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Smatresk outlines UNT’s successes and shortcomings of the last year

Smatresk outlines UNT’s successes and shortcomings of the last year

September 17
00:33 2015

Dalton LaFerney | News Editor


Sarah Lagro | Staff Writer


Students, faculty, alumni and donors packed the Murchison Performing Arts Center Wednesday afternoon to hear UNT President Neal Smatresk deliver his second annual State of the University address, where he gave an overview of the university’s progress over the last year and announced education and research initiatives for the year ahead.

The address marked the beginning of UNT’s 125th anniversary. Tuesday, known as Founder’s Day, marked 125 years since Joshua Chilton, the university’s first president, gave the opening address to what was the Texas Normal College Teacher Training Institute.

During today’s address, Smatresk gave an update on the university’s pursuit to becoming a tier-one research institution, something he mentioned throughout his speech. There are 23 key metrics that indicate a university’s status in regards to being tier-one, which, Smatresk said, are 2 years old. Smatresk said UNT has improved on 16 of the 23 metrics. The university compares itself to peer schools in Texas and across the United States.

“Clearly in our pursuit to tier-one, we’re going to have to up our game in terms of fundraising,” Smatresk said. “We don’t have the kinds of retention rates we need, although in the past year I think we’ve moved fairly close to 80 percent retention.”

State of the University Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Smatresk smiles as he tells the crowd that this semester’s enrollment reached a new record of 37,231 during the State of the University address Wednesday morning. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Smatresk added that this semester’s enrollment of 37,231 is a record for the university

Part of that tier-one effort is to build more facilities for students and faculty conducting research so the university can increase its research output, another measurement of a tier-one institution. Though funding for a new College of Visual Arts and Design building was granted, the Texas Legislature denied funding for a new science building.

“We lack research space, period,” he said. “Over the next six years, we’re going to have to make a concerted effort to improve the amount of research square footage on our campus in order to house the faculty who can generate the awards and improve our research outcomes.”

Three major areas where the university needs to improve are in fundraising, transfer student retention and doctoral and graduate student enrollment. The largest gap to fill, in terms of tier-one, is in fundraising.

Smatresk added that this semester’s enrollment of 37,231 is a record for the university, a sign, he said, that students are recognizing UNT as a go-to school in the state. On the same note, Smatresk told the UNT community that this year’s freshman class is the largest in school history.

Over the next year, Smatresk said UNT will prioritize creating a unique brand identity. In the past, he has said the university’s brand image was unorganized. Strides have been made to organize UNT’s approach to position the school as a creative community for students looking for a closely-knit research environment.


A large crowd gathered to hear the State of the University address held at the Murchison Performing Arts Center Wednesday afternoon. Matt Brown | Staff Photographer

“We feel like we’ve been a great institution for years now, and we want everyone to feel the same way,” he said. “We want our students to walk away from the campus feeling like they’ll always be part of our campus. New traditions are coming in our 125th year.”

Near the middle mark of his address, Smatresk said the university has upgraded the parking situation on campus.

He discussed the two new parking lots added to campus: one near Victory Hall and the other off of Interstate 35. Smatresk also spoke about the 2015 Parking and Transportation Master Plan Study, which ended Wednesday and comprised of a consultant group that gathered input from the UNT community for a future campus transportation system.

As UNT advances through its 125th year, Smatresk said he and other officials will conduct routine town-hall-style meetings to hear from faculty and staff on ways to improve the learning environment.

Last year, Smatresk said he visited every department on campus, hearing from faculty about what UNT is doing right, as well as areas it can improve.

“Last year, we proved what working as a team can do, to help transform the university amd put us on the right track,” he said. “This year, I ask each of you to commit. We all need to own these goals.”

Featured Image: President Neal Smatresk steps on stage to deliver the 2015 State of the University address. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Click here for more photos from the event.

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