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Susan Ross, UNT Health Science Center

When Susan Ross visited a friend in Texas in the spring of 1989 from still-snowy Detroit, Mich., she enjoyed the sunny, warm weather so much she got to thinking about relocating. A return trip during hot, humid August did nothing to dissuade her, and soon she moved to North Texas and never looked back. Same as when she joined HSC in August 2001 as executive associate to the senior vice president for finance and administration. By October 2013, she assumed her role in the Office of the President and became Chief of Staff in 2017. And now, as she approaches her 20th anniversary, she's calling it a career. Her final day at HSC is June 30.

 

Over two decades, Ross has played key roles in helping HSC grow its physical campus, its stature and its impact in Fort Worth, Tarrant County and beyond. With a foodie's palate and an adventurer's spirit, you'll find her discovering new restaurants and exploring far-off trails -- and hopefully soon, that Alaska cruise that the pandemic postponed. Happy retirement! Please read on to discover more about Susan, her career at HSC and what comes next.

Q&A

After 20 years at HSC, what do you reflect on most fondly?
When I first began my career, I started out in the CFO’s office as executive associate to the senior vice president for finance and administration. I actually began working here before we had shared services, and what I loved about that opportunity was the ability to learn everything that I wanted to about the Health Science Center and really be a contributor from the very start of my career. That's not always what you experience when you go into a new position. People want to test you out, but my executive at that time, Steve Russell, who has since retired, allowed me to work alongside of him as a partner and it was great for my confidence-building and certainly for the education and the knowledge that I was able to develop about the Health Science Center. He was over finance and administration, the budgetary side and the operational side of the HSC. That's the foundation of any business -- your people and your money -- and that's where I spent the first 10 years of my HSC career. When I joined the president's office, it then allowed me to learn about the academic side as well as understanding the leadership of a complex, higher-education organization. Much of what we do and what [HSC President] Dr. [Michael] Williams does is to set the vision an strategy of HSC and work in conjunction with all the executive leaders on initiatives that affect the campus, including new programs to benefit our students and new or expanded partnerships to help the community. I've had an extraordinary opportunity and well-rounded experience in higher education.

The Health Science Center has played a crucial role in Tarrant County and beyond throughout the pandemic. How do you look back on all that has transpired over the last 15 months?
We took advantage of a of a crisis. We knew that we had experts on our campus in the public health realm, and we are always a great community partner willing to step in, step up and assist all of those in the community. That's how we see ourselves, as a true community partner. Our reach goes very far beyond the academics of training medical professionals. It's about introducing being a community partner as part of the training for our students. Every school and program provides opportunities for getting involved in the community. The COVID crisis was a true opportunity for HSC to take all of the good that we do here and expand beyond the borders of our campus. It's just what we do.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
The people, the interaction with people, whether it be my system colleagues at the other campuses, the community members, working with the president, obviously I have interactions with CEOs from the health systems, the hospitals, community leaders. And having that interaction with so many influential people and hearing the respect and the willingness that they have to come and be a partner with the Health Science Center, I just think that it's great to have that upfront exposure. But working with everyone at every level, there's just a uniqueness, if you will, about the people of UNT and certainly the Health Science Center team.

What is your proudest work moment?
Over 20 years there's probably been plenty. I can tell you that one of my most enjoyable moments is to coordinate and watch our commencement event each year, and to see Dr. Williams get choked up at the podium when he's telling graduating students that this is just the beginning for you, and to watch the pride on everyone's faces because you've taken this person who entrusted their education and their purpose and their life in your hands, and now it is their time shine. I think that's probably one of my favorite parts of this job.

Have will you spend your days in retirement?
Well, I will not set my alarm every morning and have Alexa wake me up at 5:45 to tell me what the weather is. I’ll ease into my days. I want to do simple things. I want to see what it's like to take a Pilates class at 10 o'clock in the morning instead of 5:30 in the afternoon. I have a bucket list of Dallas places I want to visit because I've lived here, but there are so many great places I haven't seen yet -- I've never been to the Dallas Arboretum, I haven't been to the Dallas Zoo, I haven't been to the Perot Museum -- so I I see myself doing a lot of get-to-know-my-neighbors, if you will, first. And then -- thank you COVID-19 -- I have had money on deposit with Holland America cruise lines to go to Alaska. It was supposed to be my 60th birthday present to myself and now we’re in year two and we still haven't been able to travel. So, hopefully in June of ’22, I'll actually be able to get to Alaska. I’ll be taking my daughter and my two grandchildren with me.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I don't know if it'll surprise them, but it might: I've actually hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and I did the same at Havasu Falls, which, if anybody knows what those hikes are like, to get in and out of Havasu Falls is eight hours each way and it's the same for the Grand Canyon. So, I think people might be surprised because I may not look like the kind of person who does that strenuous of an activity, but I feel most alive when I'm doing things like that. The Grand Canyon trip was in 2002, and Havasu Falls was in 2011. When you're in the experience, I don't think you think about the challenge. After the fact, I will tell you that when we emerged from the Canyon and I went to take a step with my leg, it felt like my kneecap was held on by string, that's how exhausted ... and then the pain was so intense, my jaw was locked. But I didn't experience that until coming out of the Canyon. The time I was in there I was so awestruck by everything I saw and experienced that the pain challenge and discomfort didn't even come into the equation. It was a  pretty awesome trip.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE:
Restaurant?:
Oh, too many to mention. I am not afraid to eat any kind of food. Yeah, too many to mention
Hobby?: Hiking and being in the great outdoors is what I like to do; and I like to read
Movie: Polar Express
Book: The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Place to visit: Anywhere, everywhere. That's how I plan to spend my time is traveling. I do like the Leelanau Peninsula. It's near Traverse City, Michigan, which used to be the cherry capital, but they have discovered that the climate there is perfect for winemaking and so most of the people have converted their cherry orchards to vineyards. Up and down the peninsula is a beautiful trek of wineries and microbreweries and places to eat. Every November, they have the national macaroni and cheese festival. 

Any last words for UNT World before you ride off into the sunset?
I would just tell everyone thank you for the opportunity to work alongside of them, and remember, kindness matters so spread that stuff around!

 

Brian Ayers, UNT HSC police officer

Officer Ayers joined the HSC in April, marrying his three passions: law enforcement, health care and serving people. Officer Ayers earned an MBA from Texas Woman's University in 2010 with a 3.9 GPA and graduated from the Cedar Valley College Law Enforcement Academy in 2013. Before finding his dream job at HSC, he was a Tarrant County deputy constable at the same time he worked full-time as a hospital billing manager, and he continues to teach business and management courses as an adjunct at Tarrant County College. Look for this adventurous spirit (anyone up for skydiving?) patrolling the HSC grounds on two wheels and give him a wave. Get to know Officer Ayers a little better by reading on.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
To serve others and build relationships with faculty, staff, students and our communities. 

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
It would ge great to have an employee-only store to purchase accessories for each institution like shirts, jackets and other apparel. 

What is your proudest work moment?
I successfully passed a police cyclist course which isn't a requirement for my job, but allows me to serve and be more personable with citizens on a bicycle. 

What is your proudest non-work moment?
I graduated with my MBA from Texas Woman's University in 2010 with a 3.9 GPA.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I'm adventurous and would like to try skydiving, but every time I get close to it, I back out. I get close to paying and everything and when the day comes I don't do it.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Restaurant?: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
Place to visit?: Miami
TV show?: Blue Bloods

Pride Month image

Pride Month, a celebration and affirmation of equality, visibility and selfhood for the LGBTQ+ community runs throughout June to honor the Stonewall uprising in 1969 that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. We’ve curated some resources to help you celebrate, learn and participate: 

ERS summer enrollment is coming, meaning it's almost time to make changes to your benefit elections (health, dental, vision, life insurances; short and long term disability; TexFlex).

What: Annual Benefits Enrollment Event -- make changes to your benefit elections; changes will be effective Sept. 1, 2021. 

When:

  • UNT: June 28 – July 10
  • UNT Dallas | UNTHSC | UNT System: July 5 – July 17

Where: Online at ers.texas.gov

Watch the mail for your personalized statement of coverage. Make sure your address is current in the ERS system. Log in here to check your address and update it if it isn't correct. Never logged in to your ERS account portal? Register here. For questions, contact HRBenefits@untsystem.edu. Watch your weekly HR Highlights for more information about ERS Summer Enrollment.

FAQs

What is Summer Enrollment?
Summer Enrollment is the annual event/time when you can log in to your ERS account and make changes to your health insurance and optional insurance coverage elections for the new plan year that starts September 1, 2021.  (ERS administers our UNT World insurance benefits).

What can I do during summer enrollment?
You can make changes to your coverages during summer enrollment for Plan Year 2022 like adding optional insurances (dental, vision, short term and long term disability); add dependents to your insurance; change from Health Select of Texas to the Consumer Directed plan; remove dependents, drop coverages you no longer need, apply for optional life insurance, etc.  Changes made will be effective September 1, 2021.

What should I do to prepare for Summer Enrollment?
It’s important to make sure that your address is correct with ERS.  ERS will be mailing important information to you before Summer Enrollment starts. Check your address/contact information by logging in here and review your personal data. Never logged in? Register here.

What if I don’t have any changes to make to my coverages for the new Plan Year?
You don’t need to do anything if you want your coverages/elections to remain the same. Your coverages will be the same in the new plan year if you make no changes in summer enrollment. That includes the amount you are contributing to TexFlex, which will continue September 1, 2021, as is if you make no changes.

Are there major plan changes or premium increases for Plan Year 2022?
There are a few changes for Plan Year 2022, like:

  • Out of pocket maximums increased for Health Select of Texas
  • Delta Dental Choice premiums increased slightly
  • Vision insurance premiums decreased slightly

Where can I learn more?

  • Watch for news in your campus newsletters and HR Highlights in June.  HR will also be scheduling some Q&A sessions, and we’ll have a helpful video for you.
  • We’ll provide more detailed information soon. For now, make sure your address is correct with ERS and watch for your ERS brochure in the mail.

We live in a fast-paced world and are surrounded by modern conveniences like our cars, air conditioning and our always-on mobile devices that far too often keep us from smelling the roses, literally. 

Yet, it's impossible to escape the fact there's something incredibly soothing about being out in nature. Feeling the soil between our toes, listening to birds chirping in the morning, the sound of leaves rustling as the wind blows through the trees or taking a hike in secluded, woodsy area. Getting back to nature can feel like we're returning to our natural home.

So it shouldn't come as a shock that being outdoors can improve overall health and well-being. What might be surprising is that doctors now believe so strongly in the powers of being outdoors to help conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, Type II diabetes and others, that they are actually prescribing outdoor excursions for patients. The outdoors has a range of benefits that can improve health, such as reducing stress and feelings of anxiety and depression. Other benefits include improving eyesight, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, increasing Vitamin D, improving sleep and even reducing inflammation, which promotes faster healing and reduction of pain.

Perhaps not-so-ironically, the most popular screensavers for our computers are beautiful nature scenes. Unfortunately, that's the closest many of us get to the outdoors. We are often glued to technology and struggle to find time to venture outdoors even for short periods of time. This month, as we focus on the health benefits of being outside, here are a few ways to fill your prescription for the outdoors and get closer to nature:

  • Take a sunrise stroll: Sunrise during June is typically between 6 and 6:45 a.m. The feeling of the cooler morning air and transitioning to daylight can be a wonderful way to ring in a new day. Don’t worry about how many steps you take or how fast you go -- just enjoy the sights and smells of being outdoors at an early hour.
  • Go for a picnic: Locate a local park or lake or river area to explore. This is a fun way to spend quality time with a friend, loved one or your entire family. You can even consider it a “screen-free” event. Picnics can create fun memories and turn a routine activity like eating into a novel experience.
  • Go for a walk: Here's a great way to find some alone time while also having a little company along the way. Make the new ERS Walk & Talk podcast your new companion for a 20- to 30-minute walk. Listen to conversations about health and life with health experts and leaders that provide motivational messages to help keep us moving.
  • Learn more: Watch what the Texas State Parks have to offer through our webinar featuring State Park Director Rodney Franklin. Texas state parks offer endless opportunities to get out in nature for the day, or embark on a longer camping adventure.

Consider the small, simple things you can do to get outside more with your family -- from bike rides to strolls. The little things add up and can make a big impact in your daily life.

Aprille Lim, Financial Analyst, UNT System

Aprille Lim is super bright, which makes her a valuable fit in the UNT System's Treasury department. Don't take our word for it, let her record speak for itself, and her record says she earned a bachelor's and master's degree in finance in only four years. Ten days later, she started working for us. She's a treasury junky with a sense of humor: "I love all functions of Treasury," she says. "Don’t fall asleep just yet, but I’m responsible for debt management, prepping bond issuances [and] assisting in special projects." You might not know this proud dog mom twice over (Duchess is on the left and Yoné's on the right in the photo) holds dual citizenship and plans one day to move and work internationally to learn her parents' native language. Just where will she be headed? Read on.

 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?I love all functions of Treasury and how much we collaborate with other departments. I’m thankful for this position as it enables me to engage with those around me which is ultimately my favorite thing about my job -- the people!

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
More UNT Worldwide events for staff to safely come together and relax!

What is your proudest work moment?
 Last year, we sold about $11 million of Historic Tax Credits for the benefit of UNT Dallas. That’s a lot of future scholarships! Being able to help in the transaction was an awesome experience.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Prior to these three years at UNT World, I had just recently earned both my bachelor's and master's in Finance in four years, then started working at UNT World 10 days later. Talk about a hustle! I now own a house and two dogs, enjoying the blue (sometimes rainy) skies in Sanger.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I’m a dual citizen of the Philippines, and although I haven’t visited the Philippines in a decade, I plan to move there and work internationally and learn my parents’ native language.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Restaurant?: Jolibee, a Filipino fried chicken fast food chain
Hobby?: Cooking something fun in the kitchen and playing with my dogs
Charitable cause?: United Way of Denton. A great way to find volunteer opportunities and support the community

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Meredith Howard, UNT Health Science Center

An internal medicine pharmacist by training, Meredith has worked at the HSC since 2015. As a faculty member in the College of Pharmacy, she teaches throughout the curriculum and oversees the acute care portions of the experiential curriculum. But, that only scratches the surface of who she is and how she spends her time, like, oh, training for an Ironman or turning her garage into a Jiffy Lube. Grease monkey not really your thing? Well, Meredith transitions on the fly to Martha Stewart-esque home-and-garden DIY expert specializing in canning and baking bread (hint: come holiday season, you might want to talk to this New England native about some delicious gift ideas). Read on to learn more about Meredith.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Watching our student pharmacists progress throughout the first three years to get ready for their clinical rotations, then seeing them grow into independent future pharmacists in their fourth year of rotations.

What is your proudest work moment?
Graduation of our first class of pharmacists, Class of 2017, and every class thereafter! It is such an accomplishment and an exciting time for the students, and to know you have a part of it is so special.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Running my first half-marathon a few years ago, and subsequently putting in all of the training for (an eventually canceled-due-to-COVID-19) half-ironman race. Even though the race was canceled, I was in great shape to race with all of the hours I put in. I will retrain and race deferred to 2022.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I am a DIY fanatic- -- from changing my own oil to canning and baking sourdough from scratch, I enjoy learning and doing new things.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Place to visit?: Home (Massachusetts/New England)
Hobby?: Biking, hiking, gardening
TV show: Grey's Anatomy

 

Godson Adadevoh with wife and son

Godson Adadevoh has been with UNT World for five years and join us in congratulation him for a recent promotion to Director of Budget & Strategic Planning. Few bring a work ethic, day-in and day-out, like Godson, which is one reason he considers his proudest work moment to be when the first budget he worked on got approved by UNT's Board of Regents. It's always great to see something that you worked hard on be incorporated in the organization's plans," he said. Husband to Millicent and father to 7-year-old Langston, Godson is a music lover, a pizza lover and apparently a now-retired youth basketball coach who boasts an unblemished record -- you'll have to see why by reading on. Get to know Godson.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My favorite part of my job is being able to work with so many great people. Some of the great folks I work with include: ChengCheng Liu from the Controller team, she helps me understand how (and why) things post to the General Ledger and is a great partner; Ron Brade on the Procurement team, I worked with Ron and his staff on building his Fiscal Year 2022 budget from the ground up, and I'm super-excited about Ron joining the organization; and Gulnaar Murthy on the Treasury team, who is one of my favorite people! It doesn't hurt that she is always able to assist when I need something related to UNT System cash.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
Four-day work weeks.

What is your proudest work moment?
My proudest work moment was having the first budget I worked on get approved by UNT's Board of Regents. It's always great to see something that you worked hard on be incorporated in the organization's plans.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
The birth of my son has been my proudest non-work moment. Langston is now 7 years old. He's a good kid and I see quite a bit of myself in him.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I'm 1-0 coaching my son's basketball team. I only coached one game a a replacement, so I'll forever be undefeated!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Restaurant?:
Home Run Inn Pizza
Place to visit?: Los Angeles
Hobby?: Listening to music

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Lauren Cross, Ph.D., with her husband and two small children

Dr. Cross arrived at UNT World as an Art History adjunct professor in 2015 and is now teaching interdisciplinary courses that touch on critical and fascinating conversations in the art and design fields such as ethics, race, gender and identity, and more. She is truly a student's professor -- she loves to serve as a mentor and facilitate community engagement projects with her students. This wife and mom of two little ones (3 and 1) used time during the pandemic to connect her family with nature, but more than anything she's eager to reconnect with her students and colleagues on the Denton campus. Click on the button to learn more about Dr. Cross, including what she calls her "Denton legacy" that makes it an honor for her to work at UNT.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My favorite thing about my job is the students. I feel that I have such a great privilege to teach and to serve the students in my program and in the college, especially exposing them to interdisciplinary practices in our field. I enjoy mentoring and guiding students toward their perspective careers and making connections for them within industry and the local community.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
Adding anything additional is really hard for me to think of because I feel that UNT World has provided so much in terms of virtual/on-campus opportunities and employee resources. I think because of the global pandemic, I have been appreciative of all efforts big and small. I am looking forward to getting back to campus and participating in on-campus events again.

What is your proudest work moment?
Facilitating community engagement projects with my students and colleagues like symposiums, lectures and exhibitions. Seeing my students in their element, particularly putting what they have learned in class into practice. This year I have been mentoring one of our college’s Undergraduate Research Fellows, Asia Youngs-Bailey, and I was so proud to see her present her research at UNT Scholars Day this April!

What is your proudest non-work moment?
I have a wealth of research and creative projects that I have had the opportunity to do this year; however, going camping with my husband and two toddlers (3 and 1) was such a proud highlight. During a time where we are challenged to explore new methods of social interaction, I have been most encouraged by these moments to get out in nature with my family.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
My family has what we call a Denton legacy: my mother, aunts and uncles all went to school at TWU and UNT. Because of them, it is a great honor to work here. I often feel that I am expanding on their important heritage and legacy. I even discovered great images of my uncles in the UNT Digital Collections!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie?: 
Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust"
Place to visit?: East Texas
Charitable cause?: Center for Transforming Lives

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Diane Smith-Pinckney, UNT Health Science Center

Diane joined the HSC in October 2019 after a distinguished career as journalist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram mostly covering education. Reporting and writing remain passions and she uses those skills daily handling internal and external communications for the campus, and telling the stories of faculty, staff and students as they work to understand and solve complicated problems from cancer and Alzheimer's to West Nile virus and COVID-19. Judging by either end of her hyphenated last name, you might not guess where this wife (that's her husband Roger in the photo) and mom of three boys was born and raised, however, she covered a major international news event there two decades ago, and lately she's been trying to perfect some of the tasty dishes she grew up eating. There's much more to our HSC colleague, so read on and get to know Diane.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I like discovering the different ways we help people in Tarrant County. HSC professionals are working to understand and solve complicated problems – from cancer to the West Nile virus to COVID-19.

What is your proudest work moment?
Last Spring, as the world grappled with a mysterious pandemic, the HSC communications/marketing team worked swiftly to inform the campus and the community about efforts to help. These endeavors included setting up multiple COVID-19 testing sites, providing masks and documenting the work the HSC health experts were doing in the community. I jokingly referred to HSC News as the “breaking news team.” This spirit continues today as HSC works with community partners to bring vaccine equity to hard-to-reach communities. Highlighting this work makes me proud.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
My proudest non-work moments are just being available for my three sons – whether helping with school, cheering when they participate in sports or cooking their favorite food.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I was raised in the former Canal Zone in the Central American country of Panama. I moved to Texas at age 18 in the late 1980s. During the 1999-2000 New Year’s Day holidays, I documented the official and ceremonial turnover of the Panama Canal from the United States government to the Panamanian government as a journalist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?: 
I love Jane Austen and I reread, “Emma” and "Pride and Prejudice” every few years because I like to see how my perspective of the characters changes as I change.
Movie?: I really like movies so it is hard to pick one. Still, one of my favorites is “Giant,” because it tells a story of Texas through the lens of a complicated family during West Texas’ oil industry boom. This 1950s-era movie does this while also tackling sexism, racism and bigotry (gosh, now I want to watch it again).
Hobby?: I like to learn new things so my hobbies are always changing. My latest hobby is trying to learn to cook recipes from around the world. Lately, I am focusing on East Asian food and trying to practice the Panamanian recipes I grew up eating.