June 2019

UNT doctoral student named prestigious peace scholar

This is the second consecutive year that Theresa Abah earned a P.E.O. Peace International Scholarship.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Theresa Abah, a second year doctoral student studying Rehabilitation and Health Services with a concentration in Gerontology in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS), has been awarded the P.E.O., or Philanthropic Educational Organization, Peace International Scholarship. The P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship Fund was established in 1949 to provide scholarships to women from other countries for graduate studies in the U.S. or Canada.

The scholarship awards up to $12,500 per year, providing not only help paying for her basic needs, but also enabling her to concentrate more on her studies.

 “The funds helped to pay for most of my personal needs from house rent, to groceries, books, professional association membership fees and health insurance,” Abah said.  “As a result, I am able to focus on my academics, teaching and other responsibilities with greater ease.”

Abah aims to work with a division of the Nigerian Health Ministry once she graduates, hoping to help with aging-population issues.

“After graduation, I hope to provide technical support to a division of the Nigerian Health Ministry responsible for health policy development and implementation,” Abah said. “My goal is to help address aging-population health and well-being issues, and to advocate for program development, policy reform initiatives and integration of older adult health programs into the existing primary health care system.”

Abah attributes part of her success to her professors Dr. Prybutok and Dr. Mpofu.

“I have enjoyed great mentoring from my professors and I would like to say that succeeding in the Ph.D. program requires having mentors that believe in you even when you have doubts about your abilities,” Abah said. “The Prybutoks have been so helpful to graduate students in UNT. They have the best interest of students at heart, through conference exposures, participation in interdisciplinary research meetings to providing a multinational/cultural environment for their students to thrive and I have to say that I rarely miss my home country in their company.”

Abah found that networking was instrumental in being awarded the P.E.O. Peace International Scholarship.

“I would like to encourage other graduate students to seize every opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities and social events organized on campus to enable them interact with their peers in other departments,” Abah said. “I try to reach out to as many people as possible during social events organized by the international students’ office, which was also instrumental to me getting the scholarship.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says it’s an honor to have such a distinguished international researcher in HPS.

“The fact that Abah has received the P.E.O. scholarship not once, but twice, is a testament to her acumen in research as it relates to health policy and aging populations,” Dr. Chumbler said. “She has brought distinction to herself and this college with this honor and will no doubt change lives in Nigeria.”


Three UNT Criminal Justice students awarded scholarships

The students find the scholarships to be a reflection of their hard work.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Victoria Williams, Shekinah Colson and Martina Martinez, all current students enrolled in University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service’s Department of Criminal Justice degree programs, were awarded scholarships.

Victoria Williams, set to be a senior in fall 2019, is a recipient of the J. Edgar Hoover Scholarship. For her, the scholarship is an honor that proves hard work reaps success.

“I have worked hard throughout my college life by maintaining above a 3.5 GPA and being involved on campus to be able to be considered for prestigious awards and scholarships,” Williams said. “Being awarded this scholarship proved to me that hard work and late nights of studying pays off.”

Williams has always wanted to serve the community and was involved with the Tyler Police Department Youth Explorers during high school.

 “The reason I chose criminal justice is because I’ve always had a desire to serve the community to ensure justice is carried out in the criminal justice system,” Williams said. “During high school, my favorite organization I was a part of was the Tyler Police Department Youth Explorers. I had the pleasure of serving as a Tyler PD Explorer for two years. This program gave me more insight of my future in the criminal justice field.”

Shekinah Colson, currently working as a senior research associate within the Center for Human Identification at the UNT Health Science Center, is a recipient of the Tory J. Caeti Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship to her is a symbol of her hard work.

“Receiving this scholarship means everything to me,” Colson said. “Being a mother of three who works full time and takes classes, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. Even though I know the collective efforts will add up some day to make a real difference in the lives of others, sometimes it feels like it is such a small drop in the bucket compared to the incredible need for people to dedicate their hearts and passion to the criminal justice field. Receiving this recognition is a form of support and encouragement that makes me feel like I’m finally finding my feet.”

Colson found the criminal justice degree as a way to expand her understanding of law enforcement.

“I felt like I had gaps in my knowledge of law enforcement policies and procedures,” Colson said. “I appreciate everything law enforcement does for us and recognized my need for a deeper understanding of their role. I knew that this degree would allow me insights into future strategic planning for process improvement and to identify more ways that we can provide valuable services to those who are exploited, lost, abused and hurt.”

Martina Martinez, currently a junior, was a recipient of the Jacob Andrew Fritsch Scholarship. She says the scholarship is changing her life.

“Receiving this scholarship means a lot to me because I come from a middle class family that struggles every day in order for me to be able to go to college,” Martinez said. “This scholarship contributes to me fulfilling my dream of going to college and continuing with my studies.”

Martinez hopes that through her hard work, she can inspire others.

“I chose criminal justice as my major because I want to be a police officer so I can serve the community and become a role model to other younger people,” Martinez said. “Also, I want people to know that with hard work and dedication dreams are able to be achieved.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says he’s always thrilled to see students succeed.

“Victoria and Shekinah are both incredibly accomplished and very deserving of these scholarships,” Dr. Chumbler said. “I can’t wait to see what these bright individuals achieve not only while at UNT, but once they graduate and embark on their careers in criminal justice.”




Assistant professors of social work present research at conference in Marrakech, Morocco

Dr. Sarah Moore Oliphant, President and Conference Chair of the Global Awareness Society International 28th Annual Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.The conference focused mainly on the issues facing an increasingly globalized society.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Dr. Sarah Moore Oliphant and Dr. Hadidja Nyiransekuye, who are both currently assistant professors in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service Department of Social Work, recently attended an annual conference in Marrakech, Morocco. The conference, Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities in a Global World, was held by the Global Awareness Society International, of which Dr. Oliphant currently serves as the president.

The conference ran from May 23-25, 2019, and provided a framework for interdisciplinary discussion about the issues facing an increasingly globalized society. Attendees were given the chance to attend visits from keynote speakers, panel discussions, service projects, workshops and paper presentations.

While attending, Dr. Oliphant had the opportunity to present her own work that she co-authored with Linda Plitt Donaldson and Michaela Farber titled Understanding HIV/AIDS among Ethiopian Immigrants in Dr. Oliphant, President of the Global Awareness Society International, welcoming conference participants to the 28th Annual conference in Marrakech, Morocco. Washington, DC. Dr. Nyiransekuye also presented her research, The Ethical Dilemma of Serving the Medical Needs of Refugees in the US.

Serving as the president of the Global Awareness Society International, Dr. Oliphant met with the president of the Moroccan Social Work Association, Mr. Mohammed Elardi, as well as representatives from the emerging profession of social work and social work education.

“Serving as president of the Global Awareness Society International has given me the opportunity to meet scholars and practitioners around the world from various disciplines—all working together toward global understanding,” said Dr. Oliphant. “I’ve worked to elevate and grow participation from social work scholars and to share the emphasis we have at UNT on international social work issues.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says he’s impressed with the global impact Dr. Oliphant meeting with the President of the Moroccan Social Work Association, Mr. Mohammed Elardi, and representatives from the emerging profession of social work and social work educationDr. Oliphant is making through her leadership and service.

“Dr. Oliphant is a very talented researcher who is making great strides in the international arena,” Dr. Chumbler said. “Her participation in GASI has allowed her to raise awareness of global challenges as they relate to social and human welfare as she builds on the reputation of our social work program and college. We are fortunate to have her here at UNT.”  

Dr. Oliphant meeting with the President of the Moroccan Social Work Association, Mr. Mohammed Elardi, and representatives from the emerging profession of social work and social work education


Dr. Oliphant and Dr. Nyiransekuye at the Global Awareness Society International 28th Annual Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.


UNT’s cyber lab files for credit card skimmer wand patent

The product is expected to make big changes in preventing credit card fraud.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The University of North Texas UNT Cyber Forensics Technology Lab, headed by Dr. Scott Belshaw, associate professor in the College of Health and Public Service Department of Criminal Justice, has recently filed for a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a credit card skimmer detection wand. The product, developed by Dr. Belshaw and Michael Saylor, president of Cyber Defense Labs, is expected to have a major impact on preventing credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud has been occurring more frequently at gas stations and ATMs, with criminals inserting skimmer devices into machines that read a card’s expiration date, security code and 16-digit card number once it is swiped. The information is then sent via Bluetooth to the nearby criminal who will sell the victim’s information on the dark web.

The skimmer detection wand will be a small, handheld device that can detect that Bluetooth signal and warn users of the skimmer device in the machine using a simple, color-coded screen. If the wand picks up a skimmer device, the screen will turn red. A yellow screen indicates that the card reader is questionable and a green screen means no skimmer device is detected. Dr. Belshaw says this technology is ideal for fraud defense.

“The technology we’ve developed will allow business owners to perform daily scans as a proactive measure against credit card skimmers and will provide consumers with peace of mind,” Dr. Belshaw said. “It will allow businesses to assure their customers that they can detect skimmers before a credit card is captured and their valuable information has been compromised.”

The device is also expected to revolutionize police investigations. Plans include technology that will allow the police department to extract information from the wand that will not only enable them to notify victims that their card has been compromised, but allow them to track the criminal who placed the skimmer device.

Dr. Belshaw is working on the skimmer wand in the UNT Cyber Forensics Technology Lab with a group of UNT Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) students who know the technology well.

“They understand the computer science and coding side of things,” Dr. Belshaw said. “So, if I tell them I need to achieve a specific task or I need a certain type of software, they’ll just sit down and make it happen. Having their level of intelligence and skill is invaluable.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says he’s impressed with the development of the technology and looks forward to seeing the impact this device has on the detection of credit card skimmers.

“I applaud Dr. Belshaw for taking the initiative to address such a growing threat to identity theft,” Dr. Chumbler said. “Criminals have been able to place these devices far too easily and prey on innocent victims for far too long. The fact that this technology will allow business owners to protect us from cybercrime and that it will revolutionize the way investigators can track these thieves will have an incredible impact on society.”

While the product is in the beginning stages of development, Dr. Belshaw says it’s showing great promise and he hopes to have a prototype to test soon.

“We are excited to work with Dr. Belshaw as he develops and refines this technology,” said Michael Rondelli, associate vice president of innovation and commercialization at UNT who manages the intellectual property developed by UNT faculty and staff. “It addresses a growing need across multiple industries that will provide protection to consumers while allowing companies to drive new sales.”


Journal edited by UNT criminal justice professor now ranked top 10 in nation

Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice: An Interdisciplinary Journal (YVJJ) received an impact factor of 2.981 and is currently ranked 10 out of 65 in the nation in the “Criminology and Penology” category.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Dr. Chad Trulson, professor in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service Department of Criminal Justice, serves as editor of the prestigious publication that “provides academics and practitioners in juvenile justice and related fields with a resource for publishing current empirical research on programs policies, and practices in the areas of youth violence and juvenile justice.” The impact factor is a measure of the average number of times per year an article has been cited from that specific journal. It is used to measure the importance or rank of a journal based on the number of times its articles are cited. We sat down with Dr. Trulson to understand what this major ranking means to him.

Dr. Trulson, you’ve been editor of YVJJ since 2007. What does it mean to you for it to rise to this level?

This ranking means a lot to me on many levels. On a personal level, however, for YVJJ to have risen to a top 10 Criminology/Penology journal means that I have done right by the founding editors of YVJJ, Dr. Eric J. Fritsch and the late Dr. Tory J. Caeti. They developed YVJJ from the ground up in the early 2000s at UNT, and it was launched in 2003, a year after I came to UNT. It is nice that the journal is ranked highly and all of the things that come with that, such as recognition for the Department of Criminal Justice, the College of Health and Public Service and UNT as a whole—but the continuing success of YVJJ over the years is really a testament to the mentorship and opportunities provided to me by doctors Fritsch and Caeti.

As editor, how do you feel you’ve contributed to the rise in quality and rank for this particular journal?

When I took over as editor in 2007, I had a clear plan on how to develop the journal into a top ranked journal in the field. This plan included many facets. The first was to institute a very rigorous and very fast internal review process so that manuscripts which were not a good fit or of the quality befitting of the journal would be removed from publication consideration. While authors broadly do not like hearing their work is not suitable for the journal, I have received overwhelming positive support for this rigorous and quick initial determination process. In short, if an article is not right for YVJJ, authors will know it within a day or two, and usually within hours of submission—instead of weeks or months. 

 The second step was for myself and Dr. Jon Caudill, co-editor, to continually re-assess and re-populate the editorial board with the very best scholars in the areas of focus of the journal at any particular time. Additionally, a lot of effort was placed into only sending manuscripts to editorial board members specific to their specialty, if at all possible. This ensured that the reviews would be expert level, and they would be quick. Indeed, initial publication decisions to authors average less than 20 days. This speed is rare in the field, and this was especially the case more than a decade ago. I believe the editorial board is the clear foundation for this journal and most of the success rests with the editorial board and how I structured the board’s development and use more than a decade ago.

 Finally, the third step was to remain true to the focus of the journal, which was to focus on issues related to youth violence, as well as juvenile justice. As a niche journal, it can be easy to stray from the particular focus of the journal and broaden the scope and try to be everything to everyone. At YVJJ, we work very hard and make the difficult decisions to maintain the focus on what the journal is all about, and that is youth violence and juvenile justice.

How do you hope this new ranking impacts the number and quality of future submissions and citations for articles?

Authors are always looking to publish in the higher ranked journals. The high ranking, combined with the way the journal is managed, should entice even more top authors to consider YVJJ as their first place of submission, instead of their second or third. Indeed, this has been the trend over the years as YVJJ has steadily climbed the rankings. My hope is that this trend continues.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Trulson and congratulations on this honor.