Fall Back to School Letter

Dear Faculty and Academic Staff,

The first day of the semester is such a joy as we watch our students meet our faculty and staff and learn their way across campus. While we are doing everything we can to provide typical experiences for our students, it is important that we all choose to wear face coverings when we are inside campus buildings. For those teaching an in-person class, I’m asking that you show the First Day of Class video that covers the university’s health and safety protocols. The Return to Learn and Health Alerts websites contain the latest information about our fall semester plans. If you have questions related to COVID, please reach out to Vice Provost for Curricular Innovation and Academic Partnerships Brenda Kihl, who serves as our academic COVID coordinator, at Brenda.Kihl@unt.edu.

COVID-19 has certainly been top-of-mind as each of you prepares for the fall semester, but we also are focused on the progress we will make on our strategic goals this academic year. While we will work on many aspects of the strategic plan, I want to highlight just a few.

Collaborate to increase the quality of career readiness

  • At President Smatresk’s State of the University address on Sept. 21 he will announce a range of career-related initiatives that will allow us to expand our impact on students as we help them prepare for careers.

Expand/develop inclusion and student success practices and policies

  • This fall, I’ll be asking each department to undertake a diversity, equity and inclusion curriculum review to make sure that our students can see themselves and others reflected in our curriculum. Vice Provost for Student Success Mike McPherson will be reaching out with more details as we get into the fall semester. As part of our Anti Bias and Cultural Awareness program we will be providing sessions focused on inclusive curriculum.
  • We will continue our efforts to increase the affordability of education for our students.
    • There is funding available to support faculty efforts to create more Open Educational Resources (OER) to support student learning.
    • Academic Technologies has been working to enhance student access to technology resources. This includes increasing virtual computer lab access, expanding laptop checkout and negotiating software agreements. We are currently finalizing an agreement with Adobe that would substantially reduce the cost of accessing Adobe software.
  • This year 267 students graduated with doctoral degrees, yet there is more we can do to improve our graduation rates. Our 7-year doctoral graduation rate is 59.5%. However, our 7-year doctoral graduation rate for students of color is 57.5%, while it is 60.5% for white students. I know that together we can close this achievement gap and increase our overall doctoral graduation rate to reach 65+%.

Increase enrollment at the Denton and Frisco campuses

  • This fall we are welcoming almost 42,000 students to our campus – our largest enrollment ever.
    • In line with our mission as an R1 university, we have a goal to increase enrollment, particularly our proportion of graduate enrollment. This fall, 21% of our students are graduate students, reaching our five-year goal for graduate enrollment three years ahead of schedule.
    • Growth at our Frisco campus has continued at a fast pace, up more than 33% from last fall.
    • To help support growth, we are continuing to add new degree programs. Since the end of the spring semester, the Board of Regents approved the following new programs that will be launching within the next year: B.A. in Critical Studies in Music and Society and B.B.A. in Sport Entertainment Management. The board also approved a Doctor of Business Administration, which will be reviewed by the state for the next step of the approval process and is an important contribution to our R1 Our Way initiative.

Support the development of R1 Our Way through targeted innovation activities

  • Under Vice Provost for Faculty Success Holly Hutchins and with the support of the colleges, we will be expanding the number of faculty nominations for major national awards.
  • This year we will continue our efforts in designing high-impact doctoral programs. Planning is underway for an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, a Ph.D. in Consumer Sciences, a Ph.D. in Human Performance and a Ph.D. in Linguistics. In addition, the graduate school is planning a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies to create more opportunities for programs without doctorates to support doctoral students.
  • Last year we added a new iCenter for Affective Neurotechnologies. This year there are several centers that are proposed and going through the review process, including the UNT Global Change Biocultural Center, the Center for Racial and Ethnic Equity in Health and Society and the Center for Agile and Adaptive Manufacturing. We are excited, too, for two other emerging centers that are building proposals and will enter the review process in the near future: the Applied Artificial Intelligence Center and the Center for Integrated Intelligent Mobility Systems.
  • We are creating a more expansive support system of core research facilities by standing up a series of specialized centers dedicated to sponsored research. This year we are adding BioAnalytical Core Facilities, Genomics Core Facilities, Greenhouse Core Facilities, and High Performance Computing. We anticipate building a new high-performance center focused on bioinformatics and expanding our support as part of our partnership with the Texas Advanced Computing Center.
  • The VPRI’s office will continue to expand support for research development. We are increasing the number of college grant editors, now in the Colleges of Business, Information, Health and Public Service and Science, plus the Advanced Environmental Research Institute, BioDiscovery Institute, Jim McNatt Institute for Logistics and the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute. In total we will have eight professionals helping faculty create stronger written proposals for sponsored research. And we are expanding our grantsmanship training to include doctoral students.

One of my favorite ways to engage in dialogue about the issues and opportunities here at UNT is through informal gatherings, which continue this fall. Join me for an informal conversation about our future at UNT. Please contact Joanna.Hussey@unt.edu to sign up for one of the dates listed below. Slots will fill on a first-come, first-served basis to faculty and staff, with seven slots available for each gathering.

  • Tuesday, Sept. 14, 12-1 p.m. (virtual)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 29, 12-1 p.m. (in-person)
  • Thursday, Oct. 7, 12-1 p.m. (virtual)
  • Thursday, Nov. 11, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. (in-person)

Thank you for everything that you will do to contribute to the success of our students this fall. When you are on campus this first week, remember we have many students who are new to UNT or on campus for the first time. Ask how you can help. This small action will help our newest Eagles feel welcome in our friendly and caring community.


Jennifer Cowley, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs