Friday, March 30, 2012

UNC Charlotte’s Institute for Social Capital and Urban Institute to merge

By Linda Shipley, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

Two of UNC Charlotte’s most visible institutes are merging to create a combined center with unparalleled research capacity to address social issues in the Charlotte region. On March 8, the Institute for Social Capital (ISC) board of directors and UNC Charlotte agreed to merge the ISC staff and operations into the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, the university’s oldest applied research center.

The Institute for Social Capital was founded by the Foundation of UNC Charlotte in 2004, after considerable input from social service agencies and other community stakeholders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Its mission is to provide social resources that advance university research and increase the community’s capacity for data-based planning and evaluation. At its core is a comprehensive community database of local social and human capital data from 13 public and nonprofit agencies, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Social Services. While maintaining the confidentiality of individual records, the ISC database connects dispersed data sets, providing a foundation for researchers to build a better understanding of the social and environmental variables that affect the community, particularly outcomes for children and families.

The merger follows the resignation of the longtime ISC director, Dr. Sharon Portwood, who in January returned to a full-time faculty position at UNC Charlotte’s College of Health and Human Services. Dr. Portwood was ISC’s first executive director, and as an authority on issues related to youth and families she is credited not only with securing the many complex data-sharing agreements that were essential to the creation of the ISC database, but also with establishing the young institute’s credibility among community stakeholders and academic researchers.

“Dr. Portwood was the perfect choice to serve as our first executive director of the Institute for Social Capital,” said Joan Lorden, UNC Charlotte Provost. “The respect she has among her peers as a first-rate researcher, her legal background, and her commitment to building a community of practice around research on children gave us someone who was uniquely qualified to shepherd such an ambitious and complex new center during its formative years. We are forever grateful for her contributions.”

By bringing the Institute for Social Capital into the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, the ISC board and UNC Charlotte hope to leverage the considerable research and administrative resources of the Urban Institute to expand ISC’s capacity to reach out into the community to conduct timely and relevant research using the ISC database. Founded in 1969, the Urban Institute has more than 40 years of experience as an applied research center focusing on public policy issues in the Charlotte region. Its three primary focus areas are the economy, the environment and social well-being.

“We feel that we are combining two tremendous community assets – the unique resource that is the ISC database, and the extraordinary resources and reputation of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute,” said ISC board president Peggy Eagan, executive director of the Children and Family Services Center of Charlotte. “The two institutes already share many of the same research partners, both on and off campus, so we anticipate a smooth and seamless transition.”

The Institute for Social Capital will operate as a research program of the Urban Institute, with a nonprofit subsidiary of the Foundation of UNC Charlotte continuing to operate as the fiscal and legal steward of the ISC database for security reasons. The search for a new director is under way, with a target of having someone on board by midsummer. In the meantime, Urban Institute Director Jeff Michael will continue to serve as interim director of ISC, as he has since January.

“We’re already experiencing the anticipated benefits of merging the two institutes,” Michael said. In February, United Way of Central Carolinas and the Wells Fargo Foundation announced a new research initiative, Collective Impact, to evaluate the effectiveness of United Way-funded programs focusing on children and youth. The research is being conducted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, using Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools data found in the ISC database.

“The Collective Impact evaluation became a reality because officials with United Way and the Wells Fargo Foundation were excited about the potential that the combined entity provided the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community for this sort of innovative approach to evaluation,” Michael says. “I think we’ll see more and more of these kinds of collaborative research opportunities as we demonstrate the extraordinary potential of the ISC database in the months and years ahead.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Bard Lives in Charlotte

Some folks who know about such things say UNC Charlotte's Lon Bumgarner -- a Charlotte native (give or take a couple years) and a UNC Charlotte alum, has done more than any Charlottean to connect people to Shakespeare over the last three decades.

Read more here:

UNCC prof Lon Bumgarner has his Will | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

Professors Staking Their Claim to Sustainable Weatherization

Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary projects are part of what makes UNC Charlotte different from many universities with hardened silos separating colleges and departments. The story here describes innovative work by UNC Charlotte professors in the William States Lee College of Engineering and the College of Arts + Architecture, as well as other colleagues. They are staking their claim to an updated, practical, energy-saving approach to sustainable weatherization. The results will benefits all home owners, but especially low-income home owners.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

49ers Committed to Running a Clean Football Program

[Pictured here: Coach Brad Lambert at the 49ers first football signing day, in February.]

Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Athletics Director Judy Rose, and Head Football Coach Brad Lambert talked with writer Frank Barrow about the need for and their commitment to running a tight ship as the 49ers build the University's first football program. This is a great read and one that underscores UNC Charlotte's traditional of "clean" athletics.

Staying Clean: Can the Niners Stay Out of the Mud? - Charlotte Magazine - April 2012 - Charlotte, NC

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dance. Draw Technology, choreography intersection results in new creative realm | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

Research in the arts is part of the business of dance. Therefore this technological advance, combining choreography with computer science, is good for business.

Dance. Draw Technology, choreography intersection results in new creative realm | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

University to Host World Premiere of Jewish Art

[The artwork pictured here is part of the exhibiton of paintings by Ralph Gilbert]

As part of UNC Charlotte’s Violins of Hope project, the University will host the world premiere exhibition of “Not So Still Life, With Music: The Milken Archive of Jewish Music Presents Paintings by Ralph Gilbert.” The display will open Monday, April 9, at UNC Charlotte Center City in conjunction with the Americas premiere of the Violins of Hope, 18 violins recovered from the Holocaust by Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein.

Gilbert was commissioned by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music to create a series of 20 oil paintings to complement 20 themed volumes of music that encompass more than 700 recordings. The artist is former associate dean for fine arts and founding director of the Center for Collaborative and International Arts at Georgia State University. The Milken Archive, based in Santa Monica, Calif., was founded by Lowell Milken in 1990. The archive seeks to preserve and promote Jewish music, and its virtual museum website ( is an interactive guide to music, videos, oral histories, photos and essays chronicling more than 350 years of Jewish music and culture in a land of freedom.

According to Milken, “The Violins of Hope and the Milken Archive of Jewish Music share a common purpose – the preservation, dissemination and inspiration of a culture that has not only survived but thrived.”

The exhibition works are intended to portray how music conveys emotion on a “gestural level,” according to the artist. Gilbert said he wanted to strike a balance between honoring the Jewish content of the volumes and attending to the more abstract and formal properties that give a work of art general appeal.

The display runs through Tuesday, April 24.

Chinese Connection Continues

By Paul Nowell

[pictured above, preparing to address the Chinese delegation are Provost Joan Lorden, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Associate Director of the UNC Charlotte China Center Qingli Meng and Professor of Criminal Justice and Crimionology Paul Friday.]

Building on Chancellor Philip L. Dubois’ visit to Beijing in 2010, a group of visitors from China arrived on campus on March 26, as part of trip to the United States coordinated by the University’s Center for China Studies.

This is the second such visit in the last year.

Organized and hosted by Paul Friday, director of the China Center and a professor of criminal justice and criminology, the event included two separate and independent groups.

A group from Xuxhou Institute of Technology (XZIT) made an initial outreach visit to discuss the opportunity for XZIT students to participate in the proposed UNC Charlotte Summer Academy in 2012. Other topics included discussion of undergraduate exchanges and XZIT graduates applying to UNC Charlotte graduate programs.

The XZIT delegation is headed by Deputy President Hao Chaojun who was accompanied by other dignitaries.

The trip by the Emergency Support New Equipment and New Equipment Training Group was organized by the International Office of the China Work Safety Administration.

The second group included the directors of different provincial work safety administrations and the managers of different coal mines and energy companies as well as a representative of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

The group participated in a three-week training session beginning with one week at UNC Charlotte where they attended lectures and demonstrations from professors in Criminal Justice, Political Science, Public Administration, the Transportation Center, Computer Science and the University’s Department of Public Safety.

In addition, they were treated to demonstrations by representatives of private industry in the Charlotte area that manufacture related equipment as well as a visit to a one-of-a kind emergency medical hospital, Med1.

The group also attended the N.C. Mine Safety Conference, the National Mine Safety Training Academy, FEMA Training Academy and spent three days in New York City to learn emergency responses for high-rise fires and emergency response technology. The group will conclude its training with similar arrangements in the Los Angeles area.

Monday, March 26, 2012

49er “Comes Home” from NYC

[The author, one of UNC Charlotte Alumni Association past presidents accepts a 49ers jersey from Chancellor Dubois]

By Parry Bliss

Homecoming is FUN.

Although I have stayed in touch with the University and followed the athletic program from afar, I have not attended a Homecoming for some time. In fact, one of the attempts to attend a Homecoming event was when Hurricane Hugo struck Charlotte the night before while I was fast asleep at the Hilton University Place – but that is another story.

This year, with encouragement from family and friends, I attended Homecoming.


I planned my arrival in Charlotte to allow me to have the maximum opportunity to enjoy North Carolina barbecue. One of my favorite barbecue restaurants is Bill Spoon's on South Boulevard. Having an outstanding lunch, I headed to the Hilton University Place to check in.

Then I met family and friends for dinner at the nearby Smokey Bones for another barbecue meal.


Having had my reorientation with Charlotte/BBQ/Family and Friends, I was ready for a tour of the fast changing University campus. I have always been proud of my University, but this tour given by Beth Fisher who is the director of principal gifts provided me with additional insights in ways that the University has grown and continues to grow. The tour ended in the Bonnie E. Cone Student Center where I had an excellent lunch at Bistro 49.

After lunch I meet with Melissa Shelton who is the director of development for the Belk College of Business. She gave me an in depth tour of the college, highlighting the dramatic renovations recently completed as well as the planned changes to come.

If you have not been on campus recently, I encourage you to renew your contacts with your college and you will be proud and impressed with the changes.

Time permitted me to meet briefly with John Snelsire who is the interim director of Alumni Affairs. We met at the Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen, which is truly impressive.

In the evening, I joined the past presidents of the UNC Charlotte Alumni Association for a brief presentation by Dr. Philip L. Dubois, chancellor, and dinner at the Harris Alumni Center.

Returning to the hotel, to my surprise, there were other alumni staying there and the evening ended with friends talking over old times.


The day started with tail-gate parties and the Homecoming Parade – families, friends and students all enjoying a crisp, clear day.

The Alumni Luncheon held in the Bonnie E. Cone Student Center and the Pre-Game Luncheon held at the Halton Arena were filled with friends and excitement about the University and the upcoming game with Rhode Island. Chancellor Dubois made a brief presentation at the Alumni Luncheon and presented a 49er football jersey to the alumni who traveled the greatest distance to attend the luncheon. Having come from New York City, I was happy to have won the jersey which I wear with 49er pride.

During the game, I was fortunate to be able to sit with Chancellor Dubois, Lisa Dubois, John McArthur who is a Foundation trustee, Misty Hathcock who is the chair of the Past Presidents Council and other friends that I have known since my days at UNC Charlotte. It was an exciting game and I'm happy to report that UNC Charlotte won.

I hope I have been able to convey the fun and excitement I had during this year’s Homecoming. What I’ve found is that Homecoming is a reconnection with family, friends, associates and the University. I encourage my fellow alumni to attend next year’s Homecoming and get in on the FUN. And, as we are supported by family and friends, let's not forget how the University prepared us for what we have or will accomplish in our lives. Let's not forget to support our University as it continues to prepare others for what they will accomplish.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

University Trio Brief Gaston Economic Developers

[In the photo at right, Barry Burks of the Charlotte Research Institute talks to Gaston County officials about UNC Charlotte’s major research initiatives.]

In support of a University initiative to cultivate support and collaboration in surrounding counties, three UNC Charlotte senior leaders met March 13 with the Gaston County Economic Development Commission.

Betty Doster, special assistant to the chancellor for constituent relations; Paul Wetenhall , president of the Ben Craig Center – the University’s business incubator; and Barry Burks, associate director of the Charlotte Research Institute (CRI) spoke to a gathering of more than 30 civic, business and government leaders involved in driving economic development in Gaston County; the commission executive director, Donny Hicks, is a UNC Charlotte graduate.

Doster provided an update on UNC Charlotte’s growth and the University’s impact in Gaston County. She noted that 942 current UNC Charlotte students hail from Gaston County and that 506 of those students previously attended Gaston College. She said 4,000 UNC Charlotte alumni live in Gaston County and that 464 teachers in Gaston County got their degrees at UNC Charlotte.

Burks described the resources available at the CRI and how it works with businesses to conduct practical research in many areas, including bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, sustainable design and nanoscale science. He described how the William States Lee College of Engineering is recognized as the top advanced manufacturing program in the world. CRI has worked with Gaston County economic developers on various efforts to recruit new businesses to the county.

Wetenhall described the services provided by the Ben Craig Center – named for a Gaston County native. The business incubator helps encourage, stimulate and refine innovation, which Wetenhall said is the most important aspect of driving an economic resurgence. The center encourages inventors and seeks to help draw entrepreneurs and innovators together to create economic value that will lead to jobs.

Today’s meeting grew out of a visit last month by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, at which he had discussions with Gaston County business and civic leaders. The University is working to enhance relationships throughout the region, combining outreach to alumni, education, government, business and civic leaders.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Encouraging faculty community engagement at UNC Charlotte

(The photo shows students involved in Janni Sorensen's project to help rescue the Windy Ridge neighborhood in Charlotte.)

From the attached article from Inside Higher Education, UNC Charlotte is in the vanguard nationally in proposing that the extensive and deep-seated community engagement research and initiatives underway by faculty members be counted in the formal promotion and tenure considerations that so strongly affect faculty compensation and career progression. Here's an excerpt. Read the full story below.

"As part of Janni Sorensen’s community planning class, students work at a troubled neighborhood in the Charlotte suburbs every semester, trying to help residents hard-hit by foreclosures and absentee landlords. They have helped form a stable neighborhood association and a crime watch group, and work with residents when they have questions for a property management company or utility providers. Sorensen, an assistant professor of geography and earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, says that such partnerships help her students reap the full benefits of service learning while helping the community.
What such work does not do, at least right now, is qualify as "research" work toward Sorensen's pending bid for tenure. As at many institutions, UNC-Charlotte's tenure criteria often favor traditional books and journal articles in leading publications in her field. But that could soon change, as UNCC, which has been recognized as a Carnegie Engaged Institution for its work in the community, aims to take this kind of engagement one step further by revising its tenure and promotion guidelines to take such work out of the sole realm of service..."

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Ramping up community engagement at UNCC | Inside Higher Ed

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alum-Legislators have Dialogue with UNC Charlotte Family

(Pictured in the photo, left to right: Sen. Bob Rucho, Rep. Fred Steen, Rep. Tricia Cotham, Alumni Association President David Causey, Rep. Jason Saine.)

In a seemingly endless political-election season, it may be easy for some of us to forget that legislators are real people – people with whom we really do have shared personal interests. Such was the realization for this writer last week when UNC Charlotte’s Alumni Affairs department, in collaboration with Constituent Relations, hosted a “dialogue” with four North Carolina legislators who also are alumni.

On March 1, more than 100 alumni, students and staff gathered at Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen to talk with North Carolina General Assembly members Sen. Bob Rucho (District 39, Mecklenburg) and Reps. Tricia Cotham (District 100, Mecklenburg), Jason Saine (District 97, Lincoln) and Fred Steen (District 76, Rowan).

UNC Charlotte’s other alumni in the General Assembly include Reps. Martha Alexander (District 106, Mecklenburg), Bill Brawley (District 103, Mecklenburg) and Mike Hager (District 112, Rutherford).

The evening was billed as a civil conversation, not an occasion for partisan debate; the elected officials and attendees fulfilled that goal, speaking on subjects ranging from what the legislators cherish from their days on campus, how their UNC Charlotte experience formed their outlook on service and politics, the practical value of social media, their interest in civic life and the value of college students getting involved in community activities, to the value of 49ers football and much more.

Rep. Saine, who was active as a College Republican in the 1990s, fondly remembered dialing in to WBT radio to debate College Democrats. He recalled and highly recommends working jobs on campus as a way for students to understand the University. He’s now a committed user of social media, favoring real-time feedback from constituents when he is voting on bills. But he also said that coming to town hall meetings and other such events and interacting directly – respectfully – is citizens’ responsibility.

Rep. Cotham recalled how her earliest exposure to history and political science class helped bring her political interest alive. Also an avid social media user, she encourages students to seize every opportunity to engage on campus and beyond and to step beyond their comfort zone – as she did with a three-week student-study in Cuba.

Sen. Rucho, who obtained his MBA at UNC Charlotte after establishing a successful dental practice, also encouraged students to approach civic engagement as their responsibility. He was complimentary of the Belk College of Business and declared UNC Charlotte’s “widgets, such as good or better than other universities’ widgets.” Rucho said the UNC system was North Carolina's "crown jewel."

Rep. Steen got his degree as an adult working fulltime in the 1980s. He remembered contract law as his toughest course – but also the most useful in his legislative and business career. He encouraged students to “stretch,” by pursuing civic opportunities.

Saine said he considers UNC Charlotte a family – 15,000 of the University’s 23,500 come from the greater Charlotte region and more than 62,300 of its 95,000 alums still reside here. Last week’s event was like a family reunion in many ways – cordial, fun and a time to get to know each other. Here’s looking forward to the next such reunion.

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