President Neal Smatresk with his wife, Debbie Smatresk.
16th president of the University of North Texas, one of the nation's fastest-growing universities
President Neal J. Smatresk (pronounced SMAH tresk) joined UNT in 2014 with a vision for leading the University of North Texas to national prominence as the largest, most comprehensive university dedicated to meeting the dynamic needs of North Texas.
Under Smatresk’s leadership, UNT was named a Carnegie-ranked Tier One research university, named an America’s Top College by Forbes for 16 consecutive years, achieved a five-year record of continued enrollment growth to serve nearly 47,000 students, and earned designation as both a Hispanic- and Minority-Serving Institution. Now, UNT is one of only 21 Carnegie-ranked Tier One research universities designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution, joining with others to form the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. Thanks to strategic student success investments, UNT has increased student retention, graduation rate, and its role as a social mobility elevator for students. UNT serves the North Texas region and helps drive the state’s economy through innovative research, educational excellence focused on career readiness, and a spirit of entrepreneurship. Together, with its branch campus in Frisco, UNT students earned more than 12,000 degrees last year.
With athletic investments and facility expansions, Mean Green student-athletes and teams are thriving. The men’s basketball team completed a record-breaking season in 2023 and took home the championship trophy in the 2023 National Invitation Tournament. Other Mean Green sports teams including softball, men’s and women’s golf, track and field, and tennis, among others, consistently exemplify excellence, competing in championships each year. The Mean Green joined the American Athletic Conference during the 2023-24 season, and the invitation to join this more prestigious conference also showcases the advancements of UNT athletics – and the overall university. Under President Smatresk’s leadership, UNT also announced a 15-year football stadium naming rights agreement with longtime partner, DATCU.
President Smatresk has led the charge in creating new public-private partnerships with businesses like Southwest Airlines, Liberty Mutual, Lockheed Martin, and JPMorgan Chase. In response to the rapidly changing career marketplace, President Smatresk ensured the addition of 21st century degree plans in fast-growing fields such as business analytics, data science, and urban policy and planning, as well as a partnership with the Dallas Cowboys for an M.B.A. in sport entertainment management. UNT also unveiled the nation’s first bachelor’s degree from a U.S. university on Coursera, the world’s leading online learning platform.
In addition, President Smatresk has expanded the university’s services in Collin County by opening a location in Frisco, one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas and the nation. In partnership with the City of Frisco and its Frisco Economic and Community Development Corporation, UNT opened the UNT at Frisco branch campus’ first building, Frisco Landing, in 2023 to offer higher education and research opportunities to students. With student-centered curriculum, immersive learning, and a focus on student success, UNT at Frisco aims to help bridge the gap between higher education and the public and private sectors.
Before joining UNT, President Smatresk led the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as president for five years and provost for two years. Under his direction, UNLV:
Completed a $537 million fundraising campaign that included creating UNLV’s largest active scholarship program.
Established an Academic Success Center to help students graduate on time.
Opened Brookings Mountain West in partnership with the prestigious Brookings Institution.
Gained approval for a medical school.
Prior to UNLV, President Smatresk was vice chancellor for academic affairs and deputy to the chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa from 2004 to 2007. During his tenure, Manoa:
Entered the ranks of the top 25 federally funded institutions.
Gained three National Academy of Sciences members.
President Smatresk started his academic career at the University of Texas at Arlington and spent 22 years there, serving as:
Dean of Science, 1998-2004
Chair of the Department of Biology, 1994-1998
Professor of Biology, 1982-2004
A biologist and researcher by training, President Smatresk has devoted much of his career to supporting K-20 science outreach programs and STEM development.
As a biologist, he concentrated his research on gaining a better understanding of how the respiratory neurobiology of vertebrates changed in the evolutionary transition from water to air breathing. His research has garnered substantial grant support and has resulted in more than 50 papers and book chapters, as well as grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. President Smatresk also has received several teaching awards. His undergraduate alma mater, Gettysburg College, awarded him a Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award in 2011.
B.A., Biology, Gettysburg College, 1973
M.A., Biology, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1978
Ph.D., Zoology, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas Marine Laboratory, 1980
Postdoctoral Trainee, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 1980-1982
North Texas Commission Board, 2014-present
Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, 2014-present
Denton Economic Development Partnership Board, 2014-present
UNT Professional Development Experience, 2014-present
KERA Board of Directors, 2016-2019
Conference USA Board of Directors, 2019-2021
NCAA Board of Directors, 2020-2022
NCAA Board of Governors, 2021-2022
Coalition of Urban Serving Universities Board of Directors, 2021-present
Hispanic Serving Research Universities Executive Committee, 2022 - present
President Smatresk and his wife, Debbie, have been married since 1978.
Ranked a Tier One research university by the Carnegie Classification and designated a Hispanic- and Minority-Serving Institution, UNT is the flagship of the UNT System and is located in Denton. Boasting 250 degree programs and a thriving community of nearly 47,000 students, UNT serves the North Texas region and helps drive the state’s economy through innovative research, educational excellence focused on career readiness, and a spirit of entrepreneurship. Together, with its branch campus in Frisco, UNT students earned more than 12,000 degrees last year.