Friday, June 26, 2009

Students Create Their “Home Away from Home”

The prospect of living on campus can be a challenge for new students. As part of this year’s orientation program, the Office of Housing and Residence Life partnered with three local businesses to provide ideas on how incoming residents can create a “Home Away from Home.”

For this first-time program, designers from Bed Bath & Beyond, IKEA and Target each decorated a lounge in Lynch Hall. They were asked to transform a portion of the lounges to depict a typical 10-by-15-foot bedroom area. The decorators were given a room’s basic furnishings – bed, desk, chair and wardrobe/dresser. They used the remaining space in the selected lounges to give examples of decorating ideas for common spaces (living rooms and bathrooms) that can be found in suite units.

“Students and their parents are always eager to see where their son or daughter is going to be living; our goal was to provide incoming residents with some great ideas on how to accessorize their rooms to not only maximize the space available but to create a home away from home,” said Carla Hines, assistant director of administration for housing and residence life.

According to Hines, parents of incoming students are concerned with their children succeeding academically and socially. Providing students ideas on how to create a comfortable living space is a new initiative that supports these goals.

“Living on campus is one of the best ways for students to excel in college,” said Jackie Simpson, associate vice chancellor and director of housing and residence life. “On-campus residents establish stronger connections to fellow students and faculty; they become more involved in campus life; and they achieve greater academic success.”

Hines, who spearheaded the “Home Away from Home” event, said the University-area businesses were excited to participate. During SOAR sessions (student orientation and registration), up to 10,000 people will view the design concepts. She added that the three retailers donated selected items from the designs for a drawing scheduled for Wednesday, July 22. SOAR sessions, which began recently, are held over two days. Incoming freshmen and their parents reside in Lynch and Witherspoon halls during their visit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Research to help wounded warriors

I saw a news item today about a group of swimmers ( , who will attempt to break the world record for the longest continuous relay swim, when they venture into the Sea of Cortez off Baja California Sur on June 28. The swim is a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors.

That story reminded me of reserach underway at UNC Charlotte that has a similar goal.

Dr. Laura Talbot, the Dean W. Colvard Distinguished Professor of Nursing, is conducting a Department of Defense-funded study which tests two different approaches to prosthetic rehabilitation for “wounded warriors.” Talbot has served in the military for three decades.

Traumatic amputation is one of the major injuries seen among American warriors as a result of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. An intervention that Dr. Talbot is using in her research for amputees returning from the war is a nurse managed neuromuscular electrical stimulation rehabilitation program. The objectives of her research are to test two different approaches to prosthetic rehabilitation as potential treatments for improving muscle strength, pain and function in military personnel with a below-the-knee amputation.

In such amputations, the amputated limb is less active in daily activities of standing and walking, resulting in progressive weakening of the leg muscles.

If successful, Talbot's nurse managed intervention could have an additive effect to the standard of care program with greater improvements in muscle strength. That would enhanced the performance of daily activities, quality of life, and decrease disability. This program may be very important to accelerate the rehabilitation of amputees so they can achieve functional independence and regain lost muscle strength.

UNC Charlotte is a university of collaboration and discovery, where talented people are working hard to do good. Dr. Talbot is one such 49er.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Innovating to Better-Manage Risk

United Educators, a higher-education insurance company, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges have released the results of a survey that shows "less than a quarter of colleges regularly assess how they could prevent or respond to threats such as criminal acts, environmental catastrophes, and financial misconduct. And half of colleges plan for such risks only after receiving an audit, experiencing a campus crime, or seeing the fallout from such a problem on another campus."

United Educators' chief executive was quoted in a news release saying, "This data is certainly a wake-up call for higher-education leaders that they need to make enterprise risk management a priority now so they can avoid such pitfalls.”

Why should you care? You should care because how a university plans and prepares to manage risk can affect the people who live, work and visit campus, and people in the surrounding community. Risk management also affects the financial standing of the university and the university's reputation.

Several people responded to an online posting of the story. Some of them felt risk management only adds to a university's bureaucracy while others understand the potential value in planning and preparation.

Earlier this year, UNC Charlotte formed the Risk Management Department, which combined the offices of Business Continuity Planning, Police and Public Safety, Environmental Health and Safety and Risk Management and Insurance.
Bringing these four areas under one umbrella is a relatively new model, though Cornell University has utilized this structure for many years.

UNC Charlotte is adopting a model that is visionary by combining four operating units together in an umbrella organization to assist in the ERM initiative.”

The areas represented by the Risk Management Department have contact with virtually every operating unit across campus. By bringing them into one unit, the University will benefit from improved communication and strategic planning. Because large research universities such as UNC Charlotte operate as small cities, they are subject to adverse situations that can impact students, faculty, staff and visitors.

There are many scenarios that could affect operations or the University’s reputation, including a pandemic, such as swine flu; a residence hall or laboratory fire; severe weather; or sanctions resulting from failure to comply with federal, state or local regulations.

Risk won't go away, and occasionally adverse thigs happen. But the Enterprise Risk Management approach will help plan for and manage the risks inherent in operating a public research university.

Friday, June 19, 2009

We DO talk about religion in public

They used to say that you should never talk about politics, religion or sex in polite company; no longer. There's an amazing series of community conversations going on monthly at the Levine Museum of the New South that serves as a complement to the museum's exhibit “Changing Places: From Black and White to Technicolor.”

Last week's topic was “Keeping the Faith: Making Room in the Pews," a panel discussion. As education sponsor for the exhibit, UNC Charlotte is hosting a community conversation every third Wednesday of the month through February 2010. The conversations are designed to take a deeper look at issues raised by the exhibit.

Panelists for “Keeping the Faith” were Sean McCloud, associate professor at UNC Charlotte; Jorge Prado, pastor of Spanish and Caring Ministries, Calvary Church; and Bruce Marcey, lead pastor of Warehouse 242. Maria Hanlin, executive director of Mecklenburg Ministries, moderated the talk.

Some of what we learned:

* Charlotte has a much more diverse faith community that many realize. Once homogeneous churches such as Calvary are now heavily integrated yet also tailor services to peopel from other cultures and with other first languages
* Non-traditional churches such as Warehouse 242 and Watershed are serving congregations that draw heavily from young people; these churches are typically less focused on building up the "kingdom on earth" -- large capital projects and such -- and more focused on outreach.

McCloud, who teaches courses in American religions and religion and culture, is the author of “Making the American Religious Fringe: Exotics, Subversives and Journalists, 1955-93” and “Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies.”

Prado is responsible for preaching, teaching and guiding the Spanish-speaking members of Calvary Church and develops cross-cultural ministries for international members.

Marcey is leader of a vibrant church community that meets in a warehouse on Wilkinson Boulevard. Not afraid to think outside the box, this community of people engages the arts, music and small groups in a bold and nontraditional way in order to better explore faith.

Community Conversations are free and open to the public.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Smart, dedicated people respond to budget crisis

The State of North Carolina is up to its nostrils in an economic crisis. Our legislature is working hard to come up with a state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Yet, a budget is only a plan, a structure that people and organizations use to invest/allocate/spend money.

More specifically, NC is in a cash crunch. A budget without the cash to make it work, gets you nowhere. All agencies of the State of North Carolina are being affected by this cash crunch. This includes the UNC system -- all 17 educational institutions -- of which UNC Charlotte is one.

(For updates on how this crisis is affecting UNC Charlotte, check out

During the last several months, I've had the privilege of participating in UNC Charlotte's Budget Council. I am not a number cruncher -- I'm a communications guy. But the other 15-20 folks on this council are numbers people. They are the ones responsible for managing the money of various divisions and other organizations that comprise UNC Charlotte. And they are an impressive group.

If, perchance, you are one of those who disparage the "government," or one of those who choose to believe that "working for the state" is a cushy, no-pressure gig, I'm here to tell you that the people on this Budget Council are awesome -- smart, proactive, tireless, effective people. They are led by Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Beth Hardin. Next month she'll be among the 25 outstanding women from the Charlotte area honored at the 13th annual Women in Business event presented by the Charlotte Business Journal.

The Budget Council, like all of us, is grappling with the effects of a severe economic challenge. The council often meets twice a week, with some of the members meeting daily to respond to conditions that are changing constantly. Yet the council members remain upbeat and focused on solutions. The work of the Budget Council is grinding work that the team is handling with characteristic 49er qualities: collaboration, improvisation, tenacity and fearlessness. These are fine people doing a great job.

Choice of Woodward reflects on UNC Charlotte

When UNC President Erskine Bowles chose Jim Woodward as interim chancellor at NC State this week he did so in the midst of a crisis. The crisis is that the ongoing controversy about former NC first lady Mary Easley's position at NC State had led directly to the resignation of NC State Chancellor James Oblinger -- whose stepping down followed those of the provost and the chairman of the NC State board of trustees. This regretable saga is a blow to NC State's heretofore sterling reputation. State is a fine school and a great asset to North Carolina. But, bad things happen and this one happened to State.

So when Bowles needed someone to help the school recovery from this stunning chain of events, he acted decisively and with wisdom. He looked to someone who is has an unassailable history of integrity, effectiveness and wisdom -- Jim Woodward. UNC Charlotte's chancellor from 1989-2005, he led UNC Charlotte firmly into its current era as a doctoral, urban research university. Among numerous other achievements, he methodically built up the facilities to support our expanidng academic prowess. Simply put, he's a giant among UNC Charlotte's constellation of incredible servant-leaders.

So, how does this reflect well on UNC Charlotte? It validates that this school has been led by outstanding leaders of vision and capability -- and of course, that description fits our current chancellor, Philip L. Dubois, as well. But not only are we a well-run instituion, we are -- and have been -- perhaps the very best run UNC school for years. UNC Charlotte has had to scrap and scrape to get by, perenially short-changed in terms of state funding-per-student. We're a relatively new school, growing in the shadow of long-hallowed counterparts like Chapel Hill and State. Our alumni base is still young and relatively less affluent. Yet we are an efficiently and cost-effectively run campus. We're a university of opportunity, collaboration and discovery -- you'll find no ivory towers at UNC Charlotte. We are moving fast on an upward trajectory, thanks to people like Dr. Woodward, Dr. Dubois, and former chancellors E. K. Fretwell and Dean Colvard.

So, out of all the stellar leaders he could have chosen from, Pres. Bowles tapped someone from little ol' UNC Charlotte. He chose a great man from a great school. Those of us invested in UNC Charlotte should be very, very proud.