Spring 2020: Back-to-School Message

Dear Faculty and Academic Staff,

We are so fortunate to be surrounded by our amazing students. Through many hours and lots of hard work, we all have the opportunity to show our students how much we care about their growth and development. This semester, I want us to find even more ways to fuel our students’ passions and help them succeed. Please find time in your schedules to join me for an informal brown bag lunch to discuss, brainstorm and develop new ways to improve student success. Contact Joanna Hussey at Joanna.hussey@unt.edu to sign up for one of the following dates:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in Hurley 201
  • Wednesday, March 4 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in Hurley 201
  • Friday, April 10 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in Hurley 201
  • Thursday, May 7 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in Hurley 201

Since fostering student success is one of our key goals, let’s take a look at the focused efforts we’re already making to improve student retention and graduation rates.

  1. Expanding engagement in undergraduate research. This year, funding was expanded to support the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which supports about 150 students across all disciplines. Undergraduate researcher Kevin Yao is an outstanding example of what this fellowship can make possible. Working with Dr. Jose Perez in Physics, Yao has contributed to two published journal articles and earned a nomination for a Goldwater Scholarship.
  2. Enhancing student success and retention. UNT is pleased to join more than 500 other colleges and universities that are using a student success management system called Navigate. Navigate enables faculty, staff, advisors and administrators to better support students by allowing more efficient sharing of information about student progress. It also equips our advising teams with sophisticated predictive analytics based on 10 years of UNT data, empowering us to not only identify and assist struggling students in a timely manner, but also address potential obstacles before they arise. Navigate will be piloted on our campus during Spring 2020 in the College of Science and also with our student athletes. Training will be provided for faculty and staff throughout the spring and summer. We anticipate campus-wide implementation beginning Fall 2020.
  3. Expanding our continuous enrollment strategy. We all want our students to make timely progress toward completing their degrees. One of the most practical ways we’re helping students succeed is by offering more flexibility in scheduling.
    1. Winter session enrollment was up more than 60% over last year, enabling more students to make progress on their degree.
    2. Plans are underway to add 8-week sessions during the academic year beginning Fall 2020, allowing departments increased flexibility in scheduling course offerings.
    3. To aid doctoral students nearing completion of their dissertation, additional tuition benefit plan resources will be available on a one-time basis to support summer registration. More details will be forthcoming from the Graduate School next week. 
  4. Expanding participation in meaningful professional development to support an inclusive campus for our students. UNT has been selected to participate in the NSF-funded Aspire Network, which will support the development of inclusive teaching practices in STEM disciplines. In addition, our Faculty Senate passed a resolution requesting that the president and I work to provide professional development opportunities for faculty to support our goal of becoming an inclusive campus. The Office of Faculty Success and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will be partnering to develop programming. If you have recommendations on the type of programming you would like to participate in, please contact Bertina.Combes@unt.edu
  5. Supporting innovative, high-impact curriculum that meets students where they are.
    1. We are expanding our master’s level program offerings with the addition of the following degrees that were approved by the UNT System Board of Regents in November: an M.B.A. in Sports and Entertainment Management in partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, an M.S. in Artificial Intelligence and an M.S. in Engineering Management.
    2. We also are launching an online version of our Bachelor’s in Applied Arts and Sciences in partnership with Coursera, allowing us to provide an affordable program targeted at adults who have significant college credits but have not yet completed their degrees. 
    3. We are launching a dual credit program with Frisco ISD that will allow high-achieving high school students to complete a project-based college credit program at UNT Frisco. And this year is our first year offering online dual credit courses to Denton ISD high school students. 

All of our collective efforts add up to making a big difference in the lives of our students — not just while they’re enrolled at UNT, but for the rest of their lives. I want to thank each of you for your continued dedication to supporting our students and advancing UNT.