Great Conversations

UNT Honors College Presents:

Great Conversations 2020

People having a discussion around table
Assortment of books on a table
People gathering for a photo
Several women having a discussion
People looking at something on a smartphone
People having a discussion around table

Great Conversations is a unique event benefiting the Honors College at the University of North Texas. This engaging program brings together individuals of accomplishment and skill to facilitate conversations on important, diverse, and stimulating topics, ranging from the intellectual to the lighthearted.

The event is Tuesday, February 25, 2020, in the VIP Clubroom at Apogee Stadium at UNT(1251 S Bonnie Brae St, Denton, TX 76207) from 6:00-9:00pm. Check-in, silent auction, and a social hour for guests begins at 6:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m, guests will be invited to begin conversations with the expert of their choice while enjoying a superb dinner. Tickets are $75.00.

Proceeds from the event will directly benefit Honors College students by supporting scholarship funds.

The event will also include a silent auction fundraiser.

View Packages Here

Bidding will take place during the social hour from 6-7 p.m., but will be suspended when dinner is served. Final bidding will be open when dessert is served.

Please join us for an evening of fascinating people, interesting ideas and Great Conversations!


  • Parking is free at Apogee Stadium.

Contact Information:
Diana Dunklau – or 940-565-2474

To purchase tickets at all tables please visit untuniontickets.universitytickets.comPlease bring your e-ticket to Great Conversations 2020!

Conversation Leaders at-a-glance

Table 1

Dave Barnett: Voice of the Mean Green

Dave Barnett

Photo of Dave Barnett in press box at Apogee Stadium

Dave Barnett, a two-time Emmy-award winner, took over the play-calling duties for Mean Green football and men's basketball following the retirement of George Dunham in spring 2015. A native of Denton, a graduate of Denton High and a 1979 graduate of North Texas, Barnett is one of the most renowned broadcasters to emerge from Bill Mercer's sportscasting program. Before his senior year at North Texas, Barnett landed a job at KRLD in Dallas, and, at just 23 years of age, became the play-by-play man for Dallas Mavericks. Barnett called NBA games for 16 years, seven for Dallas and nine with the San Antonio Spurs. He also called Southwest Conference college football and basketball games, then went to work for ESPN for 13 years before becoming the play-by-play man for the Texas Rangers in 2009. Barnett has worked Big 12 college basketball and baseball for Fox Sports. In addition to his North Texas duties, Barnett continues doing national broadcasts for the Westwood One radio network. 

Table 2

The Least Dangerous Branch

Dr. Bethany Blackstone

Photo of Dr. Bethany Blackstone with a green backdrop

In Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton famously described the judiciary as “the least dangerous branch” because it has “neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm for the efficacy of its judgments.” Hamilton might be surprised to see that the contemporary American judiciary is a truly co-equal branch of the United States federal government. Join Dr. Bethany Blackstone for a discussion about the role of the judiciary in shaping American public policy. The impact of courts (generally) and the Supreme Court (specifically) varies over time and by issue area. We’ll discuss the historical changes that have allowed the courts to sometimes play a central role in shaping policy, highlight the conditions under which Supreme Court decisions have been more and less influential, and discuss recent developments related to the Supreme Court, including major decisions and the anticipated impact of recent membership changes on the Court.

Dr. Blackstone is the Associate Dean for the Honors College and an Associate Professor of Political Science. Her research and teaching focus on the United States Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, constitutional law, and interbranch relations.

Table 3

Making Computers Understand Human Language

Dr. Eduardo Blanco

Dr. Eduardo Blanco standing in front of a brick wall

Are you interested in knowing how do smart speakers understand and answer your questions? How does machine translation work? How do search engines find what you want? How does your language usage give insights into your personality and preferences? The underlying technology empowering these applications is called natural language processing, a subfield of artificial intelligence that aims at developing algorithms and computational models to understand natural language. Join our conversation to discuss this fascinating technology, which has seen unprecedented improvements in the last decade.

Eduardo Blanco is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at University of North Texas. He conducts research in natural language processing with a focus on computational semantics, semantic relation extraction and inference, and intricate linguistic phenomena such as negation, modality and uncertainty. His work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and generous gifts from industry. Blanco is a recent recipient of the Bloomberg Data Science Research Grant and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Table 4

Don't be shy Denton... ASK ME ANYTHING

Keely Briggs

Keely G Briggs

Local government has a bigger impact on your day-to-day life than any other level of government in our nation. But local government is often misunderstood and has low levels of citizen engagement and participation. Want to know something about our city government or services? Are you curious about how policy is crafted at city hall? Have a question about budgets and taxing? Ever wanted to get an inside view of what it’s like to campaign for and hold public office? From the asphalt on our roads to the zoning of our neighborhoods and all things in between… Don’t be shy Denton, take a seat at this table and ask me anything!

Keely Briggs was elected to Denton City Council as District 2’s representative in May 2015 and is currently serving her third term. She is a Mayoral candidate in the upcoming May 2020 local election.  A Texas native born in Tyler, Keely first came to Denton to attend the University of North Texas in 1995, where she graduated with a BA in sociology and received certification for mediation training from the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program administered by the Institute of Applied Economics.

Keely has a sincere passion for serving the people of her community. She considers being a non-partisan elected official representing the people of Denton to be one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences of her life. She is proud to serve her district and the entire community of Denton as it takes on the multitude of complex challenges and opportunities that stem from sitting atop one of the fastest growing and most dynamic regions in our nation.

When not seeing to the important work of representing the citizens of District 2 and the City of Denton, Keely can be found volunteering in our local schools and supporting the efforts by many of Denton’s non-profits to help improve our community.

Table 5

American Gun Culture and Public Health

Dr. Kevin Caffrey

Dr. Kevin Caffrey

Guns mean something to Americans, with notions of freedom, excellence, strength, endurance, etc. up there in the running. Indeed, many people argue that there is an affinity between Americans and guns that amounts to a “gun culture” which makes regulating them difficult, unlikely, or even impossible. And yet there are other American “cultures” that have traditionally also been associated with (perhaps unsurprisingly) freedom, excellence, strength, endurance, etc. And some of them have over time been regulated when the lack of regulation in those cultures presented a clear danger to American lives. Take for example America’s love affair with the automobile, where Chevrolet has a prominent place in “American car culture” just as much as apple pie does in American popular culture. In fact, the history of the American automobile can easily be narrated as the history of necessary safety improvements in automobiles when the need arose…or at least when the need for safety became obvious.

In the case of car culture, attention to public safety has arguably improved our love affair with the car, while improving the cars themselves and thus saving lives. Make no mistake about it, auto accidents were a huge killer of men, women, and children; and America has dramatically reduced the number of injuries and deaths from auto accidents on American roads by considering public health when regulating the manufacturing and use of cars. What about shooting deaths and gun injuries? Everyone seems to agree that the number of gun deaths in the country is too high. Would it be reasonable to consider American gun culture in the same way we have handled American car culture? Or is there something about guns in America that make looking at gun use as a public health concern impossible? I look forward to a fruitful discussion!

Dr. Kevin Caffrey has taught anthropology, Asian Studies, social theory, politics and the environment, ethnic/religious conflict, and other topics at Harvard University, American University, George Washington University, and The University of Chicago. He conducted ethnographic fieldwork in China and Southeast Asia, focusing on the Chinese Muslim people of that region, with particular emphasis on their stigma and stereotyping as a “dangerous” people. He has also written on U.S. counterinsurgency, mass sport in China, and soft power. His research interests continue to include China and Southeast Asia, but also increasingly include the domestic issue of American gun culture.

Table 6

Debt Free Business - Making Business Sweeter Without Miracle Grow

Samantha Cutler

Photo of Samantha Cutler

We will be discussing how Samantha Cutler started, then grew a successful business without credit cards, loans, or debt of any kind and how you might too. This conversation will be about the attitude and creativity needed to build a business without the Miracle Grow of debt that can turn into sink weights versus the natural growth via hustle instead.

Samantha Cutler, the owner operator of the custom bakery, Heavenly Taylored Sweets, here in Denton TX right off 35 near Outback. Before getting the storefront at the end of last year I ran my bakery for five years as a homebased custom bakery under the cottage food law. I have gone from hobby, side gig, full time, and now commercial without any loans or debt.

Table 7

Wine and Food: A Beautiful Relationship

George Ferrie

George Ferrie, owner of Wine Squared

We all love Food, and we SHOULD all Love Wine. Join me as we taste wines from around the world, talk about expanding our palates, and learn about interesting food pairings.

George Ferrie is a 13-year Denton resident and small business owner of Wine Squared. He studied Dance Performance at UNT, and loves all things Wine. He currently serves on the Parks and Recreation Board, Friends with Benefits Board, Denton Mainstreet Association Board, and OUTreach Denton Steering Committee. 

Table 8

Creating a Positive Culture: Building Great Work Relationships

Amanda Fisher

Amanda Fisher in front of a green background

Most of us work with people we wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends. We come from different backgrounds, and bring with us various value sets and perspectives. Let’s discuss those workplace differences and how to build healthy relationships in spite of them!

Amanda currently serves in the role of Senior Learning & Development Specialist for the University of North Texas System after joining the team in 2015. Prior to joining UNT System HR, Amanda worked for Hill College in Hillsboro Texas for 9 years, providing a multitude of HR related functions including training & development, employee relations, recruitment & selection, and employee recognition. She also served Hill College for 2 years as the Assistant Director of Human Resources. Her current position is focused on identifying learning and development needs for the UNT World and providing training and development solutions that align with each organization’s mission and strategic priorities. Amanda holds a Master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Kansas State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Development (with a minor in Business) from Texas A&M University. Amanda is a Certified Training & Development Professional.

Table 9

Travel with Terri

Terri Guthrie

Terri Guthrie

Interact with Terri Guthrie, experienced international traveler, writer and photographer. Learn how to plan and execute the perfect trip with tips on: your itinerary; packing; preparing; money; transportation; safety and street smarts. Also, find out Terri's top 3 favorite travel destinations.

Terri Guthrie, from Denton, Texas, is a Travel Enthusiast. She loves to travel the world with her husband Ron, an international commercial airline pilot. Terri has a degree in Journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi and enjoys writing about and photographing her travel adventures. She has visited over 35 countries and frequently travels to Amsterdam, London, New York City, Paris and Rome.

Terri is a freelance writer, freelance photographer, travel blogger and member of the Society of American Travel Writers. She is a former radio news anchor for WFTW, Vacationland Broadcasting in Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Serving as the Community and Media Relations Director for Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona she was the television reporter for announcements and reports. Terri was a past president of Denton Benefit League. She loves to cook and volunteer when she is not jet setting. She and Ron have two daughters and two grandsons.

Table 10

Child Sex Trafficking Something from the movies, or the national headlines, or a crime actually happening in our county?

Kristen Howell

Kristen Howell in front of grey background

Join Kristen Howell, CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County, for a discussion on this shocking topic. When children are seen as commodities, easier to buy and sell than even drugs, we all must join the fight—this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. Learn ways traffickers lure children, identify at-risk children and find out what law enforcement and agencies like the Advocacy Center are doing to respond to this epidemic of modern day slavery.

Kristen Howell has been a social worker in the field of child abuse and domestic violence for twenty-five years. She is the CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County, but really, she puts on her ‘mom hat’ as she goes to bat for children who have been hurt – often by the people they love and trust. She leads a 50 person staff and a team of professionals in the county who are dedicated to ensuring justice and healing for child abuse victims. She graduated from Baylor University with her bachelor’s in Social Work and from University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill with her master’s in Social Work. Kristen has been in a book club for over 20 years, she’s been Tik-Tok famous and she’s an avid golfer.

Table 11

Mysteries and Legends of Denton County

Kelsey Jistel

Photo of Kelsey Jistel sitting on a green couch

Does a goatman haunt Old Alton Bridge? Did Sam Bass hide his treasure in a cave at Pilot Knob? What happened to TWU student Virginia Carpenter? Where did Bonnie and Clyde hang out in Denton County? Did the French find utopia in Justin?

Spend the evening learning about some of Denton County’s most infamous residents and other mysteries that will leave you scratching your head.  Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

Kelsey Jistel is the Curator of Educational Programs for the Denton County Office of History and Culture, which operates the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum and the Denton County Historical Park.  Kelsey plans and facilitates many of the Office of History and Culture's various educational programs, events, and projects, including PARK AFTER DARK and Denton County Junior Historians.

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Kelsey traveled to the Midwest for college and earned her BA in History from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012 and MA in Museum Studies from the University of Kansas in 2014. After graduating, she found her way back to Texas and settled in Denton in 2015. Kelsey has always had a love for museums and a passion for working with people. In her spare time, she enjoys eating street tacos, watching period dramas, and collecting camel figurines.

Table 12

Fighting the bite, Mosquito Wrangling in North Central Texas

Dr. James Kennedy

Photo of Dr. James Kennedy in front of a stream

In early August 2002, Dr. James Kennedy’s lab collected the first mosquito populations that tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) in north central Texas. Since that time he has monitored mosquito populations and mosquito borne diseases annually in the City of Denton, in partnership with the City of Denton and the Texas Department of State Health Services. The conversation at this table will focus on mosquito ecology, their populations and WNV and the recent concerns about the potential occurrence of ZIKA, Chikungunya and Dengue in the Dallas Fort Worth Area.

Dr. James H. Kennedy, is a Regents Professor of biological sciences and the Executive Director of the Elm Fork Education Center and Natural Heritage Museum. In addition, he is an associate director of the University of North Texas Sub-Antarctic Biocultural and Conservation program and has served as a visiting professor for the last eight years in the graduate program at the University of Magallanes in Punta Arenas, Chile. As well, Dr. Kennedy was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Magallanes in 2009.

Dr. Kennedy’s research program focuses on five areas: stream ecology, aquatic insect biology, biodiversity studies, the use of macroinvertebrates in the ecological risk assessment process and environmental education. Professor Kennedy has authored or coauthored over 100 publications covering various aspects of aquatic ecology, and ecotoxicology, including laboratory and field toxicity testing procedures, and simulated field studies. He is recognized internationally for his work in the use of surrogate aquatic ecosystems in the ecological risk assessment process. Much of his current research is focused in the Sub-Antarctic region of South America where he is developing long term monitoring programs using benthic macroinvertebrates to monitor biologically significant changes in rivers and streams that may be associated with global climate change. The goal of most of the laboratories projects is to develop information to aid in management decisions and conservation of freshwater ecosystems.

Table 13

Hold Your Breath: Can the air that you breathe contribute to weight gain?

Dr. Amie Lund

Dr. Amie Lund in a laboratory

Our toxicology laboratory studies the effects of urban air pollution on the body, including ways that it may contribute to obesity, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and even altering the "good" bacteria that help you digest food and absorb nutrients. We will discuss study findings on how environmental air pollution can affect your health. I can also provide insight into ways that you can minimize your exposures.

Amie Lund, Ph.D., is a toxicologist that investigates how exposure to urban air pollution can contribute to disease in the body. Dr. Lund earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, with an emphasis on cardiovascular toxicology, at the University of New Mexico in 2005. She then completed a National Institute of Health-funded post-doctoral fellowship and transitioned into an Associate Scientist position at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Lund is currently an Associate Professor in the Biology Department and Advanced Environmental Research Institute at UNT, where she mentors 10 graduate students, a post-doc, and numerous undergraduate students in her research laboratory, which is currently funded by a grant from the National Institute of Health. Dr. Lund has over 40 publications in the field, peer-reviews for over 25 journals and 5 funding agencies, as well as serves as the Vice President for the Lone Star Section and Councilor for the Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section for the Society of Toxicology.

Table 14

Keeping Denton Moving Forward

Paul Meltzer

Paul Meltzer in front of a blurred green and brown background

Denton is now considered one of the top ten “boomtowns” in the United States. Our growth comes with tremendous challenges for infrastructure, public safety, our natural environment, and our quality of life. Let’s talk about recent major strides the city has made and about how we can keep Denton getting better, not just bigger.

Paul Meltzer was elected to At Large Place 6 on Denton’s City Council in May 2018 and is serving his first term. He worked for thirty years primarily as a new product executive in both consumer products and services with stints at divisions of General Mills and Campbell Soup Company, ultimately retiring as Senior Vice President of Product Management at Insight Communications, through its acquisition in 2012 by Time-Warner Cable. He moved to Denton in 2008 when his wife began work as a UNT Creative Writing professor. He has been an active community volunteer in Denton since.

Paul earned his BA in Philosophy at Wesleyan University in 1982 and his Master of Business Administration at Dartmouth College in 1989.

Table 15

Could Denton Withstand A Public Emergency? WE MUST BE READY! ORPHEUS - Operational Readiness for Public Health Emergency in the U.S.

Dr. Armin Mikler

Photo of Dr. Armin Mikler in front of a bookshelf

To mount an effective response, it is imperative that regional public health departments continuously engage in the planning of mitigation strategies for a variety of hazards that may affect the region. To identify the most consequential risks that can affect a geographic region, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mandates that states conduct a Jurisdictional Risk Assessment (JRA) every five years. Upon prioritizing regional hazards, planning authorities will determine specific mitigation strategies for those hazards. Regional hazards include natural (e.g., flooding, hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes, wildfires) and human-made (e.g., bioterrorism, industrial accidents, nuclear explosions). While data-driven tools that can aid regional hazard prioritization have been developed in recent years, we witness a distinct lack of such data-driven tools that facilitate the design of effective response plans capable of addressing specific hazards. This talk will elaborate on ORPHEUS, a framework that shall provide the necessary methodologies to analyze regional population characteristics and represent them in the context of maps that display the extent of a specific hazard. For example, identification of potential shelters located outside a 500-year floodplain must be an integral part of a response plan that addresses regional flooding; Accessibility to local hospitals that are capable of treating individuals who are in respiratory distress may take center stage for a response plan specific for wildfires; Identifying roads that are likely to impede access to parts of the region during a disaster (e.g., flooding, mudslide, earthquake) will allow planners to prepare alternative access routes or different modes of transportation to gain access to the region.

In 1997, Professor Mikler joined the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Texas with a PhD from Iowa State University. He established the Network Research Laboratory (NRL), and with it, UNT's first Beowulf Cluster to facilitate complex simulations in support of the group's research on Computer Network Protocols and Distributed Systems. In addition to the inaugural group of students, who completed their MS theses under Dr. Mikler's guidance, the laboratory attracted many graduate students with interest in experimental design of protocols and algorithms for large distributed computing infrastructures. In 2004, Dr. Mikler established the Computational Epidemiology Research Laboratory (CERL) with focus on the development of computational methodology to model and simulate the spread of diseases and the design and analysis of bio-emergency response plans. Together with colleagues in Biology and Geography, Dr. Mikler established the interdisciplinary Center for Computational Epidemiology and Response Analysis (CeCERA) after receiving federal funds from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Today, CeCERA is the home of PhD students who are conducting research in a variety of areas related to Computational Epidemiology, Ecology, Social Network Analysis, and High Performance Computing under Dr. Mikler's mentorship. Recent graduates of his research group are using their expertise in Computational Epidemiology as faculty members at different universities and as researchers at National Laboratories, and industry. Dr. Mikler’s research on response plan design and analysis is supported by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He has supervised over 30 PhD and MS theses and has published over 70 research articles related to a range of topics, including distributed systems, networking, computational epidemiology, and response plan design and analysis.


Table 16

Can We Overcome Who We Are to Be Better Than We Are: Cultural Humility and Perspective Taking

Shani Barrax Moore

Shani Barrax Moore

Join Shani Barrax Moore with the UNT Office of Diversity and Inclusion for a discussion about the role and importance of understanding identity and its influence on our lived experiences, perspectives, and relationships. Ms. Barrax Moore will introduce the concept of cultural humility, identity development and their impact on the way we interact with and experience each other. This discussion will involve an opportunity to have meaningful conversation about one’s own perspectives, provide an opportunity for sharing and understanding of others’ perspectives and experiences, and invite participants to consider what answering the call to change agency in this new world could look like.

Shani Barrax Moore (she/her/hers pronouns) is a strategic diversity and inclusion practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in training and development, strategic planning and change leadership, and inclusive programming and recruitment initiatives. After a career in public relations and marketing she began specializing in dialogue-based awareness programs and integrating inclusion initiatives into organizational branding strategy. A trained mediator and investigator, Shani currently serves as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton where she has overseen the campus cultural centers, leads a learning and development team, executes planning and delivery of the Equity and Diversity Conference, and develops strategic partnerships for the University.

She served as both an editor and contributor to the NAIS publication Diversity Work in Independent Schools: The Practice and the Practitioner, and currently serves on the editorial board for Diversity IS, a national independent school magazine. Her most recent publications include “Mediating Realities: From Compliance to Intentional Inclusion” in Quantum Realities: Educational Truthtelling in an Era of Alternative Facts (2017) and “Multiculturalism, Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusion: Evidence-Based Practice in Student Affairs” in Multicultural and Diversity Issues in Student Affairs Practice: A Professional Competency-Based Approach (2019). In higher education, Shani has also served as an academic advisor, tutor, and adjunct instructor in business, leadership, and social work. Shani also leads The Aurora Change Agency, a consulting group that develops individual and organizational capacity for entities to practice intentional inclusion and compliance, innovate and facilitate equitable programs and practices, and develop strategies for creating organizations where all its members and those they serve can be authentically engaged. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, she received her bachelor’s degree with a concentration in public relations from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a minor in French, and her Masters of Business Administration from Strayer University with a concentration in marketing and human resources. Shani is a Certified Diversity Advanced Practitioner (CCDP/AP) through Cornell University and is an Intercultural Development Inventory Qualified Administrator. A member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated, Shani is the mom of two teenage daughters, is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in higher education administration at the University of North Texas, and creating an arts collective in honor of her father, the acclaimed poet and professor Gerald William Barrax Sr. who passed away late last year.

Table 17

How Music Enhances Drama

Rich DeRosa

Photo of Rich DeRosa in an auditorium

Drama and human emotion have an intrinsic relationship to the sound of music. It is used in various contexts: film, theater (in song and underscore), songs in general, political ads, other forms of advertisement. Ultimately, music informs the listener about the story or product. I will explain the elements that are inherent in music and how they translate into specific feelings or impressions. Essentially it will help guide the listener as to what to listen for in a music soundtrack. Aside from people who may have a general curiosity, this could be helpful for producers who wish to learn how to communicate more effectively with composers. It could also be helpful for composers who must realize that it is best to communicate with an artistic director in non-music terms (essentially in human emotional characteristics).

Professor DeRosa teaches composition and arranging in the jazz program at UNT. He has written arrangements for many well-known singers along with amateurs. He will be happy to discuss strategies and offer advice in the following areas: how to find a pianist/vocal coach; how to choose music and determine the key that’s right for you; how to discuss your needs with a music arranger; what to expect with regard to budget for live performance or studio recording; answers to your questions.

Richard DeRosa received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition in 2015 for his big band composition “Neil” which is dedicated to Neil Slater, the director of the One O’Clock Lab Band at the University of North Texas from 1981-2008.

In October, 2018, Mr. DeRosa was the featured conductor and arranger for the concert productions of Joey Alexander with Strings which premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

His work with the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany, from 2012 to 2016 included several projects for the following vocalists: Kurt Elling, Patti Austin, the New York Voices, Ola Onabulé, Ute Lemper, and the WDR’s Rundfunk Choir.

Since 2001 Mr. DeRosa has arranged and conducted music for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He has been commissioned to write arrangements for the following vocalists: Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Renée Fleming, Audra MacDonald, Denyce Graves, Annie Ross, Patti Lupone, Christine Ebersole, Bernadette Peters, John Legend, John Mayer, Joe Cocker, Lyle Lovett, Cassandra Wilson, and Roberta Gambarini. He was a prime arranger for a theater project (A Bed and a Chair) featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim and also provided an arrangement of Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea for the swing jazz Broadway show After Midnight.  

In 2015 he collaborated with Garry Dial and Dick Oatts on a double CD project That Music Always Round Me which features original music set to fifteen poems by Walt Whitman; DeRosa created arrangements for the choir to be featured with a jazz chamber group that included Dial on piano, Oatts on saxophones and flute, and guest trumpeter Terell Stafford.

In 2011 Mr. DeRosa collaborated with Deborah Anderson and released a CD recording of original music set to poems by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Browning, and others. The title is Sonnet Love Songs.

During the 1990s, Mr. DeRosa wrote numerous arrangements for vocalist Susannah McCorkle that were released on multiple CD recordings for Concord Records.

All of the aforementioned CD recordings are readily available on I-Tunes or Amazon.

Mr. DeRosa is a full professor at the University of North Texas where he is the director of jazz composition and arranging. His former teaching positions were at William Paterson University, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School where he taught advanced jazz arranging for studio orchestra. He is the author of Concepts for Improvisation: A Comprehensive Guide for Performing and Teaching (Hal Leonard Publications) and Acoustic and MIDI Orchestration for the Contemporary Composer (Focal Press) co-authored with Dr. Andrea Pejrolo. The latter book has experienced worldwide success having been translated into Chinese in a subsequent edition. An expanded 2nd edition that includes vocal arranging was published in November of 2016.

Table 18

I Felt the Sting but didn't Hear the Buzz!

Stephen Ross

Stephen Ross standing behind bee products

A lot of times we find ourselves picking up the pieces or feeling the sting after the damage has been done. How can we better the quality of the honeybees life so that we not a part of the problem, but a part of the resolution (hearing the buzz).

  1. Education: What are honeybees? Can you describe what one looks like? Are they aggressive/killers? How do we benefit from the honeybee? Understanding the honeybee colony (queen, worker, drone, brood).
  2. Getting involved: beekeeping, planting, pesticides.
  3. Action: What are some things you’re doing now that may benefit the honeybee? What is something you may change?
  4. Resource: Knowing who to call for your honeybee needs (bee removal).
  5. Myths: What has been your biggest misunderstanding about honeybees? How has that misunderstanding influenced your thoughts on honeybees?

Over the course of five years Stephen Ross, of Ross Rowdy Bees, has extensively studied beekeeping and the role honeybees play within our ecosystem. Over this time he has seen his beekeeping business grow extensively. He has worked within the community to educate others about the vital role honeybees play in our everyday lives. Beekeeping has indirectly assisted him in becoming a better parent and husband to his family. In the last two years his daughter and wife joined him in creating an all-natural product line of business offering products created out of beeswax and honey. Today his business continues to grow within the market with his products being offered in stores, restaurants, farmers markets and libraries.

Table 19

In the library, with the candlestick!

Jenn Stayton

Photo of Jenn Stayton

What is it about a good murder mystery that keeps us asking who done it?! We will search for clues and discuss the rich history of the mystery novel with librarian Jenn Stayton. Amateur enthusiasts and professional busybodies alike are invited to uncover the secret formula of the quintessential sleuth story as we discuss the sneakiest suspects, the cleverest crimes, and the most daring detectives of the classic, noir, and modern genres of mystery.

Jenn Stayton is the Student Engagement Librarian at the University of North Texas and an avid solver of mysteries both fictional and academic. She began collecting her comprehensive knowledge of all things mysterious over 20 years ago with Nancy Drew stories and has continued to expand her case files through her studies in English Literature and Information Science. She continues to sharpen her skills of observation through her research in information literacy and digital scholarship while consuming a steady diet of pulp fiction novels and BBC inspector series in her spare time.

Table 20

This guy gets paid to coach video gamers?

Dr. Neal and Mrs. Debbie Smatresk host Dylan Wray

Dylan West

Dr. Neal and Mrs. Debbie Smatresk host Dylan Wray as he shares developments in the exciting field of esports. While the esports industry has been going for years, the competitive gaming industry is starting to make its way into more mainstream popularity. College and high school campuses are starting to legitimize student talent and support them while they achieve their academic goals. This causing a chain reaction of colleges to pick up and research programs, and pushing national regulatory bodies and colleges themselves to assess their policy and support for college students who compete for their university through esports. UNT is the first public university to field an official esports program in Texas and is developing and facilitating students to achieve their academic goals, while representing the university in a brand new competitive front. UNT’s Rocket League team is ranked #2 in the US. UNT’s Overwatch is considered the third best team in the US going into the Spring Season. The UNT Esport program is considered one of the top 12 varsity esport programs in the US according to Activision/Blizzard. Join our conversation as we discuss what a collegiate esports program looks like on UNT’s campus and how it has benefited our students, and university as a whole. We can also attempt to answer the question… is a sport or not?

Dylan Wray grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado. There, he also got is BA in Media Communications at Colorado State University, and then his MS in Audio Engineering for Video Games at the University of Colorado Denver. All the while, he was competing across the state and beyond in a game called Dota, and Dota 2 (Defense against the Ancients). Dylan now is at UNT developing the campus’s collegiate esports program, which supports several competitive teams, and provides students practical knowledge about the esports industry.

Table 21

The Quest for Happiness and maybe, Success?

Khanh Nguyen

Photo of Khanh Nguyen with a black backdrop

Almost 20 years ago, Khanh Nguyen started the quest for success because she believed it would bring her happiness. With such a life goal in mind, she spent eight challenging years in college changing majors and jumping from one University to the next. She finally settled for a Fashion Design major at UNT, which she absolutely loved. She found her happiness, so she thought. After college, she married the love of her life. More happiness, hmm...but not enough. It was time to chase after her success, which would complete her happiness. She spent 12 years building her fashion business with her husband and a group of wildly talented individuals. She aimed to shoot for the sun and the moon, because they say, if you fall, you will fall among the stars. She did. In fact, Ms. Nguyen reports that some shining star awards humbled her for her achievements in the fashion industry. Countless stars like Kate McKinnon, Miranda Lambert, Zendaya, and many beautiful women around the world love her fashion designs. The Nha Khanh fashion line is sold in some major stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bloomingdales and many high-end boutiques across the nation. Perhaps, this is happiness. Perhaps, this is a success. Nevertheless, life happens. Happiness has its ups and downs throughout the journey. Somedays she finds happiness and success in what she does, in her achievements, in the people she loves and cares for. Then that happiness would go away when challenging times came. She started to have this on-and-off relationship with her happiness. Like a hide-and-seek game, sometimes she would find herself in the darkest and deepest place hiding from the world; other times she would find herself in the brightest light of the glitz and glam fashion world.

After 39 years of pursuing the quest for happiness, Khanh Nguyen thinks she might have found the answer to what she has been seeking. This conversation will explore happiness. What is genuine happiness? Where can we find happiness? How can we keep it? Can loving what you do bring you happiness? Can we find happiness in our work, love, someone, or oneself?

Khanh Nguyen is the Founder and Creative Director of Nha Khanh. The Nha Khanh mission is to empower women with inner-strength through their clothing while focusing on “feminine elegance with a modern edge.” “Nha”, in Vietnamese, is a feminine word implying ‘light and elegance’, whereas “Khanh” is a masculine word, meaning ‘victory and celebration’. The fusion of the words creates a balance of unison between feminine and masculine. The collection joins lightness and softness of silhouette and fabrication with the celebration of construction and classic forms. This is the fundamental philosophy and creative driving force behind the Nha Khanh label.

Table 22

The University of the Streets...lessons learned from life on the road.

Brad Leali

Brad Leali playing the saxophone

Brad Leali will share humorous and provoking stories of life lessons learned while touring with some of the world’s greatest musicians. These include Harry Connick Jr., the Count Basie Orchestra, Lyle Lovett, Clark Terry, Joe Williams and many more. Some of these stories have had a profound life changing effect on Leali and have greatly influenced his teaching style in the classroom as well as the band-stand.

With a unique style and sound, which echoes the influences of his past, Brad Leali is one of the most notable saxophonists of current times. Leali has toured and recorded with numerous jazz greats, including several years with the Harry Connick Jr. Orchestra and with the Count Basie Orchestra. Leali was a standing member of the Kennedy Center Honors Band and performed for President Obama’s inaugural celebration. Brad has had a long-time endorsement with Keilwerth Saxophones and D’Addario Reeds. Currently the Professor of Jazz Saxophone at UNT, Brad continues to perform domestically and abroad, including touring with Lyle Lovett & His Large Band. See for videos and more information.

His solos are sparkling and Cannonball Adderley influenced." - Evening Standard (London, England).
Saxophonist Brad Leali was among the most soulful and exciting I’ve heard recently.” - New York Times

Table 23

Getting To Know Your Neighborhood Police Officer: Relational Policing and Community Engagement

Chief Frank Dixon

Chief Frank Dixon

Frank Dixon was sworn in as the Chief of the Denton Police Department on October 15, 2018. Chief Dixon oversees a department of 189 sworn personnel and 59 civilian employees with an annual budget of $32.3 million. Chief Dixon prioritizes transparent communication and community policing to build upon and improve the existing relationships within the Denton community.

Chief Dixon came to Denton with more than 23 years of law enforcement experience with the Austin Police Department, where he successfully worked his way up through the ranks to the position as Assistant Police Chief.

Prior to being appointed as Assistant Chief, he served as lieutenant in the Internal Affairs, Organized Crime, and Region 3 Patrol Services Divisions. Throughout his tenure, Dixon also served in various roles, including Uniformed Patrol, Street Response, Narcotics, Gang Unit/Major Crimes Task Force, Homicide, Patrol K-9, SWAT, and the Counter-Assault Strike Team.

Born in Fort Worth and raised as one of two children born to an Air Force Master Sergeant, Dixon grew up in Hawaii, Nebraska, South Carolina and Austin. Chief Dixon attended Lamar University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. He is a member of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and is a graduate of the Police Executive Leadership Institute, the Senior Management Institute for Police by the Police Executive Research Forum, APD’s Leadership Command College, and the West Point Leadership Course.

Chief Dixon has always had a leadership philosophy of being present and engaged, mentoring and actively leading from the front.

Chief Dixon and his wife, Angela, live in North Texas with their two children, Madeline (5), and Jayden (4).

Table 24

What’s the Science Behind That?: Scientific and Pseudoscientific Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Dr. Karen A. Toussaint

Dr. Karen A. Toussaint

Approximately 1 in 59 individuals are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Fortunately, there are well-established interventions that have demonstrated significant positive outcomes for individuals with ASD. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of pseudoscientific treatments that masquerade as effective, but they provide either no effect or sometimes harmful effects. Identifying the difference between scientific and pseudoscientific therapies can be challenging for consumers. The discussion will focus on the current state of best practices for autism intervention as well as popular “fad” and controversial treatments. We will also consider why pseudoscientific therapies, in general, persist, and we will identify common warning signs of pseudoscience that are applicable when examining claims from any area.

Karen A. Toussaint, Ph.D., BCBA-D is an Associate Professor of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. She received her doctoral degree in psychology with a concentration in behavior analysis from Louisiana State University. She also serves as a faculty supervisor at the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, where she provides clinical training of early intensive behavioral intervention and conducts research. Her research examines establishing novel reinforcers for individuals with autism, the assessment and treatment of problem behavior, and efficient methods of staff training.