Monday, December 20, 2010

A University with a Plan

By Chancellor Philip L. Dubois

(This column is reprinted from the Q4 2010 edition of UNC Charlotte magazine,published in December 2010)

North Carolina’s looming fiscal crisis is old news to anyone who followed the recent elections or read the headlines in the newspapers in the past few weeks. A projected $3.7 billion deficit in FY12 against a total state budget of approximately $19 billion is sobering and, most assuredly, will have an impact on us at the University.

Notwithstanding what we expect will be tougher times ahead, we’ve enjoyed terrific progress in the past few years toward establishing UNC Charlotte as North Carolina’s urban research university. Total enrollment crossed the 25,000 mark, we awarded a record number of 95 doctoral degrees last year and, in just two-and-a-half years, we will play the first intercollegiate football game in our history.

These are great times to be a Niner. We cannot afford to allow the State’s fiscal issues to slow our momentum.

Since July 1, 2008, the permanent reductions to our State appropriations have totaled over $15 million and undoubtedly, further cuts are looming. Clearly defined campus-wide priorities and objectives will help us make the difficult decisions over the next few months to ensure our progress as a university in this era of fiscal constraint. For that reason, we are mid-way through a 12-month planning cycle aimed at producing an institutional plan that will guide the University through 2016.

We’ll use this planning process to restate our institutional goals so they more clearly reinforce our revised Mission Statement, identify key strategies to pursue over the next five years in a constrained economic environment, and revise assumptions about our overall planning process. We expect the final plan to be reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees by early summer, 2011.

Two other external factors make the development of this plan especially timely. “UNC Tomorrow,” the ambitious effort by President Erskine Bowles and the system Board of Governors to aggregate and focus local campus planning to meet the needs of the State, will be continued through the transition from the Bowles administration to that of President Tom Ross. Second, UNC Charlotte’s reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is scheduled for 2013. Our plans for the future will form an important element of that examination.

The University has already launched a revision of the campus Academic Plan, the college academic plans, and the plans of academic support units. My Cabinet will similarly assess each administrative division within the University. Several goals and major implementation strategies have already been approved for discussion with faculty, staff, students, and off-campus constituents, including alumni.

A draft of our planning assumptions as well as our draft institutional goals and strategies are available in the Chancellor’s Outbox at

Resolutions are useful. As we begin a New Year at UNC Charlotte — one that will surely be full of unknown challenges and opportunities — we will do so with a new plan for the future and the resolve to fulfill goals established collaboratively with our growing community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends.
# # #

A Giving Institution

By John D. Bland

UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research university. It leverages its location in the state’s largest city to offer internationally competitive programs of research and creative activity, exemplary undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, and a focused set of community engagement initiatives. UNC Charlotte maintains a particular commitment to addressing the cultural, economic, educational, environmental, health, and social needs of the greater Charlotte region.

What you have just read is the mission statement of UNC Charlotte. What it promises is that our University is committed to making the Charlotte region a better place. Ours is a public university and thus it is must give back to the public value that validates the public’s investment in UNC Charlotte. (This past Saturday, we delivered unto the community almost 3,000 new graduates during our cmmenecement ceremonies; may the job market provide them with the opportunities they are seeking.)

In challenging economic times such as these, with new leadership taking the helm in our state and a reorganization of state government in the offing, it’s important to remember that the University adds incredible value to our community; it is a giving institution.

In the edition of the UNC Charlotte magazine, available digitally at the URL below, you’ll see prime examples of how the people of UNC Charlotte are addressing the needs of the Charlotte community. Ross Meentemeyer and his associates are studying how a fast-growing metropolis like Charlotte still retains some of the pastoral spaces of bygone days – and what that means for future development. You’ll read a moving account of how a husband-wife team of researchers are making breakthroughs locally in the fight against a heartbreaking disease – Alzheimers. Also in those pages are articles about UNC Charlotte’s Freedom School and our work in presenting the Women’s Summit.

The Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment that helps budding CMS scholars fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. The Women’s Summit provides a forum and concerted effort for local women to help solve the region’s challenges and ensure that women leaders stay engaged in leading our community.

There’s much more in this edition that shows how invaluable UNC Charlotte is to the Charlotte region. Take a look and find out. Thanks for your investment in UNC Charlotte and your continuing support. And never hesitate to stake your claim to your share of a great urban research university.
# # #

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Despite cold and rain, campus open for final exams

UNC Charlotte will be open on a normal schedule and exam schedules remain in place for Thursday, December 16. Come Saturday, the campus will host commencement ceremonies in Halton Areana at 10 am and 3 pm. Almost 3,000 will graduate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Support the State Employees Combined Campaign

I read an article last week – an obituary of sorts – in which the subject was described as a person who always declined financial assistance because, he said, “There’s always someone who needs it more than me.” A few days later the State Employees Combined Campaign (SECC) kicked off at Robinson Hall. It’s the annual drive to raise money for charitable organizations that many of us contribute to each year.

My first feeling about the request to give centered on the fact that this awful recession continues to linger and that we haven’t had raises in two years and won’t again next year, and that, frankly, a call to give was becoming tiresome. But I quickly remembered the quote above and that straightened out my thinking.

I don’t know who is reading this, so I can’t pretend to know about your life and how you’re weathering the Great Recession. Perhaps your spouse or adult child is unemployed or underemployed. Maybe, God forbid, your mortgage is teetering on default. Or maybe like me, you’ve been blessed by maintaining a stable financial situation. What I do know is that you are employed. Not just anywhere but at an institution that is very well managed by smart, thoughtful people of integrity. As such, I can’t deny that there’s always someone with less than me, and I need to be thoughtful and generous in supporting organizations that do good for those who need help.

Someone very successful and very spiritually rich once told me that the more one gives to others, the more one gets in return. Even if we aren’t seeking something in return for our giving, we will benefit. Whether you call it God, or the Universe or karma, doing good begets good. And to share when it’s hard to share is even better.

None of this is news to you, and I’m not here to lecture anyone. I’m just sharing how I feel about my responsibility to give – through SECC and other channels. Some of you may be big givers to SECC. But if you’re ambivalent about how much to give, I recommend giving at least enough to qualify for payroll deduction -- $60 spaced out with deductions throughout the next year.

There’s always someone who has less than us; someone who just needs a little help. By supporting SECC, we help people. And that’s good for them and us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Script to Screen: a Unique Competition

By Rodney Stringfellow

Award-winning filmmaker and UNC Charlotte graduate, Scott Eriksson recently paid a visit to my Introduction to Screenwriting class (FILM 3051) here at UNC Charlotte. Mr. Eriksson was in town for the screening of his film, “No Asians… It’s Just Not My Thing,” in the Charlotte Film Festival. After speaking to the class about how he made the transition from Charlotte to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of filmmaking, he decided to stay for the duration of the class to watch students present their short screenplay assignments.

At the conclusion of the class, Mr. Eriksson complimented the students for both the quality of their writing and for the bold stories they chose to tell. He then shocked us all by offering to shoot one of their short screenplays!

After conferring with him, Mr. Eriksson and I turned the idea into a screenplay competition for the class. The students will vote to determine which three scripts will become finalists. The finalists will be announced in class on November 5 and Mr. Eriksson will announce the winning screenplay on November 19. The winning student’s screenplay will be cast and shot in Los Angeles, CA in December, 2010.

I am extremely excited for my twenty-five students because they are gifted storytellers and are passionate about becoming filmmakers. Screenwriting is a notoriously difficult field to break into, so this unique competition is a great opportunity for them to be noticed by having one of their first screenplays shot by an award-winning director.

We will document the progress of this competition each step of the way and watch as a class assignment is turned into a story for the big screen. And, more importantly, we’ll get the opportunity to see a talented student receive an opportunity of a lifetime.


Rodney Stringfellow teaches in the Language & Culture Studies program

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dumpster diver stakes claim against hunger

By Lisa Patterson

UNC Charlotte student Kaitlyn Tokay has made waves with a unique experiment designed to raise awareness of wastefulness and hunger. She’s been “dumpster diving” (retrieving discarded food for her own consumption from grocery store dumpsters) for about five months now and has been blogging about the experience – more than 1,600 people from around the world follow her posts. This week the Charlotte Observer wrote a story about Kaitlyn:

The inevitable snarky comments from readers followed, but so did genuine expressions of admiration. More than anything, Kaitlyn’s venture was meant to start a dialogue about food policy and what might be the best way to utilize the surplus in a country where thousands of people continue to go hungry. Whether you agree with Kaitlyn’s methodology or not, it sure has gotten people talking.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wasting Time and Probing the Future on Facebook

By James Hathaway

I’m a university communicator who normally writes about research and science, but lately I’ve been led to thinking a lot about something strange and un-science-y and seemingly unrelated to my profession: social media. Facebook… Twitter… where people update you on how their day went or give you their deepest thoughts in one short sentence… To see how unrelated this appears to be to my work, consider how much complex research you can actually talk about in 140 characters (about the length of the sentence before the parentheses).

I came to social media a couple of years ago, first as a parent of teenagers, doing what parents often do – checking up on what my kids were doing on Facebook (which suddenly seemed to be occupying a lot of their time). I didn’t make the immediate connection, but at the same time, the world of science writing was changing and morphing into something new and different too. While most public writing on science had always been in books, magazines, and newspapers, much of it was now suddenly migrating to blogs. The blogs, I soon began to understand, were social media too – they had relatively small audiences of fellow-travelers interested in whatever subject area they covered, and they tended to develop enthusiastic online communities around the topic. Curiously, all my science writer colleagues all around the country also suddenly had Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, which they connected with their blogs… between showing off cute pictures of their cats and the details of their latest vacation. It started to occur to me that some pretty serious communication could also be happening on these seemingly “personal” social tools that my kids had been using.

I decided that the phenomenon needed further investigation, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The social media “experts” I found out on the web did not seem to be saying anything terribly profound about where social media was going and what it was going to do to professional communication, except for saying over and over something increasingly evident – that it was “going to be big.” I work with science and scientists day in, day out, so I decided to do something that they would do – I decided to experiment with the tools. I took my existing Facebook account (which so embarrassed my kids) and set up a Twitter account and began using both actively in ways that I thought might be useful for communicating things I cared about: topics in science, the environment, neuropsychology, psychiatric medicine, education and education reform – a hodgepodge of the things I was most expert in from doing science writing.

Meanwhile, the professional world generally decried social media as “frivolous,” “a time-waster,” “childish,” and generally as a dangerous thing for professional people to be involved with. I felt pretty foolish, but the tools were still growing and I was still intrigued.

And then the world began to change. Major companies hired “social media managers” to advise them and orchestrate company activities in these media. Ads on television suddenly had Facebook and Twitter logos displayed right next to the product name. All the major media were suddenly providing buttons for linking their stories to personal pages in social media. The New York Times and the Washington Post websites started showing me articles that my Facebook friends and acquaintances had also read and liked… And it started to be a little more socially acceptable to tell professional colleagues that you had a Facebook page or a Twitter account.

Which brings me to what I really want to write about here. The other day, I ran across another sign of social media’s sudden “street cred” among serious people: a reference on a science blog to a “new finding” about Facebook – a published academic study on how to best use the tool: Someone doing academic research in business had done a study aimed at discovering what were the worst mistakes someone could make while writing on their Facebook page, causing their “friends” to “unfriend” them. A scholarly study on the best and worst practices in using Facebook – clearly social media had arrived!

The study was interesting, but (I think) a bit superficial in its view of how Facebook (and other social media) works. The top two reasons for “unfriending,” the researcher found, were when users posted far too many irrelevant things in a single day and or posted on “polarizing” topics, like politics. This is an interesting, if fairly predictable finding – if you dominate the conversation and bore people, or if you get strident about a sensitive topic, folks are likely to walk away. However, from my own experimental research, I have my own thoughts.

I've been quietly testing these "parameters" of sociability for about a year by posting fairly frequently and posting links heavy with political comment, hoping for controversy and discussion. Intriguingly (at least to me), my findings have been significantly different from those of the researcher. People may be "hiding" my posts, but I haven't lost many friends, which I thought might well happen. This has led me to begin to think that there’s something more complicated going on here than is covered in the researcher’s assumptions -- the idea that being on Facebook is like being at a large dinner party where the idea is to be witty, pleasant and not make waves so all your new acquaintances will like you.

In some ways, Facebook is like a dinner party, but it’s a dinner party where (depending on how you use it) you might have invited hundreds of acquaintances (and even acquaintances of acquaintances) or perhaps just your close friends and colleagues. And it’s a dinner party that doesn’t just last an evening, but goes on for years, at least for some of the guests. Those who stay tend to be people who enjoy each others conversation and share each other’s interests. While the people who just “friend” you out of courtesy may get bored with what you like to talk about and want to leave, those know you (like you, agree with you, or are interested in the same things as you) tend to stay. After you have been on Facebook for a while, your Facebook friends naturally tend to be more of the latter than the former.

I've been deliberately pushing the “sociability” line on Facebook because I'm interested in Facebook’s potential as a "hybrid" tool, combining personal networking with "professional" communication. My friends are a blend of actual friends and of my writing business contacts – the kind of people that I might want to invite to a dinner party (if I wanted to enjoy the party) and the very group of people I most want to communicate with, professionally and personally. Over time, I’ve made friends with some of their friends – the ones who share my interests. It’s not a big network, but it’s one that is satisfying and even useful to me.

This leads me to an important issue in the field of “network theory” (yes, Virginia, there is such a field): the concept of “weak ties” – network connections that are casual (a friend of a friend), trivial (someone who shares your interest in Irish fiddle music), or remote (someone you met once on a trip) and the concept of “strong ties” – network connections that come out of strong relationships (childhood friends, family members), many shared connections (business partners, close colleagues) or close compatibility (political allies). In network theory, both kinds of ties are important -- weak ties serving as connections to the broader world and important links between smaller, tight networks; strong ties serving as the links that hold local, tight and organized networks together. Now, to get back to the researcher’s finding, while I'm sure that frequent, personality-laden posting on Facebook has a negative impact on developing large networks of primarily "weak-tie" acquaintances just as the study’s data suggests, conversely I wonder if it doesn't, in fact, actually strengthen a smaller number of "strong-tie" relationships and help build the kind of networks that we actually care the most about.

Now, dear reader, I am going to test this blog’s limits of “sociability” by bringing in yet another related theory, something researchers in communications studies call “framing.” Simplistically put, “framing theory” says that people naturally tend to listen to communication that they already agree with (or know about, or are interested in) and tend to disregard communication that they are not comfortable with because it disagrees with (or conflicts with) their interests, knowledge and viewpoints. Framing theory goes on to say that people thus tend to seek out news sources that support their interests and to avoid news sources that conflict with those interests. This natural focus on compatible news (with the rejection of everything else) tends to strengthen initial viewpoints and harden those viewpoints against conflicting viewpoints. (Framing theory is often used to explain the current trend towards polarization in our society.) In other words, strong-tie communication networks form naturally and become stronger and more unified over time.

So, is being ourselves on Facebook (outrageously or otherwise) turning away people who aren’t fully compatible with us, but at the same time helping us develop a powerful strong-tie network, where like-minded people come together and share important information? If we are interested in effective communication, this is a question I think we should explore.

If you are interested in using social networks and social media for communication and network dissemination, there are two ways to go. First (as this article seems to assume) you could try to build up a large network of people who are mainly just acquaintances and friends of friends and try to keep them as network contacts by basically not being annoying. While this gives you immediate access to a large number of people, it's of limited message utility because the people in your network are not necessarily interested in what you are interested in. If you post a message or a link on a topic you care about, most of them are not going to care, and if you do it too frequently, they are going to de-friend you. The second strategy would be to deliberately build a smaller network of "strong-tie” people -- close friends, political/business allies, people with deep interests in the topics that you are deeply interested in. While messages you post go to a smaller number of people on such a network, they are more likely to be re-transmitted through other people's networks (networks that are related to yours in some way) and to find solid reception in the minds of people with similar interests.

I think this second strategy actually shows the real power of network communications and social media. Just as the internet itself has evolved to develop rapid pathways for information transmission through a large number of routers and network systems, social networks encourage the development of networks based on relationship, including relationships that you couldn't develop easily without the internet. Suppose you are interested in wildlife diseases or motorcycles or defending all that you think is right and good about America ... by expressing yourself to friends who share similar interests, you make contact with their friends who have similar interests, and so on. Messages that are important to that interest group get quickly passed along the grapevine. A communications network specific to a certain topic, a particular view, a key issue (etc.) naturally develops and spreads and finds its receptive audience throughout society.

So this is why I care about Facebook and am wasting my precious time playing with it. Yes, it's a nice simple way for close friends and family members to keep in touch across the country and share news, pictures, etc., but it is also a subtle force that is encouraging the development of stronger communication links between like-minded people, though they may not be neighbors or associates. It is creating stronger networks of people who were not necessarily cohesive before. Professionally, politically, and personally, this may be very useful to some of us. On the other hand, I also think that technology’s influence in building tight, organized networks is also at least partially responsible for the interesting events that we are seeing politically. As in most things, the good and the bad are intertwined.

If you share my obsession in this kind of thing, I think you might find these ideas interesting to mull over. If not, well, I’ve just wasted your time. Then again, I doubt you would have read this far if you weren’t interested…

You can follow UNC Charlotte on Facebook at

James Hathaway is research communication manager at UNC Charlotte

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good people + good work = good day!

Here's why today was an exceptionally good day at North Carolina's urban research university, despite being busier than ever, stretched almost to breaking and beset by uncertainty.

It started this morning with the Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship Fund breakfast uptown. UNC Charlotte was one of many sponsors because we believe so thoroughly in this awesome resource for disadvantaged youth. The fund provides scholarships for promising young people who live in CHA homes. Some of these scholars attend UNC Charlotte, and many of the CHA scholars achieve truly great things. This year's keynote alum, Robert Wingate, is a high-achieving educator with an incredible record of success and a strong, exuberant message of motivation, faith and gratitude. The fund, founded by John Crawford, is a truly special endeavor. I walked away on a cloud, energized and grateful. And committed to lending my personal support.

At noontime I sat in on a meeting that dealt with the University's response to the continuing budget pressures that grow out of the state's financial crunch and the nation's long recession (which perhaps is slowly on the mend). This is a topic that involves a lot of uncertainty, but it's very clear that the University has smart, thoughtful, responsible professionals doing their best to operate a great university with fairness for all in the campus community.

By mid-afternoon I gathered with several colleagues for a very fruitful, highly collaborative work session that is helping further organize and streamline our communication work internally and externally -- getting more value and more impact than ever before, thanks to the willingness of associates working more closely together. There's uncertainty surrounding this work as well, but we are making great progress; I know our work will prove valuable for each of us and for the University.

Finally, by late afternoon it became clear that we'll reach a new milestone in our main internal communication channel: Campus News. On Oct. 13 we'll launch an interactive new version of this Web publication. Developing this new generation publication has ben a challenge and a stretch for our team, and the process has been far from perfect. But it's an achievement, and one that will grow in value as we provide more opportunity for building community.

So, it's been a good day, thanks to good people and good work at a great University.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

International Staff Intern Embraces UNC Charlotte

By Fatima Tauqir

After working with enthusiasm and dedication for the last three years as Student Affairs and Marketing Officer, at NUST School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, in Islamabad, Pakistan, I was highly motivated and engrossed in learning more about the world and convinced of the importance of global perspective. My Director General Dr. Arshad and I contacted a colleague at UNC Charlotte to arrange for a professional internship dedicated to examining and understanding student affairs and higher education in the United States.

On my home campus in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, I am responsible for the management of the student affairs office and activities; developing, coordinating and distributing marketing materials reflecting School and University interest and services; overseeing large events for students including annual Open House, Alumni Homecoming, Convocations, and International Culture Day. I also manage the Alumni Office of the school. As an alumnus of the school’s program (I graduated in 2006 with a degree in Information Technology), I bring specific understanding of the school’s academic offerings and the individual student experience.

Warmly welcomed by the UNC Charlotte community, I immediately took advantage of all the opportunities and within a month had visited with a staggering number of campus departments and units including: Student Union, Student Activities Group, Career Office, Counseling Center, Graduate School, Human Resource Office, Housing and Residency, Continuing Education, Development and Alumni Office, International Office of Students and Scholars Office and Dean of Student Affairs. My meetings provided a platform from which I built relationships and strengthened my understandings of policies, system and rules. Through this experience and interaction I have learned a lot. It has enhanced my ability to think and helped me in diverse perception of things.

Apart from scheduling myself with all these departments with my supervisor Marcia Kiessling every week, I have also been keenly engaged on the UNC Charlotte campus I led a discussion during Graduate Education Week in March and presented about NUST and Pakistan to the campus community in April 16. I took professional development courses at UNC Continuing Education. Lastly as part of my internship experience I worked with UNC Charlotte’s Intercultural Outreach to help connect with a group of MBA students from India.

I attended an array of on seminars, workshops and various other campus activities that are being arranged for the students, faculty and staff. I find people working in a collegial and organized manner. During my interactions I have tried to study and observe how these good quality methods and procedures practiced at UNC Charlotte can be incorporated in my parent university, back home.

I enjoyed the life in the USA, including traveling, shopping and cooking. I have a passion for cooking and trying dishes from around the world and loved seeing the behind-the-scenes-work of the Chartwells culinary team at UNC Charlotte. In my last two weeks in the USA I traveled from lush beautiful greenery of Charlotte to the amazing Golden Gate Bridge of San Fran├žois to Malibu on the Pacific Ocean, and then to Manhattan in New York, experiencing different yet amazingly diverse cultures in three states of the USA.

My camera was always at-the-ready from my first ever experience with snow and then twice again, to the beautiful colorful spring and in the end to the blazing hot summer, giving me the best six months of my life.

I was recognized at 5th Annual International Women’s Day. I made extremely wonderful and talented mentors and friends and had an experience which I never thought was meant to happen. At the end, I hope my experience will bring about a positive change in terms of innovation in NUST processes that enables maximum support to students and faculty members. Through this internship opportunity I have tried to establish a strong partnership through collaborative exchange programs between NUST and UNC Charlotte.

I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to UNCC for providing me this international exposure. It has enhanced my life and polished my professional skills beyond my expectations.

We ARE Running. Are You?

By Lisa Patterson

I am not a runner, but I do love a good race. And the 4.NINER K is a great race.

Last year more than 600 people battled inclement weather to get a little exercise and raise funds for need-based student scholarships. The second annual 4.NINER K run/walk is scheduled for Oct. 23, and it’s conceivable that 600 people and then some will be participating. I hope so.

The race is a well-organized affair, and the course is simply beautiful. In fact, the scenery is a great distraction for a non-runner like me…takes the mind off of the burning lungs. Last year, the pre-race atmosphere was festive, the coffee hot, and the good will palpable. It’s safe to expect an even better event this year.

The race was created as a direct response to challenges brought on by the economic recession. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since 2009 in terms of financial aid — less financial aid is available to students in need even as UNC Charlotte’s enrollment increases. Sometimes $100 can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out.

Several of the students who benefited from the more than $27,000 raised in 2009 have since shared their stories with race organizers – the scholarships they received allowed them to stay in school, and they are sincerely grateful. That knowledge might be the motivation I need during the last leg of the race course.

So, I hope you will join me and my teammates Oct. 23 for what promises to be a great race for a great cause. We’re on team “We ARE Running” – and we’ll likely be doing a lot of walking.

I am not a runner, but I am a supporter of education and need-based scholarships.

For more information about the 4.NINER K or to register, visit

# # #
Lisa Patterson is senior writer in the Office of Public Relations

Friday, August 6, 2010

Waste or innovation for economic value? You judge

UNC Charlotte is North Carolina's urban research university, which means that, among other things we are committed to doing research that affects the greater metropolitan region of Charlotte. The arts is one area of economic activity that helps Charlotte thrive. So it makes sense that some of our research would center on the arts, and the many businesses that comprise the artistic industry.

One major research project that is currently having a valuable, if modest, impact on the local arts business -- and may someday affect the national and international entertainment industry in a much, much bigger way -- is a project called Dance.Draw. It's an interdisciplinary collaboration (one of UNC Charlotte's specialties)between the College of Computing & Informatics and the College of Arts + Architecture.

Dance.Draw will allow the motion of dancers, tracked through small radio frequency transmitters inside their clothing to log dancers' movements. It will be able to provide video of the dancers that can be used by choreographers to explore interactive dance without always having a full cast of dancers present. It will also allow artists and musicians to experiment offline with their media and adjust how it interplays with the choreography.

Essentially, it's leading to software innovation in the business of choreography and dance, a sector of the arts that is seeing a resurgence with the mainstream public thanks in part to popular TV shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and other popular fare.

This project won a National Science Foundation grant of more than $700,000 to be spread over three years. That's a lot of money and the NSF is one of leading funders of research at universities. The NSF is an experienced and deliberate judge of programs requesting funds and it's evaluators deemed this project eminently worthy for investment. Yet the Dance.Draw project became embroiled in national politics this week when it was cited by two U.S. senators as wasteful. The senators issued a report that provides incomplete information that lacked the context that would portray the value of Dance.Draw. Some national and local media attention followed; the most fair and balanced report appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

Here's what the senators didn't explain:

Three students are working part-time on the project, and being paid to do so; that's economic value. The grant also provides summer salaries for the three professors on the project (1 month per year), as well as stipends to the dancers (10 separate dancer stipends have been paid thus far), contracts for costumers, a contract to a digital artist, and a sub-contract to a research collaborator at another university who helps with evaluation. That's more economic value flowing directly into the regional marketplace. The project also involves studies in which participants are paid. The research team have also bought equipment, and spent money on travel to present their results, so money is flowing directly into the economy in many ways from this grant.

Some have criticized the fact that a considerable percentage of the grant is directed toward adminstrative costs. The coverage implies that the university administration may be taking an undue portion of the funds.

Here's the truth, in context:
The percentage (44 percent) is established for UNC Charlotte (and for every other institution) by the federal government after auditing our actual expenses in administering externally-funded projects like Dance.Draw. These administrative costs occur at the department, college, and central levels (accounting, personnel, payroll, research facilities depreciation, utilities, library use ...). The university puts those funds back into research development, including the development of new research facilities.

UNC Charlotte is reimbursed for facilities and administrative costs at a rate of 44 percent against the applicable direct costs of on-campus research projects. If all of the direct costs were applicable (they aren't), UNC Charlotte's administrative costs would be just under 31 percent of the total costs. Also, NSF grants often involve contributions of resources from the applicant institution (institutional cost-sharing), making the effective cut smaller still. That money is used to operate facilities that are expensive to run. The university is reimbursed for a share of the funding in order to pay itself for the resources it provides to the researchers. The researchers spend their share of the money on the actual research.

Also, the 44 percent cost rate -- which is mandated by the U.S. government after an extensive audit -- is not unusual." For example, one published report says the comparable overhead rates for on-campus research at the flagship universities of the senators' home states is 50 percent and 51.5 percent, respectively.

Also, consider some of the very real potential value of this research: The researchers are not only studying dance in order to develop software, they are studying motion. The software they develop could eventually be used in the entertainment industry – think Spielberg, Lucas, Disney, “Avatar,” animation, the television and film industries. The entertainment industry is a huge sector in the American (and global) economic system. Consider the scope of the jobs this research could eventually help create.

Taking a good, close, watchdog look at the government's use of taxpayer money is admirable, especially when it is done in good faith. In the constant power struggle of national politics, recognizing good faith can be a challenge. In this instance, the Dance.Draw research project has been maligned. Now you've heard another perspective on the story. What do you think?

# # #

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Soft launch of new Web site under way

North Carolina’s urban research university has a new digital presence. UNC Charlotte’s redesigned home page, which had its soft launch Tuesday, is the result of around 18 months of planning and efforts by units and departments across campus.

In introducing the site via an e-mail to the campus community, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois wrote that the new home page “reinforces UNC Charlotte’s logo, colors and brand message” and was designed with an “audience-centric navigation scheme that allows visitors to easily locate content.”

Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, commented that the University’s Web site is the world’s window into UNC Charlotte. “Our site is newly organized to reveal the depth and breadth of what we do and make it easier for external audiences to find, appreciate and benefit from the work of our campus community.”

The Marketing Services Department in the Division for University Relations and Community Affairs will administer the site using Drupal, an open-source content management system (CMS).

“One fresh, clean, simple and uniform template with lots of flexibility – I will be able to use it across all of my pages. Web site management just got easier,” said David McIntosh, manager of Web services in the Information Technology Services Department and a member of the core team for the project.

Drupal will allow for quicker updates to Web sites than those built in “static HTML.”

The redesigned Web site includes a Stake Your Claim presence as well as consistent use of color and fonts that are central to the brand. The main image, designed to reflect the real characteristics of the University, will use UNC Charlotte students, faculty and staff. The images are part of the spotlight stories that will focus of core areas of the University – arts and culture, athletics, global reach, research and scholarship and academic life. A “share this” icon will enable site visitors to distribute content via their preferred social media outlet.

During the soft launch, users can see the new design at After Aug. 10 the new design will be accessed at

Thursday, July 29, 2010

If you redesign it, they will come…

By Lisa A. Patterson

This time of year is always exciting as fall approaches and with it the advent of a new academic year. And as always, there are a slew of great things to report on at UNC Charlotte – but this blog entry is dedicated to one project that particularly tickles my cockles: the launch of the re-designed University Web site.

If you’ve visited in the past (and I’m guessing you have, seeing as how you subscribe to this blog), you know that the Web site in its current form is, well, difficult to navigate (to put it mildly). I say this with affection – universities were early and enthusiastic adopters of all things Internet, but early adoption of a rapidly changing technology can sometimes come back to bite you. So, as UNC Charlotte forged ahead with its Stake Your Claim branding initiative, the decision to revamp the University’s Web site was a no-brainer.

This much-needed, oft discussed project has come to fruition after more than 18 months of planning and collaboration led by the Marketing Services Department in the Division of University Relations and Community Affairs…That’s a lot of planning and collaboration. The home page and upper tier pages were the first to be re-designed, and the rest of the site’s pages will follow through a planned migration process. Launch of the new site will take place August 3, so be sure to check it out (same url –

I’ve seen a preview of the site – I won’t spoil it for you, but I guarantee you’ll find it much easier to navigate. And if you have an inclination to learn more about the process behind the final, glorious product, you can go to

Lisa Patterson is -- surprise -- senior writer in the Office of Public Relations

Monday, July 19, 2010

Former Long-time Dean Schley Lyons Dies

Dr. Schley R. Lyons, former long-time dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (now the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) passed away on Saturday, July 17, in Charlotte. Dr. Lyons joined the faculty of UNC Charlotte in 1969 as Chair of the Department of Political Science, a position he held for 11 years. During that time, he established the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology in l971 and developed a graduate program in urban administration.

Dr. Lyons was appointed Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1980 and interim dean in 1985. He served as interim dean of the college during 1985-86.

Following a national search, he was appointed dean and held the position until he retired in 2005. During his tenure the number of full-time college faculty increased from 281 to 435 and student enrollment almost doubled, from 4,307 to 8,465. New departments and academic programs were added, including five doctoral programs. Student services were expanded, adding a College Advising Center, and a technology service unit for students and faculty was established. Under his leadership, external funding and faculty research in the college grew significantly which greatly enhanced the growing reputation of UNC Charlotte as a major research university.

"Schley was a wonderful dean," said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, who'd known Lyons since the early 1990s when Dubois was UNC Charlotte's provost. "That job is all about hiring the right people. He hired really good faculty and really good department heads. He probably hired all the senior faculty on campus. That's why we're as solid an institution as we are."

After retiring in 2005, Dr. Lyons continued to teach for several years and recently authored the Politics and Government chapter in The North Carolina Atlas.

Dr. Lyons was a 1955 graduate of Shepherd University and, following his military service, received his Ph.D. from American University in 1964. His research areas included North Carolina state and local politics and American Electoral behavior. His research continues to be cited and he was sought after as a political commentator in news media locally and regionally.

His distinguished legacy includes the founding of Leadership Charlotte, which has cultivated over 1,000 community leaders since its inception in 1978, and the UNC Charlotte Taft Institute for Two-Party Government, which taught thousands of secondary school teachers to place real politics at the center of their teaching of social studies. Leadership Charlotte annually recognizes an outstanding community leader with the Schley R. Lyons Circle of Excellence award commemorating Dr. Lyons contributions to the development of civic leadership in Charlotte. In recognition of Dr. Lyons’ 36 years of dedicated service to UNC Charlotte and the greater community, a lecture hall in Fretwell Hall is named in his honor.

"Dr. Lyons was known across the UNC Charlotte campus community for his distinctive laugh, his sharp political wit, his competitive tennis game, and his championship ballroom dancing skills," said Dubois. "He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues."

An article about Lyons' passing appeared in the July 19 edition of The Charlotte Observer:

# # #

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Web Stuff is Good Stuff

Two Web projects are underway that will provide better access to UNC Charlotte for current and prospective students, parents, staff, faculty. It's fun stuff.

A complete redesign of, completed now and integrated step by step over the next two years (beginning in late July)will present a new face to the entire world. The new site will be easier to navigate and will tell the story of an amazing university community in more dyanamic ways. Using an open source content management system, it will be much easier, and far more affordable for web managers to update and it will accommodate print, graphic and video content much more easily than the current Web site. The new look is clean, fresh and uncluttered. The new feel is contemporary, dynamic and upbeat. The process of developing the new design, funtionality, templates and purpose has been a tremendous achievement of teamwork by more than 30 people campus-wide.

The other project is an updated, interactive version of Campus News, the web newsletter targeted to faculty and staff. Campus News was published online as a PDF only a few years ago. It moved to a web format two years ago, but has continued to be published weekly and is presented as a more traditonal one-way oracle. That will change by late August when Campus News, using the same Drupal content management system as will debut a whole new range of functionality and interactive features. Readers -- or better yet, patrons -- of Campus News will be able to post messages, comment on articles, send e-cards to colleagues, take surveys, and enjoy a wider range content. We'll update the site multiple times per week.

Also through the web, we made great strides with our Facebook page, with almost 8,500fans using it as a forum. We're using Twitter as well, to help tell followers about good things at the university. And our YouTube channel is packed with content for all types of viewers.

At UNC Charlotte, we're accustomed to doing good things with limited resources, but even so, the grueling recession has been an exceptional challenge. Yet we're moving forward to make communication better and more meaningful to our campus community and those interested in it. Stay tuned. More fun web stuff is on the way.

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.
# # #

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eureka! Levine Scholars Will Change Lives

By Paul Nowell
We all have those occasions when the light bulb turns on over our head. A perplexing problem is finally answered or a solution to a dilemma suddenly surfaces. Yet few of us will ever have the chance to change the course of a university’s history based on one of these “Eureka!” moments.

On this occasion, it was a rather serendipitous conversation that inspired philanthropist Leon Levine’s brainstorm. While waiting for his doctor, he observed a certificate hanging on the wall that recognized Dr. Michael Richardson as a Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill.

Curious, Levine asked his physician about the impact the scholarship had on his life.
Without hesitation, Richardson replied it was the single most important achievement in his life. Those words resonated with Levine, who has used his considerable fortune to improve the lives of thousands of people in Charlotte and the surrounding region.

The Leon Levine Foundation has contributed millions to improve the lives of children, the needy and many other worthy causes. In this case, Levine and his wife, Sandra, wanted to provide scholarships to bright high school students so they could become the next generation of “ethical leaders” in Charlotte.

On Wednesday, UNC Charlotte introduced the first class of 15 Levine Scholars, including 10 high school seniors from North Carolina and five from other states. The scholarship covers the cost of all tuition and fees, housing and meals, books, a laptop computer and summer experiences. Additional funding is provided to support community service work during the academic years.

The value of the scholarship is about $90,000 for each in-state student and $140,000 for each out-of-state student. It’s no surprise the selection process was rigorous and extremely competitive. More than 1,000 high school seniors from 25 states were nominated by their schools.

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, the Levines said they wanted to raise the academic standing of UNC Charlotte and bring in talented and committed students who would choose to live and work in Charlotte.
You know, just like Dr. Michael Richardson.

Based on the resumes of two of the Levine Scholars, there’s good reason to be hopeful.

Evan Danchenka, of nearby Harrisburg, has already volunteered on the effort to build the Carolina Thread Trail that will link 15 North Carolina counties in one walking trail. He'll continue that work as an undergrad at UNC Charlotte.

Celia Karp, of Bethesda, Md., was attracted to the public service requirement in the Levine Scholars Program. While still in high school, she has served food to the homeless, raised money for breast cancer research and worked with children with terminal illnesses.

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Living History: Prof's Ground-Level Experience

Guest blog by Lisa A. Patterson

Every year, a select few UNC Charlotte faculty members are honored in award ceremonies for their dedication to teaching, exceptional research or the mentorship they provide to students. We’re gearing up to present one such award April 14 – the First Citizens Bank Scholars Medal. This year’s recipient, Dr. Lyman Johnson, a professor of history, is being honored for his achievements as a scholar of late colonial Latin American/Argentine history.

One of the amazing things about quality scholarship is the way it can illuminate a subject that might seem esoteric at first glance. Even better if the person doing the research is passionate about his/her subject – that passion becomes evident to students and colleagues and informs everything the scholar produces. Dr. Johnson is a prime example of a passionate scholar who has contributed to the advancement of his field and the growth of his department, and to the reputation of UNC Charlotte as a research institution.

Like all of the best scholars, Dr. Johnson has immersed himself in his field, spending extended stints in Argentina, the country in which he specializes. In a recent interview, he recounted a harrowing experience from one such trip that led him to a greater understanding of his subject and the struggles his Argentine colleagues face. This is the story in his own words:

I feel I’ve been very fortunate because my wife and I and my family has opportunity to travel all over Latin America. You can find yourself being in history. I was a Fulbright professor in Argentina – we arrived a few weeks after the military had driven Estela Martinez de Peron from power. When we arrived at the airport there were tanks in the parking lots, and soldiers. You could hear gunshots in the streets at night. We had one personal incident that was really terrifying to us. We were in Salta, close to the Bolivian border, and in the middle of the night two guys beat on the door of the hotel room. They were armed with pistols. They ransacked our luggage, asked a series of questions and left. What we discovered the next day was that the federal police chief had been assassinated and the police were looking throughout the country for people with fraudulent passports. There were other incidences like that. In the end my wife decided to take our 5-year-old daughter home early. I finished my term, but it took my wife a while to want to go back. We’d had a wonderful time just six years earlier, but it was a shock to us. But in some ways that was the experience of all my Argentine colleagues – almost all had been forced to flee the country under threat of death and had spent time outside the country. It helped me understand the enormous difficulties my colleagues faced in Latin America during political conflict. The experience didn’t sour us, or change my love of the place. But it reminded us there was a series of huge political issues outside of the archives you had to pay attention to. Having seen that, it’s made me understand it in some way, what the ground level experience of people was during times of violence and political confrontation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prepare to Love this Dance Ensemble

Guest Blog by Natasha Williams
Wednesday made the first time I have ever attended The UNC Charlotte Dance Ensemble, and I must say it was amazing. I enjoyed every moment of it. The best part about it was the location and price of tickets. I only paid $6 for lower level seats in UNC Charlotte’s own Robinson Hall.

I could see and hear everything. Yes, even the dancers breathing.
The first moment, “Shadowland”, was my favorite. It was somewhat complex, and I’m not particularly sure I got the message the dancers were trying to convey. However, the message I did receive is that UNC Charlotte has amazing, exceptionally talented students.

The dancers moved gracefully, sometimes aggressively, but most of all simultaneously across the stage.

Another favorite of mine was the male dancers. I think it’s wonderful to see men dancing because dance is so often attributed to women. I think it takes quite the man to wear some of the dancers’ costumes.

The costumes were an interesting component of the dance ensemble. During one of the movements the dancers wore different flowers on their backs and hips, which gave a unique element to the entire dance. In a duet piece the two dancers wore mirroring costumes. One wore cutoff shorts and a T-shirt, while the other wore a cutoff T-shirt and pants. It was very interesting and creative.

The Dance Ensemble started Wednesday, Mar. 24 and concludes Sunday, Mar. 28. For anyone with even the slightest attraction to dance, this is a ‘must see’.

Natasha Williams is a UNC Charlotte senior majoring in Communication Studies

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Workaholism the Best Dressed Problem of the Era?

Work nearly destroyed Bryan Robinson’s life 20 years ago.

The UNC Charlotte professor emeritus and psychotherapist wrote about workaholism in his book, “Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians who Treat Them.”

Robinson said, “I used work to defend myself against unwelcome emotional states — to modulate anxiety, sadness, and frustration the way a pothead uses dope and an alcoholic uses booze.”

His experience led him to study work addiction — what he calls “the best-dressed problem of the 21st century” — and its consequences. While a professor of counseling, special education and child development at UNC Charlotte, he was among the first researchers to publish on the topic, and he continues to counsel patients from all over the world in his clinical practice in western North Carolina.
Robinson said workaholics tend to be separatists, preferring to work alone and focusing on the details of their job. They often attach their egos to their work. Healthy workers see the bigger picture and work cooperatively with others toward common goals.

Perhaps the most salient distinction is this: Healthy workers experience work as a necessary and sometimes fulfilling obligation; workaholics see it as a haven in a dangerous, emotionally unpredictable world.

“I would ask people when they see some of the symptoms to look a little deeper. The 10-year- old in the class who is a little adult might be that way because of what’s going on in his or her life; the same goes for the child who has a fit when he gets a 99 instead of 100 percent on a test . These children can be treated and taught how to let go,” Robinson said.

obinson says workaholics often require professional help that encourages them to put the smartphone or laptop computer away. But beware that many therapists don’t recognize workaholism, and some therapists are themselves work-addicted. Workaholics Anonymous is an option, with chapters worldwide. It can provide referral services for the workaholics and their families, Robinson said.

At a time when he unemployment rate has skyrocketed, broaching the subject of work addiction becomes more difficult than in times of prosperity, but Robinson is determined to continue to preach the gospel of work-life balance to the public.


A feature article, on this topic appears in the Q1 2010 edition of UNC Charlotte magazine for alumni and friends of the university. It is accessible online at ...

I Agree with Survey Results: Most Students Feel Safe on Campus

Guest blog by Natasha Williams

In my position as an intern in UNC Charlotte's Office of Public Relations, I had access to some wonderful information on the student perception of personal safety at UNC Charlotte. A comprehensive survey of 3,000 students was conducted several months ago to measure students’ perception of campus safety.

The findings validated my thoughts on campus safety and, in my opinion, should make the student body feel safe. Some of the findings include:
• Nearly 90 percent of respondents felt very safe or reasonably safe while in class.
• Nearly 95 percent of students have never been victims of crime on the UNC Charlotte campus.
• Of the 5 percent who reported being victimized in 2009, more than 65 percent suffered a property crime and 24 percent suffered a personal, violent crime.
• Overall, 60-plus percent of respondents said they feel very safe or reasonably safe on campus; 22 percent felt neither safe nor unsafe.
• Nearly 60 percent of students responded that they had never been in a situation on campus where they feared for their safety.
• Participants were asked about the degree to which they are worried that a mass assault similar to those at other universities will happen here at UNC Charlotte. Nearly 70 percent responded they were not worried to moderately worried.

As a transfer student from a small private school to UNC Charlotte, I was definitely concerned about safety. In my couple years of attending the university, I’ve found UNC Charlotte is a safe school, and I’m glad to read that students feel the same way.

However, I do acknowledge the fact that crime is everywhere, including this university (we had a small case of arson last night), but it is certainly not a major problem or something students talk about every day. Even post-Virginia Tech, I think the overall feeling of campus safety is positive at UNC Charlotte.


Natasha Williams is a senior majoring in Communication Studies

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Steinem's About Social Justice, Not Man-Bashing

Guest blog by Lisa A. Patterson

Gloria Steinem Rocked My World. How Was Your Monday?

This is a monster blog entry, but you know what? I have a lot to say about Gloria Steinem’s March 1 visit to campus.

I was one of the lucky ones – I got in line early enough to get a coveted green ticket, which would guarantee me a seat in McKnight Hall for the lecture. While in line, I overheard a conversation between the two individuals behind me. The man asked the woman, “So have you seen her speak before? Is this going to be, like, man bashing?” The woman explained that feminism is not about man bashing. I smiled – it was already an educational evening, and we weren’t yet in the auditorium.

The lecture began with a photo montage that aroused emotion, at least for me. One photo in particular caught my attention – a black and white still of a multitude of women standing with arms linked. I found that photo to be striking for several reasons: 1) the closest thing to that kind of solidarity I’ve witnessed personally are the crowds President Barack Obama drew during his campaign for the presidency; 2) it reminded me of just how young the movement for social and political equality for women really is; and 3) it reminded me that people committed to a cause can affect change. It also inspired a longing for connection and got me thinking about all of the things that get in the way of people forming connections with one another. All of this before Steinem even stepped on the stage.

In her speech (which was delivered by Kelly Finley because Steinem had laryngitis), Steinem addressed division – we separate ourselves from one another based on externalities such as race, social class, or age, instead of celebrating and learning from our differences and reflecting on the many similarities we share. Steinem warned against buying in to the stereotypes that are propagated by the media. She deconstructed the myth that young women are not socially aware and focused on women’s issues (citing some pretty compelling statistics), she talked about the inherent links between sexism and racism, and she implored us to share our stories and mentor one another across generational lines.

These things hit home. My grandmother was a woman with whom I identified not as a mother figure but more as a friend with a great deal of experience. I call upon the insights I gained from her nearly every day, and I wish everyone the opportunity to have that kind of relationship with someone. From the perspective of her 75 years, Steinem is saying that cross-generational relationships are essential to creating unity and understanding among people, and that we can and should nurture these relationships.

From a quiet kid, a silent observer, I became a story teller because I enjoy people and I love that they are not all like me, and they deserve to be heard, and maybe I have the words to help them or the platform to tell their stories. We all deserve to be heard. That black and white photo of a multitude of women (and I’m sure, some supportive men), standing with arms linked, is worth a thousand words. It gave me a glimpse of how far we’ve come, and it got me stewing over how far we’ve yet to go, and how I can contribute to advancing social justice for all people. At the end of her speech Steinem requested that each member of the audience perform one act of rebellion, and said that she would match us, act for act. I have to confess, I haven’t performed my act yet…or maybe I’ve taken one small step toward rebellion.

I’ve decided to reclaim the label of “feminist” because it is not a dirty word. It is a word that signifies a movement that has made life better for men, women and children. And I’ve begun to search for heroes, because inspiration is a necessary ingredient to the change making process. Some heroes I’ve met while working in higher education, some are among my family members, and many are in our community, toiling in obscurity.

It’s a bit daunting, this social justice thing. But it’s also invigorating, terribly human, and from what I gathered from Steinem, it can be a helluva lot of fun.
*Steinem said that women lose intellectual self-esteem for every additional year of higher education they receive. I’ve done a cursory search for studies on this, but if any of you can point me in the direction of a definitive study on the topic, please send me a note (

# # #

Lisa A. Patterson is a public relations writer at UNC Charlotte, and a proud feminist.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Disagree, Therefore You are Bad (?)

This is my "Why can't we all get along" entry.

One of my responsibilities is to publish a quarterly magazine. The editorial team does its best to develop thoughtful articles that highlight UNC Charlotte's diverse and deep scholarship, practical applied research, solutions-oriented community engagement, and stories about amazing people.

Recently, I was contacted by a reader who doesn't like the magazine. The reader called the magazine socialist crap. He believes the magazine is an example of selling out to people who want to do us harm. He didn't like that the cover of the magazine bore a middle-east flag (actually the cover bore a cross, a Star of David and a crescent moon as symbols of three of the world's major religions; the article was about the work of our esteemed religious studies department.)He didn't like a story about research into diabetes among Charlotte's Latino population, because he assumed most of them are here illegally. He believes the magazine cotributes to the ruination of a great city (the writer lives almost 2,000 miles away from Charlotte). His message communicated frustration and anger. He said I have a lot to learn.

The reader is correct that I have a lot to learn. I hope I never stop learning.

One of the things I haven't really learned is why some people respond so vehemently and politically to things they don't agree with. Granted, every one has their opinion, and those opinions are shaped by one's personal experiences. And, it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round. I respect this reader's opinion and even respect the rather coarse way in which he expressed it to me. But why did he feel the need to lash out? To me, his anger must grow out of fear. People are fearful about all sorts of things and during times of economic hardship and exceptional uncertainty, fears get aggravated. Sometimes the fear finds expression in actions of frustration, resentment, exasperation, hate -- or spiritual development, open-minded attempts to understand, comedy and even expressions of love.

Personally, I am not fearful about the future of greater Charlotte, nor of the future of the United States of America. I believe in our essenital strength and in a free market of ideas. I believe that through the crucible of representative democracy and forces of the marketplace come decisions and actions that we are pledged to live with until the same process creates changes -- and that the process of change is continual.

I'm not offended by the reader who contacted me. I neither resent him nor feel sorry for him. I wish him well and hope that he'll find liberation from fear.

# # #

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Students Bust a Move for Haiti Relief

Guest blog by Rayshawn Watson
Dance-4-Haiti is a Dance-A-Thon being put on by the UNC Charlotte Student Alumni Ambassadors. There have been a lot of charity events and people around campus collecting donations, so we thought this would be a way for students to not only donate, but have fun.

The main reason for the Dance-A-Thon is to raise money for Haiti and to show that students and the 49er family really do care. All donations are welcome and it’s open to the public.

Admission is $3 if you just want to get in and party with us. If you would like to be in the dance contest its $5 dollars and you must arrive by 5:15pm, to be entered into the contest. There will be free food, drinks, and raffles all night long. It will be a fun event and the Student Alumni Ambassadors look forward to seeing you there.

The date for the event is: Feb. 13, 2010 at the Barnhardt Student Activity Center (Halton Arena building) Salons from 6pm-midnight. The SAC is located on the 3rd floor of the Halton Arena.

Rayshawn Watson is a UNC Charlotte student and member of the Student Alumni Ambassadors group.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January brings faculty artists to the stage

Guest blog by Christopher T. Barton
The beginning of a semester can be a quiet time at Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts. Auditions, rehearsals, choreography and set construction have only just begun for the many student performances that will take place on our stages. And unless you’re a set designer, an empty stage just doesn’t quite capture the imagination. Fortunately for UNC Charlotte, we have talented and active faculty in the performing arts and in these next several weeks we have exciting opportunities to enjoy their work.

In October, our newly appointed Anne R. Belk Distinguished Professor of Music, violinist David Russell, performed his inaugural recital and earlier this month he helped “Light the Knight” at the gala opening of Charlotte’s new Knight Theater with a solo performance that Classical Voice of North Carolina called “impossible not to enjoy.” This Friday, January 22nd, David is joined by fellow faculty members Mira Frisch (cello) and Dylan Savage (piano) as well as a distinguished group of guest artists from The UNC School of the Arts, The Hartt School, and West Virginia University for the next program on our Faculty & Friends Concert Series. This concert promises to be an exceptional performance of two of the great masterworks of the chamber music repertoire by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – his Piano Quartet No. 1 – and Franz Schubert – the Cello Quintet. The concert series will also continue through February and March with performances by tenor Brian Arreola and Duo Savage, the musical partnership of husband and wife Dylan and Susan Savage.

January also brings two remarkable performances of dance to the Belk Theater at Robinson Hall. Our Department of Dance once again hosts the annual tour of the North Carolina Dance Festival on Friday, January 29 and Saturday January 30. Unique in the country and now a North Carolina institution, NC Dance festival began in 1991 as a weekend of concerts in at UNC Greensboro and has grown into an annual tour showcasing dance artists from across the state. Eight different dance companies tour (stops in 2009-10 include Boone, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington) and are joined on the program by artists local to the host communities. Those local artists featured in our UNC Charlotte performances are E.E. Motion, Caroline Calouche & Co., and NCDT II. E.E. Motion is directed by E.E. Balcos, Assistant Professor of Dance at UNC Charlotte and will perform “The Party”, a work for six dancers choreographed to music written by UNC Charlotte composer, Dr. John Allemeier. Caroline Calouche & Co., a Gastonia based contemporary and aerial dance company, will perform an excerpt from the piece “The Macabre Mask”, an original work that blends the poetry and literary works of Edgar Allan Poe. And in a very special appearance, North Carolina Dance Theatre 2 (NCDT II), a group of young professional artists affiliated with Charlotte’s prestigious North Carolina Dance Theatre, will perform the piece “City South”, an NCDT signature piece choreographed by Mark Diamond.

These special performances are just the beginning of an exciting semester at Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts. Please join in – once again or for the very first time – as we support and celebrate our faculty and student artists. Visit, stop by our Box Office, or call 704.687.1TIX (1849) for information and tickets to upcoming performances.

See you at Robinson Hall!

# # #

Chris Barton in marketing/box ofice manager for Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts

Monday, January 11, 2010

Campus Police Prove Mettle in Emergency Exercise

Guest blog by Paul Nowell

It’s an old adage that an admirable performance by police officers is akin to one turned in by a first-rate referee crew – they are usually doing a commendable job when they are scarcely noticed.

UNC Charlotte campus police did a first rate job last Tuesday and this time they WERE noticed.

Anyone who witnessed the full-scale emergency response exercise on Jan. 5 on the UNC Charlotte campus would come away impressed by the performance of our campus police. I did witness it and I would like to give them some well-deserved credit.

Those cheering the loudest included some veteran Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers and representatives from the consulting firm that organized the exercise, EnviroSafe. These are not the sort of folks who worry about making you feel better about yourself.

On Jan. 5, UNC Charlotte Police officers were the first to respond to the simulated “active shooter” incident at Duke Centennial Hall near the Highway 29 entrance to the sprawling campus.

Arriving in a matter of minutes, they were in charge of the scene until CMPD officers arrived. Before long, one of the two assailants was detained and the other was located. The officers performed their duties impeccably.

Although there was one simulated “fatality” during the simulated siege, the "shooting" occurred before the UNC Charlotte police officers arrived on the scene. Another 33 volunteers played the role of injured; they were treated and transported to area hospitals.

The hostage ordeal ended without additional injuries to students, faculty or staff. And no one was injured as a result of a hazardous material investigation that was thrown into the mix by EnviroSafe to test the overall response.

“I think it went really well. The collaborative effort out at the scene was really compelling,” Major Jeff Baker of the UNC Charlotte Police said following the exercise.

The simulation, sponsored by the Risk Management, Safety and Security Department in conjunction with Homeland Security, was designed to test the readiness of University departments, campus and local police, the fire department, local hospitals and other first-responders.

The bottom line is that the UNC Charlotte police officers were properly trained and prepared to handle their part of the crisis. By participating in a simulated “active shooter” exercise, valuable lessons were learned.

I came away from the day’s events with far more respect for all the law enforcement, fire and emergency officials – including our campus police. It’s no surprise that they are dedicated public servants. But now I’ve seen them in action and my respect is even greater.

Paul Nowell is Media Relations Manager in UNC Charlotte’s Office of Public Relations.