Inspiring Progress, Empowering Innovators:
Celebrating 15 Years of Excellence in Information Science, Learning Technologies, and Linguistics
At the heart of UNT’s College of Information, we nurture student curiosity and prepare them to successfully embrace creativity and navigate the complexities of information. From cutting-edge research to the transformative impact of global technology and language, our diverse departments collectively shape minds and transform futures.
Over the years, we've embraced change, challenged norms, and pushed boundaries, all in pursuit of shaping a future that is brighter, smarter, and more innovative. As we gather to celebrate 15 years of collaboration, we reflect on the achievements that have redefined industries, transformed lives, and set new benchmarks for what's possible.
Beginning in 1909 when the first courses in Manual Training were introduced at UNT, then continuing through 2014 when the Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication separated and Linguistics joined the College of Information as a dynamic program, learn about each pivotal moment and eventual formation of the College of Information in 2008.
We invited alumni of the Departments of Learning Technologies and Information Science who graduated in 2008, the year the college was formed, and 2014, the year the Linguistics Program joined the college, to recount their memories of COI’s formative years. Here are the stories that have been shared with us so far. More will be added as they are collected:
- Kate Farmer, B.A. Linguistics ’10, M.A. Linguistics ‘14
Kate Farmer, GSK, Director of NLP/Voice of Customer, has consistently found herself at the cutting edge of language technologies. Kate completed her studies in 2014, when UNT’s Department of Linguistics merged with the College of Information. Although cross- disciplinary courses in computational linguistics were not yet established, Kate’s interest in computation and cognitive processing led her to work as a research fellow in Dr. Neilson’s computer science lab. This lab focused on natural language processing and artificial intelligence, fueling Kate’s ambition to pursue a Ph.D. in computational linguistics and cognitive science. While waiting for a spot in the program, she volunteered at an AI lab at UC Boulder in Colorado.
Afterward, Kate decided to explore industry opportunities, quickly realizing the relevance of her skills. She secured her first job as a computational linguist at LexisNexis in North Carolina. During this time, Kate taught herself Python and machine learning. Subsequently, she embarked on a new venture with two startup companies. At the first startup, she served as a Senior Data Scientist in marketing analytics but discovered her true passions are in language-based data. This realization led her to a role at Edify, where she led an engineering team working on a chatbot integrated with Slack to streamline the onboarding process for new team members.
Currently, Kate serves as the Director of NLP/Voice of Customer at GSK, a pharmaceutical company. In this role, she leads a team that collects unstructured data in the form of text, such as call notes, clinical notes, and social media posts. Their goal is to analyze this data, identify gaps in care, and pinpoint barriers to implementing research-based care strategies. Kate’s position showcases the intersection of linguistics, natural language processing, and data analysis, allowing her to leverage her skills to improve healthcare outcomes.
Reflecting on her time at UNT’s Department of Linguistics, Kate commends the professors and the fascinating classes she attended. While specializing in cognitive and computational linguistics, she appreciated the program’s flexibility, enabling her to explore courses from various disciplines. Notably, sociolinguistics classes taught by Dr. Cukor-Avila had a profound impact on her. One course, focusing on language and gender, shed light on the complexities of linguistic discrimination, providing insights into biases and societal challenges.
Kate also had the privilege of studying under Dr. Haj Ross, a professor who made a lasting impression. In a memorable seminar on semantics, students were challenged to define a chair, encompassing all objects that qualify as chairs while excluding non-chairs. After a three-hour debate, the class failed to reach a definitive answer. Kate often recounts this anecdote to emphasize the complexity of natural language processing (NLP) problems when discussing challenges with colleagues.
For current linguistics students, Kate emphasizes the importance of continuous learning. As NLP and computational linguistics rapidly evolve, individuals must evaluate new techniques and approaches, determining their applicability. Kate highlights the significance of a strong theoretical foundation, as the fundamentals remain constant even as specific methodologies change. A robust understanding of linguistics enables computational linguists to anticipate complexities and societal biases, setting them apart in the job market.
Kate Farmer’s journey from UNT to her current role exemplifies the fusion of linguistics and technology. By pushing boundaries and bridging gaps, she continues to make valuable contributions in the field of language technologies, underscoring the transformative potential of this interdisciplinary field.
- Thomas Finley ‘08, M.S. Library Science
The Frisco community is abuzz with excitement as the Frisco Public Library unveils its newly redesigned space, offering a host of innovative features and a strong emphasis on user experience. Spearheading this transformation is Thomas Finley, an experienced librarian with a deep commitment to community engagement.
Thomas Finley’s library career began at the Dallas Public Library, where he worked in adult services before transitioning to youth services and eventually becoming the Branch Manager. He attributes his success to the MS Library Science program at the University of North Texas (UNT), which provided him with a solid foundation to serve the community’s current and future needs.
What Thomas enjoys most about his job is the opportunity to interact with community members and understand how to best meet their needs. As we explored the new and beautifully functional space, it was evident that Thomas takes great pride in the accomplishments of the library. To ensure excellence, he and his team embarked on a nationwide tour, studying best practices from libraries across the country to incorporate into the redesign. The focal point of the new space is “Rexy,” a community-selected name for a replica of a female Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Reflecting on a pivotal moment in his career, Thomas recalls the excitement surrounding the 2008 merger of the Department of Learning Technologies with the Department of Information Science. This union marked a milestone for the future of library science. According to Thomas, having access to information and organizational skills alone is not enough. The merger opened the door to cross-disciplinary coursework, connecting library science with technology and learning theory. This integration is vital for creating exceptional user experiences, particularly in public libraries.
During the tour, Thomas showcased an advanced conveyor belt system that uses technology to efficiently manage and sort returned books. This system has significantly reduced wait times, greatly benefiting library users. Additionally, he highlighted the library’s study and work rooms, a maker’s space where patrons were engaged in 3D printing Pokémon, and a captivating children’s story time area. The library’s design clearly demonstrates careful consideration of optimizing space usage for all community members.
Thomas’ decision to pursue UNT’s library science program was influenced by a friend already enrolled in the program. Intrigued by the coursework, research opportunities, esteemed professors, and hands-on practicum experiences, Finley, who has a personal interest in rare book collections, discovered that his passions align with the profession of a librarian.
For aspiring librarians, Thomas offers valuable advice. He advises patience while exploring different specializations and available positions in the field. He also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a passionate drive rooted in their initial inspiration. For Thomas, his background in music and rare book collections fuels his dedication to providing information, entertainment, and essential services to the Frisco community.
With Thomas Finley’s visionary leadership and the unveiling of the Frisco Public Library’s state-of-the-art space, the community can anticipate a modern and inclusive hub that caters to their diverse needs.
Watch a video interview with Thomas Finley
- Alec Beckham, B.A. Linguistics ’12, M.A. Linguistics ‘14
Classroom 2 Community (C2C), a non-profit organization formerly known as the Literacy Council of Montgomery County, is dedicated to fostering education, empowerment, and equity. C2C’s mission centers around adult education, with a strong focus on English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED preparation. Over the past year, they have expanded their offerings to include college preparatory classes, a computer literacy series, and an entrepreneurship program. Notably, Alec recently designed an IT Fundamentals course to enhance career prospects for women and marginalized communities.
Alec’s teaching journey began at the Intensive English Language Institute, where they served as an English Instructor. They had the opportunity to teach abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan, an experience they hold dear as one of their favorites. Teaching non- native speakers allowed them to view education and life from an immigrant perspective, gaining valuable insights into the challenges and triumphs of language learners.
Additionally, Alec has taught courses at various community colleges, including Maryland’s Howard Community College. Drawing on their extensive experience, Alec has transformed the program, courses, and curriculum at Classroom 2 Community, resulting in increased outreach, a wider range of offerings, and greater student success. Consequently, the organization continues to grow its services.
Reflecting on their time at the University of North Texas (UNT), Alec holds fond memories. They credit Dr. Nancy Caplow, their undergraduate linguistics professor, as a role model who transitioned from a successful career in geology to becoming a linguist. Caplow’s journey inspired Alec and instilled the confidence to pursue their passion. Alec also cherishes the numerous experiences with Dr. Haj Ross, a professor who encouraged students to embrace curiosity and approach life with an open heart. Among their graduate studies, Alec particularly enjoyed the field methods class with Dr. Montler, where they analyzed Javanese alongside a visiting scholar. Their education in linguistics, coupled with their extensive teaching experience, has paved the way for Alec’s current position, providing them with the opportunity to help individuals achieve their goals while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
At Classroom 2 Community, Alec’s contributions have been instrumental in empowering learners and expanding the organization’s reach. With a steadfast commitment to education, empowerment, and equity, C2C continues to make a lasting impact on adult learners, offering a diverse array of programs that cater to the needs of the community. Alec’s dedication to improving career outcomes for women and marginalized communities through the IT Fundamentals course exemplifies their commitment to creating a more equitable society.
Alec’s journey from UNT to their current role showcases the profound influence educators can have on individuals and communities alike. By empowering learners and expanding opportunities, Alec’s work at Classroom 2 Community exemplifies the organization’s mission to build a stronger, more inclusive society through education.
- Ann Blackman ‘11 M.S. in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems (now M.S. in Learning Technologies)
In 2008, Ann Blackman had a conversation with a colleague that would change the course of her career. Prior to this discussion, Ann had spent six years searching for an educational technology graduate program, but it felt like finding a needle in a haystack. Ann’s colleague shared their plans to pursue the Master of Science program in Learning Technologies at UNT (formerly CECS, Computer Education and Cognitive Systems), which was a light bulb moment. Ann’s six-year search was finally over.
At the time, Ann was the Convergence Technology Center Program Manager (now she is Executive Director of Technology Support) at Collin College, and educational technology was a relatively new field. Ann wanted to connect the praxis of learning theory to her work and was accepted into the CECS graduate program. She found herself using the skills she gained from this program every day, explaining that the program not only validated her instincts about the best way for people to learn but also equipped her with solid learning theory.
The combination of tech knowledge and learning theory gave Ann the confidence and opportunities she needed to become a leader in her field. She fondly remembers how the program was instrumental in rebranding the college to the "College of Information." It seamlessly merged the realms of information science and learning technologies, creating a unique interdisciplinary approach.
Ann praises her advisors and mentors, Drs. Scott Warren and Cathie Norris, for their unwavering support and personalized guidance. They helped her navigate the program's early days when there were no set procedures. But Ann's story doesn't end with her own success. She has given back to the college in remarkable ways. She founded the COI Alumni Club, established the COI Alumni Society Scholarship for COI graduate students, and served as a chair on the college leadership board for years. Her motivations were twofold: she wanted to help the Learning Technologies department grow by providing feedback in its early stages, and she empathized with the challenges faced by graduate students juggling work, family, and education.
Today, Ann continues to share her knowledge as an adjunct instructor. Her favorite students to teach are incoming freshmen, whom she reminds that the career she enjoys today didn't even exist when she was in their shoes. She encourages them to pursue their passions and envision their future careers, even if those careers haven't been invented yet. Ann's story is one of resilience, adaptability, and the power of education to transform lives.
- Chris Morphew, B.A. Linguistics ’12, M.A. Linguistics ‘14 with TESOL certificate
When asked about Dr. Haj Ross, Chris Morphew fondly recalls the invaluable lessons he learned from his esteemed professor. Dr. Ross instilled in him a love for language, the ability to analyze language from a holistic perspective, critical thinking skills, and the courage to take risks. Chris attributes his open-mindedness, pursuit of his passions, and newfound perspective on the world to Dr. Ross and the Linguistics department at UNT.
Chris embarked on his career as an ESL Instructor at UNT’s Intensive English Language Institute immediately after graduating. He then transitioned to Howard Community College, where he held various roles, including Program and Academic Support Coordinator. Currently, Chris serves as the Associate Director of Operations at Classroom 2 Community (C2C), where he coordinates schedules for a wide range of programs, from ESL and GED to Digital Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Citizenship, and contract classes. Additionally, he develops grant and foundation applications at the local, state, and federal levels for the organization. C2C is committed to promoting education, empowerment, and equity.
During his master’s degree program, Chris worked at UNT’s Intensive English Language Institute, teaching communication and writing classes for three years. He also mentored new teachers, developed assessments, and created supplementary teaching materials. In 2016, Chris relocated to Maryland, joining Howard Community College as a teacher. With his linguistics background, he was considered an expert and quickly assumed positions of increasing responsibility, such as Program Support Coordinator, Academic Support Coordinator, and World Languages and Academic Support Coordinator.
Chris thoroughly enjoyed managing programs for the local community, immigrants, refugees, and international students. His role involved coordinating around 60 faculty members teaching a diverse range of courses, from intensive English to survival English and various world languages.
At this moment, Chris recalls the influence of Dr. Haj Ross, who encouraged him to play with language and view his students as valuable sources of knowledge. Dr. Ross fostered an environment of collaborative learning, where both the students and the professor could learn from one another. This approach empowered Chris to take risks and develop essential life skills. It also contributed to his growth as an ESL teacher, as he fearlessly embraced new teaching methods and approaches in the classroom.
Chris also fondly remembers his experiences with Dr. Montler, Dr. Munshi, and Dr. Cukor-Avila during his linguistics classes. These courses honed his critical thinking abilities, introduced him to field methods, morphology, and language analysis, and provided a holistic perspective on languages. The knowledge he gained from his linguistics education enabled him to take risks, such as studying abroad in Italy and embarking on a transformative journey to Africa with the campus ministry. Through his linguistics studies, Chris learned to embrace change and accept it objectively, even if his subjective preferences differed. He emphasizes the inclusive nature of Dr. Ross’s class, where no topic was off-limits. Dr. Ross validated his students’ ideas, inspiring them and fostering personal growth.
Chris Morphew’s career demonstrates the profound impact of a linguistics education. From his early experiences at UNT to his current role at C2C, he continues to draw on the lessons learned from Dr. Ross and other linguistics professors. His linguistic foundation not only shaped his professional trajectory but also cultivated a mindset of exploration, risk-taking, and appreciation for the intricacies of language.
- Jennifer Jimenez ‘08, M.S. Information Science
Jennifer Jimenez embarked on her library science journey at the University of North Texas during an exciting time - the establishment of the College of Information. Having joined the master’s program in 2006, Jennifer vividly recalls the anticipation among professors as they approached this significant milestone. UNT had been training library and information science professionals since 1939, but it was during her tenure that the department reached new heights. The program’s unique blend of on-campus and online classes initially attracted Jennifer, who sought the flexibility to work full-time while pursuing her degree.
Jennifer’s interest in library work blossomed during her undergraduate years at the University of Texas, where she served as a work-study employee at the Benson Latin American Library. Her experience sparked a passion for libraries, prompting her to enroll in UNT’s program. While completing her degree, she held a health and safety job in South Texas, followed by a position as a reference/children’s librarian at a local county library. The fully online program provided Jennifer with the flexibility to balance her work commitments while advancing her education. Despite the remote nature of the program, she emphasizes the strong connection she felt with professors and fellow classmates.
During her studies, Jennifer seized a reference assistant position at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, where she enjoyed assisting students - particularly first-generation students - with their research needs. Upon graduation, she began working at Coastal Bend College as a Distance Librarian, eventually transitioning to the role of Interim Library Director. After seven years, she returned to Del Mar College, where she has served as a Reference/e- Resource Librarian for the past seven years. Her work involves providing face-to-face assistance to members of the college community, managing databases, troubleshooting technical issues, and teaching classes. Recently, she earned a promotion to the rank of Assistant Professor of Learning Resources.
Recalling her time in the MS Information Science program, Jennifer cherishes the teaching style of Dr. Ana Cleveland, finding her classes both intriguing and enjoyable. Additionally, she appreciates the insight shared by Dr. Moen, who revealed his prior career as a truck driver before transitioning into academia. This revelation broadened Jennifer’s perspective, emphasizing that librarians come from diverse backgrounds, and their life experiences enhance their contributions to the information service industry.
For current students, Jennifer offers valuable advice: Explore different paths within the information and library science profession to find what aligns with their needs and aspirations. She encourages paraprofessionals to pursue their degrees, enabling them to continue working in a field they love while advancing into positions that empower them to make a greater impact on their communities. Jennifer highly recommends UNT’s fully online program, which offers a generous completion timeframe of up to five years, facilitating a seamless integration of education and practical experience.
Outstanding Mentors Recognized
In a tribute to mentorship excellence, the College of Information (COI) celebrated its 15th Anniversary on November 10th, 2023, by honoring four exceptional mentors who have significantly contributed to the success of students in the Dr. Yvonne J. Chandler Mentorship Program.
This unique program, a highlight of each semester, pairs students with distinguished alumni and industry professionals aligned with their majors. The goal is to provide students with valuable insights into their chosen fields and foster meaningful connections with seasoned professionals.
For this anniversary celebration, mentees were given the opportunity to nominate their mentors, resulting in a commendable list of finalists curated by the selection committee. The following mentors were recognized for their outstanding contributions:
- Gwen Morel Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Director of Digital Learning
- Roy Cummings Georgia Public Library Digital Communications Manager
- Dr. Sharad Sharma Director of UNT’s Data Visualization and Extreme Reality Lab and Professor of Data Science
- Jiankun Liu Amazon Web Services Software Development Manager
These mentors stood out for their dedication to guiding and shaping the next generation of professionals in their respective fields. The mentorship program continues to play a pivotal role in fostering a strong network of support and guidance within the College of Information. COI extends its sincere congratulations to these outstanding mentors for their well-deserved recognition.
Outstanding Alumni Recognized
UNT’s College of Information proudly recognized three outstanding alumni whose exceptional journeys and contributions have left an indelible mark on the fields of learning technologies, library science, and linguistics. Read more about the 2023 College of Information alumni award recipients for Alaina Doyle, Learning Technologies, Roosevelt Weeks, Information Science, and Lisa Jeon, Linguistics.
For the College of Information’s 15th anniversary celebration, we invited COI student poster submissions to share the latest research in the fields of Information Science, Learning Technologies, and Linguistics. Student research helps the College of Information Inspire Progress with opportunities to “Be Curious” to learn, create, discover, innovate, and collaborate. Selected COI student posters were prominently displayed at Discovery Park during the 15th Anniversary Open House on Nov. 10, 2023. Three students received award recognition based on these areas of judging criteria: content quality, structure, research question, clarity, methodology, illustration (graphics), conclusion, and reference.
Student Poster Awards
Bhoj Raj Bhatt, Mobile App for Object Tracking and Location-Based Data for Time Series Analysis, 1st Place
Sri Chandra Dronavalli, Crime Data Analysis and Visualization through HoloLens 2 and Oculus Quest Pro, 2nd Place
Manar Alsaid, Reducing Uncertainty and Social Noise Caused by Misinformation on Social Media Platform, 3rd Place
Featured Student Posters
The following students were selected from a large field of submissions for the anniversary poster contest. Their research was on display during the anniversary Open House event at Discovery Park on November 10, 2023.
- Analiese Beeler (with Carter Smith), Computational Information Theory Applied to Constructed Languages
- Maruthi Prasanna Chellatore, Mobile Application for Identifying Anomalous Behavior and Conducting Time Series Analysis using Parking Lot Data
- Nayana Pampapura Madali, Autism Knowledge, Awareness, Misinformation and Stigma: Mixed-Methods Study
- Durga Srikari Maguluri, A Comprehensive Framework for Developing a High School Educational Cybersecurity Podcast using Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Framework
- Rishitha Reddy Pesaladinne, Situational Awareness-based Augmented Reality Instructional (ARI) Module for Building Evacuation
- Naga Sirisha Ponnaganti, Virtual Reality Instructional Modules for Active Shooter Response Training at UNT Discovery Park Campus
- Suruthi Selvam, Real Time Object Detection and Emotion Detection via Camera using React Native, Python Flask, Coco Dataset and OpenCV
- Zoe (Abbie) Teel, ChatGPT Conundrums: Probing Plagiarism and Parroting Problems in Higher Education Practices