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In third address, Smatresk outlines some of UNT’s next moves

In third address, Smatresk outlines some of UNT’s next moves

Neal Smatresk, University of North Texas president, speaks at the State of the University about the furthering of UNT into tier 1 status Thursday at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Travis McCallum

In third address, Smatresk outlines some of UNT’s next moves
September 16
18:55 2016

While there are achievements to celebrate since last year’s State of the University, President Neal Smatresk still has big plans for UNT.

The 2016 State of the University speech Thursday packed the Murchison Performing Arts Center with more than 800 people, and brought in more viewers through live stream. Smatresk spoke about the institution’s achievements since he stepped into his position in 2014, the university’s greatest challenges, his goals for the next five years — and even student parking.

Academics have always been at the forefront of UNT’s path to greatness, Smatresk said, adding that students from all over the country are taking notice. Within the last two and a half years, UNT has broken enrollment records, bringing in its largest freshman class to date this year.

“Just this week you may have heard of a UNT scientist having a breakthrough discovery in the fight against breast cancer,” Smatresk said. “Dr. Ron Mittler has found a protein and the regulation of this protein can make breast tumors grow larger or completely stop them in their tracks. This could be a water-shed moment and it’s coming to you as a result of UNT BioDiscovery Institute. This is great news and this is the kind of thing we’re looking for even more as time goes on.”

Earlier this year, UNT was named tier-one in research output by a prominent group. And so were other schools. Colleges that have also moved into tier one status are Texas Tech, University of Houston and University of Texas at Arlington. Smatresk wants to go even higher.

He aspires for UNT to be more like University of California at Santa Barbara, Arizona State University or Georgia State because they are higher rated into the tier-one status and are well-known nationally. Regardless, Smatresk said, he recognizes that UNT still has some challenges to face.

“In many measures, we compare favorably, but I want to focus on a few areas where I believe we can close the gaps,” he said. “Our retention compares favorably to Texas institutions, but we’re lower than our national peers and aspirants. Our graduation rates compare favorably in Texas, but we’re lower than our aspirants.”

Smatresk also addressed that while the average graduate enrollment was not so bad, the doctoral degree production was low.  Doctoral production is one of the foundations of academic reputation as students are being sent to take positions in other institutions, he said.

There is also a need to grow funded research and increase revenue and faculty. The major challenges the school faces, Smatresk said, are improving student success, adding value to the brand and maintaining tier one status.

Infrastructure is another aspect of UNT that has been on the UNT community’s radar as of late, and it won’t be letting up anytime soon. With the completion of Rawlins Hall, the Union and other projects such as landscape and facility upgrades, Smatresk has a bigger vision.

He said he plans to build a new research space for biomedical engineering in Discovery Park, renovate Sage Hall to create a new academic success center and start plans on a new residence and dining hall.

Parking and transportation was also said to be be improved. UNT has brought in one of the top university parking and transportation groups in the world to help UNT develop a more beneficial plan for students and faculty. Smatresk mentioned UNT’s new parking plan, which now provides remote parking at $125 a year behind Apogee and Victory Hall.

Since many students prefer the convenience of close parking but sometimes pay the price by getting tickets or towed, Smatresk also said he wants to find alternative methods of transportation services on campus. UNT offers free transportation that you can request by phone, and Smatresk also wants to provide students with zip cars that they can rent by the hour.

There will also be an increase in bike and skateboard programs.

“We had a few rough starts to how we organized student parking,” Smatresk said. “We didn’t do it as well as we could have and we’re dedicated to fixing it, but the underlying plan is sound. We need more of our students and faculty and staff to be taking our transportation options. We need to make those options more palatable.”

With all of these plans and ideas being put into action, UNT will be a busy place for the next few years to come.

“It’s really positive to see all those things because it reaffirms that positive changes are being made for the betterment of the university,” public relations sophomore Sydney Minor said. “You see things that may get on your nerves and it’s good to know that your voice is being heard.”

While Smatresk presented both achievements and challenges the university has faced since he became president, he said that moving forward all relies on one thing — working together. 

“If we’re going to make all those dreams come true, we all need to commit. We are all working for the same thing,” Smatresk said. “We are one team, united by one purpose. And that’s to empower our students to make their dreams come true.” 

Featured Image: Neal Smatresk, University of North Texas president, speaks at the State of the University about the furthering of UNT into tier-one status Thursday at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Travis McCallum

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Cierra Edmondson

Cierra Edmondson

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