Educational Psychology Update: Summer 2017

Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation Update: Summer 2017

Counseling and Higher Education Update: Summer 2017

Message from the dean and college news roundup - Summer2017

At the end of July, my time as interim dean will come to an end and our new dean, Randy Bomer, joins us from the University of Texas in Austin. It has been such a phenomenol year, and I am honored to have served UNT's College of Education as interim dean. I will return to the position of associate dean for academic affairs and research. I look forward to working with incoming Dean Bomer and the rest of the administrative team, and I'm excited to see what he has in store for us! In my final column, I want to highlight some great work that has been going on in the college over the last few months.

Many of you may know Hope Garcia, a longtime UNT Student Affairs professional and a 2015 graduate of our Higher Education doctoral program. I’m very happy to announce that Hope, now director of Student Services at UNT’s New College at Frisco, has been elected to the Texas Association for College and University Student Personnel Administrators (TACUSPA) Board of Directors. She will be working with education professionals from across the state to support students and institutions.

We’re also very proud of Teacher Education and Administration professor Dina Castro, who has been elected to the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Dr. Castro will be working with NAEYC’s more than 300 regional chapters. Congratulations!

And finally I’d like to make one final appeal to those of you who worked or studied with my predecesser, Dr. Jerry Thomas. When Dean Thomas retired, we started a scholarship in his honor. That fund has almost reached endowment level, which is when we’ll be able to start awarding it to deserving students. Your gifts, no matter what size, make an enormous difference. As an added bonus, alumna and Development Board chair Cathy Bryce and her husband, fellow alum Jack Atkins, have committed to matching every gift through Aug. 31, 2017, up to a total of $7,000!

If you would like to make a gift to Dean Thomas’ scholarship, visit For more information, you can always give us a call at 940-369-7805.

Alumni Spotlight: Erin Pack-Jordan

How did UNT’s College of Education prepare you for your career?
UNT prepared me quite well for my career in and out of the classroom. As a first-generation college student, I was anxious about the future and how to proceed with my education. The wonderful professors and advisors in both the College of Education (and the College of Arts and Sciences, where I earned my bachelor’s degree) guided me. In my current job, I write, research and edit state history textbooks. In this capacity, I make materials both accurate and appealing for teachers and students. Being a teacher helped me be successful in this job. Currently, I’m working on curriculum and textbook materials for middle school Washington and Georgia state histories.

What was the most valuable thing you learned while you were here?
What I enjoyed the most about the education program at UNT was the practical aspects. It really prepared me for how classrooms function. I felt like I was “ahead of the curve” as far as preparation for teaching.

What made you choose UNT?
As I mentioned before, I was a first-generation college student from a small town. My brother went to and graduated from UNT in 2005, the year I graduated high school. Although I got into other colleges, UNT felt both comfortable yet exciting. It was also affordable. I’m so glad I did because it opened up so many doors for me.

When did you know you wanted to teach?
In college, I was heavily involved with judging high school speech and debate competitions. I began subbing for several of those coaches and enjoyed my experiences with that. I also worked as a supplemental instructor for the UNT Learning Center. It just seemed like a natural fit. I taught high school social studies and English classes, and coached speech and debate until the opportunity to work for a textbook company appeared.

Anything else you’d like to add?
An education degree does not limit you to the classroom! Education is all around us, so if you have an opportunity outside of teaching don’t be afraid to take it! When the opportunity for my current job presented itself, I immediately took it even though I had originally planned to continue teaching.


Erin Pack-Jordan (’08, ’11 M.Ed.) is currently employed as associate editor for history education at Gibbs Smith Publishing.

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.