More than 125 business leaders; arts and cultural trailblazers; athletic boosters; and champions of higher education gathered on campus Sept. 7-8 to learn how they can serve as ambassadors for the University of North Texas as it works to engage the region on an unprecedented scale.
The invitation-only event was designed to inform and motivate a select group of alumni and friends in their efforts to positively transform UNT’s student life, academic programs, research and facilities through private philanthropy. Participants represented every college, school and program area at UNT. The Division of Advancement hosted the event, billed as Volunteer Leadership Weekend.
Several key messages emerged from the weekend’s workshops and discussions:
- UNT has an opportunity to position itself as a national and global leader in higher education, in part because the university is located in one of the most vital economic regions in the world.
- Private support for UNT can transform students’ lives, the university and the region, funding visionary initiatives that support its Four Bold Goals in the university’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan.
- UNT is on the rise, and we are poised to serve as a green light to the greatness of others.
The group heard keynote addresses from The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, left, and North Texas Commission President Mabrie Jackson, who both portrayed UNT as an important resource for college access and industry innovation.
Gee, who serves as chief executive officer of one of the nation’s largest and most distinguished land-grant institutions, told participants that private support for public universities has never been more important than now.
“Eighty percent of our college students are educated at public universities,” he said. “Those students are the heart of the American dream.”
Gee said in order for the United States to survive and thrive in competition with the world, great public universities must provide the intellectual capital that will fuel growing economies.
“Great public universities are the new smokestack industries on which our future is built and our democracy will be preserved,” he said.
Gee said advocating for UNT is about more than raising funds. He said the mission is to provide young people with the opportunities college affords.
Jackson echoed Gee’s sentiments about the role UNT plays in the international landscape and the role volunteers can play in moving the university forward.
“Each of you sitting here today has the potential to fuel our region’s economic engine by supporting the students and the researchers who will lead North Texas into the future,” Jackson said. “Your efforts support the economic vitality of our region and provide UNT with the ability to play a major role in supplying the intellectual capital of North Texas and beyond.”
Michael Monticino, interim vice president for Advancement, said Volunteer Leadership Weekend was designed to ensure volunteers have the tools they need to tell UNT’s story.
“We have defined our promise to move this university to a place of even greater excellence, and making that promise a reality takes a team effort,” he told participants Friday night.
The event included a dinner Friday evening at UNT’s Apogee Stadium Club and conference-style learning sessions Saturday. Each session featured key speakers, a panel discussion and work time for committees. Topics included:
- Intellectual and Creative Capital, which addressed UNT’s role as a regional partner, linked with North Texas as an economic, civic and cultural resource for innovation;
- Raising the Bar and Peaks of Excellence, which discussed the importance of broadening the base of UNT’s supporters and outlined tactics for effective collaboration and inclusion;
- Portfolios of Support, which included an overview of the UNT budget, outlined sources of private funding and identified the types of gifts the university can receive; and
- The Call to Action, which offered next steps for participants as they analyze how best to lead their colleges, schools and program areas in fundraising for key initiatives.
Bob Sherman, a volunteer for the College of Arts and Sciences, said even though he is not a UNT alumnus he has been a long-time supporter of UNT because he believes in the university’s mission.
“All of our high rhetoric notwithstanding, what we are doing is all about the students,” he said. “They are why we are engaged in this undertaking.”