has yielded some world-class research at the same time."
Another student asked about the university's sustainability efforts.
UNT has made building LEED-certified facilities its standard, Rawlins told students. LEED-certified buildings are constructed with energy-efficient materials and adhere to green building practices. This fall UNT opened its first of three new LEED-certified buildings, the Life Sciences Complex, which will soon be followed by the Business Leadership Building and the new stadium.
"We've made sustainability a serious goal," he said.
The university also has launched a campuswide energy savings project with Schneider Electric to help cut costs and become more environmentally sustainable, he said. The new project is expected to increase energy savings on campus to an estimated $3.2 million a year. The three-year project will make energy-efficient upgrades to more than 120 buildings on campus.
While the university is serious about energy savings, projects must be cost-effective so that they are not taking funding out of classrooms, Rawlins said.
The university's drug policy also came up when a student asked about the university's zero tolerance policy.
UNT is trying to do what is best for students, Rawlins told students.
"This is a public university and I am a public official. One of the things that all public officials have to do when they hold public office is they have to uphold the law," Rawlins said.
With, the vice president for student affairs, said that UNT's policy is more lenient today. Instead of automatic suspensions for violations, the university now considers whether it's a student's first or second violation.
"The more times you violate and the more severe the violation, the less likely you are to remain with us," she said.
After answering a few more questions, President Rawlins ended the hour-long session and thanked the students for coming.