Lane Rawlins: UNT, city work together

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Since our founding in 1890 in downtown Denton, the University of North Texas has grown up with the city of Denton.

There is a unique spirit that defines both UNT and Denton — an edginess that comes from being a college town with a musical and artistic bent and an iconic downtown. And having one of the largest universities in the nation located in one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation is a powerful combination.

Growth is giving UNT strong momentum. We’re attracting record numbers of freshman and doctoral students, increasing both the quantity and quality of our student body, while graduating more students than ever.

We have science and engineering programs that are expanding faster than any other areas even as we continue to stand out for our traditional areas of excellence such as education, music and arts. And thanks in part to community support and pride, we’re building a stronger, more visible athletics program with a state-of-the art “green” football stadium.

Throughout UNT’s history, we have benefited from mutual support and shared progress with the city. To be a university located in an economically and culturally vibrant area is great for education, research and recruitment.

And for Denton to have a national university of UNT’s caliber is a powerful incentive for industry because businesses have access to innovative researchers and a great built-in labor force in our students and graduates.

A CNN Money analysis ranks Denton County as the nation’s seventh-best place to live for job potential because of its business-friendly climate and small-town feel, as well as the presence of a strong public research university — UNT.

Our shared progress is a boon, but it’s also placing an increasing burden on the city’s infrastructure. More people, more cars and more traffic are taxing the roads around the university and around town, which affects the quality of life in Denton where so much of our campus community lives.

We’ve been working with the city to identify problems and work through issues because maintaining a good quality of life in Denton is mutually beneficial. The city leaders have been working hard to address challenges, and we find that many of their solutions are good steps in the right direction.

Throughout Denton, you can see the tangible benefits of the city’s investments and vision, from the development of areas such as Rayzor Ranch Marketplace that has brought Sam’s Club and Walmart to the north side of town to the increased emphasis on bike lanes, parks and outdoor spaces.

The revitalization of the Industrial Street corridor and the Fry Street area is breathing new life into this already great community. 

As we have found at UNT, growth must be well managed. To do that, you must balance short-term needs with a long-term vision.

We’ve been working to protect our quality and keep up with our resources and infrastructure with strategic planning and budgeting.

We’re also shaping our future. Guided by four bold goals, we’re focused on being high-quality in every area — education, research, student support, workplace operations and community engagement — so that we can rise to the top.

That’s also what Denton leaders are doing — addressing what needs to be done today with an eye on tomorrow.

We will continue to work with the city and the people of Denton to tackle challenges and drive progress because as history has shown us, our success is inextricably linked.

LANE RAWLINS is president of the University of North Texas.

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