2nd Annual Diversity in STEM Conference

The 2nd annual Diversity in STEM Conference, taking place on March 24, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, will tackle many of the same concepts as the inaugural event: examining ways to bolster diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The all-day experience will focus on topics related to the impact of diversity on STEM research, funding, and development; connections between STEM faculty recruitment, retention, development, and diversity; and Women of Color in STEM fields.

This year’s event will feature nationally recognized diversity in STEM leaders Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), who is the keynote speaker; Dr. Christine Grant, Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Special Initiatives in the College of Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering (NC State University), and Dr. Jorge Cham, Author/Cartoonist of Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD Comics).

Diversity & Multicultural Affairs is sponsoring the morning faculty and staff workshop with Dr. Christine Grant. The workshop will provide strategies and tools for mentoring and coaching students who are underrepresented in STEM fields. Registration is free and open to all faculty and staff at UNC-Chapel Hill. However, faculty who lead labs, interdisciplinary groups, research collaboratives, and/or have an interest in diversifying their teams are strongly encouraged to participate. Please click here to register.

For additional information, please click here.

The 2nd annual Diversity in STEM Conference is sponsored by Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Office of Research Communications, Office of Graduate Education, the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and the Department of Chemistry

Let’s talk about freedom of speech

Mark Merritt speaks with group during Carolina Conversations about First Amendment Rights

Mark Merritt speaks with group during Carolina Conversations about First Amendment Rights

Which of the following is considered speech protected by the First Amendment?

  1. Picketing a military funeral with the sign “Thank God for dead soldiers”
  2. Burning an American flag
  3. Wearing blackface at a fraternity fundraiser
  4. Marching in a parade in Nazi uniforms with swastikas
  5. None of the above
  6. All of the above

The answer is “all of the above.” And, distasteful as these examples are, this freedom of expression is at the heart of American democracy, explained Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Mark Merritt at Thursday evening’s Carolina Conversation on First Amendment protected speech.

Launched last year, Carolina Conversations is a University effort to engage students, faculty and staff in dialogue around issues of equity and inclusion related to race, intellectual diversity, religion, identity and culture. Merritt’s presentation was the most recent event in the series, designed to ensure that Carolina remains an inclusive and welcoming campus for all.

“The thought that you end bad speech by trying to restrict it is contrary to the fundamental premise of the First Amendment,” Merritt told the audience gathered in the Student Union Aquarium Lounge.

The First Amendment of the Constitution says that the federal government (and state and local governments, by extension through the 14th Amendment) will make no law “abridging the freedom of speech.” The primary purpose of the amendment is to protect political speech from being punished or restricted by the government.

As a public university and a state agency, Carolina is part of the government and must be vigilant in protecting free speech. But not all speech is free speech.

“If you think of the First Amendment as a series of concentric circles, at the very core of what is protected is political speech,” Merritt said. “As you get farther from political speech – for example, in commercials – the protection changes, and the ability of the state to regulate speech gets stronger.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to separate when someone is talking policy versus politics. Merritt gave an example of a faculty member writing a letter to the editor saying how important some immigrants are for the economy versus ranting about the crazy people in Washington who oppose immigrants. “Those are the extremes. What’s harder is somewhere in the middle.”

The University has been recognized for its commitment to free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The group gave Carolina its best rating – the Green Light – making the University one of only two institutions in the state with that rating and the only public institution.

Protecting free speech doesn’t mean the University and its employees have to tolerate threats, racial epithets, cyberstalking or harassment. When “Bash the Fash” flyers – showing a figure beating a Trump supporter – were being posted on campus recently, Merritt said Chancellor Carol L. Folt’s response was the right one.

“The flyer and its message are the antithesis of the values that are the foundation of our University,” Folt wrote in the Feb. 16 campus email. “It is not designed to spark civil discourse or encourage thoughtful debate. Its intentions are to incite violence, and there is no place for that here or in our society.”

The same principle applies in the workplace. “We do have policies in place about harassment in the work environment,” Merritt said. If you find a co-worker’s speech offensive, “you are free to tell them you find it offensive and why.”

Interim Chief Diversity Officer Rumay Alexander reminded the audience that they can express their concerns with CUS, her acronym for telling someone that you are concerned, uncomfortable or don’t feel safe because of their speech.

When speech sounds hateful but is protected by the First Amendment, the wisest course is to develop a tough skin and keep talking, Merritt said.

“The theory under the First Amendment – and the courts have said this repeatedly – is the antidote to that kind of speech is more speech. It’s educating people. It’s understanding what motivates them to say that,” Merritt said. “It takes time and good speech to overcome the attitudes that are embedded in bad speech.”

By Susan Hudson, University Gazette

Published February 24, 2017

Women’s History Month

Since the first International Women’s Day, in 1911, Women’s History Month has been celebrated – in one way or another – in the United States. It wasn’t until 1978, however, when Sonoma, California’s school district participated in Women’s History Week, that it precipitated a chain reaction of yearly events to honor women’s contributions to society. Just a year later, Sarah Lawrence College held a women’s history conference (co-sponsored by the Women’s Action Alliance and the Smithsonian Institution) that lasted over two weeks. Participants agreed to initiate yearly local celebrations. President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation in 1980, declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week and it became a month-long cultural celebration in 1987, and the proclamation has been reissued annually.

At Carolina, we honor Women’s History Month with a wide variety of events, including panel discussions, workshops, lectures, screenings and more. The following calendar includes events scheduled to take place at UNC-Chapel Hill during this month.

March is Women’s History Month at UNC


Screening: “Miss Representation”
Thursday, March 2, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Hamilton Hall, Room 100

Join Feminist Students United and co-sponsor, Embody Carolina, as they kick off March with a screening of Miss Representation in room 100 of Hamilton Hall!  The documentary “explores how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.” A discussion about the topics of the film will follow. For the month of March, FSU plans to begin a tampon and pad drive to donate to local organizations. They ask that anyone who is able to please bring a donation of feminine products to the screening. Donations will be taken to the Compass Center for Women and Families. We will be collecting donations there for Compass Center for Women and Families.

Digging in Our Heels: The Herstory of Women at Carolina
Tour begins at UNC Visitor’s Center (Morehead Planetarium)
Friday, March 3, 3:00 – 4:30 PM

Anthropology PhD candidate Taylor Livingston was commissioned by UNC Visitors’ Center to research and develop this tour utilizing recordings from the Southern Oral History Collection.  The title refers to a time when women could not enroll in the University.  The tour will “travel” through the centuries, to interpret and help understanding of today’s current issues.

Inaugural Women of Worth Spring Conference
Sonja Haynes Stone Center
Saturday, March 4, 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM

This year’s theme is The Strength of Our Stories, inspired by Rupi Kaur’s poem – ‘Women of Color.’ This conference aims to center the voices of UNC Chapel Hill’s women of color and indigenous women (Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, Multi-Racial, etc.), provide tools and resources to help combat negative representations and trends, and create a collaborative sense of community. It is our goal for conference attendees to learn to cultivate self-worth and to identify sources of empowerment for all of us to become our best selves.


Gender, Activism, and Leadership
Student Union Room 2420
Monday, March 6, 5:30 – 6:30 PM

Lead by Kate Kryder, Co-Curricular Leadership Program Coordinator, Student Life & Leadership, “Gender, Activism, and Leadership” is part of the Gender Week events schedule, presented by the Carolina Women’s Center.  Students will discuss how to effectively build coalitions and sustained partnerships around issues of gender equity. This interactive session will help students build relationships and create attainable goals and action items.

UAAW Luncheon: Pursuing Gender Equity Every Day
Sonja Haynes Stone Center Hitchcock Multpurpose Room
Tuesday, March 7, 12:00 – 1:30 PM

In the spirit of celebrating the University Awards for the Advancement of Women (UAAW), the Carolina Women’s Center is gathering together previous winners to learn how they pursued gender equity in their everyday roles on campus. Bob Pleasants (2011), Laurie McNeil (2010), Jenny Ting (2013), and Terri Phoenix (2015), share how they worked to improve gender equity at UNC Chapel Hill from their positions as faculty or staff. What inspired their action? How did they decide what to do first (and next)? How, in effect, did they become leaders and change agents in their corners of the university? We hope this discussion will inspire you to ask yourself, “How can I work towards gender equity?”

Lunch will be provided. Please register HERE.

Finding the Mentorship You Need
Student Union Aquarium Lounge
Wednesday, March 8, 3:00 – 5:00 PM

Maria Erb (Co-Director, Office of Diversity and Student Success with the Graduate School), Susan Girdler (founder of WISDOM), Gloria Thomas (Director, Women’s Center) and Ada Wilson (Director of Inclusive Student Excellence) share how they found mentorship and share strategies to identify mentors and build relationships with them. This event targets graduate students, junior faculty, and early career staff. Light refreshments will be provided.


Screening: No Más Bebés
Chapman Hall, Room 201 (205 Columbia Street)
Tuesday, March 21, 7:00 – 9:00  PM

The film tells the story of a little-known but landmark event in reproductive justice, when a small group of Mexican immigrant women sued country doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Sponsored by the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Screening & Panel Discussion: Equal Means Equal
Stone Center
Thursday, March 23, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

The Carolina Women’s Center and ERA-NC Alliance are hosting a free screening of the documentary Equal Means Equal, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. Panelists will include:

  • Gloria Thomas, Director, Carolina Women’s Center
  • Marena Groll: Co-Chair, ERA-NC Alliance
  • Leisha DeHart-Davis, Associate Professor, UNC School of Government
  • NaShonda Cook, Educator, Durham County Public Schools

For more information, go to http://equalmeansequal.com/

Diversity In STEM Conference
Sonja Haynes Stone Center
Friday, March 24, 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM

This 2nd annual conference is focused on examining ways to bolster diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The all-day experience will focus on the impact of diversity on STEM research, funding, and development; connections between STEM faculty recruitment, retention, development, and diversity; and Women of Color in STEM fields. It will feature nationally recognized diversity in STEM leaders:

  • Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, President of UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) since 1992, is a consultant on science and math education to national agencies, universities, and school systems. He was named by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. He also chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced the report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads (2011). Named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME (2012) and one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report (2008), he also received TIAA-CREF’s Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence (2011), the Carnegie Corporation’s Academic Leadership Award (2011), and the Heinz Award (2012) for contributions to improving the “Human Condition.” UMBC has been recognized as a model for inclusive excellence by such publications as U.S. News, which the past eight years has recognized UMBC as a national leader in academic innovation and undergraduate teaching.
  •  Dr. Christine Grant is an Academic Resilience Strategist who partners with individuals and organizations to empower women and men in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).   She has degrees in Chemical Engineering (B.S., Brown; M.S. and Ph.D., Georgia Tech). An international speaker, Grant conducts career coaching, professional development workshops, and keynotes across the U.S., in Ghana and Australia; her consulting company, CoolSci Productions, LLC (drchristinegrant.com) designs custom, targeted programming for corporate and academic environments. A Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular engineering at NC State; she’s one of less than ten African-American women in the U.S. at that rank.  Her research has focused on surface and interfacial phenomena. She is the Associate Dean of Faculty Advancement in the NC State College of Engineering.  She has led in her profession as: a Fellow and Board of Directors member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); a Visiting Senior Scholar at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); an Expert in the NSF Engineering Directorate; and a visiting faculty at Caltech, Duke and UPenn.  Grant’s been recognized with several awards for broadening the participation, promotion and retention of underrepresented minorities (URM) and women in STEM including: the AAAS Mentor Award and the NSF Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Her book, “Success Strategies from Women in STEM: A Portable Mentor” is the culmination of Grant’s over 30 years of experiential leadership, coaching and mentoring.Although attendance is free and open to all faculty and staff at UNC-Chapel Hill (faculty/staff from other institutions will be wait listed) REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. To register, please click here.

    Sponsored by Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research, Office of Graduate Education.


FILM SCREENING & DISCUSSION: Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women
Carroll Hall 111
Monday, March 27, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

The UNC Injury Prevention Research Center presents Dr. Jean Kilbourne’s film, Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, and invites you to think critically about popular culture and its relationship to sexism and gender-based violence. Dr. Kilbourne was named by the New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses. Dr. Kilbourne has been researching how advertising creates and maintains distorted and destructive ideals of femininity, which exposes a pattern of damaging gender stereotypes.

Light refreshments will be provided.

Black History Month lecture examines American quest for justice

13th Annual African American History Month Lecture with keynote scholar and lecturer, Brenda Stevenson. Wednesday February 8, 2017

Seeking justice has been at the core of the American experience from the very beginning.

It led to freedom from English tyranny in 1776, and today it leads the charge for racial equality.

For Brenda Stevenson, that constant challenge has become as American as apple pie.

“The powerful rally cry of ‘No justice, no peace’ isn’t so different from ‘No taxation without representation’ or ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ – popularized refrains that led a generation of patriots to the founding of this great nation,” she said.

Stevenson, the Nickoll Family Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA and a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences, discussed the violence against black women and the struggle for justice for all races in her talk “When Do Black Female Lives Matter? Contested Assaults, Murders and American Race Riots.”

Her presentation was the keynote address of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 13th annual African-American History Month Lecture at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt introduced Stevenson and shared that the two-hour lecture was a chance to learn from history and understand how it can be used to shape the future.

“There are times in history where we turn to stories and the telling of those stories to learn, to teach and to inspire,” she said. “Those are the times that we use our learning from the past to affect the changes that we want to see today. The telling and the sharing of history are vital to advancing diversity and inclusion.”

Held Feb. 8, the event was hosted by the Offices of the Chancellor and Provost; the College of Arts and Sciences and its departments of communications, music, history and African and African American diaspora studies; the Carolina Women’s Center; the Center for the Study of the American South; Diversity and Multicultural Affairs; Delta Sigma Theta; and the Stone Center.

The lecture was just one of Carolina’s many Black History Month events. Throughout February, University organizations are hosting lectures, panels and other events to celebrate the observance.

Stevenson, an author and frequent commentator on National Public Radio, is an expert on African-American history, black women and families and race relations.

She is also the recipient of the Ida B. Wells Award for Courage in Journalism and the Southern Historical Association’s John W. Blassingame Award, given for distinguished scholarship and mentorship in African-American history.

Lecturing on the case of Latasha Harlins – a 15-year-old black girl who was killed by Korean-American female storeowner Soon Ja Du in 1991 – Stevenson discussed how the lenient sentencing of Du ignited the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

“The shooting was devastating but was also profoundly different from the usual violent scenario across racial lines that typically garners public exposure,” she said. “The people involved, Soon Ja Du and Latasha Harlins, were female, not male. Du was Korean, not white. She was a mother, wife and shopkeeper. Not a policeman, deputy sheriff, security guard or homegrown terrorists with a white sheet over her head.”

When the judge sentenced Du to five years probation, 400 hours of community service and paying for funeral expenses, the community took to the streets to protest the injustice.

The media’s attention to the case, Stevenson said, further exposed the vulnerability of the most defenseless group in the United States – the women and children of racially, culturally and politically marginalized communities.

But that vulnerability had been a trend for decades prior, with injustices toward black women and children sparking tensions. It’s a vicious cycle, Stevenson said, that falls on all of society to break.

“It’s something that we have to continue to voice, continue to write about, continue to march and protest about and sing about and write poems about,” she said. “These are things that we really have to do. It’s everyone’s responsibility. It’s not just black women’s responsibilities. It’s not just black people’s responsibilities. It’s everybody’s responsibility to do that — everyone who lives on Earth to do that.”

Story by Brandon Bieltz and photos by Jon Gardiner, University Communications
Published February 10, 2017

“Sacred/Secular: A Sufi Journey” Explores Muslim Culture

In elegant Memorial Hall, we are only moments away from the highly anticipated performance. As the chatter of the audience fades into silence, the curtains rise, giving way to five individuals illuminated by a single stage light. For the next hour, the auditorium is filled with stories centered on coming-of-age experiences for Muslims in America, pre- and post-9/11. These shared tales succeed in moving the audience to laughter, tears, and speechlessness.

This performance is just one of many in the series Sacred/Secular: A Sufi Journey. Organized by Carolina Performing Arts, the series is dedicated to exploring Muslim culture and identity as well as generating important dialogue regarding Islamophobia. As part of the new Carolina Performing Arts Student Ambassador program, students attend multiple performances and lectures within the series. [Disclosure: author is a student ambassador] Discussions amongst the ambassadors concerning the significance of the performance to Muslim culture and identity follow each program.

The series is the product of Charlotte native and UNC alumna, Aisha Anwar. Graduating in early 2016 with a degree in English, she now works as Engagement Coordinator of Special Projects. Like many Carolina students, Anwar was drawn to UNC because of the “deep sense of community” she experienced while being on campus.

“I helped start Student Ambassadors because, as a student, I wanted people to attend plays and performances as well as [have] someone to talk to afterwards about what I’d just seen,” she says. The program is about “highlighting the plurality of Muslim experiences and identities [in which] students can bond over the performances they attend together [and] come to value the various roles art may play in exploring the human condition.”

Additional performances include Topeng Losari, a dance starring Indonesian performer, Nani. Topeng Losari is a mask dance originating in indigenous Javanese culture and featuring elements of mysticism and magic. Dancers sometimes perform with their eyes closed as a way to pray to God, the Earth, and the body. On February 16th, Playmakers will host a staged reading of The Who and the What, a play which demonstrates Muslim characters struggling to remain true to their cultural and religious heritage while also dealing with the reality of a dynamic cultural landscape that brings demands of modernization and assimilation.

Anwar hopes that, as the student ambassadors delve deeper into analysis of each performance, they go beyond simply enjoying theatre and actually learn something of value. “Performing arts can foster empathy and compassionate dialogue around difficult subjects,” she notes. “I hope these performances will “guide the student ambassadors to not only be more aware but to feel empowered to speak up and be involved.”

However, she wants the influence of the performances and the program to reach beyond the student ambassadors. Anwar suggests that people “engage with literature, art, and films that center the voices of Muslim or other marginalized individuals” in order to become informed on important issues surrounding discrimination of Muslims and other marginalized groups. ”Share the experience with someone and reflect,” she says, “but don’t stop there. Continue the conversation and community building by finding local groups that are dedicated to organizing against racism.”

In providing creative performances, Aisha hopes to use the arts to build bridges between communities.  “We, as human beings, can be advocates for one another,” she says.  Sometimes unity begins in the darkness of a theater.

By Brittany Grant




Soledad O’Brien Discusses Service at MLK Lecture

Soledad O’Brien delivers the Keynote at the MLK Celebration Lecture and Awards Ceremony at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. January 17, 2017. (Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a regular man who decided he would do great things, Soledad O’Brien said Tuesday (Jan. 17) at the 36th annual MLK Celebration Keynote Lecture and Award Ceremony.

“That means for the rest of us that we have that same opportunity,’’ said O’Brien, an award-winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor and producer. “Because if it’s magic then it’s out of our hands — but if actually he’s a regular person who made the decision that he would do great things, then I think that is an opportunity for all of us.”

O’Brien gave the keynote address in Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill to a packed crowd that included Chancellor Carol L. Folt and other University leaders, plus students, faculty and staff.

The event, co-hosted by The Carolina Union Activities Board and Diversity and Multicultural Affairs with support from other organizations, was part of Carolina’s week-long observance of King, which included the MLK “The Time is Now” 5K on Monday as part of the 14th annual MLK Day of Service and other events throughout the week.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, awards and recognitions were presented to faculty, staff, students and members of the community — individuals who already have taken advantage of their opportunities to stimulate change.

MLK Scholarship finalists Trinity Johnson, Rubi Quiroz and Andre Ciccotti react as Quiroz is named the winner of the scholarship.

Carolina students Rubi Franco Quiroz, Andre Bicalho Ceccotti and Trinity Johnson received MLK Scholarships, given annually to juniors who best exemplify King’s commitment to society.

Benjamin Frey, assistant professor of American studies, and Franklin Seymore, zone manager of Carolina’s housekeeping services, won Unsung Hero Awards, presented to faculty, staff or community members who embody King’s legacy and spirit.

Also recognized was Roland Hedgepeth, father of Faith Hedgepeth, a Carolina student who was killed in 2012. She served as inspiration for this year’s theme, Keeping the Faith: A Call to Press On.

In 2013, O’Brien launched Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production and distribution company dedicated to uncovering and producing stories that challenge the issues of race, class, wealth, poverty and opportunity through personal narratives. She originated the documentary series, In America, which included Black in America and Latino in America and is still produced by her production company.

She showed clips of some of her documentaries during the lecture, which focused on the opportunity each and every individual has to spark social change.

“Every step forward toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle,” she said.

O’Brien said her role in sparking social change is to continue to tell other people’s compelling stories, elevating their narratives. Telling — and most importantly listening to — people’s stories, she said, is the best solution we have to move forward as a society.

“What will be my service?” she asked. “To tell the stories of all Americans — whether they look like me or not, whether they agree with me or not — and seek to understand them and accurately reflect their stories.”

People can choose to fight for social justice, O’Brien said, by fighting against their own biases. They can look for more people and listen to their stories. They can try to understand. The choice, however, belongs to each individual. O’Brien ended her lecture challenging the audience.

“What are you going to do?”

Story by Will Rimer and photos by Jon Gardiner, Office of University Communications
Published January 18, 2017


‘Keeping the Faith’ on MLK Day

More than 140 runners on Monday (January 16) took part in the MLK “The Time is Now” 5K at UNC-Chapel Hill – part of Carolina’s 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt and other University leaders attended and spoke at the third annual event. The theme was “Keeping the Faith,” and it raised funds for the Faith Danielle Hedgepeth Award created by the American Indian Center in collaboration with Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc., Phi Sigma Nu, Fraternity, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and the Carolina Indian Circle.

Those in attendance signed a large banner honoring Hedgepeth, a Carolina student who was killed in 2012.

The Day of Service also included a rally, march and worship service sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and UNC-Chapel Hill chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Award-winning journalist and executive producer Soledad O’Brien will headline Carolina’s week-long observance of Martin Luther King Jr.; she will serve as the as the keynote speaker of the MLK Celebration Keynote Lecture and Award Ceremony on Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall.

For information on these and more MLK events, click here.

Published and updated January 16, 2017

Unsung Hero Awards and MLK Scholarships to be Presented at MLK Lecture

The 2017 MLK Celebration Keynote Lecture and Awards Ceremony, featuring journalist Soledad O’Brien as speaker, will take place on Tuesday, January 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall.  During the event, presentations will be made to winners of Unsung Hero Awards and the MLK Scholarship recipients. MLK Scholarships are awarded to a college junior; the MLK Unsung Hero Awards are presented to a UNC staff/faculty or department or a community/corporate entity.

2017 MLK Scholarship Finalists

Andre Bicalho Ceccotti

Andre is a junior from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, studying Economics.

Ceccotti is co-chair and case manager of the Community Empowerment Fund, in which he co-founded a free legal clinic in partnership with NC Legal Aid. The clinic provides services to find permanent housing and employment, receive government benefits, and access healthcare for
individuals who are homeless and unemployed in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. He is a student justice at UNC’s Supreme Court; counsel and managing associate at UNC’s Honor System; and, a director in the Morehead-Cain Scholarship Fund Board.

Ceccotti is interested in public interest law to apply the best strategies for the economic empowerment of racial minorities and has earned tax certification from the IRS and the Benefit Bank, which he has used to file taxes for low-income families.

He plans to attend law school and become a federal judge or attorney when he returns to Brazil.

Rubi Franco Quiroz

Rubi is a junior from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, studying Communications Studies, French and Hispanic Studies (double minor)

Quiroz serves in multiple roles for several organizations. She is the co-director for NC Sli; the finance committee of Carolina for the Kids Foundation; the recruitment committee for the Alpha Kappa Chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity; scholarship ambassador for the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid; an Honors Carolina Student; a member of the Latinx Unity Council and Carolina Hispanic Association Body; an executive board member of One State On Rate Campaign; and, a Buckley Public Service Scholar.

Her passion for service stems from a strong motivation to increase access to medical services for at-risk and marginalized communities. Quiroz plans to support individuals from these communities through intensive care treatments on a one-on-one level via a future graduate degree in Social Work.

Trinity Johnson

Trinity is a junior from Charlotte, North Carolina, studying Psychology.

Johnson serves as the Chaplain and the Save our Sisterhood Committee chairwoman to the Kappa Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., peer coach for UNC’s Bounce Back Retention Program; co-charter of Pinky Promise Women’s Ministry; member of Black Student Movement; UNC Chapter Psi Chi; National Honor Society; Minority Student Recruitment Committee; ACE Legacy Leader; and, recipient of the Harvey B. Renwick academic achievement award.

Driven by her passion for psychology and issues of childhood poverty, Johnson volunteers with at-risk youth to establish the importance of continuing education and maintaining optimal mental health to achieve success.

Johnson plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Pediatric and Counseling Psychology.

Unsung Heroes

Benjamin Frey

In his “America’s Threatened Languages” course, American Studies Professor Benjamin Frey encourages students to apply real world social situations to better understand community development. Dr. Frey also applies his mastery of linguistics in the campus-wide “Cherokee Coffee Hour,” which he initiated in 2013 to help revitalize interest in Cherokee language.

For his work, Dr. Frey has been the recipient of the Carolina Postdoctoral Fellowship for Faculty Diversity and been recognized for his commitment to service from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.


Franklin Seymore

A Zone Manager and valued member of the UNC Housekeeping team, Mr. Seymore has worked diligently with staff to appreciate diversity, build trust and an understanding of workplace expectations. A positive influence and calming force, he has been a bridge builder who encourages connections, promotion of understanding of others, and recognition of commonalities amongst his co-workers while reminding them to consider other points of view.

Mr. Seymore is a veteran that served in the United States Air Force as a Security Police officer. He enjoys volunteer work at local rest homes, assisting senior citizens.


2017 University Diversity Awards Nominations Open

The University Diversity Awards recognize people and groups who have given their time and effort to further diversity and inclusion at Carolina and in our surrounding community.  The University Diversity Awards committee will be accepting nominations beginning Monday, January 9. The deadline for submission is on Monday, January 30.

The awards will be given in the following eight categories:

  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Undergraduate Student
  • Graduate/Professional Student
  • Department/Unit/Faculty and Staff Group
  • Student Organization
  • Alumni
  • Community Member/Organization

Criteria for the awards:

  • Advocated for diversity, equity, and inclusion of underrepresented groups and/or social justice
  • Demonstrated a sustained commitment to the advancement of cultural diversity and inclusion at UNC and/or in the community
  • Demonstrated respect or inclusive treatment when interacting with others
  • Implemented or sponsored an event which cultivates diversity and inclusion

Nominations can be submitted electronically at UNC 2017 Diversity Awards Nomination

Further details about the award and the nomination process are available at http://diversity.unc.edu/diversityawards. For further information, please contact Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at diversity@unc.edu.

Soledad O’Brien to deliver UNC’s MLK 2017 Celebration Lecture

Journalist and producer Soledad O’Brien and state Senator Valerie Foushee will be featured speakers during UNC-Chapel Hill’s 2017 MLK Celebration Week, beginning on January 15. This year’s theme is “Keeping the Faith: A Call to Press On” and will include events dedicated to the intersectionality of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. 

UNC-Chapel Hill has a long history of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Since 1983, Carolina’s celebrations of his legacy have been part of a campus-wide initiative that extends well beyond the boundaries of Franklin Street and into the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community. The University proudly honors Dr. King’s bridge-building efforts through several long-standing traditions: The University/Community Annual MLK Banquet, the MLK Day of Service 5K and the MLK Lecture and Awards Ceremony. In addition, numerous performances, discussions, and screenings addressing intersectionality and encouraging social justice and activism are scheduled to take place Jan. 15 through 20 – the week of what would have been Dr. King’s 88th birthday.

“It is such an honor to have North Carolina Senator Valerie Foushee and esteemed journalist Soledad O’Brien speaking at our MLK events,” said Dr. G. Rumay Alexander, Interim Chief Diversity Officer for UNC’s Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. “Their contribution to Dr. King’s legacy of service and advocacy resonates especially now.”

The 32nd annual University/Community Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet and Award Presentation

Kicking off the week’s events is the Annual University/Community Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet and Award Presentation, hosted by the MLK Planning Corporation, in partnership with UNC’s Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, held at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education on Sunday, Jan. 15. The event begins with a 5 p.m. reception, followed by dinner at 6 p.m., and features musical selections, a spiritual litany, and the Citizenship Awards, which recognize those in the community who have demonstrated “enduring service to humanity by word and by deed.”

It is a special honor to have UNC alumna Valerie Foushee delivering the Memorial address. The state Senator received her BA in Political Science and African and Afro-American Studies in 1978 and went on to serve 21 years in the Chapel Hill Police Department. Foushee has been heavily involved in local education – elected to the Board of Education for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in 1997 and re-elected in 2001, during which time she also served as Chair. In 2004, she became the first African American female on the Orange County Board of Commissioners, to which she was re-elected in 2008 and served as Chair from 2008-2010. Foushee was elected to the NC House in 2012, representing rural Orange and Durham counties.

Tickets are $30. To purchase, please contact Diversity Celebrations Co-Coordinator Cameron Congleton at cconglet@live.unc.edu.

The MLK The Time is Now 5K Day of Service

On the following morning (Monday, Jan. 16), runners will be lacing up their sneakers and gathering at the Campus Y before sunrise for a light breakfast prior to participating in the MLK The Time is Now 5K. Runners will wind their way around the campus and neighboring streets before passing through the victory balloon arch. For those participants seeking a less challenging route, a one-mile fun walk will also take place.  Prizes will be awarded to runners in many categories.

The Day of Service event is sponsored by student organization ROCTS (Rejuvenating Our Community Through Service), co-sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports, Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, and the Department of Housing & Residential Education, and generously supported by the Parents Council Grant Program.

This year, the fundraiser will benefit the Faith Danielle Hedgepeth Award, named in memory of the beloved UNC student who had dedicated herself to service. The award, given by UNC-Chapel Hill’s American Indian Center and the Carolina Indian Circle, supports a sophomore student with books, supplies and basic living expenses while pursuing a career in a helping or health profession and serving American Indian populations.

Registration is $25 and includes breakfast, a t-shirt and an armband (discounts for groups). To register, please visit rocts.web.unc.edu.

The MLK Celebration Lecture and Awards Ceremony

On Tuesday night (Jan. 17) at 7:30 p.m., renowned journalist, documentarian, news anchor and producer Soledad O’Brien will deliver the Keynote at the MLK Celebration Lecture and Awards Ceremony. O’Brien launched Starfish Media Group (SMG) in 2013, dedicated to uncovering and producing empowering stories that take a challenging look at the often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, poverty and opportunity, through personal stories. The highly successful documentary series Black in America and Latino in America are among the many products of SMG. In addition, O’Brien and her husband, Brad, created the PowHERful Foundation to help disadvantaged young women with college access and success. This year, 25 women will receive scholarships.

In addition to O’Brien’s Keynote delivery, two special presentations will be made: the MLK Scholarship, which is awarded to a college junior; and the MLK Unsung Hero Awards, which are awarded to a UNC staff/faculty, department, or a community/corporate entity.

Tickets are free, but required. They are available online and at the Carolina Performing Arts box office.

The Keynote Lecture is co-hosted by Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the Carolina Union Activities Board, in partnership with Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, Parents Council Grant, Association of Student Governments, Interfraternity Council, National Panhellenic Council, Department of Housing and Residential Education, Student Congress, Residence Hall Association, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, School of Dentistry, Carolina Association of Black Journalists, Carolina Center for Public Service, School of Education, Department of Athletics, World View, American Studies, School of Information and Library Science, and Department of Dramatic Art.

The 2017 MLK Celebration Committee is grateful for the support of Carolina Performing Arts, the American Indian Center, Stone Center for Black History and Culture, and the various student organizations represented in the committee in designing and offering the week of events.

For more information about these highlighted events or to learn more about additional campus and community MLK Week events, please visit http://diversity.unc.edu/programs-and-initiatives/mlk/.

by Adrianne Gibilisco