Friday, December 20, 2013

Another Year of Milestones Winds Down

By Jared Moon

With the sun setting on 2013, it’s only natural to take some time to reflect on all the great things that happened at UNC Charlotte this year.  However, with enrollment currently at more than 26,500 students – and continually growing – and approximately another 4,000 faculty and staff members, there’s no way we could adequately reference every story.  So, with that in mind, here is a snapshot of just a few things we’re proud of that made up 2013 at UNC Charlotte.

Were you ready for some football?  2013 was a milestone year in that intercollegiate football on UNC Charlotte’s campus officially kicked off, and what an exciting season we had.  Things got off to a thrilling start with the highly anticipated first game, which couldn’t have been scripted any better with linebacker Mark Hogan returning an interception 32 yards for a touchdown on only the second play from scrimmage.  That play set the tone for what continued to be an exhilarating season and provided the first of many highlight plays that are sure to come for Charlotte 49er football.  The Niners wrapped up their inaugural season with a 5-6 record.

A major step forward was taken this year in opening the doors of the campus to the greater Charlotte community.  Federal, state and local government officials, along with business and community leaders and the public took part in breaking ground on the LYNX Blue Line extension which will link UNC Charlotte’s main campus with UNC Charlotte Center City as well as businesses, organizations and cultural groups in the heart of Uptown.  The 9.3 mile extension will serve as a proverbial gateway to the University granting the Charlotte community access to a myriad of fun and engaging activities on campus – including Division I athletics, top-notch performing arts and a host of academic engagements.  Operational service is expected to begin in 2017.

Academically, one of the biggest stories was the collaboration between the William States Lee College of Engineering, Belk College of Business and the College of Arts and Architecture for the 2013 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.  UNC Charlotte was one of 20 academic teams from around the world chosen to participate in the competition which challenged teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and visually attractive.  Our team developed UrbanEden, a net-zero energy powered home designed with a strong connection between indoor and outdoor living areas.  Our team garnered two awards during the Decathlon, third place in the juried Engineering Contest and the People’s Choice Award – the public’s vote for its favorite house.

Those are just a few of the wonderful things transpiring at North Carolina’s urban research university.  As we put to bed yet another calendar, we are already looking forward to the many things in store for 2014.  New students, novel research, stronger community bonds, all efforts we foster to underscore the commitment to remain integral to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the Charlotte region.

So from UNC Charlotte, happy holidays and we’ll see you next year!

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Jared Moon is communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations.

Monday, December 16, 2013

‘Tis the Season to Celebrate Our Graduates

By Latricia Boone

There’s something about graduations that makes, even those of us who aren’t graduating, feel a sense of delight and excitement. So this past Saturday, when UNC Charlotte proudly conferred the degrees of nearly 3400 graduates it was a time of celebration. At this 66th commencement, held in UNC Charlotte’s Halton Arena, more than 1,900 of students received their Bachelor's while the other 1,000 graduates received advanced degrees, including 70 doctorates.

 It was a special celebration for the University, as this year’s graduates are part of a growing contingency of students who have experienced the University at its peak in growth and change. Speaking to the crowd, Chancellor Phillip Dubois noted that in the last 4-6 years, not only has the student body grown to more than 26,000, the University has greatly expanded its academic programs - offering a number of new doctoral degrees – and continued improving the look and feel of the campus. With the University completing more than a billion dollar’s worth of construction during their time here, these graduates saw the construction of the Center City Building and new residence halls on main campus. And of course, there was the inauguration of football, which proved to be an exciting milestone not only for students but for many across the Charlotte community.

One of the things that makes UNC Charlotte so special is its students. Deeply rooted in its tradition, is the ability to serve those who come from many different walks of life but share the commonality of wanting to achieve academic success. Witnessing the winter commencement and many of the recent milestones, there is no doubt that Saturday was a proud day for those graduates. I’m sure that as each of them looks back, they are able to reflect not only on the University’s growth during their time here, but their own growth as individuals. Hopefully, they found their experience to be valuable and are leaving university life feeling very proud to say “I am a 49er” as they go out into the world and Stake their Claim.

So, in the spirit of being a 49er, we celebrate and applaud our graduates. As they mark the conclusion of an academic and personal milestone, we wish them much success. No matter what path they choose, an advanced academic program, the workforce or just starting the rest of their lives, we know that their futures are grounded in the 49er spirit of determination and perseverance. Cheers to the season and cheers to UNC Charlotte’s graduates.

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Latricia Boone is communications director for the Colleges of Education and Health & Human Services.

Bah humbug? Not at commencement

 By John D. Bland

I was driving in to work at the University’s commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon and, frankly, I had an attitude problem. The day was dark and cold and the rain was coming in torrents the closer I got to campus. Traffic was snarled half a mile from the front entrance, so by the time I slipped in the back way, I had to park far from the Barnhart Student Activities Center and walk a couple hundred yards in the downpour. And for what? All I was required to do was sit and watch, and attend to any reporters that might show up from the media (none did; Winter commencement isn’t a big story for them).

But then something happened; I got inside the arena, surrounded by more than 3,400 graduating 49ers, thousands of their family and friends, and hundreds of participating faculty and staff. Even before the students and professors filed in in their robes, the arena was humming with anticipation from the guests; staffers were striding around and talking on walkie-talkies, taking care of business. Photos were sliding across the Jumbotron. Finally the student orchestra filled the air with the processional and the show was on.

I was smiling.

I’ve worked these gigs many times during the last eight years and try as I might to approach it as ho-hum business as usual, commencement always makes me happy and proud; proud of the graduates who have completed their hard slog to a degree, proud of the long-suffering family members, proud of the stalwart faculty, proud even of my colleagues who help keep the University operating day to day.

By the time I left the arena, I was beaming and refreshed. Thanks, Class of 2013!

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John Bland is director of public relations.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

UNC Charlotte Conference on Student-Veteran Transition Draws More than 200

By Latricia Boone

This week, UNC Charlotte hosted its first-ever full-day conference focused on increasing cultural sensitivity as it relates to student veterans and how best to support their success as they assimilate into the college environment. The conference, Boots to Books: Understanding Military Culture and Supporting a Successful Transition, drew more than 200 individuals from the campus and greater Charlotte community.

College of Health & Human Services Dean
Nancy Fey-Yensan welcomed attendees
At the heart of UNC Charlotte’s founding, supporting student veterans has long been part of the University culture and its commitment as a military friendly institution. Over the years, the University has underscored this commitment by investing in the necessary resources to better serve the needs of student veterans and their families.

This week’s event was another opportunity to engage the larger community and share information and resources as well as hear from student veterans on what their experience has been and how they would like to be supported. Currently, about 800 UNC Charlotte students are using some form of military benefits to pay for their education. The conference brought national and local speakers and included a panel discussion with current students who are veterans.

As part of the panel discussion, the students’ shared their unique perspectives and talked about the successes and challenges they’ve faced transitioning from military culture to college life. Hearing from the students, it became clear that not only is the University playing an integral role in their success but these students, who bring very unique experiences and skill sets, play an integral role in the University -- from student life to academic endeavors to their intellectual contribution both in and out of the classroom.

While each panelist came from different walks of life and brought different perspectives, they all emphasized how the University’s support has helped to ease their transition. The University’s Office of Student Veterans Services (VSSO) has played an important role in those efforts. The VSSO provides one-on-one consultations for student veterans and collaborates with community organizations to better serve and bring awareness of veteran challenges, both on campus and in the larger community.
Student-veterans discussed transitions from military to campus

Allison Jenner, assistant director for Veteran Student Services, gave an informative presentation on the role of the VSSO and how the office not only supports students, but also faculty, in terms of their knowledge and understanding of how to best communicate and engage with their veteran students. Jenner’s presentation also discussed strategies for success across the University and touched on common misconceptions, such as what it means to have post traumatic distress order (PSTD) and how to best communicate with those who do. The student panelists and speakers emphasized the fact that not all student veterans suffer from PSTD but even those who do can acclimate successfully with the right support systems in place.  

In addition to speakers and the panel, attendees took part in a “support services” vendor fair and an art exhibit highlighting the work of Robert Bates, a veteran and student at the University.

Funded by a grant from the UNC Charlotte Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund, Boots to Books was sponsored by the College of Health and Human Services’ Department of Social Work in partnership with the UNC Charlotte Office of Veterans Student Services, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, and Charlotte Bridge Home. 

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Latricia Bone is the communications director for the Colleges of Education and Health & Human Services

Monday, November 18, 2013

Christine Todd Whitman Promotes Nuclear Energy at EPIC

By Bree Hankins

Clean, green, affordable and reliable - former New Jersey Governor and EPA administrator and current co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) Christine Todd Whitman espoused the benefits of nuclear power in a talk to more than 200 students, faculty, staff and industry leaders on Nov. 14, in the Siemens Energy Lecture Hall at UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC). Alumnus and North Carolina Representative Mike Hager, who serves on several legislative environmental and energy committees, also attended the forum.
Whitman endorsed an “all of the above” approach to energy, a broad portfolio that includes nuclear power in order to remain flexible and meet future energy demand. She applauded North Carolina as a leader, ranking fifth in the United States for net electricity generated from nuclear power, with 32 percent of its portfolio being nuclear.
Despite North Carolina’s energy mix including nuclear power, Whitman cited multiple challenges in further public and political acceptance, chief among them the decades-long “hangover” from disasters such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, as well as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011; she said the vulnerability of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi have been addressed for the design of new reactors. She noted that people also often confuse nuclear arms with nuclear power, and that education is the key to dispelling misconceptions and increasing its adoption. Whitman also holds public officials responsible and advocates for a national nuclear energy policy. She acknowledged that the current low cost of natural gas is also “undercutting the appetite for nuclear power.”
Whitman, who toured EPIC before her presentation, spoke with students about their senior design projects while making stops at the High Bay Lab, AREVA Power Systems Teaching Lab, Environmental Lab, Duke Energy Smart Grid Lab, Geo-environmental Energy Lab and the HP Energy Innovation Lab.
CASEnergy Coalition is a national grassroots organization that supports the increased use of nuclear energy. Its mission is to advance the national dialogue about energy options, focusing on the value nuclear energy provides to America’s economy and the environment. Whitman co-founded the coalition in 2006.
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Bree Hankins is division communicator in the University Communications department.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Former Gov. Jim Hunt Speaks on Educational Leadership

By Paul Nowell

Former Gov. Jim Hunt electrified a crowd of more than 200 -- regardless of their political persuasions --  as he discussed the significance of investing in public education to North Carolina's economic future, on the UNC Charlotte campus on Thursday, Oct. 3. Hunt was the featured speaker for at this year's Distinguished Speaker Series.

In his remarks, Hunt pointed to the intrinsic connection between education and economic prosperity. He laid out the state’s long tradition of supporting public education, starting with the establishment of the nation’s first public university system.

“Public education is vital for economic growth in North Carolina,” he said. “It’s not a small part of the state budget that is subject to negotiations in the state legislature. It’s the heart of our strategy.”
Hunt, a Democrat, is the longest-serving North Carolina governor. He held the position from 1977 to 1985 and 1993 to 2001. He was joined by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois at the event, which was held in the Anne R. Belk Theater in Robinson Hall.

In 2006, Hunt was named one of the 10 most influential people in American education. He chairs the board of the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, which was established in 2001 as part of the University of North Carolina system.

Hunt has been at the forefront of educational reform in North Carolina and in the nation. One of his main initiatives was the early childhood education program, Smart Start, which became a model for the nation.
When he ran for his fourth term, Hunt campaigned on a promise to raise teacher salaries across the state to the national average. The cost was more than $1 billion, he said, but it was well worth it.

Another seminal event was the passage of a $3.1 billion bond issue to fund higher education in 2000, which captured 73 percent of the vote and was approved by voters in all 100 North Carolina counties.

Throughout the speech, Hunt tied better education to an increase in the number of high-paying jobs and economic prosperity. He said other states are committing more funds to education as part of their economic strategy.

“Today, things have changed in North Carolina,” he said. “Spending on education is down and so is funding for our public universities.”
Gov. Hunt with (from left) Chancellor Emeritus James Woodward,
Chancellor Dubois, Lisa Dubois

Earlier in the day, Hunt attended a dedication ceremony for Hunt Hall, the first suite option in the new South Village residential area of the campus. Hunt Hall is being named in honor of the former governor.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Students mount "mining for 49" campaign for Habitat

UNC Charlotte students, with significant assistance of alumni, have raised more than $49,000 of the $85,000 needed to construct a Habitat for Humanity house on campus in the week leading up to Homecoming on Oct. 12. The house will be partially constructed on campus at the corner of John Kirk Rd. and University City Blvd. The build is unique for two reasons -- the first-ever build on campus and the 49ers' first-ever football Homecoming.  Find out more online.

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Friend the Congressman Comes to Visit

By Paul Nowell

In my former life as the Charlotte correspondent for The Associated Press, I had the opportunity to meet people from a wide variety of disciplines. Some were quarterbacks or federal judges. Others were banking executives or artists.

Along the way, I even interviewed one or two television evangelists.

During my career in the Fourth Estate, I had the pleasure to cover the comings and goings of former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes and members of his congressional staff, which included a graduate of UNC Charlotte, Richard Hudson.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson and Chancellor Dubois
With the 8th District always up for grabs in election years, I spent a considerable amount of time with Richard at campaign events in downtown Charlotte or outside former textile mills in smaller towns such as Kannapolis.

No matter how things were going for either of us, we always enjoyed ourselves, swapping war stories from the campaign and giving each other grief if one of our favorite sports teams was on the skids.

I knew Richard was from Charlotte and that he had graduated from UNC Charlotte. I did not know he was the Student Government Association president – most likely because he never boasted about his personal accomplishments.  He was totally dedicated to his boss and a consummate professional in his duties as the district director for Hayes from 2000 to 2005.

Flash forward and now Richard is the new representative in Congress from the 8th District. After winning 64 percent of the vote against Scott Keadle in the Republican primary, he went on the defeat Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell in November.

In an always-competitive district, he captured 54 percent of the vote to Kissell's 46 percent and took office in January 2013

So it was a real treat when I learned a couple of weeks ago that Richard was coming to campus to meet with Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and vice chancellor Bob Wilhelm to learn more about the University’s role in advanced manufacturing.

Here is the item I put together about the visit:

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson Tours Advanced Manufacturing Labs at UNC Charlotte

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson ’96 visited his alma mater, UNC Charlotte, on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, as part of his August recess from Congress.  Hudson wanted to visit the campus to learn more about the University’s role in advanced manufacturing.

Hudson met with Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, Bob Wilhelm, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development, and other University officials.  After a stop at Jerry Richardson Stadium, he stopped in at the Precision Metrology Lab and other high-tech industrial labs in Duke Centennial Hall.

Hudson meets with Prof. Scott Smith and Dubois
Hudson said he viewed the visit as a chance to see firsthand how UNC Charlotte is becoming the critical training ground for high-skilled manufacturing jobs. One of his stops was the Center for Precision Metrology, which is internationally known for its expertise in manufacturing processes and quality assurance for mechanical parts.

For his part, Dubois said it is essential for UNC Charlotte to have access to federal funding for research such as the work being done in the center, where equipment is expensive. “That’s why it is important for members of Congress to understand why this work is so critical,” he said.
Mechanical Engineering Professor Scott Smith showed Hudson some of the discoveries made at the center, ranging from military aircraft construction to consumer electronics such as the iPod.
“North Carolina is on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing jobs,” Hudson said, “and we need to make sure we increase the number of job opportunities in our community and ensure our students have the skills they need when they enter the workforce.”

Hudson, a Republican, was elected in November 2012 to represent North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District.  He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from UNC Charlotte while serving as Student Body President. Hudson serves on the House Agriculture Committee, the Education and Workforce Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.  He is the current Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
  Paul Nowell is media relations manager in the Office of Public Relations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

49ers smoke the competition in grillfest

By Jenny Matz

Last Saturday, UNC Charlotte competed alongside UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, UNC Wilmington, East Carolina University, Appalachian State, the University of South Carolina and the University of Tennessee in “Grill University,” sponsored by The Southern Ideal Home Show. 

49ers faithful  at the Grill University event on Aug. 24.
From August 23-25, at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart, schools went head to head in a grilling and tailgate showdown to determine the best of the best.

Over 100 proud 49er fans showed up in their green and gold to cheer the UNC Charlotte team. Even Norm and “The Normbulance” lent support by coming out and whipping up the crowd. UNC Charlotte did a full sweep, winning all categories: Taste, Team spirit, Flair, Creativity and Originality, and Best of Show.

Way to go Niners! Bring that grill technique to tailgating at 49ers football this fall.

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Jenny Matz is assistant director of community affairs at UNC Charlotte.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Affordable Car Act Part of Healthy, Fresh Beginning

By Nancy Fey-Yensan

Summer has come and gone and once again, and we are kicking-off have kicked-off another fall semester. I always look forward to this time of the year – the energy and excitement it brings to our campus and of course, the chance to embark on a fresh beginning. With our opening Convocation ceremony we, as a University, took a moment to celebrate our achievements and reflect on the lessons of the past and our aspirations for the future. These sentiments also ring true for the College of Health and Human Services. With a fresh beginning, we can also celebrate our accomplishments and the many new opportunities taking shape that will most certainly take our College to the next level of success.

This year, we have several new professors joining our exceptional faculty, lots of new talent among our graduate students, administrative and growing research staff, and of course, many new first year students assuming their role as members of the class of 2017. The College as a whole is accomplishing extraordinary things that also mark fresh beginnings. This summer the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was approved, with a full class entering the School of Nursing now.  The Department of Public Health Sciences just received notice that our PhD in Behavioral Science was approved and they will start accepting applications in January of 2014.  

We are launching many new and innovative research and service relationships with the health care industry, and, we are watching with great interest as the next phases of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unfold -- hopeful for the potential of fresh beginnings for many uninsured families in our Charlotte community, across the state and nationally. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the ACA because it has such a direct connection to our work at the College in terms of community engagement, research and how we must educate and orient the next generation of health care and social service providers. 

This is truly an amazing opportunity for us and those we seek to serve through our work. First and foremost, we hold the belief that everyone has the right to health, which includes full access to affordable and high quality health care. Under the ACA, currently uninsured families will have expanded opportunities to receive regular primary and preventive care—reducing emergency room visits for health issues that could have been avoided in the first place, and at substantially reduced cost to individuals and the health care system—costs that are both emotional and financial.  We will play a huge role in this groundbreaking preventative effort by producing the most highly trained community-based work force we can while continuing to expand the competencies of our graduates in the acute-care arena, where hopefully, fewer newly insured will end up. 

Gratefully, we are ahead of the curve as we already have our students across all programs experience the delivery of care and services in community settings, working in interdisciplinary teams to strategize more comprehensive and integrated solutions for patients and clients.  Newly insured folks will also need easily accessed and understandable health information so that they can be fully engaged partners in staying or becoming healthy.  Our nurses, social workers, exercise scientists and public health students will have to communicate effectively and with high cultural competence to help families realize optimal health. What role will we play on the research front? Our goal is to grow connections and partnerships across the new landscape of health care delivery- from grass-roots health and social service agencies, to municipal services, to non-profit health care, to industry- working in tandem to design and assess best and evidence based practices and, to provide analytical expertise for large data bases that will drive decision making to continuously improve patient and client care outcomes.

The ACA is a bold, fresh beginning to creating a health care system that is focused on meeting the basic healthcare needs of ALL Americans, and we will learn much about its impact over the coming months and years.  Whatever its major successes or minor failures, I am proud to know that the College of Health and Human Services is a needed and engaged partner in an initiative that will lift up and strengthen families and our communities for years to come.  

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Nancy Fey-Yensan is Dean of the College of Health and Human Services  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Convocation message of unity grows from Bonnie Cone legacy

By Jared Moon

While pondering this year’s Convocation presentation, one inevitably is forced to contemplate the emphasis placed on encouraging an engaged, committed and collaborative environment at UNC Charlotte with Chancellor Phil Dubois' theme of restoring the “Uni” in University resonating throughout speech.

Thanks to Bonnie Cone – the University founder, this is not a new concept at UNC Charlotte.  This institution has a rich history of leveraging the joint efforts of many individuals to form a single, unified institution charged with providing an affordable, high-quality education.  Miss Bonnie’s tireless efforts and ability to motivate others to join her mission has always provided a standard for which is a great point of pride for this University; a standard that is also engrained in the 49er spirit the school’s mascot personifies.

That sense of collaboration and resilience remains relevant to this day and is paramount to the success of the University as it continues to grow in both size and stature within the region.

UNC Charlotte is integral to the fabric of the Charlotte region and as the city attempts to stake its claim as a leader, inevitably, UNC Charlotte must follow suit.

The demand for higher education in this region has never been higher and UNC Charlotte has positioned itself to meet that need.

While industry partnerships like EPIC (Energy Production and Infrastructure Center) and PORTAL (Partnership, Outreach, and Research to Accelerate Learning) are vital to the University’s growth, and football allows for new opportunities, its fundamental element is the mental and physical capital of its faculty and staff.

Chancellor Dubois’ message was not novel but necessary.  Those of us invested in UNC Charlotte must continue to tap that unified sense of purpose to maintain that the University continues to be the vibrant, kinetic and essential resource it already is.

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Jared Moon is communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations.