UNT offers variety of experts for holiday season

Thursday, November 17, 2022 - 10:30

The University of North Texas has a variety of experts who can speak on holiday-related topics including food; staying healthy, safe and stress-free; shopping; holidays in popular culture; succeeding with New Year’s resolutions; supply chain and activities on campus.


History professors Jennifer Wallach and Michael Wise can talk about American food culture related to the holidays. Wallach and Wise are editors of the book series Food and Foodways, which uses food to talk about broader social, economic and cultural issues. Specifically, Wise can share about Native American food traditions. Additionally, they can help dispel any historical myths around the holiday.

Ann Marie Afflerbacha registered/licensed dietitian, teaches Principles of Nutrition and Nutrition Sciences to non-nutrition majors. She can comment on healthy eating during the holidays. She also can speak about the community and the social importance of food during the holidays.

Director of sports nutrition Kayla Jones can discuss how to make sure that guests with special dietary preferences like food allergies feel safe and included in holiday traditions. She also can speak to navigating the holidays, traditions and travel from a food and exercise perspective.

UNT chef Rodrigo Blanquet Suarez can discussnhow to incorporate current culinary trends and international flavors into holiday menus and traditions. As the leader of UNT’s newest food hall, Eagle Landing, Suarez finds creative and fun ways to introduce new recipes from all over the world into the menus. As a food photography enthusiast and experienced food stylist, he also can speak to how to make your holiday plates Insta-ready. Rodrigo also can offer tips on preparing vegan dishes, how to incorporate more plant-forward seasonal recipes into your menus, and how to add big flavor to plant-based recipes with fresh herbs (like those grown on campus in UNT’s own hydroponic garden).

Director of catering Mike Sood has overseen thousands of events of all sizes and themes throughout the course of his career in hospitality and event management and years of leading UNT’s award-winning catering department. He can talk about how to arrange a beautiful buffet display on a budget, how to help guests feel welcome and included, about the little details that help make an event special, and lots more.

Chef and certified master baker Bill Hunter oversees the production of 400+ recipes as the leader of UNT’s in-house bakery. He can talk about traditional holiday pastries from around the globe, share recipes, discuss quick “cheats” for beautiful treats and more.

Staying healthy, safe and stress-free

Justin Watts, assistant professor of  rehabilitation and health services, specializes in rehabilitation counseling, stress and addictions research and can speak about staying sober, whether fighting addiction or just trying to avoid over-imbibing at a holiday party. He also can discuss managing holiday stress.

Rachita Sharma, licensed professional counselor supervisor (LPC-S), clinical associate professor of rehabilitation and health services and clinical director of the UNTWELL clinic, offers tips for coping with holiday stress and the holiday blues. She researches resilience and positive psychology in mental health counseling.

Bob Wall, a lecturer of criminal justice, had an extensive law enforcement career before transitioning into teaching the next generation of law enforcement professionals. He can speak about securing your home for the holidays and general safety tips while shopping.

Giving during the holidays

Jeremy Short, professor and G. Brint Ryan Chair in Entrepreneurship, can discuss lessons on crowdfunding tied to giving back to communities during the holiday season in relation to current and past social entrepreneur classes that raised thousands of dollars for community causes.

Laura Keyes, lecturer of nonprofit leadership in the College of Health and Public Service, teaches courses in several subjects, including volunteer program management, and can speak about holiday philanthropy.


Lauren Kelly, a professor of educational psychology, offers insight about the economic impact of rising prices for families during the holiday season, as well as a variety of resources to keep the holiday spirit alive without adding to financial strain. Kelly has previously worked with children experiencing abuse and neglect and currently teaches classes about families in crisis and public policy.

Holidays and popular culture

Kerry Goldmann, a lecturer of history, can speak broadly to holiday histories as viewed through cultural and social lenses, including topics on food and costume, community and ritual, celebration during unrest, and holiday representation in popular culture. She also can speak specifically to various cultural and social contexts surrounding Jewish religious and memorial holidays.

Supply chain

Ila Manuj, associate professor of logistics and operations management, can discuss what the supply chain looks like for holiday goods and timelines for holiday shopping.

Steve Joiner, principal lecturer of logistics and operations management, specializes in aviation logistics and can discuss how Santa avoids supply chain concerns and uses aviation to make his deliveries all in one night.

Succeeding with New Year’s resolutions

Brian McFarlin, co-director of UNT’s Applied Physiology Laboratory, can offer tips on starting the new year on a healthier note.

Trent Petrie, professor of psychology and director of UNT's Center for Sport Psychology and Athletic Mental Health, can discuss how to prepare yourself mentally for setting fitness goals, improving personal performance and how to stay focused and motivated. He also can discuss athlete mental health, psychology of performance and athlete body image, especially as many high school and college sports go into championship games and end their seasons. 

Activities on campus

North Texas TubaChristmas is scheduled for noon on Dec. 21. This annual event features holiday music played by a tuba ensemble. The concert is directed by UNT alumni and Denton ISD assistant director of fine arts Eddy Russell and coordinated by UNT Regents Professor of tuba Don Little.

UNT News Service
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