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It’s important to keep your beneficiary designation current. See the steps below to review, add or change your beneficiary information.

Log into your ERS account online

  1. Click “My Account Login” in the upper right corner
  2. Select “Proceed to Login” if you have an ERS Online account, or select “Register now” if you do not have an account
  3. Enter your username and password, click “Sign in”

If necessary, add a new beneficiary profile:

  1. Click “Beneficiary Summary” under “My Beneficiaries” on your home page
  2. Click “Change Information or Add New Beneficiary” button at the bottom of the page
  3. Click “Add a New Beneficiary”
  4. Enter the beneficiary’s personal data (Social Security number and date of birth are required)
  5. Click “Save”
  6. Click “OK”
  7. Click “Return to Summary of Beneficiaries” 

Assign a beneficiary:

  1. Click “Beneficiary Summary” under “My Beneficiaries” on your home page
  2. Review your beneficiary designations
  3. Click the blue link under the “Plan Description” for the benefits you would like to assign
  4. Click “Request Designation Change” 
  5. Select your beneficiary(ies) 
  6. Click “Save Beneficiary Elections”
  7. Click “Return to Beneficiary Plan Summary” 
  8. Click “Submit Changes” at the bottom of the page
  9. Click “OK”
  10. Receive the beneficiary designation form by email or mail if you do not have an email address on file

Complete and return the beneficiary designation form: 

  1. Review the form
  2. Print and sign your name
  3. Have an unrelated witness (not you or the beneficiary) sign his or her name
  4. Return the form to ERS

Your designation is not valid until you receive a confirmation from ERS.

For questions about designating beneficiaries, please contact ERS at 877-275-4377 or HR Benefits at 940-369-7650 (option 2), or email HRBenefits@untsystem.edu

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Rachel Barone, UNT System

Rachel joined UNT World three years ago, but only began her current role as Board Coordinator at UNT System in January. As if starting a new position during a pandemic isn't stressful enough, staring right back at her was the February 2021 Board of Regents meeting, her first event to handle operation solo. "I could barely sleep the night before the meeting," she recalled. Click the button below to see how all that turned out. Meanwhile, this wife and mother of a 5-year-old daughter and a fluffy Goldendoodle has a favorite country to visit where staple dishes are whale and fermented shark -- guess which one she spit out?! Also a lover of the vast Texas landscape, Rachel and her family have become quite the explorers of the Lone Star State during quarantine.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My boss, Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs and Student Success, Rosemary Haggett, is a rock star and has taught me skills that will benefit me for the rest of my career. I always feel valued and supported in my role, and that’s not something that happens everywhere. Also, I get to work with some amazing colleagues from all over UNT World—I truly love my job.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I really respect the benefits package provided to employees, so it’s hard to think of something I’d add. But, if they wanted to give employees free Starbucks for life, I would not say no!

What is your proudest work moment?
We recently went through a transition in our office and I took on the Board Coordinator role in January 2021. The February 2021 Board meeting was my first meeting where I was handling the meeting operations solo. I could barely sleep the night before the meeting and was a ball of nerves the morning of the meeting. However, I’m happy to say that the meeting was a success, and I feel really confident in my work moving forward.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
I have a 5-year-old daughter named Safia, who is the light of my life. I watch her and how she effortlessly navigates issues that grown adults sometimes struggle with and I’m inspired to be the best human I can be. I’m proud to be her momma and I look forward to watching her blossom.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I didn’t learn to drive until I was 25. My dad wasn’t a fan of kids having a license at 16 and I moved around after graduating high school at 17. I even lived in England for a year while pursuing my Masters at age 22, so driving wasn’t a priority until it was time for me to go back to work after having my daughter. I will say that I found driving to be easy and I barely practiced before passing my driver's exam. I credit that to being the best backseat driver that ever was—just kidding.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?:
 Germinal by Émile Zola. This novel is about the coal mining riots in France during what was considered France’s third wave of revolution in the 19th century. It’s not what I would consider a happy novel, but it is rich in lessons about humanity.
Place to visit?: Iceland. I visited in September 2014 and loved the whole experience. Iceland is a beautiful country and the people are as sweet as can be. I even tried whale and fermented shark, which are two staple dishes. The whale was delicious and pretty similar to steak, but I’ll pass on fermented shark in the future (I spit it right out!).
Hobby?: My husband and I have hiked in multiple countries, and many states, but Texas is by far the best. It’s beautiful how the landscape changes from north to south, east to west. We made the most of quarantine by taking our daughter on as many hikes as possible. Oh, and we always include our goldendoodle, Pluto! 

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Angie D. Cartwright, Ph.D, UNT

Since joining UNT in 2015, Angie has been immersed in important work that keeps her days packed. This associate professor and director of the undergraduate minor in counseling also heads two programs she created from grants -- the Integrated Care and Behavioral Health Project (@icbhproject on Twitter) and UNT Classic (@UNTClassic) -- that focus on increasing access to mental health services for underserved communities. During the last year, she has worked as a fellow in the Office for Faculty Success to help develop and implement the Anti-Bias and Cultural Awareness Program that began in the fall of 2020. When she does exhale, you might catch her enjoying her favorite Thai meal, singing and dancing to her favorite Whitney Houston tune or relaxing to her all-time favorite TV drama that these days at least she doesn't have to record on her -- gulp! -- VCR anymore. One more thing: Catch her at the right time and you might think you're seeing double.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My favorite thing about my job is helping to make mental health services more accessible for underserved communities, and the look on my students' faces when they begin to understand that they make a difference in the lives of people.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World
Maybe a fun video on how to shovel snow or the proper way to build a snowman in case we have another Dallaska/Snowmageddon winter storm.

What is your proudest work moment?
My proudest work moment was being named UNT's inaugural Presidential Early Career Professor for 2017-18.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
My proudest non work moment is being a mother to the most amazing kid in the world, Bradley (7 years old - pictured above).  

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I have a twin sister and her name is Angela. I am one minute older than she is and although our names are very similar, they are different. My actual name is Angie not short for Angela because her name is Angela.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE...
TV show: 
I love all things Shonda Rhimes, but I am a huge Greys Anatomy fan. I've been a fan since the first season when I would rush home to watch or record on my VCR before the DVR and playback. 
Restaurant: Thai Square in Denton. I absolutely love the Khoa Soi; I try to eat it at least once a week.
Song: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston. It's hard to be upset or sad listening to that song. It literally makes me get up and dance, while also singing as loud as I can.

Ask an Expert: Dr. Johnathan Tune, UNT Health Science Center

A year ago, Dr. Tune came home. He completed his bachelor's degree in Biology at UNT in 1994 and earned his PhD at the UNT Health Science Center in 1997. From there, he's put together one impressive career: Post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, assistant professor back at the HSC (2000-03), faculty member at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans followed by the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. In March 2020, he came full circle as the Professor and Chair of the HSC's Department of Physiology and Anatomy. Had he opted for a non-medical career, it's clear Dr. Tune might still have been a professor at UNT -- no, not at the College of Music -- as a professor of a particular era of American history. Just keep reading and you'll see what we mean.

 

Q&A

What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on mechanisms that influence cardiovascular function in health and disease. In particular, my laboratory has a long-standing interest in studying how obesity and diabetes promote cardiovascular disease. I also enjoy teaching physiology to students in a variety of programs at the HSC and helping to expand collaborative efforts across the UNT World.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
The favorite thing about my job has to be the people. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many amazing individuals in UNT World over the years and I thoroughly enjoy working with, and learning more about each and every one of them.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous growth of UNT World over time. I think the addition of activities to help foster collaboration across the entire UNT System would be extremely valuable in helping faculty, staff and students maximize opportunities and potential for continued growth of the institution.

What is your proudest work moment?
My proudest personal moment was when I received the Henry Pickering Bowditch Award Lectureship, one of the highest honors bestowed by the American Physiological Society, in 2013. More recently, I would have to say my proudest moment was witnessing how faculty, staff and students have stepped up and positively responded to countless obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
There is definitely a continuum here as I am extremely proud of my family: My wife Mary of 24+ years and our four children: Johnathan (19), Will (17), Caitie (14) and Caroline (11). I very much enjoy being there for them and watching them grow through the ups and downs of life.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?
I am very interested in history, especially the Civil War.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Book: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Doris Kerns Goodwin); Civil War: A Narrative (Shelby Foote); Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (James McPherson)
Movie: Forrest Gump; The Godfather trilogy; Shawshank Redemption
Place to visit: Historical locations: Visiting Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields was fascinating to me
 

Ask An Expert: Dr. Tyson Garfield, UNTHSC

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

EXPERT: Dr. Tyson Garfield, Assistant Professor of Geriatric Medicine, UNTHSC
EXPERTISE: Primary care and consultant geriatrician with seven years clinical experience

Throughout this ongoing pandemic, we've seen just how advantageous it is to have a medical school as a member institution. The UNT Health Science Center has been invaluable to us as well as the community-at-large. With vaccinations now available for people 50 and older, and thousands getting vaccinated daily in North Texas, we have plenty of questions about what that means for our daily lives. Can those of us vaccinated safely go to grocery store? Or dining indoors? How about taking our unvaccinated children to the upcoming Texas Rangers home opener? Dr. Garfield has answers.

Q: Now that I’ve received the full vaccination for COVID-19, what can I do, where can I go?
Dr. Garfield: 
With the vaccines, a person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (which is only one dose). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released interim guidelines on March 8 to reflect this. Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe CV-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic  

 

So, in simple terms, fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors or visit with low risk people from a single household without masks or distancing. Fully vaccinated people also don’t need to have a test if they have a known exposure as long as they remain asymptomatic. If symptoms develop, that person should be tested. However, just because you are vaccinated doesn't mean it is safe to return to your pre-pandemic daily behaviors just yet. For example:

  • Is it safe to go to the grocery store?
    • It still isn’t completely safe to go to the grocery store, but as vaccination rates increase, I hope this will be safe in a few months. For now, continue to do curbside pick-up or limit in-store hours to less busy time.  
  • Is it safe to dine indoors?
    • Not yet. With the recent statewide change in regulation regarding mask wearing and capacity, I would recommend continuing to support local restaurants through take-out or drive-through. The number of fully vaccinated persons increase daily and as this increases, the risk of dining indoors will decrease.
  • Can I gather in a large group outdoors?
    • As long as everyone is fully vaccinated and this is a private gathering (i.e. not an outdoor concert or bar), this would be the safest way to gather. Large gatherings are still not recommended at this time.
  • Last week, the Texas Rangers announced that they will allow full capacity (40,518) for two upcoming exhibition games (March 29 and 30) and for the April 5 home opener with mask enforcement being mostly up to fans to self-police. Is it safe to take my unvaccinated children, even with the roof being open?
    • Not at this time. Vaccines are still being investigated in children, and the Pfizer vaccine has actually been authorized for children 16 and older, but due to the large crowd and close proximity, this Opening Day has the chance to be a “superspreader” event in that many unvaccinated individuals will be in contact and could take COVID-19 back to their communities and loved ones. Hopefully, people will self-police and wear their masks, and by April 5 many more people will be fully vaccinated. But, at the time of writing this I cannot recommend attending Opening Day in person.

Q: I'm fully vaccinated, but can I still contract the virus and pass it on to someone who is not vaccinated?
Dr. Garfield: 
The data is still pending on this question, and for now the answer is “Yes.” There is evolving data from Israel, which primarily used the Pfizer vaccine, that transmission may be reduced in those who are vaccinated. The vaccines are excellent at reducing infection severity and likely decrease asymptomatic infection (particularly the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), which in turn would reduce transmission.

Q: What are the risks and benefits of the vaccine?
Dr. Garfield: Overall, the risks are low, and the most common side effects of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines are a sore arm, fatigue and a headache. These normally occur one to two days after the vaccination, are usually worse after the second injection and usually last for a day. Symptoms are easily improved with Tylenol. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has similar side effects, but is only one dose. The benefits are that two weeks following the final dose of your vaccine path, you are protected from COVID-19! The Pfizer/Moderna vaccine generally has better protection, up to 95% vs. the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which boasts a still hefty 66% protection; and ultimately the best vaccine is the one that gets into your arm the soonest! As far as providing protection from coronavirus, “natural immunity” (becoming infected) does not provide as long-lasting protection as the vaccines do; so even if you were previously infected it is still recommended to get vaccinated.

Q: With people getting vaccinated each day, is a wearing a mask still really necessary?
Dr. Garfield: Yes, right now masks are still necessary. Even if you are fully vaccinated, masks will continue to be necessary until studies confirm that the vaccines decrease asymptomatic transmission. As increasing numbers of people are vaccinated the risks of all the previously discussed activities will decrease and allow a slow return to “normal.” Thanks to vaccines, we’ll reach herd immunity and one day we’ll all get to see each other’s smiling faces again!

View all "Ask an Expert" Articles

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Landon Ellison

Landon Ellison truly can claim he bleeds Mean Green. While his career at UNT started in 2011, his devotion to the campus dates back to his freshman year in 2006, when also got his first UNT job in the campus bookstore. And seriously, want to talk devotion? Along with his numerous job duties (read about those by clicking the button below), he serves as President of the UNT Black Professional Network, is co-chair of the Division of Enrollment Diversity Council, co-chair for the Dean of Students Committee on Student Conduct and he serves on UNT President Neal Smatresk's Diversity Advisory Council. Those who know him will tell you the size of his is matched only by his dedication to serving students and their families. Get to know Landon.

 

Q&A

What do you do in position?
I currently oversee the Office of Outreach. Our primary services in Outreach include a few initiatives, including overseeing the planning and implementation of recruitment initiatives for diverse student populations. We host community education events in English and Spanish to assist students and families in navigating the higher education enrollment process. We partner closely with the Division of Equity and Diversity – particularly the Multicultural Center, to connect students with retention initiatives to help minority student populations persist and complete their degrees. Outreach also has a partnership with the Consulate of Mexico in Dallas -- the Ventanilla de Orientación Educativa. Our services aim to educate the general public, from elementary school students to parents and adult learners about the doors that higher education can open for students. Our 40 G-Force Mentors work in 12 school districts, assisting students with their admissions and financial aid applications. I also lead the Collin County Admissions Recruitment Team, which operates and works closely with the UNT at Frisco campus to increase enrollment. I am fortunate to have a talented team passionate about breaking down barriers that may prevent students from starting and completing their college education at UNT or elsewhere.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Helping my team grow and develop as professionals and ensuring we are serving students and their families who may not have much knowledge or background in higher education. Some of my office members plan to stay in higher education, and others have other goals and aspirations. Playing even a small part in helping my full-time and student employees harness a skill set or achieve their goals is one of my favorite parts of my position. It's a privilege to lead and to learn from my team every day.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
I believe our employees could serve from more holistic training and overview of higher education culture at UNT when they start working. Many full-time personnel do not plan to have a higher education career but find their way to our family regardless. However, their viewpoint and knowledge set is sometimes limited to their specific area. Due to my experience in several divisions and through my masters and doctoral studies in the UNT Higher Education Department, I have gained a holistic and broad knowledge base in post-secondary education. Not everyone has the same opportunities or interests as myself. Still, I believe my diverse career experiences at UNT have helped me become a better leader for my unit and believe it has made me a better leader. Incorporating multi-day training or online modules ranging from information on financial aid to academic operations or even fraternity and sorority life may spark a passion for our diverse range of employees. Having even a small amount of knowledge in an area of higher education outside of your area may provide you with more tools to help and serve students.

What is your proudest work moment?
It isn't easy to choose one. Anytime I have a student, teammate or employee who has told me I had helped them in any small way makes me proud of my work. I received a very touching card from a team member who left the institution this summer, thanking me for some of the things I did to support our group as the pandemic took shape. Considering I hadn't directly supervised this individual, it made me proud of what our Admissions Team was able to accomplish in a difficult time, and grateful that I could help this individual in a small way.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Completing my master's degree in 2015. I had a tough time in school growing up and wasn't sure I'd even be able to go to college. UNT gave me a chance as an undergrad, and I had no intention of going to graduate school until I started working full-time. Completing my master's was never something I considered before, so it was a real honor to continue my education and earn my graduate degree.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your work colleagues?
I am a semi-decent artist. I actually picked up drawing again this summer and have learned to do pieces on my iPad.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Book?: Harry Potter Series
Movie?: Black Panther
Inspirational Hero?: My wife and best friend (fellow UNT alum) – Vanessa. The most resilient and compassionate person I have ever met.

Jason Hartley

Jason Hartley, Vice President for Operations, UNT HSC, talks about leading teams in the "Leaders on Leading" audio clip series. This series features quick, entertaining, and motivating Q&As with organizational leaders on having an impact and developing people. Listeners will get real-world advice, learn practical tips, and hear inspirational stories to help improve their own leadership skills.

 

 

Ask an Expert: Dr. Shanda Riley

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

EXPERT: Dr. Shanda Riley, Assistant Director of Counseling & Wellness Center and Adjunct Professor, UNT Dallas
EXPERTISE: Therapist and social worker with 20 years of clinical experience; K-12, Higher Education

A Southern California native and UCLA graduate, Dr. Riley joined UNT Dallas in 2016 and oversees the counseling services provided to undergraduate and graduate students. This past year has presented plenty of new mental health challenges for students, faculty, staff and even experienced mental health professionals. We sought Dr. Riley to help faculty and staff detect warning signs that a student might be struggling emotionally due to the pandemic or other factors, ways to assist a struggling student, as well as best practices for ongoing self-care as we all attempt to manage the daily stresses we face.

Q: What are some warning signs to detect that a student is experiencing some difficulties as a result of the pandemic and/or other factors?
Dr. Riley: We all have been experiencing some challenging times due to the pandemic, and to add to these difficult times was the recent winter storms and power outages that left many families without electricity and/or water, and some with damage to their homes. When many are faced with challenges such as these, it may often impact our UNT World community emotionally and mentally, and particularly our students. As a faculty or staff member, there are some important warning signs for you to be aware of that students might exhibit as a result of a major life crisis. Therefore, being able to identify warning signs and having some guidelines to address the situation can be extremely helpful. When students are in distress, including currently being impacted by the pandemic, there are some common behaviors to look for while considering three levels of stress:    

 

LEVEL 1: These behaviors may signal that something is wrong, even if the student is not disruptive to others:

  • Serious grade problems or a change from consistently good grades to poor performance
  • Excessive absences, especially if the student had previously demonstrated good, consistent class attendance
  • Unusual or markedly changed pattern of interaction, i.e., totally avoiding participation, becoming excessively anxious when called upon, dominating discussions, etc.
  • Other characteristics that suggest the student is having trouble managing stress, include a depressed, lethargic mood; being excessively active and tentative (very rapid speech); red, swollen eyes; marked change in personal dress and hygiene; sweaty (when room is not hot); and falling asleep inappropriately.

LEVEL 2: These behaviors indicate stronger emotional distress, as well as a reluctance of the student to seek help/support:

  • Repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional disclosing the circumstances prompting the request
  • New or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with the effective management of the immediate environment
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional response which is obviously inappropriate to the situation.

LEVEL 3: These behaviors usually indicate that a student is in obvious crisis and needs emergency care:

  • Highly disruptive (hostile, aggressive, violent, etc.); inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, unconnected or disjointed thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things which aren’t there, beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability)
  • Overtly suicidal thoughts (referring to suicide as a current option)
  • Homicidal threats.

Q: What is the best way to assist a student who you believe is struggling academically and/or emotionally?
Dr. Riley: College students are often faced with stress and anxiety for various reasons. Some causes of stress and anxiety can be due to academics, family problems, social situations, financial concerns, as well as being in a crisis. While some students cope well with the demands of college and life, there are others that become overwhelmed and struggle with managing or finding a balance between the two. As a faculty member or staff, being able to support and assist students as they face these challenges can have a tremendous impact on their academic success and their overall well-being. 

Once you recognize that a student is experiencing some difficulty and you have identified the warning signs that are associated with it, it is now time to directly assist the student and/or refer them to the appropriate professional to assist them with their needs. 

  • What to do when you suspect a student is struggling academically and/or emotionally due to stress:  
    • Talk to the student in private when you both have time and not in a rush or preoccupied. It is important that you give the student your undivided attention. By you effectively listening can make a big difference in the student feeling comfortable about what to do next
    • Be direct and nonjudgmental. For example, you can say, “I noticed that you have been absent lately and I am concerned, instead of “Why have you been absent a lot lately?” 
    • Listen sensitively. Listen to the student’s thoughts and feelings in a caring manner. Relay your understanding by repeating back to the student the essence of what they have shared with you.
    • Refer. Inform the student that there is help available to them. Provide the student with places they can go for help. 
    • Follow up. This is an important part of the process. Check in with the student at a later time to see how they are doing, and provide the necessary support. 
  • What to do when you suspect a student is in a crisis: If you believe that a student is in imminent danger to themselves or someone else, immediately call 911. If a student is in crisis, but you believe that they are not in imminent danger, please contact the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas at 214-828-1000 or the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority’s Crisis Hotline at 1-866-260-8000 for assistance and support that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the student’s crisis is COVID-19 related, contact the North Texas Behavior Health Authority’s COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line at 1-833-251-7544 which is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Q: What are some things that I can do for ongoing self-care, and to help me manage any challenges that I might be facing?
Dr. Riley: When working with students, especially those who are in distress, faculty and staff can also experience stress themselves. Not to mention your personal life can create challenges for you as well. As a result, you may find it difficult to have a work-life balance in addition to managing the various challenges that you might be facing in your life. With that being said, it is imperative that you take care of yourself, too. It is definitely OK for you to take time out of your day to do things that you enjoy. Some self-care activities that you can engage in and incorporate into your daily routine are: breathing exercises, meditation, listening to music, reading, some type of physical exercise such as walking, riding a bike, working out, gardening, Yoga, getting a massage, journaling or talking with a friend or loved one that you feel comfortable with and trust. You can also seek support from your colleagues and supervisor. It may also be beneficial to speak with a counselor. Counseling services are available and free of charge for faculty and staff covered by your health insurance benefits through the Employee Assistance Program. If you are interested in counseling, please visit the Employee Assistance Program website or call 800-343-3822.

View all "Ask an Expert" Articles

Ask an Expert: Daniel "Dee" Goines

Dee oversees UNT Dallas' lone residence hall, Wisdom Hall. What a year it has been, charged with making life normal and fun for student residents while keeping them safe throughout the pandemic and then February's winter storm with its ensuing power and water outages. And talk about a full plate, this husband and father of a 1-year-old daughter is also working on his doctorate. With all that going on, sometimes one just needs to put their head in the clouds. So it's a good thing his weekend hobby takes him into the great blue yonder (who knew a paper airplane obsession in grade school would lead to this?). When he seeks inspirational motivation, he turns to his hero, The Rock -- yep, the wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson. You won't believe the two-year plan he put in motion to meet him -- and it worked, brilliantly.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I'll have to split this up in two parts. Pre-pandemic, when we were on campus, my favorite thing probably was just walking around to the different offices and talking students, building relationships with them. That was my favorite thing to do, literally, just get out of the office and go talk to people. Now, my favorite thing I do is working with our team to come up with creative ways to still engage with students and make our program attractive for them to want to apply to live on campus again.

What employee benefit or activity would you like see added to UNT World?
I would like to see some educational benefits that expand beyond the UNT System. For example, I’m currently in a doctorate program at Maryville University in St. Louis. I would have loved to have been in a doctorate program at UNT Dallas, but we don’t offer my concentration of higher education leadership. I could take the program at UNT, but there is no intra-system discounts, so now I’m taking it at another school, and I would just like for us to feel supported in continuing our education if the opportunities are not available where we work. I'm about halfway done. I'll be done next December.

What is your proudest work moment?
I came to UNT Dallas when they were six months into this [residence hall] project. So a week before we opened, the first floor basically flooded because a pipe had burst in the boiler room. We had to relocate 30 students to hotels in the area for like eight weeks. When we opened, all the residents who were able to move in, were having a good experience. And then when we were able to bring those 30 students back from the hotel, we still managed to create that opening moment, walking to campus, your first year on campus, and really create that experience for them. I think that was really my proudest moment.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Easy, when I became a dad in August 2019. We had a little girl, Parker. Being a father is the best thing ever. When I first saw her, my whole mind set about life and how I view life changed, like how every decision that I make I have to keep her in mind, what can I do to set her up to be successful or at least demonstrate what positivity is in life, and I'm constantly growing in that regard.

What fact about you might surprise your work colleagues?
I like to fly planes, and I'm actually working on my private license right now. I don’t think anybody knows that about me at my job. It’s a single-engine propeller for now, but eventually I’d like to go to that next size. It’s just a hobby. I like to fly my wife and daughter around. I’m doing the flight hours right now, usually two Saturdays out of the month, I do four hours each weekend of flying with an instructor. You need like 1,200 hours, so it’s purely just a hobby right now. I fly always with a co-pilot in the cabin with me and I think we don’t go more than like 1,700 feet, but I enjoy flying. I enjoy all planes in general, starting off from making paper air planes in school. I used to get in trouble for making paper planes in class. I would always have the longest distance and the best designs, so I think from that as I got older it became, let me check this out. I’m learning in a Cessna SkyHawk, three-passenger, single-engine, propeller. I do most my lessons at the Dallas Executive Airport.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie: Four Brothers
Inspirational hero: The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), for sure. He was my childhood favorite person. My dad took me to one of his wrestling shows when I was a kid and I just always liked him. When I worked in California, one of my part-time jobs was working security for the San Francisco 49ers, and at that stadium, Wrestlemania was coming like two years later. I really only got the job because I saw the schedule of events for like the next three years, this was in 2013 or 2014, and I saw the Super Bowl was coming up there, I saw Wrestlemania was coming up there, a couple of concerts, so I had to get in. I became security for the 49ers, only to use that credential for when Wrestlemania came so that I could meet the Rock. I worked all the football games those two seasons, Wrestlemania came up and I had my season credential for all-access to the stadium. I showed up the Sunday that the event was happening. I didn’t know if he was going to be there because the night before he was hosting Saturday Night Live and I was thinking he’s not going to make from New York to Cali just to come and do this event. It was like 6 a.m. and sure enough he was there rehearsing. I walked up to him and was super-nervous, but told him, "you're my hero and I only took this job so I could meet you." I literally stayed for the rest of that day. I called my wife and two friends and told them to meet me at the stadium, come to the show and I basically walked out on the job that day because my goal was accomplished. He was a super nice guy.
 

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Ravi Vadapalli

Ever get asked a complex, scientific-type question, and all you could really say is, "What do I look like, a nuclear physicist?!" Well, Ravi lives for such inquiries. Because he is a nuclear physicist! With a doctorate in Nuclear Physics from Andhra University in Visakhapatnam, India, and a master's in Computational Engineering from Mississippi State, his mission, and that of North Texas Scientific Computing, or NTSC, is to help researchers leverage a wide range of computational resources to solve some of the most challenging questions in science. But don't worry, he has a lighter side, too, like unwinding with ... Pokémon cards? We know he's eagerly awaiting the release of Coming 2 America. And does he have a future as a contestant on The Voice

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?  
Meeting students and faculty who are passionate about solving scientific problems. I enjoy fostering disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborations where computing is the common denominator. Training the future workforce is invigorating and exciting as students leave UNT prepared to change lives and improve society by what they learned through our scientific computing. My work is focused on strengthening scholarship, graduate education — especially doctoral programs — through computing and data science and analytics. We provide a supportive learning environment of scholarly activity and innovation by supporting faculty in their scholarly research, collaborations and external awards. It’s a rewarding place to work!
  
What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World? 
UNT World is a becoming a closely connected set of sister schools. I would propose that scientific computing could be an excellent common denominator. I would continue strengthening UNT World collaborations across basic and medical sciences via scientific computing and innovation to add tremendous value to the users, stakeholders and our overall quality of life in higher education and society in general.

What is your proudest work moment?
Assisting the UNT Office of Research and Innovation in developing and leading interdisciplinary research teams across Texas as a part of multi-million-dollar community and disaster resilience grant proposal initiative (https://issuu.com/universityofnorthtexas/docs/unt_research_magazine_2018/44). My proudest moment is when we transitioned from one of the proposers to the only proposal across Texas with UNT as the lead. While this grant didn’t materialize due to various bureaucratic hurdles, it gave me a great opportunity to get to know UNT World and its capabilities while introducing the stakeholders to what we can do together. 

What is your proudest non-work moment? 
I would say how my mind evolved from thinking of my success as satisfaction to recognizing, engaging and leading conversations without fear or looking for personal gain. While this is still a work in progress, I can at least say that I can resist mental turbulence more easily and recover from it much faster. Of course, my family provides me with never-ending non-work moments that make me proud as a husband and father.

What fact about you might surprise your work colleagues?
I sing in my office.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...
Book?: A Scheme of Heaven: The History of Astrology and the Search for our Destiny by Alexander Boxer. 
Celebrity?: Eddie Murphy 
Hobby?: Chess, UNO, Carrom, Monopoly, Pokémon cards, intellectual conversations with my 10-year-old, and helping my 13-year-old on home projects. 
Charitable cause?: American Cancer Society