About Us

What is Career Connect?

In September 2016, the University of North Texas (UNT) selected UNT Career Connect—hereafter referred to as Connect—as the Quality Enhancement Plan for the 2016 to 2020 school years. Based on the experiential learning framework of John Dewey (1916), Kolb (1984) and Kuh (2010), Connect works collaboratively with UNT faculty, staff, and community partners to enhance, assess, and showcase UNT students' marketable skills by engaging them in high-impact, [1]experiential learning, reflection, and ePortfolio activities in and outside of the classroom.

Career Connect “connects” UNT faculty, staff, students, and the community in mutually beneficial partnerships through, for example, internships, volunteer work, or study abroad. Career Connect (1) encourages UNT faculty, staff, and students to think intentionally about the job skills students learn within UNT curricular and co-curricular activities and (2) provides students opportunities to work and learn in “real-life” settings and use their UNT ePortfolios to target, evaluate, and showcase their skills in written and oral communication, critical thinking, and teamwork.

[1]Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Meet the Team

Dr. Mike Simmons
Assistant Vice President - Academic Affairs
Career Connect Director


I am a native of West Virginia, attended college in Tennessee (King College, BS History) and graduate school in North Carolina (UNC Chapel Hill - M.P.A) then moved to Texas to complete the Ph.D. degree from UTA in the field of public administration and urban affairs. 

After an initial career spanning 10 years of public policy, government and political work, I led a statewide education non-profit agency.  While government and public administration is still my academic field and area of interest, I've now worked in or around higher education for almost 20 years. In several roles at Marshall University, Texas Women’s University, and now at UNT, I’ve worked actively in educational innovation, faculty support, online learning, assessment and “other duties as assigned”.  I am proud that I have taught at least one course as an adjunct almost every semester for 20 years.  My work with UNT Career Connect is a combination of the experiences I've had, bringing together teaching, assessment, community engagement, and technology.

Adam Wear
ePortfolio Coordinator

I currently serve as the ePortfolio Coordinator for Career Connect. I am a second year PhD student in the Higher Education program at UNT. I currently hold a BS in English, Education, and Education Psychology from Mississippi State University and a Master’s in English Literature from the University of Alabama and hope to practice and promote an attitude of servant leadership in higher education.

Meena Naik
Faculty & Staff Development Coordinator

A Texas-transplant, I came to UNT from UC San Diego where I worked in the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services. Having lived on both coasts, I received my BS from UC San Diego in Physiology and Neuroscience, and my MS in Higher Education and Student Development. I am now into my second year as a PhD student in UNT’s Educational Psychology program.

Outside of my work and student life, I have spent the last decade volunteering in a variety of roles in the Shia Ismaili community. Starting as a novice and untrained volunteer teacher, I worked my way into a Teacher Educator program, and most recently led the National Teaching Quality team in the development instructional coaching training models to better equip our volunteers as educators.

My passion for working in higher education comes from a desire to support student development by helping them recognize relevancy in their curricular and co-curricular experiences while in college. My experiences in student affairs and academic support, and the variety of volunteer experiences I hold in instruction and training, has led me to my current role serving as the Faculty & Staff Development Coordinator with Career Connect.

Scott Peecksen
Assessment Coordinator

I grew up in the Low Country and received my undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina and then traveled west to the University of Arizona for a doctorate degree in Family Studies and Human Development and program evaluation. Career research opportunities took me to the University of Texas and then to a Houston-based, research and evaluation firm through early 2017.

In March 2017, UNT hired me as the Assessment Coordinator for Career Connect. I bring more than 15 years of experience in research and evaluation designs, data collection, quality assurance, statistical analysis, and report writing to this position. I am also a certified What Works Clearinghouse research reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education.

I am excited to apply my evaluation knowledge and skills to the field of higher education and Career Connect. Ultimately, I look forward to benefiting UNT students through Career Connect work and contributing to the national discussion on how to identify and document marketable skills and student learning outcomes in through a rigorous and valid assessment. 

Melanie Mitchell
Faculty & Staff Development Coordinator 

I currently serve as the Faculty & Staff Development Coordinator for Career Connect. I received my BS in Interdisciplinary Studies and my Master’s in Educational Administration both from UNT. Before coming back to UNT, I spent time in the elementary and secondary education as a teacher, instructional coach, and administrator. I have also served as an adjunct instructor for North Lake College. I am excited to promote student development through experiential learning.

Missy McCormick,
Administrative Coordinator

As a Doctoral Candidate in the Higher Education Program at the University of North Texas, my research interests are in researching student success. As well as being a student at the university, I work half-time in the UNT Career Connect Office. In my position, as the Administrative Associate, I assist with managing various office functions and planning Connect events. Aside from my roles at UNT, I love to work in my garden, do volunteer work, and go on adventures with my family.

Jordan Rogers
Graduate Student Assistant

I am currently a doctoral student in the counseling program at the University of North Texas. I joined the Career Connect team as a graduate research assistant in order to support the research and implementation of the reflection component of Career Connect. Because of my formal training as a counselor, my time in this office has given me an opportunity to truly value the importance of meeting students where they are in their college experience. I hope to promote experiential opportunities that engage and challenge students to learn and grow!

Marla Baltazar
​Graduate Student Assistant

I am a first year both in the Behavior Analysis graduate program and at Career Connect. Although new to the office, I have been at UNT for four years. During my time here I have had the opportunity to work with students as a peer mentor, teaching assistant, and advisor. As a graduate research assistant for Career Connect, I am excited to assist students make connections between their experiences and ultimate goals, by supporting Career Connect’s research and activities.

Our Mission

Enhance, assess, and showcase UNT students' marketable skills by engaging them in existing or new experiential learning, reflection, and ePortfolio activities provided by UNT faculty, staff, and community partners.

Advisory Group

Dr. Karen Anderson-Lain, Senior Lecturer and Basic Communication Course Director (Communication Studies Department); Ph.D. in communication studies, University of Kansas; M.A. in communication studies, Texas Tech University.Dr. Anderson-Lainredesigned Introduction to Communication (COMM 1010) as part of the UNT Next Generation Course Redesign Program for the previous Quality Enhancement Plan for SACS COC reaccreditation.

Courtney Banatoski, Director of the Division of Public Affairs & Community Engagement; M.S. in community and economic development, University of North Texas. Ms. Banatoskileads a team that serves as an incubator for university-community collaboration, addresses complex social problems through engaged faculty scholarship, develops outreach programs that add public value, and prepares students to make significant contributions to community well-being.

Dr. Regina Branton, Professor of Political Science; Ph.D. in Political Science, University of Arizona.Dr. Brantonhas extensive research experience in the areas of American Politics, race and ethnicity, political behavior, electoral politics, and methods of social science research\ and currently serves as an Executive Board member for UNT’s Latina/o and Mexican-American Studies program and is a UNT Faculty Leadership Fellow.

Dr. Ronald Carriveau, Teaching Excellence Consultant and Outcomes and Assessment Specialist; Ph.D. in educational psychology, University of Arizona.Dr. Carriveauhas extensive experience in outcomes, assessment, and standards development as a consultant, test publisher, a director at school district and state department levels, and assessment development management for a large test publisher. He has taught at the elementary, middle school, and university levels and held the position of associate professor in educational.

Dr. Traci Cihon, Associate Professor of Behavior Analysis; Ph.D. in special education/applied behavior analysis, Ohio State University; MA in psychology/behavior analysis, University of Nevada-Reno. Dr. Cihon she teaches graduate classes in Verbal Behavior; Introduction to Behavior Principles; Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues in Behavior Analysis; and coordinates the Teaching Science Laboratory that is responsible for the delivery of instruction for undergraduate Introduction to Behavior Analysis courses.

Dr. Fabiana Claure, Director of Career Development and Entrepreneurship in Music; Ph.D. in Musical Arts, Piano Performance with cognates in Music Business and Entertainment Industries, University of Miami. Dr. Claureis a multifaceted concert pianist, educator, and entrepreneur. Her diverse musical career and successful business experience, as well as her international background—having lived in the US, Bolivia, and Cuba—have allowed her to gain an empowering and global perspective towards music and entrepreneurship education.

Greg Hardin, Information Literacy Coordinator; M.L.S in Library & Information Studies, Texas Women’s University.Mr. Hardin's research interests include information literacy, inquiry, instruction, user experience, and technology. He has presented at many conferences including Computers In Libraries, Cross Timbers Library Collaborative, the American Library Association Annual Conference, and the Texas Library Association Annual Conference.

Dr. Matthew Heard, Associate Professor; Ph.D. in English, University of California, Riverside.Dr. Heard specializes in Rhetoric, Writing, and Composition studies with a focus on rhetorical theory, ethics, and civic responsibility. He has served as the director of the Writing Program in English at UNT and as a Lead QEP Evaluator for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Julie Kirkland, Assistant Dean, Student Success; M.Ed. in Counseling, University of North Texas. Ms. Kirklandcreates and implements programs to increase College of Arts and Sciences student retention and add value to degree. She also collaborates with Center for Leadership and Service to design curriculum for Global Leadership program at UNT.

Stephanie Knight, Director, Center for Leadership and Service; M.S. in Higher Education Administration, Florida State University.Ms. Knight directs efforts in the development of leadership skills, service and social issue engagement of UNT students.

Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Library Learning Services; M.L.S in Library Sciences, Texas Women’s University.Ms. Leuzinger is an expert in information sciences, liaison to the UNT Department of Political Science, and is the recipient of the 2017 Marta Lange/SAGE-CQ Press Award from the American Library Association for making a distinguished contribution to bibliography and information service in political science.

Jo Monahan, Teaching and Learning Librarian; B.A. in Library Science, Northwest Missouri State University.Ms. Monahansupports the information needs of the faculty and students of the College of Education, provides individual or group training on information resources, and supports grant writing efforts within the college.

Dan Naegeli, Executive Director, Career and Leadership Services; M.S. in community counseling, University of Central Arkansas.Mr. Naegeliprovides strategic oversight to the Career Center, the Center for Leadership & Service, the Student Money Management Center and the Office of Disability Accommodations.

Dr. Patrick Pluscht, Associate Vice Provost for Learning Enhancement and Director of CLEAR; Ph.D. in Higher Education, University of North Texas. Dr. Pluscht chairs the Learning Technology Advisory Committee of the THECB, serves on the USDLA Advisory Board, and has served on the TxDLA Board including five years as Board Chair. He received the “Outstanding Commitment to TxDLA by an Individual” award (2002 and 2004) and the Don Foshee Award (2005).

Amy Shenberger, Interim Vice Provost for International Affairs; M. A. in Higher Education, Arizona State University; M.A. in International and Intercultural Management, School for International Training.Ms. Shenberger specializes in developing and managing study abroad and exchange programs for academic credit at higher education institutions.

Dr. Anna Sidorova, Associate Professor in Information Technology & Decision Sciences; Ph.D. in Information Systems, Washington State University.Dr. Sidorovaresearch includes business intelligence and analytics, text mining, business process management, IS implementation and use, and applications of AI and machine learning in business. Dr. Sidorova teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on subjects related to IS development and management, AI and machine learning in business, Business Intelligence and Analytics.

Elizabeth Vogt, Director of Institutional Effectiveness; M.S. in Sociology, University of North Texas. Ms. Vogt has worked in the office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness for eight years, providing IE training to both administrators and faculty and receiving UNT’s highest honor, the Steve Miller Award, in 2013. She served as a founding member on the UNT Student Portraits Symposium, a day-long conference for faculty, administrators and students focused on data-driven decision making.