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Faculty & Staff Spotlight Special Edition: Rosemary Haggett, Ph.D., UNT System

At the end of this month, Dr. Haggett will cap 11 years at UNT System, the final jigsaw puzzle piece, as she says, that completes the full picture of a distinguished career in higher education and the federal government as a scientist, educator and leader. Well-earned retirement awaits the Vice Chancellor, whose skill and direction were key to starting the UNT Dallas College of Law and the College of Pharmacy at the UNT Health Science Center. A classic movie buff, Dr. Haggett's inspiration to become a scientist came as a young girl watching Greer Garson play Marie Curie in the 1943 film Madam Curie. She holds a Ph.D. in physiology and became just the second woman in the U.S. to serve as

a College of Agriculture dean when appointed at West Virginia University. She served in multiple leadership roles at the National Science Foundation, has held faculty and leadership positions at prestigious universities around the country and somehow found time to backpack the 33 miles of Alaska's Chilkoot Trail. Now new adventures await. Please read on for more on Dr. Haggett's proudest moments at UNT System and how the call of the ocean has already given her a new home address.

Q&A

Does your approaching retirement feel real yet?
No, it doesn't. My husband and I relocated about two weeks ago, we moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and I'm working remotely my last month. I hadn't intended of leaving Dallas quite as quickly, but we sold our house in three days. Right now it feels like I'm on vacation even though I'm working because I see the marsh when I look out my window and I'm like, oh, I live here now. 

Do you have a connection to South Carolina?
We used to vacation here and I became fascinated by the Lowcountry and the culture and I've always wanted to live really close to the ocean. I never thought I would and then we said we’re going to do this, and here we are. It’s me, my husband and the two dogs. Coincidentally, I have a nephew here in Charleston and I have a brother in Pennsylvania, who is the dad to the nephew, and a brother in Baltimore. So this brings us closer to family, but below the snow line which was one of the other factors. I wanted to be closer to family, but I didn't want to go where I would have to shovel snow.

You came to UNT System in June 2010 and prior to you had never lived in Texas. What made the opportunity attractive at that stage of your career?
The opportunity to grow and build in a vibrant community, both living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well as the viewpoint on the UNT System. I came from Toledo Ohio, and I enjoyed my time in Ohio. It was during the economic recession however and it was a hard time to be a provost, which is what my role was, because we were not growing, conversely, we were laying off people and it was not a boom time to say the least. So when I was recruited to the position which I first said, no, no thank you, and I came in and met [former UNT System Chancellor] Lee Jackson, and he talked about his vision of what the system could become and said that we had authorization to start a law school and he didn't know how to do that. The initial search for the dean had just failed and he needed someone to start a law school, and so the idea of being able to build and become what we’ve become was just too fascinating to turn down. And there was nobody in my role before me, so I got to define the role.

So how does one go about starting a law school?
This is an interesting question as I had to figure that out. I cold-called law deans all across the country and said, "we’re starting a law school, this is what our vision of this law school is going to be" – because the vision was different. So I would talk to people, I would gauge their interest in both what we were trying to do and whether they would be personally interested in leading such a law school or if they knew of people who would be good fits for the law school. That’s how we started, simply by making some phone calls. Now, there had been a run-up to this, there had been a lot of political work to get approval for the law school, there were partnerships made with the city that we were someday going to get the Municipal building, the legislature was behind it certainly with strong, strong, strong support from Sen. [Royce] West and Rep. Dan Branch at that time. So there was a lot going on, but the very first thing I did when I got here was put together a timeline for building the law school.

Now that the law school is housed in the Municipal building downtown, has a growing enrollment, one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation and is moving toward full accreditation, how does that make you feel?
I’m very proud of that work and the people that we attracted to the law school. I think Royal Furgeson was the perfect founding dean. A lot of us take credit for recruiting him, me among them. I have had the opportunity to lead projects large and small here, but this one is probably the one I’m most proud of.

How about other UNT System projects, large and small, that you look back on fondly?
This kind of job really requires the ability to work across the institutions and to find common ground and to value the individuality of the institutions, and yet look for where we are synergistic with each other and where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, there is a variety of different examples of how that’s manifested, for example, the UNT System College of Pharmacy. The Health Science Center took the lead on that and has done a fantastic job. They have been fully accredited now for a couple of years, but we were involved in a collective sort of start-up. I've worked on projects big and small, things like getting the law school attached to UNT Dallas. It started as an entity of the UNT System, so it didn’t belong to one of the institutions until it was joined with UNT Dallas as the authorizing language required. There was a time when we had to separate UNT Dallas students from UNT students when UNT Dallas became separately accredited in 2013. We’ve done a lot of putting together and breaking apart, which is not as simple as it sounds. In the last few years, I created and led the Equity in Student Success (EiSS) Coalition, a cross-institution team using an equity lens to look at our policies, programs and practices supporting student success. I am very proud of that work and what the Coalition will do going forward. I also feel good about the work I've done as Board Secretary since 2014. I think we improved Board support significantly and made the Office of the Board Secretary a well-run unit, thanks to the hard work of my team.

What about you might surprise your colleagues?
People may not know how much I’ve enjoyed traveling and seeing the world. I’ve been to all 50 states, I backpacked the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska, 33 miles into the Yukon. The Chilkoot Trail is how the gold miners got into the Yukon during the Gold Rush. Now, I was much younger then. I’ve enjoyed seeing places like Pompeii. As a child, I was fascinated with what happened in Pompeii and I managed to get there a couple of years ago and tour the archeological site, which was absolutely fascinating. 

Do you have any concrete plans for travel as you head into retirement?
I don’t right now. I think first we’re going to figure out what retirement feels like and get settled in a different kind of lifestyle.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie?: My favorite movie is The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1946, Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas’ first role, Van Heflin. I’m a classic movie buff. We went on a Turner Classic Movie cruise right before the pandemic. 
Book?: I’m very fond of the old style British detective novel. Anything by P.D. James, Agatha Christie, of that ilk.
Inspirational hero: Many. When I was a child, again classic movies, Greer Garson, Madam Curie. She was my first hero. I’m a Polish girl. She was a Polish girl and she grew up to be a scientist so I could be a scientist, too. She’s probably the first inspirational hero, it was a celluloid one, but she was for real – I just remember watching the movie, that’s how I found out about Marie Curie.

One final question: As you look back on your career, which weaved between many roles in higher education and the federal government, what do you appreciate the most?
When I think about my career, I think about the fact that I never would have predicted what I’d be doing five years later, throughout my entire career. If somebody had said to me five years from now, you will do this, I’d say, pfft. Every change needed a little leap of faith. But, each piece of my career as I look at it now as a jigsaw puzzle, it all fits together. The individual pieces maybe didn’t seem to fit at the time. I bounced back and forth from the federal government to higher ed and held different kinds of jobs, but I think it makes a pretty interesting jigsaw puzzle where the pieces fit. And I feel very fortunate to have had all those experiences and to have worked with so many wonderful people throughout my career, particularly in the UNT System. I will miss them.

 

Dr. Michael Carletti, UNT HSC

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

EXPERT: Dr. Michael Carletti, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at UNT HSC and Assistant Program Director of the Medical City Weatherford Dermatology Residency Program, practices medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology ranging from diagnosing and treating skin cancers to performing neuromodulator injections such as Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin.

The Texas summer sun is intense, can be extreme and is always a danger to cause skin damage, multiple types of skin cancer, eye damage and even immune system suppression. Fortunately, we have experts at UNT World and HSC's Dr. Michael Carletti is here to make sense of sunscreens, SPFs, UVAs, UVBs and how best to protect ourselves and our families from the sun's harsh rays. Read on for everything you need to know.

 

Let’s start with the basics: What is it about the sun’s rays that can be harmful to our skin, and what are some of the risks we run from too much unprotected exposure to the sun?
Everybody needs some sun exposure to produce vitamin D (which helps calcium absorption for stronger and healthier bones). But unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the skin. This damage can lead to skin cancer or premature skin aging (photoaging). UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays reach the earth's surface. UVB rays cause a much greater risk of skin cancer than UVA. UVA rays cause aging, wrinkling and loss of elasticity of the skin. UVA also increases the damaging effects of UVB, including skin cancer and cataracts.

We know using sunscreen can help prevent skin damage, but there’s so many products, such a wide range of SPF levels, protection against UVA and UVB, that it can be confusing what to buy. Can you simplify this for us?
Sunscreens protect the skin against sunburns and play an important role in blocking the penetration of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. But no sunscreen product blocks UV radiation 100%. The protection provided by a sunscreen is indicated by the sun protection factor (SPF) listed on the product label. Sunscreens (chemical blockers) contain ingredients that help absorb UV light. Sun-blocks (physical blockers) contain ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that physically scatter and reflect UV light. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. To protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, you want to use a sunscreen that offers all of the following:

  • SPF 30 (or higher)
  • Broad-spectrum protection (UVA/UVB)
  • Water resistance

Chemical Sunscreen
Pros:

  • Less is needed to protect the skin because there is no risk of spaces between the sunscreen molecules after application
  • Tends to be thinner and spreads more easily on the skin

Cons:

  • Requires about 20 minutes after application before it starts to work
  • Increased chance of irritation and stinging due to the multiple ingredients combined in order to achieve broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
  • The higher the SPF, the higher the risk of irritation for sensitive skin types
  • The protection it offers gets used up more quickly when in direct UV light, so reapplication must be more frequent.
  • May clog pores for oily skin types

Physical Sunscreen

Pros:

  • Offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and is naturally broad-spectrum
  • Protects from the sun as soon as it’s applied, no wait needed
  • Lasts longer when in direct UV light, but not when wet or sweating
  • Less likely to cause a stinging irritation on the skin
  • Less likely to be pore-clogging, making it ideal for acne-prone skin
  • Longer shelf life

Cons:

  • Can rub off, sweat off and rinse off easily, meaning more frequent reapplication when outdoors as needed
  • May leave a white film on the skin, making some formulas incompatible for medium to dark skin tones
  • Can be less protective if not applied and re-applied generously and accurately since UV light can get between the sunscreen molecules and get into the skin

Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, it is important to make it part of your daily skin care routine. Regular application of sunscreen can reduce your chances of skin cancer while also prolonging the development of wrinkles and sun spots.

OK, so when spending the day at the pool, lake or beach, sunscreen is absolutely necessary. But what about short stints outdoors such as a morning dog walk or mowing the lawn, is it really necessary to apply sunscreen then?
The answer is yes, ALWAYS. 

  • Limit time in the midday sun -- the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Limit exposure to the sun during these hours, even in winter and especially at higher altitudes
  • Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, whenever possible. Look for clothing with a UV protection factor (UPF)
  • Watch the UV Index. The UV Index provides important sun safety information to help people plan outdoor activities
  • You can even get a sunburn on cloudy or cooler days along with on long car road trips as most windows and tints do not protect from all UV rays

What are some warning signs of skin damage, when should we see a doctor and should we visit a general physician, a dermatologist or another type of doctor? 
Regardless of your exposure to UV rays, conduct a monthly self-check to look for any skin abnormalities. Have a friend or family member check your back and scalp. Look for bumps or sores that don't heal or bleed and also for moles that have changed size, color or shape. It’s important to visit your physician or a dermatologist for regular skin checks. When caught early, most cases of skin cancer can be easily cured.

Are people with darker complexions less susceptible to sun damage?
Many people believe that dark skin is not susceptible to sun damage. However, although dark skin tones are less likely to burn, people of almost every skin tone can get sunburnt or develop skin cancer. Darker skin has more protection from the sun because it contains higher levels of melanin. This is the pigment that gives the skin its color and helps protect the cells from some forms of sun damage. This makes people with darker skin less likely to experience sunburn, but it is still possible.

How about children, is their skin extra sensitive to the sun’s rays? Can children use the same sunscreen as their parents or do they need sunscreen for children?
It is recommended to not use sunscreen on infants less than 6 months old. Any child 6 months or older can use the same sunscreen as adults. Keep your baby in the shade. Shade is the best way to shield your baby from the sun, especially if he or she is younger than 6 months old. Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible, and if you can’t find shade, create your own using an umbrella, canopy or the hood of a stroller. Dress your baby in sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and pants. In addition, make sure your baby always wears a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection. Minimize sunscreen use on children younger than 6 months old. However, if shade and adequate clothing are not available, parents and caretakers may apply a minimal amount of broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to their children’s skin. It is recommended to use sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as they are less likely to irritate a baby’s sensitive skin. Remember to reapply your child’s sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating, as there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen.

When it comes to sunscreens, is there any difference in effectiveness in sprays, creams or a block (like a stick of deodorant)?

  • Any sunscreen use is better than no sunscreen use. Keep in mind, one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body
  • Spray sunscreen studies show that many people apply only one-quarter the needed amount. In order to achieve a sun protection factor (SPF) similar to a lotion, you need to spray each body area for up to six seconds
  • The best way to protect yourself against the damaging effects of the sun is to limit exposure and protect your skin
  • Apply sunscreen on all exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside/exposure
  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. Broad spectrum means the sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays
  • Reapply about every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
  • Don’t forget to protect your lips and ears

Any additional information we should know?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., but it is also one of the most preventable cancers. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
 

Dr. James Kennedy, UNT

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

EXPERT: James Kennedy, Ph.D., UNT Regents Professor & Director of the Elm Fork Education Center and Natural Heritage Museum; specialization in ecology of benthic invertebrates and ecotoxicology

There's mosquitoes on the river, as the song goes, but there's also mosquitoes in my backyard, my front yard, in fact, everywhere I go -- mosquitoes! Is there anything to do during these hot and humid months to mitigate those little bloodsuckers? Glad you asked. Dr. James Kennedy of UNT's Department of Biological Sciences is here to help us make it through summertime without Texas' most annoying pest driving us insane. Read on for an education in mosquitoes.

 

Let's start with some background: 

There are over 3,000 species (different types of mosquitoes in the world. Only a small percentage of the mosquito species carry diseases. In the United States, mosquito-borne diseases like Malaria and Yellow fever, once widespread, have been controlled. Dengue, breakbone fever, is present in Texas but is not a threat at this time to North Texas. West Nile Virus (WNV) was first reported in north central Texas in 2002 (more info below). Other mosquito-carried viruses such as chikungunya and Zika have emerged only very recently. Approximately 100 species of mosquitoes have been documented from Texas; 50 species of mosquitoes have been identified from Denton.

The lifecycle of a mosquito includes an egg – larva, pupa and adult stage. The egg, larvae and pupa are aquatic. The larvae of mosquitoes breath atmospheric air (just like humans). The pupa is also aquatic and breaths atmospheric air. 

Mosquitoes larvae and pupae require still, stagnant water to complete their metamorphosis. Larval and pupal habitats range from wetlands, drainage ditches to tree holes. They are especially abundant when they are isolated from fish or other animals that may feed on the larva or pupa. Many mosquitoes have adapted to habitats created by man, i.e., rain gutters, pet dishes and discarded tires. The behaviors and habitats differ for different types of mosquitoes -- they are micro-habitat specialists. For example, there are mosquitoes categorized as floodwater species that occur after rain events. Floodwater mosquitoes have dormant eggs under dry conditions and hatch when there is sufficient rainfall to produce pools. Another group of mosquitoes is categorized as container-breeding mosquitoes. Container mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs in container-type habitats, i.e., pet dishes left outside, discarded drink cans that fill with irrigation or rainwater, saucers underneath flower pots and birdbaths.

It's interesting to note that most female mosquitoes have feeding preferences. There are mosquito species that adapted their behavior to feed on everything from amphibians, reptiles to mammals. However, most will not pass up the opportunity to take a blood meal from other animals. The most medically important mosquito in our area is Culex quinquefasciatus (southern house mosquito), which is discussed more below.

OK, on to the questions:

Let's start with the basics: What are the conditions that make mosquitoes so prevalent in North Texas, and how did the weeks of rain we experienced in May, then immediately followed by high temperatures and humidity, affect the mosquito population?
Any precipitation during the warm weather months can create standing/stagnant water and produce habitats for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Warmer temperatures and high humidities will enable the mosquito to complete their lifecycle faster, allowing them to lay more eggs and increase their populations more quickly. In the spring or periods of heavy rain, mosquitoes known as floodwater mosquitoes will dominate. As the summer progresses, standing water usually becomes scarcer, and container breeding mosquitoes will become more common. However, heavy rains in the summer can and do change the mosquito species present.

Why do mosquitoes feast on blood, and are all mosquitoes blood suckers?
Both male and female mosquitoes have a long snout or proboscis that they use for feeding. Both sexes of adult mosquitoes feed on nectar, plant sap or honeydew for nourishment. Only adult female mosquitoes feed on blood. A blood meal provides the protein required for egg development. Except for blood meals, males and females have the same diet.

It can seem as though the moment you step outside that mosquitoes have a radar that detects a food source is in its vicinity. How do they find us so quickly?
How mosquitoes find you is an active area of research and there is much to learn. It is not fully understood why some people are mosquito magnets while others are not. It is known that sights and odors attract mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are experts at detecting smells. A mosquito's antennae is covered with structures that can detect odors. The mosquito uses scents to find animals to feed on, nectar and places to lay their eggs. Carbon Dioxide is a universal attractant used to find a blood meal because all vertebrates emit it. Other body scents like a chemical called Octenol associated with large plant-eating animals, including humans, are also important. An interesting fact for those that like to barbeque and drink adult beverages is that scientific studies have shown that as the body breaks down the ingested beverages, chemicals released through perspiration attract mosquitoes.

Is there anything organic we can do to help reduce the amount of mosquitoes, say, in our backyard where we might want to have friends over to grill burgers without getting swarmed? What steps, such as eliminating standing water, can we take to reduce mosquitoes breeding around our homes?
Mosquitoes breed in standing water. To reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard, carefully check the property for any standing water and dump it. Pet dishes and birdbaths should be discarded every few days. If the water is permanent and can't be dumped or drained, use BTi (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensisto) to treat the water. This naturally occurring bacteria is available in a solid form, usually a ring or tablet. To treat a water body, BTi is simply tossed in the water. The City of Denton provides BTi to residents or can be purchased at retailers like Lowe's. BTi is a safe insecticide that only affects the larvae of mosquitoes. There is no toxicity to people.

is there a particular ingredient or anything specific we should look for in a product when buying yard spray or skin spray/cream that works better than others?
I put the following information together for a group at Robson Ranch in response to questions they asked after a presentation I gave. A few questions came up about mosquito repellents during our discussion. I thought I would provide the following information based on reliable sources -- American Mosquito Control Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Consumer Reports. I want to emphasize I am not promoting or recommending any product, only presenting the information for people to consider. When purchasing an insect repellent, read the label for ingredients. Other chemicals in the repellents besides the active ingredient might cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.

  • DEET is considered by many to be the "gold standard" in insect repellents. Products with 25 to 30 percent DEET provide long-lasting protection against mosquitoes and ticks. Higher concentrations of DEET are not necessary and may have effects on health.
  • Picaridin is an effective alternative to DEET. This product is widely used in Europe but has only been available in the U.S. since around 2005.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), a natural product, has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as an effective insect repellent. Care should be taken to not confuse OLE with the similarly named Lemon Eucalyptus Oil. While both products are extracted from Eucalyptus trees, the extraction methods differ and Lemon Eucalyptus Oil is reported not to be an effective repellent.

Several comments were made about Vitamin B as a repellent. However, research has not shown any reduction in mosquito attraction.

If going to an outdoor event, what precautions should we take to minimize the risk of becoming dinner for mosquitoes? For instance, do Citronella candles or burners really work? Do you recommend backyard bug zappers? Are mosquito control companies worth the cost?

A common recommendation for personal protection from mosquitoes is to follow the 4Ds:

  • Dusk – Dawn, are prime feeding times. Reduce time outdoors during these times
  • Dress - Long pants and sleeves – light-colored is less attractive to mosquitoes.
  • DEET - Use mosquito repellent – DEET is one, but there are others, see note below. Do not use DEET on animals
  • Drain – eliminate standing water.

Bug zappers, sonic devices, CO2 devices (mosquito magnet) have no proven efficacy. It should also be noted that Bug Zappers also kill many beneficial insects.

West Nile Virus is always in the news during mosquito season. What is it, what is the likelihood of contracting it and are there symptoms we should be aware of that signal a doctor visit is necessary?
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. The WNV cycles between mosquitoes and birds. The virus replicates inside of infected birds and can develop high levels of the virus. Ornithophilous (bird-loving) mosquitoes are infected when they feed on those birds infected with the virus. The virus replicates in the mosquito and is passed off to more birds through their saliva when they bite. Mosquitoes infected with WNV will also bite humans and other mammals if given the opportunity. However, these are dead-end hosts because they do not develop high levels of the WNV sufficient to pass it off to other biting mosquitoes. There are other potential ways of transmitting WNV, such as blood transfusions, but this is rare. I believe donated blood is tested with WNV before being used.

WNV was first detected in Denton County in 2002 by my laboratory. In the nearly 20 years, my laboratory has been partnering with the City of Denton to monitor mosquito populations; 99% of the mosquitoes that tested positive for WNV have been the southern house mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus. This mosquito has a preference for feeding on birds, but will readily bite humans given the opportunity. This mosquito prefers to lay its eggs in containers holding water and readily adapts to habitats around homes.

The chances of getting WNV are minimal. Even if you are bitten and infected with the WNV, less than 80% will have symptoms. Those that do develop flu-like symptoms within a week or two after being bitten. Less than 1% of those that contact WNV will be infected with the neuroinvasive form that infects the brain and spinal cord. The neuroinvasive form of WNV is a severe illness and can cause paralysis and death. The symptoms of the neuroinvasive condition include severe headaches, neck pain, sensitivity to light and confusion. Older adults and people with immune-compromised systems are more susceptible to the neuroinvasive WNV.

Susan Watson, Ph.D., UNT at Frisco

Dr. Watson is just one reason why UNT at Frisco is such an exciting campus. A Clinical Assistant Professor in the Applied Arts and Sciences program since October, 2019, her educational background includes a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M, an M.S. in Agricultural Education from Texas A&M, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Texas Tech. Now at home at UNT, she's helping non-traditional students from all over the world achieve their dreams while balancing life responsibilities through the Applied Arts & Sciences degree launched on Coursera. Of course, there's more to Dr. Watson than her love of teaching, like her love of zero-turn mowers, tennis and Taylor Swift. Yep, you're going to need to read more about Dr. Watson.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love being able to do a little bit of everything, from working with my multi-disciplinary team at UNT at Frisco in building the innovative culture of New College, to working with the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application and Research (CLEAR) on the expansive outreach of the Applied Arts & Sciences degree in partnership with Coursera – it’s an ever-changing role!

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
On-site childcare for parents. My children are too old now, but I have a special place in my heart for those who work and miss their children during the day.

What is your proudest work moment?
My proudest work moment was seeing the Applied Arts & Sciences degree launched on Coursera, and seeing thousands of students join the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) from all over the world. This program allows many non-traditional students to complete their degree online while balancing life responsibilities, and the expansive reach is allowing more and more families to be forever changed. 

What is your proudest non-work moment?
My proudest non-work moments are always standing back and watching my two teenage daughters shine, from their incredible work ethic with balancing athletics, jobs, school and faith – to their endless energy and love of life – it makes me proud to be their mother. 

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I like to ride the zero-turn mower and tractor when I am visiting my parents (they have upgraded equipment since I moved out!). It's nice to be outside on a lot of open space, see the beauty of God’s creation and appreciate where I came from. I love to play tennis (although I am more courtside these days, watching my daughter). I also love Taylor Swift and riding 4-wheelers.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie?: Shawshank Redemption
TV show?: Married at First Sight
Inspirational hero?: My mother and father (no one has sacrificed greater for me)

Yumia Hobbs, UNT

If you're a faculty or staff member at UNT, chances are you know Yumia Hobbs -- she goes by Mia -- pretty well, especially after these last 16 months of teaching and working during a pandemic. A graduate of the Mayborn School of Journalism, Mia's UNT career started as a student, and now she manages the CLEAR Faculty Helpdesk. CLEAR stands for Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application and Research, and the helpdesk provides technical support for UNT faculty and staff for UNT's Canvas learning management system. Talk about a job requiring a calm voice and long-lasting patience. She's a music fan who, pre-pandemic, fashioned vacations by hopping in a car and chasing down music festivals. Hopefully, Mia's good times will roll again this summer. Read on for more about Mia.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Solving complex issues with our learning management system -- Canvas -- and providing job opportunities to our UNT students.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I would love to see more mental health resources and safe spaces for Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) employees.

What is your proudest work moment?
After COVID hit, my manager and I had to transition our helpdesk operations to work remotely. We had very little time, but our small, yet mighty team was able to transition with minimal issues or interruptions.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
I had the opportunity to intern for SIRIUS Radio personality Madison Jaye, writing weekly articles for her entertainment blog. One of the articles I wrote was recognized by one of my favorite music artists.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I made history at my high school by advancing to Regionals in One-Act Play for the first time. I played the lead role of M’Lynn in the play “Steel Magnolias.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Song?: "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters
Hobby?: Traveling across the country for concerts and music festivals
TV show?: It's a tie between Friends and The Office

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Baggerly, Ph.D., UNT Dallas

Dr. Baggerly earned her Ph.D. in Counselor Education at UNT in 1999 and then headed to sunny Florida to begin her career at the University of South Florida. She returned to Texas in 2010 to join UNT's then-fledging school in southern Dallas, and never left. She's witnessed UNT Dallas grow into an independent campus with more than 4,000 students while becoming a treasured faculty member -- and, in fact, she's currently president of the Faculty Senate. An adventurous spirit, you might not know one of her greatest adventures involves her daughter, rapids, a helicopter and a cliff. And as a professor of counseling who advocates for the therapeutic powers of play, we're highly intrigued by her "play time" suggestion as an added UNT World employee benefit. Read on to learn more about Dr. Baggerly, her adventure and her suggestion.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Helping our counseling graduate students achieve their dream of becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor or Certified School Counselor.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
Since I am a play therapist, I believe in the therapeutic powers of play. I believe employees would benefit from “play time” by gathering together to play games of their choice such as volleyball, charades, or doing art projects.    

What is your proudest work moment?
Speaking with our alumni who have earned their status as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist and hearing how they are helping their clients improve their mental health.   

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Seeing my daughter laugh.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I took my daughter whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon where we flew in a helicopter to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, held tight during rough rapids, jumped off a cliff into the cold Colorado River, slept at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and hiked to a beautiful waterfall.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie?: Rat Race with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg
Song?: You Say by Lauren Daigle
Hobby?: Hiking and biking in nature

As UNT World employees, you may occasionally receive email invitations to webinars centered around benefits topics such as retirement, social security, savings plans, etc. Some of these can be solicitation emails from third-party vendors, and employees who mistakenly attend one of these webinars can receive misleading or wrong information. 

UNT World does not sponsor these presentations and information provided during these sessions has not been reviewed by Human Resources Benefits staff unless the presenters are a contracted vendor with our organization. Third-party vendors will often send emails with subject lines such as:

  • Make the most of your health plan
  • Join Us for an overview of TRS  and Social Security
  • Retirement Planning customized for you
  • Employer Paid Benefits

Please note that UNT World benefits webinars will come from UNT System or one of our contracted vendors, such as the following: 

  • UNT System Human Resources
  • UNT World Well-being program
  • Teacher’s Retirement System of Texas
  • Employees Retirement System of Texas
  • FMLA Source (Compsych – FMLA compliance provider)
  • Alliance Work Partners (EAP program provider)
  • Fidelity Investments (ORP and retirement savings provider)
  • TIAA (ORP and retirement savings provider)
  • AIG (ORP and retirement savings provider)
  • VOYA (ORP and retirement savings provider)
  • TexaSaver (457 retirement savings provider)

At times, UNT System Human Resources may support other training from additional vendors. If this occurs, we will notify you through our newsletter or UNT World Well-being program updates. If you receive email solicitations for webinars regarding your benefits, always feel free to check with your HR team to verify the validity of the invitation.
 
Employees who would like information regarding planning for retirement, insurance and leave are encouraged to meet with one of your HR benefits staff:

Kathleen Hobson, Director, UNT Pride Alliance
Kathleen Hobson

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

OUR EXPERTS:

  • Kathleen Hobson (they, them, theirs), Director, UNT Pride Alliance: Originally from Ohio, Kathleen received their bachelor's in Sociology from Ohio University and master's in Higher Education Administration from the University of Akron. They have worked in higher education full-time for nine years and moved to Denton in 2014 to open UNT’s Pride Alliance, where they currently serve as Director. Kathleen is a proud founding and executive board member of PRIDENTON. They describe themselves as a white, queer, genderqueer/trans/non-binary person who navigates the world with anxiety, depression and neurodivergence. Kathleen enjoys spending time with their cats Ailbhe and Séamus, and working on home and furniture projects.
Susan Harper, Ph.D., Coordinator of Activities, Student Affairs, UNT Dallas
Susan Harper
  • Susan Harper, Ph.D. (she/her/hers), Coordinator of Student Activities, oversees Multicultural Programs, UNT Dallas: Dr. Harper holds a bachelor's in English and Anthropology from UNT Denton, a master's and Ph.D. in Anthropology from SMU, and an MA in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies from Texas Woman’s University. Prior to coming to UNT Dallas in 2019, she taught courses in anthropology, sociology, Women’s Studies and Queer Studies throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. She describes herself as a “cisgender, mostly-lesbian-identified bisexual woman,” but also really likes the word “queer” for a label. She and her partner of 12 years, Stephanie, share their home with a jungle of plants and the world’s three most spoiled felines.

As Pride Month winds down, our experts examine how their UNT institutions have expanded LGBTQ+ inclusiveness and affirmation, evolving societal views, the biggest issues facing the LGBTQ+ communities on our campuses and workplaces, and more.

 

What did efforts at LGBTQ+ inclusiveness and affirmation look like when you arrived at your UNT World institution? What history of these efforts existed on your campus, and what priorities had been set around them?
Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance): 
When I arrived at UNT in 2014, the Pride Alliance had just been created on the Denton campus and UNT had also instituted a non-discrimination policy that included sexuality, gender identity and gender expression. There was also a history of Ally/SafeZone trainings that had been conducted for several years and an LGBTQ & Ally Scholarship. UNT also had an LGBTQ Studies Minor, which had existed prior to my arrival. Coming from work in Ohio and New York, these were some of the reasons that I personally felt comfortable coming to work at UNT and in Texas. At that time, there were two different Queer and Trans student organizations, GLAD: UNT’s Queer Alliance and the Trans and Intersex Alliance of Denton (T.R.I.A.D.). There was also the Trans Taskforce, which had been meeting regularly to identify and expand all-gender bathrooms on campus and issues of equity for Trans students, faculty and staff. Faculty had the opportunity to get involved with the LGBT Faculty Network and the Committee on the Status of LGBTQ+ Faculty (part of Faculty Senate).

Harper (UNT Dallas): I’ve been at UNT Dallas since 2019. When I arrived, the formal efforts at LGBTQ+ inclusion were scattershot – there had been SafeZone/Ally Trainings in the past, but there hadn’t been one offered in a while. There was a Gay Straight Alliance for students on campus, but it wasn’t hugely active and the main forces behind it graduated my first semester at UNT Dallas. UNT Dallas certainly was part of the larger UNT World efforts – an employment nondiscrimination clause and so forth – and I felt comfortable being out throughout my application and interview process. One of the things that was requested of me when I came on board was to expand the LGBTQ+ programming through my office. We’ve been able to come a long way in the two years I have been here, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go next.
 
How about from a faculty/staff perspective – was there a time when faculty/staff were not comfortable in being publicly “out”? Has that changed over time?
Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance):
 I started working at UNT in the Pride Alliance in 2014. Looking back through documents prior to 2014, there were private groups for Queer and Trans faculty and staff. People kept track of each other through handwritten lists and phone numbers. There was definitely a heightened fear for faculty and staff that they could be fired or discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity. Though I would say overall there are larger numbers of faculty and staff that feel comfortable being out, that is not a universal experience. I know that there are faculty and staff that feel hesitant being out at UNT for different reasons. This could depend on the level of acceptance in their office or department or privilege they hold in other identities, such as race, ethnicity, citizenship status and ability. Academia is still an environment that was created by and for white, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian, able-bodied men, and there are still risks in being out, no matter how far we have come.

Harper (UNT Dallas): This is one of those things that varies so much among people, especially when we take into consideration the other identities that intersect with LGBTQ+ identity. I can certainly say that in general, many more people in the U.S. are comfortable being out of the closet at work, and I have several colleagues on my campus who are out about their LGBTQ+ identity. But I am equally sure that I have colleagues who aren’t out at work, or who are out to a select group of colleagues with whom they work closely, but not to everyone on campus. UNT World having a nondiscrimination clause that protects LGBTQ+ people likely helps people feel more comfortable here – LGBTQ+ identity is not federally protected nor is it protected statewide, so there is a long history of people being closeted at work for fear of being fired (which is totally legal in many states, including Texas). I also think there are probably very different experiences for cisgender LGBTQ+ folks and trans folks of any sexuality when it comes to being out, since there are often additional issues they face with documentation, ID, etc. 
 
How do you see societal views of LGBTQ people having changed over time?
Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance): Societal views of Queer and Trans people have changed drastically in the last few decades. There is more education and information about sexuality and gender identity and more public and visible representation of Queer and Trans people in politics and the media. The average age of “coming out” continues to get younger and younger. I see and more and more students coming to UNT who are already firmly rooted in their identities. That being said, society and our UNT community still have a long way to go. There is by no means universal acceptance and equity for Queer and Trans people. Many of our laws and policies are lacking in access and protections for Queer and Trans people around housing, healthcare, adoption, and carceral systems. Queer and Trans communities are still at risk for physical violence, particularly Black Trans women.

Harper (UNT Dallas): There are still many prejudices and misconceptions about LGBTQ+ people, as we can see with the slate of anti-trans laws that we’re seeing in Texas and across the nation. The societal needle has moved more towards acceptance in just my lifetime – for instance, the acceptance of same-sex/same-gender marriage is at an all time high, and we’re seeing more companies adopt nondiscrimination policies and inclusion efforts. I think people now often see LGBTQ+ folks as not these strange exotic creatures, but as their friends and neighbors and coworkers. That said, however, cisgender heterosexual folks tend to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ folks who look and live like them, which means that LGBTQ+ folks who don’t adhere to the middle-class heteronormative model of life and family may not experience the same kinds of acceptance that those who do adhere to those norms do. There are certainly pockets of intense homophobia and transphobia in this country, though I do think that generally speaking people are more accepting of LGBTQ+ people now than they were even 20 years ago. But that acceptance can be uneven both regionally and across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I do find that many of my students come to UNT Dallas already having had friends who were out of the closet in high school or even younger, which was definitely not my experience as an undergraduate in the 1990s, when I didn’t know anyone out of the closet until college. I’ve recently worked with the Upward Bound students at UNT Dallas and some youth leadership students across the country and found that they are much more aware and accepting of LGBTQ+ people at 16-18 than I could possibly have been at that age.
 
Can you describe the way in which your UNT World institution has worked to become more inclusive and affirming? Is there a program or initiative you’re especially proud of in this area?

Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance): I would absolutely love to see more visible and proactive initiatives from UNT World. It is difficult to know what exists in the way of programming, training and inclusive policies for Queer and Trans students, faculty and staff at the other UNT campuses. The Pride Alliance often gets requests for training and programs from the other UNT campuses and, unfortunately, we not have the capacity to provide services. With one full-time staff position, it is difficult to meet the needs of just the Denton campus alone. Some of the programs and initiatives that we have been excited to create on the Denton campus include the OUTfits Clothing Closet, Lavender Graduation, Lavender Leaders Retreat, Chosen Name Change Policies, the Dr. Enedelia Sauceda Award for Supporting Student Wellness, partnerships with community organizations like PRIDENTON and Outreach Denton, and an interactive Google map of all-gender restrooms on the Denton campus (coming in Fall 2021).

Harper (UNT Dallas): We are fortunate to have strong administration support for a more LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming campus in President Mong, which helps set the tone. My office has started offering SafeZone/Ally trainings again, though I am in the midst of revising the curriculum to be more effective on our campus – many of those materials are very white-centered and also assume that people still need to be convinced of the reasons why LGBTQ+ people should be treated equally, and that’s just not appropriate for our campus. I find that the people who arrive at SafeZone are already aware of the need for LGBTQ+ inclusivity and equality – they just aren’t sure what steps to take to help us get there. Many of our LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff also exist at the intersection of LGBTQ+ identity and Black or Brown identity, which brings into play a number of different factors and experiences that need to be acknowledged in the training. I’ve sought out trainings done by LGBTQ+ people of color so I can more effectively advocate for our campus, whether by revising trainings I give or bringing in experts from outside. We’ve also expanded our programming for LGBTQ+ History Month and also brought LGBTQ+ identity into our other multicultural programming (Black history programming, for example). I think this helps students who are not LGBTQ+ see the importance of this community and gives our LGBTQ+ students a chance to see themselves mirrored and affirmed. My campus has a growing number of faculty and staff who include their personal pronouns in their email signature and who wear pronoun pins – small acts of allyship that have been shown to have powerful and even outsized effects on the well-being of trans students. We adopted gender-neutral language when naming our lactation space (often called a Mother’s Room) in the Student Center – it is simply called the Lactation Room. As I work with students, faculty and staff, and learn more about what challenges they face and what feels affirming to them, I adjust my programming plan and advocate for larger changes on campus.
 
What are the biggest issues still facing the LGBTQ+ community from a student perspective? From a faculty/staff perspective?
Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance): 
Student Perspective: Right now we are currently working with all of our incoming first-year students in their orientation sessions. They are busy trying to arrange their room assignments for the fall and Trans students continue to struggle to find safe and inclusive housing options and roommates. My office currently works with Housing to help Trans students find spaces in the residence halls and roommates that feel like a good fit. However, this current process requires Trans students to out themselves and advocate for their needs in order to access our assistance. This is a far larger burden than any incoming cisgender students have to carry in order to arrange housing. It can be a frustrating and nerve-wracking experience for Trans students, and is certainly difficult for the Pride Alliance and Housing to work with each individual student to try to introduce them to prospective roommates and place them together. This process is a band-aid and is not at all equitable. What students need is an official Open Housing Policy, that allows any student to opt-in to gender inclusive housing, which would allow them to room with other students, regardless of gender identity or sex assigned at birth. We  have been advocating for an Open Housing Policy since 2015. Additional concerns for students include: access to funds for gender-affirming healthcare, access to housing and funding if abandoned by parents and guardians, not enough all-gender bathrooms on campus, and general lack of knowledge about gender and sexuality from their peers, faculty, and staff.
 
Faculty/Staff Perspective: While there are many concerns I could speak to, one of the main concerns that faculty and staff report to my office is lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare. Because UNT has insurance through the state of Texas, faculty and staff are not able utilize their insurance for hormone replacement therapy, gender-affirming surgeries and additional types of care. Employees are forced to pay out-of-pocket for services and care that can be very costly. Gender-affirming care is often assumed to be “elective,” when in reality it is necessary and often life-saving.

Harper (UNT Dallas): This is a big question and, of course, I hesitate to speak for anyone but myself. But in talking to students, I find that many of the issues trans students face -- their official university records not reflecting the name they use and the appropriate gender, because the student has not changed their government ID (which is complicated), being called by the wrong name or misgendered in class or by peers – are important and pressing. Figuring out ways for students (and faculty and staff for that matter) to have their identities respected even if they have not (or choose not) to change their legal documentation is key. In talking to many of my students, I also find that a common struggle is reconciling Christian faith and being LGBTQ+. That’s not just an issue for our community, of course, but the central role that the church plays in many of our students’ family and cultural lives means that this can be especially painful. Having spaces to talk about this and access to LGBTQ+ affirming Christian spaces in the community, is vital. And our students are well aware of the epidemic of violence against Black and Brown trans women, including those who have been killed in our own community, and I know this is on their minds. As to faculty and staff, I know that we face some of the same issues as our students. Many of us also think about the issue of employment protections, access to healthcare (especially given the number of religious objection bills that have been floated in the US, which would allow medical care providers to refuse care to LGBTQ+ people if those providers object on religious grounds), and other aspects of daily life where discrimination is still prevalent. Nationwide, many university staff who are LGBTQ+ remark on how often we are expected to do the emotional labor of educating our peers on LGBTQ+ issues even if it’s outside of our job duties – a colleague of mine in the financial aid department at another university is the only out member of the staff in that area and ends up being the “go-to” for questions and training, even though that is far outside of their job description. This is an issue that BIPOC face about issues of race on campus as well, and is a whole other conversation! Also nationwide, LGBTQ+ scholars tend to be over-represented among the ranks of adjunct faculty and under-represented among the ranks of full-time faculty, with multipliers for people who are women, Black or Brown, disabled, and trans or gender nonconforming. This is an issue not just of economic justice but impacts who students see in the classroom, what ideas and materials they are exposed to and ultimately what campus climate is like.

What are some basic but powerful actions you think people can take to create more LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces on campus?
Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance): Add your pronouns to your email signature, nametag, website, business cards, and any introductions you do. Know where the closest all-gender bathrooms are in or near your work space and make sure that information is accessible in your space. Examine the language you use and how you can practice being more inclusive. Do an assessment of what actions your office or team is taking to intentionally be inclusive of Queer and Trans people, both students and faculty/staff. Request Pride Alliance Training for your office or department. Through training you will learn about inclusion and equity around gender and sexuality and can apply that to the specific work you do.
Educate yourself about the resources for Queer and Trans people on UNT’s campus and in the DFW area.

Harper (UNT Dallas): When I was adjunct faculty at several universities and colleges in DFW, I started each semester with a “getting to know you” sheet that each student filled out. In addition to asking what name the student liked to be called, their major, etc., I made space for students to indicate their pronouns and also to tell me more about themselves. Those questions were optional, but students tended to answer them and express how appreciative they were that I had asked. Sharing your pronouns (especially if you are cisgender!) in meetings and inviting (but never requiring) others to do the same is also a powerful act and models that your space is aware of gender diversity and wants to respect it. Gender-neutral bathrooms, doing away with binary gender language on forms, making it easier for students to amend records to include a name they use even if it is not their legal name – all these help to provide a more affirming environment. And also, always, just checking our assumptions. For instance, I no longer say that I had X number of men and X number of women at a program – because I can’t tell someone’s gender just by looking at them. I encourage people who do programming and education around relationships, violence prevention and the like to move away from assuming all relationships are heterosexual or heteronormative – we need accurate relationship education, sex education and violence prevention education that acknowledges all types of relationships and realities. I encourage faculty and staff to go through SafeZone training – even if you’ve done it before, you can always learn something new. (Trainings will be offered once a month this fall – email me for more details.) Challenge homophobia and transphobia when you hear it, and learn more about how to spot the more subtle but equally damaging forms this can take. Include LGBTQ+ issues and writers in your courses, even if it’s not a class “about” gender or sexuality.
 
Any additional issue or topic you believe should be discussed in this space?
Hobson (UNT Pride Alliance): 
As I mentioned before, I would absolutely love to see more visible and proactive initiatives from UNT World as a whole. I would like to feel seen and valued, and would like to see our Queer and Trans students, faculty and staff feel seen and valued. I would love to experience movements toward equity, inclusion, recognition and celebration of Queer and Trans members of the UNT community that are emanating from areas other than offices or departments whose main focus is diversity and inclusion.

Harper (UNT Dallas): I’ve been thinking a lot since I came to UNT Dallas about the time I spent as an undergraduate at UNT in Denton. It was a very LGBTQ+ campus even then – I can’t say it was “friendly” but it definitely had a very visible and active LGBTQ+ student population when I was there from 1993-1997. But I also remember trying – and failing – to get sexual orientation added to our nondiscrimination statement, and facing resistance from administration in that effort. I remember the meetings of the LGBTQ+ student organization, which was called Courage at the time, being disrupted by some of the more homophobic religious student organizations on campus. My first semester at UNT, a girl in my residence hall had her parents demand that she be put in a different room so that she wouldn’t have to room with a lesbian. I was just newly figuring out my own identity at the time, and during a time before the internet, I had been relatively sheltered from a lot of the realities of LGBTQ+ life in my small hometown in South Dakota. Even though I grew up with my life being shaped by AIDS, and even spending some time in queer neighborhoods in New York when I went to visit my grandparents, I really didn’t know what it was like for LGBTQ+ folks to just navigate the world. I remember one of my first friends at UNT telling me that, because he had DARED to bring a boyfriend to his senior prom in Rockwall the previous spring, all pictures of that event had been mysteriously damaged in processing and thus none showed up in the yearbook. I was horrified. I am intensely proud of how far UNT World has come in terms of creating inclusive spaces, from adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination statement, to having robust LGBTQ+ programming and even LGBTQ+ Studies courses, and the amazing work being done by the Pride Alliance on the Denton campus. Eighteen-year-old Susan would never have believed that we’d come this far, as a university system or as a culture – for that matter, she’d probably be surprised to be answering these questions for a newsletter that will go out system-wide!
 
We’ve come far in this country in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, but we have far to go. Contrary to what a majority of the country believed immediately afterward, the Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality did not outlaw all other forms of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. A more recent Supreme Court decision affirmed that LGBTQ+ people are covered under laws against gender discrimination in hiring and employment, but many states still do not have employment protections, housing protections and healthcare protections for LGBTQ+ people. Even in places where cisgender LGB people are protected, trans folks (whether LGBT or heterosexual) are vulnerable under the law, and LGBTQ+ people are still more likely to live at or near the poverty line (especially women and people of color, with trans women of color being the more vulnerable). We have work to do to create a culture and a society where LGBTQ+ equality and justice are a reality.

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