Higher Education Development Initiative

In the Spring of 2013, the UNT Center for Higher Education became the UNT Higher Education Development Initiative (HEDI). The primary reasons for the name change were (a) for the name of the entity to come into better compliance with institutional rules on the criteria that distinguish organized efforts to advance research, teaching, and service; , and (b) to better reflect the entity's contemporary mission.

The Center, and now HEDI, have been in near-continuous operation since 1972. The operations and priorities of HEDI have evolved based on the needs of the UNT Higher Education Program, the opportunities to contribute to the university's and the field's tripartite missions, the interests of faculty and graduate students, and the initiatives of the incumbent director. Since 2007, the Director has been Dr. Marc Cutright, UNT Associate Professor of Higher Education.

The primary activities of HEDI currently are two, both of which reflect the meanings of "development" in several senses:

  1. HEDI organizes and supports the annual UNT Texas Higher Education Law Conference. Founded by former UNT Vice President and General Counsel Richard Rafes, an attorney and a doctoral graduate of the UNT Higher Education Program, the Law Conference remains true to its objectives: to improve professional service in higher education in the state by expert presentation on legal and law-related issues, particularly those particular to Texas; and to create funding, via revenues above expenses, for graduate student scholarship support and academic initiatives in the Higher Education Program. In recent years, the conference, held in the early Spring, is attended by 250-300 people and creates $15,000 or more in scholarship funds annually.

  2. HEDI supports the UNT Higher Education Program initiatives to support the expansion of higher education access and the enhancement of its quality, particularly among historically underserved and international populations. These initiatives are undergirded by a commitment to the philosophy that state, national, and world development on many fronts will be grounded in more and better higher education. A particular emphasis has been the development of partnerships, institutional development, and research in sub-Saharan Africa. HEDI Director, Dr. Cutright, will be a Fulbright Scholar to Uganda and East Africa during the 2013-14 academic year in support of these objectives. Several doctoral students have completed or are working on dissertations on international education, particularly with an African focus, and are engaged in hands-on work in this area. Support of initiatives under this large umbrella includes support for faculty and staff research and service for American Indian higher education and other minority students in the U.S. and for special circumstances key to more degree production in the country, such as the creation of pathways and support for transfer students.

The HEDI operates without any ongoing budget allocation, release time for faculty, or special office space. Thus HEDI represents an exceptional fiscal value for the University of North Texas and the taxpayers of the state.

History of the Higher Education Development Initiative

Since 1972, the Higher Education Development Initiative has been in near-continuous operation under the name of the Center for Higher Education.

The first Director of the UNT Center for Higher Education was the late Dr. Dwane Kingery, former Dean of the College of Education, Professor of Secondary Education, and Professor of Higher Education. He directed the Center from 1972 until 1992. He was particularly active in the solicitation of donations to support student scholarships and conference travel.

The late Dr. Barry Lumsden, Professor of Higher Education, assumed the position of Director in 1994 and served in this capacity until 1996. He enabled the Center to co-sponsor the Journal of Community College Research and Practice, of which he was the founding editor.
Dr. Paul Dixon, former Dean of the College of Education, directed the Center from 1996 through the Fall, 1998. During his tenure, the Center began co-sponsoring the annual UNT Texas Higher Education Law Conference.

After another brief interruption in service, the late Dr. Jack Baier, Professor of Higher Education, began his term as Director of the Center, with a special emphasis on publication in the field of Student Affairs.

Dr. Marc Cutright became Director of the Center upon his appointment to the Higher Education faculty in 2007. He co-directed the Law Conference with Dr. Richard Fossey, an attorney and Professor of Educational Administration, from that time through the 2011 conference. The conference enjoyed enrollment increases of 40% and 30% in two consecutive years. Dr. Cutright assumed the role of sole director of the Law Conference for 2012 and 2013, and he will continue in that role for 2014 despite his Fulbright residence in Uganda. Dr. Cutright also has led the Center to central involvement in the enhancement of higher education internationally.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the University of North Texas conducted an extensive review of all centers and institutes to determine alignment of their structures with current definitions of such entities. Dr. Cutright served on the Executive Council of Directors that conducted this review. When it became clear that the Center for Higher Education operated differently than most Centers on campus, he requested that the name be changed to the Higher Education Development Initiative. This request was approved by the Provost, the Dean of the College of Education, and the Council. The change in title will not substantively affect the operations or purposes of HEDI.