Summer Wrap-Up

Good morning! It’s scary how fast summer passes, isn’t it? As we in administration are offering orientations, and as students move in, I find myself saying to others “How WAS your summer?”, as if the tree leaves were about ready to start falling!  In fact, I hope the last gasp of your academic summer still has enjoyable and productive days in it. 

Now, what’s been going on around UNT?

Summer Activities:  It’s been a busy summer for chairs, deans and the Provost Office. At the end of last semester I charged the deans and chairs to examine faculty workloads with an eye to enhanced fairness to all faculty, and following UNT’s workload policies  This raised a few eyebrows, but as I explained to the Faculty Senate, there are a few departments where teaching loads are essentially the same for all faculty irrespective of their service loads or scholarly productivity.  This is not fair, nor does it effectively deploy our all-important human resources. So in that memo I asked chairs, supported by their deans, to ensure that university policies regarding teaching loads are being followed, and teaching loads are fairly (not necessarily equally) distributed).

I also have asked deans, following meetings with their chairs, to report to me their plans for steady, transparent increases in promotion and tenure standards for their colleges and schools. This exercise is not addressing any change in procedures, but rather the standards that the procedures exam. Interestingly, in this process, several chairs and deans have exposed inconsistencies in their P&T documents, and will be taking up those changes this fall.

Faculty Profile System:  Vice Provost Allen Clark has been leading a task force to revamp our Faculty Profile System. We are looking at outside vendors with proven products. But any system must be able to import data from our existing system. The end game is a system that includes and values all forms of scholarship, which can be used to create multi-forms of C.V.’s, and can be used for merit and promotion and tenure evaluations. More to follow.

An Academic Affairs Focus for 2014 – 15:  This academic year we are going to be focusing on “excellence in the classroom.”  We will encourage all faculty to actively teach on the very first day, to emphasize to students that attendance is, indeed, vital to taking their course, and to provide formal feedback to them on  their progress at the end of the first month of classes. I’m still amazed at receiving student complaints saying, “Here it is Thanksgiving and I still don’t know my grade in the course!” I know that almost all instructors are conscientious in this regard, but every instructor needs to strive to provide early feedback, which is vital to student success. A single mid-term has been shown too often be “too late.” I also would like our instructors to recognize the importance of the first lecture, on the first day classes are scheduled to meet, and the last lecture, which should be a capstone lecture rather than a hurried effort to cram in material not covered. All of this will be geared to make our classroom experience all the stronger for our students.

Enrollment:  Thanks to our collective efforts, including faculty, academic advisors, staff, chairs and deans, our semester credit hours (SCH’s) and continuing student numbers (retention!) look good for fall. They’ve been holding at a steady increase from last year of more than 2 percent, with a few more student orientations to go before the start of classes. We recognize that our revenues, and of course our workload, are more closely aligned to SCH production than to headcount, so we monitor the former especially closely. We will have final census numbers after the 12th class day. I have asked deans and chairs to be as proactive as possible in addressing the course wait lists. We want to do all we can to ensure that students have every opportunity to be successful with our Eagle Express Tuition Plan, which rewards students for 4-year or “on time” graduation.   In fact, almost 4000 students have opted for this tuition/graduation plan to date!!

Various and Sundry:

  • Student Convocation. I hope that you will join the more than 8,000 invited new students (freshmen and transfer) on Thursday, August 21 at 5:00 p.m. for Student Convocation.  Your attendance symbolizes the centrality of scholarship to the university experience and demonstrates your commitment to our students.  Information coming soon from President Smatresk.
  • Construction around campus.  It’s exciting to witness the University Union construction, as the new components of the building actually rise out of the ground.  The “topping out” occurs next month, and then we will see the actual form of the building taking shape.  Meanwhile, workers have started moving dirt at the site of Rawlins Hall, the new Honors residence Hall just east of the Gateway Center. 
  • Deans Searches.  We currently have searches underway for deans of the College of Visual Arts and Design, College of Arts and Sciences, and Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science.  CVAD interviews have continued during the summer (with the agreement of the faculty), but have not yielded a suitable candidate, so we will reboot that search in the early fall.  CAS interviews will gear up with the return of faculty.
  • Administrative Searches:  President Smatresk has initiated a search for a new Vice President for Enrollment, to take over the enrollment tasks currently assigned to Vice President Elizabeth With.  As many of you know, the Vice President for Advancement, Michael Monticino, has left UNT for a leadership opportunity in the private sphere, so we will be conducting a national search for this position, as well.
  • SACS Accreditation.  The big push is on to finish our SACS accreditation preparation during the coming year.  Much important work is still to be done, so be prepared to hear more.