Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Childhood Obesity Taking Center Stage at Movie Premiere

By Lisa Patterson

When I heard UNC Charlotte was partnering with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Levine Children’s Hospital to bring the movie premiere of “The Fat Boy Chronicles” to our campus, I was thrilled. We live in the wealthiest country in the world, and yet in the United States many children and adults don’t get the nutrients their bodies need from the foods they eat, and schools eliminate recess and gym classes from their schedules in response to budget cuts.

The factors that have contributed to childhood obesity have multiplied since the 1970s, when the childhood obesity rate in the United States began its rise from five percent to today’s rate of approximately 20 percent. In fact, this generation could be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The physical effects of childhood obesity are well known, and are driving local and national efforts to address the issue. Last week, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released a report that calls for returning the childhood obesity rate to five percent by 2030.

The psychological and social effects of childhood obesity are as detrimental to a child’s health and well-being as the physical. The most recent national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicates that the largest percentage of those bullied attributed that bullying to body size.

The Charlotte region is taking a positive step to acknowledge the prevalence and effects of childhood obesity with the launch of “Charlotte, Get Your Move On!,” a community initiative modeled after “Let’s Move,” a nationwide campaign to tackle childhood obesity ( The official launch of the program begins with the premiere of the movie “The Fat Boy Chronicles” at UNC Charlotte on June 2.
Based on the book by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan, “The Fat Boy Chronicles” follows 14-year-old Jimmy as he enters the freshman year of high school and chronicles his struggle with bullying and obesity. Thousands of CMS students are reading the book and preparing to discuss it in community forums, and a host of other activities are planned as part of the premiere/Get Your Move On initiative launch.

Through Jimmy’s eyes, audiences will learn what life is like for vulnerable teens facing daily self-doubt and discrimination. Perhaps Jimmy’s story will help put a human face on the statistics, medical terminology and policy recommendations that are so often used to communicate about this issue. After all, a little empathy could go a long way in mitigating the social and psychological effects of what is more than a physical problem.

Open seating tickets are available for reservation. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and are free. Tickets can be picked up at the Student Union Information Desk. The Student Union is open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more ticket information, call 704-687-4949 or 704-687-7100.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sure-footed Steps Through a Transition

One thing I've noticed in the four and half years I've worked at UNC Charlotte (my only higher education experience): although "academic time" may move slowly, it very often works wisely and effectively -- especially when Chancellor Dubois is in the lead.

A recent case in point is Dubois' response to the recent resignation of David Dunn, who moved on to a corporate job. Dunn led the division of university relations and community affairs (URCA) -- the group primarily responsible for cultivating an up-to-date identity for UNC Charlotte. Dunn also served as the university's legislative liaison (read lobbyist) in Raleigh. That was a very crucial role and one at which Dunn excelled.

Instead of moving immediately to fill the vacancy through the usual national search, Dubois is taking his time to initiate a comprehensive, methodical assessment of the division's structure, staffing and scope of work. Should the time-consuming legislative liasion be separated from the rest of the vice chancellor duties and assigned to a specialist? Should URCA be expanded and if so, how? Should it be folded into Development and Alumni Affairs? Should it be partly dissembled?

Dubois has assigned an interim vice chancellor (Niles Sorensen, who already serves as Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs) to help guide the URCA staff, and he's also bringing in a highly respected outsider (former Wachovia executive Shannon McFayden) to manage the assessment. Dubois is looking to McFayden for a smart, thorough and objective review and recommendation about the future needs of URCA; her findings will be based on interaction with URCA directors and various officials at UNC Charlotte and elsewhere in the community.

McFayden's work, which begins June 1, likely will continue through Dec. 31. Only then would Dubois move to fill Dunn's vacant position permanently.

There are practical reasons for being methodical. Chief among them is that it helps ensure a decision of lasting value.

Dubois is taking sure footed steps. And for this URCA staffer, that's reassuring.
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