Pacing on the stage of the Murchison Performing Arts Center, University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk went through a dense presentation outlining the past year’s accomplishments and upcoming goals for the university.
The address to community members, faculty, staff and students has become an annual tradition under Smatresk. He spoke for nearly an hour Thursday, highlighting university accomplishments like reaching Tier One research status with the Carnegie Classifications. He also outlined bold goals like doubling research funding by 2021 to keep up the pace to maintain top research university status.
“I’m not putting the ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign up on the back of the aircraft carrier,” Smatresk said. “We’re going to continue to push to more deeply entrench ourselves in Tier One.”
He talked about other initiatives in the coming years that will help solidify UNT’s place in the Carnegie Classifications, like renovations to the Science Research Building, the hiring of 81 additional faculty members and funding 100 new teaching assistant positions for graduate and doctoral students.
“As revenues grow we are making major investments in faculty, graduate students, research facilities and improving graduation rates,” Smatresk said after the address. “These investments will build our reputation and help our students directly and indirectly.”
Even with the new faculty members, UNT is pacing behind its peers in numbers of tenure and tenure track faculty, as well as revenues, funded research and financial gifts to the school. This circles back to one of Smatresk’s key challenges: maintaining Tier One status.
These gaps are already closing under Smatresk, and since fall 2014, revenue at the university has increased by $95 million, he said. Additionally last school year, research expenditures grew by $2 million.
His other key challenge for the upcoming year is improving student success and adding value to UNT’s brand. To overcome this, Smatresk is putting several initiatives into place, like a new program called Career Connect, which aims to have at least half of students completing a professional development program.
“We need to do better at telling our story about how we add value to our students’ education — we need to prove their success here and make sure they can secure great jobs when they graduate,” Smatresk said.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.