UNT has long been a caring university that puts the needs of students first in every situation. I'm proud of our students, faculty, staff and alumni, who immediately began helping with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey with rescue efforts, volunteering at shelters and organizing donation drives. To help our students who were impacted, UNT set up an emergency fund for them, and we responded to the higher education needs of students from other universities.
In addition to reminding us that we're a community of great compassion, this fall also marks an exciting time for us. We welcomed our largest and one of our brightest freshman classes. The Class of 2021 -- all 38,000 of them, including 26 new National Merit Finalists who join our returning finalists for a total of 55 -- brings promise and excitement to our campus. With these students in mind, we're focused on understanding what will define UNT in the future and how we will get there.
In this issue's cover story, "Building Champions and Preparing Leaders," you'll read about our Mean Green athletics program's new five-year strategic plan and future facilities road map, which emphasizes supporting student-athletes in the classroom and on the field. Be sure to join us at football games this season, especially our Nov. 11 Homecoming game as we take on UTEP and celebrate this year's theme, "Deep in the Heart of UNT."
We also welcomed Lesa B. Roe, former acting deputy administrator for NASA, as our new UNT System chancellor. She replaces Lee Jackson, whom we say goodbye to after 15 years of dedicated service. I'm excited to work with Chancellor Roe and explore ways to make our academic programs out of this world.
Exciting initiatives and progress are underway at UNT. I look forward to seeing how we transform to become the university our future students expect and deserve.