Jan. 22, 2019

Dear UNT faculty and staff,

2018 was a banner year for UNT as we set records in every measurable metric, including enrollment, graduates and degrees awarded, National Merit Finalists, university and athletic fundraising, and research expenditures. Fostered by faculty and staff, students won national awards, made meaningful research discoveries and clinched athletic championships. The Carnegie Classification also reaffirmed our status as a Tier One research university, the highest designation given to the 130 top research universities. This recognition is a great confirmation of the progress we've made as an institution and is cause for celebration.

We are on track for another great year, and our mission is to support our students in a caring and creative community that prepares them for careers in a rapidly changing world. I know through your great efforts that we will continue to improve our students' experience here at UNT and their success as they enter the workforce. We've just kicked off work on developing our aspirational strategic plan with a very productive discussion about how we can improve our brand and market position. We are focused on moving our institution forward through improved nationwide rankings, a focus on student success and growing collaborative research. We'll soon announce a number of different planning events and town halls to gain your insight and input, which is critical in helping us to produce the creative leaders of tomorrow. 

Also this semester, we're excited to introduce UNT CollegeLink, an application custom-built by UNT developers and our Chinese partners at Digital Train Limited by NetDragon. After downloading UNT CollegeLink, students can log in with their UNT credentials to form communication groups with their classmates, co-workers and friends from clubs and organizations. This evolving tool is one more way we're connecting the Mean Green family, and I am hopeful it will foster a greater sense of community and facilitate communications between faculty and students.

Innovative education technology also will be the focus of the fourth annual US-China Smart Education Conference, which will attract international smart-learning experts and be hosted March 18-20 on our campus. Conference keynote speakers include NetDragon Chairman and founder Deijian Liu and Stephen Attenborough, chief commercial officer for Virgin Galactic. I encourage you to consider registering now for this important conference - UNT faculty and staff can get a discount by using the code “UNTProud.” The conference will feature many prominent industry leaders and a pitch competition — Ed Tech Ascend — inspired by the hit show Shark Tank to encourage creative individuals and teams from the educational technology industry to "sell" their product vision to judges, companies and potential investors. The competition is open to all, so if you have an idea, submit your pitch by the Feb. 8 deadline!

This is only one of many events that will take place this semester, and I encourage you to visit the UNT Calendar to learn about all campus happenings. We have invited the head of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, for the President's Lecture Series on Feb. 21, and in this exciting time of space exploration I hope you'll join us to hear his vision for the future. Dates also are set for the Service Awards Ceremony (March 5), Staff Appreciation Luncheon (April 2), Salute to Faculty Excellence (April 25) and President's Staff Sack Lunch (May 2), so mark your calendar now!

I hope all of you have a wonderful year and never forget — retention is job one. Our student success committee is working hard to identify where we can improve, but don't underestimate the impact each of us has individually on guiding, mentoring and helping our students stay on track to graduate in a timely fashion, because UNT cares. If you encounter a student in need, please help them find the support and resources they need - a good place to start is succeed.unt.edu.

Thank you for all you do to help our students soar higher.

UNT Proud,

Neal Smatresk