Great Conversations 2024


Bonnie Brae is under construction extending beyond the DATCU Stadium entrances. Access to DATCU Stadium/Athletic Center will be from the (BLACK LOT) parking lot entry off southbound I-35E service road. The entrance to the clubroom is through Gate 2 facing Bonnie Brae street. 



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 DATCU VIP Clubroom Tuesday, February 27, 2024, 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 17. 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.

Sponsored by:

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Table 1

Dr. Huseyin Bostanci

How to revitalize air in a spacecraft in transit to Mars?

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NASA is preparing to go to the Moon and Mars as part of the Artemis program. One of the challenges is to provide spacecraft air revitalization reliably and efficiently during these long-duration, deep space missions. Join me at Great Conversations to explore novel alternative technologies for CO2 removal in microgravity that would help enable future deep space travel.

Dr. Bostanci is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Graduate Programs in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UNT, and Co-Director of the UNT Industrial Assessment Center. His current research focuses on microgravity transport phenomena, high-heat-flux thermal management, and Stirling cycle-based energy conversion technologies. Dr. Bostanci’s work has been supported by NASA, DOE, and NSF as well as state agencies and industry.

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Table 2

Keri Caruthers

Getting Bubbly: An Adventure in Sparking Wines with Keri Caruthers

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Keri is a UNT alumna with a BAF in Graphic Design. In 2008 she merged into the wine business via her husband's love of wine. Tommy Caruthers was the owner of Wine Safari, and that led Keri into wine sales. They travelled to California every year learning more about the wines of Napa, including California sparkling.

For over 12 years, Keri sold wine in the DFW metroplex- from retailers to fine dining. Wine dinners were her favorite events. She loves to help plan food with wine pairings, design and print the menus and create PowerPoint presentations. After selling the most sparkling wine in her company for the holiday season of 2018, she earned a trip to London, England and Champagne, France. She has also visited Spain, home of Cava, Spain's sparkling wine. 

Join Keri on this bubbly adventure, and learn why all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.

Cheers! Santé! Cin cin! Salud! Kanpai! Prost! Yamas!

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Table 6

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 7

Corinne French

IN-TRANSIT Goods- Handling Leadership with Care


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Join me as we explore the crucial relationship between effective leadership and self-care. We will discuss actionable strategies for leaders to prioritize their well-being, foster resilience, and share ideas to keep in mind as we grow as leaders.

Corinne French is a University of North Texas Alumni who serves as the Director of Student & Young Alumni Engagement in the UNT Office of Alumni Engagement where she plans large campus events like the UNT Ring Ceremony, Dinner with a Dozen, and the Farewell Toast. She supports the student leadership within the Student Alumni Association and the newly created Young Alumni Network. French is an advocate for public education, student success, and leadership development. She co-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 included 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 six 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 8

Dr. Laurie Giddens

AI Unleashed: Detecting and Disrupting Illicit Activity Online

Using the internet is essential to our daily lives and provides a wealth of benefits to users. However, we are becoming increasingly aware that predators use the internet for exploitation, scams, human trafficking, and other criminal activities. Dive into the world of online safety as we discuss illicit uses of the internet and the game-changing potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and disrupt these activities, ensuring a secure digital landscape for all users. 

Laurie Giddens is an Assistant Professor in the Information Technology and Decisions Sciences Department in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business at the University of North Texas. Her research investigates how individuals and organizations utilize information systems to improve the well-being of individuals and society including how technology impacts anti-human trafficking efforts, detection of illicit activities, and sustainable consumption. Her research is published in Information Systems Journal, Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Computers and Security, and Cogent Business and Management and has been presented at numerous international information systems conferences. She is a research scholar member of the Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars. Additionally, her research has been funded by The National Science Foundation and the IBM Center for the business of government.

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Table 10

Terri Guthrie

Travels with Terri

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. Terry is also a new member now of International Food, Wine, Travel Writers Association in addition to Society of American Travel Writers. 

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

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Table 11

Mayor Gerard Hudspeth

You Don’t See Color?  If That’s True…How Do You Play Checkers?

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There are societal misperceptions about the topic of diversity, which is reflected in many aspects of daily life. Discussing diversity doesn’t have to be uneasy and is certainly not just about an individual’s skin color. Join me for an evening of refreshing candor and laughter as we dissect how racial and culture experiences shape feelings. Together, we can change the world one conversation at a time.

Gerard Hudspeth was born and raised in the City of Denton, where he attended Denton High School and earned his associates degree from North Central Texas College & bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas. Gerard was elected to serve two terms on the City Council representing District 1. In 2020, he made history as the first black Mayor of his hometown and was subsequently re-elected for a second term in 2022.  He is a business leader for Freeit Data Solutions & currently serves as the Vice President of the Metroplex Mayors Association. 

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Table 12

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 13

Dr. James Mueller

Creating legends: Mythmaking Through War Reporting

Journalism is often called “the first rough draft of history.” The problem with first drafts is they sometimes get facts mixed up or focus on the wrong things. This conversation will explore how the press covered two famous battles—Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45—creating legends that dominate how we view those historical events today.

James E. Mueller is associate dean and professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. He is the author of four books, including Ambitious Honor: George Armstrong Custer’s Life of Service and Lust for Fame, which was published in 2020. He is currently researching press coverage of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and has contributed a chapter on the battle to a forthcoming book on war reporting. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Texas. He worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for about 10 years before entering academia.

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Table 14

 William Ordeman

Living in the Borderlands


People who have never visited the US/Mexico border often have misunderstandings of what life is like for border citizens, especially when it comes to their health. Having been born and raised in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, I was troubled in 2020 to see so many family-friends and neighbors getting sick and often dying from COVID-19. My research is an attempt to answer the question, why are borderlands more vulnerable to epidemics and public health crises? In addition to talking about the COVID outbreak along the Texas/Mexico border, I'm also primed with experience and researched data on border culture and history.

Originally from Brownsville, Texas, I've had the opportunity to live and work in Madrid, Spain, where I taught business English to employees at numerous organizations. Besides teaching Business Communication at UNT, I also love music and have had some experience touring and playing at festivals like SXSW.  

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Table 16

Dr. Priyali Rajagopal

The stories we tell: How our memories can be deceptive

A fun fact about our memories that we are likely already aware of is that they are very often wrong, even the ones that are really important to us such as the memory of our birthday celebrations, graduations, or weddings. This is important for us as consumers because research has shown that our memories of consumption experiences can easily be altered by advertising and marketing communications. For example, imagine that you had a glass of orange juice that tasted a bit sour or salty. But, after seeing an advertisement for that same brand of juice, you suddenly recall the taste of the juice that you as being delicious. While this seems like it would “never happen to me”, this is exactly what was found in one study on false memory. Thus, research shows us that our memories are indeed that malleable and amenable to being changed. In fact, we don’t just alter details of past events, but may also create completely false memories of past experiences, wherein we report beliefs about events that did not even occur. As an example, one study found that people detailed their experience of meeting with Bugs Bunny at a trip to Disneyland after seeing an ad for Disney (since Bugs is a Universal character, this would have been impossible ). These types of memory errors can have significant implications for our preferences, attitudes, and judgments as consumers. Join Dr. Priyali Rajagopal as she discusses how marketing influences our memories and thereby our choices and decisions.  

Priyali Rajagopal is a Professor of Marketing at the G. Brint Ryan College of Business at UNT. Her research focuses on consumer psychology and specifically on how marketing communications and tactics can impact consumers’ memories and decisions. She worked as a brand manager at Unilever prior to obtaining her doctorate from The Ohio State University.

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Table 17

Rudy Reynoso

 The Magician’s Mindset: A Psychological Exploration into the Art of Deception

When was the last time you saw a truly amazing magic trick? Let’s dive deep into how magicians and mentalists create such spectacular moments through magic and storytelling. We’ll cover some of the fascinating psychological principles behind the art of deception, the concepts of misdirection and sleight of hand, the importance of rhetoric in performance, and enjoy some mind-bending close up magic along the way!   

Rudy Reynoso is a proud UNT alumnus ('14) who served as the first Latino Student Body President and Student Regent. He has shared his unique style of magic and mentalism for more than 20 years across the US and abroad. Alongside his brother and fellow UNT alumnus, he produces a charted soccer sports podcast, "The Give N Go," that has led to national recognition. Rudy continues to travel and perform for private events, weddings, and speaking engagements alongside his signature live magic show every weekend in the Historic Rainey St. District of Austin, TX.

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Table 18

Dr. Casey Schwab

Publicly shaming corporations for avoiding taxes: An effective approach or a fool’s errand? 

In Commissioner v Newman (1947), Judge Learned Hand stated that “…there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.” A number of tax watchdog groups, policymakers, and members of the media appear to disagree with Hand in recent years based on frequent attempts to publicly shame corporations for not paying their “fair share” of taxes. In this conversation, we will discuss the various types of public shaming employed against individuals and corporations and whether they prove effective. 

Casey Schwab joined the Ryan College of Business as the G. Brint Ryan Professor of Taxation in 2020. He previously held faculty positions at Indiana University and the University of Georgia. He obtained his PhD in Accounting from the University of Texas in 2009 and his BBA and MSA in Accounting from Texas Tech University in 2002. Dr. Schwab has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate tax courses in both traditional and online formats, and enjoys teaching and working with undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students in the Ryan College of Business.

Born and raised in Texas, Dr. Schwab is excited to be back. Moreover, with numerous family members that attended UNT, Dr. Schwab is excited to be part of the UNT family himself. When not working, he loves spending time with family, watching college football, and enjoying the great outdoors with his children.

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Table 19

Kelly Tait

Play and Enrichment Across the Ages

In this conversation we’ll be discussing the importance of play across all ages and the value of creating an enriching environment. Learning should be fun and inclusive, and Kelly will help to provide insight into dynamic teaching methods using play and enrichment.

Kelly has been described many ways: an INTP, only child, military brat, advocate, story-teller, coffee addict, and tattooed professional. She completed both her BS (2008) and MS (2014) at UNT in Behavior Analysis and has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst since 2015.  Her career has taken her across the country and world to work with a wide variety of humans and settings. Her recent adventures take her to Vietnam in the summer where she teaches educators in Lao Cai and Hanoi about behavior analytic principles and working with children with disabilities. Stateside, she provides behavior supports for adults with disabilities who receive funding through the state of Texas. She utilizes Dr. Israel Goldiamond’s Nonlinear Contingency Analysis and Constructional Approach to support individuals, caregivers, and their systems. She also teaches three classes at UNT: an intro to Behavior Analysis, Survey of Behavior Analytic Literature, and Autism class. Kelly is also an animal lover and utilizes her behavior analytic skills with her fuzzy (and sometimes not so fuzzy) charges. Along with teaching, Kelly also hosts a podcast called ATypical Behavior Analyst where she gets to talk nerdy with other individuals to disseminate the science of Behavior Analysis in a conversational and easily digestible format.  

The concept of play is dear to Kelly’s heart, and she has learned the value of making learning fun. Everyone plays, from children to adults, from humans to animals, and taking the time to create an enriching environment can produce long term positive results for all learners. Kelly is a firm believer that behavior is rational, communication and understanding is vitally important to progress and success, and everyone deserves to have their voice heard. #talkless #listenmore #dobetter

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Table 20

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 22

Dr. Marcus Young

Stuff Matters: A Historical Journey into the World of Materials Science and Our Daily Lives

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Look around your daily life and imagine how different life would have been 25, 50, 100, 250, 1000, or 5000 years ago. Ever wonder about the origins of paper, eyeglasses, cups, car windows, or cell phones? All of these everyday things that shape our daily lives have origins in material failures and breakthroughs. At this table, we will discuss the fundamental concepts of materials science through examination of everyday things like toilet paper, plastic combs, razorblades, eyeglasses, aluminum cans, wine glasses, and beer steins to more advanced things like cell phones, computers, cars, aircraft, and satellites. These materials include metals, ceramics, glasses, polymers, and composites. All of these things will be discussed with a historical perspective in mind which will highlight the origins of these everyday items, how they changed over time, and how they affect our current lives.

Dr. Marcus L. Young is an Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of North Texas (UNT). He has degrees in Fine Arts, Metallurgy, and Materials Science and Engineering. With experience in industry, government laboratories, and academia, his research ranges from cultural heritage studies on museum objects such as greenstones and bronzes, bioresorbable metal foams for biomedical implants, and energy storage materials for battery technologies, to composite materials for the U.S. military and shape memory alloys for NASA satellites and spacecraft.

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Table 23

Dr. Haley Zettler

Books Behind Bars: The Power of Higher Education in Prison

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The UNT Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is a class that brings together UNT students and incarcerated students at the Bridgeport Correctional Center to learn together as peers and equals. The first of its kind in Texas, the program provides the opportunity for incarcerated students to build confidence, improve communication skills, and prepare themselves for successful reentry after incarceration.

 Haley Zettler is an Associate Professor at the University of North Texas. She is the first instructor to teach an Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program course in Texas. Prior to her time at UNT, she taught Inside-Out courses at the University of Memphis to incarcerated men and women. Her research interests are centered on the role that trauma, mental health, and substance use has among system-impacted individuals as well as programs and practices in community corrections. She currently is working on research pertaining to childhood trauma among drug-court participants as well as a program providing mental health counseling to pediatric trauma patients. Prior to academia, she was an adult probation officer.

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Table 24

Dustin Sternbeck

Democracy Divided: The Insurrection at the US Capitol

In January 2021, a mob of thousands launched a violent assault at the United States Capitol in an attempt to halt the counting of electoral ballots. The group’s sustained assault at the Capitol precipitated an equally unprecedented response, with an urgent request for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to come defend one of our country’s most sacred traditions. Without hesitation, officers responded to the grounds to restore order. We were confronted by individuals engaged in heinous and destructive behavior with the intent of causing us harm. MPD did not retreat, and though outnumbered, we were determined.

Exhausted and injured, officers spent hours fending off violent acts aimed at them and endured this treatment without reluctance. We upheld our oath, to protect and to serve, in the face of adversity. Dustin Sternbeck served on MPD’s Executive Staff as their Chief Communications Officer during the events of January 6th and has a unique perspective on how law enforcement thwarted a violent insurrection allowing democracy to prevail. Join him for a conversation about this historical event that captivated audiences around the globe.

Dustin was recently appointed the first Chief Communications Officer for the City of Denton, leading the marketing and communications team charged with citywide communications strategies, impactful stakeholder engagement, and brand advancement.  

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