Dean Watts Welcome Back Message: Fall 2019

Dean Greg Watts:

It's great to see all of you here today. I hope you all have had a wonderful summer and are excited for the new school year. It is truly wonderful to start this semester with our facilities completed. This is for me, and for many of you, our first semester with any sense of permanence about our space. To all of you who had been residents prior to the building project and to everyone who joined the college during the project, I want to start my remarks with a huge Thank You. To all of you. It has not been easy, at times it has been outright frustrating – and literally deafening, as we have lived with the construction around us. I know we were unable to achieve everything we wished for in a manner that was entirely comfortable or appropriate to us, and that disappoints me as much as anyone else. But, that was then, and this is now.

It is time for us to look forward and celebrate what we do have – and recognize just how strong we are and how rightly proud we can be of CVAD. Much of the work I do as Chair of the NASAD Commission allows me to weigh our own situation against that of our peers. I read reports and briefs, follow-up actions and memos about programs across the country. I will tell you it is indisputable that we measure up, and then some. And, it is not just my opinion. It is also reflected in the external view – the one of all our new colleagues and students, and of the many visitors I have spoken with over the summer. Their view is one of excitement and admiration. They applaud these world-class facilities that support world-class people in their work. So... what now?

I'll run out the metaphor one last time: We have most certainly built the aircraft as we have been flying it. And, I will say that we have built a very fine aircraft. Therefore, as of today, our question becomes "where shall we fly it"? Many of us will be leaving this meeting to start the important work of planning our future during our first major strategic planning session. The rest of what I will be sharing here in these comments will relate to that work. You might think of it like the lecture ahead of a quiz in the classroom – it's the one where you are given the hints about the questions that may be on the quiz. Let's do some studying and some revision:

  1. President Smatresk has decided to focus this year's UNT efforts on two Gallup Survey Questions: #1 "I know what is expected of me at work" and: #8 "the mission/purpose of the institution makes me feel my job is important". We are all encouraged to have conversations about these two inquiries. What do we value, and how do we attain that value from our workplace. These two questions are something for each of us to consider moving forward.
  2. Provost Cowley is forming a task force R1 Our Way. Over the course of this Fall, the group will develop alternative scenarios and recommendations for how we can best advance our standing as a Tier 1 research university. In my meetings with many of you last year I heard the essence of this – you asked me "So, what does Tier 1 mean to us". I carried that question forward on your behalf and while we can await answers from others it is certainly worth considering the question for ourselves as we conduct our own planning.
  3. The University, as part of its system-wide brand audit has established some key identifying statements that will be used to define us moving forward. The President will give his "State of the U" address this year at 2:30 pm, Thursday, September 12th. I encourage you to attend. You will likely hear the statements in his remarks. They are: "We produce the creative leaders of tomorrow"; "Our steadfast commitment secures our success", and; "We embrace and empower students in a supportive community." Out of the same system-wide audit, it was also established that UNT Denton believes our top values to be that we are "Caring" and "Creative." You may recall that last Spring, as a precursor to our planning work this Fall, I made the same values inquiry to you, and I appreciate your overwhelming participation in responding. As a reminder, CVAD's top values are, for us organizationally: Learning, Creativity, and Community. And, for us personally: Creativity, Learning and Integrity. I think it is fair to say that we already align well with the values of our institution as a whole.
  4. From the President and Provost's "Listening Tour" meetings last year, certain themes were identified as important by the campus community. Those themes state that we want to be a collaborative University – one that is connected, synergistic and interdisciplinary. We want to be an inclusive University – one that is engaged with the Community. And, we want to be a sustainable University – one that is a leader in environmental and mental health.

These four items I have just shared with you, along with our own values, are important as we align our college planning to institutional vision. I am proposing to you that rather than a static Five-year plan, we adopt a Three-year rolling plan that is both directional and aspirational – one that guides our college forward. We will review and revise this plan annually. And in so doing we can chart our successes while being nimble enough to make changes as, and when, needed. Our own vision must be combined with intent. It must be coherent and inclusive and it must demonstrate measurable goals... because – "what gets measured, gets done."

I am asking all of you to consider what makes us unique? What should we aspire to? What are our core pillars? What will allow us to change with care and with speed? Let me now turn to some acknowledgment of the collective success we have already had. We regularly see the "Good News from CVAD" published and the content keeps growing, in both quantity and quality. Congratulations to you all. With a Marketing Director and a new Development Officer now joining us, it will be as critical as ever for you to share your good work. I intend for us to become UNT's "worst kept secret" very quickly. No more knowing how good we are without asserting it. I have great hope for using all available channels - social media, traditional media and our forthcoming (completely!) redeveloped, redesigned and reimagined website - all will tell our story, very loudly. So, here are some specific measurable successes -so far: We have completed a $70M building project on-time and within budget, resulting in 238,000 sq. ft. of world-class facilities for our college. This summer I secured $3.8M in additional funds toward our budget for a second building. We are in the program planning phase now. These funds will provide fully for Graduate Studios and a Ceramics facility. And, a foundry facility. I know there are still other college-wide elements unaccounted for, and I assure you they are not forgotten.

A massive thanks goes to everyone for their effective enrollment management in the college. Our Advising Director, the Chairs and the Associate Deans and all of their brilliant staff are collectively responsible for increases in our Semester Credit Hours of 16%, and 6.5% in our Headcount over the last three years. Very impressive given the circumstances we have been living under! For this Fall we currently have the highest increase in SCH, by far, of any college on campus at 12%. And, continuing to manage and smartly grow enrollment will be critical moving forward as we now benefit directly, with the implementation of differential tuition.

With regard to the support and teaching of students and those student increases: Both growth and balance in our staff have occurred. We have increased college staff by over 40% in the last three years. With numerous hires in full-time searches for faculty, we have a net increase from 48 to 65 full-time faculty over those three years. And, we will be undertaking more new hiring this year. These are quite remarkable numbers. It takes a great deal of time and dedication to run so many searches and I thank everyone who has had a role in helping with these substantial and much-needed increases.

As many of you know our former Development Officer retired at this time last year. And, we have just replaced her(literally!). I have spent the last year working directly with senior leadership in Development to focus on cultivating major gifts. One of those gifts comes to us from one of our own, and his wife. I am thrilled to tell you that we recently signed an agreement for a gift of $500,000 by our founding Dean, Jack Davis and his wife Gail. If you run into them please be sure to offer your own personal thanks! The numbers on our success in fundraising overall are: 2016 - $1M; 2017 - $3.6M; 2018 - $6.65M; (First 1⁄4) 2019 - $600,000. These numbers plan for growth in the future as our endowment funds have grown by 172% – from $2.74M in 2015 to $7.48M at the end of 2018).

Colleagues, the state of our union is excellent. We have accomplished so much and we have everything to be proud of: our past, our present and our future. Let's now create our destiny – together. No more "best-kept secret" for CVAD. For everything all of you do in support of our students – I thank you. Let's go make a plan!