The University of North Texas System Board of Regents meetings commenced a busy two days of meetings on the UNT Dallas campus Thursday morning.
Following opening remarks from UNT System Chancellor Lesa Roe and an institutional update from UNT Dallas President Bob Mong, attention turned to UNT Dallas students with a "Spotlight on Students" session. Our student body of some 3,750 was represented impressively and passionately by moderator Zainab Hameed, a senior Communication and Technology major, and a panel consisting of Kierra Byrd, a senior Criminal Justice major and first-generation college student; Monty Grant Jr., a freshman political science major and Student Government Association parliamentarian; and Kamran Anwar, a UNT Dallas alum and second-year law student at UNT Dallas College of Law.
Speaking in front of Chancellor Roe, President Mong, UNT President Neal Smatresk, UNT Health Science Center President Michael Williams and the Board of Regents, the panel eloquently addressed topics such as their experiences at UNT Dallas, how UNT Dallas prepares students for careers, resources available to ensure student success and how they envision a role at UNT Dallas as alums.
"I am a first-generation college student, and it has been pretty life-changing to say the least," Byrd said of her time at UNT Dallas. "It's phenomenal seeing all these transitions take place in my life. To come here and to experience such a close university where the professors, the administration is so personable, I have a family, a sense of connection. It has been so, so powerful."
Grant Jr. expounded on the benefits of the personal attention afforded at UNT Dallas, where so many students are either first in their family to attend college or grew up under challenging circumstances and are determined to better their socioeconomic standing. Grant Jr. said he plans to use his experiences at UNT Dallas as a gateway to help high school students make a successful leap to college.
"I look forward to opening my own school, primarily high school, to get students ready for college. I'm a big advocate for education. I want to let students know that education is what's going to get you further," said Grant Jr., who also has the lofty aspiration of one day running for President of the United States. "Here at UNT Dallas, I see that. The professor-to-student ratio, it's so personable that on that first day of class I'm able to build a relationship with my professor. So this is really gearing me up for my career because as a student leader, I'm able to take these leadership opportunities -- and UNT Dallas has a lot of leadership opportunities."
President Mong has overseen enormous enrollment growth over the last three years as well as significant spikes in retention and graduation rates, as well as the ongoing expansion of the UNT Dallas campus.
"At UNT Dallas we continue to grow, graduate and keep debt low for the students we serve, and we do so at historic levels," Mong reported to the Board of Regents. "We continue to work toward our goals of community connectiveness, growth and relentless pursuit of student success. And as never before, we play an increasingly important role in the community conversation in Dallas. Since we last met, we have attracted significant grants, assumed leadership of a major educational training program and earned reaffirmation of accreditation from SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges). Add all this up, and more, and we believe we have a very good story to tell our legislature and our Board of Regents."
Prior to the start of Friday's half-day session, the Board of Regents will get a hard-hat tour for the nearly complete, $63 million Student Center. The fourth major building on the UNT Dallas campus, the Student Center is a 136,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that will instantly become a hub of student activity and the most iconic building on our evolving campus. The Student Center is on schedule to be completed in the fall and will officially be christened with a grand-opening event.