Dear faculty and staff,
I sincerely appreciate your hard work throughout this past year. This has been an incredibly productive year as we’ve overcome many of our challenges and laid the groundwork for long-term progress.
This is an amazing university and I sincerely thank you for your hard work and unwavering commitment to make UNT the best at giving our students the best educational experience in Texas.
I am proud of the progress we’ve made, and wanted to give you all an update on where we stand.
We’ve made great strides in our ongoing and continuous improvement for financial transformation. During the past year, in partnership with the UNT System, we have:
- Implemented a first-class accounting system with proper controls, and as part of that, we have reconciled our accounts for the past two years.
- Restored integrity to our financial systems and built a team of experienced finance and accounting professionals.
We have balanced our books and are using strategic priorities to ensure a sound operating budget. We’re in the process of finalizing the budget for 2015-16, which includes a modest pool of funds for merit raises.
My deepest thanks to the finance and accounting staff members of both UNT and the UNT System for the work they’ve done to get us back on solid financial ground.
Now that we’ve put many of our financial challenges behind us, our next step is to ensure that everyone involved in our fiscal process is trained on our new expectations.
We also have made important progress on the priorities in the 2014-15 Action Plan and will issue our End-of-Year Report soon. As you may know, I plan in three-year cycles:
- This year, we’ve focused on urgent issues such as bolstering our finances, re-defining key processes and making key leadership hires.
- The upcoming year — FY16 — will be about stabilization of and improvements to the academic enterprise.
- In year three, we’ll begin strategic growth and building our brand and reputation.
Hiring key leaders was a top priority for this past year, and we have formed a strong team of leaders who will work hard to help UNT rise to the top. With the addition of our newest vice presidents, Shannon Goodman, VP for Enrollment; David Wolf, VP for Advancement; and Joanne Woodard, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity, I believe we have the right team to get things done.
Higher education did really well in the 84th Legislative Session as lawmakers increased support for universities in many areas and grew financial aid for students. We’ll capitalize on all of these gains to build momentum. I would especially like to thank our district representatives, Rep. Myra Crownover and Sen. Craig Estes, for their hard work and support of higher education — and specifically UNT — this session.
- Now that the Legislature has passed its budget, we will know by the end of June what our funding will be. We received increases in formula and HEF funding, which will help us keep up with our growth. We also will get more support for TAMS to help us maintain this program’s excellence. Ultimately, all of this increased support benefits our students.
- We received the green light for a Tuition Revenue Bond (TRB) — or a construction bond — to build a new home for our College of Visual Arts and Design. We’ll work with our new dean, Greg Watts, to start planning to ensure that we have first-class space worthy our first-rate program. We don’t have a timeline yet, but we expect it to take about five years from planning to opening. While we didn’t receive TRB support for our proposed science and technology building in this session, it’s still a top priority and we’ll find ways to alleviate space pressure in the meantime.
- I’m also pleased that the Texas Legislature bolstered support for research through a combination of significant funding increases to the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP), which makes us eligible for matching funds for research gifts, and the creation of the Core Research Support (CRS) fund, which distributes funds based on how much research we do. Gov. Abbott’s Governor’s University Research Initiative will help universities attract distinguished faculty like Nobel Laureates and members of the National Academies. These changes provide more opportunities for UNT to advance and become a nationally prominent public research institution.
In addition, you already are aware that a new law will allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns on university campuses beginning in Fall 2016. We will work with the campus community and consult with our peers to ensure we continue to provide a safe, secure campus environment. We are reviewing the legislation thoroughly to understand our latitude in developing regulations for carrying concealed handguns on campus. The year ahead:
As we spend this summer planning for our 125th anniversary celebrations, I am excited about our future.
Across the board, we’ve changed UNT for the better and built a stronger foundation for growth and progress. I’m so proud of how we’ve rallied as a team and as a university community. After this past year, we are in a much better position to achieve our goals. I look forward to moving UNT closer to national prominence.