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CDC Mask Fitting Guidelines

If you missed it, the CDC released the results of its new mask study this week that shows the importance of a well-fitting mask. The researchers used dummies to experiment with two different methods that substantially improved mask performance. One was to knot the ear loops of a medical procedure mask where they attach to its edges and then tuck in and flatten the extra material close to the face (to minimize the side gaps). Another was to fit a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask. When either option was worn by both the source and receiver, exposure was reduced by about 95%.

Another good reminder from the CDC: Until vaccines help us achieve population immunity, universal masking is highly effective for slowing the spread of the virus when you combine it with other measures such as social distancing, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated indoor areas, and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.

According to the American Diabetes Association, two out of five Americans have or will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Let your Employment Retirement System of Texas (ERS) benefits help you manage your condition with services such as no-cost diabetes supplies for certain brands of test stripes, lancets and lancing devices under the HealthSelect Prescription Drug Program (PDP) administered by OptumRX when you use an in-network pharmacy and present your prescription drug ID card. 

Consumer Directed HealthSelect participants can get lancets, lancing devices, syringes, pen needles and OneTouch test strips at no cost after they meet their annual deductible.

Free Glucose Meter Program

The Free Glucose Meter Program lets HealthSelect of Texas and HealthSelect Out-of- State participants get a certain OneTouch Verio glucometer at no cost when they order it through LifeScan (the manufacturer of One Touch products). Once their provider determines which glucometer they should use, participants can contact:

  1. LifeScan Service Center at (866) 355-9962 or visit: onetouch.orderpoints.com.
  2. Enter the Brochure Code: 594PRX100. 

LifeScan will deliver the glucometer directly to your address.

To get the OneTouch glucometer at no cost, participants must order through LifeScan. If you prefer to get a glucometer at a retail pharmacy, a prescription from your doctor is required and the applicable copay/coinsurance will apply. To learn more about the HealthSelect diabetic supply coverage click here and read this "Frequently Asked Questions" or call OptumRx Customer Care toll-free at (855) 828-9834 (TTY: 711).

Manage Diabetes Through Fitness 

Taking charge of your fitness routine is an important part of managing your diabetes or dealing with prediabetes. With the pandemic making it difficult to visit a gym, or don't have time to go to one, then check out the virtual classes available through the UNT Rec Center that can be accessed for all levels -- and when it’s convenient for you.

Ask an Expert: Dr. Julie Leventhal, UNT College of Education

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: Julie Leventhal, Principal Lecturer, UNT Honors College
EXPERTISE: Interpersonal relationships, human trafficking

Nearly a year into the pandemic, perhaps Valentine's Day is coming at just the right time to remind us how fortunate many of us are to be with our significant other during such stressful times -- even if, at times, all this time together can seem, well, a bit much. Our Ask an Expert series consulted with UNT Honors College relationship guru Dr. Julie Leventhal (pictured with her new husband Eric) to share relationship wisdom. She provides advice to make our pandemic Valentine's Day meaningful and shares how we can better support one another as so many of us are spending more hours together with our loved ones than ever before.

Q: We love to get a romantic meal out on Valentine's Day, but because of the pandemic, we're just not dining in. Can you help save our celebration on this special day?
Julie: Almost a year into this pandemic and being home (a lot) with your significant other, it seems as though many have creatively adapted to spending time with loved ones! I have read a lot of stories about how couples and families are doing things like outdoor movies, picnics and even setting up unique spaces in their homes for special occasions. However, I think there was a big push for that kind of creativity early on during the pandemic, but now a lot of couples and families are falling back into the, “we’re still doing the same thing day-in and day-out” rut. So, more specifically for Valentine’s Day, I think it’s important for families to inject a bit of a refresh into their systems. It could be engaging in some activity like those I just mentioned or maybe figuring out something new. Why not order a surprise food delivery for dinner?

 

It may not be the “typical” fancy Valentine's-type dinner that we always see represented in pop culture, but not needing to spend time cooking a meal for a day might be a welcome and appreciated break for a partner. Or, maybe go the more practical rout and instead of buying something like flowers, order groceries to be delivered so that your spouse has one less thing to worry about. Even though both of those examples relate specifically to food, think about ways that you can help provide something for your partner; we don’t necessarily need more time to spend with our partners since we might be together so frequently now, so actions may be something different that a partner may value.

Also keep in mind that Valentine’s Day is just another day in the large scheme of things. Given that the days now all seem to merge together, it may be more significant to pinpoint a more meaningful day to celebrate with your partner. Did your children go back to face-to-face learning and now your house is empty again during the day? Did your partner start a new job after being laid off due to the pandemic? Did you just get the vaccine? Did you just get out of bed this morning and finally feel a sense of hope for the first time in a while? All of these types of events are significant, and may be even more important to single out and celebrate in place of a typical Valentine’s Day celebration.

Q: The pandemic has added many new stresses to our relationships. What are ways we can offer support to ease the stress felt by our partner?
Julie: 
I think the best approach is to communicate with your partner regarding their needs. Once you’re able to determine what they need you’ll be better equipped to either meet those needs or figure out a way to be supportive. For instance, if they need a dedicated amount of time during the day to work free of distractions, then you can work toward setting up that space or time for them. If they need you to take care of lunch because they have a meeting or are working with the kids, then maybe you can call in a food order. Remember though – that goes both ways. It’s important for partners and family members to openly talk about where they’re at and what they need in order for everyone to be able to work toward more harmonious interactions. If you have children, be sure to share responsibilities equally. Discuss creative ways to parent and break up the monotony of being homebound with special events like a parent-child date. Use this opportunity to create lasting memories with fun activities like a scavenger hunt, a movie night with tickets, popcorn and theater seating, or try something new like a backyard campout. Special family time gives children something to look forward to and eases their frustration and anxiety.

Q: For many people working remotely these days, we're spending more hours than ever with our significant other. Little annoyances can balloon into bigger issues, so how can we best deal with these without alienating each other?
Julie: 
You need to communicate. If I don’t express my concerns and frustrations to you, how are you supposed to know that I’m feeling them? It is tough because with so many things going haywire in the world right now (job insecurity, home schooling, changes in routines, etc.), we might feel badly if we speak up because we don’t want to add to the stress. However, speaking up and connecting with your partner may actually help reduce tension and worry. You need to open the door in order to actually walk through it.

Q: What are ways we can keep our relationship healthy?
Julie:
 Make sure to take time for each relationship, regardless of what type it is. Romance in a romantic relationship? Schedule a stay-in date night… have a picnic in the front yard, watch a movie together in a space that is separate from where you normally are or that is removed from others in the family, cook a special meal or just have some quiet time together. 

View all "Ask an Expert" Articles

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Michelle McCauley, Contract Lifecycle Management Coordinator, Office of Finance, UNT System

Michelle joined UNT System seven years ago and one thing's for sure when talking about her work: She's going to dot every "i" and cross every "t" because, well, being a stickler for details is in her job description. She reviews and negotiates proposed procurement contracts, working with the Office of General Counsel and other departments across UNT World to ensure all needed approvals are in place before agreements are processed. Outside the office is where things get adventurous for this wife and mother of a 3 1/2-year-old son. She likes to golf, tool around in an RZR, sleep in a tent and her bucket list includes doing this wild-eyed stunt in every state in state (see below). Back in civilization, you'll find her at her favorite Mexican haunt (again, see below) enjoying chips & queso.

Q&A 

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I enjoy working with the different departments of UNT World and being able to help our customers bring their events/services needed to life. Whether it is an event for our students, an equipment purchase, a software agreement or another type of agreement – it is fun to see those agreements transform from paper into a service being provided to help the university and our students.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World?
Fun activities to get people more engaged in physical activity. That could be a fun class over at the Library Mall (post COVID-19, of course), or a UNT World 5k through campus.

What is your proudest work moment?
I am currently working on the implementation of Jaggaer – which is the new Total Contracts Management software that will be the contracts repository for our area. I am grateful to be able help and have input on a software that will help better serve our customers, which better serves our students. This new system will give more transparency to departments on the status of their agreement, along with streamlining current processes. I am excited to see the end product of this implantation, and how it can be used across UNT World!

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Being married to my husband, Joe, and the birth of our son, Cooper. Our son is 3½ and it is awesome to see what he learns every day when I pick him up after work. He teaches us sign language that he learns at daycare!

What fact about you might surprise your colleagues?
My husband and I enjoy zip-lining. We have a bucket list to do a zip line in every state.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Hobby?: Anything that can be done outdoors! RZR riding, camping and golfing are a few of my favorite things to do when the weather is enjoyable.
Restaurant?: El Matador. I can eat anywhere as long as chips and queso are an option.  
Inspirational hero?: My parents are my inspirational heroes. They have been there through every moment of my life, and support me in every decision I make. They are the ones who taught me to work hard for what I want, do the best job I can do no matter the circumstances and that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Jaime Thomson

Since 1999, Jaime has been bringing her expertise to UNT System. She's her department's HR liaison, handles special projects, works on our Gallup engagement initiative and provides administrative support to the Vice Chancellor for Strategic Infrastructure. Some things you might not know about Jaime, but definitely should, is that in 2006 she was a contestant one of -- if not the -- most popular game shows ever on television, she once stood between jugglers as their torches and machetes whizzed by, and she judges restaurants based on if they offer a certain tasty item on their dessert menu. Yes, there's more to Jaime Thomson than meets the eye. Click the button to find out. 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I get to do so many different kinds of things, and I’m always learning something new. When everyone went remote last year, my department also permanently moved out of our building. One of my projects was getting us transitioned from an office-and-paper-based work environment to one where we could function digitally, from anywhere, so that we could consolidate our office spaces and still get our jobs done.

What is your proudest work moment? 
I started supporting UNT’s contact tracing team late last year, and I am in awe of everything they’re doing to keep the campus community safe. I’m so proud to be a part of that effort.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
Being a contestant on Jeopardy! (and not passing out on the set). It was a really special experience. All of the contestants stay at the same hotel, so we got to know each other and rooted for each other as we watched everyone’s tapings. They shoot a week’s worth of episodes in a day, and all of the contestants for that week get to sit with the audience while they wait for their turn. I’ve always been interested in film and television production, so I enjoyed watching the behind-the-scenes stuff. Actually playing the game, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking – buzz in fast, but not too fast or your buzzer gets locked out, don’t forget to answer in the form of a question, and so on. I was relieved when I came in second, because it meant I didn’t have to go through that again. It was heartbreaking when Alex Trebek passed. He was so kind, even when he was telling you that your answer – sorry, question – was wrong. As contestants, we weren’t really able to interact with Alex much other than when we were on stage (that would be unethical), but he was so warm and engaging with the audience. He would visit with them and answer their questions during breaks. Every time, someone would ask him how he felt about Will Ferrell’s impressions of him on Saturday Night Live, and every time he would answer honestly, like it was the first time he’d been asked.

What fact about you might surprise your colleagues?
I was once the audience, um, “volunteer” for a juggling act at a renaissance fair, which meant standing REALLY still while the jugglers passed torches and a machete around me.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Place to visit?: Walt Disney World -- it's just so much fun.
Restaurant?: Pretty much anywhere I can get tiramisu is going to be my favorite restaurant.  
Charitable cause?: PanCAN -- the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network/ my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018. He was diagnosed early and is currently cancer-free. But, for so many -- too many -- people, that's not the case. PanCAN is working to change that.

“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year.” 
-- W.E.B. Du Bois

We celebrate Black History Month, an important national month of commemoration in February each year. It is a time to honor, remember, acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the significant contributions by African Americans to our history as a nation. Each year, a theme is chosen around which events, classes and discussions (large and small) can be formed. This year’s theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. We have ideas on ways to celebrate this February to inspire you to participate. And, please bookmark these incredible stories of influential people and their contributions to explore throughout the month. Set aside time to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement and, if you love to read, here are recommendations to add to your February reading list.
 
This month commemorating the ongoing struggle of African Americans for equality and freedom has its origins in the 1915 founding of what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an historian and author. Dr. Woodson chose February for this national month of reflection because it is the month in which two pivotal figures in the history of African Americans were born: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. There are many ways to creatively celebrate and honor this month of history virtually.  

How will you honor these legacies and learn more this year? We’d love for you to share: edi@untsystem.edu. Please visit our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Calendar of Holiday and Observances.

Ask an Expert: Dr. Damon Schranz

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. Damon Schranz, Family Medicine Physician at UNT Health Science Center & Associate Professor at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM).
EXPERTISE: Academic Physician with 20 years of practice; Health Policy Fellow

Today is World Cancer Day and we've enlisted Dr. Schranz from the Health Science Center to address some important recent changes to colon cancer screening guidelines, cervical cancer screening guidelines and recommendations surrounding lung cancer screening. Dr. Schranz joined the Department of Family Medicine as an assistant professor in 2001 and has been an integral member of the department ever since. For the last 20 years, he has taught medical students and residents through two Family Medicine Residency Programs; one at Osteopathic Medical Center of Texas and currently at Plaza Medical Center of Texas. 

"The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPTF) recognizes many different guidelines for Cancer Prevention and Screening," Schranz says. "These are all evidence-based and are reviewed consistently by the USPSTF, and incorporate recent medical studies as well as suggestions from leading specialty societies in their guidelines. Guidelines are rated on a scale of A-D, with an additional category of I (indeterminate). Currently, there are only three Grade A Guidelines (most evidence) for cancer prevention and detection listed, and those are for colon cancer, cervical cancer and education on smoking cessation.

"Q: When should I start being screened for Colon Cancer?
Dr. Schranz: 
While the USPTF recognizes the importance of routine colon cancer screening starting at age 50, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has recently changed the age to 45. It is not uncommon that specialty societies,

USPSTF and the American Cancer Society do not necessarily agree all the time. For that reason, it is important to have the discussion with your primary care physician or gastroenterologist as to what is right for you. The ACS developed the age of 45 based on outcomes. It noticed an increase in detection of advanced colon cancer in those being screened at the age of 50. For that reason, the guideline was lowered. It is recommended that you have either a fecal immunoglobulin (non-invasive) test or colonoscopy (invasive procedure) starting at 45, and every 10 years thereafter through the age of 75. Screening from age 76-85 should be based on other comorbid conditions and expected longevity based on comorbid conditions. It is not recommended for screening purposes past the age of 85. These recommendations are based on those of average risk. 

For those with the following risk factors, colonoscopy is the preferred route for screening, and screening may occur earlier than 45 based on these risks:

  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • Confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
  • Personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

Q:  What are the current guidelines for cervical cancer screening?
Dr. Schranz:
 Cervical cancer screening has changed multiple times in my 20 years as a practicing physician. The current recommended guidelines state that cervical cancer screening should begin at the age of 21 regardless of prior sexual activity, protected or not protected. This should continue every three years through the age of 29 if using the simple cytology pap smear we have used for decades. Newer technologies that incorporate testing for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) alone or in addition to simple cytology, can decrease the frequency of these cervical cancer screens to every five years in women age 30-65. For women over 65 and who have had adequate prior screening, there is no proven benefit to continuing this exam. In addition, women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix for non-cancerous reasons, it has been shown also to have no benefit. Cancer screening is a personal decision and should be discussed with your primary care physician or gynecologist. Guidelines are just that, guidelines, and can be modified based on a host of reasons including patient preference.

Q: What are the current recommendations surrounding Lung Cancer Screening?
Dr. Schranz: The USPSTF recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults age 55-80 who have a 30 pack-year (one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years) smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that substantially limits life expectancy or the ability or willingness to have curative lung surgery. This is a category B recommendation for detection. Early detection often brings hope for a cure by removal of the diseased lung or lobe of lung prior to metastasis.

 For prevention of lung cancer and the comorbidities brought about by long-term smoking, it is recommended that all physicians use the 5As:

  • Ask all patients about use
  • Advise tobaccos users to quit
  • Assess the willingness of the patient to attempt to quit
  • Assisting with attempts to quit
  • Arranging follow up with patient to assess

The category A-rating of prevention rests with the use of behavioral interventions (counseling), pharmacotherapy (Chantix, Buproprion) and simply the physician inquiring and asking about tobacco use.

View all "Ask an Expert" Articles

Charlotte Russell

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: Charlotte Russell, Chief Information Security Officer & Sr. Director of Management and Risk Services
EXPERTISE: Information Security and IT Compliance

Today is Data Privacy Day, so what better time to talk about protecting your identity and shielding yourself from online fraud? And, there's no one better to consult than Charlotte, who has worked for more than 25 years in information technology and has spent most of that time working in information security. Online fraud, scams and phishing attempts are prevalent, and especially so during COVID-19. In fact, UNT System has been dealing with attempts at unemployment benefits fraud using the identities of our employees. It's crucial that you take the proper steps to protect your data -- whether it's your personal information or work-related information.

Q: What do I need to do to protect myself from identity theft?
Charlotte: There are a number of important steps you can take to protect yourself. Some basic measures start with your online passwords: Create strong passwords that contain at least 10 characters and don’t include information that someone could guess, obtain from social media or from family members or close friends. Don't reuse the same passwords in multiple systems or on multiple websites, and avoid saving your passwords in applications. Some steps people don't realize they have at their disposable, such as when using functions like Airdrop on your iPhone. Select "Receiving Off" or "Contacts Only," and avoid allowing "Everyone" to receive your files. We can also avoid trouble simply be being cautious and aware of our surroundings. When providing personal information, or in situations such as using a credit or debit card at gas pump, be aware of individuals who might shoulder-surf to view your

information, and be conscious of individuals who might overhear a personal phone call.

Here are few other helpful hints you might want to save for reference:

  • Securely store paper documents that contain personal information by locking them in a file cabinet or drawer, or store them in a safety deposit box
  • Shred paper and safely dispose of documents that include your personal information when they are no longer needed
  • Password protect or encrypt electronic or digital documents containing your personal information when possible
  • Regularly monitor your credit card and bank activity. Lock your credit card if you detect irregular activity and contact your financial institution
  • Monitor your credit history or use a credit monitoring service. Immediately check into irregularities that might appear
  • Freeze your credit to prevent individuals from using your information to open unauthorized accounts in your name. Unfreeze your credit when you need to make a purchase that requires a credit check, then freeze it again to further protect your information 
  • When shopping online, make sure that the website and web pages are encrypted to prevent unauthorized persons from stealing your personal information while you shop. If your see an image of a padlock or "https:" in the web address of the page, then the web page is more than likely encrypted  
  • When shopping online, visit legitimate websites that offer legitimate services. Poor spelling and grammar, web pages that appear old and outdated, and poorly designed webpages are clues that the website might not be secure
  • Keep your computers, tablets, smart phones, smart-home technology (e.g., Amazon Echo, Google Home, smart watches, smart thermostats, etc.) , and all of the applications stored on these devices up-to-date with the latest patches and current versions of software
  •  Allow your devices to run updates according to the recommendations provided by the software manufacturer, e.g., Microsoft or Apple. If the devices can't be patched or updated to the latest secure versions of the software, you shouldn't use the device to connect to the internet
  • Install and use antivirus software or other security software on your personal devices to protect them from being accessed without your permission and to prevent your device from being hacked 
  • Implement the security features that are recommended by the manufacturer of the software and technology that you use or install

Q: How do I recognize an email scam sent to my university email?
Charlotte: 
Scammers use phishing tactics to obtain sensitive information through deceptive means. These individuals send emails attempting to trick you into providing confidential or personal information. Before you click on a link or respond to an email, take a moment to consider its validity. There are several characteristics of a message that are red flags for scam attempts:

  • The address in the “From:” field doesn’t match the sender's official university email address 
  • The message includes an odd request that the sender would not normally make, like the university president asking you to make purchases on Amazon
  • There is a sense of urgency in the email with a deadline to comply
  • The sender is offering an implausible business opportunity that is too good to be true, such as how to earn money quickly
  • The message attempts to elicit fear or identifies a negative consequence if no action is taken
  • The message includes a request to click a link to verify your account information or asks you to provide your username and password
  • The message includes a fake invoice that was sent to you for payment instead of being sent to the Payment services department for processing
  • The message includes an urgent request to purchase gift cards
  • The message includes a notification that there is an issue with a purchase or delivery associated with a popular vendor or financial institution, e.g., Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, Wells Fargo, etc.
  • The message includes a link to a fake website
  • The message contains misspellings and poor grammar

For more information about how to detect email scams, visit the UNT System Information Security website: https://itss.untsystem.edu/divisions/mrs/is/phishing.

Q: How do I keep my computer secure while I'm working remotely from home?
Charlotte: 
Remote work provides benefits to employees. With these benefits comes additional risk without the protection of the university network. The information below will help to assist you in keeping your computer secure when working remotely:

  • Log into the university virtual private network (VPN) before logging into university applications to work.   Connecting to the VPN ensures that you are establishing a secure connection when using university technology resources.  Learn how to connect to the VPN here: https://itss.untsystem.edu/divisions/ets/esis/datacomm/remote-accessvpn-guide
  • Protect university-owned equipment:
    • Use university owned equipment in accordance with university policies and security standards
    • The university computer equipment that was assigned to you is configured to run effectively and securely. Do not change or disable security controls such as firewalls, encryption software, anti-virus protection, system patching and update controls, monitoring controls or change other configurations
    • Do not leave laptops or other system-owned devices unprotected while working remotely. Ensure that physical security measures are in place to prevent damage, harm, theft, and loss
    • Lock your computer when not in use and use password-protected screensavers
    • Keep work and personal business separate. Do not use university equipment for personal use, store personal information on university-owned equipment, share your password or accounts, or allow family members or other unauthorized individuals to use university-owned equipment
    • Properly manage documents in accordance with university retention and security policies. 
  • Protect personally-owned equipment:
    • Ensure your devices and software are up to date with the latest updates and patches
    • Use anti-virus software or other security software to prevent your device from being compromised or hacked. University employees can obtain free copies of antivirus software here- https://itss.untsystem.edu/divisions/mrs/is/antivirus-download
  • Beware of other scams and tricks:
    • As mentioned above, don’t click on links in suspicious email messages to avoid infecting your equipment with malicious code, such as ransomware
    • Only visit websites that you know are trusted to avoid accidental infection of malicious code
    • Avoid clicking on advertisements on webpages. These ads install tracking “cookies” that collect information about your browsing habits, or may be used to install malicious software

Learn more about how to keep your computer secure here: https://www.untsystem.edu/cybersecurity-safeguards-working-remotely.

Q: I would like to purchase software or a cloud service. What do I need to know to ensure that the company from which I would like to obtain goods or a service can provide secure software and services that won't cause data leaks or create security problems?
Charlotte:
Software purchases must comply with university policies. In addition, software vendors and cloud providers must also comply with university compliance and security requirements when delivering goods and providing services to the university. Before you make a purchase or commit to obtaining services from a cloud provider, be sure to contact the IT Compliance team for assistance in determining whether the software or service meets these requirements. For assistance, email ITCompliance@untsystem.edu.

View all "Ask an Expert" Articles

Benefit-enhancing changes to TexFlex (flexible spending plan)

Due to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the following enhancements to the TexFlex spending accounts have been announced, effective immediately:

  • The annual carryover limit for TexFlex accounts has been temporarily removed
    • All unused funds from plan year 2020 will carry over to plan year 2021, with no limit to the amount that can be carried over
    • No action needed on your part – you’ll be notified by Wageworks when your carryover is completed/updated in your account
    • Previous carryover limit was $500
  • More time to use your funds after you leave employment (or stop contributing to the plan)
    • If you stop contributing/leave employment before the end of plan year 2021, you can continue to incur claims for reimbursement until August 31, 2021
  • You can now make changes to your elections without a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) if you are currently participating in TexFlex
    • For plan year 2021, increase or decrease your amount (or end your enrollment) but not below what you’ve already contributed (if you’ve already contributed $300 via paycheck contribution, you can’t reduce your amount below that)
  • For the dependent care flexible spending account:
    • Submit dependent care claims for children up to age 14
    • If you enrolled in the dependent care flexible spending account before January 31, 2020 and had a qualifying dependent who turned (or will turn) 13 during the 2020 or 2021 plan years, you can submit claims for that child until they turn 14. (Previously, could only claim for children 13 or under.)

Call ERS at 877-275-4377 to make changes to your account. More information about flexible spending account benefits can be found at www.TexFlexERS.com.

Take a break -- your body will thank you

Why are taking breaks during your work day so important? For one, they just make you feel better. Taking a break -- even if only for a short period -- means stepping away from your desk and allowing your mind to be free from work “stuff." Doing so is refreshing and actually helps us all think better and clearer.

Breaks can improve your physical and mental health by providing an energy boost, renewing your creative energy and helping to prevent fatigue. Take a physical break and get up and move. A walk around the building or the block on a pretty day can really lift your mood and inspire you. Do some stretches to bring oxygen in and push tiredness out -- these can be done inside or outdoors. The main thing is just to get away from that desk and get out of that chair. It’s not healthy to stay seated all day. 

Here are some ideas to do while you take a break:

  • Sit outside – find a nice bench on campus, or take some time on your patio if working remote – enjoy nature, sunlight, bird sounds
  • Find a quiet place to listen to your favorite music on your phone
  • Take some downtime to chill with an app like Calm, Headspace (meditation) or check out these top five free recommendations from Mindful
  • Do some deep breathing exercises – or try any of these great stress-relieving break techniques to help you relax and enhance your wellness 
  • Grab a coffee and call a friend – scheduling breaks with friends is a great way to “break up” your day

If you find yourself struggling to find time to breaks then it might be time to “calendar it.” Find that time of the day that’s best for you, and put it on your schedule -- then stick to it like it's an important meeting you can't miss. You may find you feel better the closer that regular break time gets, and certainly afterward. And, lunch doesn’t count as a break. So, take a real break, and then give yourself a pat on the back for doing something that’s really good for yourself.

Cortana -- Get to know this time-saving tech tool

Have you noticed those “Cortana: Your Daily Briefings” emails in your inbox each morning? Don't just delete. Our HR folks are singing the praises of Cortana. Here's what some are saying about his handy email tool:

“Cortana is a tool I use to help me prepare for the week," says Sony Simon, HR Leadership Program Coordinator. "It reviews the tasks, emails or documents I have accessed and helps me stay organized. For example, if I sent an email about a session, Cortana reminds me of a task that may be related to the session and gives me the choice to mark it as completed. It also identifies times where I may need to focus (allows for no interruptions to focus on certain tasks), take a break (time to get away from the screen for a few minutes) or catch up on messages (time to answer emails). You click ‘book it’ and Cortana books it on your calendar for the week and silences your notifications. It is a great tool to help improve your productivity throughout the day. I love it.”

Says Dheeraj Mishra, Sr. Director HRIS/Reporting: "The Weekly Briefing email sent by Cortana has helped me control my calendar and be more intentional with my weekly planning. Cortana looks ahead in my next week's calendar and gives me suggestions on when and how much time I can block for areas such as Focus Time, Quick 15-minute Breaks, Learning/Grow time, etc."  

The next time you see that Cortana email in your inbox, take a second to check out how you can put this handy, easy-to-use tech tool to use for you. Have tips to share? We’d love to hear about how you use Cortana and other (free) productivity tools to make your work week smoother sailing (email us: HR@untsystem.edu).

Get Fit Texas

The 2021 Get Fit Texas Challenge began on Jan. 11, but it’s not too late to register. Employees can register today and begin logging their physical activity minutes. This statewide challenge against other state agencies runs until March 21. Check out the Get Fit Texas Calendar for 15-minute sessions on how to stay motivated throughout the challenge. And, don’t forget to log your activity minutes each week.

Preventive Care Services at no cost to you

Early detection is the best medicine to help find undiagnosed medical problems. Now more than ever is the time to take advantage of the HealthSelect preventive screenings. To learn more about your family's check list of services, click here.

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Jack Allday

If you don't know Jack, well, you're missing out on a multifaceted and charismatic colleague whose legacy at UNT Dallas will forever be as the man who delivered collegiate athletics to southern Dallas. Hired more than five years ago to start intercollegiate athletics, it took two school presidents, more than a few starts and stops, and immeasurable patients before the dream became a reality with the UNT Dallas Trailblazers competing in men's and women's basketball, cross country and track and field during this school year. "My friends called my Sisyphus, as it seemed I was pushing a rock uphill," Jack says. "But, we finally got it done and are now up and running."

 

Jack recently turned 80 and has the life stories to prove it. One of those stories was recently published as a first-person account in the Dallas Morning News: "I celebrated the most meaningful Christmas of my life as a soldier in Vietnam." But, one look at Jack's photo above, and it's clear he has lighter side, too. He started playing the drums at age 15, formed a band -- the Nightcaps -- at 18, a band that recently was voted into the Dallas Songwriters Association Hall of Fame. "Five of us started the band in 1959 and had a good run until the Vietnam War intruded in the mid-1960s. Get to know Jack.

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love just about everything about my job, but especially the student-athletes, coaches and competition. Athletics is one of the more challenging jobs on any campus because it has so many moving parts. But, it can also be one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do.

What is your proudest work moment? 
My proudest moment as Director of Athletics was when we were accepted for membership into the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) in April of last year. It meant we had officially arrived.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
My proudest non-work moment, or experience, is just all the friends I have made here. Of course, we all have colleagues. But, when a colleague becomes a friend as well, that’s special, and rewarding.

What fact about you might surprise your colleagues?
I bake a pretty darn good bread, from scratch, no machine. Takes about six hours, so it’s hard to find time to do it. I give most of it away.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Book?: “All the King’s Men,” by Robert Penn Warren. It is the perfect novel, plus it is historic. It is based on Huey Long, who was governor of Louisiana and a fascinating individual.
Inspirational hero?: Louis Armstrong, who was always called either Satchmo or Pops. Born and raised in New Orleans, he had mastered the trumpet at an early age and was one of the pioneers of jazz, which is the only art form invented in America.  
Hobby?: Music – jazz and blues. I started playing the drums at 15 and still play today – or was until COVID came along. Music is a tough way to make a living, but a wonderful avocation.