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Tax year 2022 is just around the corner, and with it comes new IRS limits:
 
> 403b (TSA) annual contribution maximum if under 50: $20,500

  • Catchup for over 50: $6,500
  • Combined limit (ORP and TSA): $61,000

> 457 (Texa$aver) annual contribution maximum if under 50: $20,500

  • Catchup for over 50: $6,500
  • Salary limits (no further contributions once salary cap is met for the year):
    • TRS: $290,000
    • ORP: $305,000

Not participating in a Voluntary Retirement Saving Plan? Get informed on all options by visiting our web page. Contact your Benefits Advisor if you need help getting started or have any questions. It’s easy to participate and starting to save now can have a big impact on your future.

Robert Wall, UNT

Robert Wall, a retired police officer and certified fraud examiner, is an expert in criminal justice, securing a home and personal property, and general safety tips while shopping. You see where we're going here? The busiest shopping and traveling season of the year is upon us and crooks and thieves are just waiting to pounce, whether we're headed for a shopping excursion at the mall or leaving our homes for vacation. A professor in UNT's Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Health and Public Service, Mr. Wall provides advice and tips on how to foil "porch pirates," taking precautions on shopping outings and protecting our property while we're gone. 

 

Q: What are some new or increasing holiday crime trends?
Mr. Wall: With the rise in online purchases, so-called “porch pirates” are becoming more prevalent. Porch pirates are thieves who wait for packages to be delivered outside your home and then take the package before you can bring it inside. Porch pirates either randomly travel a neighborhood or follow delivery trucks as they travel their delivery route. Porch piracy tends to dramatically increase over the holidays.

Q: How do I protect my home from porch pirates?
Mr. Wall: Several ways work great. Set up email delivery notifications with the companies you purchase from. If you are away from home, consider having packages delivered to you at work, or delivered to a neighbor. Set up a Ring doorbell, remote security system (internet-based) that notifies you when it detects movement near your house.

Q: I really want to return to shopping in person. What are some tips?
Mr. Wall: The key to being safe at malls and other venues is simply using common sense. Stay in lighted areas that have a lot of people. If you can, park near a visible security or surveillance camera, you have found a great parking spot. Criminals avoid the cameras, which protect both your car while you are away and you as you walk to and from your car. Finally, be aware of your surroundings. If you are walking to and from your car, especially at night, keep your cell phone handy but stay off it. The phone is a distraction while you are walking and texting, and is a target for thieves who know they are worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Q: How about online safety when making purchases on websites?
Mr. Wall: 
Online shopping requires you to disclose financial information to a third party. It also requires you to transmit that information over the internet. To protect the information in your computer, make sure to always keep your online security software updated and current. Also, make sure you use a VPN or virtual private network. As far as "data breaches" of the vendor (instances where the vendor gets hacked and customer information is compromised), there is little you can do other than respond immediately to the breach to minimize and isolate the damage that has occurred. The bad news is that data breaches are relatively common, while the good news is that most vendors are actually pretty good at resolving the issue quickly. Notify the vendor as soon as possible, then assume much of your data has been compromised. Change passwords on other accounts and credit cards. This is true if you use a single password for multiple accounts. Consider using a password generator program that generates reasonably complex individual passwords for all your accounts. They are reasonably inexpensive and some software is free (make sure you address their legitimacy).  

Q: I’m traveling for the holidays. How do I keep my property safe while I'm away?
Mr. Wall: I have two major holiday tips. If you are driving, remember the Texas motto, "Drive Friendly." There seems to be a lot of stress during the holiday season, and it may be worse this season. Road rage and fatality accidents are both on the rise. If someone cuts you off in traffic, give them a wide berth. Aggressive driving very often leads to road rage, which is becoming more of a problem. If you are away from home, use sensor lights and timers to your advantage. Burglars target unoccupied residences, so make it look like someone is home. Also, if you are on vacation, share the vacation social media posts when you are home, not while you are away. While you may trust your Facebook friends, security settings on social media can be a little tricky. If your vacation posts end up on a friend’s site, others may be able to look at it and know your house is unoccupied. Some law enforcement agencies have a program for a vacation watch. These programs allow you to fill out a form that lets patrol officers know that you are away. This is a great option if it is available where you live.

Q: Any final tips?
Mr. Wall: Remember, there is a huge infrastructure of both government entities and private businesses dedicated to your holiday safety. Law enforcement and security officers are there to keep you safe. If you feel unsafe in your surroundings, find someone to help: a security guard, a police officer or even a business employee. This is also true on campus, where you can always call the police department on your campus: UNT Police Department, UNT Dallas Police Department and UNT Health Science Police Department. Each department has some great year-round safety tips, such as these from the UNT PD. For more detailed tips than I can give in this limited time and space, remember your local police have crime prevention units and social media sites where they share tips. Let’s all watch out for each other and have a safe and joyous holiday season.
 

UNT husband and wife professors Amir Jafari and Neda Habibi

We're happy to present our first couples Spotlight and it features a power duo from UNT's Department of Biomedical Engineering. The husband and wife team of Amir Jafari and Neda Habibi joined UNT just a few months ago.This pair has been inseparable since they were undergraduates at Isfahan University of Technology in Iran. They completed their masters, Ph.D. and postdoc degrees together and have lived all over the world during their 18 years of marriage -- Italy, Switzerland, Iran, Singapore and the last six years in the U.S. His research area is rehabilitation robotics; hers is nanotechnology for cancer therapy. Does it get better than that? Get to know Drs. Jafari and Habibi.

 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?

  • Dr. Jafari: Being able to do research on topics I like most which at the same time have potential to help patients. Robotic is a fascinating field of research, especially when it is towards developing new technologies to help mobility impaired people to gain some level of independence and being able to perform their daily life activities. 
  • Dr. Habibi: It is about its final goal: developing new technologies that can help people with cancer to have better therapeutic medicines. Nanotechnology is designed to provide a novel and improved approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Nanoscale drug carriers can interact with large biological molecules on both the surface and inside cells involved in cancer. 

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?

  • Dr. Jafari: I am a new employee of UNT world, but I know it has grown tremendously. The University of North Texas is a great place to work as it is a tier one university according Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. I am excited about the new Science and Technology Building and I believe that will enhance the research productivity of the UNT, especially in the engineering field.
  • Dr. Habibi: As a tier one university, I would like to see UNT’s engineering programs to become frontiers among the universities in DFW area.   

What is your proudest work moment?

  • Dr. Jafari: When I heard that my NSF CAREER proposal is going to be funded. This was truly an amazing moment for me because I think this project has a great potential to revolutionize the soft actuation technology for robotics. I am very excited to work on this project.
  • Dr. Habibi: I recently joined UNT and enjoy every day of work at UNT. But in particular, when NSF notified us that our collaborative proposal of $7.5M is going to be funded to establish a Micro-Nano Technology Center was one of the proudest work moments for me.  

What is your proudest non-work moment?

  • Dr. Jafari: Being with my family is always the most pleasant aspect of my life. 
  • Dr. Habibi: There are many and hard to pick one. I enjoy every moment playing with my two sons.   

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?

  • Dr. Jafari: When I was an undergrad student, my plan was to withdraw from the university and become a professional soccer player. I am now happy that I decided not to follow this plan. 
  • Dr. Habibi: I have been married for 18 years and have been all around the world during these years: six years in Iran, six years in Europe (Switzerland and Italy), two years in Singapore and six years in the United States.  

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?:

  • Dr. Jafari: Soft Robotics in Rehabilitation- This is the book I spent 3 years of my life on it as its editor, so that must be my favorite book!
  • Dr. Habibi: Charlie and the Chocolate factory (Not the movie, I meant the book)-The Alchemist -Veronica Decides to Die

Movie?

  • Dr. Jafari: Godfather 
  • Dr. Habibi: Inception

TV Show?

  • Dr. Jafari: Shark Tank- I really like when somebody comes up with a new idea that can truly solves a genuine problem and commercialize it. 
  • Dr. Habibi: Dancing with the Stars  

Inspirational Hero?

  • Dr. Jafari: Steve Jobs- I think without Steve Jobs and his talent, we wouldn’t be here as we are today in terms of technology. He has changed and shaped the world many times as a pioneer, for example: computer world with Apple II- Music Industry with iPod- Animation Industry with Toy Story- Mobile phone industry with iPhone.
  • Dr. Habibi: All the first responders during the COVID pandemic  

Place to visit?

  • Dr. Jafari: Paris
  • Dr. Habibi: Paris 

Restaurant?:

  • Dr. Jafari: Pizzeria 
  • Dr. Habibi: Pizzeria

Song?

  • Dr. Jafari: Ich will Nur Dich by Alex (he is a German singer) 
  • Dr. Habibi:  Last Christmas  

Celebrity?

  • Dr. Jafari: Mark Cuban
  • Dr. Habibi: Dua Lipa 

Hobby?

  • Dr. Jafari: Rubik's Cube
  • Dr. Habibi: Painting, walking

Charitable cause?

  • Dr. Jafari: Children's education and schools 
  • Dr. Habibi: Children's education and schools 
Chet Guy, Ph.D, UNT history professor

UNT System HR brings you UNT World experts with this periodic and always timely installation called "Ask An Expert." So, let's ask...

EXPERT: Guy Chet, Ph.D., UNT history professor, is an early modern historian (17th-18th century), teaching classes on Revolutionary America, Atlantic piracy and military history. He's the perfect expert to explore the history of Thanksgiving, from the First Thanksgiving's realities and falsehoods in 1621 to our modern-day celebration. He takes us into the amicable relationship between the Pilgrims and Native Americans at the first feast, and the complications that followed; and then examines the events in America and Americans' psyche during pivotal moments in history when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday some 240 years after the First Thanksgiving during the Civil War, followed nearly 80 years later when President Roosevelt made it a Federal holiday to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November at the onset of World War II. Please, dig in.

 

Q: The story of the First Thanksgiving (1621) is usually told as a story of a neighborly gathering between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. However, this version is particularly fraught with falsehoods about the times and the relations of these two groups. What do the facts reveal about that initial Thanksgiving?

Dr. Chet: Historically, Thanksgiving is a harvest holiday that was observed in England and in the Germanic parts of Europe. In England, they observed days of fasting when God inflicted bad things on them, such as floods and droughts, and they celebrated days of thanksgiving when God showed His benevolence – a victory on the battlefield, good harvests, etc. In 1606, for example, the English started celebrating an annual day of thanksgiving on Nov. 5 to commemorate the thwarting of the “gunpowder plot” to blow up King James I and his Parliament. This holiday eventually became Guy Fawkes Day, which is still celebrated there today.  

Painting depicting a scene from the first Thanksgiving

 

The traditional tale about Thanksgiving in America indeed retells the story of the thanksgiving celebration that took place in 1621, a year after the settlers arrived at the colony of Plymouth. They had a feast with the neighboring Algonquin Indians, which demonstrated their bond of friendship and neighborliness, facilitated trade between them and cemented their military alliance. 

Those who debunk and ridicule this story point out that it’s a fairy tale that we tell children about how sweet, tolerant and benign our ancestors were, when in fact, in the years that followed, these English settlers took advantage of their Indian neighbors in trade, fought wars against them and pushed them off their land.  

This is true, of course, but it does not negate the fact that in 1621, these groups really did have good relations – they were commercial trading partners, and they were military allies against the traditional Indian enemies of the Algonquin Indians. Over the next 50 years, however, relations grew worse. It’s a common story in human history – friendly relations go sour (see, for example, the United States and Cuba or Iran). By the same token, history is filled with stories of former enemies becoming friendly over time – the United States and Canada, Britain and France, Germany and Russia, Israel and Egypt...

When people debunk the story of the First Thanksgiving, therefore, they don’t really debunk it. They instead contextualize it by pointing out that it was merely the first scene in a long play, and that the following scenes in the drama of Anglo-Indian relations were decidedly less friendly and benign. By contrast, the traditional story of the First Thanksgiving tells the story in context of the previous year.

The English settlers in Plymouth lived through a harrowing and miserable experience that first year (1620-21) – their crops failed, they didn’t know how to hunt or fish, and the New England winter was much harsher than anything they had experienced in England. They were starving and helpless – of the 102 settlers that landed in Plymouth, 45 had died that first winter from starvation or disease. Considering the First Thanksgiving in this context (the context of the previous year, rather than of the years that followed) sheds light on the mentality of those settlers, whom we (modern Americans) usually struggle to understand.

Most of us would not have it in us to thank God after experiencing such hardships and seeing our friends and family starve to death; we would instead be resentful or angry. When the story of that original Thanksgiving feast is told in context of that cruel first year, it directs people’s attention to the contrast between those settlers and us; it makes us consider what makes some people respond to misfortune with resentment and others with gratitude.

Resentment and gratitude reflect one’s preexisting expectations. People who expect a great deal – from society, from the world or from God – are only mildly grateful when they receive what they are owed, but are greatly disappointed (even resentful) when life fails to live up to those expectations. By contrast, people who expect little will be only mildly disappointed in the face of misfortune. The settlers’ expression of gratitude in 1621 indicates to modern audiences that they believed God (or the world) did not owe them a thing; they deserved nothing. Everything they did have was therefore a gift. So they could look at everything and everyone they had lost and still express sincere gratitude for what they had been given. 

I once read a funny journal entry by one of the settlers telling about their troubles, their losses, the hunger and the bitter cold. But the diarist pointed out that there was reason to believe that God was smiling on their endeavors, because after two months of failure at fishing, they had their first success when they found a dead carp that had washed up on the shore. 

Those who frame the story of the First Thanksgiving in context of Anglo-Indian hostilities in the years that followed are interested in interracial relations in America and in the fate of this continent’s original inhabitants. By contrast, those who frame the story in context of the preceding year are interested in the settlers themselves. Americans who cherish the traditional story of the First Thanksgiving do so not because they think colonial America was an interracial paradise, with Anglo-Americans and Native Americans living in peace and harmony. Rather, they cherish it because they admire the mentality they see on display during that first harvest feast and wish to emulate it – to not be complainers who think the world owes them stuff; to not focus on what they don’t have; and to appreciate and be grateful for everything they do have, which is a lot.

Portrait of a scene from the first Thanksgiving in 1621

Q: A Thanksgiving holiday had been celebrated in England and later in different portions of North America at different times correlating with the harvest. It is interesting that it wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official holiday during one of the most difficult and divisive periods in American history, the Civil War; and it wasn’t until December 26, 1941, that President Roosevelt signed the law establishing the fourth Thursday in November as a Federal Thanksgiving holiday, again during a time of war, soon after the U.S. officially entered World War II. Is there any correlation between the war-time timing of these two recognitions of Thanksgiving?
 

Dr. Chet: It is tempting to see the timing of these national measures – in the midst of a national military crisis – as significant. In 1863, military victory for Union forces was very much in doubt. Also in doubt was Lincoln’s reelection in the 1864 presidential election, which threatened to bring to power a Democratic administration that would end the war by recognizing the Confederate States of America.

 

In December 1941, the United States suffered a stunning and devastating Japanese attack, which launched the country headlong into a massive global war that most Americans had hoped to sit out. Millions of young men were about to be drafted into the armed forces and sent to foreign battlefields, and millions of families faced challenges and dangers on the home front.  

The United States has always been a deeply religious nation, so in the context of such grave threats to the nation and to millions of Americans, one can imagine the U.S. government establishing a national holiday of thanksgiving to reaffirm the nation’s relationship with God and draw strength and faith from that affirmation. This is a common religious experience in moments of existential crisis – a person realizes that s/he is at a moment of great import; a moment of accounting that clarifies his/her connection to and dependence on God. Psalm 23 (one of the most popular and best-known portions of the Bible) dramatizes this religious experience vividly. Until the moment of existential crisis, the Psalmist speaks of God in the third person: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." But, once he faces mortal danger, as he walks "through the valley of the shadow of death," the author speaks to God directly, in the second person, "for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."

However, this spiritual explanation for the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday doesn’t match the timeline in both the 19th and 20th centuries. President Lincoln indeed issued a proclamation in 1863 inviting all Americans to observe Thanksgiving on the same day, and he indeed connected the holiday to the challenges and hardships of the war, but efforts to nationalize the holiday had been ongoing since the 1840s. This effort should thus be seen not as a reflection of wartime anxiety, but of the ongoing consolidation of the United States in the 19th century. From a patchwork of local communities and economies, the country was slowly connecting and drawing together into a more unitary whole – economically, logistically, culturally, legally and politically. It was this consolidation, indeed, that transformed slavery from a purely local arrangement into a national issue that demanded a national policy (first the Missouri Compromise, then the Compromise of 1850, then the Dred Scott decision, then emancipation). This growing national integration produced a growing desire in the country to experience Thanksgiving together, as a nation; to transform it from a holiday celebrated at different times in different parts of the country into a unitary national holiday, celebrated at the same time from coast to coast. Congress enacted a law to this effect in 1870. Following Lincoln’s lead, the holiday was celebrated on the last Thursday in November, but this date was not stipulated in law.

As for FDR, in December 1941 he signed into law a joint resolution of Congress that specified the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, but Congress had introduced that resolution already in January of 1941, and approved it in October, two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s consequent declaration of war. Congress passed this resolution in 1941 because in 1939 and 1940, President Roosevelt moved the holiday from its habitual date to the third Thursday in November to extend the Christmas shopping season in yet another flailing attempt to stimulate the economy during the ongoing Great Depression. FDR’s signing of the Thanksgiving law should be attributed not to the wartime mood that descended on the nation in 1941, but to Americans’ attachment to this holiday. The president’s unilateral tinkering with the holiday schedule irked Americans, so they mobilized their congressmen to force the president to stop.

Zain Ali, Assistant Clinical Professor, New College at UNT at Frisco

As an assistant clinical professor at New College, Zain Ali is new to academia, but that's all the "new" that applies. He brings three decades worth of cross-industry experience by serving over 70 clients in more than 10 countries as a consultant or employee, including leadership or executive roles in engineering, operations, sales and technology. And he's always learning. Zain is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from UNT to add to his engineering degrees. A world traveler who lists his favorite countries to visit by specific characteristics, Zain helped launch a new BS program at the Frisco campus and a "Beacon of Light" program in the Dallas community. He loves to play golf, but these days, academia often has other plans. Get to know Zain Ali.

 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?
Interacting with the students, watching them grow and hopefully making a difference in their learning journey.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I think the benefits that we have are excellent. If we were to talk about an activity, I think it would be great to have one or more activities that allows all the UNT World (Corp, Denton, Dallas, HSC) to connect and collaborate. I am new to academia and feel like that academia could benefit from cross-college/campus collaboration. 

What is your proudest work moment?
Teaming up with Hope Garcia & Peggy Shadduck to launch the BS Project Design & Analysis Problem Based Learning (PBL) cohort program at the Frisco campus. 

What is your proudest non-work moment?
We started a "Beacon of Light" program from infancy at Masjid Al-Islam where we feed homeless and less fortunate people in downtown Dallas by partnering with several organizations such as North Texas Food Bank, etc. Working in that team has been the proudest accomplishment that I have been part of in my life. .

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
I was playing golf three days a week before joining UNT and now I average golf once in three weeks.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?: "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite books since I have been able to apply the learnings by watching for different patterns to come together to launch something memorable, or also have observed unrelated events bring something down.
Place to visit: A few to pick from so it's hard to nail down one. My top three are: Greece for history; Morocco for people; and Saudi Arabia for religious sites.
Charitable cause?: My favorite charitable cause is education. I believe that education can make a difference in changing lives and generations. I am a first-generation college degree holder in 1989 and a second one in family planned for summer 2022 (after my daughter receives her Ph.D. in May 2022).

Wesley Randall, Ph.D., Dean of the New College at Frisco

UNT System HR brings you UNT World experts with this periodic and always timely installation called "Ask An Expert." So, let's ask...

EXPERT: Wesley Randall, Ph.D., Dean of New College on the campus of UNT at Frisco, and a Professor of Logistics, has a passion for new types of project-based curriculum that ensure career-ready students, but a type of education that is overlaid with a respect for humanities that help students understand their why, know how to be the best version of themselves, know how to be authentic and present, and know how to bring out the best in others -- students who not only understand return on investment, but also return on society and return on the environment. Dr. Randall and his team have the goal to create these degrees without prerequisites and make them more accessible to adult learners and transfer students. Dr. Randall said the innovation he learned in supply chain has helped him build a team the is providing new educational value propositions that

resonate with students and stakeholders. With 30 years of expertise in supply chain and logistics, he was a no-brainer to seek out when we began to wonder exactly what the heck's going on with the supply chain disruption and what it means for us as consumers. Dr. Randall doesn't disappoint as he tackles our questions with a remarkable thoroughness and clarity you'd be hard-pressed to find in any news article or nightly news report. He takes us deep inside this massive problem just as the holidays are around the corner and millions of Americans might have to get used to shipping delays and higher prices.

 

Q: What are the reasons behind the supply chain disruption?
Dr. Randall: This is a symptom of a system that is too lean. But I will come back to that. Let’s start with the more immediate cause of these symptoms, driven by COVID-19, but not yet the disease itself. At risk of getting corrected by our friends at the UNT Health Science Center, maybe a metaphor might go like this: I recently had spinal surgery. The reason I had the surgery was because of increased pain and reduced arm strength. That was caused by severe arthritic changes. But what caused the arthritic changes? Hmm, probably genetics and 20 years in the military.

Q: So why are ships backed up?
Dr. Randall: 

  1. There is a severe truck driver shortage. If there is no place for the customs-cleared containers to go, they may as well stay on the ship. This has been coming for a long time. COVID exasperated this. We have known that the amount of folks that were seeking and maintaining qualification for over-the-road transportation runs was dwindling. This was foreseeable. What to do? It's unlikely that companies would make significant investments today for infrastructure, training or equipment that won't pay off for years. Maybe this was a place for state governments to inspire and resource our community colleges to help students achieve their CDL (Commercial Driver's License). This won't be a quick fix because this is about education and training -- that will not happen overnight.
  2. There is a lack of capacity at the warehouses. The distribution system is jammed. Things froze during COVID. Capacity was taken off-line. Now things are flooded. If you have ever seen a major logistics and supply system up close and personal at a distribution center or warehouse, the only thing worse than running out of specific supply is to have a jammed warehouse. It just stops, kind of like throwing stuff in your closet. One day I realize I just have to stop, pull all this stuff out, go through it, give a good bit away to those less fortunate and then figure out what I really need. 
  3. There is an imbalance in supply and demand that further jams the supply chain. The rule of forecasting is they are always wrong. Dr. Terry Pohlen in UNT's G. Brint Ryan College of Business can give an entire class on this, to include all the way to forecast -- I know because I took that class. There were many things I learned.  But what every one of his students remember is the forecast is always wrong. (He is also an amazing teacher, just as an aside). So COVID made it very hard to match supply with demand. We all recall the toilet paper stock outs early on. Home toilet paper was scarce. People were saying, but why? People aren’t going to the restroom more often. True, but they weren’t going to the restroom at their work or the mall. So, while there wasn’t any home toilet paper, there was a heck of a lot of containers of industrial toilet paper. I know, I have a big box in my guest room. Will probably be donating that soon.
  4. There is massive imbalance between the port capacities in China and the United States. Shanghai can handle more than 100,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) daily. Our biggest port, Los Angeles can handle 25,000 TEUs. Overall, China has 446,000, that is an incredible amount. The U.S. has 62,000. And while China uses this capacity to ship to ports all over the world, the U.S. is a large part of that, and we had the income to command those TEU’s once the faucet was turned back on.  There is an imbalance between what we can command and what we can accept. As you can tell, this is going to be the theme.
  5. Labor, both at the off-load and at the origin. Again, this has been coming. We know logistics and supply chain has been a place for growth. We see our students getting great jobs. We know there is demand at all labor levels. As this surge occurs, things back up because there isn't people to load or offload.
  6. Next, there is a lack of capacity in terms of not only the supply chain labor, but also the equipment that that is used to place the containers on once they are off-loaded from the ships. We see these on trains all the time, the containers sit on what is a flatbed that a truck can just hook right up to. It's brilliant. Again, out of balance. The massive incoming supply is met with frustration because the flatbeds the containers are loaded on get stuck at the destination. The system works really well until it doesn’t.
  7. They only way to overcome these infrastructure constraints is for our federal and state government to team up with business (a public-private partnership) and make a massive investment in distribution. This is an area where Texas shines. Some incredible foresight, but more on that in a minute.

Q: Is the supply chain issue causing consumer hardship in terms of higher prices on goods and is it affecting particular goods and products or across the board?
Dr. Randall: Yes.  Prices are going up. We know supply is correlated with demand. If supply is constrained, and demand is not constrained, prices will go up until there is a new equilibrium. I was recently talking to someone very familiar with the shipping crisis. They were saying that they are seeing prices spike as high as 10 or 15 fold. This means what should be a $2,000 cost to ship from China to the U.S. is now $20,000 to $30,000 and increasing. Companies will find some efficiencies, they always do. But, ultimately these costs will be passed on to the consumer. It seems obvious that prices for things that are imported will go up. But consider what we just discussed — every part of the supply chain is jammed and costs are increasing. Those same rail cars needed to ship from L.A. are needed to get your new Jeep from Michigan to Alliance Texas. Unless something is locally grown or sourced, chances are prices will go up.  And even there, such demand will command a new premium even if the costs do not increase.

Q: With the holidays coming, are we looking at shortages of goods in stores? And how will it affect online purchases?
I am really good at discussing what happened and helping analyze the situation. Less good at forecasting the future. Fortunately, at work I have an incredibly wise and talented team that knows much more than me about higher ed. They help me forecast and create strategies. It seems to me that prices must go up and there will be shortages. At the same time, the American economy and American businesses are incredibly resilient and agile. They are responding to all of the issues above. As prices increase, capital will move to supply those new prices. That capital will be in the form of increased capacity. That may be rail cars, trucks, driver pay, locally sourced goods. That means there will be investment and new capacity. Could that happen before Christmas? I don’t know. I will say we will be doing our shopping early and we will also be continuing to examine our own consumerism as we have during COVID. This will impact in-store and online purchases. The case may be that the big online retailers have the capital and the ability to quickly stand up additional supply chain capacity. Brick-and-mortar have struggled with capital reserves. They may be less able to respond, but I am not sure. This crisis highlights the criticality around discussion associated with infrastructure at the federal and state levels. 

Q: Gov. Abbott recently put out a tweet offering up Texas ports to alleviate the congestion off the coast of California, suggesting it takes two weeks to “sail” to Texas. Is this a legitimate solution?
Dr. Randall: This is a massive problem.  While it is bigger than the Port of Houston, the Governor has a very good point. And Texas is well-prepared to do more than its part. During August, the Port of Houston hit its highest capacity ever: 320,086 TEU. That is roughly 10,000 TEU a day. That’s pretty impressive, nearly twice that of Oakland (California) and on par with Seattle/Tacoma. I am sure Houston will continue to exceed those numbers. Additionally, Texas has created massive public-private partnerships like the one at Alliance Texas.  We call these inland ports. Containers can come off a ship in L.A., bypass customs, get on a train and head straight to Alliance where BNSF has a massive rail yard. The coordination is excellent. Further, Alliance has the capability to work with customs on site to get these containers cleared. I have long been amazed at the success of Alliance. I believe more than 50,000 people go to work at the various companies at Alliance. In July, I got to see the success of Alliance up close. I had ordered a new Jeep. I had perfect visibility into when my new Jeep hit Alliance, was off-loaded from the train, got on a truck, was matched with a driver and headed to the dealer. Two days, not weeks. Further, the entire process from order to manufacturer to delivery was right at eight weeks. Pretty impressive. Says something of local manufacturing. Jeeps are still assembled in Michigan.

Q: How will this issue finally get resolved, and once it does, will prices drop?
Yes, the supply chain will balance. Prices will likely return to normal. From a pure capacity perspective, they may actually drop. To burn through the back log will take more capacity than needed once we hit a steady state. We call this the bow wave effect. Like the waves that are before a boat, that increased capacity will result in decreased prices and some of that capacity will be taken offline. I am hesitant to assert that prices will drop though because I am not an economist. There are monetary factors and fiscal policy beyond that supply chain that I do not have the expertise to discuss. You talk about resolution. I want to say this will happen again in the next decade. This leads me back to the root cause, the cause of the imbalance. Recall my story about the cause of my need for spinal surgery being 20 years in the military and genetic predisposition. There has been a 20-year chase to "lean out the supply chain." That is a very profitable practice. There are all sorts of buzzwords around that. The problem is that a very lean supply chain has very little resiliency. That lack of resiliency; our supply chains are fragile, they lack agility and responsiveness when significant unforeseen events happen. The supply chain becomes overwhelmed. We see such things happen every decade. Think back to the tsunami in 2011 that left 22,000 dead. There was a significant disruption to the supply chain. For certain goods, efficiencies mean there are very few suppliers. I am told this is the case in the microchip market. There are a handful of chip manufacturers. If something happens to one of these multi-billion-dollar factories our entire supply chain will shut down. So the question becomes when does capacity, and lack of resiliency, become a vital interest to the United States? Clearly, the disruption has made these questions a topic of discussion. And that’s great. Before COVD, I bet if you had asked any supply chain professional, will there be a massive disruption in the next decade, they would have said, "yes, certainly, we are too lean." 

These questions are now being asked: Should we be using public funds to offset the cost of construction to build a chip plant inside the U.S.? I think so. The root of the success at Alliance was an amazing public-private partnership. Should we be considering our trade policy and how that affects offshoring a reshoring? A modern car has about 15 hours of touch labor during the assembly. Even at $50 or $60 an hour, that’s $600 to $800 per car. How do we generate trade regulation and economic incentive so that it brings work back? And once we do that, how do we continue going back into the supply chain to get the assemblies and sub-assemblies back? The case for offshoring was made in the 70s and 80s. During those times, the amount of labor as a percentage of the cost of manufactured goods was high. Today, the percentages are very low. We hear folks say, "will it matter? A manufacturing plant that used to employ 2,000 workers now only employees 400." Sure it matters, especially when we are discussing tens of thousands of manufacturing plants. The trick is getting over the hurdle to incentivize these manufacturers to build and modernize plants inside the United States.

Jessica DeLeón, UNT

A former journalist, Jessica has showcased her formidable writing chops in the North Texan, UNT's alumni magazine (and other campus publications), for the last 10 years. Her storytelling takes us into the lives of UNT alumni making an impact in our world, from scientists to screenwriters to musicians and everything in between. A proud graduate of Angelo State University, Jessica broke into journalism with the unlikely help of ... wait for it ... Margaret Thatcher, and it has nothing to do with Jessica's penchant for world travel. And when she's just trying to figure it all out, Jessica dials up this classic remake by Reba McEntire or dips into her favorite book, one so inspirational even Ted Lasso has quoted it.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?
I love interviewing our creative alumni. I’ve gotten to talk to Grammy Award-winning rapper Lecrae, “Soul” co-screenwriter Mike Jones and Jeff Coffin of the Dave Matthews Band.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I’d love to see volunteer time incorporated, so we can take an hour to donate blood, attend meetings or help mentor someone during the workday. 

What is your proudest work moment?
I came from a small public university in a small town (Angelo State University) and I wanted to work for a major state newspaper. And I landed a position at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram even though other staffers came from bigger colleges and had great connections.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Being able to travel around the world by myself. I’ve been to London, Paris, Amsterdam. My two favorites are Italy and Spain. That’s me in Florence in the picture.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
Margaret Thatcher helped me land my first job in journalism. The late British prime minister visited Angelo State University in the 1990s. I included the article when I sent out resumes, and the editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle said he liked the attention to the detail in the story – such as the way she touched her pearls and made eye contact with students – that it got me a position at the paper. 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?: "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. It has great advice, and I repeat the title line all the time when things get tough. Even Ted Lasso has quoted it. 
Song: Fancy” by Reba McEntire. Written by Bobbie Gentry, it has a great storyline with attention to detail. Plus, how can you not like this line: “You know I might have been born just plain white trash, but Fancy was my name!”
Charitable cause?Save the Children. I’ve been a sponsor for more than five years.

Dr. Priya Bui, UNT Health Science Center

UNT System HR brings you UNT World experts with this periodic and always timely installation called "Ask An Expert." So, let's ask...

EXPERT: UNT Health Science Center's Dr. Priya Bui is the interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Women’s Health and a graduate of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. With the department since 2014 and the Clinical Chief of Pediatrics since 2017, her clinical practice cares for newborns to teenagers. So, she knows a thing or two about medical care for children. Which makes her the perfect expert to discuss the now-available Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. If you have kids in this age range, will you get them vaccinated? Do you have reservations? Feel you need to be better educated? Dr. Bui discusses topics like the risk COVID-19 poses to children, potential side effects and long-term effects of the vaccine vs. the protection provided by the vaccine, where to find vaccine research and the overall public health benefit of getting eligible children vaccinated. 

 

Q: Throughout the pandemic, an opinion gained traction that children are more or less safe from contracting COVID-19 and if they do get it, it’s not serious, even as the delta variant surged. What are the facts about COVID-19 can children?
Dr. Bui: In early 2020, as scientists and clinicians were learning more about COVID-19 we quickly realized that this was not your common virus. As we learned more, pediatricians and parents alike were relieved that it seemed that the respiratory symptoms and severity did not seem to be as significant for children as it was for adults. We awaited larger data, but we were glad to be able to provide some reassurance to caring and concerned parents. This narrative evolved into people thinking that children could not get it at all and could not spread it to others. Unfortunately, this is false. Throughout the pandemic, approximately 5.1 million children have been infected with COVID-19 and 1.9 million of those children are between 5-11 years old. We know that in the 23 states that report data, there have been over 24,000 pediatric hospitalizations and more than one-third had no underlying medical conditions. With the surge in the delta variant and increased pediatric cases and need for hospitalization, pediatric hospitals experienced unprecedented needs for pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations. Some of these hospitalizations are due to another pediatric sequelae of COVID-19 known as MIS-C, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children, which is a syndrome of inflammation in multiple organs in a child’s body after having a previous infection. We know there have been over 5,000 hospitalizations for this syndrome thus far. Unfortunately, we have nearly 700 children per most reports. Reassuringly, these numbers are better than we see for adults, but for children this is still very significant. 

Q: When it comes to vaccinating their children, some parents suggest they are more concerned about potential side effects or unknown long-term effects of the vaccine than the risk of their child contracting COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill if they do. Is concern over side effects a legitimate reason not to get your child vaccinated?
Dr. Bui: As a parent, it is hard to weigh risks when it comes to your child. The right answer would be something with zero risk. It is important to weigh risks relatively. At this point, we want children to be interacting with others as they were before as soon as possible. Given that coronavirus in some form is here to stay, the relative risk is the effect of your child having COVID-19, including long-term effects vs side effects of the vaccine. We know that the vaccine for children is a lower dose with a lower side effect profile than that of adults. Most children in the study for the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine showed minimal side effects such as sore arm, fever or fatigue. One side effect discussed is the risk for myocarditis, or heart inflammation, after the COVID-19 vaccine. Based on what we know, your child’s risk of myocarditis after a vaccine is much less than myocarditis after having COVID-19 infection. In most data review, it is 5-6 times more likely to have myocarditis after infection than after the vaccine. Reassuringly, we also know that most side effects of vaccines happen within the first seven days. Long term effects of COVID-19 infection include long-COVID symptoms of fatigue, concentration and memory issues, joint pain or respiratory issues. Long-COVID has been reported in 8% of children post-COVD-19 infection. As a parent, I wish there was a zero-risk option, but the evidence is clear that the benefits outweigh the risks for vaccination. 

Q: What protection will the COVID-19 vaccination provide children 5-11?
Dr. Bui: In the study for Pfizer vaccine, which is 1/3 the adult dose given in two doses three weeks apart, the results were that it is effective with equal antibody response in children 5-11. In the study of 2,250 kids, with 1,518 receiving the vaccine, three did become infected with a mild course with little to no symptoms and importantly zero children had a severe course requiring any treatment or hospitalization, and there were no deaths. There will be data on how this impacts MIS-C and long-COVID, but with these levels of protection, we will not see MIS-C and not see long-term effects of COVID post-vaccination. As a parent and pediatrician, this is exciting news. This level of data helps us move forward in knowing the vaccination will be the relief we have been hoping for.

Q: Can you explain the public health aspect to getting vaccinating, meaning it isn’t simply about protecting the recipient of the shot, but also the recipient's fellow students, teachers, parents, grandparents, etc.?
Dr. Bui: The foundation of a pandemic is that this a public health issue. Our actions individually impact each other, our families, our communities and even beyond. If children 5-11 are vaccinated, they protect their grandparents, immunocompromised loved ones, the elderly that may still have some risk, their teachers and fellow classmates and their siblings that are still too young for their vaccine. One of the major ways multiple families interact is through their children’s activities and having vaccination for this age group reduces the spread of infection. They can protect everyone from newborns to the elderly by also protecting themselves. We know that with the approval of children 5-11 receiving the COVID vaccine, that 28 million children are eligible. Thus far, this age range has accounted for over 9% of all COVID-19 infection that has been tested, with the likelihood that many have not been tested or included. Vaccinating this group will impact the progress we are making to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Vaccine skeptics often say they need to do additional research even though the scientific community has published mounds of evidence that the vaccines are safe and are the pathway to ending the pandemic. What would you tell those who are skeptical?
Dr. Bui: I think it is always OK to have questions about your child. I cherish the opportunity to have a conversation about concerns with patients. Most physicians and scientists would love to share what they know and are thrilled to have an opportunity to help your child. Similar to conversations had throughout your child’s life, from newborn and beyond, we are here to help. For some, reading on their own helps. I would recommend looking at the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and I always recommend bringing in what you are reading to ask a physician you know and trust. In terms of the science, it is there. This process has not been changed significantly for COVID-19 and we use studies and data with a volume of cases to ensure that we are making a decision that will significantly reduce infection, hospitalizations and death. Each and every case matters, but looking at all the numbers gives you the big picture. This is an important perspective when doing your own reading.

Q: If the vast majority of children in Texas (and the country) get vaccinated, will it make a difference in combating the virus and returning us to a more normal state of living?
Dr. Bui: The COVID-19 vaccine is our opportunity to return to normal safely. We have seen the impact on children and our community with measures of separation or limited activity, and reducing the severity and spread is key. The COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11 is 90-100% effective in reducing severity, and vaccines still reduce spread at some level even with the delta variant. The burden on schools, daycare centers and childcare-related activities will greatly be reduced knowing the majority of their students are vaccinated. If the majority of children in this age range and their families are vaccinated, we could resume a lot more of normal childhood activities without a concern of COVID-19 severe disease in a child or family members and loved ones.  

Q: Finally, until children are vaccinated, what is the medical community's advice to parents regarding holding events such as indoor birthday parties or sleepovers?
Dr. Bui: Since the pandemic began, we have learned a lot about how to stay safe. For reference, the CDC and American Academy of a Pediatrics was comfortable with children celebrating Halloween this year given a few simple modifications and hosting events outdoors such as trick-or-treating, trying to incorporate masks and very importantly not engaging with others if you are sick. Longer and larger events that are indoors are still challenging primarily because children are close to one another, they share food, toys, they may wrestle or share their mother's makeup. When we know that children are largely vaccinated or at least have the opportunity to be vaccinated, these childhood fun staples can continue much more safely. 

We are fortunate that there are many ways to get your child's vaccine within the next few days. Pharmacies are safe and effective locations and allow many scheduling options. You may see local organizations hosting fairs related to your child's school or other community events, and you may receive your vaccine at your pediatricians' office. My practice is excited to offer the vaccine to children in a place they likely know, but all of these are excellent options and will protect your child and also take us another step out of this pandemic. 

Bethany Evans, Psy.D., UNT

Dr. Evans started at UNT six years ago as a psychologist and now serves as the Director of Clinical Services in the Division of Student Affairs. She oversees specific programming for the university's Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students, guides the clinical programming, which includes policy development and implementation, and works to ensure that these services are accessible to students. At home, life is about to get more exciting as this family of three is about to become four. That means some sleepless nights ahead and so it won't be surprising if, to pass those late-night hours and keep her sanity, this comedy lover doesn't have her favorite TV sitcom cued up at all times. Read on and get to know Dr. Evans. 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?
I love that my position offers variety and that I get to use my problem-solving skills on a regular basis. I also love that my job allows me to have regular interpersonal interaction.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I would love if there were additional paid options for employees taking maternity leave. This is on my mind as I’m preparing to give birth to my second child.

What is your proudest work moment?
My proudest work moments are when I’m able to help students who come in frustrated, hopeless and unsure of the next steps to take regarding their well-being. Instilling hope and helping them get the care they need are among my top proudest work moments.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
My proudest non-work moments are marrying my husband and giving birth to my son.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
In middle school, I discovered that I was a really good long distance runner. I ran cross country and was named MVP in the seventh grade.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie?: One of my favorite movies is Monster-in-Law. I love comedies in general, so anything that can make me laugh is a win. 
TV show?: One of my favorite shows is Martin. It still makes me laugh like I’m watching it for the first time.
Hobby?: I love to cook and try new recipes. My fried pork chops are always a hit!

UNT athletic director Wren Baker and his family

Wren Baker arrived as leader of the Mean Green in July 2016 and ever since it's been nonstop transformation of the athletic program. In short order, he's delivered state-of-the-art facilities, winning programs, outstanding academic success and unrivaled fundraising. And last week came the reward, acceptance into the American Athletic Conference, elevating UNT's regional and national profile. This native Oklahoman, husband and proud #girldad twice over, is a high-altitude travel buff, which sure makes sense as he continues to guide the Mean Green to the mountaintop. Read on and get to know Wren.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?
I get the opportunity to see young people develop academically, socially, and athletically. I get to watch them develop communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving strategies and the ability to overcome adversity through intercollegiate athletics, which is a great privilege.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
More opportunities for social hours and activities to get to know colleagues outside of work.

What is your proudest work moment?
Commencement day. There is a sense of joy for our student-athletes (and all students) when they graduate.  

What is your proudest non-work moment?
The birth of my two daughters (Addisyn, 10, and Reagan,7).

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
I took piano lessons as a kid and can still play a little bit.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?: The Way of the Shepherd: Seven Secrets to Managing Productive People. It’s a short book on leadership that closely mirrors my philosophy. 
Place to visit?: I love the mountains. It doesn’t have to be a specific location. I just love visiting mountain country.
Hobby?: I love to travel with my family. It can be a big trip or a day trip, but just seeing new things with my wife Heather and our two daughters is what I enjoy doing the most.