February 2018

Alumna Melissa Huffman helps keep Texans safe during hurricane

Melissa Huffman ('12 M.P.A.) had planned a relaxing trip to her hometown of Coppell for the last weekend in August to celebrate her mother's birthday.

But as a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in League City, near Houston, Huffman canceled her trip when forecast models showed a tropical depression in the Caribbean -- named Harvey -- likely to hit the Texas coast after it strengthened into a hurricane.

The first major Atlantic hurricane of 2017, Harvey came ashore with Category 4 intensity near Rockport, then caused widespread flooding in the Houston metropolitan area with 30 to 64 inches of rain. Huffman stayed at her office for six days to track the storm, working 12-hour shifts. She was the lead radar operator, evaluating radar data and deciding when to issue warnings. She also issued and updated river and bayou flood warnings and provided forecast information to Harris County regarding the explosion at the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby.

"Hurricane Harvey was a career-defining storm," Huffman says. "It was all hands on deck. We issued 157 tornado warnings, and we had parts of Southeast Texas that were under tornado watches 70 hours straight."

She says she was lucky that her own home escaped flooding, noting that several of her co-workers' homes were damaged.

"We had to communicate through warnings and social media that Harvey would bring record-breaking rainfall that would cause dangerous flooding," she says.

As grueling as it was for Huffman to respond to Harvey and its destruction, she says the challenge of helping people to prepare is the best thing about her work.

Huffman's interest in meteorology was spurred by an event that occurred before she was even born. Her father, Rick Huffman ('84), survived the April 10, 1979, Wichita Falls "Terrible Tuesday" tornado, which killed 45 people and left more than $400 million in damage.

"Knowing about my dad made me want to keep people safe from disaster, which starts with predicting severe weather," she says. "I've always been fascinated by it."

While earning her bachelor's degree in meteorology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she completed an internship with the Fort Worth National Weather Service office. She researched requirements that emergency managers have for short-fuse weather warnings, such as those issued for thunderstorms, and realized she wanted to learn more. After graduating, she entered UNT's Master of Public Administration program for a specialization in emergency management.

"Building relationships with cities and other agencies in Southeast Texas before Harvey was key to helping as many people as we could, and the drive to build those relationships was something UNT's program instilled in me," she says.

During her five years with the National Weather Service, she's been part of its Integrated Warning Team in Texas, holding workshops on disaster communication for city employees and elected officials. She also visits schools to educate students about weather safety.

"I love sharing what I know with others," she says. "Weather isn't always at the forefront of everyone's mind, but when it's destructive, it's all we think about."


Lessons from Harvey: 
The work that has been done to improve forecasts is paying off. Models talked about the potential for unprecedented rainfall for days in advance of the storm. More importantly, Harvey taught me a lot about messaging catastrophic events -- how important it is to explain the impacts.

Changes in technology:
Two big advances are helping meteorologists. Dual-polarization radar provides improved rainfall estimates, which is important for flood events, and knowledge of different types of precipitation in winter weather events. And a new weather satellite, GOES-16, provides more high-resolution data. It's like going from a black-and-white TV to an HD color TV. It helps us issue warnings and improves tropical cyclone forecasts.

Talking weather:
One of the more imaginative questions I get from children is "Do tornadoes have eyes?" Sometimes videos seen in the news or online give the appearance of a tornado "following" or moving intentionally toward people or property. Tornadoes can move in any direction and do not seek out things to destroy. Probably the biggest misconception is that each type of storms ― hurricane, thunderstorm, tornado, winter weather ― will all behave like the ones people have experienced before. No two weather events are the same and can result in dramatically different impacts. Overcoming this misconception is a huge challenge when it comes to getting people to take action to protect themselves from weather.

Advice for students interested in becoming meteorologists:
A passion for the weather as well as a strong background in math and physics is very important. It's critical to seek out internships or ways to gain experience in the field. There are many different types of meteorologists, including researchers, broadcasters and forecasters. Get exposure to the different areas to determine which is right for you.

Faculty encouragement:
Professor Bob Bland was a great help to me. My first year, he connected me with a UNT alumna, Melissa Patterson ('01 M.P.A.), who worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Center. At the time, it wasn't common for someone with a meteorology undergraduate degree to get an M.P.A. James Kendra, one of my professors in the program, who now works with the University of Delaware's Disaster Research Center, was phenomenal in helping me go beyond natural disasters and think about the weather's role in technological hazards. In my work, I could be dealing with a ship collision or chemical spill caused by weather. I also was a research assistant to Professor Lisa Dicke, and she supported me as I went from a hard science background to political science and social sciences.

Memorable moment:
Attending the UNT Homecoming game in 2011. It was the 50th year of the M.P.A. program, and students, professors and alumni gathered on the field and were recognized during the game. It was amazing to see how many people the program had impacted over the years.

By Nancy Kolsti. First published in The North Texan, UNT's alumni magazine.


Students and faculty present at regional criminal justice conference

Left to right: Mustafa Icer, Yusuf Baktir, Chris Guerra and Kaleigh LairdHPS faculty and students represented UNT at the Southwestern Association of Criminal Justice conference in Fort Worth October 13-14.

Jessica Craig, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice and doctoral students from HPS’s Public Administration department Mustafa Icer and Yusuf Baktir presented their research titled Military and Crime: A systematic review of the literature.

Kaleigh Laird, criminal justice master’s student and Adam Trahan, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice and graduate coordinator, presented their research titled The Effects of Racism and Locus Control on Death Penalty Support. The presentation received the first place award in the conference’s Graduate Student Paper Competition. Laird’s major points were:

“Research has shown that death penalty opinions are shaped in part by racial attitudes and beliefs regarding locus of control. We suspect that these two constructs interact in complex ways to shape peoples’ attitudes toward capital punishment. To begin exploring this possibility, we analyze data from the Cumulative File of the General Social Survey. Respondents’ attitudes toward capital punishment were regressed on a measure of attributional racism and standard control variables. Findings showed that respondents who believe racial inequalities are due to internal attributes are more likely to favor the death penalty.”

Kaleigh Laird with her awardCriminal justice master’s student Chris Guerra and Trahan presented research titled An Overview of Body Camera Literature. Guerra’s major findings were:

 “Given its relatively new position in the law enforcement landscape, there is much debate about body camera effectiveness. Though the research on this topic is in its infancy, the majority of extant research reveals a negative correlation between body camera use and officer misconduct. The current study conducted a systematic review of the literature to better understand the link between body camera implementation and policing misconduct. Several methodological limitations were identified, including contamination, attrition, and technological challenges. Methods to address these issues and goals for future research are also addressed.”

Brooke Nodeland, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice and Mark Saber, Ph.D., lecturer, presented their collaborative research titled Student and Faculty Attitudes towards Campus Carry.


Roberts hosts Kaufman County high school students for day of mediation and more

Last fall, HPS’ Public Administration department welcomed a group of 22 juniors and seniors from North Forney High School (NFHS) to UNT to learn about peer mediation and life as a college student.

“These students are candidates for leadership roles in the peer mediation program that our Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program faculty and students are co-developing with NFHS administration,” said Leslie Roberts, ADR program coordinator & principal lecturer, who organized the daylong event.

“Forney is a high growth city in Kaufman County and schools are expected to feel significant impact,” she said. “Consequently, conflict management is a high priority at NFHS.”

While most of the day was spent discussing conflict, negotiation and mediating conflicts among their peers, the students were also exposed to campus life at UNT. They enjoyed a campus tour, dining in Kerr Hall and a presentation by UNT Admissions staff.

To schedule a similar event for your class or organization, contact Roberts at 940-565-4010 or Leslie.Roberts@unt.edu.


EMDS Alumni Spotlight: William Gribble ('09)

"I feel like I didn't choose Emergency Management, Emergency Management chose me. When I was in high school I got involved with the Civil Air Patrol. Oddly enough, the day after I got my membership card in the mail was September 11, 2001. During Katrina in 2005, I found myself in a Salvation Army Shelter, advising the Command team on best practices to organize and manage the large influx of donations, volunteers, and unique medical needs of evacuees. In all of that, I found a passion and excitement of trying to create order of chaos. By 2007, I was enrolled in the UNT EADP program.

I probably had a more unique experience while earning my EADP degree. I was the very last UNT student that had to travel to UT Arlington to earn a Commission in the U.S. Army through the ROTC program. When I graduated, I commissioned onto Active Duty with the U.S. Army as an MP Officer thinking that would get me in the middle of the action for using my Emergency Man-agement skills. I was right and wrong. I was in the middle of the action at Fort Hood alright, but Emergency Management was somewhat of a foreign concept to MP's at the time. Using my net-work of classmates and what I learned at UNT, I was able to help develop the understanding and of Emergency Management within the Military Police Brigade at Fort Hood.

I left active duty in 2014 to earn my Juris Doctor (Law Degree) at Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. To my surprise, I became one of the handful of people in the United States to take even a slight interest in Emergency and Disaster Management Law. I had no clue how I was going to make a job out of it though, since virtually no firms really practiced in the area. Looking back, I think my wife was more worried than I was. So, I started writing. I not only started a blog "Emergency Management Law.com" but I also wrote three articles on very unique topics of the law related Emergency Management. Two of these articles will be published in Spring 2018. One by the South Texas Law Review and the other by the Cooley Journal of Clinical and Practical Law. The third was a grant funded project that analyzed how to effectively enforce evacuation orders and avoid over criminalizing the act of staying behind. I've also spoken on Emergency Management and the Law at three separate conferences and have earned my "Certified Law Enforcement Planner" credential.

I say all of this not to stroke my ego (though many may still accuse me of it). I offer this as an example with a small piece of advice that few may heed: Don't be scared to avoid the path well-traveled. Sure, the beaten path offers many opportunities before you and we often need people on that path, but blazing a new trail is sometimes what the profession needs. See a need and work your hardest to fill that need. I did it, and not only am I supporting the profession with meaningful discussion on the law, but I'm enjoying every minute of what I do."

This Alumni Spotlight on William Gribble ('09) first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of The Mitigator, the EMDS department newsletter.


UNT Cyber Forensics Lab serves law enforcement agencies through technology, outreach

LabUnder the leadership of Scott Belshaw, Ph.D., lab director and associate professor of criminal justice, the UNT Cyber Forensics Lab  has built a fully-functional digital forensics lab to serve law enforcement since opening in early 2017.

  • The Lab can examine cell phones, SIM cards, tablets, computers, external storage devices and other forms of digital media to detect any files and data of evidentiary value on a wide array of crimes.
  • To bring together training and a greater awareness to law enforcement regarding online child exploitation crimes, the Lab is involved in initial talks with federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and local detectives with the North Texas Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
  • The Lab is developing courses that law enforcement officers can take for TCOLE credit on the areas of the basics of digital forensics, social media investigations and legal considerations.
  • To assist investigators in identifying locations where a cell phone has been, the Lab has developed software to aid in mapping cell tower location data. This information may aid in placing a suspect in the vicinity of a crime scene and/or corroborating statements made by persons (victim, suspect, and witnesses) involved in an investigation.
  • The Lab is looking into skimmers (technology attached to credit and debit payment devices to intercept card data) to better determine how they function, what data can be stored and transmitted, and ways to detect skimmers to prevent their use.

The Lab has assisted the following agencies with digital forensic examinations:

  • Irving Police Department
  • Sachse Police Department
  • Lewisville Police Department
  • City of Princeton
  • Rowlett Police Department
  • Wylie Police Department
  • Krum Police Department
  • Highland Village Police Department
  • Flower Mound Police Department
  • Dallas County District Attorney’s Office
  • Frisco Police Department
  • Denton Police Department
  • Denton County District Attorney’s Office
  • Collin County District Attorney’s Office
  • Lake Dallas Police Department
  • Josephine Police Department

The Lab has worked cases involving:

  • Tampering with Evidence
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault (Child)
  • Assault (Family Violence), M/C
  • Aggravated Kidnapping
  • Drug Overdose
  • Murder
  • Terroristic Threat
  • Sexual Assault
  • Possession of Child Pornography
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Trademark Counterfeiting
  • Unlawful Use of Criminal Instrument
  • Online Solicitation of a Minor
  • Injury to Elderly
  • Unlawful Restraint
  • Falsely Holding Oneself as a Lawyer
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide
  • Invasive Visual Recording
  • Burglary (Building)

The Lab has hosted trainings or meetings involving the following:

  • Cellebrite CCO/CCPA certifications course
  • Oxygen Forensics training
  • OS Forensics training
  • Internet Safety for Teens
  • Michael Morton Act

Lab staff hold these industry certifications:

  • ACE – AccessData Certified Examiner
  • CBE – Certified Blacklight Examiner
  • CCO – Certified Cellebrite Operator
  • CCPA – Certified Cellebrite Physical Analyst
  • CMO – Certified Mobilyze Operator
  • OSFTC – OS Forensics Triage Certification

More on the UNT Cyber Forensics Lab:

To learn more about the UNT Cyber Forensics Lab, contact Scott Belshaw or find the Lab on Twitter and Facebook.


Social Work student Rusty Carter earns degree, helps fellow veterans succeed

Rusty CarterUniversity of North Texas student Rusty Carter struggled with alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and a failing marriage, a few months after he was honorably discharged from the Army. He knew that something needed to change in his life after a failed suicide attempt in June 2013.

“I hated who I was,” he says. “I spent years hiding behind a bottle in a feeble attempt to suppress my thoughts and drink my pain away. I created a façade to shield others from the truth, and worst of all, I lied to myself.”

Four years later, he graduated with honors from the University of North Texas to serve those who face some of the same issues as he did. With his bachelor’s degree in social work, he plans to become a mental health counselor to fellow veterans. Rusty also plans to earn a master of social work degree, to prepare for doing research on adjustments veterans face when they leave the military

Rusty says he started to turn his life around after enrolling at Collin College in Plano. He became friends with an employee at the college’s Veterans’ Resource Center, and soon started working at the center as a veterans’ liaison.

The work resulted in Rusty changing his goal of transferring to Texas A&M University to study petroleum engineering, to transferring to UNT.

“I was a motorcycle technician in Dallas when I enrolled at Collin College and had done construction work and work as a security guard. I only enrolled because a friend told me I could get a very well-paying job in his company if I became a petroleum engineer. But working with other veterans gave me a sense of belonging,” Rusty says. “Serving these men and women brought a sense of joy back into my life that I had been missing. Knowing that they too were lost and I was able, whether in a small or large way, to assist them and point them in the right direction felt good.”

Rusty says his biggest personal changes happened about in spring 2015, nine months after he began working at the Veterans’ Resource Center. He went through a divorce but also achieved sobriety “after two years of drinking more than two and a half gallons of liquor a week.”

That May, he received his associate’s degree from Collin College. He entered UNT the following August.

“I began surrounding myself with positive individuals and stopped dwelling on my shortcomings,” he says.

Rusty has been working as the veteran services coordinator with Stay the Course, a nonprofit organization in Fort Worth that serves veterans, since last February. He received the Student of the Year Award for 2016 from the National Association of Social Workers Texoma Branch and graduated from UNT in December 2017 with honors.

By Nancy KolstiUNT News Service


Students share experiences of EMDS summer internships

From Washington State, to Washington D.C., and half a world away to New Zealand, EADP students returned from several exciting internships this summer, as highlighted in recent course presentations. At the September 29, 2017 internship class, seven students recounted their fieldwork experiences. Several of the presenters acknowledged the value and pertinence of the classroom experiences they gained at UNT, when they had to “do it for real.”

Chelsea Hearron reported on her time with the Seattle, Washington Office of Emergency Management. She was engaged in a wide variety of planning and public outreach initiatives. Chelsea will return to the Northwest to start her emergency management career.

Daniel Ringhauser injected humor with insights about his time at the Irving Police Department’s Office of Emergency Management. With all the superlatives about Irving’s business and community features, Daniel observed with amazement, “The next time something bad happens, the mayor might be using a plan written by a twenty year old!”

Felicia Chavez accomplished important preparedness work at Baylor Scott & White Hospitals in Frisco, perfectly matching her military medical experience with course curricula. Felicia was involved when the hospital experienced an extensive patient evacuation due to power outage.

Deea Scully gave an enthusiastic presentation on her various accomplishments at the City of Fort Worth Emergency Manage-ment Office. Deea was there to see an activation of the EOC and experience all of the reactions to recent incidents.

Carlos Salinas reported on his special projects and experiences with the city of Coppell, at their new EOC. Carlos has been invit-ed to continue in his paid internship role at Coppell, beyond the required 240 hours.

And for something completely different, but very much on-target with the niche some of our students are preparing for, Kevin Johnson briefed the group on his service in business continuity at PlainsCapital Bank. Like his peers in the public sector, Kevin highlighted the importance of cultivating awareness and persisting past mainstream denial of what can go wrong.

Roni Fraser concluded the set of presentations with a few of the highlights from her summer in Washington DC, serving in a coveted emergency management internship at the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Roni gained first-hand knowledge of protection of critical national infrastructure and dignitary protection, along with seizing every imaginable oppor-tunity in the region.

The October round of presentations included: Dirk Bitner (Dallas County), Rebekah Johnson (Baylor Scott & White), Dillon Verzinski (Salvation Army), Sean O’Donnell (Grace Bridge Disaster Relief), Joey Tomeny (City Year-AmeriCorps) and Robyn Warren (UNT Emergency Management and Safety Services).

This story first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of The Mitigator, the EMDS department newsletter.



Garber, George receive awards at national rehabilitation conference

At the National Rehabilitation Association Conference held this fall in Corpus Christi, Texas, Martha Garber, director of UNTWISE, and Crystal George, program manager of UNTWISE, received awards for their contributions to the field of rehabilitation.

As part of the College of Health and Public Service Rehabilitation and Health Services (RHS) department, UNT’s Workplace Inclusion & Sustainable Employment (UNTWISE) delivers information, continuing education and technical assistance in areas that affect the employment and inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

GarberMartha Garber (left) received the Research, Project Demonstration, and/or Special Program Award for her development and maintenance of the Texas Credential Program for Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) Providers of Employment Services. The first and only of its kind in the nation, the Texas Credential Program is an online credentialing program, offering tools and best practices for rehabilitation professionals to provide high quality services to individuals with disabilities. Establishment of the credential program ensures individuals with disabilities receive employment services from providers who have completed rigorous, consistent training. With over 2,100 individuals currently holding one or more employment services credentials, the innovative program has elevated the standard to which all Employment Services Providers are held.

GeorgeCrystal George, MS, CRC (right) received the Marilyn Padgett Extra Mile Award for her development of the 2017 NRA conference program. George spent numerous hours developing and revising the program content to meet the needs of conference attendees. She was quick to implement requested changes and did so with a positive and collaborative attitude. The Marilyn Padgett Extra Mile Award is given annually to an individual who has made exemplary contributions to the broad field of rehabilitation.

 “Rehabilitation and Health Services is a department that prides itself on service to its students and staying connected to our alumni and valued community partners,” said Chandra Carey, Ph.D., CRC, associate professor and interim department chair. “The awards Martha and Crystal received are excellent illustrations of that commitment.”

Carey added, “Martha’s development of the Texas Credential Program and Crystal’s work on the national conference program are just a few examples of true stewards to the profession that are a part of the RHS family. They make it very easy to be both #UNTProud and #RHSProud!”