Syndicate at University Union, March 22, 2011
President V. Lane Rawlins opened his Really, let's talk session for the spring 2011 semester by welcoming students back from spring break.
"I don't get a spring break vacation because the kind of stuff that I do just keeps on going," Rawlins told the roughly 40 students who gathered in the Syndicate.
Rawlins visited with students to update them on the university and to answer their questions on campus issues. Warren Burggren, provost and vice president for academic affairs, joined President Rawlins at the session.
Students asked President Rawlins a range of questions, including how the university is making sustainability a priority, how it is getting UNT's name out in the public and how it is planning to invest in facilities that serve the arts and student life.
Becoming a major research university offering the best undergraduate education in Texas is UNT's goal, Rawlins said in kicking off the discussion. He told students that he wants UNT to be like his favorite store, Costco.
"I've been asking myself recently why I like Costco so much. And I like it because when I'm in Costco I know that I can find what I want, I know it will be high quality, I know that there are people there who really want to help, and everything I buy is guaranteed," Rawlins said. "We really would like to make the University of North Texas the Costco of universities.
"We want you to have everything you want here," Rawlins added. "We want it to be the very best quality. We want you to know that we are here to serve you."
UNT's sustainability commitment was the first topic of discussion.
"I have seen a greater commitment to sustainability here than I've seen at any other place I've ever worked," Rawlins said.
He said UNT has established an Office of Sustainability and a Sustainability Council. UNT also has entered into a 10-year project with Schneider Electric to save more than $3 million a year in energy costs. Todd Spinks, director of the Office of Sustainability, leads UNT's sustainability efforts, which includes becoming the first large public university in Texas to sign the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment.
UNT also has been named to the “Green College” list of environmentally responsible universities published by The Princeton Review.
"Now I know that doesn't come close to making us a self-sustaining institution, but I'm proud of the folks who do this and who are under the leadership of Todd Spinks," Rawlins said.
Next, a student asked Rawlins how he plans to market UNT "to get us out in the public."
"We're the fourth-largest institution in Texas," Rawlins said. "We're on the move at the right time, so you asked the right question: 'What are we going to do about it?' Well, the reason for building a big football stadium is not just to play football. It's to get people to know that the University of North Texas is here, that we're here in a big way and that we're a big university."
UNT is in the middle of a branding campaign, not only to advertise the university, but also to change the way people think of UNT.
"When I started today, I mentioned that we wanted to think of ourselves as a research university that offers the very best undergraduate education," Rawlins said. "We want to believe that first, and then we want to make everyone else understand it and believe it. That's going to take consistent imaging and it's going to take some advertising — and we're prepared to spend it for advertising."
Marketing UNT also is going to take having political connections at the local level, which is different from what UNT has had in the past, Rawlins said.
"We happen to be in Denton, but we are the major university of a region north of Fort Worth and Dallas that has about 3 million people, and if communities will adopt us as their major institution and let their political forces know what we're doing, we think there's a brighter future for us," he said.
Students also pressed Rawlins on changing the way they currently receive student loan refunds. Several students complained that delays with receiving refunds have been an ongoing problem with Higher One, the bank contracted by UNT to provide student loan refunds. Students also complained that Higher One charges students 50 cents per transaction when using Higher One's debit card.
Burggren said his office was aware that some students aren't satisfied with the services being provided by Higher One.
"I am going to follow up," Rawlins told students. "I won't promise you that we can fix it because the solution may be more costly than we expect, but it needs to be looked at."
Background information on student loan refunds: In regards to student refunds, many factors may cause a delay in when a student’s refund is posted to their student account. Please login to your my.unt.edu account and contact Student Accounting with any questions.
During the beginning of a semester, refunds are issued daily beginning with the first day financial aid can be released to the student and through the 12th day of classes. After the 12th class day, refunds are issued on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This has been standard practice at UNT since 2004.
After students have completed all requirements through Financial Aid, Student Accounting begins processing refunds. It's a three-step process for students and they can monitor each step online. Step three is when UNT has transmitted refunds to Higher One.
- If the student has selected the Higher One card, the funds are immediately available on the card.
- If the electronic payment method is selected, Higher One processes the refund to the student’s chosen bank account and their refund should be in their chosen bank account within two to three days.
- If check is the selected refund preference, Higher One will print and mail a check within 24 hours of receiving funds from UNT. Mailed checks typically arrive in about seven days.
Students are encouraged to promptly select a refund preference and to always monitor their student account to know when their refund has been disbursed.
Background information on card use: The Higher One OneAccount is designed to be used for free. When using the UNT Debit Card from Higher One, students should always choose "credit" instead of "debit" at checkout to avoid merchant-based transaction fees, which are explained in the OneAccount fee schedule. If used as a debit card, there will be a 50 cent per transaction fee.
The arts and student life
A student art major told Rawlins that she felt UNT's art and music programs were being ignored. She asked Rawlins whether UNT plans to invest in a new facility for the arts programs.
"I've been trying to acquaint myself fully with the situation for our arts students because we truly have one of the finest art programs in the world," Rawlins said. "It's awesome, and your art faculty is spectacular."
Rawlins said he plans to make building a new home for the College of Visual Arts and Design a priority. He said he realizes that CVAD students are scattered across seven different buildings.
Another building project that will help enhance student life on campus is the planned construction of a new University Union for students, Rawlins said. The university is working to update its overall master plan, which calls for a new Union building because the university has outgrown it, he said. He said university officials plan to start this summer with a complete revision of the master plan.
Before ending the session, Rawlins thanked students for coming out and asking important questions on issues that impact students.