Message from the Chancellor – A System of One: Updates and Top Priorities

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students of the UNT System:

It has been a while since I communicated with our UNT community. Please know I will more regularly update you. As a result, this message will be longer than most.

Since our team started seven months ago the UNT System leadership has been hard at work, laying a foundation that will allow us to become a unified team and “One” as an organization. We have an opportunity to realize academic, research, financial, and community success simply through collaborating with each other. Working with each of you I believe we can change how we work together and work as one great organization with one great team composed of great institutions of learning. Today, I want to specifically update you on the progress we have made over the last few months in this direction.

We have appointed a new Cabinet at the System-level, which includes campus Presidents. Our new cabinet – your cabinet – is collaborating, and encouraging others to do the same, to develop stronger working ties in academics, research, and across all campuses and disciplines.

We are also working to ensure that our relationship with the Board of Regents remains strong, supportive, and aligned with our shared vision. We are doing this through increased communications, ensuring they have the information they need to make the best decisions. If the Board of Regents is better able to make decisions in support of our shared vision, our collective work goes farther in support of our students, our team, and our communities. And we are beginning to tie our activities to metrics that matter, so our board and our entire leadership can better understand our progress and our challenges.

Of course, you all have been instrumental in helping me in my transition as Chancellor by being incredibly patient, gracious, and open to sharing new ideas. I want to thank you for participating in the McChrystal Group organizational diagnostic in April and May. We had a fantastic response rate, and this allowed us to hear the voice of the organization in a way we couldn’t through individual conversations. The McChrystal Group will present the results of the diagnostic at the August Board of Regents meeting, and we look forward to sharing that information with everyone.

The number one thing I want to share from the McChrystal Group diagnostic results is the affirmation that our number one strength is our people (which I believed eleven years ago and still believe today). The survey described our team members as mission-driven, motivated, and hard-working professionals who are dedicated to our students and their success. This is something I couldn’t agree with more and I see firsthand when I’m visiting campuses and meeting with members of our UNT community.

While not a surprise, hearing this inspired me – to know that you shine through to outside observers as much as you do to me. And for this level of dedication to remain steadfast throughout all the challenges our society has faced over the last two years, speaks to the strength and resilience of our UNT community. This kind of commitment and passion is a large part of why I took the job as your Chancellor and is a reminder of why we do this meaningful work. We are all on one team, and I’m honored to serve alongside each of you.

Over the last few months, I’ve really enjoyed spending time in commencement ceremonies, several campus small group meetings with the various campus cabinets, faculty senate leaders, and other teams listening to ideas each of you have shared. It is clear you believe that working together we can take the UNT System to the next level. I heard very clearly you are hungry for more information, communication, and the means to provide feedback. I appreciate your engagement and your desire to make the UNT System a better place for students, faculty, staff, and everyone we serve. My Cabinet members and I will be spending even more time on campuses in the future. In the meantime, you can always drop a line via – I am excited to hear your ideas and am open to your concerns. You can expect another update from me after the Board meeting on August 11th & 12th, outlining any major actions to come and detailed results of the McChrystal Group organizational diagnostic.

In the coming months, we will also begin the process to build a unified values-based culture. Many of you will be included in this work. You might ask WHY we are doing this? The “WHY” can be answered in five key points we should all want our culture to provide us. A UNT system values-based culture will allow us:

  • to build a true sense of one organization and one team working together on many levels,
  • to grow as a team of choice, so we engage, support, and unify our people,
  • to attract and retain the best faculty, staff, and students,
  • to sustain a high level of excellence in education, research, philanthropy, and performance,
  • to always contribute to the communities we serve

I also look forward to sharing specific initiatives we have been working on, with a special focus on our new System Vision statement, innovation, curiosity, excellence, and the future economy.

Before closing, allow me to speak personally. As a practicing physician for many years, I was mindful that those receiving treatment from me and my colleagues were real people, with real concerns, and often not certain in that moment where the roadmap of life was headed. I remain aware of the personal side of life we share. We are all experiencing many challenges, a very hot summer, drought conditions, frequent fires, higher fuel and food costs, and COVID-19, among other concerns. All these challenges call for us to be resilient as individuals and as teams with a readiness to support each other as needed. In the hustle and bustle of each day, let’s please remember to lift up and encourage our colleagues, our students, and our fellow humans.

In the meantime, I hope to see you on one of our campus locations. Please don’t hesitate to say “hello” if we cross paths. Thank you again for your commitment to making the entire UNT System the best place to learn, work, and serve.

With Gratitude,
Chancellor Michael R. Williams