Great Conversations 2023


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Great Conversations is a unique live 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 over dinner. The event is being held in the Apogee VIP Clubroom Tuesday, February 28, 2023, Doors will open at 6:00pm. Dinner and conversation to begin at 7:00pm.

A social hour begins when doors open at 6:00pm featuring the magic of Magician, Rudy Reynoso, UNT Alumnus, also a Conversation Leader at Table 18. Servers will be offering wine and sparkling water. A 3-course dinner including a Tuscan Ribeye with accompaniments will be served with wine pairings. Vegetarian option is available upon request by emailing

Sponsorship opportunities include advertising and ticket options. For more information, please contact  Proceeds will directly benefit Honors College students by supporting scholarship funds.  Please feel free to visit for other ways to contribute to the Honors College.

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Table 1

Dr. Brenda Barrio

Inclusion in Education: Changing our Mindset

Based on the premise that inclusion is a mindset, Dr. Barrio will open a discussion about revolutionizing the framework of inclusion in education. From early childhood to higher education, she will provide practical implications of visioning inclusion using a social justice framework to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities. 

Brenda Barrio is an Associate Professor of Special Education — Critical Perspectives at the University of North Texas. Her research focuses on addressing issues of equity and access for students with disabilities through teacher preparation, policy, and practical Dr. Barrio has more than 18 years of teaching experience including university special education courses and bilingual special education in Texas. She is also the co-founder of the UNT ELEVAR and WSU ROAR post-secondary education programs for young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and is the current President of the Council for Learning Disabilities. Dr. Barrio is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, lives in Denton with her family, and is a triple UNT alumni (’06, ’08, & ’13).

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Table 2

Courtney Collins

It's Not About Us, It's About You: Meeting People in the Public Media Audience Where they Are

Gone are the days of public media stations solely offering “appointment listening.” It’s not enough to put together a slick digital story, or a sound-rich audio story, and then tell people where to find it. Public media organizations are evolving because the audience requires it. News, arts, educational and cultural content must be available in podcast form, on mobile-friendly platforms and inside the community with engagement events and neighborhood projects.

Courtney Collins is a Donor Relations Officer at KERA and the backup host of its signature talk show, Think. Before moving into a development role, Courtney was Senior Editor/Projects and oversaw a team of reporters and outside contributors who produce series work, feature stories and daily news. Before taking an editing position, Courtney was lead reporter for the series “One Crisis Away,” about life on the financial edge. Courtney has won awards from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Texas Medical Association, Houston Press Club, the National Endowment of Financial Education and the Public Media Journalists Association. She was also part of the team that won KERA’s first-ever national Edward R. Murrow Award. Courtney graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection. When she’s not at work, Courtney loves to read and play outdoors with her husband and two kiddos.

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Table 3

Logan Dovalina

Treasures of the Tamaulipan Thornscrub: A Journey into a Texan Wilderness

Join me as we explore the treasures of the Tamualipan thornscrub, one of Texas’s most unique biomes with endangered ocelots, red-bordered pixies, and chachalacas. As a citizen scientist, I’m passionate about teaching you how to invite nature into your life wherever you are. So join me at Great Conversations to explore a fascinating Texas treasure.

Logan Dovalina is a graduate student at the University of North Texas, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, integrating urban systems and sustainability. As a citizen scientist, he conducted undergraduate research at the National Butterfly Center in his hometown of Mission, Texas. He coordinated the 17th Annual Bentsen State Park Count and the Inaugural Christmas Butterfly Count to understand butterfly populations through this initiative. As an undergraduate research fellow, he compiled data and developed a restoration plan protecting vulnerable butterflies in the Rio Grande Valley and the newly founded UNT Butterfly Flower Patch on campus, established with funding from the We Mean Green Fund.

As a vocalist, he has sung at Carnegie Hall and performed with an international choir at the Sydney Opera House in 2018. He regularly performs with the UNT Concert Choir and is looking forward to having his original composition premiered, Goodnight, Sleep Tight, in March.

Logan is also a Texas Master Naturalist, a semi-finalist for a United States Youth Ambassadorship at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, and enjoys playing with his dogs Pinky and Luann.

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Table 4

Dr. Leta Durrett

Wine Anytime: Pairings for the Traveler

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Interact with Dr. Leta Durrett, avid wine and spirits enthusiast, lover of food and wine pairings, a free-lance photographer, and an experienced traveler of Greece. If you are thinking about touring the wine regions of Greece or any other part of the world - even wine regions of Texas, you should check-in with her first!

Leta is a native “Dallasite” currently living in Lakewood. She holds an undergraduate degree from Stephen F. Austin University, a masters from Texas Woman’s University, and a doctoral from Texas A & M University. She is a graduate of the Wine & Spirits Trust Fund out of London, holding a Level 3 Certification in Wine and Spirits. This is an advanced level qualification for the wine industry profession and wine enthusiasts.

She currently is teaching as an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Hospitality & Tourism for the University of North Texas. Her primary teaching responsibilities at UNT include Survey of Beverages in the Hospitality Industry and Facilities Planning Equipment Layout and Design.

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Table 5

Amanda Fisher

How to Navigate Change

Change is all around us and change never stops. In fact, according to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus… “The only thing that is constant… is change.” Change can be disruptive and a major component of stress. However, If the world around us didn't change, we would have no progress. Join us in a discussion about change… and the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors that change can bring. This table is led by Amanda Fisher who has a certificate in Change Management from the Association of Talent Development.

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Table 6

Corinne French

Blend vs Balance: A Quick Guide to Rewriting Your Leadership Book of Rules

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Corinne French is a UNT Alumni who serves as the student services coordinator in the Division of Student Affairs where she organizes district involvement with the Eagle Advantage Program, plans on campus and virtual transition programs for high school juniors and seniors, and facilitates college transition workshops in high schools. She created the Women in Leadership workshop for Educational Leaders in Texas and is the co-host of the Educational Leadership Podcast.

Her elected public service includes ten years on the Valley View ISD, five years on the board of directors for the Texas Association of School Board Members, and as the vice president for the North Texas Association of School Board members. French combines her higher education background to bring a balanced perspective to public school-advocacy and encourages leaders to be equitable so that all students have access to a strong public school education. She has six biological children, four bonus children, and four grandchildren. She enjoys thrift shopping, gardening, and her rescue dachshunds.

Ms. French received a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies from Texas Woman’s University and a master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of North Texas. She is currently attending Southern Methodist University to pursue a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

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Table 7

Dr. Andrew Gregory

What Can Malaria in the Sub Antarctic Tell Us About the Next Global Pandemic?

Over the past two decades we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of global pandemics e.g.: Hana, H1N1, SARS, and most recently COVID-19. Is this rise in the number of diseases that cross from wildlife into humans a mere coincidence? When you look at an image of Earth from space, you see a sparkling ball of light with small dark patches. As humans expand there range ever deeper into those dark spaces, you never know what ancient disease may lay waiting there to be discovered by us. Similarly, as humans spread our range, we bring diseases that have long been part of our species into those regions as well. The Sub Antarctic region of Chile was a paradise free from malaria until 5 years ago, by studying the establishment and spread of this disease among birds in Chile we can gain insights into how diseases might spread into human as well.

Dr. Andrew Gregory is a professor of wildlife biology at UNT. The focus of his work is to understand how human use of the landscape influences wildlife population viability and connectivity. One facet of that work is to look at how human connections have resulted int eh incursion of He is also leading an NSF- Avian Malaria into one of the most remote places on earth. The focus of this work is to better understand the drivers of zoonotic diseases. A second set of studies in Dr. Gregory’s lab focuses on conservation corridor efficacy. This multinational collaboration, looks at factors that affect wildlife ability to disperse across anthropic landscapes in 9 countries and 6 continents. As a global expert in connectivity ecology Dr. Gregory has traveled to more than 41 countries to work with policy makers to develop landscape connectivity strategies to help safe-guard biodiversity.

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Table 8

Terri Guthrie

Travels with Terri

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Interact with Terri Guthrie, a member of Society of American Travel Writers and an experienced international traveler. Terri writes about many fascinating places around the globe and documents her travels with her published articles, blogs, videos and artistic photography. Her “Travel with Terri” brand’s goal is to educate and inspire travelers as they plan their next vacation, domestic or international, by sharing great itineraries and fun travel tips! Join Terri and learn how to plan and execute the perfect trip with tips on: your itinerary; packing; preparing; money; transportation; safety and street smarts.

From Denton, Texas, Terri is a true travel enthusiast. She loves to travel the world with her husband Ron, a now retired international commercial airline pilot. She has a degree in Journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi and enjoys writing about, videoing and photographing her many travel adventures.

Terri’s travels range from rustic to luxury and have taken her to 6 Continents. She has also traveled to 35 countries, many multiple times, that include: France; England; The Netherlands; Spain; Greece; UAE; Jamaica; Mexico; Canada; Brazil; Japan and Korea. The international countries that Terri has visited in the past year are Australia; Iceland; St. Maarten and Mexico. She has traveled extensively across America and has been to every state in the USA with the exception of North and South Dakota. Terri also has spent extensive time in the Deep South, the Great State of Texas, the Western United States…as well as our National Parks. Terri and Ron own a motorhome that they keep out west. They are western wanderers and avid campers and never miss an opportunity to visit and camp in our magnificent National Parks.

Terri has been a freelance travel writer for 12 years. 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 a television reporter for health announcements and reports. Terri is past president of: Denton Benefit League; Culinary Arts; and parent organizations at Denton High School; University of Oklahoma and University of North Texas. She loves to cook and volunteer when she is not jet setting. Terri and Ron have two daughters and three grandsons.

Social Media Handles:
• @travelwithterri (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube)

murraymediapublishing Publisher Publications - Issuu

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Table 9

Dr. Julie Hancock

Charting Your Own Course: Navigating Quiet Quitting and The Great Resignation

Julie Hancock is an Associate Professor of Management and the Executive Director of The People Center at the University of North Texas. She holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the University of Memphis. Prior to joining UNT in 2015, she held an academic appointment at Rutgers University-Camden and in Spring of 2022, she was a Visiting Scholar at Dublin City University. Julie’s primary research interests revolve around employee retention, specifically factors that lead people to leave organizations and how organizations can retain them, such as the influence of perceived supervisor and organizational support, as well as turnover contagion effects and job search behaviors. Her work also explores the causes of collective turnover and its impact on organizational and unit performance. Julie’s work on these topics has been published in top management journals such as Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Human Relations, Human Resource Management Review, and Human Resource Management.

Julie’s current projects explore the impact of leader turnover on unit turnover and performance, the influence of passion on return to work decisions after maternity leave, cybersecurity worker burnout, and the turnover intentions of emergency telecommunication workers. She is a member of the Academy of Management, Society for Human Resource Management, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the American Psychological Association, and the Southern Management Association.

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Table 10

Kristen Howell

Nonprofit or Bust

Kristen Howell has been the CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center for North Texas for five years. This nonprofit responds to every felony level child abuse case in Denton, Wise and Jack Counties. After volunteering in college for a rape crisis center, she decided to devote her career to serving others. For over twenty-five years, she has served victims of domestic violence and child abuse. After providing direct services for many years, she became a fundraiser and is now living her dream of running a mid-sized nonprofit. Kristen has a job that reveals the dark side of humanity: abuse is devastating and takes a toll on both victims and the caregivers in their lives; but this field also shines a light on the good that people do for each other – often out of the spotlight. Join this conversation about career opportunities in the nonprofit sector and how to make your passion and your career intersect in purpose-driven work. You’ll walk away knowing how you too can join in the efforts to make the world a better place for the most vulnerable among us.

Kristen got her bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and her Master’s in Social Work from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has two beautiful (practically) grown daughters, a super smart husband and a darling new puppy. When she’s not trying to save the world, you can find her outside on a golf course or curled up with a good book.

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Table 11

Michael Ingle

Shark Tank Survival- A Discussion & Tips for Entrepreneurs of the Future

Striking out on his own at the young age of 14, Michael Ingle has been no stranger to creating his own path. He landed his first job with Boeing Airspace at the age of 16 and worked as an engineering intern. Over the course of two years Michael trekked his way through six different fields of engineering. High School graduation led him to a combustion engineering company in Addison. Michael worked there for five years before deciding that to be truly happy he needed to blaze his own path. After owning a couple of small companies Michael started out on one of his current’s paths, Quick Set Concrete, Inc. He began to learn everything he could about concrete and soon landed prominent jobs in the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex. One of Quick Set Concrete Inc.’s first job was the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. With his motto of “Building a reputation, not relying on one”, Michael quickly paved his repertoire with jobs such as the Dart Rail Orange Line, Margaret Hunt Bridge, Trinity River Trails, Military Bases, VA Hospital, and the George Bush Tollway. To date Quick Set Concrete has brought in nearly $25 million in sales. His concrete path was firmly planted beneath his feet and once again Michael found himself looking for a new path.

In November of 2013, he began a new company called Clean Sleep, the first mobile mattress sanitation company. Clean Sleep is a company powered by its revolutionary mobile mattress cleaning technology. No one in the world offers this technological solution that cleans and sanitizes mattresses of all sizes. Since the launch of this company in January of 2014, Michael and his team has steadily worked to educate the public about the benefits of utilizing Clean Sleep Technology. This Clean Sleep machine has been tested and proven to eradicate bed bugs and critical viruses found in hospitals.

Clean Sleep was recently featured on season 7 of ABC’S show “SHARK TANK” – resulting in rapid growth in and outside the U.S. Clean Sleep is now in DFW, Canada, Austin, Atlanta, GA, Minnesota, Charlotte, NC and even as far as India. Since the airing on SHARK TANK Clean Sleep has brought in nearly $5 million in sales. In 2017 Michael developed another business, Ready Set Pour, which features a platform that allows contractors to order concrete directly over the app and has expanded this venture to marketing of concrete plants and is foraying into online labor through the app. With the first ever virtual Concrete batch plant map Ready Set Pour is attracting contractors all over the U.S.- reaching over 100,000 impressions monthly.

Michael is constantly moving from one project to the next but still finds time to give back to his community. He provides his concrete expertise for 2-3 Habitat for Humanity Houses each year and has served on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Denton County. With his not-so-perfect childhood, Michael can easily relate to and understand the children that are being helped daily by this organization. He can give to those what he was not offered in his childhood and help start them out on their own path. He currently sits on the board of the United Way and supports furniture banks in North Texas who give furniture to families in need.

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Table 12

Dr. Julie Leventhal

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ – Understanding How Our Early Attachments Influence Our Behaviors

Dr. Julie Leventhal is a faculty member with the UNT Honors College whose academic background and teaching experience falls within the world of interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, and other specialized topics related to working with families. From 2010 to 2020, she served as faculty within the Human Development and Family Science program in the College of Education and also spent a few years as the Faculty-in-Residence in Rawlins Hall before officially joining the Honors College. She is credentialed as a Certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations and is trained as a Relationship Educator through both the Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP) and Prepare/Enrich. One of her favorite topics to teach about is Attachment Theory and how our early experiences with caregivers can trigger a cascading effect on every other relationship that follows.

While preparing to lead a study abroad trip to Romania in 2015, Julie became interested in the area of anti-human trafficking volunteerism specifically in eastern Europe. This led to many years of student trips and the establishment of her research exploring volunteer motivations within the realm of anti-human trafficking efforts. This work, as well as a general fascination with most things Romanian, led to an opportunity for her to live and teach in Romania during Spring 2022. As a Fulbright Scholar with the University of Bucharest, Julie taught a course on relationships and dove deeper into research related to Romanian families which led to her second main area of research: Romanian family values. Given the lack of social support for the changing family system across the country, Julie’s current research project explores the meaning of family and the intergenerational transmission of values across generations of Romanian families. The ultimate goal of this research is to bring a strengths-based perspective -- incorporating family strengths rather than focusing on deficits – within family education programs across Romania.

When she’s not living or travelling in other countries (30 and counting – aside from Romania, both Latvia and Slovakia were favorites), Julie is busy navigating her own anxious attachment style with her securely-attached husband (we will talk about the implications of this kind of pairing in our conversation!). While voluntarily childless, they have two Boston Terriers, Blinkin and Deckard, who are named after favorite movie and video game references.

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Table 13

Dr. Earl R. Levingston Jr.

They Don't Sing Like They Used To : Black American Soldier's Resistance To Jim Crow in 1898

Dr. Earl R. Levingston, Jr. currently serves as the Director of Operations at In-Structure L.L.C and a School Improvement consultant. He is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, a United States Army Veteran and has earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum Instruction, a Master of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Science in History. As career educator Dr. Levingston’s experiences include Serving as the Interim Director Diversity & Inclusion and Professor of Preservice Teachers at the University of North Texas, a Visiting Professor at Pusan National University in Busan South Korea, a US K-12 educator and Technical Trainer for the United States Federal Government (Health and Human Resources Administration). He has also presented at national conferences and provided workshops internationally in Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Swaziland. These varied experiences of learning, living and teaching and in diverse cultures has allowed Earl to broaden his perspectives while continuing a consistent pattern of growth as an educator. Dr. Levingston’s 2018 induction into the Hall of Fame at Warren Easton Charter High School, the oldest high school in the state of Louisiana, is one of his crowning accomplishments.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Black American troops began to resist Jim Crow laws in an organized way. While some historians have mentioned these racially motivated disturbances, many have failed to seriously analyze and assess these clashes, which has led to the neglect of an important source of Black American resistance to racial discrimination in the post Reconstruction era. The purpose of this conversation presentation is to address that failure.

By briefly examining the evolution of Jim Crow policies at the turn of the century, by demonstrating how blacks struggled to serve in the U. S. army from 1673-1868, by illustrating the ambiguity within Black America before and during the Spanish American War, and by examining several racially charged incidents involving Black American soldiers in 1898, this presentation will show Black Americans as actors in the effort to promote racial justice and not just victims of violence and bigotry.

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Table 14

Bryan Lovelace

DON’T BE FOOLED: How to Spot Media Bias and Misinformation

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Spend your evening with one of the most popular professors at UNT. You will learn how to spot the most common types of media bias. You will learn to spot misinformation. Bryan will teach you practical skills that you can apply immediately in your life. Spend your evening with Bryan and walk away the skills you need to be a more responsible consumer of media.

BIO Bryan is an alumnus of the University of North Texas (UNT) and has practiced as licensed behavior analyst since 2009. Bryan specializes in the assessment and treatment of severe behavior disorders and has an expertise in treating self-injurious behavior and severe aggression in adults and children. Bryan serves as an adjunct professor in the department of behavior analysis at UNT and has served as a teacher and course developer for undergraduate and graduate students since 2008. With assistance from Dr. Michael Shermer of the Skeptic’s Society, Bryan developed a series of courses designed to teach students about scientific critical thinking. Bryan’s critical thinking courses attract more than 400 students each semester. Bryan is a regular presenter at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), he has been featured on the OLLI podcast. Bryan recently appeared on UNTs The Lab, a university affiliated YouTube channel in a video segment titled “What if UFOs Were Real?”.

As a licensed radio operator and an active volunteer in Denton County, Bryan serves on the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Citizen Emergency Response Team, and the Medical Reserve Corps.

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Table 15

Dr. Luwis Mhlanga

What is Dowry/Lobola? A Zimbabwean tradition of paying for your future wife

More than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry in various capacities. I’m the Chef at the Club at Gateway Center, a student-operated restaurant. I’m originally from Zimbabwe. I like to try different types of cuisine; the beauty of food is that it brings people together. Mostly, I teach Restaurant Operations and Managing a Diverse Workforce classes.

I received my BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston, MS in Hospitality Management, MEd in Higher Education from the University of North Texas, and my Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Northwest Nazarene University.

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Table 16

Dr. Brian O'Connor

Know Thy Selfie: Digital Images, Personal Information, and Public Knowledge

More than 3.2 billion images and 720,000 images are estimated to be shared online daily. It is estimated that only some 5% - 10% of photos are shared. The first selfie was made in 1839. Robert Cornelius had to make his own camera and devise the chemistry to capture the image. In the early days of photography, a single photo might require several minutes of exposure, would be processed in highly toxic chemicals, and would require hours to days before handling of a single image that could not be duplicated. Today we carry around sophisticated cameras in our pockets, with which we can shoot hundreds of photos in the time Cornelius spent standing still for one black and white selfie.

What are some of concepts for discussion here? Are digital images used differently? What about fakes and filters? Does making an image public make it public knowledge? What are the consequences of the dissolution of the boundaries between producers and viewers? What are some of the cool uses you have made of your digital phone/camera?

Brian C. O’Connor, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Information Science at the University of North Texas where he founded the Visual Thinking Laboratory. He holds degrees in Greek and Latin Literature, Film Production (Fine Art), and earned his Ph.D. in theory of organization of information at the University of California, Berkeley. He has produced documentaries and art films, written on photography, and chaired several doctoral dissertations on various aspects of information science. He has also written on the philosophy of information retrieval, the nature of questions, and idiosyncratic searching. Right now, there are 59,109 photos and 338 videos on his iPhone.

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Table 17

Dr. Rhonda Reger

A Tempest in a Teapot? Social Media and Freedom of Speech

Rhonda Reger is a Professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship in the Ryan College of Business. She studies the effect of social media on the reputation and financial performance of firms, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. She is also an International Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation in Oxford, U.K. Elon Musk has compared social media platforms such as Twitter to the historic town square where individuals come together to share information and opinions and debate important issues of the day. This conversation will discuss reasons social media is more like a carnival haunted house than a town square, and will share technologically feasible ways to curb the worst abuses of social media while preserving its best qualities.

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Table 18

Rudy Reynoso

How Magicians Think : A Journey into Deception, Rhetoric, and Wonder

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When was the last time you were truly amazed? A good magic trick entertains us, but a great one leaves in a state of wonder and awe for long after curtain call. Take a sneak peek behind how magicians think in order to create these awe-inspiring moments in magic. We'll cover the techniques and psychological principles used to intrigue and amaze audiences, how to create a great illusion, and enjoy some mind-bending magic tricks along the way!

Rudy Reynoso is a proud UNT alumni ('14) and served as the first Latino Student Body President and Student Regent. He has performed magic across the US and abroad for two decades. In addition to running a video production company, he produces a charted sports podcast, "The Give N Go," with his brother, a fellow UNT alumni. Reynoso performs weekly on Rainey St. in Austin, TX where he continues to share his passion for and unique style of magic through social media.

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Table 19

Dr. Sean Ryan

Prestige as the Highest Ambition: Emerging Research Universities in Texas and the National Research University Fund

Status and prestige seeking related to academic research at American universities has received substantial attention in recent years. This prior scholarship has demonstrated that transitioning to Research I status, often known as Tier 1, is an incredibly expensive undertaking, with universities often diverting resources away from undergraduate instruction in response to a growing research agenda. Enacted in 2009 by the Texas Legislature, the National Research University Fund (NRUF) provided access to funding related to academic research contingent upon meeting specific benchmarks. This table will discuss the impact of the NRUF on emerging research universities, such as UNT. How did NRUF help emerging research universities reach R1 status, and did it help mitigate any impacts to undergraduate access and academic quality? Are there better alternatives to helping universities with their research missions other than state policies such as NRUF? How can universities both grow their academic research capabilities while also ensuring opportunities for undergraduate students remain in place?

Dr. Sean Ryan is the Associate Dean and Lecturer for the UNT Honors College. His research is concerned with the role that status and prestige play in the organization and administration of American higher education, and how policy impacts institutional decision making. He was born and raised in Northern California and attended Arizona State University for his bachelor's and master’s degrees. He moved to North Texas in 2010 to take a job at UNT and has worked at the UNT Honors College ever since. In his free time he enjoys traveling, the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with his friends and family.

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Table 20

Alaia Snell

Debate Like a Girl: Overcoming Gender Inequities in Competitive Public Speaking

Debate is a competitive international activity with roots in Ancient Greece and India. As important philosophical questions were publicly discussed, such conversations often excluded women and people of color, transforming into a largely white and male-dominated sport. With historically marginalized people continuing to enter the activity, learning how to speak up and speak out has become integral to fostering an inclusive environment where our voices, and concerns, are heard.

Alaia Snell (she/her) is a Terry Scholar, McNair Scholar, and Honors Student at the University of North Texas, where she is pursuing a double major in English Literature (B.A.) and Economics (B.S.) and a double minor in Spanish and History with a certificate in Latino(a) and Mexican American Studies. She is president of the North Texas Speech and Debate team, Moot Court team, and Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society. Alaia has received national and international titles for Speech and Debate, including international gold medals for public debate, a national championship in Lincoln-Douglas debate, a national finalist medal for extemporaneous speaking, and membership in the Texas All State Forensic Squad. She is passionate about public advocacy and has participated in public debates with scholars in England, Rwanda, Colorado and Washington State, discussing issues ranging from diversity in education to COVID-19 protocols.

Alaia has also received national titles in American Moot Court, a competitive activity for mock appellate-style Supreme Court hearings. She has received over five speaking awards, was champion of the St. Thomas Moot Court regional in 2020, and has competed nationally for the past three years. This academic year, Alaia led the North Texas Moot Court team to record-breaking wins, with every member advancing to octa-finals or beyond for the first time since 2006.

In her free time, Alaia enjoys volunteering in her community and giving back. As treasurer of the Terry Scholars of North Texas, she has organized fundraisers for the Children’s Advocacy Center of North Texas and Cumberland Youth and Family Services to support child abuse victims and young individuals in foster care. She has also been a volunteer for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation since 2018, empowering young leaders to spark change in their own communities, and was a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2019.

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Table 21 - Presented by President Neal and Mrs. Debbie Smatresk

Susan Supak

Migrating from Snapshots to Photographic Expression

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With the advent of ever-improving cellphone cameras, everyone has thousands of photos in their pockets, but they often end up not quite capturing what they loved about the scene. Let’s talk about how to photograph our own little patches of the universe, the fundamental steps that can transform our snapshots into images that unearth something unique in what we see and create our own artistic expressions of the world.

Susan is extensively involved with UNT’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) as host of the OLLI at UNT Podcast and the OLLI Authors Out Loud best-selling authors’ interview series. She is a public relations expert and media design artist who has been connecting people and ideas with the community for more than 30 years. Susan was formally educated and licensed as a Speech and Language Pathologist. She also received a Master Design Certificate in graphic design and is a graduate of the Department of Defense Information School. Susan was a Department of the Army and Navy-level spokeswoman dealing with national and international news media. As part of the public relations team for the Department of Defense Onsite Inspection Agency, Susan was part of the group that organized the first U.S. intermediate-range nuclear missile elimination in Marshall, Texas and later traveled to the Soviet Union to provide media training for the U.S. Inspection Team. Her passion for photography developed while she worked as the editor of an international newsletter 25 years ago and has been growing ever since. Susan’s favorite photographic genre is landscape and wildlife photography.

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Table 22

Dr. Ruthanne "Rudi" Thompson

The Worth of Water: The saving of our water planet

There is an apparent contradiction – we are a water planet, with more than 71% of earth covered in water and yet . . . we are literally running out of water. How can that be? And what are we doing to save this, our Water Planet?

In early 2006, Dr. Thompson and members of her Science Education Research Lab (SERL) responded to a Request for Proposals from the City of Dallas for the creation of a Dallas Environmental Education Initiative. Dr. Thompson proposed an initiative that included water conservation and recycling education paired with research on the efficacy of behavior change. The first award was in the amount of $500,000 and since that time, Dr. Thompson and her lab have received three additional awards from the City of Dallas totaling $5,443,670; enabling the lab to be fully funded for 16 years and counting. The conversation at this table will focus on environmental (conservation) education, the results of behavior change research, and the next steps for replicating this program in other cities both in Texas and across the nation.

Dr. Ruthanne “Rudi” Thompson is an Associate Professor of biological sciences and director of the Science Education Research Laboratory (SERL). In addition, she is the College of Science Co-Director of Teach North Texas, Assistant Vice President for Digital Strategy and Innovation (DSI) and Executive Director of the DSI Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research (DSI CLEAR).

Dr. Thompson’s research program focuses on six areas: environmental education, STEM education, pre-service teacher education, teacher retention , undergraduate STEM retention, and the role tech plays in higher ed. Dr. Thompson has 30+ publications including book chapters, textbooks, and research reports; is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor and she and her lab received the Green3, Excellence in Environmental Education & Outreach award and the Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for their contributions to protecting Texas natural resources.

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Table 23

Dr. Jakob Vingren

Exercise and alcohol: A popular cocktail but do they mix?

Individuals who engage in exercise tend to also engage in consumption of alcohol but what are the potential consequences on exercise performance from drinking alcohol? We will discuss the incidence of alcohol use among athletes and others who are physically active, the effects of alcohol on exercise performance, and the physiological effects of alcohol as it relates to factors important for exercise training adaptations. Spoiler alert: The outcomes vary greatly based on the context, type of exercise, and timing of ingestion (and perhaps even what type of alcohol is ingested). There might even be some tips shared on how to continue to enjoy alcohol without affecting exercise performance and outcomes.

Jakob L. Vingren, PhD, FACSM, CSCS*D is a Professor of Exercise Physiology and Biological Sciences and the Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation at the University of North Texas. He is considered among the leading experts on the physiological effects of alcohol ingestion and exercise and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Dr. Vingren’s research focuses on two main areas: (1) Muscle signaling and endocrine responses to resistance exercise/ training, and (2) the effects of alcohol consumption on exercise performance, responses, and adaptations as well as exercise interventions in the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse.

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Table 24

Dr. Majed Yaghi

Toxic Leadership, the Silent Killer of Organizations

Are toxic leaders really that bad, some often wonder. Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. History bears witness to generations of leaders who destructively annihilated organizations while the world watched. Toxic leaders are not limited to politics because they are everywhere, in sports, corporate, media, religion, and other fields. How they get away with it is always the big and puzzling question? In this talk, I will share some of my research and insights in this space.

Dr. Yaghi is lecturer at the G. Brint Ryan College of Business where he teaches B2B Marketing, Professional Selling, Retailing among other marketing courses. He joined UNT in 2021 after a 30 year corporate career with consumer goods giants like Gillette, Kimberly Clark and Coca Cola, where he retired as Vice President of Global Accounts.

When not teaching, Dr. Yaghi serves as the undergraduate academic advisor for the Department of Marketing where he helps students navigate their academic journey towards graduation. Additionally, he co-chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion council at the G. Brint Ryan College of Business. His academic research interest includes toxic leadership, organizational culture, selling, organizational commitment and most recently DEI.

Dr. Yaghi currently serves on the management committee of Collin College in McKinney, Texas as well as the International Board of Advisors at the University of Bradford School of Management, where he completed his doctoral studies. His dissertation (The Influence of Toxic Leadership on Employee Commitment and Mediating Role of Organizational Culture) was awarded the Dean’s Prize for Innovation and Impact in Doctoral Research. He published his first book (Leadership Lessons from an Illiterate Mother) in 2022 and is currently writing his second leadership book titled “The Toxic Trigon".

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Table 25

Dr. Qing Yang

How far are driverless cars from being a reality?

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While automobile manufacturers across the world are working to create autonomous driving cars, how far away is the reality of a driverless world? What would it take and how to prepare now for the future when drivers are no longer necessary? What are the fundamental technical building blocks for creating an autonomous vehicle? Where are the challenges and opportunities?

Dr. Qing Yang is an associate professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of North Texas. His research lab focuses on autonomous vehicle research which has been supported by various funding agencies, including the national science foundation, the department of transportation, Toyota, etc.

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Table 26

Dr. Dipak Pravin

The Human Firewall: Last line of defense against all cyber crimes

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people", Bruce Schneier

Cybercrimes are the safest for the criminals to conduct and hardest for the society to detect and correct. According to Wikipedia, in 2021, the top 5 most common passwords are: 123456, 123456789, 12345, qwerty, password! This situation has not changed much in the last 10 years.

How did we get here and is there a "better password for each one of us at the end of the tunnel!"

We adopt new technologies since they fill our various natural-human needs, however, we do not have the corresponding natural instinct or leaned desires to be safe from the new dangers that accompanies new technologies. FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center provides a clear proof of previous assertion and an observation that situation is not getting better.

With the Trusted Cyber Messenger (TCM) pilot program, we recruited volunteer students who spoke to others in their own sphere of influence (friends, family, colleagues) and encouraged them to be Cyber Safe. Any word-of-mouth channel, such as this is considered to be the most influential channel to spread awareness and it has not been fully utilized for cybersecurity safety behaviors.

What do others think? Will or can it work? Will you support it?

Dr. Dipak Pravin is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Info Tech & Decision Sciences in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business.

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