"I continue to be amazed every day by the support, resilience and ingenuity displayed by our students, staff, faculty, and alumni when every hour seems to bring more change and more necessary adaptations. … As difficult as it may feel in this moment, we are becoming a stronger, more connected community through this shared experience. Let’s stay together in spirit."
— UNT President Neal Smatresk
Going Above and Beyond
Keeping Seniors Engaged
Stephanie Reinke, director of OLLI at UNT, thanks Jordan Williams, senior communications specialist in Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement, for going above and beyond to keep members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and the UNT Retiree Association intellectually and socially engaged during the trying times of COVID-19.
“Seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to our current health crisis,” Reinke says. “Because of this, our members are sheltering in place and not venturing out much at all. Jordan is keeping them intellectually stimulated by providing them with educational content that can be viewed from the safety of their own homes, and he’s providing meaningful content through social media as well.”
Williams says that providing opportunities for adults age 50+ in our community to socialize and learn for fun in a classroom setting is central to OLLI’s mission. And when medical experts started to indicate that COVID-19 poses a greater risk to older adults, he knew they had to dramatically change their operation to conform to the new physical distancing guidelines.
“The individuals who teach our OLLI at UNT courses (including many active and retired UNT faculty) haven’t missed a beat and are already producing video lectures for our summer semester,” he says. “In the meantime, I’m sending out weekly emails to our members with items of interest, such as virtual museum tours, educational videos and fine arts content. I also post items on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
Williams also has helped facilitate a Phone Pal program where OLLI at UNT Ambassadors call other members for friendly conversation.
“We started the volunteer program so that members can have someone to talk to during this period of physical distancing,” he says.
The UNT Retiree Association, which arranges social gatherings and trips throughout the year, also has been affected by the pandemic. UNTRA members receive weekly emails, too, and the UNTRA Board has reached out directly to members with offers to call anyone who’s looking for a little friendly conversation.
Reinke says that Williams is greatly appreciated for making it possible for OLLI to do exactly what it was created to do: “to help seniors who are feeling socially isolated.”
Keeping the UNT community informed on all things COVID-19 on a daily basis is an important task — work that Allison Peeler, senior communications specialist for recruitment marketing for the Division of University Brand Strategy and Communications, commends her coworker Scott Brown for.
“Scott has worked incredibly hard to make sure that all the information on the website healthalerts.unt.edu is clear and concise so we can all easily understand changes and updates as they come,” Peeler says. “I am proud to work with him, and he is a great team member.”
Brown, who helped create UNT’s Health Alerts website and is part of the team that sends out campus communications, says in the early weeks of the crisis, there were a lot of very long, busy days.
“Luckily, there were a lot of us working hard to get everything done,” he says. “It was almost more of a challenge to adjust after things kind of settled down because after you’ve been going a mile a minute for so long, it’s hard not to feel like you’re forgetting something. Like, wait, there must be something else I’m supposed to be doing.”
He says he’s very fortunate to work in web content because his job lends itself to working remotely, but what he enjoys the most about working from home also is what makes it the most challenging.
“I’ve got two young kiddos,” Brown says. “My daughter is 3 years old and my son is 8 months. It can be hard to concentrate and really get in a groove on your work when someone always needs a snack, a diaper change or the channel changed. But it is nice to get this extra time with them when they’re so little.”
Brown offers the following advice to other working parents at home.
“Try not to spread yourself too thin by trying to be perfect at everything,” he says. “Don’t feel bad if you have to step away from work for a minute to take care of the kids and don’t feel bad if you need to give the kids a little extra screen time so you can knock a project out. This is new for everybody and nobody’s going to be perfect at it.”
Service for Student Success
Dean Marilyn Wiley applauds the undergraduate advising team in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business for their flawless transition to online advising.
“During a time when they typically see their highest demand from students, the advisors were forced to become accessible and flexible in new, innovative ways. Without any complaints — or down time — the team came together to maintain their high level of service without comprising student success,” Wiley says. “From the college’s IT team ensuring that everyone had the equipment and resources necessary to succeed to the leadership of Dr. Anna Sidorova and her foresight of preparing a contingency plan prior to quarantine implementation, everyone played a role in the success of this critical conversion.”
A special shout-out goes to Christina Aguilar, Erin Day and Pam Milner, (above) in addition to the whole advising staff, for being the essential team to make it all happen.
Senior Academic Advisor Ann Bartts also commends Day and Milner for their outstanding response to the rapid changes caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Leadership is about understanding people and inspiring others through your actions,” Bartts says. “Erin Day and Pamela Milner are an inspiration and their actions motivate the undergraduate advising team to be leaders in our profession, especially during these undefined times. They value our individual strengths and understand that every person contributes worth. This is evident in their words of gratitude giving credit to our hard work. Their leadership has allowed us to shine!”
Milner says she’s able to do her work by staying connected to the UNT community through various tools.
“I feel like I am Zooming everywhere. We are getting on Zoom for students’ advising appointments and chat with each other on the team in the morning to catch up, and we have team meetings during the week and senior staff meetings with our office and across campus. We use Teams, Zoom, phone, Facebook — you name it. I think it is important to stay connected on a regular basis to make sure you bring joy, but also to make sure you notice when someone has dipped into a dark space and offer help.”
Both Milner and Day work with faculty and administration on curriculum and policies and they created a relatively seamless transition to online student services, advising and orientation sessions.
“Their hard work and perseverance allowed the advisors and front desk staff to focus solely on the students,” Bartts says.
Karena Sara, director of development in the Mayborn School of Journalism, is thankful for Kara Greene, graduate student and program coordinator.
“Kara has a loving heart for students,” Sara says.
Greene was one of the first to donate to the UNT Cares Fund when it launched, and she’s encouraged both her mother and sister to do the same. Coming from a family of educators, Greene truly believes in the positive impact of higher education and sees it on a daily basis at UNT.
“I have to say that all of the hard work our UNT tech support staff did in the beginning has allowed me to remain positive that I can get my job done, exactly as I would at the office,” Greene says. “I have been confident from the first day that I have all the tools required to service the needs of our students, and to support our faculty and staff.”
Greene says she’s grateful for good luck and health and tries not to dwell on any negatives of the crisis.
“For me, the best way to approach each day is to imitate going to the office,” she says. “I set the alarm, get up and prepare for the day and maintain the same work habits. Of course, it’s really odd having to answer the door or move the cat out of the video frame in a meeting. But, once I designated my work area as a professional space, I felt better about the process. And, I think that works for faculty, staff and students in the same way.”
Sara says Greene is so positive and passionate about making students comfortable and helping however she can.
“And for that,” Sara says, “Kara has shown she goes above and beyond in the face of COVID-19.”
Keeping UNT Safe and Healthy
Stephanie Fields-Hawkins wants to shine a light on the team at the Student Health and Wellness Center. They’ve been on the front line of this situation since the beginning, and their staff is committed to remaining on campus to continue to serve our students.
“They’re seeing patients every single day from check-in to check-out, caring for students, calming fears and anxieties, treating illnesses and injuries — all while trying to keep themselves safe,” Fields-Hawkins, senior administrative coordinator at the center says. “Other new duties include calling the long list of students, staff and faculty who have traveled or reported showing symptoms to make sure our UNT community stays as safe and healthy as possible, as well as developing telemedicine procedures (including telepsychiatry) to serve students who can’t or shouldn’t physically come into the clinic.”
Fields-Hawkins says she is fortunate enough to be able to do much of her job from home, but many of her coworkers are in the clinic right now making sure our students get the care they need.
“The center’s staff risk putting their health and the health of their families on the line because of their dedication to our students — their patients,” she says. “We wouldn’t exist without our patients, so we’re not going to let them down when they need us. The UNT community is home, and we will always stand with our family.”
Dana Sachs, director of healthcare administration at the Student Health and Wellness Center, also wants to give the center a big shout-out for their continued services to our student population. Staff has been extremely flexible, many on a rotation reporting to the clinic while others work remotely from home.
“Leading this amazing team is Dr. Cynthia Hermann – she has been at the clinic every day since this pandemic began, providing guidance and support to her staff as well as other campus leaders,” Sachs says. “Her calm and caring support has been wonderful. Although many hours of her day are spent on Zoom meetings and webinars, she makes sure to check in with staff on a routine basis, ensuring we all have what we need to continue performing our job duties in a safe environment. I am proud to be a part of this TEAM – doing what we do best!”
Building on UNT Family Greatness
The Department of Mathematics wants to celebrate Kristi Nelson, manager of the Math Quest Center, for exemplifying UNT’s commitment to building community.
“Nelson has tirelessly and competently been answering the phone and handling e-mails throughout this crisis. While we were still allowed on campus, she single-handedly and in record time turned the Math Quest Center into a socially distanced computer lab for students who wouldn't have had internet access, complete with a detailed cleaning schedule for the workstations,” says Jana Watkins, office manager and assistant to the chair. “She even mixed together her own cleaning materials when we weren't able to buy it anymore.”
While Nelson has only been at UNT since November, she says she’s proud to be part of such a fantastic team.
“The office is always so positive and encouraging that it brings out the best in everyone,” Nelson says. “And when this new challenge hit us, we all did whatever was necessary to enable and equip the instructors to deliver the quality education that the students deserve.”
As the last woman standing in an otherwise deserted department, Watkins says Nelson even delivered teaching equipment and other items to people — or met them in the Walmart parking lot — after work.
“She traveled as far as Keller to make sure all employees had what they needed to succeed remotely,” Watkins says. “Above all, Nelson kept her colleagues’ spirits up with some great office humor.”
Nelson says it does get lonely sometimes but knowing that she can best serve the math department by being on campus makes it an easy choice.
“Seeing the closed office doors in the hallways makes it feel like this will last forever, but I remind myself that it won’t,” she says. “We all need to keep focused on getting to the place where we can look back and appreciate how we leaned on each other, made the impossible happen and then look forward to building on this demonstration of UNT Family Greatness!”
Outreach With Empathy
Landon Ellison, director of outreach for the Division of Enrollment, who has been called out for going above and beyond with empathy says it helps him to stay positive during this difficult time by relying on his support system as a staff member and a full-time higher education doctoral student.
“The admissions and outreach staff, leadership and my wife, Vanessa, a two-time alumna, along with my professors have been understanding and supportive,” he says. “I also attend virtual counseling sessions, which has really helped me keep perspective during these difficult times. I highly recommend that students seek out resources from Counseling and Testing Services, and employees have access to some great medical providers through our insurance and perks programs.”
Ellison’s advice for students and colleagues include communicating with professors and coworkers as much as possible.
“Not just about work or school, but just to check in on one another,” he says. “We often feel like we are the only ones stressed or worried about the pandemic and how it’s impacting our lives. Everyone is struggling in some way, whether it’s related to their job, health, school, etc.”
He also recommends to do something to destress every day that is not related to school or work, even if it’s just a few minutes.
“I know that’s hard for a lot of us balancing work and school, especially people who may have children or family members to look after, but it’s so vital for you to look out for yourself too,” he says. “There’s a lot of short exercise programs that last around ten minutes on YouTube. I also like to read every night and picked up drawing again, which I haven’t done for years! Reconnecting to an old hobby and passion has been a great way to cope.”
And staying connected to the UNT community is really important for Ellison.
“Our office has had social activities on Zoom three times a week, including a group workout Monday, Yoga on Wednesday, and then social Thursday with activities such as game night, talent show, show and tell, etc.,” he says. “Outreach also does regular Zoom calls with our 50 student workers. We just want to know how they are mentally and emotionally, to make sure they are aware of the most recent information from the university, and to be available if they have questions or concerns about their job or institutional resources. We’re all in this together and have to support one another.”
Support Through Virtual Spaces
Finding creative ways for students to virtually access the support services they need during this time of isolation is essential. And Sonia Redwine, director of UNT’s Collegiate Recovery Program, is doing just that says Heller Garland, senior lecturer in the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services.
“I don’t think we can understate how important this connection is to the mental health of our great students,” Garland says.
First and foremost Redwine says students, faculty and staff need to understand that it’s okay not to be okay.
“What we are going through is far from business as usual. It is hard to get through our daily responsibilities if our basic needs are not met, and if we are constantly in fight or flight mode,” Redwine says. “Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need someone to talk to about how you are feeling, whether it is good or not so good. We’ve got some great resources at UNT for students, staff, and faculty. Take advantage of those! On that same note, make sure we are checking in on others. I like to start out my meetings and classes by just asking everyone how they are doing before we get started.”
To remain connected to the UNT community during this time, Redwine is utilizing a variety of tools including different video conferencing apps.
“Zoom has been a great tool for my staff. We have a daily staff check-in where we first can see each other and discuss how we are doing, and then move on to how students who access our services are doing,” she says. “The ability to continue to offer our peer driven recovery support services via Zoom is vital to the health and wellbeing of our students. We offer a virtual group room space for students to pop in, just like they would in our physical location in Chilton 136.”
Redwine adds that the Collegiate Recovery Program team has separate Zoom meeting ID numbers for each of their peer led group meetings, and the peer recovery mentors have maintained their one-on-one sessions with students via Zoom, FaceTime, phone and GroupMe.
“We’ve definitely learned a lot through this process about the resiliency of our student population, the need to flexible, and how we can continue to offer virtual spaces for students even when we are able to return back to campus,” Redwine says.
Cleaning for a Safe Campus
Over the last few weeks, the university has taken unprecedented measures to reduce the impact and spread of the coronavirus on campus to keep our community safe. As essential personnel, custodial staff from both UNT’s Facilities and Housing departments are part of a team ramping up efforts to keep commonly used buildings on campus clean and disinfected.
“We have been using a hospital-grade disinfectant, electrostatic sprayers and pump sprayers to clean all the classrooms on campus. We have been targeting high-traffic areas such as hallways, restrooms, classrooms, door handles and all frequently touched surfaces,” Facilities Custodial Trainer Lynne Odell says. “We feel equipped and well-trained to respond to this pandemic."
Telemental Health Services
Associate Professor of Psychology Patricia Kaminski wants to say “brava and bravo” to psychology professors Vicki Campbell and Randy Cox. She says they have done and continue to do an amazing job transitioning the psychology department and clinic to function remotely.
“Their dedication and leadership have allowed approximately 40 faculty and staff, 100 graduate students, thousands of undergrads and hundreds of clinic clients to teach, learn and conduct or receive therapy safely during this health crisis,” she says.
Randy Cox (right), director of the Psychology Clinic, credits the invaluable collaborations with his colleagues for helping him stay connected to the university community.
“I’ve relied on their expertise to push us forward through uncharted waters from graduate student assistants who contributed countless hours of groundwork and vital meetings with IT staff to the general counsel’s office to implement the necessary infrastructure to provide Telemental Health services to the North Texas region,” Cox says. “I am extremely grateful for the amazing team of dedicated individuals who made it possible to continue the clinic’s mission of excellence in training, research and service, even during the most challenging of circumstances.”
While these are challenging times, Cox advises others to embrace this opportunity to relate to our students, colleagues and co-workers in new ways.
“Sometimes when we are pushed out of our comfort zones,” he says, “we learn important new things about ourselves and our capabilities as well as further enriching our relationships by expanding the ways we interact with one another.”
Helping Save Lives
When the UNT Center for Leadership and Service, in partnership with Carter BloodCare, opened up appointments for a community blood drive, it wasn’t long before all the spots were filled.
“To be honest I was skeptical that we would be able to fill the 16 appointments due to lack of people on campus coupled with the fear of giving blood during this time,” Alexa Bilich, advisor with the UNT Center for Leadership and Service, says. “But to my surprise we had filled all spots within just hours of posting. It made my heart happy to know that even during these trying times, people are finding any way they can to help out someone in need.”
The blood drive was held on April 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. using new precautions for social distancing, surface sterilization and FDA guidelines for Carter BloodCare staff aboard a specially outfitted mobile donor bus.
UNT students, staff, faculty and the community donated enough blood to save up to 33 lives. Ten of the people who climbed aboard the bus in front of the University Union were first time donors. The American Red Cross estimates that every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and the U.S. Food and Drug administration indicates there is an urgent and immediate need for blood and blood components after donor centers experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to social distancing requirements and the cancellation of blood drives due to COVID-19.
UNT adjunct professor of fashion design Chelsea Bell is keeping her family busy and neighborhood bright with a little art therapy. Using materials she has on-hand, like cardboard from shipped boxes, Chelsea and her family have brought a kaleidoscope of colors and cheer to their home and community.
A large photo backdrop that was stored in their garage has become a beacon of hope in the front yard for passersby with the inspirational message of “Together We Can.” Using tape and chalk, her children, ages 6 and 7, have created a fun sidewalk and in her “spare” time, Chelsea is sewing masks to help with the nationwide shortage.
“Art can be a very therapeutic approach to dealing with a crisis. It’s also a great way to pass the time if you’re one of those people feeling trapped at home,” Chelsea says. “We are doing our best to take our limits and turn them into more creative projects. The best we can do is try to explore things that interest us and challenge us. I always try to remind myself and my kids that patience is an important part of learning a new skill. You have to be willing to be bad at something and make mistakes in order to learn something new and become good at it. When we look at the history of art and design we discover that mistakes are what often lead to a maker’s major breakthroughs.”
Mean Green Friday
Margarita Venegas, senior communications strategist for the Division of Finance and Administration, wants to thank Joey Saxon and the team from Student Financial Services for continuing to show their Mean Green Pride by wearing green on Fridays and sharing their photos on social media.
“It’s a great way to keep up the team spirit and stay connected to UNT,” Venegas says. “I love the collages they put together to share with everyone!”
Staying on Track
Shahaf Bareni (’15, ’17 M.S.) is no stranger to obstacles — the Israeli-born high jumper leaped past numerous roadblocks to become a UNT track champion. And while the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily placed her dreams of qualifying for Israel’s Olympic high jump team on hold, it hasn’t dampened her can-do spirit.
Connecting Through the Worst
As the world faces the tremendous health crisis of COVID-19, UNT alumni are going above and beyond to show how they care and their creative spirit – from finding ways to share their music to supporting the medical community by making personal protective equipment to helping their coworkers and employees through financially hard times. Saxophonist Sami Perfecto (’12) performs each night from his Barcelona balcony as he and his neighbors are quarantined, efforts that recently have gone viral. Read more about him and the innovative ways other alumni are making a difference for others.
Overcoming Technical Difficulties
Ryan Boettger, assistant professor and assistant chair in Technical Communication, did an incredible amount of prep work to convert TECM 2700 to an online format, says Tamara Brown, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
“This course has 750 students and requires coordinating 20 adjuncts and TFs to deliver it, and he did all the updating and prep work while working at home while watching his 9-week-old son Liam,” Brown says. “He’s an example of the herculean efforts in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.”
Boettger says it’s nice to still be able to connect regularly with his colleagues through Zoom and help instructors contact students who haven’t logged into Canvas for a few days, even if it’s at a distance.
“It’s difficult not to stay positive when I get to be assistant chair AND dad all from home,” Boettger says. “In anticipation of Liam’s birth, I had planned to be self-quarantined anyway, so we’re sufficiently supplied and entertained over here.”
UNT student Kelly Schmidt wants to give a shout out to her supervisor, Brecken Wellborn, the director of Tutoring Services at the Learning Center.
“He has been working overtime to keep all his student employees connected, safe, and up-to-date during this scary time,” Schmidt says. “Transitioning all of the Learning Center's tutoring services to online offerings in the space of a week and coordinating the changing schedules of 10 different tutors and their appointments was a huge task, but he has managed it amazingly well. I think all of my fellow employees would agree that he goes above and beyond for UNT and for us, and that he deserves some recognition.”
Wellborn says staying connected right now is all about keeping in touch and adapting to the new normal.
“The Learning Center is one big family and we all make sure to check in with each other and give each other time to express how we’re managing transition both within and outside of the office,” Wellborn says. “Take the time to reach out to campus partners and ask them how they are doing. The UNT community is all about people, so we need to remind each other that we’re here for one another.”
Team Work Makes the Dream Work
From Frances Perkins, principal lecturer and department advisor, Department of Media Arts:
“The staff in the Media Arts department have gone above and beyond since the first moments of this unusual situation,” says Frances Perkins, principal lecturer and department advisor in the Department of Media Arts. “They have been present in person while the faculty and adjuncts have been able to work remotely, handling student workers, keeping all operations going (including the TV and radio stations), and then having to shut down the department physically. This included cleaning out refrigerators and planning how mail would be delivered. All of this happened during the retirement of one staff member and the change of department chairs. Our staff have been on the front line, so to speak, and we the faculty of the Media Arts department cannot express enough our gratitude for their hard work and dedication.”
Our amazing staff include:
- Mark Dobson — Media Technical Manager
- Martin Dzurenko (right) — Chief Engineer TV
- Laura Flowers — CLASS Undergraduate Advisor
- Mark Lambert — KNTU Station Manager
- Marielena Resendiz — Student & Program Assistant
- Randy Smith — Chief Engineer Radio
- Lesa Statler — Administrative Specialist
- Adam Van Fossen — Assistant Media Technical Manager
- Velma White — Administrative Coordinator
Chief Engineer TV Martin Dzurenko has been using many tools while working at home to stay connected with his coworkers and students.
“I have been staying involved with Zoom, Skype, and on a lot of occasions Teamviewer, “Dzurenko says. “With Teamviewer I have been able to remotely log into people’s computers that had trouble setting up software on their home computers. I also have been busy helping out with our studio production classes and our student run TV station NTTV by giving some software and video recommendations as well as providing access to online production-related webinars that manufacturers have been making available to people in the broadcast industry.”
Marielena Resendiz, student and program assistant and Living Learning Communities mentor for the Media Arts department, who works with the majority of incoming freshmen and student organizations in Media Arts says she’s always felt that it’s important to make students feel welcome and included even despite halting in-person classes and activities.
“Mentoring is such a big part of what I do on a daily basis that I knew I had to continue that as much as possible, not only or myself, but for the students I serve,” Resendiz says adding she wanted to continue her Living Learning Communities Students’ Friday Night Movie Nights online. “We looked at a few platforms and found some options that gave us the opportunity to have those online watch parties. We incorporated Zoom as well for the conversational portions before and after the film. My husband, Johnathan Paul, a Media Arts adjunct instructor hosted the first screening.”
She also has incorporated a midweek Zoom meeting with students to do a care check and catchup about school.
“I call it the Weekly Rahn-duh-voo (rendezvous),” she says adding she also offers one-on-one meetings for students.
“Going above and beyond has been incredibly important as I don’t want our students to lose connection from the program and from each other,” she says. “I know that mentoring by incorporating online platforms has allowed us all to get through some really hard times, to remain connected. It’s the only way we’ll get through this together.”
Mark Dobson, media technical manager for Media Arts, says that while he’s able to get most of what he needs to do his job through the campus VPN, it’s been an adjustment working from home.
“What I really miss are the people,” he says. “I miss my colleagues in the main office. I miss my lab assistants. Most of all, I miss the creative energy that the students bring.”
But he’s found ways to not be completely cut off.
“I actually enjoy Zoom meetings with colleagues because they help me to stay in touch. I also reach out to folks via social media, which helps me to feel a little more connected. A former coworker of mine, whom I haven’t seen for almost 15 years, suggested virtual coffee. It was a nice opportunity to reconnect with an old friend.”
Dobson also is using this time to sharpen his software skills and renew his Avid Certified Instructor (ACI) certification.
“LinkedIn Learning is a great online resource for all things Adobe,” he says. “I also managed to grab a couple of Avid training books from my office, which are used in the Visual Editing class. I even agreed to be a backup instructor for two sections of Visual Editing.”
And he’s definitely been able to spend more time with his kids, which he says is real treat: “We’ve been able to do things together under lockdown that we may not have had time for otherwise.”
As KNTU’s station manager, Mark Lambert says he’s able to do 99% of his job from home by logging in to both his campus office desktop computer and KNTU servers.
“The 1% I can’t do (at least not yet) is rip music from new CDs to add to KNTU’s playlist,” he says adding that he ripped music from 19 CDs from his office, then came back home and entered all the metadata into the music scheduling software called MusicMaster. “I also use the software to generate what’s called a “spin list” of the current releases that we’re playing. We’re a reporting station for the weekly national jazz chart on jazzweek.com. We usually have around 90 current release CDs on our playlist divided into three categories and MusicMaster makes it quite easy to quickly add up all the total “spins” of each CD for the 7-day period of each week’s report.”
He says that KNTU is operating these days as a fully automated on-air station.
There’s no one in our studios doing anything on the air,” he says. “With the exception if there is severe weather when I would go to the station and provide any coverage necessary.”
Leadership + Support + Humor = High Morale
While Mathematics Department Chair and Professor Ralf Schmidt joined the department only this past fall, Associate Professor of Mathematics Pieter Allaart says he very quickly earned the trust of faculty, staff and graduate students and, before the “coronacrisis” hit, had already started transforming the department in a positive way.
“But these last few weeks, his calm and steady leadership has truly made a difference,” Allaart says. “Day by day, he kept everyone informed with clear emails detailing step by step what we needed to do next, sometimes even with a measured dose of humor. He also constructed a webpage with helpful tips for teaching online. Moreover, he went out of his way to ensure that all instructional personnel had the necessary resources to start teaching online, ordering tablets, webcams and document cameras for whoever needed them, and with his physical presence he kept up morale among the staff who had to keep coming into the office until the very last moment when the department was already a ghost town.”
Schmidt says he’s been inspired by so many people in the department rising to the occasion since this crisis began.
“We had a staff member delivering tablets and cameras to people's homes, after regular work hours, so that they could teach. Instructors help each other out and have collected valuable Zoom and Canvas tips on a webpage. Faculty offered to interrupt their sabbatical and come back if needed. One colleague is organizing a "digital tea", so that we can all stay connected. We had an adjunct instructor drive to campus and teach in her car when her home Internet was out,” Schmidt says. “And in a stunning act of kindness a graduate student donated a small number of N95 masks to the department, just in case someone has an urgent need (and someone had).”
Superior Student Support
UNT student Genesis Sanchez gives a huge shoutout to her supervisor Hope Garcia, assistant vice president of student services, and to the amazing team at UNT at Frisco.
As an international student, being away from her family during such uncertain times has been difficult for Sanchez. However, she says that Garcia and everyone at UNT at Frisco are doing a wonderful job maintaining constant communication with students and making them feel safe. Sanchez also would like to thank administrative coordinator Danielle Wong for her willingness to help students. “Thank you for all your dedication and your bright and positive attitude,” Sanchez says. “Today, I feel grateful and extremely fortunate to be a part of UNT.”
Graduate student Lisa Schellenberg thanks Karen Anderson-Lain, course director for Basic Communication (COMM 1010) and a principal lecturer in several communication courses.
She says that in the aftermath of COVID-19, Anderson-Lain converted the Basic Communication course quickly and with the highest-quality standards – a massive undertaking that included 19 sections, 570 students, and 18 TAs and adjuncts.
“She created new instructional lectures and creative assignments in order to provide the best learning environment possible for students. Her Canvas is very user friendly as well, since many of her students are freshmen or sophomores,” Schellenberg says. “I want Karen to feel appreciated not just for the long hours she continues to spend on this transition, but also for her willingness to place herself in our shoes and acknowledge the inevitable changes we will experience in our everyday lives. She empowers the UNT community to succeed by exhibiting empathy and kindness, and by caring about each one of us individually.”
UNT President Neal Smatresk gave a shout out to all the faculty and staff that worked to transition thousands of courses online:
“UNT went live with more than 7,700 classes that transitioned from face-to-face to online. I want everyone to understand that it was an amazing effort and our faculty and staff deserve a big round of applause for their hard work in getting us to this point.”