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University of North Texas president to step down after 10 years

University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk speaks on the UNT campus in Denton on March  8, 2023.
UNT President Neal Smatresk speaks during the faculty senate meeting on March 8, 2023. Smatresk announced today he will step down this summer. Credit: Maria Crane/North Texas Daily

University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk is stepping down this summer after ten years as president of the 47,000-student public university in Denton.

According to a Tuesday press release, Smatresk told the university community that he will continue teaching biology at UNT.

“When I first took on this role, I knew we had the potential to achieve great things, and because of the dedication, passion and hard work of our faculty and staff, we have flourished in ways that are nothing short of remarkable,” he wrote to the faculty and staff at UNT in a note alerting them of his decision to step down on Aug. 1.

Under Smatresk’s leadership, UNT became a Carnegie Classification Tier One research university in 2015, the highest level of research classification possible and a prestigious status that helps universities attract top faculty, students and funding.

Last year, the Texas Legislature created a $3.9 billion endowment that will provide additional funding to four “emerging” research universities, including UNT. Smatresk has said the university will use that new funding to increase enrollment and meet North Texas’ workforce needs. The university also secured more research funding from federal agencies, like the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, than ever before.

“I am proud of the many notable accomplishments President Smatresk has made over the past decade on behalf of UNT,” said University of North Texas System Chancellor Michael Williams. “He has created a strong foundation and legacy that will empower UNT to achieve great success in the years to come. We are thankful for his leadership and unwavering commitment to UNT and our North Texas community.”

Over the past decade, enrollment has grown by more than 11,000 students and the university earned federal status as a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution. A public or private university can apply for HSI status when at least 25% of the student body is Hispanic, unlocking additional federal funding.

Under Smatresk’s leadership, the university successfully fended off a lawsuit seeking to overturn the school’s policy to charge in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. Texas law allows undocumented students who have lived in Texas for three years and graduated from a Texas high school to pay in-state tuition. A group of students, represented by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin, alleged it was illegal that UNT charged undocumented students in-state tuition rates while out-of-state citizens paid higher tuition rates. Last year, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the university, reversing a federal district court ruling that had blocked the practice.

Smatresk served as president of the University of Nevada Las Vegas for four years before coming to Denton. Before that, he spent 22 years of his career working at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The University of North Texas System did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a timeline to search for a new president.

The Texas Tribune partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.

Disclosure: Texas Public Policy Foundation, University of Texas - Arlington and University of North Texas have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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