Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021

Dear UNT Faculty and Staff,

During today's State of the University, I celebrated the accomplishments that came from our incredibly challenging past year as we pushed harder than ever to support our students. These tremendous efforts ultimately led to record-setting student enrollment following three consecutive years of 4% annual growth, distribution of more than 60,000 HEERF awards, construction progress, soaring licensing revenues, athletic successes, and increased corporate partnerships.

Strong enrollment growth yielded an additional $27 million in formula funding, which helped stabilize our budget. Because of this, we will have a 2% merit pool and an additional 1% equity pool to help us meet market demands, as we are committed to providing our faculty and staff more competitive salaries. This is in addition to market adjustments made earlier this year for some staff. Additional information about the 3% merit and equity pool will be communicated by vice presidents later this fall.

While it is important to celebrate what we have accomplished, we must acknowledge the new career paradigm for our students as the disrupted future of work and preferences of Gen Z are at odds with how many universities educate students in our degree-bound model that emphasizes learning in single content areas.

As I outlined in my address, UNT is implementing comprehensive career exploration and development initiatives to ensure that all students graduate with relevant skills necessary to help them excel not only in their first job out of college, but through multiple careers and transitions during their lifetimes. These skills include career resource exploration, networking, practical experiences, comprehensive professional skills, developing a personal brand, and diversity and inclusion.

We expect that students will develop the skills they need as they move through their degree and benefit from periodic checkpoints with career advisors. We also are amplifying existing programs and introducing new resources to provide our students with better career preparation. Learn more by watching my address or reading the transcript.

  • MyPlan -- New students will complete the MyPlan career assessment tool during Orientation to explore careers, then participate in group discussions to better understand career opportunities and the skills needed to succeed in their chosen field.
  • First-Year Seminar -- We also will introduce a zero-credit online First-Year Seminar beginning Fall 2022 to expose students to the skills that will help them chart their career path.
  • 30 Embedded Career Coaches -- To streamline available career resources, we are combining Academic Affairs and Student Affairs career resources into a single integrated unit under new leadership. We will embed 30 Career Coaches directly into colleges to provide one-on-one and group coaching to students, help faculty incorporate career and professional development into curricula, and help students secure internships and jobs at graduation.
  • Mean Green Mentors -- We plan to expand our Mean Green Mentors program so current students can easily connect with alumni interested in providing career advice.
  • Unpaid Internship Scholarship -- To support students completing internships in fields that do not provide compensation, we will work toward increasing financial support for the Unpaid Internship Scholarships.
  • New Career Paradigm -- As we investigate and apply best practice models for education paradigms that better meet the career futures of Gen Z, we also will consider expanding our Integrative Studies program and project-based degrees at UNT at Frisco, which are popular because of the ways they allow students to study in multidisciplinary areas of interest, rather than a unitary-focused degree choice.

As we work together to implement these initiatives and evolve them over the next four years, we will better serve our students while becoming a national model for how we support students' career aspirations and professional development. I appreciate the ways you support our students, and I know many of you offer - or will offer - the help a student needs to launch their dream career.

UNT Proud,
Neal Smatresk