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Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Tania Heap, Ph.D., UNT

Tania Heap, Ph.D, UNT

Born in England and raised in Germany and Italy, Dr. Heap learned a thing or two about making homemade gnocchi and Italian motorcycles. But wherever she's lived, including just 10 years in the United States (not yet three in North Texas), above all she's a people-person, motivated to serve others and make their lives easier. That's exactly what she does at the Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application and Research (CLEAR). Never was it more apparent than during the early stages of the pandemic when demand for developing online courses for scrambling faculty tripled, and making those courses accessible for all was of urgent importance. Along those lines, her proudest work moments will warm your heart and make you happy that she's on our team. Get to know her. Click below. So read on and get to know Dr. Heap (including her favorite headbanging bands).

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My favorite thing about my job is being able to interact with people. I know we’ve all been based remotely the last year-and-a-half, but still being able to interact with not only our internal staff and faculty, but also with students, to be able to bounce ideas off each other, connect with research faculty and hopefully providing helpful services to them.

What specific challenges has the pandemic presented for your department, and your role specifically?
One challenge was new hires. It was a little bit challenging to think about how to support them as they on-boarded remotely. Screen-sharing is a technology that you can use to still train and support them, and it worked out pretty well. The other challenge, because we serve online faculty, the demand for developing online courses obviously tripled, and so at the time last year we were still the same staff, and actually we had lost a few staff members. I would say that was the most challenging part was during the early stages of the pandemic, being able to still provide good service, but with a much higher demand. I think we’ve reached a balance now.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I think it would be really nice to combine vacation and sick days as personal time off. This way you have just one bucket of personal time off that combines vacation and sick time, and use it however you need to -- for a doctor’s appointment, if you’re not feeling well, if you just want to take a day to relax -- I think that would give people more flexibility. I’m hoping that we can get to that point. With many of us having to working remotely, I think people are beginning to realize flexibility is good.

What is your proudest work moment?
I'm not sure I can name just one. In general, a proud work moment for me tends to be a situation where we’re working with a faculty member who is struggling to make their course accessible, maybe they spend a lot of time putting together a really good quality class, but then they have students with disabilities who need to access the class in a different way. For the faculty, all of that is new and, obviously, they can get quite stressed about it. Being able to work with faculty, but also with the student to find out the solution, and then for them to say, "hey it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, thank you for helping me," and just seeing the faculty feeling better about it at the end and the students feeling better about it; so really feels good being able to serve both the faculty and the student, particularly those with disabilities. Sometimes we just need to do minor adjustments to a class, but for somebody that is brand new to accessibility in a digital world, it can feel at first overwhelming. So to me, the proudest work moment is seeing faculty and students feeling better about the experience and feeling thankful after working with us and relieving them of the stress.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
I enjoy cooking, so when I try something new or something I cooked turned out pretty well that’s maybe complicated to make, that’s one thing. If people really like my dish, that makes me really proud. I usually cook mostly Italian dishes, like homemade pasta, homemade gnocchi, I make a homemade tiramisu, cakes and desserts. My fiancé, he’s learning a lot about making Spanish cuisine, so together we’ve tried things we haven’t done before and they’ve turned out pretty well. I grew up a part of my life with my great aunt who was like a grandmother figure for me, so she taught me how to make homemade gnocchi, homemade pasta, homemade cakes. When I make something and it turns out pretty good and people like it or when I taste it and say this is how my great aunt would have made it, I feel good about that. My mom’s side of the family is from Italy, from Turin, in the northern part.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I think most of my colleagues kind of know me now, but I would say probably one is my musical tastes. I don’t know why, but for some reason people get surprised when I say I like metal music, industrial metal. People look at me and say you don’t look like somebody who likes that, but I really do. I like Rammstein, a German band, Skinny Puppy, Iron Maiden, old-style Metallica. In terms of hobbies that sometimes surprise people, I ride motorcycles, really because of my fiancé. Each of us have a bike, my fiancé has a BMW; mine is an Italian bike called Moto Guzzi. They are both touring bikes for long distance driving. We enjoy going on vacation to national parks. We like to ride the bikes and then go some place and hike.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie: I really like James Bond movies.
TV show: I don't really have a favorite TV show. We watch soccer matches and we like to watch sports.
Place to visit: We enjoy going on vacation to national parks in the U.S. and outside the U.S. We like to ride our motorcycles and go some place and hike.