The University of North Texas accomplished big goals in the last year -- such as conferring a record-breaking 9,465 degrees, securing more than $36 million in philanthropic contributions, growing research expenditures to $37 million and scoring the winningest Mean Green Athletics season in 40 years.

University accomplishments, including the largest-ever enrollment of 38,154 students  and UNT's partnership with the city of Frisco to expand higher education opportunities in Collin County, were celebrated by UNT President Neal Smatresk Thursday at his 2018 State of the University.

“I believe this was the most celebrated year we have ever had. Our faculty and staff are so strong and our students won more awards in prominent national competitions than I've ever seen,” Smatresk said.

Throughout the hourlong presentation before a crowd of more than 500, Smatresk recognized student, faculty and staff achievements and specifically called on the community to continue to provide a #UNTCares culture that helps students succeed on their journey to graduation and beyond.

Richard A. Dixon, Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Founding Director of UNT's BioDiscovery Institute, was one clear example of faculty soaring higher. Dixon recently was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society, the world's oldest organization dedicated to the understanding and advancement of science.

The university community has produced phenomenal innovations and made great achievements this past year — with more to come as creativity remains at the center of UNT's identity.

“It's time for us to dream big and launch ourselves into national prominence,” Smatresk said.

And with its caring atmosphere and collaborative spirit, UNT is poised to achieve even more with the addition of new degree programs and facilities.

“Our curriculum is constantly evolving. We're always adding new programs and new areas of concentration,” said Jennifer Cowley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We have to keep modifying our curriculum to meet the needs of not just professionals today, but also think about what students are going to need to be successful for their next career in the next 20 years.”

Focusing on Student Success

UNT's primary commitment is to propel its students to graduation and professional success -- and play an even bigger role in the creative economy in the North Texas region and beyond.

“We are zeroing in on what we're good at and tapping into the tremendous economic growth and opportunity in the DFW area,” UNT System Chancellor Lesa Roe said. “It's an exciting proposition for our students to bridge their talents in the arts, music, sciences, business and entrepreneurship and not be bound by it, but connect to the creative economy. Capturing this opportunity links UNT to what the future needs from us and our place in the economy of tomorrow.”

Encouraging collaboration between disciplines and with public-private partners are ways UNT will achieve its goals and propel the creative economy.

“It's really beneficial that UNT is taking the initiative and building academic programs based on feedback from employers in Dallas and in Frisco and other cities to make sure students are getting the skills they need to be competitive,” SGA President Muhammad Kara said.

Denton City Council Member Paul Meltzer said it's clear that UNT's growth will continue, not only in enrollment, but also in contributions made to the economy of Denton and the North Texas region.

“The clarity of focus on creativity and technology is spot-on for what can make an area, and more specifically our area, increasingly successful. I strongly hope that we're able to retain all that UNT talent here in Denton,” Meltzer said.

Growing Footprint

UNT has more than a dozen construction, renovation and campus improvement projects underway, including the College of Visual Arts and Design's new home, which boasts state-of-the-art equipment.

“It might be the most technologically advanced art building in the world. It's a place where creativity and technology unite and allows our students to achieve the highest level,” Smatresk said.

An integrated curriculum is at the heart of UNT's course offerings in Frisco, which are growing thanks to a partnership with the City of Frisco and its Economic and Community Development corporations that will lead to a 100-acre campus in north Frisco.

“The feedback we've received from our residents and the business community since we announced our partnership with UNT has been tremendous. For many years corporations considering making Frisco home would ask about the educational opportunities for their employees and we didn't have an answer,” Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “Now education is a strength of our community, and we're able to help train the workforce. Our business community is very excited to see what's next.”

In Fall 2019, UNT's Frisco location will offer a unique cohorted curriculum for incoming freshmen that will emphasize applied critical skills sought by employers. Students will choose two concentrations, participate in a cooperative education/internship each summer and complete the program in three years.

Other accomplishments cited include the construction of Joe Greene Hall, a tour center, and the Biomedical Engineering Building, and partnerships between NetDragon, Toyota, Dallas Cowboys and Texas Motor Speedway.

Improving Retention Rates, Graduating More Students

Another big goal is to improve retention rates. UNT already has increased advising support and developed new programs, such as consumer experience management and data analytics, to fit Generation Z's interests.    

UNT also provides a wide array of support services so students know faculty and staff care about them.

Emily Elizando, a junior double majoring in fashion merchandising and digital retailing, was featured in the event's closing video describing the campus environment like a “warm hug on a nice day.”

“It's the people at UNT who make the biggest difference. You can tell that Dr. Smatresk is vested in our students and that it's from the heart,” said Grant McCasland, men's basketball coach. “From a leadership standpoint, that is everything I want to be about as a coach.”

All of UNT's goals and initiatives go to the heart of UNT's mission -- student success.

“Our students want UNT to transform them into successful professionals with strong skills, confidence and a network of friends,” Smatresk said. “We are the catalysts for that transformation.”

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