Dee oversees UNT Dallas' lone residence hall, Wisdom Hall. What a year it has been, charged with making life normal and fun for student residents while keeping them safe throughout the pandemic and then February's winter storm with its ensuing power and water outages. And talk about a full plate, this husband and father of a 1-year-old daughter is also working on his doctorate. With all that going on, sometimes one just needs to put their head in the clouds. So it's a good thing his weekend hobby takes him into the great blue yonder (who knew a paper airplane obsession in grade school would lead to this?). When he seeks inspirational motivation, he turns to his hero, The Rock -- yep, the wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson. You won't believe the two-year plan he put in motion to meet him -- and it worked, brilliantly.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I'll have to split this up in two parts. Pre-pandemic, when we were on campus, my favorite thing probably was just walking around to the different offices and talking students, building relationships with them. That was my favorite thing to do, literally, just get out of the office and go talk to people. Now, my favorite thing I do is working with our team to come up with creative ways to still engage with students and make our program attractive for them to want to apply to live on campus again.
What employee benefit or activity would you like see added to UNT World?
I would like to see some educational benefits that expand beyond the UNT System. For example, I’m currently in a doctorate program at Maryville University in St. Louis. I would have loved to have been in a doctorate program at UNT Dallas, but we don’t offer my concentration of higher education leadership. I could take the program at UNT, but there is no intra-system discounts, so now I’m taking it at another school, and I would just like for us to feel supported in continuing our education if the opportunities are not available where we work. I'm about halfway done. I'll be done next December.
What is your proudest work moment?
I came to UNT Dallas when they were six months into this [residence hall] project. So a week before we opened, the first floor basically flooded because a pipe had burst in the boiler room. We had to relocate 30 students to hotels in the area for like eight weeks. When we opened, all the residents who were able to move in, were having a good experience. And then when we were able to bring those 30 students back from the hotel, we still managed to create that opening moment, walking to campus, your first year on campus, and really create that experience for them. I think that was really my proudest moment.
What is your proudest non-work moment?
Easy, when I became a dad in August 2019. We had a little girl, Parker. Being a father is the best thing ever. When I first saw her, my whole mind set about life and how I view life changed, like how every decision that I make I have to keep her in mind, what can I do to set her up to be successful or at least demonstrate what positivity is in life, and I'm constantly growing in that regard.
What fact about you might surprise your work colleagues?
I like to fly planes, and I'm actually working on my private license right now. I don’t think anybody knows that about me at my job. It’s a single-engine propeller for now, but eventually I’d like to go to that next size. It’s just a hobby. I like to fly my wife and daughter around. I’m doing the flight hours right now, usually two Saturdays out of the month, I do four hours each weekend of flying with an instructor. You need like 1,200 hours, so it’s purely just a hobby right now. I fly always with a co-pilot in the cabin with me and I think we don’t go more than like 1,700 feet, but I enjoy flying. I enjoy all planes in general, starting off from making paper air planes in school. I used to get in trouble for making paper planes in class. I would always have the longest distance and the best designs, so I think from that as I got older it became, let me check this out. I’m learning in a Cessna SkyHawk, three-passenger, single-engine, propeller. I do most my lessons at the Dallas Executive Airport.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie: Four Brothers
Inspirational hero: The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), for sure. He was my childhood favorite person. My dad took me to one of his wrestling shows when I was a kid and I just always liked him. When I worked in California, one of my part-time jobs was working security for the San Francisco 49ers, and at that stadium, Wrestlemania was coming like two years later. I really only got the job because I saw the schedule of events for like the next three years, this was in 2013 or 2014, and I saw the Super Bowl was coming up there, I saw Wrestlemania was coming up there, a couple of concerts, so I had to get in. I became security for the 49ers, only to use that credential for when Wrestlemania came so that I could meet the Rock. I worked all the football games those two seasons, Wrestlemania came up and I had my season credential for all-access to the stadium. I showed up the Sunday that the event was happening. I didn’t know if he was going to be there because the night before he was hosting Saturday Night Live and I was thinking he’s not going to make from New York to Cali just to come and do this event. It was like 6 a.m. and sure enough he was there rehearsing. I walked up to him and was super-nervous, but told him, "you're my hero and I only took this job so I could meet you." I literally stayed for the rest of that day. I called my wife and two friends and told them to meet me at the stadium, come to the show and I basically walked out on the job that day because my goal was accomplished. He was a super nice guy.