Dear UNT faculty and staff,

When I was an undergraduate student trying to cope with the pressures of college, no one ever said, “If you're struggling, we can help you do better.” I wish they had.

When the fall semester begins Monday, we will welcome thousands of anxious and excited students to the Mean Green family. They'll come to us carrying hopes, dreams and the desire to change their lives in a positive way. College will be hard for some of them as they experience different transitions.

When you encounter flustered, frustrated or fearful students this year, please reach out to them, connect them with resources that can help and show them how much #UNTCares about their success as a student. A little understanding, support and help from a faculty or staff member can go a long way toward helping a student achieve their dreams, rather than leave the university with unfulfilled goals.

We must think about how we can support our students and help them become a whole, happy and successful person. I've long said UNT is the most caring community I've ever been a part of, but what does that mean in the context of educating students? We often think we're here to relay content information, but what the students are looking for is often the opportunity to change themselves. As we think about what we each do every day and when we build curriculum, we need to make sure we're building to best support our students.

Retaining students and ensuring their success is the job of every UNT faculty and staff member, not just those working in student or academic affairs. About 150 academic and university leaders met last week for the 2018 Planning Implementation Workshop, when we evaluated data on current retention rates, learned about campus resources for students, and set personal, unit and university plans for improving student success and retention. I encourage you to define your own personal plan for improving student success this year.

Our job, as faculty and staff, is to give every student what they need to graduate and become successful alumni. We're not just here to turn out degrees, but to make a difference in the lives of our students and make sure they are prepared to succeed.

I invite you to attend my 2018 State of the University address at 3 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Murchison Performing Arts Center, where we will celebrate our past year's successes and talk more about our goals for the future. We have something special here at the University of North Texas - a community that cares and believes that it can be better. As we step into a new year, I ask that you go above and beyond to help our students and show them that #UNTCares.

UNT Proud,

Neal Smatresk