Faculty and staff go above and beyond in the face of COVID-19

Dec. 18, 2020

As facing the challenges of COVID-19 became the new reality for 2020, faculty and staff found a new level of determination — and creative thinking — to help our students continue to pursue their dreams of an education. Read these final 2020 shoutouts for faculty and staff who were suggested by their peers for the work they did to overcome every obstacle, and revisit some of our previous stories of resilience.

Kicking into High Gear

This spring, as Willis Library became one of the only buildings on campus that remained open, the UNT Libraries’ Facilities and Systems department kicked into high gear. On the facilities side, they arranged quickly for social distancing in the library, covering hundreds of chairs, posting scores of signs and distributing gallons of hand sanitizer. To sustain technology services for the now-remote campus, staff gathered hundreds of laptops from across campus, reimaged them and set them up for long-term distribution. This helped many students continue their coursework and allowed for most library staff to have the opportunity for remote work. After the laptops were checked out and returned, staff sanitized them and prepped them for the next person. We are thankful that the building was opened and closed every day, with working printers, desktop PCs and Wi-fi, and classroom spaces for professors who were looking for places to teach! — Sian Brannon, associate dean for collection management, UNT Libraries

Shifting Processes

When the pandemic hit us in the spring semester, the staff in the Registrar’s office quickly had to shift a lot of our processes and they really stepped up! From creating new PDF fillable forms, to assisting with pass/no pass grade changes, converting to a different phone system, updating our website, working remotely, and many others, they really came together. After the initial shift in March, we have continued to take a look at our processes and resources and the staff continues to embrace them and focus on helping students, faculty and staff. They have great attitudes in what has been a trying time for all. We definitely have a great group and we couldn’t have done 2020 without them! — Ashley Wheelis, deputy registrar

All Hands on Deck

As a smaller advising office, we are all hands on deck throughout the year from orientation to preview days to graduation. This past summer we were put into overdrive as we were down one person in addition to managing all the changes COVID-19 brought our way. There were two people who shouldered the brunt of the changes with orientation and kept our heads above water this summer:

Philip Aguinaga was the point of contact between our office and Advising Services and Orientation and Transition Programs and kept us straight as we navigated virtual orientations. Each freshman orientation lasted three days and each transfer orientation was one day with advising playing a role every day. Each day of each orientation was “new” essentially. This year, Philip also was selected to be a part of the Emerging Leaders Program in NACADA (the National Academic Advising Association), which promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education.

Because Jon Bartlett was familiar with the instructor side of Canvas, he shouldered the “behind the scenes” responsibilities as we transitioned orientation into a virtual format and created online content. He created the majority of the videos, including doing the voiceover work, as well as editing all video content created by the office. I guess I should not be surprised that he went above and beyond as he won the University Counselor Advisor Network’s “Energizer Bunny Award” as the advisor who keeps going (and going ... and going) back in 2018. — Jaymi Wenzel, academic advisor, College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism

Engaging Virtual Experiences

Amanda Fisher, senior talent development specialist with HR, has assisted the Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity in numerous ways since the COVID situation began. She provided the division with a training on Generations in the Workforce, which was probably the most engaging virtual experience I’ve had since we’ve been working remotely. In order to meet our needs regarding the changes in Title IX requirements, she provided a training for systemwide Title IX investigators on how to use Zoom to its full functionality for conducting sexual misconduct investigations and hearings. She taught all of us things that we didn’t know. My colleague, Alisha Carter Harris, associate director of Equal Opportunity, is participating in the Leadership Academy and she raved about how engaging and impactful Amanda is in presenting information. We definitely feel she’s going above and beyond to help the university adapt to changing times. — Eve Shatteen Bell, assistant vice president and director of Equal Opportunity

Ever-Changing Tides

Allison Peeler and Linet Cisneros on University Brand Strategy and Communications’ Recruitment Marketing team have done a FANTASTIC job juggling annual project work along with managing the ever-changing tides of recruitment marketing amid COVID. They’ve demonstrated poise under pressure and have produced great work that showcases why UNT is THE best choice university. — Kelley Pound, senior associate director of marketing, UBSC