Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fulbright Fellow pens 'The American Workday'

By Leanna Pough

Study, go to class, graduate and land a job — that’s a familiar path to college students searching for the American dream of prosperity.

As part of the process, astute college students seek out mentors or participate in internships to develop career insight. These opportunities can provide valuable tips on what to expect in the future. But what does it really mean to be a member of the American workforce?

Levine Scholar and UNC Charlotte alumnus Austin Halbert sought the answer. The resulting book, “The American Workday: Tales of Life and Work in the United States Today,” published in January 2016, shares stories of America’s workers. It explores how one’s career can affect an individual’s personal life off the clock, along with misconceptions associated with jobs and class.

Horizons Expand with Levine Grant

A native of Shelby, N.C., Halbert attended Crest High School. Growing up in a small town just west of Charlotte, he was exposed to a working-class population and had little understanding of how people lived outside of that lifestyle.

Austin Halbert is completing a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in Sweden
“When I became a Levine Scholar, I was given an opportunity to go to school in a diverse city, to travel and meet people from backgrounds that were foreign to me,” noted Halbert. “This taught me so much about people whose conditions I could have only speculated upon before leaving my hometown. As soon as I heard someone’s story directly from them, I was then able to feel empathy for others facing similar circumstances.”

To gain a better understanding of how society functions, Halbert listened to people’s stories and connected them to larger social trends.
“I believe storytelling is the best way to foster empathy. When I heard discussions in America becoming increasingly divisive — politically, economically and socially — I wanted to find a way to inject a little bit of empathy into the equation. Fortunately, I found many generous people who were willing to share their stories for this purpose,” Halbert said.
During a three-year period, he and fellow Levine Scholars Laura Outlaw and Vrushab Gowda interviewed and photographed 38 diverse workers across occupations. Interviewees ranged from stock clerks to Fortune 500 executives.

Workers Have Similar Motivations

“Most of the workers interviewed were from the Charlotte area, and if they are any indication, the people of Charlotte are an incredibly resilient, compassionate and hard-working bunch,” Halbert said. “I found that each person I spoke to had fundamentally similar motivations: to provide for the people who depended on them, to find pride and dignity through their work and to find balance between working hard and leading a fulfilled life.”

A member of the Class of 2015, Halbert completed a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in organizational management. He also earned a minor in economics.

“The American Workday” was funded through a grant from the Levine Scholars Program, which enabled Halbert to complete the work. The book is endorsed by the Global Engagement Summit and the Clinton Global Initiative University. Proceeds from the book, available at in hardcover and e-book formats, benefit Charlotte Works and Hired Heroes, organizations working to end unemployment by matching jobless citizens with workforce-training opportunities.  

In September 2015, Halbert began a yearlong Fulbright graduate research fellowship at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law. He is studying sustainable development through an assessment of public-private partnerships. Additionally, he is interviewing government and business officials in the capital of Stockholm.

Sustainability Across Sectors

“My mission is to find out how institutions approach social, economic and environmental sustainability across sectors and to determine what can be done to further efforts,” explained Halbert. “Sweden is a world leader in sustainability and innovation, so hopefully these insights can serve as a lesson for institutions around the world on how to meet the needs of society while growing strong businesses.”

Interviewees have included ministers and ambassadors for the Swedish government, as well as top executives at global companies such as Ericsson, Electrolux, Ikea and H&M.

The Fulbright program is one of the largest and most prestigious international exchange programs in the world today. Its main objective is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the citizenry of other nations through the sharing of ideas, knowledge, skills and individual experiences.

Recently, Halbert was appointed to the Youth Working Group for the U.S. National Commission to UNESCO. The 12 American leaders who make up the group endeavor to engage youth and share UNESCO’s mission of international peace and universal respect.

“As a new member of the Youth Working Group, I am leading the creation of the UNESCO Action Coalition, which will pair young activists and social entrepreneurs with experienced mentors in their fields. The mission is to connect new and experienced generations of change-makers, while providing guidance to high-impact projects focused on sustainable development,” Halbert explained.

With the help of two co-founders he has met while conducting research in Sweden, Halbert is also planning the launch of a social enterprise he calls “ImpactEd,” which will empower universities to bring real-world problem solving into the classroom.

Leanna Pough is communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Alumnus’s project reimagines historic Brooklyn neighborhood

By Melba Newsome

Although Lindsey McApline (‘90) was pursuing a double major in Business and Psychology at UNC Charlotte, he always knew real estate development would play an outsized role in his professional future. “I was actively working in real estate and anxious to go out in the business world,” he recalls. “I started my first development company between my junior and senior year in college.”

Lindsey McAlpine
Fast forward a quarter-century and the former UNC Charlotte alumni president has made his mark in the development world. Yet, McAlpine feels his biggest and most personal project is just around the corner. As the managing partner of Citisculpt, an urban mixed-use developer working exclusively in the Carolinas, McAlpine is now one of three developers vying to revive and redevelop the Second Ward community once known as Brooklyn. The Mecklenburg County Commission will make the selection.

“This is the most impactful project in Charlotte in my generation,” says the Charlotte native. “It’s an opportunity to rebuild a historic legacy and to build nearly the whole quadrant of the Second Ward.”

Second Ward is currently dominated by the city’s government quarter, the courthouse, the no-longer used Board of Education offices and the rarely-used Marshall Park. Fifty years ago, the area was home to about 1,000 African-American families. The community was razed as part of the kind of urban renewal plans that swept through the country during the 1960s and 70s. Residents, who had no say in the matter, were supposed to be relocated to federally-funded public housing that never materialized. The families, largely left to their own devices to find housing, were dispersed to the city’s poorer neighborhoods surrounding the city center. The treatment left deep scars with those who lost their homes, neighborhood and community. 

In large part, the kind of urban renewal projects that displaced urban, minority communities and wiped out a city’s character and history have largely been discredited. Now, development and gentrification tend to focus on, if not preserving the past, at least giving a nod to it. Redeveloping the Second Ward is no doubt a tricky project since it contains so many moving parts, including reimagining Marshall Park.

One concept for Brooklyn Village presented by CitiSculpt.
McApline has worked to keep all these elements in mind throughout every step of his design process. The group researched the area’s history and the stories of people who had lived there in order to understand the best way create a positive and inclusive legacy. He believes CitiSculpt’s community outreach sets it apart from the other two competitors. “We are absolutely committed to hearing what all the stakeholders want in this design and it’s extremely important to hear the community’s input about this design.”

CitiSculpt has put together a team with the kind of unique experience necessary to bring its vision-- up to 1,378 residential units along with hotels, retail space and offices -- to fruition. Prominent architect and former mayor Harvey Gantt essentially came out of retirement to lend his insight and vision to this project.

“There’s a lot of pain associated with the removal of that community,” says Gantt. “That is why this development has to be done well and realized. It sends a serious message to the African-American community that we wanted so badly to restore the community that we chose the right company to deliver the completion of this project.”

If McAlpine is selected, he will be very, very busy for the next 4-5 years. That’s how long he estimates creating the new Brooklyn will take.
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In the video available through the link below, Lindsey McAlpine and Harvey Gantt discuss the possible future of Brooklyn Village.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Theatre professor publishes new young adult thriller

By Phillip Brown

Andrew Hartley, Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare in the Department of Theatre, has written a new fantasy-adventure-mystery for young adult readers. “Steeplejack: A Novel” will be released by Tor Teen on June 14.

Set in 19th-century South Africa, the book has received glowing reviews, particularly for its young female protagonist. The monthly book review publication BookPage named it the “Top Teen Pick” for June 2016. Steeplejack is the first book in a series of three.

Hartley, who writes fiction under the name A.J. Hartley, has published numerous novels of fantasy, mystery and historical fiction for adults and young adults, including novelizations of two Shakespeare tragedies, “Macbeth” and “Hamlet” (written with David Hewson). He recently collaborated with platinum-selling musician Tom Delonge to write “Sekret Machines Book 1: Chasing Shadows,” the first of three volumes that was released by Simon & Schuster in April.

Among his scholarly publications are two books published in 2014: “Julius Caesar (Shakespeare in Performance),” published by Manchester University Press, and “Shakespeare on the University Stage,” published by Cambridge University Press.

Phillip Brown is assistant director for internal communication.

Young alums, inspired by Obama's My Brother's Keeper, endow scholarship

By Paul Nowell

When Zacch Estrada-Petersen attended UNC Charlotte, his academic focus was not a technology-based curriculum. Graduating in 2005 with a degree in accounting, he also explored Spanish, journalism and music.
Alumni Kevin Jackson (left) and Zacch Estrada-Petersen

When he graduated, he set his sights on an entirely different sphere.

“I became increasingly concerned about the lack of diversity in the technology field,” Estrada-Petersen said. “I reached out to my friend, Kevin Jackson, who is in the IT field and also an alumnus of UNC Charlotte.”

Jackson and Estrada-Petersen were inspired by President Obama's initiative, My Brother's Keeper. They decided to start an endowment to provide a scholarship in a STEM field, specifically for students from underrepresented populations.

It was a remarkable and daunting challenge for the two young men.

“We are both still early in our careers - I am 31, and he is 36,” Estrada-Petersen said. “We each donate a little more than $200 per month, and our endowment will be fully funded within five years.”

In September 2014, President Obama issued a challenge to cities, towns, counties and tribes across the country “to implement a coherent cradle-to-college and career strategy for improving the life outcomes of all young people to ensure that they can reach their full potential, regardless of who they are, where they come from or the circumstances into which they are born.”

Of concern to the two were the rising cost of higher education and the number of students at schools like UNC Charlotte who needed financial assistance. After they did their research, they learned the average student debt at graduation was $26,000.

“I know from personal experience how a scholarship like this can change your life,” Estrada-Petersen said. “I was fortunate to get some scholarships, but I still had to borrow a lot of money to finish my degree.”

And the impact of student loan debt is felt years after graduation. For him, it means waiting a few more years before launching his own business venture.

“I think of the bright student who might be the next great innovator but is limited in what he or she can do because of debt,” he said. “It really changes how you can move ahead with some of your dreams.”

During his time at UNC Charlotte, Estrada-Petersen worked at University Times, the student-run newspaper. As a senior, he founded the Voices of Eden Gospel Choir, a student organization with which he still very active.

Since 2008, he has worked as a senior accountant for the Charlotte office of a New York-based multinational diversified-media company. In addition to serving as a member on the UNC Charlotte Alumni Association board of directors, he is co-marketing chair on the board for the Charlotte chapter of Habitat Young Professionals and the social media chair for the Charlotte chapter of 100 Black Men of America.

Jackson is a 2007 graduate of UNC Charlotte with a degree in software and information systems. Prior to enrolling at the University, he served in the U.S. Army for five years. He currently works as a middleware engineer for a Charlotte financial services company.

Both Estrada-Petersen and Jackson know that what they are doing is unique.

“This idea may seem a little crazy to some people, and I can tell you neither one of us is independently wealthy,” said Estrada-Petersen. “We had to take the long route to fund this endowment, paying about $2,500 each per year for five years.”

It’s tough to be patient and wait to see the fruits of their hard work and sacrifice.

“We hope to do a couple of other small things in the interim,” said Estrada-Petersen. “We will feel a lot better when we get to see the impact of this scholarship.

Paul Nowell is senior communications manager at UNC Charlotte.