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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Forecast: Solid economic growth across all sectors in NC in 2014

According Belk College of Business Prof. John Connaugton at his quarterly Babson Capital/UNC Charlotte economic forecats  NC economy will grow in all sectors in '14. This year will FEEL like a recovery and will BE a recovery. Growth is expected to reach 3-3.5% overall. The 2% increase in employment in 2013 has had a major impact (though unemployment is still above national average. The housing market is strong and will get better. Inflation will remain minimal. Fundamental cause of deficit and low employment is baby boomer retirement (Obamacare not a factor); econ is pretty strong --54 months of growth.

Monday, January 13, 2014

College of Computing & Informatics a National Leader in Producing More I.T. Graduates

By Paul Nowell

In 2011,, a leading career website for technology professionals, issued a report which concluded the United States had a pressing need for more skilled workers to meet the growing demand for technology professionals.

Recently, Dice issued a follow-up report showing the demand for skilled computer graduates had indeed resulted in large increases in the number of new grads in the field.

Dean Yi Deng
How does this relate to UNC Charlotte?  Read the analysis of Yi Deng, dean of UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics. In fact, Deng was the first academician quoted by the website in the follow-up report.

In an interview with Dice, Deng noted that UNC Charlotte has ascended quickly in the fierce competition to produce a number of talented computer graduates. The effort includes high-profile universities such as Duke and UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina, and nationally, institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon.

UNC Charlotte’s number of IT undergraduates earning bachelor’s degrees recently spiked 41 percent year over year, said Deng, who attributed the huge surge to a concerted effort to grow the size of the college to meet an increased demand for IT talent from the private sector and government.

It’s another example of how North Carolina’s urban research university is gearing its curriculum to meet the needs of the private sector and government. The students get a comprehensive education and graduate with relevant skills that get them high-wage jobs that need to be filled in 2014 and beyond.

As Deng described it, the growth in tech jobs isn’t likely to end any time in the near future, in large part because of what he describes as “major structural changes” not only within tech, but within the American workplace at large.

“If you look back a couple decades, IT was pretty much a vertical industry driven by players from IBM to Microsoft to Google and so forth,” Deng told Dice. “If you look at the industry now … I think it’s very fair to say that every industry has become an IT industry.”

Deng says the growth is the culmination of strategic planning to meet what the college saw as a f need for more tech-skilled professionals at both undergraduate and graduate levels, with a variety of interests and abilities.

“We’re doing this with very close consultation with a number of industries,” he told Dice. “Our view, in terms of education, is that you’ve got to be market driven. You don’t want to create a degree way ahead of industry. In other words, you don’t want to graduate people when nobody is ready to hire them.

“On the other hand, you do want to stay at the front curve of industry changes, and meet the talent demands.”


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

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Don't be Late for that Meeting

From the Association for Psychological Science:

What does meeting lateness actually say about us as employees? Unfortunately, little research has specifically examined the definition, correlates, and implications of meeting lateness. However, in an article recently published in theEuropean Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, a team led by APS Fellow Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte tries to fill in our knowledge gaps by taking a closer look at the organizational and personal implications of meeting lateness.

The Ticking Clock - Association for Psychological Science