Feb. 1, 2017

Dear faculty and staff,

A new semester is upon us. As everyone gets into the swing of things, it's a good time to recap what we have done so far this year and share upcoming plans. These changes will help us advance and build a stronger culture of collaboration and innovation.

First, we want to thank everyone who came to our Town Hall for Immigrant and DACA Students held Tuesday. It was a thoughtful discussion about both the DACA issue and President Trump's recent executive order. The town hall generated good feedback and ideas that we will take into consideration for the future. Our priority is to ensure that our campus is a safe and inclusive environment for everyone in our campus community and to make you aware of the resources we have, as noted in the message Monday.

Spring enrollment is up and we continue to perform well fiscally. With new funds in this year's budget, we've:

  • Awarded 3 percent for merit raises for faculty and staff and for market and equity adjustments for faculty at the discretion of dean. The raises are effective Jan. 1 and will be reflected in February paychecks. 
  • Expanded faculty lines.
  • Continued to make modest commitments to the graduate tuition benefits program.
  • Allocated 100 new doctoral lines for Fall 2017, which should give a major boost to our research, creative and scholarly activities. 

College-level changes

This spring, we will formally reorganize CAS into the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) and the College of Science (COS). David Holdeman, the current CAS dean, is dean of CLASS and Su Gao, who had been the chair of the math department, is serving as interim dean of COS.

PACS will be renamed the College of Health and Public Service and will have two schools: the School of Community and Behavioral Health and the School of Public Affairs and Applied Social Science.

These changes are moving fast and will accelerate our efforts to bolster our rankings and provide better support for these critical units. We expect a smooth transition with minimal impacts to faculty and staff.

Leadership searches

On the academic front, in December we received official notification of reaffirmation of accreditation from SACSCOC.

We have hired Randy Bomer from UT Austin as our new Dean of the College of Education and he will join us Aug. 1. We want to thank Bertina Combes for serving as interim dean and for a job well done. 

We also have new dean searches that will be taking place. With Dean Tom Evenson announcing his retirement, a search for a dean of the reorganized College of Health and Public Service will begin soon. We'll also be conducting searches in the upcoming year for a new Dean of the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism to replace Judith Forney, who will be stepping down, and a new Dean of Libraries to replace Martin Halbert, who also is stepping down. We would like to thank Tom, Judith and Martin for their leadership and service. We hope you all will express your appreciation to each of them.

As you know, Provost Graves announced his retirement and the search for his replacement is going well. We will welcome five candidates for provost to campus in February and you'll have a chance to meet them at their public presentations. This is a critical position for our future, and we would like to get as much feedback from our campus community as possible. I want to give my thanks to Finley for the outstanding job he's done as provost the past two years. We've had a great working relationship, and he will be missed. 

Construction updates

We have a large number of capital projects in the works with the renovated Science Research Building opening this month, the CVAD building groundbreaking behind us, and approved plans for a new residence hall, dining hall and tour center, which will be co-located. In addition, we are expanding the Discovery Park building to create a home for Biomedical Engineering, one of our fastest-growing programs. These facilities will be a major boost for our academic and recruiting efforts. 

Our Mayborn School of Journalism will relocate to Sycamore Hall this summer. We also plan to renovate Sage Hall into a stronger one-stop academic success center for students. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.  

We are gathering ideas for a planned classroom facility and the Collab Lab innovation center, and have funding approvals on these projects.

We will begin construction on a new soccer/track facility soon, which will be followed by the demolition of Fouts Field. Given our challenging parking situation, we plan to convert Fouts Field into a new parking lot as well as implement a number of other transportation initiatives to help us manage parking.

We have a number of other major renovation projects in progress and we will keep you updated as they are completed. 

Process improvement

As we review our current business procedures and work to enhance our technology infrastructure, we are surfacing numerous issues with operations and processes. To state it bluntly, we need to dramatically improve many of our core services, simplify our processes, and become more customer-service oriented.

We also are working hard to improve our new financial management system, which had a rocky start. We're consulting with Toyota's "lean process" experts to improve onboarding of new faculty and staff in collaboration with our UNT System colleagues.

Improving graduate and undergraduate admissions, our data management, how we operate online education, and classroom allocation are a few of the areas we are tackling in collaboration with deans, chairs and the relevant business units. We soon will be asking for your input on what systemic challenges we face so that we can make process improvement an abiding part of our culture.

Legislative impacts

We are facing a potentially difficult legislative session. It's still too early to predict where we will end up at the end of the session, but we believe we are positioned as well as any university in the state to make our case. We hope the legislative process will help us continue the growth and success we have seen over the past two years.

You might have seen the governor's directive that came out Tuesday instituting a temporary hiring freeze. We are in the process of gathering information, assessing the impacts and determining the best way to proceed.

Finally, Finley and I want to express our deep appreciation for all you have done and continue to do to keep UNT moving forward. I continually hear from our students that their success is due to your caring support. This is the best community I have ever served and I repeat this to almost every audience I address. Our successes are because of your hard work and abiding belief in our mission and students. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you. 

Have a great 2017!

UNT Proud,

Neal Smatresk


O. Finley Graves

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs