Achieving Carolina Excellence

On Friday, August 15, over 200 incoming first-year and transfer students and their families gathered in the Student Union Great Hall. It was just a couple of hours since they had stepped on campus knowing that, this time, they weren’t going back home when their families left. For some of them it would be their first experience spending the night anywhere but their family home.

ACE students participate in 2014 service project

ACE students participate in 2014 service project

Some of these new Carolina students moved into their residence halls that morning and all of them began their transition to college during the Achieving Carolina Excellence (ACE) welcoming session. Put over 400 new students and family members in this setting and you’ve got a lot of excitement and a few nerves. Add about 40 members of the Minority Student Recruitment Committee (MSRC) cheering the new students on and performing for them and the atmosphere is electric. ACE is a program designed by UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) to assist first year and transfer students from underrepresented populations with their transition to Carolina.

Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton welcomed the participants and urged students to learn from the incredibly diverse world that is now just a short walk from their residence hall. “You have opportunities to go beyond your comfort zone,” she said. “And I urge you to take advantage of them. Between what’s within you and what we have within the walls of this campus—you have everything you need to be successful.”

The welcome session also included greetings from the admissions office, Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp, MSRC On-Campus Coordinator Angel Washington, and from the presidents of the Carolina Indian Circle (CIC), the Asian Student Association (ASA), the Black Student Movement (BSM), and the Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA).

Following the welcome and faculty/staff reception the program included concurrent sessions for family members, a session for male students hosted by Carolina Men Advocating for Learning, Empowerment, and Success (Carolina M.A.L.E.S.), a session for the women hosted by Unique Heels, and a session addressing the needs of students of all gender identities and expressions hosted by the UNC LGBTQ Center. For incoming student Estefane Santiago-Lopez the Unique Heels session was a favorite. She thought the presenters were “nice, funny and honest. They gave great advice and said many important things.”

At 4:30 in the afternoon student participants said good bye to their families and met with their ACE counselors for their first dinners on campus.  For first-year student and CMSP Scholar Phil Locklear, the evening-ending culture show in the Great Hall was the highlight of the day. Participants were treated to performances by Opeyo!, EROT, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Kamikaze Dance Group, Que Rico, and Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.

On Saturday morning, Dean Harold Woodard hosted an academic success discussion and panel. Students then participated in a service project in the Pit hosted by TABLE NC, a local nonprofit that provides healthy, emergency food aid to hungry children in Chapel Hill and Carrboro followed by the ACE Expo where they were introduced to more than 40 clubs, organizations and resources. “All of the first year students were eager to participate in the service project and expo,” said Ada Wilson Suitt, Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at DMA “and we had one of the greatest turnouts at the academic session that we have seen in years.”

Other activities let students choose from welcoming sessions hosted by BSM, ASA, CIC, CHispA, and Tar Heel Transfers and then participants ended the day with a Game Night in Upendo Lounge.

“The energy surrounding the weekend was overwhelming,” Wilson Suitt added “Students were excited to be part of a program that celebrated and embraced their cultural identity.”

ACE participants will have a chance to catch up with each other and their MSRC counselors on September 1 at the ACE cookout. For more information about other diversity events, visit

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Carolina Latina/o Collaborative Open House

Chancellor Folt visits with students at CLC open house

Chancellor Folt visits with students at CLC open house

Staff and students at UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs had been planning for weeks to welcome returning students, faculty, and staff to the second annual Carolina Latina/o Collaborative (CLC) Open House on August 18. Food had been ordered, poster presentations had been assembled, and paintings were on the gallery walls.

A slow stream of guests started arriving around 11:00 and quickly grew to fill the hallway gallery space, seminar rooms, offices, and study lounge. Visiting students ranged from those who had been Tar Heels for just a few hours to seniors eager to share their experiences and to re-connect with friends they hadn’t seen since the end of the spring semester.

First-year students were particularly interested in the poster presentations offered by several of the Latina/o student organizations and crowded around the tables to sign up for interest meetings. Students who are participating in the Latina/o Peer Mentoring Program—an initiative that matches all incoming first-year Latina/o students with current undergraduate students—had their first chance to meet and connect with their peer match at the event.

“This was our largest turnout yet,” said Josmell Perez, assistant director for multicultural affairs with UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the CLC. “The connections that students made with other students and with faculty and staff will help them have a successful career at Carolina.”

“The highlight of the event,” said Perez, “was when Chancellor Folt stopped in to surprise the students. “There were a lot of selfies taken. They’ve been talking about it and posting in social media ever since.”

“I was definitely impressed to see Chancellor Folt there,” said junior Cecilia Polanco, president of the Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA). “There’d been talk about her maybe coming, but she’s so busy. I appreciate her taking the time to come see us and speak to us; it really made me feel like she cares.”

Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs welcomed the visitors and commended the CLC staff and students on creating a space that was both inclusive and differentiated. “This type of event,” she said, “affords you a chance to connect authentically with your peers, faculty, staff and administrators.”

“It is really important to ensure that all students, and particularly minority and underrepresented students who come to Carolina, are able to connect with community,” says Dr. Clayton. “So much of this kind of programming is critical for student success.”

More information about the CLC can be found on their website, To learn more about Diversity and Multicultural Affairs visit

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New grant helps foster diversity at UNC School of Medicine

The National Institutes of Health awarded UNC School of Medicine a third round of funding for its IMSD Program – The Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity. The IMSD program attracts underrepresented students in the biomedical sciences and gives UNC the means to recruit more students from traditionally underrepresented populations and support their training as graduate students through professional development.

September Diversity in Higher Education Seminar: Female Faculty in the Sciences

In partnership with the Carolina Women’s CenterDiversity and Multicultural Affairs features four prominent female scientists at UNC in a panel and a facilitated WIS_logosdiscussion on Creating an Inclusive Climate for Female Faculty in the Sciences. In the past decade, the percentages of women attaining degrees in engineering and computer sciences have remained stagnant yet these fields have the highest demands in the workforce. This has critical implications for the future of science, technology, engineering, and math—also known as the STEM fields.

With rising numbers of attrition of women in multiple STEM arenas, the need to create policies and practices that promote inclusion, leadership, and opportunities for women in STEM will be the issue under discussion. The panel will discuss promising practices and also challenges that female faculty face in higher education with regard to increasing female enrollment, degree attainment, and faculty recruitment in the sciences.

Chancellor Folt will make opening remarks for the event. Panelists will include Clara Lee, MD, MPP (Associate Professor of Surgery, Director of Research – Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, UNC Department of Surgery); Anna Maria Siega-Riz, PhD (professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; Valerie Ashby, PhD, (professor and department chair, Chemistry) and Pamela Johnson Rowsey, PhD, RN (associate professor and coordinator of student diversity and recruitment, School of Nursing).

Professor Silvia Tomášková will moderate the session. Dr. Tomášková has extensive experiences in addressing climate issues for women scientists in various science departments through the Women in Science group at UNC, and works to bring distinguished women scientists to campus in an annual public lecture series. Dr. Tomášková has a joint appointment in the Anthropology Department and in Women’s and Gender Studies, and teaches courses in both units.

The seminar will take place in the Toy Lounge in Dey Hall, Tuesday, September 23, 2014 from 3:30-5:00 pm. Registration is open to all and will be of special interest to both new and emerging faculty and graduate students. Please note: registration is required to attend and refreshments will be served during the event.

Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosts the Annual Diversity in Higher Education Series that focuses on diversity across three areas: Education, Access, and Research. To learn more about future diversity education seminars, please visit

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Ecuadoran Exchange Delegation Visits UNC

EcuadorVisitRepresentatives from the government of Ecuador’s higher education system, Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, met with staff from Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) on June 30 as part of a professional exchange program with the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. The Ecuadoran exchange delegation was visiting institutions of higher education to better understand regulatory and management systems in the United States. A new higher education law, passed in 2010, outlines specific provisions in the Ecuadoran higher education system and the delegation was seeking input on regulation, accreditation, diversity, administration, and university management.

Participants in the delegation represented the Secretariat of Higher Education, the Ministry of Knowledge and Human Talent, and the Council of Evaluation, Accreditation, and Quality Assurance of Ecuador.

“Having the opportunity to interact with and engage the Ecuadorian delegation provided a rich discussion for sharing our practice and learning more about other forms of higher education,” said Dr. Marco Barker, DMA senior director for education, operations and initiatives. “It was informative and intriguing to hear how South American higher education policy makers wrestled with the same issues and concerns related to diversity, equity, access, and success among their varying demographics.”

During the conversation, members of the delegation expressed a strong interest in student recruitment, preparation, and success programs and UNC’s relationship with K-12 education—an indicator of their desire to make higher education in Ecuador and South America more attainable for students who may be underserved or from under-resourced communities.

Josmell Pérez, DMA’s assistant director for multicultural programs and the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative, also spoke with the delegation. “They were interested in all aspects of our higher education system,” he said “from policy and curriculum to student retention and graduation.” He noted that they were impressed by how intentional DMA programs were in providing students with a sense of community and are supported by people who have a vested interest in their success.

This visit marked the third delegation of international visitors for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Previously, DMA has met with two different groups of Interfaith leaders from Germany who were interested in diversity and social justice education.

The Ecuador visit was coordinated by UNC Global’s international affairs liaison Melissa McMurray.

About Diversity and Multicultural Affairs

Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is a unit in the Division of Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement and serves as the diversity arm of the University. DMA is led by Associate Vice Chancellor & Chief Diversity Officer Taffye Benson Clayton and has the responsibility of providing university-wide leadership in building and sustaining an inclusive campus community that values and respects all members of the university community and beyond.

For more information about diversity at Carolina, please visit or email

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First Person: UNC Junior Volunteers at a Detention Center in San Antonio


Global Studies major Cecilia Polanco reports on her visit to the detention center where young immigrants fleeing their war-torn villages in Central America are being held in San Antonio.

This summer I’ve been blessed to have done some travelling and independent research around the U.S. Last week I was in San Antonio, Texas, and since I’d been following news and articles about the children coming from Central America and being held in detention centers, I decided I was going to find a way to help.

Through some connections, I contacted someone who organized volunteers. I wanted to come in and help in some way. In my mind, I was prepared to do whatever kind of work was needed. I pictured cleaning, washing, or even cooking as possibilities. But what I imagined in my mind, much of which was and is influenced by what I read and see in the media, differed from the actual situation, which is the case many times.

I arrived at the detention center Friday morning, on my last day in San Antonio. The night before, my mind kept me awake with thoughts and images of over crowded warehouses, dirty and crying children, and me: not fully knowing what was going on and totally in over my head. But what I came to find was different.

I had to leave my phone in the car, so I have no pictures of myself, or the children I interacted with. Safety is the number one priority of the staff at this center, and I respected any request made. I signed in, put on my volunteer badge, and was escorted to an area with a small soccer field, and picnic tables under a shelter, like you’d see at a lake-side retreat.

I sat down at one of the tables and laid out all my supplies. My first client was a little girl with four front teeth missing and the cutest smile. So I asked her, “Que quieres que te pinte?” / “What do you want me to paint for you?”

Face painting is not one of my best skills. Actually, I’d say I’m pretty bad at it. But I was prepared to paint my best flowers and butterflies for these girls. They were very special to me. I spoke in Spanish the entire time. It was funny: before I arrived, one of the staff said, “These girls speak Spanish, but they speak a different Spanish. They use weird words that we don’t usually use. Ones from Central American countries like Honduras and El Salvador.” I thought about the way I speak Spanish, being that I’m from El Salvador, and of some of my experiences volunteering in Nicaragua in the past. I wasn’t worried.

The little girls came to my chair, and for a few minutes, my attention was all theirs. I used my brushes and colors, and my favorite black eye liner to make them beautiful. I wasn’t impressed with anything I painted, but when I showed them the result in my compact mirror they would beam at themselves. The giggles and missing teeth affirmed that I’d done a good job.

I didn’t say much that day. I was focused, yet distracted when I looked up from the faces and remembered where I was. I made sure to ask every little girl her name, her age, and where she was from. The youngest was 5. I heard El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala; places that are not strange to me. The oldest girls I met were in their teens. One girl was 11, and I thought of my niece, Lesly. I know that she’s safe, at home with my sister, probably watching Netflix or taking selfies. I love her, and I can’t imagine having to tell her to leave, that she has to go because it’s not safe here, and that she has to do it by herself.

There was a lot to take in that day, but I came closest to tears when listening to the staff talk about a recent arrival, one of the smallest girls there, that hadn’t been sleeping well. She’d only gotten about two hours of sleep the night before, between suddenly waking up and calling out for her grandmother, and nodding off on the couch whimpering. They hadn’t been able to put her in contact with her mother or grandmother, both of whom I’m sure would have soothed her worries if they could just talk to each other. The struggle to protect the bond between people and the love between families is what ends up in separated families and deaths on the border. Sacrifices are made to keep people safe and alive.

Some of the older girls asked for “tattoos” on their forearms. So I drew my best eyeliner hearts and filled them in with red lipstick. They asked for names of their loved ones inside the hearts and along the stems of roses. My heart beat harder in my chest as I thought about the names the girls requested. Mothers, Fathers, sisters and brothers, sometimes even a young love left behind. I know that love and the memories of their loved ones are what keep them going.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on at the border. I don’t fully understand the politics behind it. But I do know that if someone shows up at my door, especially a child, they will be welcomed, fed, bathed, clothed, and taken care of. The conditions of the center where I was were great, but I know that’s the case in towns closer to the border.

Volunteering is the least I could do. I spread the word on social media, and advocate for a more understanding world and a more just political system. There’s plenty more to be done.

Cecilia Polanco

July, 2014


Library Diversity Committee Hosts Third Film

The Library Diversity Committee will show and discuss the third of three films focusing on a theme of Native American culture. “Fry Bread Babes,” directed by Steffany Suttle (Lummi) is a powerful and intimate new film that explores Native women, body image and identity. Six Native American women discuss issues of body image and identity, candidly and with humor. Elaine Miles (Cayuse-Nez Perce), best know for her role as Marilyn Whirlwind on the television series “Northern Exposure,” is one of the six women interviewed in the film.

DMA Staff Member Wins Employee Forum Award

Service with a Smile

One of the first things you notice about Mrs. Margie Scott is her smile. As the first person that students meet when they come into the Inclusive Student Excellence office in the Diversity and Multicultural Affairs suite in SASB North, Scott’s warm welcome and enthusiastic greeting is contagious. She is often the first point of contact for students and parents who call looking for information about the recruitment and visitation programs offered by UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA). Mrs. Scott’s patience and empathy have garnered her mounds of thank-you notes from families, prospective students, and current students.

Students who work with Margie will tell you that she is their cheerleader, their advocate, and their role model. Her ability to embody the vision and mission of Carolina: to make our campus welcoming and inclusive have earned Mrs. Scott a peer recognition award for customer service. The award, presented by the UNC Employee Forum on May 29, 2014 recognizes someone who serves the University on the front lines. DMA has over 2,000 high school students who apply to be part of our pipeline programs and many of them have questions or have family members who want to be reassured that their children’s needs are being met.

In her nomination letter co-workers cited her warmth and graciousness. “She is always such a positive person to work with and she has such encouraging words to share with students,” said one nominator. Her nomination went on to cite her empathy and a deep belief in equity and inclusion.

Margie Scott at the Employee Forum Awards with daughter, grandson and husband

Margie Scott at the Employee Forum Awards with daughter, grandson and husband

“Being chosen,” said Mrs. Scott, “confirms for me that the service I give every day has a positive impact on the students, the parents, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and the University, and more than that—my work is appreciated. I’m always surprised and elated when I win something, and being the recipient of the Employee Forum Customer Service Award is no exception.”

Grateful parents write notes about her caring spirit and the time she takes to listen to their needs, current students come to her frequently for encouragement and a hug, and students who have graduated come back to thank her for all she did to help them through their time at Carolina.

“As a colleague, she has been inspirational in her commitment to inclusive excellence in the work that we do and the way that we communicate with our campus and community members,” says Sharbari Dey, education programs coordinator for DMA and Scott’s nominator. “Working with Margie is a delightful opportunity and I am sure the many students and families whom she has touched agree with me.”

A native of Mrytle Beach, Sc., Scott has over 10 years of service at UNC-Chapel Hill and currently serves as administrative program specialist. She is active in her local community and church in Durham.  A breast cancer survivor, Scott also volunteers her time to support persons affected by cancer and participates in the annual Triangle Komen Race for the Cure.

About the Employee Forum

The Employee Forum consists of SPA and EPA Non-Faculty Employees elected by their peers and seeks to continually improve the quality of life at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for its Students, Faculty, and Employees through mutual understanding, recognition of Employee contributions, and respect for the worth of the individual.

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Summer Programs for Diverse Students

NCR GroupThe Carolina campus is buzzing with activity this summer as Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) holds two summer programs for high school students—North Carolina Renaissance and Project Uplift. These two unique programs are designed to give underrepresented minority, rural, and low-income students a residential immersion at the University. Participants explore all that the college experience entails including life in a residence hall, classroom lectures, and academic and cultural events put on by current Carolina students.

Rising juniors from rural communities just completed North Carolina Renaissance (NCR), an educational four-day enrichment program that took place from May 13-16. The objective of NCR was to inspire high-achieving scholars to pursue their educational aspirations while developing leadership skills. Students participated in specially designed sessions including leadership and team building, college admissions, financial aid, and a community service opportunity.

Carolina NCR counselors also benefit from the NCR experience. In helping younger students, counselors expand their leadership skills and give back to the communities from which they came. “You can see tangible outcomes,” says Frank Tillman III, a 2013 and 2014 NCR counselor. “You can follow these students’ success and progress as they come through the program.” According to other counselors, the program makes students want to challenge themselves academically which allows them to see the participants grow and learn.

Project Uplift for Rising High School Seniors

Project Uplift’s first week out of four begins Thursday, May 22 and goes through the morning of Saturday, May 24. Also known as PU, Project Uplift will host approximately 1200 rising high school seniors this year as it celebrates the 45th anniversary of the program.

Hosted in conjunction with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, PU aims to enhance the diversity of Carolina’s undergraduate population. High achieving African American, Native American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian American, low income, rural and other rising seniors from historically underserved populations are recommended by their guidance counselors to apply for the program.  Accepted students are invited to experience the academic rigor and social climate of UNC. This early recruitment program provides prospective students with insight into college life and an opportunity to live and lead, and learn about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a first-hand basis. Participants attend classes, dine in Lenoir Hall, live in UNC residential communities and interact with current Carolina student counselors who coordinate cultural activities, lead group discussions, and conduct team-building exercises. The PU student staff is a close-knit cohort, many of whom have served as counselors for all four years of their Carolina tenure. Project Uplift and North Carolina Renaissance are both hosted by DMA’s Minority Student Recruitment Committee (MSRC).

Other summer programs being held on campus include Summer Bridge, a program hosted by the Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling that targets incoming first-year NC students from small/rural high schools that may lack AP or other college preparatory courses; the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP), a graduate-level research experience for highly talented students from diverse backgrounds; the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE-REU) Program in Molecular Biosciences, which provides talented undergraduate students the opportunity to carry out independent research projects under the guidance of faculty mentors; and the Carolina Center for Educational Excellence (CCEE) youth programs that offer science summer camps for elementary and middle school students.

Project Uplift CounselorsAbout MSRC

The Minority Student Recruitment Committee partners with other student organizations such as the Black Student Movement, the Carolina Indian Circle, Carolina Hispanic Association, Student Government and various campus units and departments to coordinate and implement enriching academic, cultural, and social developmental programs to achieve our goal of an inclusive campus environment. The students of MSRC are committed to supporting current Carolina students in undertaking a rich, rewarding experience at the University.


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