Oct. 19, 2022
Six areas across the university received Outstanding Department Awards at the President's Staff Sack Lunch Oct. 18, and 12 others also were nominated by their vice presidents. Read about the work of each winning area and nominee.
Outstanding Department Award Winners
Creative Staff, Division of Athletics
In a relatively short time, UNT's athletics creative staff has made a tremendous impact. The staff combines with a team of students to create all photo, video and design content that is used across all of UNT Athletics' social channels, including its sport-specific accounts. Their hard work has led to a sharp increase in all social media metrics as well as an influx of engagement with students, fans and alumni. The creative team's efforts also play a significant role in recruiting future Mean Green student-athletes who will form the next generation of UNT champions in competition and the classroom.
Department of Information Science in the College of Information, Division of Academic Affairs
The Department of Information Science has made significant contributions to the university in the areas of student enrollment, new programs and curriculum, student success, and research productivity. Student enrollment in the department has increased 123.4% in four years with a limited increase in faculty and no increase in staff members. The department has sustained high national rankings for its programs and achieved re-accreditation with positive reviews, while also introducing fast-growing programs in data science. Its support of students includes organizing open houses, supporting the annual Multidisciplinary Information Research Symposium, and holding weekly research meetings to facilitate faculty and doctoral student research idea sharing and collaboration. Its doctoral graduates are highly competitive, becoming leading professionals or faculty members in other universities. The department also has created and revised a number of guidelines regarding faculty and student recognition, quality teaching, and management, greatly helping its operations and management of its programs and people.
Parking Customer Service Officers, Division of Finance and Administration
Parking Customer Service Officers may most notoriously be known as those who hand out citations, but they do much more to help the UNT campus. For big events, they work with police to help direct traffic so commencement guests and visitors have a pleasant experience. Daily, they not only monitor parking lots but also assist those on campus who need battery jumpstarts, air in tires or a gallon of gas if their car is on empty. The night crew runs e-Ride to transport students safely across campus in the evenings. The CSOs do issue citations but concentrate on areas of most concern — those parked in fire lanes, for example — while working with the rest of the parking team to help educate the UNT community on parking rules that allow everyone a chance to find the parking that best suits them. For Fall 2022, the CSO team helped make a new, faster shuttle route possible, working with the transit team to secure an area at the Hurley Administration Building that allows a shuttle to transport students from Lot 20 every 8 to 10 minutes. Their oversight of the process has provided faster service to students so they can park in Lot 20 — where there's ample parking — and get to campus quickly and comfortably.
Registrar, Division of Enrollment
The Registrar's office supports students throughout their educational journey and supports the needs of faculty and staff, while also ensuring compliance and accurate reporting. This year the office played an integral role in leading the initial Salesforce implementation and website support page, Scrappy Says. Over 37,000 students sought assistance from the office since its implementation last December. Staff revised the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board enrollment and course reports as well as those that go to the National Student Clearinghouse and Veteran Administration to meet new regulations. Among other initiatives, they made enhancements to commencement ceremonies, began tracking and reporting on course sequencing for undergraduate degree completion, and completed an extensive review of university holds that prevent registration. Having the largest incoming class would not have been possible without the staff who ensured that all 90,000-plus transcripts received in the year are scanned correctly through quality assurance checks. For those received manually, they entered data on 20,000-plus transcripts. They also processed 8,933 test scores for the freshman class, 302 updates to curriculum and 1,040 course changes. UNT conferred 10,943 degrees this year.
Research Commercial Agreements, Division of Research and Innovation
Research Commercial Agreements began its first year of operations in FY20. The restructured area combines the research contracting function with the commercialization/technology transfer unit. RCA's goals are to provide high levels of customer service, fast and professional contracting for faculty, and commercialization stewardship across the university in all disciplines. In FY22, RCA created 660 research contracts, executed 12 licenses and completed 42 disclosures on new intellectual property. These numbers outperform the industry averages for universities with similar-sized research expenditures and number of full-time employees, all while the area continues to provide both speed of service and transparency to the faculty and staff they serve. UNT also had its first technology receive FDA authorization for allowance of use. FDA authorization is incredibly rare and even more so for UNT, which doesn't operate its own medical school and has a young technology transfer office; normally, it takes decades for a technology transfer program to reach this milestone, but this came only six years after the program's creation.
University Accreditation, Divisions of Academic Affairs and Planning
University Accreditation did an outstanding job preparing the campus for the Fifth Year Interim Report for UNT's institutional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. There was no response required for any item, which is extremely rare and shows the great care the team took in the engagement, gathering and writing of the report, which took writers two years to prepare. These initiatives require efforts from the whole campus and the UA members have been leaders in collaborating across campus and guiding efforts. The writing team's official kickoff was in February 2020, and progress and evidence gathering continued through the pandemic. This successful report submitted in March 2022 would not be possible without the steadfast leadership of UA and the diligence of the writing team and those responsible for improvement plans that are maintained across all degree programs and offices.
Outstanding Department Award Nominees
Academic Administrative Coordinators in the College of Music, Division of Academic Affairs
The six academic administrative coordinators who work with eight division chairs and the associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Music serve the college and it students with the utmost care and kindness. While the demands of their work are ongoing, their most significant and time-consuming work takes place at the start of each long semester, when they spend their time serving each student on an individual basis — with diligence, patience and efficiency — all in a race to meet the census date deadline. Most of the about 1,550 students in the college have to be placed individually into certain courses, one by one. They need to be moved into sections for their private lesson teachers, moved into their appropriate music laboratory after ensemble auditions, placed with their student teaching supervisor (30-60 student teachers, each with two placements), and moved into their chamber groups. All of this must be done in very short order. In Fall 2022 there are over 500 sections of applied lessons, nearly 30 music laboratories (with enrollments ranging from 20 to 400) and over 300 students in chamber music. This group embodies the spirit of a caring community.
Advising Team in the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, Division of Academic Affairs
The CMHT advising team is small but mighty. Compassionately and professionally, they work with students to the point where they feel like family. Over the years, the college's retention rate has consistently ranked as one of the highest for colleges on campus, and much of that credit goes to the advising team. During COVID remote work, they expertly transitioned to online advising, assuring that students remained connected. They also were able to answer any concerns and guide students on pathways that made sense for them. The advising team understands what CMHT means when it calls itself the “People College,” and demonstrates that every day to the students there.
Career Center, Division of Student Affairs
The Career Center has made great strides over the last year to make sure students are confident decision-makers and career ready — re-imaging the organizational infrastructure, developing campus relationships and working in collaboration to create a community of career readiness education, increasing the team from 29 to 50 members, and rebranding the Career Center in eight months. Among other activities, they launched First Year Curriculum in conjunction with colleges, orientation and First Flight Week; distributed more than $259,000 in funds to support students with unpaid internships; worked with campus partners to streamline the hiring process for all student employees and set up a student employment supervisory advisory group; hired 17 new career coaches; hosted a 10-week Immersive experience for Career Center staff to prepare them in all aspects of Career Services; are working with Alumni Affairs to relaunch Mean Green Mentors and foster other alumni-student relationships. They also established 10 internal staff committees — focusing on areas such as international students, first generation students, transfer students, diversity and inclusion, and neurodiversity — to move forward in collaborative ways and ensure staff feel their voices are heard. Their work is revitalizing "career readiness" as "life readiness" and will make a significant impact on students.
CLEAR, Division of Digital Strategy and Innovation
The Center for Experimentation, Application and Research has transformed itself over the past three years and works tirelessly to facilitate UNT's growth and success in online education. First and foremost, they responded to the president's goal of raising the quality and quantity of UNT's online courses. The group has gone from developing 35 courses per semester to over 100; courses on the Coursera platform are rated 4.8 out of 5.0, one of the highest comprehensive rating scores of any of their 170 university partners; and online courses accounted for a 63% increase ($329 million in revenue) between FY18/19 and FY20/21, not including remote courses. The staff work with faculty to build interactive, engaging and accessible online courses and content. From creating interactive instructional videos to coding VR activities, building accessible templates and ensuring copyright compliance, the team is responsible for both the fun and taxing side of course development. They also facilitate a welcoming culture where diversity, equity and inclusion are core priorities. Members were invited to present on scalable and accessible virtual reality at a national conference, and a presentation to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff on how learners learn online received national press attention.
Collection Development Department in the UNT Libraries, Division of Academic Affairs
The Collection Development Department of the UNT Libraries was a large contributor to the success of the library and university over the past year. In the face of adversity, they persevered and maintained a high level of service and stewardship of funding. The department experienced almost 40% turnover due to retirements, promotions and transfers, resulting in more people than usual to orient and train. There was a post-payment contract audit imposed by the comptroller's office requiring multiple workflow changes — Collection Development exceeded the planned review goals by 100%. There was a last-minute gift of over 1,200 books to pack and move within two days — handled no problem. There was the strict adherence to TexRAMP and IT compliance that required immediate revision of workflows and coordination with multiple departments to ensure bills were paid by fiscal close deadlines — done. Regardless of the extra work, the department managed to negotiate diligently with vendors, lowering prices on journals and electronic content. Even with a new department head halfway through the year, they stayed sane, productive and let nothing slip. This was all done with a spirit of teamwork, resilience and courage to face uncertainty.
Department of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Division of Academic Affairs
The Department of Anthropology's fall overall semester credit hours have increased by 34.6% in the past two years, their graduate applied cultural anthropology master's program continues to be one of the top five in the nation, and they are currently mentoring 84 thesis graduate students with eight tenure-track faculty. The department is particularly proud of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative, which began in June 2020 when students and alumni wrote an open letter to the faculty listing steps to move beyond sentiment and into material action. The faculty committed to directly addressing issues of race and racial inequality in the departmental processes of recruitment, teaching, research and mentoring and are committed to expanding their efforts — acknowledging that their response serves as the start of a much longer, ongoing conversation. Among the department's initiatives, a Townhall series, Grad Labs and Coffee Talks open dialog between the department and students; the PADAWAN Society partners undergraduate majors with graduate mentors; the First Year Besties Initiative matches first generation in college students with ongoing anthropology majors to help them navigate UNT; and student representatives are invited to each faculty meeting to discuss issues important to students.
Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business, Division of Academic Affairs
The Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences has been an engine for growth for the college and for UNT. As the demand for graduate degrees in analytics, primarily driven by international students, grew rapidly, the ITDS chair and senior faculty mobilized a team to analyze capacity, plan an expanded schedule, and recruit and hire new faculty to meet the demand. The department grew by more than 700 students in fall 2022 compared to fall 2021. The department also is strongly engaged with the business community, where a partnership with IBM, which dedicates one of its main frame computers for UNT student use and training, brings in all of the companies who use this technology. Fidelity, Citibank, Bank of America and Charles Schwab are just a few that attend all‐day student workshops and recruit graduates. The department also was one of the first to offer graduate degrees in Frisco. The faculty's willingness to expand the M.S. in analytics program required them to fill 10 faculty positions, so the time demand for interviewing and recruiting was significant. They addressed the need to create even more classes by opening Saturday sections, and their tutor lab has moved to a seven day a week schedule with online tutoring also available.
Information Technology Team, College of Visual Arts and Design
The CVAD IT team's expertise and support extend beyond the college to the entire university. As an innovative, service-oriented unit, focused on the success of the college and university, CVAD's IT office provides for advanced technology computer labs and classrooms and off-site, low-cost access to expensive software, and it supports both PC and Mac platforms (among many other services). Computer issues are resolved quickly for every member of the college community. The team innovated to develop a remote computer lab allowing students access to the desktops of CVAD-operated computers, outfitted with the most advanced software, from any device with a network connection. The office successfully negotiated agreements to lower the cost for student access to Adobe Creative Cloud and to sell outdated Mac computers so the college can invest the sales proceeds into advancing technology access to students, faculty and staff. This small team is efficient and ultimately committed to bringing the most useful resources and technologies to CVAD and UNT.
Orientation and Transition Programs, Division of Student Affairs
Orientation and Transition Programs worked tirelessly over the spring and summer to plan, communicate about and implement 27 orientation sessions for UNT's newest undergraduate and graduate students. Accomplishing this involved navigating different platforms (depending on the virtual or in-person environment), coordinating with almost every college and department on campus, readjusting session caps to meet growing demand, and late nights and early mornings spent ensuring that students and parents had a positive experience. Staff completed all of these required tasks with smiles on their faces and made sure students felt important to UNT and connected to the campus. In total, they helped 6,525 new FTIC students (17.8% more than last year), 1,883 new graduate students, over 3,900 new transfers and over 2,600 new parents and family members transition to the Mean Green Family.
Space Planning and Management, Division of Finance and Administration
Space on campus can easily be taken for granted but the careful management of UNT's 24,000-plus rooms requires strong collaboration and planning skills. This year, UNT's Space Planning and Management team saw their skills rewarded when they received a 100% on a state audit —the highest mark possible. The audit is the biggest event that a university space management team faces and, typically, somewhere around 30% of institutions may face re-audits or actions related to issues with their audit. Correctly and accurately reporting space usage on campus impacts the university's funding and research. During the audit, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board brought some observers from other Texas universities so that those universities could learn more from UNT's team. This team is achieving the highest standard for the university while setting the bar high for others.
Student Accounting, Division of Enrollment
Student Accounting works with every student to ensure they are able to complete payment arrangements. During FY22, the team processed over 238,000 individual payment transactions, and for Fall 2022, they assessed over $285 million in tuition and mandatory fees — with a variance of less than 0.01%. They also have provided new options that allow students to incorporate their financial aid or scholarships into their payment plan. This includes dining and housing charges and spreads the cost over the semester. This fall, nearly 16,000 students have chosen a payment plan. The ID Card team rolled out a new process to allow incoming students to request their ID card, upload a photo in myUNT and pick it up during orientation, move-In or the first week of classes, streamlining ID distribution and drastically reducing the time required. Over 8,700 IDs were distributed in a three-week period. The Collections and Accounts Receivable team implemented a first-of-its-kind “Former Student Repayment Plans” service. They have worked with over 1,200 students (owing more than $7 million) to resolve their balances so they can return to school, receive a transcript and soar. Multiple schools in Texas have asked them to share this approach for helping students avoid the collections process and ultimately succeed.
Student Legal Services, Division of Student Affairs
With only two attorneys and one admin assistant, the Student Legal Services team helped over 650 clients and recovered over $88,404 for students last year. Each student who contacts SLS has been confronted with a legal issue that is impeding their success at UNT. The staff do all they can to support the student, research the specific situation and, for gender marker and name changes, file the legal paperwork in Travis or Dallas County. This process takes a considerable amount of time, but the impact to the student is significant. Additionally, they have offered an Immigration Consultation Day, and many DACA and international students have used SLS when they are in need of legal assistance with their visas or U.S. paperwork to keep them in school and in the country. They also do a considerable amount of work to support students struggling with their apartment complexes or landlords. From bed bugs to damages in the apartment, they take on a variety of issues. The help SLS provides plays a significant role in keeping students at UNT.