This fall will prove to be the most extraordinary in our university’s 130-year history. As we start this new semester together, I want to take a moment to celebrate the work of our students, faculty and staff. COVID-19 may have shifted our timeline, but we are still making great strides toward achieving our goals.
- We received major recognitions. Liss LaFleur, Assistant Professor of Studio Art, was named Citizen Artist Fellow by the Kennedy Center. Elyse Zavar, Assistant Professor of Emergency Management and Disaster Science, was selected as a 2020 Early Career Research Fellow by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies. Ken Chapman, Regents Professor of biological sciences, received the lifetime achievement award from the International Symposium on Plant Lipids. Francis D’Souza, Distinguished University Research Professor of Chemistry, was named a Fellow of the International Associate of Advanced Materials for contributions to the advancement of materials to global excellence.
- We launched our largest-ever graduating class into the world. Last week more than 7,200 degrees were awarded to May and August graduates during 11 virtual commencement ceremonies.
- We made valuable contributions to our fields, and the greater world. Dina Castro, Professor of Teacher Education and Administration, has been named to a statewide group working to help children whose primary language is not English. For his forensic anthropology work at the World Trade Center after 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing and many other natural and man-made mass casualty events, Professor and Founding Director of UNT’s Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology Harrell Gill-King was honored by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
- While COVID could have hampered student success in the Spring, we saw an increase in students successfully completing their courses, up 3.4%. With all of the preparations our faculty have engaged in, I know we will do all we can to help students succeed.
I look forward to the rewarding semester ahead of us. We have so much to be proud of:
- We are expecting more than 10,000 new students to start classes this week, bringing our total enrollment to more than 40,000 students! This includes students joining us virtually as well as on our Denton and Frisco campuses.
- We have so many wonderful new faces on our campus, including 90 new faculty and dozens of new staff members. Niki Dash, while not new to campus, has been newly appointed as the dean of the College of Health and Public Service.
- This fall we launched five new master’s degrees, including artificial intelligence, data engineering, engineering management and sport entertainment management. We also have two new bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity and project design analysis. Our Coursera partnership for the online version of our B.A.A.S. is welcoming 130 students in its inaugural class.
- We have 89 programs ranked in the top 100, up from 77 at this time last year. New to this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings of the top 100 public universities are our graduate programs in biomedical engineering, computer engineering and mechanical engineering—a testament to our growing strength in the College of Engineering. In addition, UNT’s clinical psychology and speech and language pathology graduate programs are now among the top 100 public universities. Our online master’s in curriculum and instruction and online master’s in educational administration also made the top 100. Many of our programs moved up in the rankings, with the most impressive leap being made by our M.F.A. in studio art, which broke into the top 50 in fine arts, ranked 22 among public universities and 42 overall. These programs join the many others that are ranked by a range of organizations, emphasizing that our academic programs are widely recognized for their excellence.
- Research is on the rise. This year we saw a 16% increase in proposal submissions, which means we can certainly expect an increase in awards to follow this year. For example, Materials Science and Engineering faculty Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, Associate Professor, Rajarshi Banerjee, Presidential and Regents Professor, and Mike Baskes, Distinguished Research Professor, received a $1M grant from the Department of Defense to study how metal allows function at the atomic level. And we saw a 27% increase in students engaged in Undergraduate Research Scholarships.
- Our new UNT CoLab, a unique event, exhibition and retail space, opened virtually under the leadership of Director Kristen Kendrick Bigley. We look forward to opening to the public in the future.
There is so much that we will accomplish together this year.
- A major focus will be on advancing our diversity and inclusion efforts. As an example, this fall we will roll out the Diversity and Inclusion professional development program, created in partnership with Faculty Senate and the Division of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.
- We’ll continue to keep all of our students top of mind, and to ensure new students on campus find their paths to success early, we’re launching four new special programs:
- UNT to YOU: An engagement program in the Learning Center for FTIC traditional freshmen who have opted for a fully remote or online schedule to make sure that we're connecting them all of the resources on campus.
- First-Year Experience Pilot Program: Several hundred of our students are going to be engaged in a hybrid delivery program allowing them to have these engagement experiences, focus on growth mindset and get them started on the right foot.
- International Remote Start: To assist those of our international students who have not been able to obtain their visa. More than 100 students have opted in to our remote start to date.
I encourage you to join me this fall at an informal brown bag virtual lunch. Bring your lunch and 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.
- Sept. 23: 11 a.m.- Noon
- Oct. 1: 1-2 p.m.
- Oct. 15: 2-3 p.m.
One of the main reasons for our continued growth and success is that we lead by example, working together to show students the journey they begin here at UNT can take them anywhere. It is clear from the achievements of our faculty, staff, students and alumni that our passion for discovery extends far beyond the lecture hall.
As we begin this unprecedented fall semester, I ask each of you to take some time to get to know our students. For those who regularly work with students I encourage you to set up brief 10-minute virtual check-ins to see how they’re doing and let them know that you care about their growth and development. And for those not in student-facing roles, take the time this first week of school to say hello and ask students how their day is going as you move around on campus.