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Celebrate Diversity Month profile: Susan Harper, Ph.D. , UNT Dallas

Susan Harper
Susan Harper, Ph.D.

April is Celebrate Diversity Month and HR Highlights is celebrating by presenting a UNT World faculty or staff member who works to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in their professional and personal lives. Follow UNT System (@untsystem) on Twitter and Facebook for #CelebrateDiversity profiles, events, movie and book lists, recipes and more throughout the month. Our first Celebrate Diversity profile is... 

Susan Harper, Ph.D., Coordinator of Activities, Student Affairs, UNT Dallas

A member of the LBGTQ+ community, Dr. Harper believes "engaging with people who are different from us helps us learn more about our shared humanity and (hopefully at least) commit to a more just world." She leads UNT Dallas' multicultural programming that encourages open dialogues about the differences that enrich our community. She's experienced both prejudice and progress in her daily life -- and both fuel her desire to create welcoming

environments on our campuses and workplaces. Read in her own words why she speaks publicly on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, her own story of progress and how attitudes toward multicultural programming are changing.

What does diversity mean to you?
At its heart, diversity is the fact of difference – people of different walks of life living and working alongside each other. But when we talk about diversity in the context of higher education and in terms of social justice, we usually mean something a bit more vibrant. I like the distinction Dr. Diana Eck of The Pluralism Project at Harvard makes between “diversity” and “pluralism”: Diversity is the fact of difference, while pluralism is the intentional and energetic engagement of people across difference. I think starting with acknowledging diversity and its many dimensions is key, but my ultimate goal is working for a more pluralistic world.

Why is it important to you to speak publicly on issues of diversity, including LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace and workplace diversity as a whole?
Engaging with people who are different from us helps us learn more about our shared humanity and (hopefully at least) commit to a more just world. Engaging with diversity also helps us find “our” people with whom we have common cause. I find it important to speak publicly on these issues for a couple of reasons. First, injustices and inequalities can hide in plain sight, and it’s incredibly important to bring them to light if we’re going to address these and achieve liberation for all. Second, I have been given an immense platform from which to speak – I hold a number of privileges that make it safer and easier for me to speak about these issues, as a cisgender, white, enabled, Ph.D.-educated woman. Even on issues that don’t touch me directly, I find it important to speak about how we recognize and address inequality and injustice, and also how we become more compassionate, more connected humans.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace, my investment is personal. The majority of Americans surveyed in recent years believed that the Supreme Court decision that affirmed the legality of same-sex/same-gender marriages meant that all other forms of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. were outlawed. This is not true. A Supreme Court decision in the last year affirmed that LGBTQ+ people are protected by employment nondiscrimination law; until then, it was legal in more than 20 states to discriminate against a person for their sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring and firing. LGBTQ+ people still do not have federal protection in the U.S. from housing discrimination, healthcare discrimination and more. We are dependent on our states, cities, counties or employers to enact nondiscrimination policies and laws. I do a lot of speaking on this both in my job here and as a consultant to businesses and nonprofits in Dallas-Fort Worth. Most people I meet are aghast to learn that this kind of discrimination is still legal. This is the kind of thing I mean when I say that injustice and inequality can hide in plain sight.
I also think it’s important for me personally to speak up because, as a bisexual woman, I have experienced the way in which bi- and pansexual people are sometimes erased in discussions of LGBTQ+ rights. Visibility is important, especially to young people who may be just coming to understand their identities – seeing queer adults around me was pivotal in my accepting and understanding myself, and I want to pay that forward.
Is there a particular personal story that you share that speaks to the intolerance or tolerance of our society toward people who fit into a diversity or minority category?
Yes! I have many, as you might imagine, but this one is my favorite. In 2009 or 2010, when UNT Dallas was still just one building (DAL 1), I was using the community counseling clinic here. One day after my appointment, my partner came out to pick me up, and we were sitting behind the building, facing where the basketball court is now. We were just sitting and chatting because it was a nice day. Like many LGBTQ+ people, especially in the South, we are somewhat vigilant in public – almost all of us either have had or know someone who has had a violent or hostile encounter with homophobia. We noticed a woman, probably in her 50s, watching us. She came up to us and asked, “Are you two together?” After a moment and a quick exchanged look, we said, “Yes.” And she smiled the BIGGEST smile and said, “Oh, I’m so happy for y’all. You are so beautiful together. I am so happy that it’s becoming more accepted. You two keep being who you are.” I never saw her again but I will never forget that.
You design multicultural programming, student activities and educational and social events at UNT Dallas. How have attitudes changed toward this type of programming over the years?
 Multicultural programming has changed a great deal since I was an undergraduate, and even since I was in graduate school. And so have attitudes toward it. There has been, over the last 15 years or so, more resistance in some sectors to this type of education – mostly from a colorblind, “we are all humans” perspective that either doesn’t understand why such programs are valuable or who feel threatened by the recognition of anything outside of the standard white American narrative. I’ve also seen important discussions among my colleagues about the ways in which such programming is often by default white-centered and geared toward making the members of the majority – white, enabled, cisgender, heterosexual, etc. – comfortable with difference rather than affirming members of marginalized or “diverse” groups. Even now, a lot of diversity program is “Add [insert group here] and stir.” One thing I love about working at UNT Dallas is that I sort of have to play the game on hard mode. Instead of making a mostly homogenous audience comfortable with difference, I get to work with students who are historically underrepresented in higher education in creating programs that they find affirming, educational and valuable. It means I have to continuously learn and fill in my own knowledge gaps, too. I get to create and co-create programming that is far more challenging than what I got to attend as an undergraduate. (I say that with no shade toward the folks who were doing the programming when I was an undergrad in the 90s – they were doing work that was appropriate to the time and environment, and it helped shape who I am today!)
There is definitely a current in discussions of higher education, especially over the last 20 years, that questions the value of student activities, multicultural and diversity programs and the like, because it is sometimes difficult for people outside of higher ed to understand how these programs benefit students. However, the research overwhelmingly shows that what happens in the “second space” (campus activities, programs, residence halls, etc.) is just as valuable as what happens in the “first space” (the classroom). It is through these programs that students learn to develop and apply critical thinking in a wide variety of scenarios, engage with difference, reflect on their own identities and values, build relationships and more. These programs and activities ideally build on what students are learning in the classroom (and vice versa) and help produce more well-rounded, compassionate and whole humans who are prepared to be part of a pluralistic and changing world – which is the point of education.

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Ram Dantu, Ph.D., UNT

Ram Dantu, Ph.D, UNT

Nearly a quarter into the 21st century, it's just fact that modern life is lived on the internet. It makes our lives more convenient, but is also rife with meddlesome hackers and trolls. Perhaps at no point has cybersecurity been more important in our personal lives, for companies and nations around the globe. Thank goodness UNT has Professor Dantu as Director of its Center of Information and Cyber Security. Boasting vast industry experience, Professor Dantu is invaluable to the School of Engineering for his expertise, innovation to aid society and ability to land grants -- including recently nearly $1 million from the National Security Agency. Still, this husband and father of two grown sons, both of whom attended UNT, has something of a wild side. We'll let you read more about that below. But here's a hint: at weddings and parties, he can really shake a leg.


Throughout your 30-year career, you have worked in and out of academia and industry, but seem to have found your calling at UNT.  Why is that?
What happens when you go to industry and work at big companies, they don't do as much innovation as you want to do; it’s more business-oriented. So, I went up the ladder to the director level, but then it becomes more like managing people, basically management and not doing the actual innovation. Then I got an offer from UNT and I went to UNT. 

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I work with students, mostly Ph.D students, and innovation is my main piece; developing something new for society, so that's what my main interest is. I work with students and then we come up with new kinds of technologies, and the good thing is that we actually go and try them, it’s not just publishing papers. We actually try these technologies with real society. For example, we developed some technology for CPR and we went and tried it with around 400 EMTs in the City of Plano and another 300 in the City of Frisco. We also tried something with Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, so that's my main interest and passion, to work and develop something new. 

What is your proudest work moment? 
One of my proudest moments is the NSF, the National Science Foundation, invited me to be on a webcast with the CTO of the whole FCC, the Federal Communications Agency. They called the CTO and me to actually do a webcast for one hour in the National Science Foundation TV studio. That was really big. I also have collaborated with top-tier universities like MIT, Columbia and Stanford. The good thing about that is UNT is the lead in all those projects. Those are proud moments.

What is your proudest non-work moment?
I am also very active in the our community, and actually work with various chambers of commerce, and so several times I was able to participate in meetings with the governor to address some of the issues with education and cybersecurity. They call it the Roundtable with experts, and I was one of them, so I was happy. 

What is a fact about you that might surprise your colleagues?
So, I actually enjoy dancing. I’m not great, but I enjoy it. I don't do much of it, but I do when I go to weddings and those kind of things. Not many people know, but I enjoy it. 

I don't have a particular favorite book, but I like to read about society-impacting people. I get fascinated by the anthropology aspects of books and novels, and the social aspects as well, how the people were living in those environments.
TV show: The Big Bang Theory.
Place to visit: If I go for more a beaches sort of thing, Florida. When my children were younger, we used to go to Washington D.C. and visit museums. When they were more grown up, our trips were a bit more on the lighter side. I like traveling a lot.


Ask an Expert: Jerrod Tynes, UNT Dallas

Jerrod Tynes, UNT Dallas

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: Jerrod Tynes, Lecturer of Urban Agriculture & Renewable Resources, Department of Life and Health Sciences, UNT Dallas
EXPERTISE: Animal & Plant Sciences, Sustainable Agriculture, Organismal Biology, STEM Education, 10 years of mixed experience in both the industry and classroom 

Spring is here and what better way to welcome the season of new beginnings than planting a vegetable garden in your backyard? Growing a garden is a fun outdoor activity you can share with your children. Gardening doesn't have to be expensive, complicated or time-consuming. But, it can be educational and extremely rewarding -- both the process and the harvest. We've enlisted Jerrod Tynes, who heads UNT Dallas' Urban Agriculture curriculum, to provide some tips on how to get started on your first vegetable garden -- and see it through to fruition. Enjoy.

Q: I've never grown a garden because I'm unsure of the time commitment and resources I'll need, but this spring seems like the perfect time to start one as a family activity. Should I?
There is a large amount of research that shows that gardening can do a number of positive things for your health by getting you active and outside, including lower blood pressure, decrease stress, increase your Vitamin D levels and increase your immune system. Gardening will also get you away from a screen which will be good for your back, wrists and eyes. Gardening is great for social interactions as well. It can strengthen relationships between your immediate family members by working on this project in your backyard or it may renew relationships with neighbors while working in a community garden. Most gardens are also spaced well and you can garden effectively while maintaining social distancing. Lastly, there is something about the taste of homegrown fruits and veggies that just can’t be beat.

Q: How do I get started?
The key is to decide if you are going to do in-ground, raised beds or potted plants. Making this initial choice will help you determine what you can grow and how you can space the plants out. There are various things to consider here like if you live an apartment or if you live in a neighborhood with a strict HOA. Review this before you purchase your raised beds or pots. From there take a trip to the DIY stores or local nurseries to get an idea of what is out there, and you will also find many more options online. Raised beds are a great option if you have the space for them. They can vary in size and height and come in a variety of materials from wood (treated or untreated), metal, plastic or recycled products (like the recycled milk jug material our raised beds are made from at the UNT Dallas/Saint Vincent DePaul Community Garden) or various other options. I like the recycled products for their durability and environmental friendliness. Raised beds are also great because they allow you to add the specific soil you need for the best results for your plants. This will make it easier to plant, harvest and redo plants compared to our Texas clay soil you would need to work with if you did in-ground plants. Additionally, this eliminates any potential soil contaminant problems that may be in the soil which may be a slight concern in heavily populated metropolitan areas like DFW. I prefer 8-foot by 4-foot beds because I find this dimension aesthetically pleasing and, more importantly, easy to work in and around. However, these beds can be made in whatever dimensions you prefer. 

Q: What should I grow?
Texas is unique in its climate as we have 3 true growing seasons, which means you can nearly always have something planted or growing outside year-round. The beginning of April is a great time to start planting various crops in our region such as summer squash, watermelon, sweet potatoes, peppers, okra, tomatoes and various types of peas. All of these have various planting and watering requirements, so make sure to check out the specifics of the seeds prior to planting. From there, follow the directions for that specific cultivar or variety of plant to ensure it is getting enough water and nutrients through our sometimes brutal summers.

Q: What if I fail and my plants don’t grow? 
You are going to fail, and what I mean is that even the best gardeners don’t have 100% yield, so out of the gate with your first garden or first garden in a while, it will take time for you to hone your skills and figure out what works best at your location. Successful gardening is a marathon, not a sprint. I like to write everything down in a spiral notebook (temperature, weather, germination, height, major storms, pollinators, weeds, pests, etc.) so I can keep track and make adjustments as needed. This is probably just the agricultural scientist in me, but you will probably be more effective making changes with notes. Most importantly, celebrate the little successes, your first pepper or the first round of okra you can pick and fry up (if you have excess fried okra give me a call and I’ll take it off your hands). And don’t forget gardening is also about the experiences and memories you can make with others, and after the year we had in 2020, finding ways to connect and have these experiences (safely) is extremely important. 

Q: How do I get better at gardening? 
There are so many great resources out there for novice to expert gardeners. Our UNT System has some of the brightest scientists in the world, and you would be amazed at how you can boil down successful gardening to basic principles of biology, chemistry and ecology. So reach out to a colleague that may know some of these principles. Texas AgriLife Extension has great resources on its website and often hosts seminars on growing specific crops, identifying pests or weeds and other topics. You can also reach out and learn from or work to become a Master Gardener or Master Naturalist. Attending a local farmers market and asking questions of the individuals growing these foods can also be a great resource. And don’t forget at UNT Dallas we have a small team of agriculture experts who enjoy working with individuals throughout our DFW community interested in agriculture. There is always something to learn in gardening and growing, and there are some great resources out there. 

View all "Ask an Expert" Articles

HR Update: Need to make changes to your life insurance beneficiary? Here's how

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

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Rachel Barone, UNT System

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.


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.

 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 Cartwright, Ph.D., UNT

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.


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.

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.

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Dr. Johnathan Tune, UNT Health Science Center

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.



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.


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, UNT Health Science Center

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!

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Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Landon Ellison

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.



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.


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.

Leaders on Leading - Jason Hartley - Authenticity

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.