As part of his annual planning cycle, President Neal Smatresk hosted his 2015 Planning Implementation Workshop, with the theme of Owning Excellence, Aug. 18 to review the progress from the 2014-15 academic year and begin developing an Action Plan for the coming year.

The 2015-16 Action Plan will detail the university's priorities for achieving its goal of reaching national prominence, or Tier One status. Sara Smith, a former IBM executive and leadership coach, co-facilitated the workshop. 

In opening the workshop, Smatresk told the participants that this year, planning is about creating our vision for excellence.

“This year, I want you to dream big. Tell us where we need to go and don't be afraid to think big,” he said.

In the workshop, participants explored three main topics on how the university can:

  • Own excellence to achieve Tier One status
  • Build community and win hearts and minds
  • Close the gaps and make the pursuit of excellence fun

The discussion focused heavily on ways to improve UNT's academics, research and reputation — essential ingredients for achieving national prominence. In addition to the discussion topics, the participants explored three key questions:

  • What do we need to do to promote student retention?
  • How do we improve research funding?
  • What do we need to do to build quality graduate education?

There were about 125 UNT and external community representatives that included UNT administrators, deans, chairs, students, faculty, staff and community members such as Denton ISD Superintendent Jaime Wilson, a UNT alumnus. Wilson appreciated UNT's focus on getting better and building community engagement.

“When it comes to K-12 education, our goal is to give kids hope for better opportunities. When you have an actively engaged university, that hope is easier to obtain,” Wilson said.

Tom McCoy, vice president for research and economic development, said strengthening UNT's research enterprise is key to helping UNT achieve Tier One status.

“We have to do a better job with our research infrastructure. That means space, faculty and equipment,” McCoy said. “We can recruit more faculty who already have research grants. We also need to help our younger faculty members with training in grant writing. With space, we need to be more proportional with how we assign our space depending on the dollars we generate.”

For the second discussion topic on building community, Rick Villarreal, UNT's athletic director, got the participants fired up, telling them that UNT must help students and the community build strong emotional connections to the university.

“We can fill heads and that's what we're supposed to do as an institution. But if we really want to create a great university, we need to fill hearts,” Villarreal said.

Victoria Clark, senior kinesiology major, offered insight on how to build community. She was one of a handful of students who took part in the workshop to provide student perspectives on how the university should move forward.

“We build community and win hearts and minds by investing in not only students' academic life, but in their personal life,” Clark said. “Treat us like a person rather than a dollar and a number sign.”

Smatresk tasked the workshop participants with identifying UNT's challenges and opportunities based on his three-year planning framework.

  • Year 1 (2014-15)
    • Improved operations and infrastructure
  • Year 2 (2015-16)
    • Align academic and research programs with the goal of achieving greater national prominence
    • Meet regional needs
    • Begin work on our identity
  • Year 3 (2016-17)
    • Launch our new identity campaign
    • Continue to explore our unique niches and attributes

For the coming year, Smatresk will expand his Planning Implementation Teams to tackle priorities in the 2015-16 Action Plan, which he will unveil in his State of the University address in September.

  • Attend the State of the University at 2 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Murchison Performing Arts Center.

Frank Telesca, an Eagle Ambassador and an aviation logistics senior, appreciated the opportunity to help shape UNT's vision.  

“I think it's eye opening to see the inner workings of what makes this university run. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the coming years,” he said.

Shannon Goodman, vice president for enrollment, said the planning workshop and process are important ways to define institutional direction and help people understand why UNT wants to achieve Tier One status and how each person can contribute to that goal.

“What has stood out for me is the depth of passion and talent we have. The energy is contagious and everyone is rallying around a common vision and goals,” he said.

—Ernestine Bousquet, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

Above, about 125 stakeholders shared their ideas for helping UNT own excellence during the 2015 Planning Implementation Workshop Aug. 18 at Apogee Stadium. (Photo by Michael Clements / URCM)