Brittney Matthews

Senior Administrative Coordinator and Assistant to the Dean, Dean's Office
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COE faculty member aids in rare study on terrorism

In the early hours of April 2, 2015, terrorists in Kenya launched an attack on a university full of students. Hours later, 147 people, mostly from Garissa University College, were dead. Traumatic incidents of this type and survivor resiliency have been widely studied in the West. However, in Africa, where such violence is a growing concern, research is scarce about how students who have experienced such violence can be helped in finishing their degrees.

In one of the first studies on the topic, University of North Texas researcher Marc Cutright joined James Oteni Jowi of Moi University, in a qualitative inquiry into what practices might best help those individuals heal and complete their academic goals.

"These are young people who had been shot multiple times, lost limbs or witnessed executions of their classmates," said Cutright, an associate professor of higher education and the director of the UNT Higher Education Development Initiative. "Sadly, we'll probably continue to see heinous attacks like this. We, as researchers, wanted to know if there were lessons that could be learned that could help these and any future students in their emotional recovery so that they can continue with and finish their education."

The study, "Recovery from terrorism: Testimony from survivors of Garissa and lessons learned for supporting resilience," will be presented at the Society for Research into Higher Education annual conference December 7–9 in Wales, and also at the Comparative International Education Society annual conference March 5–9 in Atlanta.

After the 2015 bloodshed, the roughly 450 surviving students were offered the opportunity to transfer to Moi University in Kenya or to sister campuses. Most declined. Of those who transferred to Moi University, 11 completed the research interviews.

For a few, it was the first time they had been allowed to speak at length about that day.

Among the findings that will be presented in December, the researchers noticed a few interesting takeaways:

  • Counseling should be long term. All 11 students initially received counseling, but free treatment in the following months was rare. The students wanted additional therapy so they could cope with unresolved and new issues that had developed. Students also wanted peer-to-peer counseling to provide help to students who declined support from authorities.
  • Faith-based counseling can be a part of, but may not be the sole, solution. Many of the Christian students were at the chapel reciting morning prayers when the attack began; afterward, they found comfort in God and their faith. However, others blamed God for the attack.
  • A financial advocate should ensure contributions and distributions are transparent and fair.Most of the students received nothing from the millions of shillings that had been donated on the students' behalf. Several survivors who asked about this were threatened, directly and indirectly, with expulsion from school. The students felt a representative in financial dealings would prevent misuse of funds.
  • Survivors need a sense of belonging and community. Some survivors kept friendships from their time at Garissa; however, few made new friends at the new school and several said they had withdrawn from the social world. Many felt the chance to tell their stories to others would help.

Higher Education Faculty Scholarship

Purpose: A fund in honor of the Higher Education faculty to provide scholarships for doctoral students majoring in Higher Education. 


  1. Be a Higher Education doctoral student with continuous enrollment in fall and spring semesters;
  2. Be in good standing;
  3. Have a GPA of at least 3.5;
  4. Meet the minimum entrance and continuing academic performance standards of the College of Education Department of Counseling and Higher Education in effect at the time of any award;
  5. Enroll as a doctoral student in Higher Education with at least 6 semester hours.

Curriculum & Instruction master's student ready for second career in the classroom

Sue Dinaro always loved being an elementary school teacher, and after four years, she was on her way to becoming a master teacher. But when she moved from New Mexico to Texas when her husband’s job wasSusan Dinaro relocated, she had trouble finding a teaching position and knew she’d have to look for something else. Wanting to stay in education, she came across an opportunity at the University of North Texas that tapped into her first career in law enforcement.

Little did she know that accepting the position five years ago at UNT – plus a special scholarship for faculty and staff members – would put her one step closer to going back to the classroom.

In the meantime, her UNT job seemed a perfect match.

“This was coming back home for me,” says Dinaro, who landed in the UNT Police Department as a support specialist in charge of property and evidence. “Everything fit.”

Dinaro thrived in her role at UNT, and this year, she was named “Property Technician of the Year” for the entire state by the Texas Association of Property and Evidence Inventory Technicians.

Still, that itch for teaching kids never left. Dinaro decided to get recertified in Texas – unsure whether she’d ever have the chance to teach again.

“There are so many kids out there who struggle,” Dinaro says. “You have to learn to read before you can get anywhere. So many kids, and even adults, don’t have that love of reading, but a good teacher can inspire them and create in them a fire and interest to want to read.”

After learning about her past in teaching, several of Dinaro’s police colleagues, as well as her family, encouraged her to enroll in the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree program through the UNT College of Education. Then, co-workers informed her about UNT’s Faculty/Staff/Retiree/Dependent Educational Scholarship – which pays the UNT Board of Regents-designated tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying individuals who are pursuing secondary degrees. 

“There is nothing holding you back if you apply yourself,” says Dinaro, noting that the excuses she had for not getting her master’s degree were gone. “It’s an excellent scholarship.”

Now in her first year as a UNT student, the former teacher is going back to school – for the third time – to pursue a teaching career.

Dinaro first started her bachelor’s degree in the 1980s. However, she chose work over school after receiving a job offer from a police station. The first of her four children came along shortly thereafter, and school was put on the back burner. She finally completed her bachelor’s degree in 2004 and taught until her family moved to Texas seven years ago.

Now, Dinaro, 53, says the curriculum and instruction program has been a perfect fit for her post-retirement career plans, giving her the ability to eventually return to teaching in a new, expanded role.

“This isn’t the typical college path people choose to take,” she admits. “It’s not the easiest thing, but you have to think that ‘maybe I can do it.’”

Working with her supervisors in the police department, she has been able to adjust her schedule to fit in classes and coursework. The ability to take online courses will help, too.

“I see the future of UNT involving online courses,” Dinaro says. “UNT has come full circle from a small teachers college to now offering classes in education that are fully online. It meets the needs of today’s students.”

She’s not entirely sure where the degree will take her, but she hopes to eventually pursue an instructional post that allows her to lead the charge for curriculum decision-making and mapping for a team of teachers.

“Someone needs to give you a push sometimes,” she says. “My co-workers at UNT kept me encouraged in my pursuit of an excellent education.”

Global Perspectives in Education Research

Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Matthews Hall 209

PDF flyerThe Global-Local Dialectic: Issues of Language Education

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Presented by Dr. Nancy Nelson
Professor of Education and Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education

and the Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education & Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education

Please join us for lunch and conversation!


Free workshop aims to give educators insight on teaching students about Holocaust

By Raquel Talamantes

Current and future educators will learn about how to best present historical information about the Holocaust to their students at the UNT College of Education’s “Echoes and Reflections: Leaders in Holocaust Education” workshop.

The event, set for Nov. 4 at UNT’s Willis Library, is particularly designed for pre-service and certified middle school and high school teachers who teach topics about the Holocaust, but it is open to the public. The workshop is free, thanks to support received through a UNT Office for Faculty Success Mentoring Grant.

The event was coordinated by Ursula Schwarz, associate project director for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). She reached out to COE Librarian Jo Monahan, who then contacted Educational Psychology Professor Rebecca Glover to collaborate on the event.

“The COE was given this opportunity by complete chance,” Monahan said.

According to Glover, the workshop will feature speaker Kim Klett, a teacher of A.P. English Literature and Composition and Holocaust Literature at Dobson High School in Meza, Ariz., and a member of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

“Attendees will be provided a curriculum book with lesson plans and access to a variety of online resources designed to develop best practices for teaching about the Holocaust,” Glover said. “Jo was glad to see the speaker will have both primary and secondary resources for the attendees. The curriculum and resources also provide educators with tools that give guidance regarding individual responsibility in a diverse society and to maintain respect for others’ differences.”

The goal of the workshop is for participants to gain knowledge and skills about how to discuss Holocaust information with students, as well as ways to enhance educators’ teaching skills on the topic. Glover and Monahan hope what attendees learn at the workshop will be taken back and taught in their classrooms.

“What a wonderful opportunity to have this training available to us, especially because of the politics of the world at this time,” Monahan said. “It’s amazing that we can have a conversation related to diversity and history despite all the terrible things that have happened, and we can give future teachers the education and training to deal with these topics in an appropriate manner.”

The event is set for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, in Willis Library room 140. Participants must register at before the event.


Community college access, affordability focus of upcoming symposium

By Raquel Talamantes

The UNT College of Education will host a fall symposium focusing on how policy affects community college access and affordability on Thursday, Oct. 27, at Brookhaven College in Dallas. The Bill J. Priest Center for Community College Education, in partnership with the Dallas County Community College District, designed the program to help North Texas higher education professionals gather and reflect on policies that affect students across North Texas today.

“This forum brings together higher education professionals who are familiar with innovations that address community college finance in different states and at the national level to share their understandings and perspectives for discussion by North Texas community college/higher education professionals,” said Beverly Bower, the UNT Don A. Buchholz Endowed Chair and Professor of Higher Education.

Symposium speakers include Paul Fain, news editor for Inside Higher Education; Patrick B. Crane of the Oregon Higher Education Commission; Emily House of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission; and Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District. The panelists will give their opinions on what needs to be done to ensure proper policies are put in place for North Texas students.

The symposium’s goal is to bring attention to community college students’ struggle to pay for their higher education as they move toward achieving professional and personal goals. Bower said community colleges face the challenge of financing their services and programs that are beneficial to a student’s ability to succeed. This is why policies have been made by the state, community colleges and universities to try and ease this process so students can receive the best and least financially straining education possible, she said.

“I hope symposium participants will leave the event informed about different approaches to community college financing and funding, as well as the effects these innovations can have on student access and success,” Bower said. “I also hope that they develop new ideas from the day’s discussion that they can take back to their campuses to improve student access and affordability.”

Bower said the symposium also aims to remind participants that many college students struggle to pay for basic needs like housing and food. To help raise awareness, symposium participants are encouraged to bring peanut butter, protein (tuna fish, canned chicken, canned meat), pasta, ramen, canned fruit, toiletry items, baby food, diapers, wipes and/or any non-perishable food item to donate to The Cave, Brookhaven College’s food pantry.

The symposium is set for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27. To R.S.V.P., visit

Global Perspectives in Education Research

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Matthews Hall 209

PDF flyerSituating Readers in the Global Society through Intercultural Perspectives: Critical Research in International Children's and Adolescent Literature

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Presented by Dr. Janelle B. Mathis
Professor of Education

and the Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education & Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education

Please join us for lunch and conversation!


Global Perspectives in Education Research

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Matthews Hall 209

PDF flyerIntercultural and Bilingual Education in Peru: A Study with Indigenous Communities in the Amazon

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Presented by Dr. Dina C. Castro
Professor of Education and Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education

Presented By the Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education & Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education

Please join us for lunch and conversation!


K-12, higher education leaders to grapple with taboo topics at UNT conference

What: The 33rd annual Educational Leadership Conference at the University of North Texas. This year’s theme, “Crucial Conversations on Equity and Excellence,” will feature talks, presentations and interactive group activities designed to bring issues such as race, faith and sexual orientation to the forefront of education conversations and initiatives. 

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9 (Wednesday).

Where: UNT's Gateway Center, 801 North Texas Blvd.                    

Register: Deadline is Oct. 31 (Monday). $150 for general registration. $75 for a currently enrolled UNT student or employee. Register and get information at

Parking: Parking permits for the special event zone of Lot 20, located across the street from the Gateway Center, are included with registration.

Media: To reserve parking and press passes, contact or 940-369-7782 by Oct. 28 (Friday).

Race and ethnicity, gender, language, sexual orientation, faith and ableness – topics often described as too taboo for conversation – will be the subjects of the 2016 Educational Leadership Conference at the University of North Texas. The longtime annual event fosters thought around learning topics that can create large-scale change in educational institutions.

“We really wanted to take on concepts that are typically deemed undiscussable,” said Miriam Ezzani, assistant professor of teacher education and administration in the UNT College of Education. “After all, our students in K-12 education and higher education represent these differences in our classrooms.”

In a twist, this year’s conference, which usually targets leadership in the primary and secondary school systems, will also feature discussions of interest to K-12 teachers, as well as collegiate educators, administrators and instructors.

“It’s an opportunity for teachers and faculty to learn alongside leaders in K-12 and university institutions,” said Ezzani. “We anticipate this conference to be a springboard for deeper discussion on these topics when participants return to their schools, districts, programs, departments and colleges.” 

This year’s keynote presenters, Randy Lindsey and Ray Terrell, are two of the most prolific writers and presenters on diversity and cultural proficiency in the nation, said Ezzani. The pair will engage the audience with interactive activities on topics that can be hard to talk about – with the idea of increasing understanding, appreciation and valuing of differences and diversity. Ultimately, the goal is to close gaps in education and to build organizational support and large-scale initiatives that create access and equity for students.

The conference takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9 (Wednesday) at the UNT Gateway Center, 801 North Texas Blvd. Register and get information online at

The conference is sponsored by the UNT Office of the President, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity, the College of Education, the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, and the Educational Leadership Program.


Story by UNT News Service