Written by: 
Erin Cristales
Photography by: 
Kara Dry

When Danny Armitage's daughter told him about her experience at last year's First Flight Week -- a unique program in which resident advisors walk freshmen to sessions that discuss how to be successful at the university while also allowing them to become better acquainted with students and staff -- he had one question for her.

"You've been here for four days," said Armitage, who serves as UNT's associate vice president of student affairs. "How many students on your floor would you feel comfortable hangingout with?"

"Oh, " she responded, "15 or 16."

Armitage was delighted -- but not surprised.

"Those connections are incredibly important," he says. "Because as soon as people know where they fit in, that they have friends and they're connected, they're going to work harder to be successful academically so they can stay in those communities."

First Flight Week is just one in a long list of ways UNT faculty and staff are working to ensure all students feel ready for university life. With retention a nationwide concern -- as many as one in three freshmen don't return to college for their sophomore year, according to U.S. News & World Report -- the entire UNT community is making sure students feel supported in their educational journey.

"Every student who walks on to our campus comes with hopes, dreams and aspirations," President Neal Smatresk says. "We must provide the human touch, help them overcome hurdles and connect them to resources so that they do not leave UNT before they are prepared to achieve their dreams."

Succeed at UNT

One initiative focused on achievement is Succeed at UNT, a campaign that outlines how to leverage available resources to excel at the university level. Relaunched this year, the initiative provides six main tips for student success: show up, find support, get advised, be prepared, get involved and stay focused.

The website for Succeed at UNT, provides links to academic, financial, legal and health services, among others.

"When students don't do as well as they expect, I'm going to reach out and remind them of all of the resources that are available," says Rebecca Weber, a lecturer and undergraduate advisor in the Department of Chemistry.

Strategic Retention Initiatives

Helping students confidently transition to university life is the primary focus of the Office of the Provost's Strategic Retention Initiatives. These include Early Start -- a summer bridge program for first-year science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors -- as well as the Male Alliance for a Rigorous, Transformative and Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning (MARTIAL Eagles), a living/learning program designed to improve retention and graduation rates for African American men.

The office also offers consultations with faculty to help them develop strategies to improve retention among their students.

"At UNT, our goal is to prepare our students for a productive future and launch them into the world," says Brenda McCoy, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and administration. "Everyone in the UNT family plays a role in contributing to student success."

Student support resources at UNT