Reflecting on our progress and our future

Jan. 29, 2015

Dear faculty and staff,

We are two weeks into a new semester and a month into 2015, and it promises to be a much better year ahead for all of us. As I approach my first anniversary here and reflect on our progress, I have a great deal to be thankful for as we continue to work together.   

To start with, spring enrollment is up — going strong and heading in the right direction! Graduate enrollment and retention have improved, and our students are taking more hours, an auspicious sign for improving timely graduation success. We launched the Eagle Express Tuition Plan last fall as one of the most successful programs of its kind in the country. The response was overwhelming and we currently have about 4,700 students taking advantage of the plan. Almost half are new freshmen. Adding to this success, we have just launched Eagle Advantage, starting with Arlington Independent School District. Through the program, we guarantee admission to the top 20 percent of their juniors. We plan to spread this program throughout ISDs in North Texas because bringing the brightest students from the area to the best university in the region can only mean greater success for everyone. 

As you know, we’re working to implement our Action Plan through our three Implementation teams, and that process is going quite well. We’ll share a progress report of the teams’ efforts in March. And I’m pleased to report that our fiscal status has improved significantly, and the underlying IT support we need for financial transformation is moving to completion. More importantly, revenues are improving — we are “in the black” and we don’t anticipate budget cuts going forward. We have solid financial data for FY14 and FY15, and our new accounting software should be fully functional this fall.

We showed our thanks by setting aside a modest merit pool this fiscal year to reward employee excellence, and we’ll continue to make that a priority in the future. We also took an initial step toward addressing equity for our faculty by establishing more market-competitive minimum salaries for current and new faculty with the rank of assistant, associate, professor, lecturers or clinical faculty. We will be delving deeper into equity and market issues soon.

The cabinet-level leadership team is coming together as we welcome our new VP for Enrollment Shannon Goodman to campus Feb. 9. Our ongoing searches for a VP for Diversity and Inclusion and VP for Advancement also should be concluding soon. 

In virtually every functional area, we are making strides through reorganization and with a more strategic focus on providing faculty and staff the support they need to succeed.  Progress in student success activities, research, enrollment management, facilities and communications has been substantial. I am especially pleased that we will be funding tuition for research and graduate teaching assistants to help us be more competitive in recruiting and retaining high-quality graduate students. Look for updates on this and other areas on our planning implementation website in March. We will be hosting town hall meetings to develop budget and planning priorities for FY16. Those meetings, along with my continued listening exercises, should help us to develop a strong list of priorities that we will focus on in the future. 

Our students have been recognized nationally in a variety of competitions, and it was a real highlight for us when some of our finance students won TD Ameritrade’s national Collegiate Trading Competition and appeared on CNBC. I’ve also just learned some of our TAMS students were named semifinalists and finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition. Our student union is coming along and should open this fall along with our new residence hall. Finally, we can all look forward to the end of our street construction projects soon and get back to making our campus even more beautiful. 

The 2014 year was a busy, but very successful year. That success is due to the dedication of the best faculty and staff I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and a community with a “can-do” attitude. Thank you all for welcoming Debbie and me into the UNT community. We look forward to more great things to come this year and in the future.

Go Mean Green!   

UNT Proud,

Neal Smatresk


Also, President Smatresk sent the following message to students Jan. 21:

Dear UNT students,

Welcome back! I hope you had a great winter break and feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

In my first year as president, I've most enjoyed getting to know our students. I love when you stop me on campus or around town to say hello or to take a selfie with me. I love connecting with you on Twitter @UNTPrez and getting your instant feedback on how UNT is doing. The conversations I have with students are the highlights of my day because I get to hear about your hopes and dreams, your goals and career aspirations. You tell me how you're doing and how we're doing as a university. I look forward to more of these conversations with you.

Here we are at the start of a new year and semester -- a time of new opportunities. Change is happening at UNT, and it's for the better. We're improving our academic and support programs to better serve you; and we are letting the world know what a creative university we are!

There are many milestones to celebrate in 2015. For instance, this year we're starting new commencement traditions, holding a university-wide commencement to celebrate the entire graduating class each academic year. In addition, colleges will host college recognition ceremonies so graduates can enjoy the more personal and traditional moments of graduation. Our inaugural university-wide commencement will be held May 16, 2015, and our college recognition ceremonies will be held May 15 and May 16. You will soon see a schedule that details when and where each college recognition ceremony will be held.

As part of that process, we've changed one day of the final exam schedule and will end finals on Thursday, May 14, at the recommendation of the Academic Associate Deans Council. Learn more about the changes and see the new final exam schedule. We're doing this to better serve all of our students and so we can celebrate commencement as a community.

We're doing all we can to provide you with the best educational experience. If you need help, we have thousands of caring faculty and staff members and plenty of resources like Succeed at UNT.

I hope you have a great semester. Work hard, and remember we're here for you!

UNT Proud,
Neal Smatresk