2021 Spring Back to School

The spring semester arrives during an extraordinary time. While I know many of us were happy to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome in a better 2021, we enter into our new year with less-than-optimal conditions. Yet, there are bright spots. Vaccines are beginning to be distributed and UNT has applied to be a vaccination site. Thanks to the COVID-19 relief bill, UNT is projected to receive $48-$50M from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which will support our students, cover COVID-related expenses and aid in our recovery. I will keep you up to date as more information becomes available on these two promising developments.

Even during this pandemic, our university continues to have incredible impact, advancing our strategic plan. I’d like to highlight a few of our focused efforts to support our goals centered around people and processes:

  1. Expand training, nominations and funding to increase top awards.
    1. The NSF CAREER Award workshop has led to increased success rates for faculty. So far, Diana Berman in Materials Science and Engineering, Hua Sun in Electrical Engineering and Hui Zhao in Computer Science and Engineering have been selected for an NSF CAREER Award, with other applications pending decision in the coming weeks.
    2. 24 faculty were selected to be DC Faculty Research Fellows, supporting their efforts to obtain federal research funding.
  2. Process improvements on cross-campus connection experiences to lessen the "UNT runaround.”
    1. The Registrar is deploying a new course scheduling system intended to dramatically reduce paperwork and simplify scheduling for academic departments and programs starting with the Spring 2022 schedule.
    2. Over the next 24 months, the Division of Research and Innovation will be implementing new research administration software to make it easier for principal investigators to complete required processes for grants, Institutional Review Board, Institutional Animal Care and Use, and Conflict of Interest Reporting.
  3. Fully engage our access to predictive analytic tools that will enable us to guide students through their degree in the most successful manner. The Navigate platform, a student success management tool, has been implemented across the campus this spring. This system allows us to target students who may need increased outreach. It shares information across departments to more holistically meet our students’ needs. The data and analytics generated are guiding our decisions about student success. Our advisors and student services offices are using the platform now and we’ll be rolling out the mobile app for student use later this spring.
  4. Promote sessions to increase our cultural competence as a community. This fall, the Anti-Bias and Cultural Awareness Program, a scaffolded learning plan designed to serve as a foundation for facilitating a more inclusive, affirming and equitable environment for the diverse communities we serve. Fall 2020 was Phase One, Knowledge Building, with the goal of developing a common language and understanding surrounding issues related to diversity and inclusion. More than 1,750 faculty, staff and administrators participated in our new trainings on Bridge or tuned in to the engaging guest speakers who joined us for the virtual Anti-Bias Speaker Series. As we begin Phase Two, Implementation, we will dive deeper into ways we can support our faculty and academic staff as they apply strategies for success and inclusion into their daily tasks and responsibilities.
  5. Identify prospective faculty and staff who are interested in leadership development and provide them with high-quality programs to increase the pipeline. Last week, a group of 30 of our academic leaders came together to take part in the Art of Participatory Leadership program.

I encourage you to join me this spring at an informal small group conversation. Bring your voice and perspective so we can have an informative and thought-provoking conversation about UNT’s future. Please contact Joanna Hussey to sign up for one of the dates listed below:

  • Thursday, Feb. 25, from 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, March 8, from noon to 1 p.m.
  • Friday, March 19, from 1 to 2 p.m.

Although this semester will continue to challenge us as we respond to COVID-19, know that all of our collective efforts are making a difference to our students. I want to thank each of you for your continued dedication to supporting our students and advancing UNT during these extraordinary times.