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Ask an Expert: Cheryl Wattley, UNT Dallas College of Law

Ask an Expert: Cheryl Wattley

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: Cheryl Wattley, Professor of Law, UNT Dallas College of Law
EXPERTISE: Criminal Law, Civil Rights Litigation

Cheryl Wattley received her Juris Doctorate degree from Boston University College of Law, where she was a Martin Luther King Jr. fellow. In 1994, she received the Dallas Bar Association's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award. More recently, she authored a book about Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher's bravery in her fight to end segregation in Oklahoma, helping to pave the road to Brown v. Board of Education. She also won Honorable Recognition in a national contest for her essay, "The Tough Minded, Tender Hearted Lawyer," based upon a sermon by Dr. King. As we approach this MLK Day on the heels of massive nationwide civil rights protests in response to ongoing police brutality and racial injustice, and the recent deadly mob violence at the Capitol, Professor Wattley provides her expertise and unique insight into what should be at the forefront of our thoughts on this MLK Day, the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of a successful UNT Dallas College of Law.

Q: What is at the forefront of your thoughts on this MLK Day?
Cheryl: 
As we are poised to celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we are engulfed by images of a mob storming the United States Capitol, breaking windows, smashing through doors, beating Capitol police officers, pillaging and vandalizing the hall of democracy. American flags perverted from symbols of democracy to weapons as flag poles were used to ram windows and beat police. What a juxtaposition: the memories of the Dr. King-led nonviolent marches, people kneeling in protest in front of lines of armed police, pummeled by fire hoses and taunted

by police dogs barking, baring teeth, with today’s scene of fire extinguishers being thrown at helmeted police, a policeman screaming in agony as he was caught by the mob as it forced its way inside, the looting and desecration of the symbols of democracy. 

When we focus on the pictures and videos from the assault on the Capitol, we cannot lose sight of what caused that riot, what brought so many to that place of an attack, not just on a symbolic structure, but upon the very heart of democracy: The exercise of the right to vote. There can be no denying that the repeated unfounded and disproven claims of voter fraud, that the presidential election had been stolen, caused that mob action. It is no coincidence that the counties falsely assailed as having committed voter fraud had heavy African American voter turnout. It is not accidental that the demands for recount after recount were pointed at urban and heavy minority populations. How poignant, then, that within days we will celebrate a man whose work led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the foundation for the political activism that empowered black and brown voters to so impact a presidential election.  

Dr. King repeatedly spoke of the impact of silence: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

Where were the voices who defended the right of citizens, especially the targeted citizens of color, to vote? Where were the voices that opposed the efforts to restrict access to the ballot by reducing the number of polling places, the manipulation of the U.S. Postal Service, and the denouncing of absentee voting, especially during a pandemic? Where were the voices to defend the poll workers and vote counters who labored in a record voter turnout election? Where were the voices to challenge the efforts to again disenfranchise voters of color? Where, even, were the voices to defend the duly elected local Secretaries of State who confirmed the legitimacy of their state’s election?  

When there is silence, extremist voices resonate with deafening noise, creating a cacophony that repels reason. When there is quiet, discord is not tempered, but amplified as it swirls feeding upon itself. When the voices of good people are missing, the voices of destructionists fill the void, creating a shrillness summoning like a dog whistle.    

So, on this holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must ask ourselves, were we silent in this time of challenge?

Q: How do you view the Black Lives Matter movement?
Cheryl:
 There can be no denying that the summer of 2020 was a time of challenge and controversy. In the midst of a pandemic that exposed the health care disparities that have plagued communities of color, hundreds of thousands of marchers of all races and ethnicities from across the nation protested the killing and abuse of African American citizens by police officers. The killing of George Floyd propelled a spotlight on policing tactics as well as seemingly never-ending use of deadly and excessive force. Chants of “Say Their Names” made us confront the horror of black men and women being killed at the hands of law enforcement officers. 

But, this focus on police shootings also put a spotlight on the systemic racism that is foundational to this nation. It prompted a flurry of media attention, conferences and new websites addressing racism and bias. It sent challenges to the nation to once and for all candidly acknowledge and address the cancerous evil of racism. It drew attention to the importance of allyship in the fullness and richness of its meaning. As Dr. King told us, "[t]he ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." The Black Lives Matter movement, the months of challenge and controversy, prompts the question as to where we stood. 

Did we stand with the recognition of the need to declare that "Black Lives Matter," or were we drawn to avoid the message of the importance of Black lives with a rejoinder that "all lives matter?" Did we stand with respectful admiration for the thousands who braved the pandemic to take to the streets to give voice and action to their protest, or did we attempt to diminish those efforts by focusing on the comparative few who were vandalizing and looting? Did we watch with horror and disbelief at white homeowners who brandished guns at protestors marching to a mayor’s home as part of their protest, or did we react with an attitude that the protestors got what they deserved? Did we stand with disbelief and revulsion when peaceful protestors were tear-gassed and forcibly moved from the place of peaceful assembly so that a president could pose with a Bible in front of a church, or did we applaud the clearing of the plaza for that political antic? Did we understand that the calls to defund the police were a cry to stop the killing and abuse of people of color by individuals cloaked with the mantle of authority, or did we choose to pervert the message into a farcical cry for anarchy and lawlessness? Did we use this summer of challenge and controversy to learn, grow and understand the need to proclaim that “Black Lives Matter,” or did we simply turn from any enlightenment, desperate to feel comfortable and self-righteous in our world?  

The Black Lives Matter movement forces us to look at the soul of this nation. It requires that we acknowledge the contradiction between the democratic ideals we tout, and the inequities and racism that infect our systems. It compels us to ask, where do we stand?  

Q: Why is it so important that the mission of the UNT Dallas College of Law be fulfilled?
Cheryl:
 As a public law school in a large metropolitan area, UNT Dallas College of Law was founded with the mission to expand the opportunity of a legal education to diverse students. This mission reflects the importance of lawyers within our society. Twenty-six of our country’s 45 presidents were lawyers. The incoming president and vice-president were both lawyers. Almost 200 members of the 116th Congress are lawyers. Throughout all levels of government, from state houses, mayoral offices and town councils, lawyers have constituted a significant percentage of those elected officials. However, the legal profession has remained predominantly white male.  

The law school was also founded with the purpose to increase access to legal representation by communities that are traditionally under-resourced. Law touches so many aspects of our lives. It is important that people be able to get the assistance of a lawyer for situations that they cannot handle on their own.   

In 2014, the first students walked through the doors of the law school. Those students embraced the risk of enrolling in a law school that had not yet attained accreditation from the American Bar Association. They entered with the faith that UNT System, UNT Dallas and UNT Dallas College of Law administrators and faculty would marshal the resources and programs to meet the ABA standards to become an accredited law school. Quite literally, the value of their law degree was on the line, for if accreditation was not obtained, they would not be able to take the bar exam and ultimately become licensed to practice law.  

Three years later, in 2017, the law school achieved provisional status, the first step toward accreditation. Before the end of next year, the law school will submit its application for full accreditation. With approval of that application, the College of Law will become a fully accredited ABA law school.  

That will be an important moment in the life of the law school. Not only will it signal the ABA’s formal authorization, it will be a validation of the innovative curriculum, the school’s programs and the law school mission.  

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Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Juan F. Serrano

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Juan F. Serrano

Google the characteristics of an IT professional and you'll find things like "sharp problem-solving skills," "analytical and creative thinking," "math skills" and "technology buff." Check all those for the HSC's Chief Information Officer Juan Serrano, plus a heaping helping of cool. Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Juan speaks three languages (find out which ones when you click below), he's got an in-Cure-able infatuation with 80s music and a childhood activity has recently become his fitness passion.

Juan joined the HSC in September 2019 following a wildly successful run as vice president and CIO at Air Medical

Group Holdings, a small group of companies that would become a billion-dollar enterprise. Now providing his expertise in Fort Worth, he finds himself equally enjoying the ride: "It is tremendously gratifying to know we are supporting the training of future healthcare providers and public health professionals," Serrano says, "but also to be part of a unique and very talented leadership team within a unique values-based culture."

Q&A

As CIO, what are your primary job duties?
I am responsible for planning, organizing, executing and sustaining IT services as a core competency and competitive advantage for the Health Science Center.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
The opportunity to lead IT strategy and operations at a dynamic and innovative health science center that has been a destination of distinction in health education, patient care and research for 50 years. It is tremendously gratifying to know we are supporting the training of future healthcare providers and public health professionals, but also to be part of a unique and very talented leadership team within a unique values-based culture.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World? 
I really enjoyed HSC’s PeopleFest last year and hope it can continue into the future. It was such a great way to gather as one university to appreciate both employees and students, to relax and have fun together.
 
What is your proudest work moment? 
Before joining HSC in the Fall of 2019, for almost 12 years I served as VP & CIO at Air Medical Group Holdings – the company that would eventually become the largest provider of air medical services in the world. It was such an incredible opportunity (and journey) to be part of a team that helped grow a small group of companies, organized under a parent/holding company, into a billion-dollar enterprise.
 
What is your proudest non-work moment? 
Being married to my wife, Tiffany, and together raising our three daughters -- Isabella, Sofia and Natalia.

What fact about you might surprise your colleagues?
I was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, came to the US to go to college as a foreign student, and I am fluent in three languages including French, English, and Spanish (native).

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Place to visit?: Paris – love the architecture, culture and food!
Song?: I grew up in the 80s, so my playlist often includes The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2, Psychedelic Furs, INXS, and many more…  Hard to choose just one song 
Hobby?: Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my BMX bike and about four years ago I rediscovered the joy of cycling. Although I enjoy mountain biking occasionally, my real passion and the majority of my time is now spent road cycling. I proudly completed my first “century ride” (100 miles/161 km) in 2019.

HR Update: Free fitness program, weight loss and know your eye-care benefits

Start the new year off right with free fitness enrollment, weight management help and eye-care benefits you should know. 

Join the Fitness Program with no enrollment fee
If one of your goals is to get fit this year, the Fitness Program has a limited-time special for HealthSelect participants. You can join the Fitness Program in January or February 2021 with no enrollment fee (normally $19, plus tax) by using code: Hello2021.
 
Get weight management support through Well onTarget®

Whether you’re beginning a brand-new wellness journey or continuing an existing one, the 26 digital self-management programs in Well onTarget can provide support in a number of areas. For help managing your weight or improving your eating habits, programs include:

  • Achieving your healthy weight
  • Maintaining your healthy weight
  • Nutrition for better health

Learn more about Well onTarget Self-Management Programs.
 
January is National Eye Care Month

Don't put off your eye-care health. Big changes can occur over the course of the year and early detection is key in determine any changes in your eye health. Take advantage of your eye-care benefits and learn more about your State of Texas Vision plan benefits.

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Wayne McInnis

Ask an Expert: Wayne McInnis

If anyone can stake a claim as an authority on the growth of the UNT Dallas campus, it's Wayne McInnis.The Director of the Office of Facilities Management and Planning has served at the university for nine years, in which time the southern Dallas campus has bloomed from two buildings to four, including the first residence hall in 2017, the highly anticipated 2019 opening of the $63 million Student Center, plus the stunning renovation of the old City Hall building that is now the UNT Dallas College of Law in downtown Dallas. Needless to say, as UNT Dallas has expanded,

so has Wayne's job duties. And that's saying nothing of how valuable he's been in creating and ensuring protocol during COVID-19.

As the day-to-day overseer of the facilities department, from cleaning of the buildings to the HVAC to landscaping, one might say Wayne's love for the campus borders on familial. And, in truth, it just might. See, Wayne is also a UNT Dallas alum, and so is his son. 

Q&A

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love the student body we serve, and contributing to so many people's education and success. Our mission is to enhance and maintain a caring and supportive physical environment to further the educational and student developmental mission of the university. When we accomplish our mission daily, I take pride in our contribution to the education and success of our student body.

What employee benefit or activity would you like to see added to UNT World? 
I would like to see an Employee Family Day. We had one a few years ago and it was great.
 
What is your proudest work moment? 
There's so many. I just like being able to help and complete projects. I have been proud of my role in the construction of our first residence hall, the Student Center and renovation of the Dallas Municipal building that is now the UNT Dallas College of Law. When I arrived, we only had two buildings. These three additions are huge accomplishments for the university to have opened in a two-year span.
 
What is your proudest non-work moment? 
My son, Wayne McInnis Jr., like myself, graduated from UNT Dallas. He graduated in May 2018, one semester after I did. My goal was always to set the bar higher for myself than for my children. I couldn't see doing that without completing my degree. He now works for the W Hotel and is pursuing other entrepreneurial endeavors in business consulting and hospitality.

What fact about you might surprise your colleagues? 
I played drums for my church choir for 15 years. Now, I just fill in playing at my church when the drummer is out. I stopped playing about 12 years ago.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...

Movie?: Clear and Present Danger
Inspirational hero?: My parents
Place to visit?: I love Miami

Ask an Expert: Danielle Gemoets, Dietitian, UNT Student Health and Wellness Center

Ask an Expert: Danielle Gemoets

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: Danielle Gemoets, Registered Dietitian, UNT Student Health and Wellness Center
EXPERTISE: Food and nutrition

Danielle has called UNT home for seven of her 11 years as a Registered Dietitian. She helps students discover their health goals and works collaboratively to empower them to live their best lives. She loves making confusing nutrition topics feel simple, flexible and easy to apply to everyday life. And, goodness knows, over these stressful last 10 months, it's been harder than ever to maintain a healthy diet. Click the button below to get some helpful advice to get back on track and feeling great.

Q: My eating has looked a lot different since COVID-19 started, working from home, the added stress and now the holidays. How do I “reset?”  
Danielle: Whether you’re someone who sets New Year’s resolutions and goals or simply turns the page on your calendar, it’s hard to escape the messaging around being a “healthier” or “better” version of yourself. As we all endured the punches 2020 threw, normal routines went out the window. If you experienced a change in eating during this highly stressful and change-filled time, it’s perfectly OK and completely understandable! Be kind to yourself and explore things that are and aren’t working for you with curiosity, but not criticism. To me, a “reset” generally means following a restrictive eating or exercise plan, which just isn’t sustainable. It might produce some short-term changes, but will likely leave you feeling deprived, guilty and frustrated in the end. Instead, ask questions like, “I don’t have a lot of energy in the afternoons, I wonder why that is?

 

Would I benefit from a satisfying and filling snack?” Or, “I’m noticing that I’m ravenous by the time I get to dinner and feel extremely full after I eat; am I giving myself opportunities to eat every 3-4 hours during the day so my hunger doesn’t build to a place where I’m extremely hungry?” 

Q: There are so many diets out there -- Keto, Atkins, low-carb, intermittent fasting, etc., etc. -- do you recommend a specific diet?
Danielle: When people use the term “diet,” they’re usually referring to a particular health or weight-loss plan. Simply put, diets don’t work. Research supports this and many people can tell tales of being “on” and “off” of various plans that once promised to be the solution to health. The diet industry is clever and continually shifts to try and hook people and play on our fears. There’s a lot of money to be made in the world of dieting (it’s a multi-billion dollar industry!), so there is a huge interest in keeping people curious. With that in mind, you don’t have to feel guilty if you have been (or are currently) on a diet. Here’s the thing, nutrition isn’t one size fits all, and different things work for different people. We all have various food preferences, schedules, cooking abilities and health concerns. The best “diet” is one that honors your body’s innate needs for hunger and satisfaction, provides predictable eating times, honors your food preferences, is flexible and takes into consideration any health concerns you have. Now, making that happen can sound like a huge undertaking, but I promise you it’s worth it and can help you to achieve mental and physical health. I’ve listed some resources below (in the answer to my last question) that will give you some guidance on where to start.

Q: I’m busy and don’t have a lot of time to cook. How can I eat healthy meals?
Danielle: There are a lot of great convenience products available that can be fantastic time savers. Pre-cooked meats (deli meat, fajita steak, chicken breast, rotisserie chicken, etc.), canned tuna or salmon, canned beans, peanut butter, nuts, hummus, eggs, pre-chopped fresh produce (salad, vegetables or fruit), frozen or canned produce, and quick cooking grains (rice, quinoa, oats, etc.) are all great meal starters or additions. Meals that don’t require cooking or that can be heated in the microwave are great to have on hand when time is limited. Don’t forget that things like sandwiches, wraps, burritos, quesadillas or “snack boxes” (with a combination of items like hummus, peanut butter, nuts, crackers, pretzels, veggies or fruit) can make a great, balanced meal option. If your budget allows for it, there are also a variety of fresh and frozen entree and meal starter kits that can take a lot of the thought and hassle out of meal planning.

Q: What are some reliable nutrition resources? 
Danielle: Working with a Registered Dietitian is a great option if you have a health condition or are looking for individualized guidance. If you have health insurance, contact your insurance company to see what services are covered and get a list of contracted providers. You can also visit https://eatright.org and select “Find an Expert” to see a list of Registered Dietitians in your area. If you prefer something you can explore on your own, I highly recommend "Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach" (4th edition) or "The Intuitive Eating Workbook" by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN. These are both fantastic resources for anyone who is tired of dieting and wants to focus on overall health while learning to trust their body and make peace with food. For those with children, The Ellyn Satter Institute (https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/) has a wealth of resources and books that are incredibly helpful.

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Take on the 2021 Get Fit Texas! State Agency Challenge

The 2021 Get Fit Texas! State Agency Challenge begins Monday, Jan. 11. This 10-week challenge offers employees a fun way to start an active year.

To complete the challenge, participants must be physically active for 150 minutes per week for at least six of the 10 weeks. We want you to take on the challenge and compete against other Texas agencies to see who can claim the title of Fittest State Agency

Registration is now open. Participants can begin logging their physical activity minutes on Jan. 11th. Find Instructions for registration and participating in the challenge here. For more information, contact Wellness Administrator Sarah Blackwell at: Sarah.Blackwell@untsystem.edu.

All participants must register for the challenge even if you have participated in previous years.

Honoring friendly competition, The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will track the percentage of completion for each state agency and recognize agencies in each size group (small, medium, large) with the highest completion rate.

Let’s lace up those shoes, take on the challenge and show that the University of North Texas System is the Fittest State Agency in Texas.

Ask an Expert: Jodi Duryea, UNT Hospitality Management

Ask an Expert: Jodi Duryea

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: Jodi Duryea, UNT Hospitality Management
EXPERTISE: Professional food preparation & international cuisine

Chef Duryea is a former Executive Chef with more than 10 years experience working in New York City restaurants. Her passion is creating a menu and hosting a great dinner party -- so you know COVID-19 is putting a damper on her traditional holiday plans. Still, it is the holidays, and she has great advice for preparing a smaller meal -- or going big and delivering to relatives -- putting a global spin on your traditional sides and creating a super-tasty French pastry for dessert.

Happy holidays and bon appétit.

Q: Everyone has their favorite traditional holiday meal, but what if we want to change things up this year and possibly start a new tradition with a main or side dish?
Chef Duryea: 
One of my favorite things to do is travel and try new dishes, but since I am not traveling this year because of COVID-19, I am going to add something from where I would like to go. For instance, I may make my own tortellini en brodo. I love making homemade pasta, and with a couple of family members to help, it will be perfect.

Tortellini en brodo is a traditional dish from Bologna, Italy. It has been prepared for Christmas since the mid-16th century. It's a rich broth filled with small, stuffed pastas. There are women who still make a living in Italy by making the tortellini by hand and selling it to people and restaurants. Often for holidays, people make a roast of some kind. I have been using traditional spice blends to add flavor to the roasts. There are traditional Masala spice blends from India made for roast meats that can be found in local Indian markets and in the spice aisle of your supermarket. For a side dish, look to Iran or Persia for a traditional side dish called Tahdig. The name Tahdig literally translates as "the bottom of the pot" in Persian, and it is the crust that forms on the bottom of the pot. It can be done with the rice or with a thin layer of potatoes under the rice. A couple of options for flavoring the basmati rice are using baby lime beans and dill or dried fruit and saffron.

Q: We all know the holidays this year are different and that means keeping our celebrations (and feasts) much smaller. How can we make our holiday dinner feel special when we're missing our usual extended family?
Chef Duryea: I think making the meal with other people makes it special. Is it time for your kids to learn some of the family dishes? It is time to make new traditions? Depending on the ages of your kids, getting them in the kitchen with you will often make them more willing to try new things. Whether it is making tortellini, Chinese dumplings or samosa from India, or sugar cookies and decorating them, working together with your kids to produce these things will give them a feeling of accomplishment and hopefully make them more adventurous. There are many sources to take advantage of: Amazon, Serious Eats and The New York Times all have suggestions for where to find tools and recipes for your kids.

Q: While we will not be gathering with extended family for our holiday meal, we do have older family members in close proximity. Any suggestions to include them in our meal from a distance?
Chef Duryea: 
I personally like to make a big meal and divide it up into containers. Maybe have other family members contribute, too. I encourage dropping off food for relatives since it isn't safe to spend time with them. I got some to-go containers from a local restaurant supply place. Delivering a delicious meal that we would have otherwise enjoyed together can help to make the holiday feel special.

Q: Let's talk our favorite part of the meal -- dessert! As a patisserie, you must have some incredible ideas. What is your favorite French holiday dessert to make?
Chef Duryea: I have been slightly obsessed with the French Buche de Noel this year. I have been playing with different sponge cakes and just love their versatility. For Thanksgiving, I filled it with pumpkin and chocolate mousse and covered it with a chocolate Swiss buttercream frosting. I love the meringue mushrooms and frosted cranberries and rosemary. I have also filled it with a Nutella cream filling and covered it with chocolate ganache. Maybe a cranberry jam with an orange whipped cream filling will be next on the agenda. Buche de Noel, also known as a Yule log, goes back to Nordic times and was originally part of the winter solstice celebration. They would cut down Pine/Spruce trees and decorate them, and soon it was made into a dessert. It has been adopted as a traditional Christmas treat and gift since then. King Arthur’s, Martha Stewart and my favorite, Bo Friberg, all have wonderful pastry books. The next couple of weeks is my favorite time to bake cookies. I try to mix flavors and textures for variety. I think using good butter and pure flavorings makes a huge difference in the final product. 

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The holidays are here: Check out our calendar, fun ideas and help is always near

The holidays are here.
 
What holidays are you most looking forward to celebrating? There's plenty to celebrate in December, and we encourage you to check out the new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Calendar of Holidays & Observances to learn more about the holidays you know, and discover the ones you don't. 

We’d love to hear your stories about which holidays you celebrate, and how you celebrate them. Our UNT World is a diverse and vibrant community of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Learning about each other’s beliefs and festivities is a fun part of our collective Equity, Diversity and Inclusion journey. Share your story with us: edi@untsystem.edu and, if you're on social media, share it with @untsystem and include the hashtag: #IamEDI.
 
From trimming the Christmas tree, lighting bonfires for Winter Solstice, feasting at the end of Kwanzaa, lighting the menorah during Hanukkah and eating black-eyed peas for prosperity on New Year’s Day (just to name a few), there are numerous traditions to celebrate, tasty treats to enjoy and time to savor with loved ones. Whether giving gifts, donating to charities close to your heart or taking time to focus on what means the most to you, we will all take some special time during the winter holiday season to celebrate and enjoy. Share with family and friends these fun PBS videos about winter holidays, fun virtual ideas, tips and games to play during your break.
 
Help during the holidays
It’s important to remember that the holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Stress, separation from family, financial and emotional issues can be hard to deal with during this time of the year – and especially now during this pandemic. It's important to know that you are not alone. Resources are available to you as a UNT World employee, including free counseling sessions through your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Learn more about what this free and confidential program has to offer, including the Safe Ride program and other helpful benefits. 
 
And, during this time of social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, there are still ways to connect and celebrate with friends and family through technology, like videoconferencing or just reaching out by phone or email (even old-fashioned snail mail) to those who we can’t be close to this season. Find tips to help with the holiday blues here, as well as ideas for celebrating the season during this difficult time. Find more tips for coping with the stress of the pandemic here.

Are you struggling financially or facing food insecurity? The 211 is a comprehensive resource with information on community programs in the DFW area that are available to help. There are many resources available to help you cope with difficulties during the holidays. We hope you will reach out if you need help, or contact HRBenefits@untsystem.edu if you need information or have questions about your employee benefits, including the Employee Assistance Program.

May your holidays be a special time of celebration and comfort.

Federal leave options set to expire on Dec. 31

The Federal Leave Options that became available on April 1, 2020 as part of a relief package related to the COVID-19 are set to expire Dec. 31. Currently, there is no signed legislation that would extend the use of those leave types.
 
What Does that Mean To Me?
The last date to use one of those leaves is Dec. 31. If you have used any of those leave types, you must enter them into the time reporting system no later than Jan. 15, 2021. After that date, those codes will no longer be available. 
 
Which Leave Types Are We Referring To?
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act:
 This leave is available to employees who have been employed by UNT World for at least 30 days. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time; part-time employees hours will be prorated based on FTE. You may qualify for this leave if you experience one of the following:

  • Governmental quarantine or isolation order (pay limitation: the lesser of 100% pay or $511 per day, and $5,110 in aggregate)
  • Advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine (pay limitation: the lesser of 100% pay or $511 per day, and $5,110 in aggregate)
  • Caring for an individual who is subject to governmental or self-quarantine (pay limitation: the lesser of two-thirds salary or $200 per day, and $2,000 in aggregate)
  • Caring for the employee's child because the child's school or childcare provider is closed (pay limitation: the lesser of $200 per day, and $2,000 in aggregate)
  • Experiencing a substantially similar circumstance related to COVID-19 as specified by the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Labor

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Extension
This leave provides up to 12 weeks leave for an employee who cannot work because the school or childcare provider of that employee's child is closed as a result of a public-health emergency. The first 10 days (2 weeks) are unpaid, the remaining 10 weeks is paid at two-thirds of regular pay for the number of hours per week the employee normally works. The maximum amount of pay is $200 per day, and $10,000 in aggregate.

Please note: Documentation must be maintained by the department for any employee using Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Those choosing to use Expanded Family and Medical Leave will apply through FMLA Source, and required documentation will be maintained by Human Resources.
 
For more information please see Working Conditions under COVID 19. For questions regarding these leave options, contact HRbenefits@untsystem.edu.

Faculty & Staff Spotlight: Mohammed Mobashirin

Mohammed Mobashirin

If not for technologically savvy saviors like Mohammed Mobashirin -- we call him, Mo -- many of us would be stuck in the dark ages. A 1998 UNT graduate, Mo joined UNT System in 2013. He works on IT projects and initiatives that benefit faculty, staff and students, such as the launch of the all-in-one mobile applications now being used by students at UNT, UNT Dallas and the Health Science Center.

Mo, a husband and father of three, has an impeccable sense of humor considering his list of favorite TV shows is filled with legendary sitcoms (Hello, Newman!). He's a world traveler -- check out his list of favorite countries to visit (eat your heart out, Rick Steves). Yet, perhaps most impressive is his green thumb. And, feel free to ogle at his incredible vegetable harvest on his Facebook page (see below). 

 

Q&A
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I get to interact with wonderful co-workers from different areas of UNT World during project implementations. I try to understand the business challenges and pinpoint each area so that we are able to configure the procured software solution to meet business needs and improve student, faculty and staff day-to-day life.

What is your proudest work moment?
When we launched mobile applications for UNT, HSC and UNT Dallas campuses. Being a former UNT student, I could see how this app can significantly improve student life for both current and prospective students. It reminded me of of my wish list, things I wanted at my fingertips when I was a prospective and enrolled student at UNT. We asked the students what they want in the app and delivered their needs. Things like a campus map, so on the first day of classes I can just use the app to make it to the right class; notifications of final grades as soon as it's posted by the instructor instead of continuously checking emails or the website; bus schedules and bus tracking in real time; the ability reach out directly to professors without having to look up their phone number; and a calendar of events going on across campus.

Q: What is your proudest non-work moment?
The birth of my three children. I have two boys, ages 11 and 8, and a 5-year-old girl.

Q: What fact about you might surprise your colleagues?
I grow my own vegetables -- onions, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, green chili, okra, eggplant, green beans, spinach and more -- from April to November. The best part of growing vegetables is seeing the smile of my kids, neighbors, friends and co-workers when I harvest the vegetables and distribute them. My older brother and I used to do gardening with mom when we were children, and I started my own garden when we bought our house in 2006. Here's a good look at our harvest

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE...
Movie: The Godfather, Scent of a Woman, Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind, Rain Man, The Matrix
TV Show: Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, M*A*S*H, The Office
Place to visit: Brazil, Maui, China, Japan, Nepal