UNT-Dallas president hopes to distinguish his urban university

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The second president of the University of North Texas at Dallas said his priorities are to keep tuition fees low and to build relationships with employers who will help train students for high-demand jobs.

President Ronald Brown spoke with KERA’s Shelley Kofler before delivering his inaugural address on Friday.

On the second floor of the modern-looking administrative building on the UNT-Dallas Campus, President Ronald Brown stops in front of a floor-to-ceiling window. He shows the distant Dallas skyline towering above the trees of southern Dallas and remembers the first of many times he took this view.

“I looked at this skyline and there were kids studying all along this wall here and I thought ‘Wow, what an inspiration,'” Brown said. “You can be a part of this market because the economy here is the envy of the whole nation.”

Brown says the future of UNT-Dallas is tied to this skyline and the city around it. And that excites him. He says urban universities are “hot” in the field of higher education.

The 61-year-old president is a big city school veteran. He was dean of Wayne State University in Detroit before becoming the second president of UNT-Dallas last July. He also worked at Emory University in Atlanta and Temple University in Philadelphia.

He says the fledgling four-year school he now runs is a campus that will fill a special niche for area employers.

“What we’re really doing is going to town,” Brown said. “We ask employers what they really need, who they need training and how they want them to be trained. So there is a very close collaboration with businesses in the community.”

In the 14 years since Dallas’ first public university opened in a makeshift space, she has built the beginnings of a new permanent campus on 263 acres in South Dallas. This year 2,200 students are enrolled and Brown expects the student population to double to 5,000 over the next 4 years.

He hastens to say what UNT-Dallas is not: “an ivory tower”.

And what he will become: a “community partner”.

“The city is going to need professionals trained in particular fields, in business fields, in health fields, and we will be the place to do it,” Brown said.

He says the university will fill an unmet need by training students for high-demand jobs through programs not offered at most universities in the region. It is already developing sports management, hotel and hospitality management and supply chain management logistics programs, which will focus on moving products efficiently from manufacturing sites to customers.

Brown said UNT-Dallas will focus on keeping tuition affordable and on “experiential learning,” or learning through internships and projects where students work with employers.

Students will still read great literature and earn a liberal arts foundation, but the emphasis is also on hands-on training.

Brown says this is what will set urban universities like UNT-Dallas apart from others.

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