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 (

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