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Loren Jacobson, UNT Dallas College of Law

Loren Jacobson, has found a special home at UNT Dallas College of Law, a burgeoning school founded on the principle of making a law degree accessible and affordable to those of all socioeconomic backgrounds. She says, "One of the wonderful things about the UNT Dallas College of Law is how diverse we are, which means I have so many different perspectives in my classroom." It comes full circle. Born in South Africa, Jacobson names Nelson Mandela as her inspirational hero. "The most extraordinary thing about him was his infallible sense of hope," she says. This mother of two teenagers has a lighter side, too, take her favorite movie (hint: Bueller? Bueller?) for example or just drop a dance floor in front of her and watch out. Click below to learn more about Loren.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job? 
There are a lot of things I like my job, but my favorite is the interactions I have with students. I love to see my students learn and I love to learn from them. It is especially gratifying when my students not only grasp the concepts we are learning in class, but seem enthusiastic about the subject matter, the law or the prospect of being a lawyer. I also love learning from my students. One of the wonderful things about UNT Dallas College of Law is how diverse we are, which means I have so many different perspectives in the classroom. This makes for rich class discussions and it means I am always learning from my students, who may look at the law, or a case, in a different way from the way I do, or who teach me to see a situation, or even the world, in a way I hadn’t considered before.
 
What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?

Although this wouldn’t benefit me because my children are teenagers, I would like to see UNT World provide paid parental leave to its employees. A lack of paid leave after a baby is born is detrimental to the baby and the whole family, as it pressures parents to return to the workforce early, before sufficient bonding and in some cases, nursing, can be established. I also think that if UNT World is serious about attracting, retaining and supporting women, it must provide paid parental leave. When my children were born, the law firm where I was working afforded me 10 weeks of paid leave, which is a big reason why I went to the firm in the first place and was also part of the reason I stayed there for 12 years.

What is your proudest work moment?
It’s hard for me to pinpoint one proud moment. I’m just really proud to be part of a group of people who are working so hard—sometimes against the odds -- to accomplish the mission at the UNT Dallas College of Law. I believe fervently in our goals of providing access, excellent preparation, value, innovation and community all for the purpose of promoting justice and advancing the potential of a diverse array of students.
 
What is your proudest non-work moment?

Again, I don’t really have a proud “moment.” What makes me proudest outside of work are my children, and what makes me most proud about them is what good people they are. Both are caring, empathetic, thoughtful, and genuine, and they consistently show their loved ones, friends and even strangers kindness and compassion.
 
What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?

Some of them have probably figured this out, but I am, as ABBA would put it, a “dancing queen.” I love to dance! Put me on a dance floor and I will bring it (especially if there’s some Shakira playing)!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?: 
I love Victorian novels, and am especially fond of Jane Austen and George Eliot’s work. But, I think my all-time favorite book is Yaa Gyasi’s "Homegoing." I continue to think about the story, imagery and exquisite writing to this day, even though I read it about four years ago. It is really a novel that has stuck with me.
Movie? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’ve watched it 14 times. Nine times. Nine times? No, 14 times!
Inspirational Hero?: Nelson Mandela. I was born in South Africa and have visited Robben Island where Mandela was kept imprisoned. I admire Mandela because he fought for and ultimately achieved the end of apartheid in South Africa. But I think the most extraordinary thing about him was his infallible sense of hope. Even though he was kept in prison for 27 years, he never gave up his belief that equality and justice could be achieved. And although he experienced the worst of humanity, he also never gave up his belief in the human capacity for good. After all he went through, Mandela could have been angry, but he was never animated by hate. Instead, he believed in reconciliation, always looked for the best in people and kept his sense of humor. He was truly an incredible man.

The contribution rates for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) are changing. These changes impact pay received on or after Sept. 1, 2021.

New rates:

Employee 8.0% (pre-tax)

Old rates:

Employee 7.7% (pre-tax)

The Texas legislature passed these changes in the 2019 legislature. Future increases passed include:

Date: Sept. 1, 2023
Employee: 8.25%

The contributions deducted from your paycheck fund the TRS pension. They do not determine how much your retirement income will be – your TRS retirement annuity is calculated using a formula:

2.3 x years of service = percentage
Average of highest five salaries x percent = annuity

Example:

  • 20 years of TRS service x 2.3 = 46%
  • $50,000 x 46% = $23,000 annuity pre-tax
  • $23,000/12 = $1917/month pre-tax

Learn more: Retirement plans and TRS

Contact a benefits coordinator in your campus HR group to schedule your retirement meeting, or for a benefits consult to help you plan for retirement in the future/understand your benefits:

Bobbie Bratton, 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: Bobbie Bratton, Clinical Executive, SaferCare Texas, UNT Health Science Center, is a board certified family nurse practitioner with 25 years of nursing experience and over 19 years of advanced practice. Her goal is to provide patients with guidance and leadership toward health decisions that are safe and promote improved quality of life. And that's why we sought her out -- to provide clear and honest guidance in making critical health decisions for ourselves and our families as the Delta variant surge has again heightened our level of concern and forced us to reevaluate our behavior. Especially now, as students of all ages return to school, and school districts, cities, counties, politicians, judges and high courts issue various mandates and bans on mandates, we need clear-headed, practical, science-based facts and advice. Thank you, Bobbie Bratton, for being our Expert, our voice of calm and reason during a difficult and confusing time. Please click the button below to read on.

 

Q&A

What is safe and isn’t safe since Delta variant is a real game changer?
The recent surge of COVID cases due to Delta variant presents a challenge as campuses across the country reopen for the fall semester. During this surge, it is important for individuals to be mindful of what they can do to support efforts to stay fully open such as: continuing to practice good hand hygiene, continuing to use proper cough/sneeze etiquette, frequently disinfect common spaces and high-traffic areas, practicing social distancing especially in indoor public areas, staying home when sick, assessing for symptoms before leaving home, following the CDC’s guidance on mask wearing and strongly considering vaccination, if eligible. I think everyone would agree the overall goal is to find a way to safely resume our “normal” way of life including work, school, church, sports and community. As we have seen over the past year, that very well could mean that safety measures will likely ebb and flow, being less strict during seasons when cases are low and stricter during times of surge. Earlier this year, we transitioned to a less restrictive environment, however, each of us is responsible for being aware of the risks and benefits of our behaviors and to make responsible choices for our own well-being as well as the well-being of others in our community. 

How should professors proceed in the classroom? Should they wear a mask? 
The CDC guidelines currently state to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possible spreading to others. Fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in public if in an area of substantial or high transmission. Classroom settings vary and may be set up to offer protective alternatives such as safe distancing or the use of plexiglass barriers, etc. Professors and students are encouraged to look at their personal health status, what their daily routine looks like, what their exposure risks are and make appropriate decisions to protect themselves.  

Even if vaccinated, should I wear a mask to crowded outdoor events such as concerts or the State Fair? Are outdoor events safe to attend considering the high level of transmission? 
A good rule of thumb for any outdoor event, regardless of vaccination status, is to "know before you go." Check the event venue website for considerations such as: seating charts or spacings on lawn, the type of restroom facilities available and sanitation practices, available food services, any COVID related requirements, e.g., mask requirements, vaccination, or testing requirements. The CDC guidelines state that wearing a mask in outdoor settings may be recommended in some scenarios. Finally, consult with your personal healthcare provider to help determine what measures offer appropriate protection for you based on your personal health history. 

Is indoor dining safe? If I dine indoors should I wear a mask?
Some important things to consider before going for an indoor dining event include: restaurant staff wears masks, seating that promotes safe social distancing and restaurant hygiene practices. During the current surge, it may be a good idea to consider opting for patio seating. While not all measures may be in place, the important thing is to be knowledgeable about what the exposure risk level is and make decisions based on personal health and personal comfort level with those risks. While choosing to wear a mask is a personal decision, it does impact others. It is important to remember that not only does the mask protect you but it also protects others, including restaurant staff who are trying to safely earn a living and take care of themselves and their families.

How do I verify a disinfectant actually works against the COVID-19 virus?
The CDC website offers great information on proper disinfection practices and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifications of products that are available for use. This link is a user-friendly guideline for cleaning and disinfecting while reinforcing the importance of using products properly for effectiveness and health safety.

U.S. EPA - Cleaning and Disinfecting Best Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Why should I seek a medical evaluation for my symptoms when I can get a COVID-19 test done on my own?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 infection include: fever or chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing. A person who is ill may experience all, few, or no symptoms. These common symptoms are also very common for other respiratory issues such as seasonal allergies, common cold, influenza, strep or other respiratory infections. Getting evaluated by a medical provider will help you reach an accurate diagnosis and it will help you get the medications and treatments you need for effective recovery. In the event that you are ill with a respiratory infection that is not COVID-19, your medical provider may be able to help you return to normal activities sooner than if you prolong your medical evaluation or do not get one at all. This can mean decreased loss of time away from work, school and other important activities. 

Helpful information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/

Erin Cristales, UNT

Erin Cristales is an outstanding writer whose colorful prose that appears in the pages of the North Texan and Research and other publications brings to life the people and places that make the University of North Texas a place of limitless potential. She was recently awarded the 2021 Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Platinum Award for Best Article of the Year for her long-form feature, "The Past as a Present." Perhaps even more impressive than her writing chops is her otherwise unknown juggling ability, a mind-clearing exercise for her, and her inner drive that pushed her to finish her first marathon last April. Now, maybe if she were to juggle bowling pins while running a marathon... Anyway, read on to discover more about Erin.

 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?
My favorite part of my job is that I’m constantly meeting and interviewing so many smart, interesting people. It’s great to be able to connect with students, faculty, staff and alumni and learn how they’re changing the world for the better. Plus, I love the opportunity to build so many positive relationships within the university and beyond.
 
What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World? 

It would be fun to create some UNT marathon or charity walk teams.

What is your proudest work moment?
I’m always proud when I receive feedback from sources who feel like I really captured their story. At the end of the day, that’s the greatest reward.

What is your proudest non-work moment? 
Finishing my first full marathon in April, and four half-marathons leading up to that. I never thought I’d actually be able to push myself that hard!
 
What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?

When I was in fifth grade, the P.E. teacher (a former clown — really!) taught our whole class how to juggle. Not that I’m particularly great at it, but juggling is my favorite way to clear my mind, especially when I have writer’s block.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie?:
The Hustler
Restaurant?: La Calle Doce in Dallas. In Denton, my favorite is Komodo Loco.
Charitable cause? Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — as someone who has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for the past 28 years, I can personally attest to the great resources and support JDRF provides those with Type 1 and their families. And their annual walks in the DFW area are coming up this fall!

Sheba Joyner, UNT System

Sheba Joyner marks her sixth anniversary with UNT System next month and while she's likely to favor the go-for-it end of risk-assessment in her personal life -- like jumping out of an airplane three different times -- her work life is exclusively risk-adverse. As Senior Director of Internal Audit, she reviews business processes and identifies risks that could threaten UNT System from accomplishing our goals. When she identifies a risk, she alerts leadership and recommends improvements to help reduce those risks. Read on to discover the southeast Asian nation that's her favorite place to visit, the other southeast Asian country that cooks up her favorite food and why this act of kindness makes it obvious her heart is made of pure gold.

 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?  
My favorite thing about my job is meeting people throughout the entire organization and helping them identify ways to make their department stronger.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I would love a festival where employees, faculty and staff enjoy each other with food, fun, games and rewards.

What is your proudest non-work moment? 
I enjoy helping those in need, so my proudest non-work moment was when I took care of a brother and sister who both had glioblastoma (type of brain cancer) and helped to make their wishes come true! The brother was able to be an FBI agent for a day in Washington D.C. and the sister met her favorite celebrity.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
I enjoy thrills and adventures so I decided to go skydiving with my sister. Because I loved the experience so much, I jumped out of a plane three different times.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
TV Show?:
I enjoy watching both Grey's Anatomy and Chicago PD
Place to visit?: Growing up we would travel to India often. During one of our trips, we went to Singapore, which is my favorite place I have ever visited.
Restaurant?: I love Thai food, so I enjoy eating at a Thai restaurant.

Nat Pope, Ph.D.

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

EXPERT: Nat Pope Ph.D., a UNT Associate Professor of risk management and insurance, has published works on the topic of extended auto warranties and worked in the extended warranty industry for a period prior to becoming an academic. If you've ever wondered why you receive so many calls promoting extended auto warranties, Dr. Pope is just the expert to ask. He takes us into the world of extended warranties, what they are, if they're good deals or scams, who should buy them and how to protect yourself in the case you want to purchase one. Click below for everything you always wanted to know about extended car warranties but were afraid to ask.

 

What are extended warranties?
Extended warranties, also commonly known as service contracts, are contracts typically sold to a consumer at the same time of the purchase of a larger asset (93% of the time), e.g., a car, TV, computer, etc., but are the subject of a separate negotiation. Extended warranties are not to be confused with the warranties provided by the manufacturer as part-and-parcel of original equipment. Extended warranties typically become active when the original manufacturer warranty expires, e.g., about three years after purchase, and have a duration of about three years, although this may vary across different contracts. Auto extended warranties (vehicle service contracts) own about 37% of the market share – almost double that of the next largest segment (mobile phones, 19%)  
 
Why do I get so many calls warning me that my auto warranty is about to expire?

Spam marketing is not uncommon in our current system – many product distributors now buy lists of potential consumers who may, or may not, have an interest in the distributor’s products. Some of those lists are refined, e.g., they identify people who actually may have a specific need, while other lists are far more generic in terms of the customer’s potential interest in the product in question. In particular, the vehicle service contract distributors have been very prolific in this marketing method in recent years. Actual sales through this channel represent only 7% of the extended warranty industry’s total annual revenues.
 
Are extended warranties insurance and why should I even care about that point?
Consumers often confuse extended warranties with insurance contracts because the contracts make similar promises, i.e., a consumer’s asset stops working and the provider of the contract fixes the problem. But in the eyes of the legal system, they are not the same and thus, the execution of the contract and the available oversight of the operation of the system are very different. Insurance is one of the world’s most highly regulated industries while the regulation of extended warranties varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As a result, there is far less regulatory consistency in the extended warranties industry.

What triggers extended warranty coverage?
Insurance contracts almost always are triggered by an accident or an unintended event from the perspective of the insured. Insurance contracts almost always specifically exclude losses caused by product defect and/or wear-and-tear. On the other hand, these are precisely the triggers covered by extended warranties. In the eyes of the legal system, this difference in the contract-trigger is a seminal point of difference in the two contracts and the application of insurance laws (or not) could hold big implications in a legal setting.
 
Are extended warranties big business in the U.S.?
Extended warranties are typically associated with a handful of industries, e.g., autos, homes, electrical appliances, etc. Based on annual revenues, the market size is estimated to be around $50 billion. While that may sound like a lot, those amounts are dwarfed by the revenues of the property/casualty insurance industry which are more than 12 times those of the extended warranties industry. The value of extended warranty sales to a distributor varies across industries. For example, in the auto dealership setting, it is not uncommon for the finance & insurance (F&I) person to start with a 100% commission tacked on the actual cost of the contract – expecting the customer to negotiate that price downward. As most people are aware, auto dealerships frequently operate very much on the "Marquess of Queensberry Rules" principle – protect yourself at all times. Naive customers are easy pickings for experienced F&I agents. The current pickup rate for vehicle service contracts is about 45% -- so F&I agents are successful in making a vehicle service contract sale almost half of the time. Additionally, profits from the sale of vehicle service contracts are usually the single largest source of dealership profits, so the dealership invests significantly in preparing F&I agents for these sales opportunities.
 
Are extended warranties a scam?
Not likely – although “scams” may exist in almost all markets. Perhaps a better question is whether they are a good deal. If "good deal" is defined to be a "fair value," the answer is probably no. Without sufficient regulatory oversight, sellers of extended warranties are allowed to put whatever price they might want on these contracts and some tack-on exorbitant commissions.
 
Who should buy an extended warranty?
From a purely academic/theoretical perspective, the only people who should buy an extended warranty are those who would anticipate economic hardship in paying for a loss, if it were to occur; if such a loss would represent a minor expense to the individual, a "rational" consumer should not purchase the contract. That said, people are not purely rational creatures and are influenced by irrational (in an academic sense) behavior. Some individuals value the "peace of mind" that comes with owning such contracts, regardless of the pure economics of the matter. What you are likely never going to obtain is an "economically fair" price for the contract because the consumer does not have complete information on which to base his/her buying decision.
 
Can extended warranties be a good deal?
Just like insurance, the majority of people who purchase an extended warranty will not make a claim under the policy. Like insurance, extended warranties are designed to spread the cost of mechanical breakdown across a pool of similar contract owners. So, the majority of contract owners are not likely to make a qualifying claim, thus may feel as though it was a wasted purchase. That said, if a contract holder makes a claim on a significant loss they are likely to feel that they made an excellent decision. A better way to think of such purchases is that the consumer is buying a promise from the seller of the contract, a promise to be ready to step in and cover qualifying costs. The value of the contract is embedded in securing that promise – not necessarily exercising the options embedded in the contract.
 
What should I do to protect myself if I want to purchase a vehicle service contract?
Read the fine print in the contract and know: 1) who is selling you the contract, 2) who is the obligor, i.e., the entity that would actually provide the services if you were to make a claim and 3) check to see if the contract has an underlying financial guarantor, e.g., does the obligor have an insurance/surety contract in place that would complete the terms of the contract if the obligor were to default on its responsibilities. The auto dealership is often just the distributor with no actual contractual obligations – all of their money is made off of the commission. The financial strength of the obligor is the key issue, but some states don’t provide sufficient regulatory oversight of the financial strength of the obligor. Some states will require the obligor to buy a contingent liability insurance policy (CLIP) that will stand behind the promises in the contract.

Angie Castillo, UNT Dallas

When Angie says she's seen it all at UNT Dallas over the last 15 years, she means it. As the Executive Assistant to UNT Dallas President Bob Mong, she truly has been involved in so much of the behind-the-scenes action as the university has bloomed from a branch of UNT to an independent and beautiful campus university with an enrollment topping 4,100. While she admits to have a number of favorite TV shows, when she talks about her love for the A-Team, she's not referencing Mr. T. Angie created UNT Dallas' A-Team to bring together those in all manner of administrative positions. Angie is UNT Dallas through-and-through as she's married to Tony Castillo, who works in the university's Office of Facilities. Click the button to discover why they stand in awe of their 10-year-old son, and the hobby that preserves her family's memories forever.

 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect about your job?  
My favorite thing about my job is seeing the growth of UNT Dallas, from being a branch university to an independent university. It is so fascinating to see what we’ve developed over the years and to know all the "behind the scenes" work we had to do to get there.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World? 
I would like to see tuition paid at 100% for employees and their families. Education is important and I think when it is offered at no cost, it will encourage a higher educational attainment.

What is your proudest work moment? 
My proudest work moment was creating the "A-Team" in 2016. The A-Team consists of all administrative associates, coordinators, specialists and executive assistants at UNT Dallas. The purpose of our group is to connect with each other and share resources across campus to promote interdepartmental cultural awareness.

What is your proudest non-work moment? 
My proudest non-work moment is giving birth to my son. For someone who’s had unexplained infertility and has seen over a dozen doctors, I never thought it would be possible to have a child naturally, but was given a miracle when he was born almost 10 years ago.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
A fact about me that might surprise some is that I really enjoy playing Texas Hold ’em poker and have won first place in many tournaments.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
TV show?:
I have so many, but I'll narrow it down to "This is Us," "A Million Little Things," "All American," and "The Good Doctor."
Place to visit?: Most recently, my family took a trip to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, where we were able to zipline. We had such a great time; it is now one of my favorite things to do!
Hobby?: I enjoy creating scrapbooks after a fun event or vacation. Seeing the memories over the years make special moments last forever.
 

If you've needed immediate health care, did you ponder where is the best place to go: an emergency room, a physician's office or maybe an urgent-care clinic?

In Texas, this question can be particularly confusing because of the state’s many free-standing emergency rooms and urgent-care centers. According to the Houston Chronicle, estimates for emergency room care, on average, are about 12 times higher than being treated at a physician’s office -- that's about a cost of $2,032 on average at the ER compared to $167 at a physician's office, with costs at an urgent-care center being only slightly at $193. That's important to know because, according to U.S. News & World Report, of 27 million emergency room visits each year by patients with private insurance, two-thirds were unnecessary and not an actual emergency.

Additionally confusing is recognizing an urgent-care center from a freestanding ER. They are often difficult to tell apart because they look similar from the outside. The difference, of course, is that ER costs are much higher, similar to an experience visiting an emergency room at a hospital.

So,  what differentiates a freestanding ER from an urgent-care center?:

  • Freestanding ERs are not connected to a hospital, but are equipped and work the same as a traditional ER; and care you receive is subject to the same coinsurance and deductibles as an ER at a hospital
  • Freestanding ERs are staffed by board-certified ER physicians and ER-trained registered nurses, and if they don't contract with our medical plan, you could be responsible for what insurance does not cover 
  • Urgent-care centers are not typically open around the clock like a freestanding ER, and are often staffed by physician assistants and nursing assistants

It's important to know your healthcare options so you can make an informed choice for your health care needs, and understand the costs before you seek care. When possible, select health care providers in the HealthSelect network. Click the link for helpful general guidance on where to go and how much you can expect to pay when you need medical care.

Ko Meada, Ph.D., UNT Department of Political Science

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

EXPERT: Ko Maeda, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Graduate Placement Director in UNT's Department of Political Science, is a Japanese citizen and holds permanent residence in the United States. The Tokyo Olympics are underway after being postponed one year due to COVID-19. Yet, as the Games go on, COVID is again surging through Japan and much of the world, the Olympic athletes are restricted to operating in a bubble, fans are prohibited from attending the competitions and the city faces significant financial shortfalls after spending billions to host the Games. Dr. Maeda takes us behind the scenes to examine how the Japanese public feels about these Games, why the Japanese government was adamant that the Games must go on and what the future holds for future Games in the country. 

 

Hosting an Olympic Games is seen as a grand way for a city (and country) to showcase itself to the world. Tokyo was first selected to be Japan’s bidding city for the 2020 Games by the Japanese Olympic Committee in July 2011. In March 2011, Japan was hit hard by a massive earthquake and tsunami. Was interest in hosting the 2020 Games directly tied to show the country's desire to show the world its recovery from that terrible natural disaster? 
It is true that recovery from the disaster was a main theme when Tokyo was bidding to host the 2020 Games. Yet, Tokyo started its quest to host the Olympics in 2006, which is five years before the disaster. It bid for the 2016 Games but failed, and its proposal for 2020 was based on the previous one. So, it is hard to say that the motivation to host the Olympics stemmed from the disaster.

The ongoing pandemic forced the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games until July 2021, and one year later with Covid-19 cases surging in Japan and across the world, Japan chose to prohibit spectators at all venues, leaving facilities that cost billions empty during competition. Public opinion polls reveal negative feelings from the Japanese public about the Olympics being allowed to go on. Why is this? 
Opinion polls have never shown very high levels of enthusiasm for the Olympics, but support dropped further due to Covid. The country is currently suffering from the fifth wave of the pandemic. Tokyo is under a state of emergency that will last through the Olympics, and the medical systems have been stretched thin. People are already tired and frustrated with the Covid-related restrictions. I think many people are feeling that the money to host the Olympics may be better spent to help those who are struggling, and people are also afraid that the influx of athletes, staff and journalists from all over the world might worsen the pandemic situation.

Why was the Japanese government adamant about ensuring the Games go on as scheduled? 
The constitution requires that general elections be held at least every four years, and the next one must be done by this fall. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been criticized for his handling of the pandemic and has been struggling with low approval ratings. I think he is hoping for a major bump in his popularity after successfully carrying out the Olympics. For that reason, I don't think canceling the event was ever an option in his mind.

Because Japan has exceeded its Olympic budget threefold by some estimates, and revenue will be significantly curtailed because of no fans, will this sour Japan on bidding for future summer or winter Olympic Games?
The city of Sapporo, the site of the 1972 Winter Games, has already been working to bid for the 2030 Winter Games. Mayors of major cities often talk about bidding for the Olympics, presumably to gain popularity. But public support for Sapporo's bid is likely to decline if people see more losses than gains in the aftermath of the Tokyo Games.

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.