North Texas Daily

Administration guides UNT toward ambitious goals

Administration guides UNT toward ambitious goals

Administration guides UNT toward ambitious goals
June 12
01:41 2015

Dalton LaFerney | News Editor

Rhiannon Saegert | Senior Staff Writer

While students are preparing to rest for the summer, UNT remains in motion. Moves are being made. Tall cranes sling steel beams to raise new halls, soon to house the students who will carryout administrative ambitions of national prominence.

But UNT has not always been so sure of itself. Ten years ago, if you looked around, you would have found green wasn’t the dominant color, and a specific brand identify had not emerged.

Today, if you talk to university officials, there is uniformity and direction in the Hurley Administration Building with an intensive focus on the future.

The 16th president of UNT is Neal Smatresk, former president at the University of Las Vegas – Nevada and former vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Hawaii – Manoa.

Smatresk is leading an administration that has pivoted away from its reputation as an up-the-road commuter school, and is now racing toward its dream of being a dignified, research institution.

All the construction, Gov. Greg Abbott’s commencement speech, Smatresk’s social media presence and the Eagle Advantage tuition program, is working to position and sell an image.

Almost midway through his second year at UNT, Smatresk has made some robust changes to the executive cabinet. The university has a new vice president for institutional equity and diversity, Joanne Woodard; a new vice president for advancement, David Wolf; and a new vice president for finance and administration, Bob Brown.

Smatresk said the budget planning process is changing as well. Originally, planning was mostly the provost office’s job, but now responsibility for each college’s budget will be shifted onto its dean.

“Deans are going to have to get used to being responsible budget managers,” Smatresk said.

Tentative plans to involve members of the Student Government Association in the administration’s budget planning and implementation workshops are being discussed. The goal is to give student leadership a chance to have a say in how the student service fee is spent.

“It will allow students to potentially partner with us,” Smatresk said. “We want students to be engaged in what we’re doing.”

SGA vice president Christopher Lee said this would be an extension of the already-existing student service fee committee. SGA’s budget is comprised of student service fees.

“The student service fee committee is usually just a spring semester thing,” Lee said. “But president Smatresk approached us and said ‘Hey, we wanted to expand that committee to see the other side of it.’ It’s going to be set in motion, it’s just a matter of getting a timeline.”

The new vice president for enrollment, Shannon Goodman, is particularly important to the university’s evolving recruitment methods. When Smatresk was at UNLV, Goodman was the interim vice president for enrollment services.

“He knows how aggressive I am with recruiting,” Smatresk said. “Enrollment management is the bread and butter of any university. And competition in [Dallas-Fort Worth] is intense.”

The George W. Bush Presidential Center says there are one million children in school throughout the DFW area. DFW universities looking for professional connections with businesses — everything from internships to research partnerships — do so in the fifth largest media market in the country. There are 18 Fortune 500 companies in the Metroplex, according to the Bush Presidential Center.

The top 10 high schools that feed into UNT are all in the DFW area, two of which are in Denton. Recently, UNT has implemented programs directed at snagging DFW recruits directly, namely Eagle Advantage.

The program allows participating high school juniors in the top 20 percent of their class gain acceptance to UNT before their senior year. Administrators figure by giving students an option sooner than other schools, UNT can capitalize. There are five districts participating in the program: Denton, Aubrey, Arlington, Gainesville and Mansfield.

Smatresk said social media has revolutionized the way colleges recruit. He launched his Twitter account, @UNTPrez, to interact with prospective students before they even come for a tour. He retweets and replies on a daily basis.

Because digital analytics of online user behavior is easily accessible, UNT exploits such data to court students who have not finished the enrollment process with retargeting campaigns. The idea is to appeal to the student directly.

“We are focused on reaching out to the students who have shown an interest in UNT,” said Kelley Reese, who oversees UNT’s promotional message. “We want people to apply and go through the process.”

Digital recruitment is strategized with unique online users in mind, Reese said. But, to complete UNT’s marketing push, it uses print media and billboards to advertise its brand to a variety of demographics. Throughout DFW, bill boards announce UNT’s creativity, its latest marketing brand expression.

Smatresk, the marketer-in-chief, as he said, has been the most vocal advocate for this creativity, something Reese said promotes UNT’s mission: Help you be the best at you. Both Reese and Smatresk said before Smatresk arrived, the administration produced mundane advertisements absent of educational facts about the university.

“[The advertisements] lacked clear-headed statements about how good we are,” Smatresk said.

The new advertorial posture intends to educate the DFW area on its specific benefits with brag statements aimed at points of difference within the marketplace.

These statements about a brand are conveyed to a diverse and ambiguous general audience. Traditional mediums like print and billboard advertisements are used to spread brand awareness. One message on bill boards now is “#1 In Degree Choices,” which Smatresk said is misleading and could even be confusing to some. It means UNT is No. 1 in degree options in North Texas.

Still in the early stages of planning for the 2016 fiscal year, Smatresk said the budget planning and implementation process would be shifting further.

Smatresk said money needs to be set aside for an equity exercise that will examine UNT employees’ pay by gender and race, funding graduate students, a faculty pay raise, the College of Arts and Designs building and the purchase of the Sack & Save building just off campus.

Renovations to the Science Research Building, the first floor of which has long gone unused, will also begin. Smatresk said these renovations will be a big commitment, costing nearly as much as a new building. Ten other smaller construction projects are in the works as well.

“We’ve taken a start on the big budget things,” Smatresk said. “If there’s an urgent thing, we will definitely accommodate those requests.”

It’s not perfect, but Smatresk said he’s about where he wants to be at this point. In his first year at UNT, Smatresk sent a message to the university community that the administration would be reformatted. Now, the cabinet changes are almost complete.

“When you fix it right, you get better and stronger as an institution,” he said. “From my perspective, we are at the very tail end of changes at the cabinet level.”

Now the transition begins to the next phase: the vision. After visiting with organizations and programs throughout UNT, Smatresk said the administration is starting to piece together the future image of the university.

“It’s not perfectly formed yet, but it’s coming along,” he said. “We are reaching the exciting point.”

Featured Image: UNT President Neal Smatresk outlines key items on his university agenda in his office in early June. Smatresk became UNT’S 16th president on Feb., April 3, replacing former president V. Lane Rawlins. He and other administrators are currently planning out the university’s 2016 budget. Dalton LaFerney | News Editor

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Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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