Michael Wood, Director, Education & Workforce

While the COVID-19 pandemic is anything but over, its adverse impact on the Texas economy was relatively short-lived, said Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chairman Bryan Daniel during the Dallas Regional Chamber’s second annual State of the Workforce event.

The economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus lasted for just sixty days, Daniel said. Since hitting rock bottom in May 2020, the Texas economy has been on a steady path to recovery.

“It’s really not a recession, it’s a disaster,” Daniel said. “I can show you Hurricane Harvey numbers that will mimic the pandemic numbers a lot better than any kind of recessionary numbers that we saw in (the 2009 to 2011) timeframe.”

Now the Texas workforce has almost completely rebounded, too.

After recording historic employment figures in February 2020, the state saw sixty times the number of unemployment claims during that March and April than during the entirety of 2019. Fast forward to today, and Texas is just 125,000 workers (out of more than 13 million) shy of that all-time employment record. And the state has recorded economic growth in 16 of the last 17 months.

However, these figures don’t mean that the economy has returned to its pre-pandemic state. Rather, they underscore the need for continued innovation to keep the economy moving forward.

“This ‘new normal?’ There is nothing normal about (it),” Daniel said. “What we will have, though, are new terms, new tools, and new tactics.”

Daniel emphasized that these terms, tools, and tactics must meet the Texas economy where it currently is and needs to go, and not where it was prior to the pandemic. Example tactics include addressing Texas’ persistent middle-skills gap and ensuring upward career mobility for every worker in the state.

Additionally, the tools must match the tactics. State-sponsored virtual education programs for workers seeking a career change or short-term workforce training courses at local community colleges are two tools designed to meet the needs of the current economy.

Not every tactic will, nor should, be an immediate solution, Daniel said. Many, in fact, will require a long runway and greater coordination from the three state agencies that oversee the development of Texas’ talent pipeline: the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and TWC.

“We have to translate all the way down through school,” said Daniel. “This is a next week project and this is a (next) 20 years project, all at the same time.”

In the Dallas Region, employers and education institutions have adopted new tools and tactics amid the pandemic to address pressing workforce needs – a topic discussed by an expert panel following Commissioner Daniel’s remarks.

For example, Dallas College, Dallas County’s community college system, has leveraged local labor market data and state and federal funding to develop credentialing programs and short-term workforce training pathways aligned with regional economic needs. These initiatives, which are available for traditional students as well as incumbent or displaced workers, are designed to quickly place individuals in high-demand career pathways.

“We have developed new pathways to employment for students, (such as) training programs in logistics and supply chain, cloud support administration, and telehealth,” said Pyeper Wilkins, Vice Chancellor of Workforce and Advancement for Dallas College. “We are using (stimulus) dollars to look forward and really dig into what the labor market says we need to be training people to do now.”

Employers, too, have invested in their talent, standing up their own educational opportunities for current staff to develop new skills or hone existing ones.

On-Target Supplies and Logistics, a Dallas-based logistics management firm, launched an online learning platform to provide workers training opportunities in technology, finance, and operations during the crisis.

“The days of just moving boxes are over,” said Tre’ Black, On-Target’s CEO. “We needed to make sure our workforce not only understood technology but had greater financial awareness and operational awareness so they could help bring better efficiencies to the supply chain. So we had to do a lot of training.”

Workforce development has only been one piece of the puzzle, however, for employers throughout the pandemic. Holding onto incumbent workers amid the so-called “Great Resignation” has been a central concern.

To this end, Bank of America made significant investments in employee benefits, in addition to an assurance that no employee would be laid off as a result of the coronavirus. Improvements included bolstered dependent care benefits, mental health supports, and a $21 minimum wage, along with a commitment to increasing that minimum to $25 by 2025.

“We don’t take (retention) for granted,” said Jennifer Chandler, Dallas Market President for Bank of America. “(Our investment in employee benefits) is a statement, saying that when you come to Bank of America, you have an opportunity for a career.”

The State of the Workforce was presented by BGSF and Texas Mutual Insurance. Amazon and Bank of America were Gold Sponsors, and Oncor was a Silver Sponsor

Native American Heritage Month is celebrated every November to honor the many contributions Indigenous people have made to the United States.

As of 2020, there are 574 federally recognized Native American tribes across the country. Three federally recognized tribes live on reservations in Texas: the Alabama-Coushatta, Tigua, and Kickapoo. North Texas was the original home of many tribes, including the Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, Tawakoni, and Wichita.

The 1841 Battle of Village Creek, on the border of present-day Fort Worth and Arlington, was one of the final acts of removal of Native Americans in North Texas. After Congress passed the Indian Relocation Act to encourage Native Americans to move into urban centers, including Dallas, in 1956, more than 10,000 people from 82 tribes moved to the area. By 1983, about 20,000 Native Americans – or half of Texas’ Native American population – were living in West Oak Cliff and East Dallas. Today, Native Americans make up roughly 2% of the total U.S. population, and around 4,000 live in Dallas.

National efforts to honor Native Americans began in 1914, when Red Fox Skiuhushu, of the Blackfeet tribe, traveled from state to state on horseback to advocate for a dedicated day of observance. He secured endorsements from 24 state governments, and New York was the first state to celebrate “American Indian Day” in May 1916, with many other states following suit.

By 1986, Congress had extended the holiday to a week. Then in 1990, President George H. W. Bush declared November to be Native American Heritage Month. The City of Dallas recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time in 2019.

As we progress through the month of November, the Dallas Regional Chamber is proud to celebrate the Native American community in our region. Below are more resources to learn about observing Native American Heritage Month, especially in the workplace.

Read and Watch:


Ways to Engage:

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

More than 30 organizations from across North Texas are asking the Texas Legislature to allocate $238 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to construct an approximately 200-bed behavioral health facility to serve the Dallas-Fort Worth Region, which has no state psychiatric hospital of its own.

The facility, which would be operated by UT Southwestern Medical Center, would help reduce wait times for North Texans seeking urgent mental health care, according to Dr. Hicham Ibrahim, Associate Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Ambulatory Services at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Ibrahim was one of dozens who attended a virtual meeting organized and held by the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) regarding the hospital on Sept. 23.

“Our patients often have to wait long periods of time in emergency rooms or general hospitals before they can get admitted” to a psychiatric facility, Dr. Ibrahim told attendees. “More capacity is vital to meeting growing demand for services as the population expands and to reducing wait times. Without a significant investment in expanding the current hospital capacity, wait times will worsen,” he said.

The nearest state hospital to the DFW metro is Terrell State Hospital, which is almost 60 miles east of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

According to a review by the mental health advocacy group Treatment Advocacy Center, Dallas-Fort Worth currently has about five state hospital psychiatric inpatient beds per 100,000 residents, which is less than half the national average of 11.7 beds.

The center recommends that metro regions have 40-60 beds per 100,000 residents.

DRC Senior Vice President of Public Policy Matt Garcia told meeting attendees that proponents of the plan to fund the new state psychiatric hospital have until the end of the current special legislative session to advocate for construction funding. He noted that the Legislature previously voted during its regular session earlier this year to approve $44.8 million in state funding for the planning and land acquisition costs of a state psychiatric hospital in North Texas.

The coalition group is now hoping the Legislature will allot $238 million to complete construction funding for the project. Those funds are available as part of Texas’ $16 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding, Garcia said.

The project will be competing against numerous others, he added. The Legislature will select the projects it will fund before the end of the special session on Oct. 20.

“We’ll be drafting a delegation-wide letter, seeking support” for the legislation, Garcia said. “The more support we get, the better. We believe we’re in good position to get full funding this session.”

The coalition has already sent a letter to state lawmakers on both the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Jane Nelson (R- Flower Mound), chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, included the $238 million in funding in her bill on appropriating COVID-19 relief money, filed October 1 – an important first step for the coalition’s efforts. The bill will receive a hearing by the full Senate Finance Committee on October 4. Likewise, Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, also included the funding is his relief money bill, filed October 1.

Angelica Marin Hill, Vice President of Government Affairs & Policy at UT Southwestern, told attendees that planning has just begun for the facility and will include opportunities for community and stakeholder input. Preliminary plans call for the new facility to:

      • be an acute care, shorter-stay psychiatric hospital;
      • treat conditions that require hospitalization, such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorders, addiction, and dual-diagnoses, as well as patients who have co-existing medical and behavioral health conditions;
      • and work in conjunction with the 305-bed Terrell State Hospital, which would care for individuals on a longer-term basis.

Meeting attendees noted that the recent closures of several private mental health facilities – which often serve as backup for state hospitals – have increased the urgency for the construction of a new state psychiatric hospital for Dallas-Fort Worth.

From a national perspective, the number of mental health hospital beds has dropped precipitously since the 1950s, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

“From their historic peak in 1955, the number of state hospital beds in the United States had plummeted almost 97% by 2016,” according to the center.

Research from the center also shows that due to voids in mental health services and facilities, people with severe mental illnesses are landing in jails, prisons, and emergency rooms.

“There’s an increasing demand on police and sheriff’s deputies, who, for all intents and purposes, become frontline mental health workers,” according to the center’s report, “No Room at the Inn.”

To join the coalition supporting the funding of a state psychiatric hospital for Dallas-Fort Worth, contact Matt Garcia at mgarcia@dallaschamber.org.

Gloria Salinas, Managing Director, Economic Development

When a pandemic takes away face-to-face interaction, selling a product or service requires a major shift in sales strategy.

For Southwest Office Solutions, a small business that sells and services multi-functional printing and document management office equipment, the shuttering of corporate offices meant dramatic revenue declines. But the company’s measured redirection is already showing signs of getting Southwest back on stable footing.

“In our 56-year history, and the many recessions we have been through, we have never experienced that sudden of a drop or dramatic drop in revenue,” said Vince Puente, President of Sales and Marketing for Southwest, at a July 15 U.S. Chamber of Commerce panel of small business owners. “So, it is a new world, and it has been an amazing change, but we are working our way through it.”

In April, Southwest lost 42% of revenue compared to the previous year, followed by a 37% loss in May. Puente shared strategies, tactics, and ideas for restarting and pivoting sales initiatives during the pandemic.

Southwest receives a fraction of a cent every time a document is printed in an office. When offices are closed, printing drastically declines, and servicing in-office printing equipment is not possible. Fifty percent of Southwest’s revenues are sales, and the other profitable 50% of the business comes from service revenues, including prints.

“What has been hit very hard, very dramatically, is our service revenue. Prints are dramatically down, therefore our revenues are dramatically down,” Puente said. “If clients are not in their offices, then they are not printing. They may be printing at home, but if those devices are not on their network, then we don’t have access to monitor them and bring the level of services that we do.”

Despite an economic shutdown that has kept many offices shuttered and employees working from home since March, Southwest kept its sales team employed by changing its entire B2B sales approach. The company got creative with contract terms and offered product flexibility to support its clients.

The sales team focused engagement with clients via phone, email, or written notes to let them know Southwest was still fully operational and ready to be helpful in the new virtual world of business. Monthly sales incentives stayed intact by creating new offers for the sales team to generate and close business.

“If [a sales rep] could find a net new client, we provided them with our special reduction in prices and incentivized the rep,” Puente said. “We created very unique leasing programs. It is a 0%, 36-month lease with the first payment delayed for 90 days. The combination of those things has not been done before.”

Southwest also provided free printers for home offices, and $50-$500 gift cards to local restaurants to thank clients for doing business them and invest into other small businesses in the local economy.

“With the multiple layers of incentives, there is no margin and most likely there is actually a loss in the transaction,” Puente said. “But our objective right now is not margin or profit, our primary objective is engaging our team and clients, which generates activity and is very important for us to stay alive.”

Southwest also redirected advertising dollars to its sales initiatives. It felt now was the time to invest in clients who were still operating as opposed to advertising.

“Our advertising has always been geared toward name recognition, local ownership, and superior service, but I can take that money and back up these sales, and that has an impact on our clients and teammates,” he said. “Ultimately, what it is about is the clients, the teammates, and driving activity. Keeping our team active, keeping jobs solid, and helping our clients out.”

The key to a small business sales strategy during the pandemic is understanding your company’s products and services, and how to apply them in the new business environment, he said. Starting with a C-level executive who can introduce a decision-maker to a product or services is still the best avenue for relationship building and selling.

Relationships are the heart of small businesses such as Southwest. The company boasts client relationships that are 25-30 years old, 56% of employees have been with the company for 10 or more years, and about one-third of employees for 15-20 years or longer, Puente said.

“Our sales and our company growth are built on relationships, and our goal was to have an exchange with [clients] about business, or their family and how they were doing,” he said. “We relate to them on a personal and business level.”

Three little words

Nearly half (44 percent) of all teachers quit their profession within the first five years of starting their job, according to a study by Richard Ingersoll and his team at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

That statistic is appalling for administrators, students and parents alike, who benefit as teaching effectiveness grows with each passing year.

Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMU – Commerce) appears to have cracked the code on surviving the initial teaching hump, posting an 85 percent retention rate for teachers in their first five years.

“Texas A&M-Commerce still prides itself on a prolific production of high-quality teachers,” writes Mark J. Reid, Ph.D., associate dean at the College of Education and Human Services. “Over the last five years, the university has produced an average of over 450 new teachers each year.”

One key ingredient in the high-retention-rate secret sauce: in-class experience.

“New teachers hit the public schools ready for success because of a robust experience they obtain within a full year school internship and residency semesters,” Reid writes.

That and other preparation also contribute to a 97 percent passing rate for the initial statewide teacher certification examination, he writes.

Teachers carrying TAMU – Commerce degrees are making a strong impact on the region.

An analysis by the Center for Research, Evaluation & Advancement of Teacher Education found that TAMU – Commerce teachers were employed by 140 school districts and 45 charter schools within a 75-mile radius of the university.

“Notably, 85 percent of the teachers produced by A&M Commerce find initial employment within this zone,” Reid writes. “This trend has resulted in 26 districts that have a majority of their teachers who are graduates of the university including 173 teachers out of the 257 in Sulphur Springs ISD.”

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

A Q&A with Pamela R. Metzger of the SMU Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center

Tell us about the Deason Center.

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at the SMU Dedman School of Law collects, analyzes and assesses data to drive smart, sane and sustainable justice policies. The center then uncovers, recounts and amplifies the individual stories that bring the data to life. Together, these stats and stories make a compelling case for compassionate criminal justice.

What was your background before becoming the center’s director?

As the center’s director, I am known primarily for my defense of more than 8,000 incarcerated defendants who were left without legal representation after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The Deason Center’s research director, Dr. Andrew Davies, co-founded the Indigent Defense Research Association, the nation’s first research organization devoted to empirical study of public defense services.

What are some of the center’s projects?

Indigent Defense

The Deason Center has been retained to identify and promote data-driven best practices for the delivery of federal public defender services. This is believed to be the first research-driven effort to systematically identify which public defender practices improve case and client outcomes across multiple jurisdictions.

The Initial Appearance Project

Across the United States, newly arrested people languish behind bars for days, weeks — or even months — before they see a judge or an attorney. The Deason Center’s Initial Appearance Project documents these delays in initial appearance and assesses how they impact criminal defendants. The project includes a multistate survey of initial appearance laws. The project also supports legislation and litigation that advance the right to a prompt postarrest judicial appearance with the assistance of an attorney.

The Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project

Local prosecutors decide whether or not to charge a person with a crime and decide what charges to file. The Deason Center’s Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project explores how prosecutors engage with police, consider evidence, and assess the public’s interest in prosecution or dismissal. At the conclusion of the project, the research team will provide the participating office with key insights about its internal processes and recommendations about best practices.

Dallas County District Attorney Partnership

The Dallas County District Attorney, John Creuzot, is working with the Deason Center to explore whether or not new prosecution policies create a smarter, safer and more equitable criminal justice system. The first phase of the partnership will examine the impact of reformed misdemeanor prosecution policies, comparing data from the three years prior with data from Creuzot’s first two years in office (2019-2020). Future studies will include cost-benefit analyses, assessments of access to justice and research into the efficacy of diversion programs.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

A team of UNT faculty, staff and students working to restore DFW prairies

The Advanced Environmental Research Institute (AERI) at the University of North Texas (UNT) has been established as an Institute of Research Excellence. AERI touts a multidisciplinary team of researchers committed to collaborating on large research projects with an emphasis on application of research findings to the solutions of our most pressing environmental issues. One of the most interactive projects is the restoration of North Texas prairies.

Think of it as a sort of landlocked Noah’s Ark.

A team of University of North Texas faculty, staff and students led by Jaime Baxter-Slye, Ph.D., an instructional laboratory supervisor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has reconstructed a native Texas tall grass prairie that has become a magnet for biodiversity.

More than 200 species of plants, insects and birds have been documented at the prairie, including four to six species of native grasses, 20 species of native Texas flowering plants (including rare Maximilian sunflowers) and at least six species of predatory birds.

“From an ecological standpoint, having predatory birds means there are enough plants and habitat with insects and other animals that the birds eat,” says Baxter-Slye. “It’s functioning as an ecosystem, which is what we wanted.”

With existing prairie plants on site, Discovery Park provided an ideal location for the prairie, which was funded by the We Mean Green Fund. The habitat is located on a patch of land at Discovery Park, a nearly 300-acre, UNT-owned research park located five miles north of the main campus in Denton.

Native Texas tall grass prairie habitats are the most endangered habitat types in the Lone Star State. DFW was once home to about 40,000 acres of productive prairie land and was covered by more than 2,200 species of native plants.

Today, less than 1% of prairie ecosystems remain.

Approximately 1,500 undergraduate students and several community groups have visited and studied the Pollinative Prairie’s 8,000-plus plants since its opening, including 400 students enrolled in a newly introduced environmental science lab.

Members of the departments of Biological Sciences, Philosophy and Religion, Engineering, and Art have partnered for the project, as well as several student organizations. The project is also organized in association with Bee Campus USA, Texan by Nature, the Xerces Society Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and the Monarch Wrangler program.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

The Jane Nelson Institute for women’s leadership empowers future c-suite execs, entrepreneurs and public officials

Women hold 5% to 12% of top executive positions in U.S. corporations, according to the Pew Research Center.

The number of women in the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, is at an all-time high at 24%, but women make up 51% of the U.S. adult population.

Texas Woman’s University (TWU) is aiming to change these dynamics.

Building on historical strengths and contemporary potential, TWU is focused on preparing women to lead. In 2018, the university established the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership — the first of its kind in the state — to prepare more women to take on successful roles in business and public service. Through the institute’s three specialized centers — the Center for Student Leadership, the Center for Women Entrepreneurs and the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy — TWU ensures women have the education to establish careers as successful C-suite executives, the skills for building entrepreneurial businesses and the framework needed to run for public office.

TWU students and regional communities are given opportunities to dig deep into pressing issues for women in diverse industries, leading innovation and change. The Center for Women Entrepreneurs awards microgrants to women entrepreneurs in the region while educating ambitious women in entrepreneurship. The university has graduated founders and CEOs of successful companies such as BuzzBallz/Southern Champion, a company that started as an MBA capstone project for then-high school teacher Merrilee Kick and, in 10 years, has grown into the only woman-owned winery/distillery in the U.S. with annual revenues of $50+ million and 100 employees in 300,000 square feet of operations space. The Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy aims to address the “ambition gap” between men and women considering running for office. Through research, leadership development and “political boot camps,” the center creates a talent pipeline of female elected leaders. Students learn from political industry experts, faculty and successful formerly elected women on opportunities in the political industry.

While the institute is young and growing, the opportunity and need for diverse women leaders in entrepreneurship, business and public policy are also growing. TWU’s leadership in the space shows the importance of diversity and leadership in DFW.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

A closer look at how DFW institutions are serving the community

Serving Future U.S. Hispanic Leaders – DALLAS BAPTIST UNIVERSITY

“The lack of equality is the biggest problem in our educational system today,” says the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) at the National Hispanic Education Summit on the campus of Dallas Baptist University (DBU).

The two-day conference in October 2019 featured a schedule of presentations and panel discussions with perspectives from college students, academic officials, university presidents and church leaders centered on the theme “Commitment from the Boardroom to the Classroom: Advancing University and Faith Community Practices for Hispanic College Completion.” The goal of the annual summit is to bring higher education leaders and the church together to address best practices for successfully recruiting, retaining and graduating Hispanic college students while empowering churches to effectively counsel their Hispanic students toward the completion of higher education.

“By bringing together Hispanic leaders from a variety of industries who share a common faith, the Faith and Education Coalition, once again, empowered participants to take keen insights back to their communities …” says Dr. Nick Pitts, executive director of DBU’s Institute of Global Engagement, in event coverage on DBU’s campus news website.

DBU, a private university, is located in southern Dallas and combines faith and academic instruction to empower students to have a strong focus on increasing the number of students of color attending and completing higher education. The university often hosts national conferences focused on aligning their faith-based mission with real-world issues.

Student Grant-writing Training Through Nonprofits – AUSTIN COLLEGE

Career-connected learning can deeply impact a student’s outlook on their career path, but it can also help those who are doing the most good in the community. At Austin College, students in the Social Entrepreneurship for Poverty Alleviation (SEPA) program receive grant writing training, then go to work as interns for nonprofit agencies in the region and put that education into action. SEPA is a collaborative program between Austin College and the Texoma Council of Governments designed to engage students in community development through grant writing as an entrepreneurial endeavor. Students learn technical aspects of grant writing and get hands-on experience in the world of nonprofits.

“Each time I have an intern [from Austin College], I personally benefit from [having] someone that can help share the burden of work. [The student] helped me to make new forms, gathered new information, and made numerous contacts. Most importantly, she was able to write the case statement portion for our food assistance program, using the structure that I had already created. Her writing will easily be incorporated into what I’ve already done,” says Julie Rickey of Master-Key Ministries in a testimonial for the program.

These internships are about more than just gaining workplace experience for the students; since the program began in 2012, Austin College SEPA program interns have helped raise over $1.1 million in grant funding for the 66 local agencies served. It is not only the nonprofit agencies who are seeing the value of the program. “I loved this project. I learned so much about the non-profit world! I have definitely become extremely aware of the concerns of mental health in southern Oklahoma, and I hope that one day I will be able to make an impact in the lives of those I saw in the crisis units and clinics. In the future, I will definitely consider doing something in the mental health field as a medical doctor,” says Austin College student Helen Nguyen in a testimonial about her experience as a SEPA intern.

Finding opportunities for higher education, community organizations, and students to collaborate for impactful career-focused learning creates a win-win-win situation. “Rising tides lift all ships,” goes the old adage, which applies to the SEPA program at Austin College.

Serving a Community by Joining the Community – UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS AT DALLAS

The University of North Texas at Dallas is the only public university in Dallas, and the only university that focuses on urban Dallas students. With a soaring enrollment, UNT Dallas is recognized as the fastest-growing public university in Texas.

UNT Dallas is committed to creating pathways to socioeconomic mobility by decreasing the economic disparity that exists in higher education. By offering high-quality degree programs at low tuition costs, plus scholarships and financial aid, UNT Dallas limits burdensome student loan debt upon graduation.

A student body that is 85% Hispanic and African American,

UNT Dallas boasts the most blended diversity in Texas.
A majority are first-generation college students who come from modest economic backgrounds in urban Dallas County.

A Backbone for the Southern Region

UNT Dallas’ connection with southern Dallas communities includes unique partnerships and programs. Its Urban Institute focuses on projects that improve the social, economic and community well-being of Dallas’ southern region.

Leveraging the university’s intellectual capital and academic expertise, the Service, Education, Research, Community, and Hope (SERCH) Institute provides objective data to policy makers and community leaders while also building the capacity of individuals and organizations in the region. UNT Dallas faculty, staff and students play a vital role in SERCH initiatives. The institute serves as a key strategic component in fulfilling the university’s mission to be a catalyst in the community’s transformation.

“The SERCH Institute gives us the ability to acquire the true needs of the community,” says Keith Vinson, vice president of operations at YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. “Through the support of the SERCH Institute, we are helping the YMCAs in South and West Dallas make programs and services accessible to all. Working with the institute to complete a community needs assessment survey gives us true data directly from residents regarding their wants and needs. This information allows us to set our future priorities for programs and services. The SERCH Institute is truly an inspiring collaboration.”

If We Don’t Have It Let’s Build It

SERCH is a leader in the community, taking ownership of ongoing projects, like managing the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers for the City of Dallas’ GrowSouth initiative.
SERCH works with the community to better understand where efforts should be focused, and then UNT Dallas answers the call.

When SERCH found that southern Dallas didn’t have adequate access to healthy foods, a partnership was formed with Toyota, DART, and local vendors and organizations to create a “mobile market” to sell fruits, vegetables and other nutritive foods to residents who lack access to grocery stores.

Leadership for Those Who Serve – UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS AT DALLAS

The Caruth Police Institute (CPI) at the University of North Texas at Dallas is a partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute that will serve as the state’s premier police training, policy analysis, technical assistance and research organization.

This one-of-a-kind collaboration between mental health care, higher education and public safety was founded in 2009 with a $15 million grant from the Communities Foundation of Texas. Initially, CPI’s goal was to fulfill the complex leadership needs of the Dallas Police Department through rigorous leadership programs, workshops on health and wellness, and academic research on best practices in policing.

Today, CPI serves police departments across Texas. A dozen police chiefs from departments throughout the state serve on an executive advisory board that oversees the mission to formulate solutions to the most complex issues facing police departments, such as increasing workforce, improving community relations and reducing police suicides.

“CPI represents a unique academic-practitioner model in police science,” says CPI interim executive director B.J. Wagner. “CPI combines expertise in police policy with the ability to conduct research, evaluate programs and improve police operations, making it one of the finest law enforcement institutes in Texas and the country.”

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.


A torrent of information blazes past most of us unseen, at the speed of light.

It is light — traveling through fiber-optic cable, conveying data at 186,000 miles per second.
Then comes the slowdown: That light must be converted to electricity, to allow traditional hardware to use the data.

Qing Gu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas’ (UTD) Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, has launched a three-year project to research a way to develop microchips that will convey lightborne data.

At first, Gu considered using nano (i.e., tiny) lasers to do the job. Now she’s developing nanoscale light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which emit light when voltage
is applied.

Gu explains her idea this way: “Under applied voltage, electrons recombine with holes within the active region of the [experimental/theoretical] device, releasing energy in the form of photons [which make up light].”

Playing a key role in the process, according to Gu, is incorporating a “p-n junction diode,” which conducts electricity in one direction and blocks current from traveling in the opposite direction.

Her theory has captured the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Army Research Office, which awarded her $356,000 to develop a nano-LED technology to be used in integrated circuits.

“This cutting-edge work with nano-LEDs could have a broad impact on the Army,” says Dr. Mike Gerhold, program manager for electronics at the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. “This research could lead to the development of low-energy data communications for faster and more energy-efficient electronic systems. Other applications would include active electro-optical systems where optical beam steering and sensing is needed.”

As Gerhold mentions above, a nano-LED would represent a significant technological advancement: When a signal comes into an electronic device via optical fiber, that light signal must be converted to an electrical signal that the device’s chips can process and then must be converted back to an optical signal to communicate information to other devices. The whole process can consume a lot of energy. Not to mention that it slows down performance.

Gu says advances in technology have set the stage for higher-speed and higher-efficiency data transfer.

“Now since we’re doing so much cloud computing, cloud storage and online video gaming, we need really fast internet speeds,” Gu said. “In order to get faster internet, we need to increase the speed of data communication on the chip.”

Getting back to nano, how tiny is that?

A single human hair can measure 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers thick. The diodes that Gu is developing measure 600 nanometers in diameter and are 1,300 nanometers in height.

In order to work at that level, Gu is collaborating with Zyvex Labs — a partner in many atomic-level UTD research projects — to use an atomically precise scanning tunneling microscope to guide the nano-LED cavity through conductive material.

“Dr. Gu’s research is looking to bring the increased data speeds down to the chip level. This is both much more difficult and much more exciting,” says Dr. Lawrence Overzet, head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UTD. “Dr. Gu’s research is at the cutting edge of photonics, and we are excited about what she brings to electrical and computer engineering at UT Dallas.”

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.


Fitbits and pedometers didn’t do it for the University of North Texas (UNT) researcher Xiaohui Yuan.

So, Yuan began developing a more data-driven method to detect and track human movements, for use in technologies involved with at-home personal training via online platforms. Then, the computer science and engineering associate professor realized that the technology had many more applications.

As part of his work, he uses an infrared sensor similar to radar technology to create a 3D video. Using that video, he and a group of graduate students track the movement of human joints in relation to other parts of the body, including the fingers, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, toes and top of the head.

“Movements can essentially be broken down into different poses,” Yuan says. “There has been a lot of research about tracking movement to estimate what kind of action a person is performing. But that estimation is often inconsistent.”

He says that because the human body is three-dimensional, tracking joints can be difficult due to self-occlusion, an issue in virtual environments that occurs when part of an object overlaps itself.

“As I swing my arm, the inside of my elbow is visible. Then, as my arm bends upward, my inner arm is no longer visible and is replaced with a view of my outer elbow,” he says.

That overlap of images — also known as self-occlusion — results in a 3- to 4-centimeter error when trying to track a continuous motion, according to Yuan.

“We want to track a point consistently throughout a movement,” he says.

He believes the technology has applications in helping people do physical therapy without needing to travel to see the therapist in person, in personal fitness and in potentially improving augmented reality.

“We want to move the technology toward creating a true environmental representation in augmented reality,” Yuan says.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.


Since the 1800s (at least), the formal trial-and-error method has been the go-to discovery process for inventors.

Along the way, mostly since the 1960s, the aerospace industry started replacing metal parts with composite materials. In doing so, it’s been able to reduce aircraft weights by 20% to 40%.

The downside?

Science’s ability to develop advanced composite materials has outpaced its ability to quickly and inexpensively test them for safe use. The process of identifying and predicting weaknesses in advanced composite materials is still a work in progress. An unsettling thought, considering they’re used in both advanced military aircraft and commercial airliners.

That’s where the University of Texas at Arlington’s (UTA) Advanced Materials and Structures Lab (AMSL) team comes in.

“A known weakness of the existing progressive damage analysis methods is the lack of effective techniques to predict ultimate failure,” AMSL Director Andrew Makeev and fellow researchers Yuri Nikishkov and Dr. Guillaume Seon write in an article published in the April 2019 Journal of the American Helicopter Society.

Makeev and his team at UTA have spent years developing a new methodology that allows them to predict how certain composite materials will be affected by stress and fatigue, particularly in rotorcraft, such as helicopters, whose components experience severe stress. These predictions are based on advanced 3D CT scans and computer-generated structural-failure models.

The team presented its preliminary findings at the 72nd American Helicopter Society Forum on May 18, 2019, along with representatives from Sikorsky Aircraft and the U.S. Army Aviation Development Directorate.

Those results were part of an initiative by AMSL to form a Vertical Lift Consortium, which included experts from Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin company) and was funded by the Army National Rotorcraft Technology Center.

“AMSL has been taking essential steps toward improving confidence in material qualification [safety testing] for laminated composites,” the team’s paper states.
The work of Dr. Makeev and his team at AMSL since roughly 2010 has attracted the attention and collaboration from several organizations, including:

      • The Office of Naval Research, which in 2018 awarded the team two grants worth nearly $1.5 million; of that, a $930,000 grant will pay the team to study how the laws of physics impact manufacturing defects in composite materials; the other grant upgrades UTA’s scanning equipment, allowing AMSL researchers to examine material characterization at up to 1-micron resolution (a human hair, in contrast, is 75 microns wide)
      • Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which in 2015, awarded a $1.35 million grant to improve designs of composites to increase their durability
      • Boeing, which in 2017 awarded AMSL a $600,000 grant to help Makeev and UTA Professor Endel Iarve further develop protocols for determining when composite components might fail. Iarve, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in UTA’s Institute for Predictive Performance Methodologies, is serving as that project’s co-principal investigator.

“At the end of the research, Boeing and the Air Force want to understand and have confidence that our analysis can be used to predict the remaining useful life of composite airframe structures,” Dr. Makeev says in the spring 2018 issue of The University of Texas at Arlington Magazine.

The advances by AMSL and Makeev hold tremendous promise for the future of aviation, says Erian Armanios, chair of the UTA Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Armanios, in a news release, says that Makeev’s work helps the aircraft industry by improving sustainability, maintenance and life-cycle management.

“What Dr. Makeev is doing could have significant implications on aircraft design and certification,” Armanios says. “Developing a capability to predict composite airframe strength and durability is bound to have industry-wide implications.”

Peter Crouch, dean of the UTA College of Engineering, also in the news release, says, “It’s important for university researchers like Dr. Makeev to work hand-in-hand with companies to ensure that their work has impact beyond classroom walls, including helping our students land important jobs in those industry sectors.”

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

Leveraging a new $535M campus, a “promise” and blockchain to prep a new generation for the workforce

With thousands of jobs moving to the DFW Region and being created each day, the hunt for top talent is ever-growing. Companies need good talent — and they need it fast.

In Dallas County, tech and community college thought leaders are approaching the problem in design-thinking fashion: understanding the problem, empathizing with those involved and not being afraid to pull the trigger on unconventional solutions.

‘Promise’ of Free Higher Education

Nearly 2,000 high school students attending one of nearly 60 high schools in Dallas County have joined the Dallas County Promise program, which guarantees free tuition at any Dallas College campus and additional scholarships for free tuition at participating four-year institutions, which include UNT Dallas, SMU, Texas A&M – Commerce, Texas Woman’s University and Austin College.

“The point of Promise is to let these young students know they have options when it comes to attending a university,” says Laura Flores, an academic coach at Dallas College. “When you tell a student that, yes, college is for them, it not only impacts the student’s life, it changes the lives of their parents and the community in a
very positive way.”

Promise is funded by federal financial aid dollars and the Dallas College Foundation, effectively removing financial barriers that keep Dallas County students from attending college. The program was launched in 2017 and has expanded to 57 high schools across 11 public school districts and will eventually encompass all high schools in Dallas County.

A New Kind of Downtown Campus

Perhaps the largest single demonstration of support for upskilling Dallas County’s workforce in recent memory occurred during the May 2019 election. In that election, nearly three-fourths of all votes cast in Dallas County approved the sale of a $1.1 billion bond, about half of which will build a state-of-the-art education and innovation hub in Downtown Dallas.

The hub is a brainchild resulting from DFW bids for corporate HQs, creating a campus that includes community colleges, four-year universities and industry all utilizing the space as a cohesive workforce pipeline. “Not every HQ happens,” Dallas College Chancellor Dr. Joe May said in an article in D Magazine, “but we still believe very strongly that what we need is an active, robust spectrum of learning opportunities.”

May says that the college district is growing fast enough to justify the new space. From fall 2013 to fall 2018, enrollment grew by 13 percent, from 73,206 students to 82,800. The district projects 92,000 students by 2030. The growth, May says, comes in large part from increased partnerships with regional school districts, many of which now allow students to earn Dallas College credit while still in high school. The district also works with local employers to create and grow targeted programs to the area’s labor-market needs.

“We’re looking at the building creating a flexible environment that we can adapt as we need to make changes in the programs to best fit the needs here,” says May.

Connecting the Dots for Credentials, Higher Education and Employers

The GreenLight Academic Credentials initiative is quickly gaining traction, according to its founder, Manoj Kutty.

“More than 10,000 students and alumni from Dallas College have already taken ownership of their credentials and started sharing them with academic institutions across the country,” he says, adding that more than 200 educational institutions nationwide are using GreenLight.

So far, Kutty’s team has migrated 1.7 million user records to GreenLight. More than 10,000 students have given GreenLight permission to release their transcripts.

Here’s how it works: First, students must give consent to having their academic records incorporated into the GreenLight database; the platform then acts like a sort of LinkedIn but with credentials that have been verified by established institutions (goodbye, padded resumes).

Kutty and GreenLight Chief Product Officer Shikant Jannu foresee the day when the platform is adopted by institutions of higher education nationwide. GreenLight is a particularly powerful tool for employers that are seeking people who have learned niche skills under specific instructors or programs; it’s also an effective recruiting tool for universities that are seeking applicants by particular academic category or credential. And a growing number of Dallas County high school students are increasing their credentials through Dallas County Promise.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.


When a 66-inch sewer line broke in Arlington, Texas’ Interlochen neighborhood in 2016, the city decided that rather than tearing up miles of sewer mains and a community, it would partner for a smarter solution.

City of Arlington workers teamed up with the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) to deploy a sensor-laden floating robot to scan the sewer system and gather data that was then analyzed by researchers at UTA. The research team, led by UTA civil engineering chair Ali Abolmaali, developed software that allowed the team to predict the remaining lifespan of existing pipes.

The system saved the city roughly $17 million, Abolmaali estimates.

“Before, if they doubted [the integrity of sewer lines], they would replace the entire line,” he says.
The sewer robot drone was also deployed in the mains in Arlington’s entertainment district, which includes AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park, the new Texas Rangers stadium.

The City of Houston has signed a contract to deploy the robots to analyze portions of its sewer system, says Walter “Buzz” Pishkur, retired city water utility director of the City of Arlington. Pishkur says the program could revolutionize how city sewer lines are maintained.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.


Social media is more than just a way to blow off a little steam or to peruse family and acquaintances’ goings-on. It also provides a window into how things work.

Barbara Minsker, civil and environmental engineering chair at SMU Lyle School of Engineering, and her research team are using social media platforms and Big Data to improve the sustainability and resilience of complex environmental and human systems.

One of their research projects uses crowdsourcing data from Waze, the GPS navigation software app owned by Google, to assess street-level flash-flood risk and locate the safest routes for first responders during intense rainfall. The project is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for the Public Safety Accelerator Innovation Program.

“Right now, the first responder’s routing algorithms assume roads are empty, which is never true in Dallas,” Minsker says. “With the Waze data, we want to provide real-time information to Dallas Fire Rescue by estimating the risk of delay or accident when they send out fire trucks to rescue people.”
Crowdsourcing comes into play when people post street flood alerts on Waze. Minsker’s team identifies where the Waze flood alerts have been reported over a several-year period, compares that data to how much rainfall is recorded and factors in other road characteristics.

“By combining the Waze data with topography and land characteristics, we were able to identify how reliable the Waze flood alerts are and found that 90% are located within 100 feet of depressions that could be prone to flooding,” Minsker adds. The team is now building flood risk models that can then be used for mapping safer routes. Future work with the City of Houston will also incorporate traffic camera videos for further verification of the Waze flood alerts.

Minsker and her students completed another research project that explores how social media data and online stakeholder input can support the design of urban green infrastructure, such as rain gardens. “Social media postings are used to identify where new green infrastructure is located and what people like and don’t like about the installations to help better design green infrastructure spaces,” Minsker explains.

The opportunities for using data like Minsker’s are endless. She and her team have only scratched the surface of how her research can impact social, policy and economic issues in the DFW Region.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

Meet the teams of students who are ready to solve your business problems

Artificial Intelligence guru Dave Copps was stumped. The cornerstone of his new company, Hypergiant Sensory Sciences, was based on teaching computers to see things the way humans do.

Copps was trying to develop a quick, inexpensive way to obtain a three-dimensional scan of a real-world setting.

“We wanted the ability to walk around the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) campus, for instance, to wave your phone around, to generate a 3D model,” Copps says. “We didn’t want to buy a $50,000 scanner.”

Copps then turned to the UTDesign Capstone program that, for a fee and on certain conditions, will connect senior-level engineering students and a faculty member with companies looking to solve problems.

“For $8,000, you can have a group of students, led by a professor, working on a problem you’d like to solve for your business,” Copps told a room full of business, tech and government leaders who gathered at a June 2019 DRC event that explored artificial intelligence. “What we did is, we took a problem that we didn’t think was solvable. We figured we might have some fun with this and make these students really frustrated. But … they came back with an answer.”

He says the UTD grad students proved to be valuable because they provided a vision for what the future looks like — not just an academic understanding of what artificial intelligence is.

“The result was spectacular,” Copps says, in later hindsight. “We ended up hiring one of the students who worked on the project. He’s now full-time.”

“We went up there on the first day, had a three-hour meeting with them on what we wanted to do,” Copps says. “We really briefed them on the concept and the project. We gave them a clear vision of what they were going to work on. We checked in with them every couple weeks and brought them into our office. It was very collaborative and very interactive.”

Copps is one of hundreds of industry leaders to take advantage of UTDesign Capstone program. Students finishing out degrees in bioengineering and mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science take part in the program.

“Not including this semester, we’ve had 702 corporate-sponsored projects,” says Rod Wetterskog, assistant dean of the Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and coordinator of the UTDesign Studio, adding that nearly 3,800 students have completed projects since the program started at UTD in 2009. UTD teams have dominated competitions against other Capstone programs across the years.

In June 2019, UTDesign scored its fifth consecutive first-place prize at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference, hosted by Penn State Behrend. Since 2014, UTD engineering teams have received top honors in student project competitions at the biennial Capstone Design Conference.

One of the higher-profile companies to use the program is State Farm, which sought out talent for its Drive Safe & Save initiative, and other projects.

State Farm leases space on the UTD campus in Richardson, where students work at company-branded workspaces, access them through passcards and log their hours like employees. The State Farm/UTD collaboration has been in place since 2015. Roughly 15 students have internships per semester.

Some of those students helped State Farm develop the aforementioned Drive Safe & Save program, which gives drivers a discount based on their driving. The app also scores drivers, letting them know how they can improve.

“They’ve worked on a number of projects, including in the [State Farm] telematics space,” says Mike Fletcher, enterprise technology executive at State Farm’s CityLine campus in Richardson. “We have given them a topic to help stretch us a bit. It’s been fascinating.”

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.


Imagine transforming how things are made. That’s what the University of North Texas’ (UNT) Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing aims to do.

Launched in 2018, the center is honing manufacturing technologies to better build complex 3D objects, with the goal of creating viable market-based solutions for almost every industry, from operating rooms to oil fields, while producing practically zero waste and substantial cost savings.
Since it opened, the center has become one of the most advanced university research facilities in the nation for materials analysis, allowing collaboration among students, faculty and industries.

Additive manufacturing may sound complicated, but the theory isn’t. Instead of building a sandcastle by subtracting sand away from a pile until the structure appears, imagine adding sand beginning at the bottom and moving up layer by layer until a castle is built. In the application of additive manufacturing, the grains of sand would be placed one at a time in a specific order, predetermined by an enhanced computer design.

“Additive manufacturing is a new area of engineering,” says Rajarshi Banerjee, Regents Professor and director of UNT’s Materials Research Facility. “As such, there are many unexplored areas and unanswered questions. For example, we are finding that the structure of certain metallic materials has fundamentally changed after going through this process. The aluminum alloy powder used to create a component using additive manufacturing technology may look the same and be chemically similar to those produced using traditional manufacturing, but it has a different microscopic structure and properties. The question we are trying to answer is ‘Why?’”

Most additive manufacturing involves plastics and polymers; UNT has expanded the materials involved to include metals, ceramics and metal-ceramic composites. Due to the change that occurs to materials during processing, Banerjee’s research also involves the creation of additive-manufacturing-specific alloys. These alloys are better adapted to additive manufacturing processes and provide for a consistent end product.

The center received a $10 million boost from the 86th Texas Legislature, further advancing its work — dubbed “a fourth Industrial Revolution” — the fusion of manufacturing design, process and production.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

Founded in 2018, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s University Partnerships initiative works to build a robust college-to-career pipeline between Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and corporations. Together, HSIs, the private sector and the Foundation work to enhance career readiness for students, all while building an employable talent pool.

When initiative organizers were looking for the foundation’s first chair, they looked to a long-time leader in Hispanic higher education at one of DFW’s HSIs: the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Michele Bobadilla, assistant provost for Hispanic student success and senior associate vice president for outreach services and community engagement at UTA, has proven to be more than up for the challenge.

“The initial focus of University Partnerships will be to identify strong regional matches between universities, community colleges and businesses working with Hispanic chambers of commerce across the state and begin to network the entities and leverage shared resources,” Bobadilla says in an article on UTA’s news website. “There are multiple reasons why UTA is the right institution to spearhead this effort.”

UTA serves more Hispanic students than any other four-year public university in DFW and is one of only 10 universities in the nation to achieve the designation of both HSI and R-1: Highest Research Activity in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Bobadilla says she has already begun working with industry leaders to cultivate paid internships and experiential learning opportunities. “Internships are critical for career success and must be paid in order for students, many of whom are first generation and working their way through college, to be able to afford the opportunity,” she says.

Nina Vaca, chair of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, adds, “I am so proud that the USHCC Foundation has embarked on this legacy initiative with two such distinguished partners. With Texas as our launching point, our goal is to expand the University Partnerships initiative nationwide and to include as many university and corporate partnerships as possible. Our ultimate vision is to permanently impact the career trajectories of the next generation of Hispanic entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.”

The DFW Region is home to four Hispanic- or minority-serving institutions: the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of North Texas at Dallas, Texas Woman’s University and Texas A&M University – Commerce.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

What if access to more computing power, data and software were no longer a problem?

Advances in computing power and data storage are two developments that have brought us to where we are today: carrying around smartphones more powerful than the on-board computer that sent Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon, with enough memory for 12,000 books. Yet, developers often hit a wall with modern-day, on-site computing performance, data-flow speeds and hardware limitations.

What if access to more computing power, data and software were no longer a problem? Surgeons living in Dallas could remotely perform surgeries in operating rooms on the polar opposite end of the Earth. Devices could gauge your physical and mental condition and alter the performance of your phone (or other device) accordingly. Entire virtual battleships — right down to their individual components — could be conjured into cybernetic existence.

That’s what Suku Nair — director of the SMU AT&T Center for Virtualization — his colleagues and industry partners are working on. Aside from AT&T, Nair is collaborating with Google, Ericsson and L3Harris on a number of projects.

Virtualization, simply put, is the creation of devices, machines and systems in software, resulting in simulated, yet real-world, behavior. Nair says the center is currently working on virtual solutions that would impact the telecom industry, for enterprise applications (such as the surgical example above) and for improved user experiences. Virtualization is already occurring at SMU at the university level — Nair is working with scientists and PhD students across the campus.

According to Nair, some of the MORE notable projects of the Center include:

The Virtualization of Communications

Telecom companies — in general — are working with virtualization to make their networks more efficient, adaptive and durable. Currently, many networks are set up with a large, complex system of routers and switches that make the decisions for connections. Virtualization – directing the intelligence and software to the cloud would create software-defined networks. Such capabilities will likely be essential for the successful deployment of 5G networks.

In days past, telecoms built networks by dispatching trucks every few months or years packed with replacement switches, routers, etc. It was laborious and slow.

“We don’t have that luxury anymore,” Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs, and chief technology officer at AT&T, said during the 2016 launch of the center. “We’re virtualizing those specialized network appliances and turning them into software running on servers and other standard hardware. You can add, shift and upgrade capabilities at internet speed. It’s the future, and this new AT&T Center for Virtualization will help us get there faster.”

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

Virtual reality and augmented reality are becoming ubiquitous, turning up in classrooms, theaters and even at jobsites for employee training. SMU’s advanced videogame development program Guildhall is collaborating with the Virtualization Center to develop software and to speed up networking performance, with the goal of creating a high-quality VR/AR experience.

Creating “Aware” Systems

While the center is focusing on applications of tech involving cybersecurity, software, machine learning, algorithms, etc., Nair says researchers are also developing solutions to specific
problems and situations.

For example, if a device can tell its user is operating at less-than-peak capacity — Nair cites an example of a person’s fatigue — their device performance will change to meet those needs.

“You might be looking at an app on your phone screen,” Nair says. “We will look at the dimensions of your pupils, and based on the input, we can change the interface for you. If you’re up to your full potential, you’ll see all the bells and whistles — or fewer.”

Another example Nair cites is that if a device detects someone behind its user, the device’s screen might autonomously darken, to hide the data from prying eyes. What, if anything,
might limit virtualization?

“Obviously performance [in the speed of data flow] is a key requirement when we try to mimic reality,” Nair says. “We need to figure out which part of the virtualization takes priority. For example, if the DoD [Department of Defense] wants to build digital twins [of hardware]with identical behavior,” he says. “A ship is a complex system. How do you virtualize all of [the ship’s workings] at the same time? It becomes a big problem.”

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.

A Q&A with TAMU - Commerce Dean and Professor of Management, Shanan Gwaltney Gibson, Ph.D.

How did L3Harris connect with the College of Business (CoB) to create the program?

The program was conceptualized by L3Harris VP of Human Resources Tom Brown and a business area VP, Jack Cooke. Mr. Cooke was on the Business Executive Advisory Board of the CoB. Upon his retirement from L3Harris in 2009, he joined the full-time faculty of the CoB and initiated the cohort program with the assistance of Dean Dr. Hal Langford.

Is the cohort-based management degree available solely to L3Harris employees?

Yes, students are selected by L3Harris management for the cohort. L3Harris pays for all tuition, fees and materials required. Right now, the MS management class has about 115 students enrolled.

What sorts of theories, scenarios and lessons are in the curriculum?

The curriculum is essentially the same as the Master of Science Management degree for other graduate students of the college, with the addition of a graduate course in business law that has been taught by an L3Harris corporate lawyer. The electives are, in actuality, prescribed and include courses in human resource management, managing groups and teams, leadership theory and practice, and transforming organizations. The cohort approach allows the instruction to be tailored to L3Harris by teaching generalized theory and then mapping it to company practice. Cases, class projects and the participation of L3Harris executives and midlevel managers are included in the lectures.

Do these classes help student employees advance in the L3Harris organization? How?

Yes, the students have previously been identified by L3Harris management in their human resources review process as candidates for development and advancement. The degree is just one step in a program that includes in-house mentorship and instruction to prepare candidates to assume management positions within the corporation. A number of the graduates have been promoted to project and functional management positions within the company.

Is this scalable?

Yes, we are looking to expand this model and make it available to other organizations that see benefit in a program that includes a strategic partnership with an AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business)-accredited college of business.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.