North Texas Daily

In evaluation, Smatresk gets good marks from Jackson

In evaluation, Smatresk gets good marks from Jackson

March 21
10:58 2016
[df-subtitle]Lee cautions UNT’s ‘greatness’ rhetoric[/df-subtitle]

Lisa Dreher | Staff Writer


Chancellor Lee Jackson’s executive performance evaluation of UNT president Neal Smatresk’s job performance from February 2014 to 2016 praised his managing efforts behind the budget and faculty hires, but urged him to set clearer, more tangible goals to achieve university goals.

The Board of Regents, during its executive session on Feb. 25, cut the live-stream cameras for an executive session to assess Smatresk’s decisions and plans for UNT. Smatresk’s review was provided by the university through a request for information over spring break.

The regents recently voted to extend the university president’s contract through 2019, and there is a pay raise on the way for him, which combined with this evaluation offers a glimpse into Smatresk’s two years as CEO of UNT.

Jackson said in the “quality/innovation” portion of the evaluation, Smatresk has performed well in hiring faculty and providing better incentives for students to enroll and stay at UNT, like merit scholarships and graduate student packages, the report said.

“Research strategies are being reviewed and focused and key academic leadership positions are being filled,” Jackson said. “The placement of a new permanent Provost has provided [Smatresk] the opportunity to discuss higher expectations for program review and student success with deans and department chairs.”

Jackson said UNT’s Denton campus must focus on producing the most successful students through research opportunities, as reflected in the new undergraduate research fellowship program created this semester.

In Smatresk’s evaluation, Jackson said many universities, including UNT, long to be recognized as a “student-centered” university, and that UNT must now put more energy in providing the best undergraduate experience among the school’s competitors. Smatresk, the report said, has created the framework for improving opportunities for academic success among undergraduates, but Jackson said they must reach concrete resolutions to move forward.

“It is not clear to me that we have yet identified the specific ways in which we will innovate and excel in this area and earn the reputation as having the ‘best undergraduate experience’ of any research university in Texas,” Jackson said. “We need to agree on what will be the best measures of progress in our targeted areas for both academic excellence and the student experience.”

In the “partnerships” area of his evaluation, Jackson’s said there is “opportunity for improvement” in building networks and lasting relationships with businesses and local governments. He did not, however, blame Smatresk for the inevitable slow progress in building these partnerships.

“This indication of an ‘opportunity for improvement’ is more a reflection of the institution’s long history than your accomplishments in two short years,” Jackson said. “You have done a good job of moving quickly in several areas where future partnerships are clearly possible.”

Jackson said a relationship with Texas Woman’s University would potentially form a “nationally-significant collaboration,” given UNT’s proximity to the university and TWU chancellor Carine Feyton’s leadership in the Denton community.

Jackson said Smatresk should create a team that will find new ways to reach out to people, like alumni and donors, who will demonstrate those outside of UNT see the institution’s worth.

UNT was recently reclassified by the Carnegie Classifications of Higher Educations as among the top schools in “highest ranking for research activity,” an upgrade from being among the top in “higher ranking for research activity.”

Jackson suggested Smatresk review the “best examples of communications from respected universities” because of UNT’s new title by Carnegie.

Jackson cautioned Smatresk on UNT’s public relations message, referring to UNT’s billboards and recruiting material often boast the school’s achievements. He said stronger universities use more modest voices in advertisements.

“Words like superb, leading, etc. imply exceptional performance compared to peers,” Jackson said. “Casual observers may believe that all university messages, and all university presidents, speak in this voice, but that has not been my experience.”

Smatresk received an “above average performance” ranking for his management style by Jackson, specifically for how he budgeted expenses to minimize excessive spending.

Jackson admired the president’s careful planning of campus space and buildings. He said he appreciates Smatresk working with the UNT System’s Human Resources staff to create a professional environment, but said in 2016 that outdated policies which contradict one another must be updated for “recent events.”

“It is a comprehensive ambition to replace operational complacency with a higher standard of expectation,” Jackson said. “Just as we are doing in academic areas.”

Featured Image: File Photo Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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