Getting focused for the spring semester

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Dear faculty and academic staff,

I consider myself extremely fortunate to get to work at an inspiring university that is at the forefront of innovation and creativity. Our hard work has been reaffirmed with Carnegie's announcement that we remain ranked a Tier One research university in their 2018 classification – what a wonderful way to start the new year! Later this semester, I will share an update with you on what we have learned from the latest round of classifications and what we need to do to further solidify our standing as a Tier One research university. We know that to support our standing, faculty need access to resources. One example of a new resource is our investment in SCOPUS, a curated abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. Scopus is one of our largest multidisciplinary databases providing discovery of scholarship in all fields - allowing you to discovery items that were unsearchable through UNT in the past. This resources allows users to search literature, follow citations, and see who cited an article, as well as see metrics that demonstrate the value of our scholarship.

As a reminder, Narendra Dahotre and I are hosting informal brown bag lunches this spring to talk about opportunities to continue to foster our research culture at UNT. We welcome your thoughts as we continue to solidify our standings as a Tier One research university. Contact Margaret Vestal at margaret.vestal@unt.edu to sign up for one of the following dates:  

  • Feb. 19 from noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Provost’s Office
  • March 27 from noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Provost’s Office
  • April 15 from noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Provost’s Office

One of our key goals as a university is to be a best place to work. Forbes ranks UNT as the best higher education employer and the fourth best overall employer in Texas. Over the last year, our academic units have focused on providing regular feedback on progress and increasing recognition of faculty and staff accomplishments. I’ll share two examples. In the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Student Advising has focused on developing new staff so they can gain confidence quickly and become active team members, through a positive approach to assessment and feedback.  The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism started a Soaring Eagle “Scrappy” Award that recognizes faculty and staff. Dr. Harold Lee was recognized with this award in December for his hard work in student recruitment and making connections with local high schools. It’s clear our academic units across the university are engaged in our efforts to improve our workplace.

We recognize we still have areas where we can continue to improve. Many of you participated in the COACHE faculty survey last spring. We already have identified some immediate opportunities for change based on the results of the survey. A few examples include: 

  • Academic Affairs is developing guidelines on Modification of Duties for faculty who have a birth or adoption of a child.
  • Each academic unit is reviewing their workload guidelines to ensure equitable and fair allocation of responsibilities.
  • Academic Affairs is evaluating research workload and seeking to ensure assistant professors have an appropriate amount of time to focus on their research in units that have not yet achieved a Tier 1 research university workload distribution. 
  • Faculty Success developed a workshop on Work-Life Balance that is scheduled for Feb. 1. 

Our COACHE Steering Committee is working this year on identifying opportunities to improve the work environment for our faculty and will provide my office with an action plan by the end of the semester.