A Time of Transition: Celebrating the Legacy of Our Department Chairs | College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
June 25, 2024

A Time of Transition: Celebrating the Legacy of Our Department Chairs

As the spring semester ended at the University of North Texas, an air of reflection and anticipation filled the campus. The time had come to bid farewell to five esteemed department chairs who had decided to step down after years of dedicated service. Their departures marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) and those who devoted themselves to its academic excellence.

Dr. Lisa Henry: Anthropology

Dr. Lisa Henry, the chair of the Anthropology Department, has been a pillar of strength and inspiration for the department not once, but twice in her 12 years at UNT. Dr. Henry has successfully secured many grants that enabled extensive fieldwork opportunities for faculty and students, fostering a hands-on learning environment that became a hallmark of the department. She has also played a pivotal role in diversifying the curriculum, incorporating interdisciplinary approaches that bridged anthropology with sociology, history, and environmental studies.

Dr. Lorenzo Garcia: Dance and Theater

Dr. Lorenzo García has been the chair of the Department of Dance and Theatre since 2006. García quite often draws on Gloria Anzaldúa's notion that change begins with concerted efforts "to add to the dialogue." He characterizes his work in the role of department chair as adding to the dialogue--a concept designed to respect active perseverance, but also standing as an antidote to the silent erosion of passion, accomplishment, and collective action. The luminous kindling that adding to the dialogue has generated has shed light on culturally relevant and response-able art-making within the department, and more broadly, on the need to continue to raise the profile of creativity activity as research within the College.

Adding to the dialogue has resulted in:

Organization of in-house residencies by Tony Award-winning director Moises Kaufman and Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Doug Wright (with generous support from UNT's Institute for the Advancement of the Arts).

Collaboration on several interdisciplinary ventures--the Kahlo/Rivera 100 Exhibit; the productions of WET: A DACAmented Journey, Bi, and Ursula; and the Texas Improvisional Dance Festival-that involved faculty from dance, theatre, anthropology, the LMAS Certificate Program, student orgs (MUEVE, Chi Tau), and theatre company members of Cara Mia Theatre and the Junior Players.

Receipt of a HEAF allocation of nearly $1M to achieve a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system in the University Theatre.

Establishment of four new undergraduate scholarships: 2 in dance, and 2 in theatre.

Offering a full menu of courses in dance and theatre; hosting guest artists via Zoom; offering a full production season, in which productions were staged, recorded, and then shown on Vimeo to the public; and participating in ACDA's Screendance Festival, despite the disruptions due to COVID and to the multiple retirements and separations.

Helping hire several outstanding faculty members over the span of 18 years, and recently assisted in hiring 4 lecturers (2 in dance, and 2 in theatre) and a visiting lecturer.

Obtaining financial support for faculty members' creative activities that have taken them to art-enriched US cities such as NYC, LA, and Chicago, but also to international events in Jordan, at the Texas-Mexico border, in Norway, South Africa, the UK, Bulgaria, Poland, Canada, Australia, and Denmark.

Sponsoring dance and theatre gatherings (with snacks and cold drinks) in an effort to create a safe place for students to relax, have fun, receive reminders of upcoming department events, hang out, communicate, lean on one another, get advice, or exchange ideas.

This summer Lorenzo can be found tending to his yard (and working on securing a third "Yard of the Month" Award), as well as hiking around the grasslands and lake shores of North Texas.

Dr. Donna Barnes: Sociology

Dr. Donna Barnes has been the chair of the Sociology Department since 2017. She took the job because she wanted the challenge of rebuilding a department that had lost a significant portion of its faculty due to retirements and resignations.

Also, the department had a doctoral program that she was particularly keen on improving. She has helped hire 8 faculty, all with excellent credentials from well-ranked doctoral programs in Sociology.

She put into place a mentoring-points system where faculty earn points for chairing thesis and dissertation committees, serving as regular members of thesis and dissertation committees, serving as graders on comprehensive exams required in the non-thesis track of master's program and on qualifying exams/papers for our doctoral students, and mentoring students through individualized "special problem" courses that help students brainstorm about possible thesis and dissertation research topics. Consequently, there is less discontent with uneven mentoring loads; already five faculty members have earned course reductions due to their accrued mentoring points.

Dr. Barnes successfully worked with prospective donors to add two new graduate scholarships and seven new undergraduate scholarships. In addition, she created Professional Development Fund accounts for each departmental faculty member which can be used to pay for professional organization dues, manuscript submittal fees, or any other of a wide variety of professional expenses related to being a faculty member.

Dr. David Molina: Economics

Dr. David Molina has dedicated 10 years to the Economics Department. Last August the master's program was reclassified as a STEM program. That is very important for among other reasons is that it give international students 3 years of OPT (Optional Practical Training) instead of the standard 1 year.

He worked with two former students (one an undergraduate and the other a graduate) so they could establish a UNT Economics Alumni Association. They created a LinkedIn group in March of 2022. At present it has 335 followers. This group provides mentorship to alumni and current students and helps with Resume's, mock interviews, and software training. In addition, they have are in the process of establishing a scholarship.

Dr. Molina hired 4 tenure-track faculty and 2 professional faculty.

He established a Semester Credit Hour committee (SCH) which reviewed the pre-requisites for each course to see if they were essential or just been set long ago and were no longer required. Also, change the title and description of many courses to align them better in today's market.

Molina established a system to evaluate prospective student workers in our Help Centers to have more qualified staff.

He developed a system to have a better understanding of scheduling and enrollment management.

Dr. Andrea Miller: Journalism

In the last five years, under the leadership of Dean Andrea Miller and Associate Dean Jim Mueller (now interim dean), the Mayborn School of Journalism has grown in its academic offerings and stature.

In 2019, upon Miller's arrival, the renovation began of a television studio and content creation space that includes a studio with a video wall, new lab classroom, podcasting suite, and a soon-to-be finished lighting/interviewing area. A $500,000 NBCU Academy grant received in 2021 helped build out those areas but has also helped with significant equipment purchases over the last two years that include the transition to all industry-standard mirrorless cameras (50) and ten drones for our Drone Storytelling class. Additionally, with the securing of a Diamond Eagles Project grant in 2021 and with help of NBCU, the school just purchased a production trailer (in partnership with Media Arts) to allow students to work on multi-camera live productions. In terms of specialized coursework, besides the drone class, the NBCU grant allowed the school to send a team of student journalists to the Texas-Mexico border to cover border communities, from which they did award-winning work. The school also launched a new Bachelor of Science in Advertising & Brand Strategy in fall 2023 and a new concentration in Sports Journalism & Communication is set to begin in fall 2024. The school also saw exciting growth in the Master of Science Digital Communications Analytics online degree geared toward working communication professionals.

The school also received a university grant and purchased eye-tracking and physiological response equipment for research as the beginnings of what it hopes to be a Media Innovation Lab housed in Mayborn.

The school was also awarded a $300,000 grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation to create and run a high school student journalism workshop with the goal of creating a diverse pipeline of students into the industry. 2024 is the fourth and final year of that successful endeavor.

A 4-year partnership with Gray Television has been established to allow for Mayborn's participation in the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. We are in the second year of that agreement, and last year's Mayborn student (Gray TV Fellow from the Mayborn School) was part of a team that just won two Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards for their project "America After Roe."

The school leadership has secured more than a dozen new scholarships and established two additional funds that we are especially proud of. First, the "Better Together" Fund was created during COVID to support students who need some extra help because they have run into unexpected financial barriers that prevent them from graduation. Second, the Internship and Professional Development Fund allows us to support students who want to take that dream internship in a big city or to help travel to attend awards ceremonies and industry conferences to network - but just don't have the extra money to make a move or travel happen.

Mayborn students have received a countless number of local, statewide, regional and national awards for their work over the last five years. However, in the 2023-2024, the school secured its first-ever intercollegiate Hearst Journalism Award. The school received 8th place in the nation for photojournalism - an unprecedented honor for the school!

Fellow department chairs came together to celebrate their remarkable contributions at the year-end assembly meeting. Executive Dean Albert Bimper presented the outgoing chairs with a unique challenge coin to thank them for their time as department chair and a token to remind them of their many accomplishments during that time.

To Dr. Lisa Henry, Dr. Lorenzo García, Dr. Donna Barnes, Dr. David Molina and Dr. Andrea Miller, we extend our heartfelt congratulations on your outstanding accomplishments. Thank you for your years of service, dedication, and passion. Your impact on CLASS is immeasurable, and your legacy will continue to shape our future.


Written by: Molly Davenport, Sr. Communications Specialist for CLASS