The Start of the Academic Year

Dear faculty and academic staff,

For many of us, the summertime is an opportunity to catch our breath and have some fun. This summer, I had the chance to visit with students, faculty, and partner universities in Kyoto, Japan. I also had the opportunity to attend the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and learn more about how we shape our own dialogue around policy issues of our day. My favorite read from my summer list was Assistant Professor of History Rachel Moran’s new book Governing Bodies: American Politics and the Shaping of the Modern Physique. I got to see UNT through the eyes of my son as he shared stories of his experiences in our LinguisticsMusic, and Tennis summer camps. As summer comes to a close, I am enjoying the special treat today of watching Associate Professor of History Andrew Torget attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records by delivering the world’s longest history class by teaching his Texas History course in 30 hours (come join me in support of Professor Torget by dropping by the Lyceum in the Union to watch this epic attempt today or tomorrow).  I hope each of you enjoyed your summer as much as I enjoyed mine.

This time of year always has me thinking about my favorite parts of being part of a university community. We each have so much opportunity to help our students succeed and shape the world around them.

Here are my three favorite things about the start of an academic year:

No.1: Welcoming New Students and Colleagues

I’m proud to report that we are expecting more than 10,000 new students to arrive at UNT this fall. This includes a significant increase in the number of graduate students, growth at our Frisco campus and we are proud that we have 32 more National Merit Finalists joining our student ranks this fall. All these new students balances our enrollment numbers as this past year we graduated more than 9,300 students – a number we are looking to increase with your help!

In addition to welcoming 96 new faculty and 60 new academic staff members to campus this fall, we also are welcoming new leaders in academic affairs. Here’s a look at some of our new faces:

  • Dr. Neale R. Chumbler from Western Kentucky University joined us July 1 as the Dean of the College of Health and Public Service, as well as a Professor of Rehabilitation and Health Services.Read more about Dr. Chumbler.
  • Dr. Jana Hawley from the University of Arizona joined us August 1 as our new Dean of the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, as well as a Professor of Merchandising. Read more about Dr. Hawley.
  • Dr. Linda Holloway is serving as the Interim Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Success. She will be serving in this capacity while Mike McPherson is serving the Mayborn School of Journalism.
  • Dr. Yan Huang is serving as the Interim Dean of Engineering. She will be serving in this capacity while a national search is underway.
  • Dr. Michael McPherson is serving as the Acting Dean of the Mayborn School of Journalism. He will be serving in this capacity while a national search is underway.

No. 2: Pulling Together To Do Great Work (and seeing it pay off!)

As we head into the academic year, we will be having conversations about our strategic goals in the coming months so we can determine how to best work together to advance them. Our focused goals are to:

  • Grow Enrollment & Graduation
  • Grow Research
  • Grow Foundation Assets
  • Grow Top Rated Programs
  • Become a Best Place to Work
  • Achieve an Efficient and Effective System

One example, is our effort to become a best place to work. While UNT was named a Best Place to Workand a Best Place to Work for Women by Forbes, we know that there is more we can do to improve our workplace. This past spring I invited our faculty to participate in the COACHE survey.  Preliminary results and next steps are available on our COACHE webpage. Designed to generate not simply “interesting” data, but actionable diagnoses, we are organizing to act on the results. In the next few weeks, a COACHE Priority Setting Task Force will bring faculty and academic leaders to advance our mutual goal of advancing UNT as a best place to work by determining which areas will be addressed first and creating an action plan. If you are interested in becoming engaged with the COACHE Priority Setting Task Force, please contact Lee Walker, leadership fellow in Academic Affairs.

And while we haven’t even officially begun the semester, we already have marked points of pride where our teams have come together to move UNT forward:

  • The new College of Visual Arts and Design building has opened creating an outstanding environment for our students, faculty and staff.
  • As we enter our third year at UNT New College at Frisco, we are experiencing double digit growth, as we expand our number of degree programs.
  • We have several offices that have moved this summer:
    • The Academic Success Center at Sage Hall is shaping up as more offices are moved in and ready to serve students. We’ll be telling you more about all the resources for students in the coming weeks. The center now includes the offices for TAMS, Honors, BAAS, UIT Testing Center, the Math and Writing Labs, Learning Center, Advising Services, Strategic Retention Initiatives, Disability Accommodations and the Dean of Students Intervention Services.
    • Study Abroad is now on the first floor of Marquis Hall.
    • Sociology is now on the second floor of Sycamore Hall.

No. 3: Coming Together, Celebrating Each Other and Focusing on Our Future

One of my favorite ways to get to know members of our campus community is through my informal lunches each month. I encourage you to join me this fall. You bring your lunch, I’ll provide the drinks, and everyone brings their voices and perspectives so we can have an informative and thought-provoking conversation about UNT’s trajectory. Please contact Margaret Vestal to sign up for one of the dates listed below. Slots will fill on a first-come, first-serve basis to faculty and staff, with seven slots available for each lunch.

  • Sept. 28 from noon to 1:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 15 from noon to 1:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 20 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Please plan to join us at 3 p.m. Sept. 13 for President Smatresk’s State of the University address (doors open at 2:15 p.m.). Then head to the Gateway Center for a reception honoring our own Dr. Richard Dixon for being named a Fellow of The Royal Society, the world’s oldest organization dedicated to the understanding and advancement of science.

We are a team that takes great pride in the roles we play in supporting our students and the success of UNT. I look forward to us all bringing our passion and drive to accomplish great things together this year. Please remember my office cares deeply about the success of our students, faculty and staff. The more you keep my team and me informed, the easier it is to support you and your colleagues. We are committed to finding ways to make things work.

Feel free to drop me a line this semester and let me know what you are working on, a key accomplishment or if there is a significant challenge you are encountering.