January 2021

UNT PUSH program receives $50k King Foundation grant to help youth transition from foster care into higher education

The funding will provide case management services, housing and meal plans for the UNT students.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation granted $50,000 to the University of North Texas Persevere UNTil Success Happens (PUSH) program, which helps young adults who age out of foster care achieve educational success at UNT by focusing on academic, financial and career achievements, as well as the social well-being of each student. The generous grant will be used to provide programming and college transition services to incoming freshmen and transfer students who are part of PUSH from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022.

“Supporting students who have experienced foster care presents a lot of challenges, especially during a pandemic. It absolutely takes the university and community village to provide the resources students need to be successful,” said Brenda Sweeten, clinical associate professor of social work, PUSH advisor, UNT foster care liaison officer and director of social work field education. “This grant from the King Foundation will allow us to not only meet basic housing and dining needs of students, but to also provide truly dedicated advocacy and case management support that will ensure they are on the right track. We are so grateful to again benefit from the foundation’s generosity.”

Sweeten helped create PUSH as a student organization in 2012 after learning many former foster care students needed a support system and resources to help set them up for success at UNT. Thanks to the generosity of donors such as the King Foundation, PUSH, which is housed in the UNT Division of Student Affairs, has grown to serve hundreds of foster care alumni and helps these potentially at-risk students thrive on campus.

“The King Foundation’s generosity is going to help us ensure our foster care alumni are more engaged in their college experience,” said Melissa McGuire, associate vice president for student affairs. “We will be able to incentivize students to utilize the support services and programs we know will lead to their success. Additionally, the funds will allow us to provide support to our students where many need it most—their housing and food insecurities.”

This is the largest gift that the UNT System has received from the King Foundation to date.

About the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation:
arl B. and Florence E. King started the Foundation that bears their names in 1966. Established by gifts from Mr. and Mrs. King, as well as a later bequest from their daughter, Dorothy, the Foundation has now grown to more than $80 million in assets. The Foundation distributes more than $3 million per year to charities serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 38 counties in West Texas, and 32 counties in Arkansas.


UNT professor studying Continuum of Care for homeless people during COVID-19 outbreak

DENTON (UNT), Texas — A researcher in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service is studying how the continuum of care for homeless people, which includes the social, medical, public health and education sectors, has changed during COVID-19.

Hee Soun Jang, an associate professor and graduate coordinator for the Department of Public Administration, and Jesus Valero, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, have been researching services for homeless people that are run at a local level and often involve multiple agencies known as Continuum of Care (CoC).

“Continuum of Care is a premise that is unique to improving a fragmented service system for homelessness,” Jang said. “There are innovative and interesting examples of individual agencies providing successful interventions for homeless populations. But, because agencies do not always coordinate services and information with one another, it is difficult to capture comprehensive knowledge of homeless populations.”

In their current research, funded by a grant from Systems for Action, a national research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Jang and Valero are specifically looking at how Continuum of Care networks were affected by COVID-19. They will use previous national studies from 2018 conducted by IBM and RWJF to compare pre-COVID-19 levels of service with current offerings.

The two-year project will start with case studies in 20 U.S. cities that have both high levels of homelessness and high levels per capita of COVID-19 cases. The second year will consist of a national survey developed from the case studies. Jang and Valero will integrate factors such as racial equity into their research.

“The community has to develop its coordinated approach and aligned mechanism for a fuller, holistic, comprehensive service system that can help these homeless communities,” Jang said. “The people that experience homelessness are in very different stages of their lives. There is no single approach that can fix the problem.”

Findings will be used to understand the effects of the pandemic on CoC homeless service networks and the effectiveness of the networks in achieving health equity during COVID-19.

“We hope that the results of this study will help improve the coordination of cross sector actors in addressing the multidimensional needs of homeless individuals particularly during this public health pandemic,” Valero said.


Systems for Action is a national research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that aims to discover and apply new evidence about ways of aligning delivery and financing systems across the medical, public health, and social services sectors that support a Culture of Health.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108


Trista Moxley


HPS welcomes new leadership for 2020-21 school year

A new dean, associate deans and new chairs are all part of the shift in leadership.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) named Dr. Nicole Dash the new dean of the college in September 2020. Dr. Dash has served as academic associate dean of HPS since 2010 and has been instrumental in integrating health programs and growing the college’s enrollments. Under Dash’s leadership, the college has added master’s degrees in applied behavior analysis and emergency management and disaster science, as well as expanded its undergraduate offerings to include new and growing concentrations in public health, urban policy and planning and nonprofit leadership studies.

“I know the college and its people very well, and I couldn’t be prouder of all that we’ve achieved—both as individuals and as a collective,” Dr. Dash said. “I’ve witnessed firsthand the hard work it’s taken to become what we are today. Our graduates are doing research and going into professions that make a difference in their communities and the world.”

Dr. Dash served as the chair of UNT’s Department of Sociology from 2009 to 2010 and was a faculty fellow in the Office of the Provost. In September 2010, she became the lone associate dean in HPS where she led the charge on everything from academic programs to research, advising and space management, and has served multiple times as the college’s financial officer.

Dr. Chandra Carey, formerly the chair of the college’s Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services (RHS), has stepped into Dr. Dash’s former role as academic associate dean. Dr. Carey, who also is an associate professor of rehabilitation counseling, has served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development and is a former president and fellow for the National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns. She has contributed 34 refereed publications and book chapters to literature and completed over 40 national presentations during her 19-year career as a scholar. As a principal investigator or co-investigator, she’s received over $800,000 from Texas Minority Health Research Grant programs, $1.2 million in HHS-HRSA Behavioral Health Grants; $400,000 from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for research on rural homelessness and mental health, and most recently, $1.9 million from the Department of Education for UNT ELEVAR, a transition program for students with intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Carey also is the recipient of eight research and service awards, and her research interests include multicultural competency in rehabilitation counselor education and practice; racial equity in counseling and healthcare; and recovery outcomes for women of color with significant mental illnesses. Her most recent research endeavors are examining the intersections of substance use and mental illness diagnoses on life outcomes for people experiencing rural homelessness and enhancing the cultural responsiveness of clinicians in integrated care settings for medically underserved populations. Along with an active role in administration within the college, Dr. Carey is also a founding co-director of the Center for Racial and Ethnic Equity in Health and Society (CREEHS) at UNT. CREEHS provides a platform for researchers across UNT to carry out innovative research to address the disparities and inequities in health and public systems across the State of Texas. It will also serve as a vehicle to mentor students interested in examining these critical issues and to build a cadre of future anti-racist public health and policy researchers.

“My role as the academic associate dean in HPS is an amazing platform which allows me to facilitate student success and development through working with our robust academic programs, our innovative staff and our exceptional faculty,” Dr. Carey said. “The work we do across HPS is essential to some of the most critical issues facing our society today. Strong academic programs and rigorous curriculum will undoubtedly prepare our students to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse and complex society in their careers and personal lives. I'm excited to work with Dean Dash to move forward her agenda for the college and to support our students, staff and faculty to ensure the success of the college.”

HPS also welcomes its first associate dean for research, Dr. Julia Heck. Dr. Heck, who also is a professor in RHS, researches global health and epidemiology of chronic diseases, focusing on maternal and child health, adverse birth outcomes, and cancer in children and adults. She has longstanding collaborations with colleagues in Denmark and Taiwan on studies of maternal health and pharmaceutical use during pregnancy in relation to child health. She comes to UNT from UCLA.

Replacing Dr. Carey as chair of RHS is Dr. Denise Catalano, associate professor and RHS doctoral program coordinator. Dr. Catalano’s research includes factors that impact individual resilience and ecological resilience, community participation among individuals with chronic illness and disability, and quality of life issues among individuals with chronic illness and disability.

Also joining HPS is Dr. Jody Sundt, the new chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. Dr. Sundt, who also is a professor, is an internationally recognized expert on evidence-based correctional policy, the professional development of correctional employees, and public attitudes about crime and punishment. Her work appears in journals such as Criminology, Criminology and Public Policy, Justice Quarterly, Crime and Delinquency, and Criminal Justice and Behavior. Her current research focuses on the effect of prison and jail downsizing on public safety and the development of experimental methods for small samples. In 2006, Professor Sundt was named a Distinguished New Scholar by the American Society of Criminology’s Division of Corrections and Sentencing. Her research on prison chaplaincy was recognized by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, which awarded the work the Anderson Outstanding Paper Award. She is past chair of the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Corrections and Sentencing and a former member of the executive board of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

“There is nowhere I would rather be than here, contributing to an excellent team of scholars who share my passion for justice and commitment to public service and criminal justice education,” Dr. Sundt said. “I am very excited to see what we can accomplish together.”
Dr. Lisa Dicke, professor in the Department of Public Administration, is serving as the interim chair of the Department of Social Work. Dr. Dicke’s research includes “The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector and Understanding Nonprofit Organizations” with J. Steven Ott, and “Administrative Leadership in Public Administration” with Montgomery VanWart. She recently served as symposium editor for the Journal of Health and Human Services Administration on the topic of community health and advocacy. She is interested in nonprofit and public sector leadership, accountability, ethics and nonprofit fund development. This is the second time Dr. Dicke has served as interim chair of the department.

“UNT has the best social work faculty in the country and education changes lives,” Dr. Dicke said. “Every student graduating from UNT with a bachelor’s degree in social work or a master’s degree from our joint program with TWU will make a positive difference in this world. There is no more rewarding goal than to be working with others to help bring about those positive changes.”

The new leadership spent the Fall 2020 semester settling into their roles and they all say they’re excited to continue to strengthen the reputation of HPS and its student-centered, top-tier programs.