Tuesday, April 15, 2014

O.A.S. Visitors See EPIC Innovation

By Paul Nowell

A delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) recently toured UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) as part of a program sponsored by the Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The program’s overall focus was to provide the delegates insight into Charlotte’s emergence as a global energy capital, which is why city leaders wanted the delegation to visit EPIC. Alexis Gordon, international relations manager for the city of Charlotte, led the tour.
OAS delegation
Visitors from Central and South American get a briefing
 from Prof. David Young.

EPIC was created by UNC Charlotte to prepare highly trained engineers who would be qualified to meet the demands of the energy industry, through traditional and continuing education. In addition EPIC provides sustainable assistance for the Carolinas energy industry by increasing capacity and support for applied research. 
OAS delegates spent time in two of EPIC’s high-tech laboratories. One was the high-bay lab, an advanced testing facility where faculty and students design and test resilient infrastructure systems. They also visited EPIC’s Smart Grid Lab.
“The average age of the engineers working in the field right now is 55 and that means they are getting close to retirement,” he said. “In addition, it takes a different skill set to work in the new technology than what was being taught 20 years ago.”
EPIC is a highly collaborative industry/education partnership that produces a technical workforce, advancements in technology for the global energy industry while supporting the Carolinas’ multi-state economic and energy security.
The U.S. Department of Commerce through the International Trade Administration and the Economic Development Administration in collaboration with the Inter-American Competitiveness network arranged for the OAS visit, which included about 51 delegates from several OAS countries.
The delegates are considered “gatekeepers” in their home countries who can make economic development happen. They included vice ministers, private sector leaders, mayors, heads of major universities and leaders of regional economic development partnership groups.
Chip Yensan, associate director for infrastructure at the Charlotte Research Institute, briefed the delegation on UNC Charlotte’s latest facility, PORTAL.  Both EPIC and the PORTAL building are located on the University’s Charlotte Research Institute campus.
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Paul Nowell is media relations manager in the Office of Public Relations.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Campus Visits are Better than Ever

Students may notice a new set of wheels traveling on campus roads this spring. Two new shuttle buses, wrapped with the UNC Charlotte logo and "VISIT. LIVE IT. LOVE IT." now tour campus daily, as the undergraduate admissions campus visit program expands its daily tours of campus.
New buses augment walking tours for prospective students, families.
Each year, about 9,000 students and their families tour the UNC Charlotte campus, and this visit experience is the primary decision-making factor that influences the student’s decision to apply or enroll. "As the campus has grown, so has our visit program," says Claire Kirby, director of undergraduate admissions. "We wanted to be able to show our visiting prospective students and their families more of the campus, which we were unable to do with a walking-only tour."
The two new buses, which seat 48 people and one which offers handicapped accessibility, will allow our visitors to complete their campus tour to include a view of the football stadium and CRI, then to South Village to view residence halls.
Students who sign up for a campus visit will begin their experience with a 30-minute presentation about admission requirements from an admissions counselor. After the presentation, groups of families are paired up with "Niner Guides," student volunteers who walk the families through the central part of campus to the Student Union. "The Niner Guides add their personal student experiences on this portion of the tour while they explain what classes or programs are held in each of the campus buildings," adds Kirby. "This current student perspective adds a personal touch to the campus tour, and helps prospective students and their families gain a real understanding of whether UNC Charlotte would be a good fit for them."
After the walking portion of the tour, these families will hop aboard the new shuttle buses and tour the outskirts of campus, giving them a more complete view of our growing campus.
The daily campus visit program is offered Monday through Friday, and select Saturday mornings. Reservations are required and can be made online.
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Health & Human Services Study: Housing Program Helps Save Lives, Money

By Latricia Boone

A Charlotte-based permanent supportive housing program is finding success in its efforts to improve stability for chronically homeless individuals while also helping the community to save money, according to a report from  UNC Charlotte’s College of Health and Human Services.
The report “Moore Place Permanent Support Housing Evaluation Study” examined the Moore Place housing program and how it is supporting individuals struggling with the devastating effects of homelessness, especially those suffering from disabling conditions such as mental illness, addiction and physical health issues. 
Moore Place
Social work assistant professor Lori Thomas led the evaluation team that studied the impact of the Moore Place program on the housing, clinical and social stability of its tenants and on their emergency room and jail utilization. The team, which included experts from the UNC Greensboro, N.C. A&T State University and the University of South Carolina, concluded that Moore Place has succeeded in maintaining a high housing stability rate for its clients. The report also found that the program helped to reduce inappropriate service utilization in hospitals and jails among its tenants -- alleviating a burden on law enforcement and emergency health services.
With 85 apartments, Moore Place is the centerpiece of the Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks program. It is based on a philosophy that housing homeless individuals first stabilizes their lives and provides the foundation for successful outcomes.  Since opening in early 2012, Moore Place has provided permanent housing and comprehensive support services to individuals with extensive histories of homelessness and a disabling condition, such as behavioral health disorders, chronic health conditions, physical disabilities and developmental disabilities. Moore Place is the first in the Charlotte area to operate using the “Housing First” philosophy.
Lori Thomas
 “’Housing First’ is ending homelessness for some of Charlotte’s most vulnerable,” Thomas said. “This study adds to a growing body of research that suggests that even the hardest to serve in our communities can be successfully housed and that housing with necessary supportive services not only leads to better outcomes for individuals but is cheaper for the community.”
Overall, the study found:
  • Moore Place tenants are dealing with challenges that surpass the vulnerability of those in comparable programs nationally
  • Moore Place is demonstrating high housing stability rates after one year of housing
  • Area hospital bills, emergency room visits, and lengths of hospitalizations have decreased during tenants’ first year of housing at Moore Place.  There was a 78% reduction in emergency room visits and a 79% reduction in in-patient hospitalizations, resulting in a 70% reduction ($1.8 million) in hospital bills in just one year
  • Arrests and jail stays of Moore Place tenants decreased during their first year in the program. There was a 78% reduction in arrests and 84% reduction in jail stays
Another outcome reported by Moore Place tenants was greater social support among friends, as compared to their circumstances prior to entering the program.
According to the evaluation team, the newly released findings are part of an intermediate phase of the research project. The final phase will continue to document the housing stability of tenants, as well as clinical, social and community impact that may be further associated with the program in tenants’ second year of residency.
Moore Place is owned and operated by the Urban Ministry Center, an interfaith organization that provides an array of services to meet the needs of Charlotte’s homeless population. Later this year, the Moore Place project is slated to expand by an additional 35 units of housing for the chronically homeless.
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Latricia Boone is communications director for the College of Health & Human Services.

Monday, February 24, 2014

UNC Charlotte Honored for Long-Standing, International Partnership

By Latricia Boone

UNC Charlotte has received the University of Cantabria (UniCan) Gold Medal award in recognition of the success of its long-standing partnership with the university. The ceremony was held in Spain on January 27, where the UNC Charlotte Provost Joan Lorden, along with a small delegation, traveled to accept the award on behalf of the University.

“I would like to express our sincere appreciation for this wonderful recognition,” said Provost Lorden. “Campus internationalization and exchange partnerships contribute significantly to our mission and to be recognized in this way from one of our oldest exchange partners is a special honor.”

Provost Joan Lorden accepts a Gold Medal in Spain.
The Gold Medal award is an honor of distinction, which UniCan gives to only one group or individual annually, recognizing an entity that has had an enormous impact on their campus. The award was presented by Teresa Susinos Rada, Vice Rector for Internationalization of the University of Cantabria. The Gold Medal awarded to the University  of North Carolina at  Charlotte  is to show  recognition  of the values of responsibility, solidarity and partnership in International  Relations, allowing a fruitful exchange between  geographically  and culturally  distant institutions, but institutions which are close in their interests and objectives,” said Rada. “This medal symbolizes these principles and it does so by embodying them in this institution, with which we have been maintaining long and invaluable bilateral relations.”

Provost Lorden was joined by Robert Johnson, Dean of the College of Engineering; Sheri Spaine Long, Language and Culture Studies; and Joël Gallegos, Assistant Provost for International Programs. Gallegos, who is very proud of the successful relationship that has been established between UNC Charlotte and UniCan, says the partnership underscores the importance of building strong international linkages. “Our international partnerships play such a critical role in the comprehensive internationalization of UNC Charlotte,” he said. “This special recognition highlights the value of our network abroad as well as our institutional footprint.”          

The University of Cantabria is one of UNC Charlotte’s oldest exchange partners, with more than 25 years of collaboration between the two institutions. Over the life of the partnership, more than 500 students from North Carolina have enjoyed the opportunity to study on the campus of UniCan, while also exploring the rich cultural heritage of Spain.

The University of Cantabria is a long-standing exchange partner.
Early on, the institutional exchange focused primarily on the semester in Spain program, which enables students at institutions across the UNC system to travel to Spain and study. Past engagement has included a successful collaboration between UniCan and the UNC Charlotte Colleges of Engineering and Arts + Architecture whereby students from Civil Engineering and Architecture would spend a summer in Spain working on a collaborative project.  UNC Charlotte faculty have also enjoyed the benefits of the Universities’ collaboration, serving as resident directors and spending an academic year at UniCan.

Today, the partnership is celebrated through bilateral exchanges between academic disciplines with a goal to proactively pursue engagement and research in areas such as Business Administration, Civil Engineering, Education, and Languages and Culture Studies.

Currently, there are a total of 18 students from six UNC system schools -- six from UNC Charlotte -- studying in Spain, as part of the exchange. According to Gallegos, UNC Charlotte is in discussion with UniCan about the possible expansion of the partnership.
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Latricia Boone, a member of the Office of Public Relations, is communications director for the colleges of Education and Health and Human Services.

Friday, February 21, 2014

PORTAL Harnesses the Power of UNC Charlotte

By Jared Moon

With the doors to the University’s newest building officially open, local media was invited to tour the newly minted PORTAL building for a first-hand look at the building and what it has to offer.

A marriage of vision and practicality, PORTAL—an acronym for Partnership, Outreach and Research to Accelerate Learning—is a $35 million facility designed to be a central hub for industry, academia and research, providing a place to connect the campus and the community for economic development. Robert Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development, and Paul Wetenhall, president of Ventureprise, UNC Charlotte’s business incubator, spoke with a cohort of journalists (representing the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Business Journal, WSOC-TV, TWC News 14 and Fox Carolinas) about the University’s commitment to economic development through collaboration with the business community and how PORTAL is a visible embodiment of that commitment.

Vice Chancellor Robert Wilhelm briefs media on the research and collaboration attributes of PORTAL.
The media tour got started in the building’s vast, contemporary atrium that possesses a more business friendly atmosphere, rather than academic. 

The space is designed to promote interaction and collaboration among tenants and visitors, and innovate by enabling academic, corporate and entrepreneurial communities to interact.

The atrium is surrounded by offices and meeting rooms, and features two conference rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that serve as bridges spanning the upper levels of the atrium.

Driving MBA is a PORTAL tenant whose technology teaches safe driving.
Winding through the four-story, 96,000-square-foot building, the tour showcased the ample conference and seminar space available to tenants; a café that stimulates connections and eliminates the need to leave for lunch; roughly 25,000 square feet of office space for 20-24 young companies within Ventureprise (also housed in PORTAL), which also includes a student business incubator; and roughly 20,000 square feet on the fourth floor for corporate partners with substantive research and training collaborations.

Also calling PORTAL home is the Office of Technology Transfer, the University entity that identifies, protects and commercializes University research and intellectual property.  The office is one of the country’s best in putting intellectual capital to work. Considering the external orientation of PORTAL, the Office of Technology Transfer is a natural fit.

PORTAL will be officially dedicated Friday, Feb. 28.

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Jared Moon is communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Student Enjoys White House Internship

Edited by Paul Nowell

UNC Charlotte student Michael Higgins recently completed an internship through The Washington Center working as a student volunteer in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in Washington D.C. He took some time from his duties in November to describe his experiences with Media Relations Manager Paul Nowell:

Tell us about yourself and why you decided to attend UNC Charlotte.
Michael Higgins at the White House
“I am a 22 year-old undergraduate planning to graduate in May 2014 with a B.A. in political science, a B.S. in economics, and a minor in Islamic studies concentrated in Mideast and South Asian affairs.  My studies are geared towards a future career in policy and/or government affairs.  Being from Raleigh, most people might expect that I attended State, Duke, or Chapel Hill, but I never found myself inclined to attend any of those schools.  I was so impressed with Charlotte’s state of the art campus and facilities that I made a pretty quick decision about where I would study after I graduated high school.  It was a smart move.  My curriculum overlapped enough for me to get two degrees and a minor in just four years and I was awarded the opportunity to work in our nation’s capital.”

·         Did you do anything at the Democratic National Convention when it came to Charlotte in 2012?
“I wish I had.  At the time I was apathetic toward the upcoming Presidential Election, so I failed to get on board with volunteer opportunities at the DNC.  I regret that now.  After watching President Obama speak I realized how important this particular election would be, so I registered to vote for the first time and watched every single debate.  The issues brought to the table were so compelling that I became more interested than ever to explore opportunities to work for the Executive.”

·       Tell me about the job at the White House.
“After gaining acceptance to the Washington Center, I adamantly pursued a chance to volunteer for the White House.  A representative from headquarters forwarded me information about student volunteer opportunities in the Office of Presidential Correspondence (OPC) and I applied without hesitation.  The student volunteer program I participate in is offered by OPC and is separate from the White House Internship Program.”

·       What is a typical day like?
“I primarily help sort letters addressed to President Obama, Vice President Biden, the First Lady, and White House Staff.  I also answer calls from constituents who have policy concerns and submit their comments to the Executive Office of the President.  The most rewarding part of my experience was being exposed to various issues that our country faces.  It has built my awareness and inspired me to conduct more research on topics I knew little about and others I once thought I understood. Reading or listening to personal stories of Americans will make anyone consider answering John F. Kennedy’s infamous question regarding what you can do for your country! 

·         Any anecdotes you can share about being in the White House during such an intense period, with government shutdowns, battles over Obamacare, Syria, and other major events?
“It was certainly an eventful few months.  I felt so alive being in our nation’s capital where all of the action was happening!  Work got busier as each of these events unfolded and I began to realize how hard the president’s job actually is.”

During the shutdown, my program was also closed, but I made the most of my time.  I researched the issue, visited several privately-owned museums, toured George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, and witnessed live press coverage on Capitol Hill.”

·         What do you hope to get out of this experience?
“Fond memories, a taste of professional life, but most importantly I hope that it will help me get my foot in the door somewhere I truly desire to be.  When I first started, I thought I might be able to gain employment at the White House if I successfully demonstrated my skills, commitment, and work ethic.  I began to realize that perhaps it would be best for me to start smaller and build up my qualifications first.  I am sure I will make it in one day if I still desire to be there.”

·         Do you think it’s worthwhile for other students to spend a semester/year/period in this sort of work? What do you get from being in this environment?
“Of course!  All students should get a taste of their particular career interest through an internship, volunteer opportunity and/or semester program if it is feasible.  It will enhance their professional development, give them networking opportunities, and influence their career decisions.  That last point is the most important.  It is better to realize whether you love or hate something before you graduate and get hired.”

·         What are your aspirations and future plans? Do you plan to work in politics?
Right now I am not entirely sure.  I have always been interested in national security and advising policymakers on what priorities to set for America’s best interests at home and abroad to protect our citizens.  I am confident that my passion for such a career would drive me to accomplish great things.  However, it is quite a competitive field that seeks some of the brightest minds in the country, so I need to keep my options open.  I have also considered working in government affairs in the private sector, which might give me a greater opportunity to pursue higher education and open the door to an important job in government down the road.  In either case, being a volunteer at the White House was certainly worthwhile and I was proud to serve there.  I am sure including that experience on my resume will make me more marketable.  The fear of what will come next intensifies as graduation approaches, but I think that everything will work out for those who hit the ground running early on.”

·         Do you plan to come back to UNC Charlotte, or does this finish up your studies?
“Yes, I will be wrapping up my final semester in the spring (2014).  It seems bittersweet, but I feel ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.  I look forward to sharing my experience with my classmates and the Charlotte City Council.”


 Paul Nowell is media relations manager in the Office of Public Relations.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Energy, Big Data, Scholars to be Featured on UNC-TV

By Jared Moon

A statewide TV show will feature a segment highlighting some of UNC Charlotte's most important and impressive programs, at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 29.
UNC-TV interviews deans Yi Deng (left) and Steve Ott.

Watch the show on TV, but if you miss it, the segment will be posted a few days later online.

UNC-TV's "North Carolina Now" is currently visiting each of the 17 institutions that make up the University of North Carolina System to get a feel for what each school does, in terms of educating and elevating our communities, and how it accomplishes that mission.  Through this series of feature stories, produced by Rick Sullivan, "North Carolina Now" seeks to improve public awareness and understanding of the academic work and research that takes place at each campus and affiliate organization, and how this work connects back to the local and state economies.  The 17-piece series works to give North Carolinians a more comprehensive understanding of the entire University of North Carolina system, and the role each individual campus plays within it.

UNC Charlotte’s segment will showcase three of the many great initiatives we have on our campus, along with two of our Levine Scholars.

Sullivan first visited the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center to interview Director Johan Enslin, about the facility that has widespread industry support for educating the next generation of energy engineers. Sullivan then interviewed Deans Yi Deng (College of Computing & Informatics) and Steve Ott (Belk College of Business) regarding the University's top initiative, Data Science and Business Analytics, a.k.a., Big Data.  Sullivan also talked with Paul Wetenhall to discuss the Ventureprise business incubator and our new facility called PORTAL (Partnership, Outreach and Research to Accelerate Learning). He wrapped up by interviewing Levine Scholars Celia Karp (College of Health & Human Services) and Christina Neitzey (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences) about their experiences and opportunities at UNC Charlotte.

Throughout the interviews, Sullivan and his guests emphasized the connection and mutually beneficial relationship the University has with the city of Charlotte, and the greater Charlotte region.  They discussed how we are striving to not only meet, but drive industry and community needs, all while growing with Charlotte, and helping it continue to grow as a vibrant, attractive city for business, industry and people alike.

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Jared Moon is communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations