College News

UNT offers local teachers summer science institute

The Univesity of North Texas recently gave three local teachers the opportunity to go back to school.

Syed Hussain Rizvi, far left, and doctoral candidate Kayode Oluwabunmi, center, both from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, give teachers participating in the Summer Science Institute ─ Mary Batalla, second from left, Jesus Sanchez Ontiveros, third from left, and Ladys Contreras, far right ─ a tour of the facilities in the College of Engineering at Discovery Park. 

The university hosted the teachers last month during the Summer Science Institute with the aim of helping them develop lesson plans in English and Spanish.

“The goal of the Summer Institute is for teachers to inspire their Hispanic students to engage more in the field of science especially given the shortage of Hispanic scientists in the U.S.,” said Ana Figueras, a graduate assistant in the Office of Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education in the UNT College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

This is the second year of the three-year interdisciplinary project funded by the National Science Foundation. In the final year next summer, the teachers who participated the first two years will be invited to spend a week on campus with some of their English learners for a summer science academy, said Rossana Boyd, a co-principal investigator of the project.

This year’s teachers, Ladys Contreras and Jesus Sanchez Ontiveros from Fort Worth ISD and Mary Batalla from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, learned about new research in the area of C-Lignin from doctoral fellows from  the BioDiscovery Institute in the College of Science and from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering in the College of Engineering.

“The Science Teachers’ Summer Institute provides the participating teachers a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about current research that is helping to shape our world,” said Richard Dixon, director of the BioDiscovery Institute and distinguished research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“This enables them to better engage with their students about how science impacts people’s lives, and to develop lesson plans that open the students’ eyes to possibilities beyond simply learning the science curriculum,” he said. “Conversely, the experience of working with top class teachers has provided my postdocs and graduate students valuable lessons in the importance of communicating their science to the next generation.”

UNT lecture to shed light on raising athletes

Parents contemplating how to take their child from Little League to the big leagues won’t want to miss the University of North Texas’s July 13 (Thursday) open house and lecture titled “How to Raise an Athlete Successfully.”

The lecture will feature Yannis Pitsiladis, a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical and Scientific Commission and scientific director of the International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS). It will be followed by a Q&A focusing on Pitsiladis’ work as director of the Sub2Hour Marathon Project.

The open house, organized by the UNT Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation, will begin at 5 p.m. at UNT New College in Frisco. Pitsiladis’ lecture will begin at 6:30.

Pitsiladis is the founding member of the Sub2 Marathon project, the first international research initiative bringing together scientists, athletes and industry partners to promote elite marathon performance. The group aims to break the two-hour marathon barrier – helping an athlete finish a marathon in less than two hours – using a dedicated scientific approach.

The open house will showcase UNT KHPR’s research and degree programs and UNT’s collaborations with professional sports organizations worldwide, including the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Griffins rugby team. The event is the culmination of a site visit from FIMS, which Pitsiladis is helping to conduct. The site visit is the final step before UNT’s Applied Physiology Lab is designated the first Collaborating Center of Sports Medicine in North America, part of FIMS’ global network.

Both the open house and lecture are free and open to the public, and no preregistration is required. For more information, call 972-668-8118 or email

COE alumna set to open Denton’s first children’s museum

Pictured: COE alumna Anyah Martinez at the Explorium Denton Children's Museum location.

Anyah Martinez (‘99 BA; ’04 M.S.) needed a project. It was 2012. With her twins about to enter kindergarten and her youngest child gaining independence, she was looking for something that would engage her mind and draw on the skills and training she learned in the UNT College of Education’s Human Development and Family Science program.

The idea came to her during a morning run: Denton needs a children’s museum. And while she doesn’t have museum or nonprofit experience, Martinez said her training in the Development and Family Studies master’s program through the UNT College of Education (she also has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from UNT), combined with her experience as a very hands-on mom and her dedicated board of volunteers, have given her a leg up on making her dream a reality.

“In the beginning, I had the educational background but not a lot of experiential background, except raising my own kids in this fantastic community that had a void we didn’t realize was there,” she said. “Over the last five years I’ve visited children’s museums all across Texas and other states, building ideas of what will work here in Denton.”

The project first started to take shape with hands-on projects for children at the Denton Community Market and programming in Denton schools, preschools and daycares, which Martinez managed with the help of volunteers. Now, after years of fundraising and building support for the project, the Explorium Denton Children’s Museum has secured a physical location – in Stonehill Center off I-35 in north Denton – that Martinez hopes will be open in late 2017 or early 2018.

“We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community so far. Denton is growing at a phenomenal rate, and the number of families coming in is staggering,” she said. “We want to create a welcoming atmosphere not only for those young families, but also for older kids, grandparents and visitors to our community.”

Since signing the lease on the Explorium’s space, Martinez has hit the ground running, hiring the design firm Roto, which specializes in children’s museums, to advise her on best use of the space, exhibit ideas and more. Martinez plans to then hand those ideas over to a local architect to bring them to life.

“We want the museum to be experiential – a really wonderful place for children and families to learn and play together,” she said.

Before the museum opens, Martinez hopes to gain support from fellow COE graduates and Denton residents who want to volunteer their time and expertise.

“Right now we have a small volunteer board, but we’re looking for new people who can offer input and feedback and who have a vested interest in family engagement, parent involvement and education,” she said. “Volunteering with the museum board would be perfect for young alums who need experience working with a nonprofit or a family interested in getting involved with a community project.”

Donate at ExploriumDenton.orgMartinez said parent and grandparent engagement with children’s learning is something she especially values, after learning about its benefits during her graduate studies. Professors like Arminta Lee Jacobson, Rebecca Glover, Barb O’Donnell and more taught her the fundamentals of parent education – lessons she has used in raising her own family and will now put into practice at the museum.

“I want this to be a place where any parent can either be hands off or really engage,” she said. “I say, Let kids explore on their own if that’s the way they learn. But if you are a parent who wants to get involved and work with their kids, we welcome that too!”



Counseling doctoral student named Tillman Scholar

Elizabeth BurginElizabeth Burgin, a doctoral student in the UNT College of Education's counseling program, has been named a 2017 Tillman Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation.

In recognition of their service, leadership and potential, the newly selected class of scholars will receive more than $1.1 million in scholarships to pursue their higher education goals.

Burgin said she is inspired by the Army communities she and her husband, Army Capt. Russ Burgin, have called home. She is committed to honoring the service and sacrifice of those in uniform and their families. After several deployments in Afghanistan, Capt. Burgin is now an ROTC instructor at UNT.

“I want to be an advocate for wellness and mental health for service members and their families,” said Burgin.

As a doctoral student, Burgin is focusing her writing and research efforts to develop counselor-specific competencies for military health care and military-focused adaptations to evidence-based treatments, with a focus on play therapy.

“As the next generation of private and public sector leaders, the Tillman Scholars are tackling challenges across national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights and education,” said Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“They believe their best years of service to our country are still ahead of them, and they are committed to making a direct impact to strengthen communities at home and around the world,” she said. “We are proud to support this newest class of Tillman Scholars in their drive to serve and empower others as our country’s next leaders.”


About the Pat Tillman Foundation
In 2002, Pat Tillman proudly put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve his country. Family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation following Pat’s death in April 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. Created to honor Pat’s legacy of leadership and service, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships–building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others. For more information on the Pat Tillman Foundation and the impact of the Tillman Scholars, visit


COE teaching fellow receives award from State Bar of Texas

FeltsMark Felts, a graduate assistant and teaching fellow in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, will receive the Honorary Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence from the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department.

Felts is in the last year of his doctoral studies and will graduate in spring 2018. He is a Teacher Education and Administration student majoring in curriculum and instruction. The award from the State Bar of Texas was made in recognition of Felts’ passion for becoming a future educator in law-related concepts and civic responsibility.

In 2016, Felts was chosen as a 2016-17 recipient for The Doris and Forrest Herold Scholarship, The College of Education Scholarship and The Furr Endowed Scholarship. Felts is a member of the Doctoral Student Association within the College of Education as well as a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education.

CHE grad student researching play therapy effectiveness for Latino children

Gustavo Barcenas, a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of North Texas, knows that sometimes in order to help others you have to play.

Barcenas spent the spring researching the effectiveness of play therapy for Spanish-speaking children.

Through a partnership with the Denton Independent School District, Barcenas has been conducting his thesis research at Gonzalez School for Young Children. He is trying to establish whether offering play therapy to Spanish-speaking children in their primary language is more beneficial than receiving the same therapy in English. The ongoing partnership with DISD serves about 30 to 40 kids each year at multiple schools.

Barcenas said adapting services to the needs of the Spanish-speaking population is important.

“There is a gap there for this community and we are trying to alleviate that by providing services in their school and in their language,” said Barcenas.

Since a lack of Spanish-speaking therapists is another roadblock, Barcenas enlisted the help of other bilingual therapists from UNT.

“We want to bridge the gap between academics and community,” he said.

Play therapy is generally used with young children and gives them an outlet to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided process.

“Children are such a vulnerable group already and then when you add race, gender and economic struggles, they are even more at risk,” said Barcenas.

Felicia Sprayberry, principal at Gonzalez School for Young Children, said she is grateful to have the play therapy program at the school.

“It has allowed our students to receive additional support in emotional and behavioral development, through age appropriate play situations,” said Gonzalez. “The play therapists are also very good at working with families and teachers to provide techniques or resources that can support the child in other environments. I credit the success of the program to Gustavo and the other therapists and the support they receive from UNT.”

Barcenas said that during his work at the school, he has witnessed how important safe spaces are to children.

 “I feel more passionate each time I work with the kids,” he said. “They are in challenging situations, and I see my role as being present. They need a place where they can express what they are thinking and feeling and what worries them.”

Barcenas said that after earning his doctorate degree he plans to continue working with children and families and with play therapy research in some capacity.


Pictured, UNT graduate student Gustavo Barcenas works with a local Denton Independent School District student while researching the effectiveness of play therapy for Latino children. 

UNT’s Applied Physiology lab set to be North America’s first Collaborating Center for the International Federation of Sports Medicine

The UNT Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation (KHPR) is in the final approval stage to house the first Collaborating Center of Sports Medicine in the United States or Canada, part of the International Federation of Sports Medicine’s (FIMS) global network. Once FIMS representatives complete a site visit July 11-12 and UNT’s application is approved, KHPR’s Applied Physiology Laboratory will display the Olympic Rings as part of the collaboration with FIMS. FIMS is the only sports science organization allowed to use the Olympic Rings imagery.

“UNT’s KHPR department is a global leader in sports science and sports business research and practice, buoyed by the university’s collaboration with the Dallas Cowboys, our partnership with the Dallas Griffins of Major League Rugby, and now with the holy grail of the Olympic Movement through this partnership with FIMS,” said John Nauright, chair of UNT’s KHPR department. “This will further position UNT as a global leader in sports performance and fitness research in the areas of medicine, science, management and marketing.”

The site visit will bring to campus Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical and Scientific Committee and chair of the FIMS Scientific Commission. Pitsiladis will be working with fellow FIMS approvers Professor Angela Smith, former president of the American College of Sports Medicine, and Professor Fabio Pigozzi, president of FIMS and president of the Italian Sports University in Rome. The team will be looking specifically at the UNT KHPR’s lab capacity, equipment, faculty and student research, current projects, and goals.  

Nauright hopes KHPR’s designation as a FIMS collaborating center will lead to research opportunities working with other such centers around the world, including in South Africa, Australia, Italy, Germany, Austria, Mexico and Brazil. The centers provide an ideal way to conduct multi-site studies, allowing researchers to test different strategies with different populations in a small timeframe, he said.

“We will be connected to the primary global brand in sports, the Olympic Movement, of which FIMS is a part as the official sports medicine organization. This, combined with our partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, connects UNT with leading global brands,” Nauright said. “Scientifically, this partnership allows us to collaborate with leading sports performance research labs around the world in addressing key problems in performance, health and fitness, nutrition and more, which will mark us out further as a global leader in the science and medicine of sport, health and fitness.”


Pictured: Professor Yannis Pitsiladis. Photo courtesy of the University of Brighton.

UNT and Jalisco partners present at NABE conference

UNT College of Education faculty members continue their partnership with educators and administrators from the state of Jalisco, Mexico. In spring 2017, scholars from both countries collaborated to present papers about critical issues facing students and their teachers at the annual conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education in Dallas.

The Jalisco delegation comprised eight members representing the Secretariat of Education Jalisco and different universities in Jalisco that focus on educational research and the preparation of teachers. They were there representing the Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (MEXABE), a new international affiliate of the National Association for Bilingual Education. They presented during NABE’s ESL and Bilingual Education Special Interest Group Institute co-chaired by UNT Teacher Education and Administration faculty members Ricardo González and Rossana Boyd.  The emphasis of the presentations was on institutional efforts to promote bilingualism; bilingual teachers’ preparation for the early childhood and elementary grades; and redefinitions of curriculum and practices in order to embrace culturally, linguistically and socially diverse learners’ historical and sociopolitical stances.

The collaboration between UNT and the Secretariat of Education Jalisco was sponsored by NABE, UNT’s Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education, the Velma Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, UNT’s College of Education and the Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

Nancy Nelson, Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education at UNT, provided a global perspective on matters of language and culture, including bilingualism and plurilingualism. She pointed to the importance of language in connections between Mexico and the United States. Following this further, Jalisco educators Ruth Perales and Lya Sañudo Guerra provided the Mexican point of view in terms of overall pedagogical approach to the teaching of English as a second language and the actual status of bilingualism in Mexico and their future goals.

Dina Castro, UNT’s Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, addressed the preparation of early childhood teachers in bilingual and intercultural contexts in the United States. She took the group for a visit to a dual-language preschool in Grand Prairie ISD.

Martha Vergara, professor from the University of Guadalajara described the preparation of teachers in indigenous contexts in Mexico and the characteristics of the courses in the teacher education programs helping educators teach Spanish to indigenous populations. Lastly, Luz Celina Ramírez, director of the Teachers College of Arandas, described the influence of migratory trends to and from the United States and the south of Mexico and how those are taken into consideration to educate teachers.

The knowledge shared during these presentations allowed both UNT and the Jalisco delegation to engage in a constructive discussion about different methods of teaching and professional development for teachers. Boyd described the trajectory of the collaboration: “Future collaboration will allow both parties to be a part of common research projects that can be implemented both in the United States and Mexico”

The collaboration between the Jalisco delegation and UNT was the continuation of a 10-year relationship dedicated to research, student and teacher professional development, and building professional bonds.


Top photo, members of the Jalisco delegation with Rossana Boyd, far right, principal lecturer in UNT's Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

Bottom photo, Jalisco representatives make plans with Nancy Nelson, left, Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education at UNT.

Teachers discuss lessons learned in UNT bilingual/ESL science institute

Denton ISD middle school science teachers Jonathan Hernandez and Sabrina Estrada presented at the National Association of Bilingual Education Conference in Dallas this spring about their experience at last year’s science teacher summer institute on the UNT campus. The institute was sponsored by the UNT Department of Teacher Education and Administration's Bilingual/ESL Education Office, the Department of Biological Sciences and the College of Engineering and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Hernandez and Estrada, both Latino science teachers working with English Language Learners, discussed what they learned from senior scientists at UNT regarding the advances in the research of biosynthesis and engineering of c-lignin and relating it to instruction for English Language Learners in secondary grades. Their presentation focused specifically on the biochemistry of cell walls, cell wall anatomy, gene expression and the engineering of carbon fibers.

The UNT summer institute allowed bilingual/ESL teachers to attend classes with research scientists, conduct experiments and develop instructional objectives to create lesson plans that will help pass on their new knowledge to English Language Learners. The goal is to engage more Hispanic students in scientific fields, said Rossana Boyd, principal lecturer in UNT’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration, part of the College of Education.

During the NABE presentation, Hernandez and Estrada shared with fellow teachers, student teachers and administrators some of the lesson plans and in-class activities they developed — in English and Spanish — during the summer institute and that they implemented with their students earlier this year. Replicating the experiments observed in the laboratories of UNT scientists, the lesson plans were designed to engage bilingual students through the visualization of concepts and processes with hands-on activities while including state content standards and English Language Proficiency standards.

Read more about the summer institute here


Above, Jonathan Hernandez and Sabrina Estrada point out a picture of a laboratory experiment provided by Aaron Harkleroad, graduate assistant and doctoral student in UNT's Department of Biological Sciences, during their presentation on laboratory experiments performed with UNT scientists.

UNT partners with Dallas Griffins as pro rugby comes to DFW

The University of North Texas has partnered with Dallas Griffins Rugby to develop world-class professional rugby in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The partnership creates the opportunity for UNT to deliver state-of-the-art support to the Griffins’ athletes and its management and marketing team.

“The partnership with UNT will allow the Griffins to significantly raise the standard of rugby player we're producing and make sure that player welfare is catered for to the same extent as player performance," said Griffins Managing Director Phil Camm. "Embarking on a new partnership with a leading university in the fields of sport performance and sport management and accessing the latest techniques in sports management, marketing, physiology and performance at both the team and league level enables us to close the gap on the current Tier 1 rugby nations overseas.” 

UNT partnership leader Professor John Nauright, a leading and award-winning expert on the global rugby industry and chair of UNT’s Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation Department, said “the partnership with the Griffins is providing internships for students and research opportunities in sport marketing, operations, sponsorship and sales, as well in the science of rugby performance.”

Beginning in 2018, Major League Rugby (MLR) will launch as a new professional rugby competition in the United States. By drawing on the best domestic talent, MLR will create an intense, fast-paced competition and a top-tier media product. MLR will introduce rugby to the American sports mainstream, provide a focal point for millions of existing fans and bring even more new supporters to the game, Nauright said.

MLR will initially include the Dallas Griffins and member teams across the United States including: Glendale, Colo.; Kansas City, Mo.; Houston; Austin; New Orleans; Seattle; Minneapolis; and Salt Lake City. Beyond 2018, MLR will expand to more cities with an emphasis on finding the right partners, markets and venues. MLR plans to create local destinations where rugby fans and families can come together to celebrate the highest levels of the American game. MLR stadia will be gathering places for rugby fans and local communities centered on “Heaven’s Game,” as rugby is widely known, Nauright said.

The Griffins, currently based in Allen, Texas, will train at sites across DFW as the team reaches out to cities across the region. UNT will provide training support and assist the Griffins in developing marketing and promotion strategies while assessing their effectiveness. For more information about the Dallas Griffins, follow @GriffinsRugby on Twitter.