‘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


Pipeline Programs for Prospective Students

Students and Faculty alike gain an increased sense of their potential during the Summer Institutes programs.

From late May through July, the Carolina campus is relatively quiet: students have either graduated or are on vacation or summer internships; and, many of the faculty are on summer break or doing research. Yet, there is a delightful energy that descends upon the grounds as rising high school juniors and seniors get their first taste of a college experience. Their excitement is palpable and stands as a reminder that future Tar Heels are still wide-eyed high school students for whom education may have seemed unattainable before they set foot on Carolina soil.


North Carolina Renaissance (NCR), a four-day enrichment program that Diversity and Multicultural Affairs co-hosts with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in mid-May, builds on the educational aspirations of young scholars from the state’s rural communities. From the moment they awake in their residence halls until lights out around midnight, a rigorous schedule awaits the youths: educational resources sessions, ACT/SAT test prep, mock classrooms, panels and discussion on branding, scholarship and student aid, and more, are balanced with fun group activities like game night, a talent show and a banquet.

With a curriculum that focuses primarily on leadership development and community involvement, the 35-40 students who participate in this experience are often inspired to return for a secondary experience when they become rising seniors: Project Uplift.

Aimed at enhancing the diversity of Carolina’s undergraduate population, Project Uplift (PU) targets a broader swath of students. High-achieving rising seniors from historically underserved populations are invited to spend two days on campus. Their experience includes an academic lecture, college fair, student life session, wellness session, college excellence workshop, scholarship and student aid session, talent show, cultural program and more. PU is an incredibly successful program, and one with a long and meaningful history.

Students take part in SAT prep and other academic classes.

“Project Uplift began in 1969 with a group of students who demanded that the University increase the recruitment of underrepresented students at UNC,” explains Ada Wilson, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs’ director of Student Excellence.  “As a result of the original 23 demands submitted by the Black Student Movement, an office focused primarily on minority affairs was established. PU [has since] evolved into the premier university recruitment tool for African American, Latinx, American Indian, multicultural and diverse students from across the nation and the world.”

Furthermore, the student-created, student-led initiative represents the core values of our institution. “PU reflects the legacy and tradition of student advocacy and leadership at Carolina that extends beyond the 1,200 prospective students who visit the campus annually and touches the 70-plus staff members who are able to build community at UNC by giving back,” Wilson says, proudly.

What is truly special is observing the metamorphosis from curious high school students to inspired scholars on a path to higher education matriculation. “The best part of each program, for me, is watching students have their individual “ah-ha” moments. From finding a potential career path to learning about a new culture, watching students come into their own in such a short period of time is inspiring,” says Wilson. “It is even more uplifting when they end up at Carolina pursuing the dreams they set for themselves while attending Project Uplift or NCR.”


Recognizing a need for more high impact programming, Uplift PLUS was created in 2014. Uplift Plus is a five-week program for Project Uplift participants who submit outstanding applications. Held during Carolina’s Summer Session II, the cohort of 15-20 attend SAT/ACT coaching sessions and take English 100 – a 3 credit hour course. This enhanced program assigns leadership roles to current students, who serve as daily program advisors, tutors and program facilitators.

Uplift PLUS (UP) participant Alton Peques (’19) recalls of his experience, “The most important part of Uplift PLUS was the character development implemented through discussion and relationships…This open community allowed for people to love who they are and appreciate the qualities others possess as well. Through this environment, participants were able to develop into not only better students, but better people.”

Tates (second from right) is a testament to the success of the Summer Institute programs.

Rachel Tates, DMA’s recruitment programs specialist is a testament to their success. “As a former staff member of Project Uplift, I can speak first hand to the lasting relationships and home that it built for me at UNC, as well as the fulfillment I received when seeing students that attended the program end up at UNC and become staff members themselves,” she says.

The programs’ positive outcomes extends to staff and faculty as well. “While there is much professional oversight,” notes Tates, “our summer programs are truly student-led and I think that is what makes them special. Our summer institutes are an enriching and eye opening experience for the participants, but I think they have just as much an impact on the current students who serve as volunteers and staff members.”

Wilson sees these three Summer Institute programs as opportunities with long-term positive results that awaken the realization of potential inherent in a college education. “The students learn more about themselves and others through this experience and are inspired to achieve at the highest levels,” she says. “Throughout the program, we reinforce their capacity to succeed and [remind them that] success is not the same for everyone. By offering tangible resources and academic tools, we hope that students walk away with a greater understanding of how they can leverage higher education to have major impacts on their communities, and the world.”


Applications for participants and staff are now open. There is a separate application for NC Renaissance and Project Uplift for prospective participants and students will have the opportunity to indicate their desire to be considered for Uplift Plus in their application to Project Uplift. Both applications will close on January 1st and students will be notified of a decision by mid-march.

The application for NC Renaissance is available here.

The application for Project Uplift is available here.

There is one staff application, and candidates may be considered for all three summer programs. The application period for current UNC students who would like to serve on staff will close on December 8th. The application can be accessed here and students must turn in a typed and printed copy to Student Academic Services Building North, Suite 1125 by 5pm on December 8th.

— by Adrianne Gibilisco

Related links:




Carolina Honors Veterans


From the beginning of their military careers, service members are taught and trained to be strong leaders, not just on the battlefield, but in everything they do.

Even when they put away their uniform and leave the military, leadership remains at the core of every veteran — making an impact wherever they go.

“We are thrilled they are among us every day getting to continue to set their example of leadership at Carolina,” said Felicia Washington, vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement. “Our veterans are indeed an important part of our community.”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill celebrated those leaders — its veterans and active-duty service members — Nov. 10 during the Tar Heel Tribute and Nov. 11 with the annual Veterans Day Memorial Ceremony at the Carolina Alumni Memorial in Memory of Those Lost in Military Service.

“This is a chance for us to say thank you to every one of our veterans and active duty military,” Chancellor Carol L. Folt said. “You honor us by being here today. We can never say thank you fully for what you give in service of your country.”

Carolina’s celebration began with the Tar Heel Tribute at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. The third annual event was sponsored by Office of the Dean of Students and the Division of Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement, including Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office, and the Office of Human Resources.

“This is just one small way that we salute you,” Washington said.

Imogene M. Jamison, former lieutenant colonel for the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and current associate general counsel with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, gave the keynote speech, talking about the leadership skills veterans possess.

“Without question, veterans set the standards for leadership both on our college campuses and in the workforce,” she said. “Veterans, decisive, brave, selfless problem solvers, are exceptional leaders and serve as personal examples for all.”

The Tar Heel Tribute also gave veterans and service members the chance to learn more about Carolina services and resources aimed at helping them succeed.

A few examples include the Veterans Resource Team, which serves students and employees who are active duty military or veterans, and Green Zone Training, which educates faculty and staff about issues facing veterans. The University also provides distance-learning programs designed for service members through the Friday Center called UNC CORE and courses from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

 “We look for more ways to be a very positive and successful university where active duty military and veterans will seek and want to come,” Folt said.

Hosted by UNC-Chapel Hill’s ROTC, the Veterans Day Memorial ceremony held the following day thanked veterans for their service to the country.

“We [serve] for the love of our country, we do it for our families and we do it for the service member next to us,” said Maj. Shane Doolan, a professor of military science. “We look for no favor and we ask for no reward. But on days like this, that one time we get recognized, we truly, truly appreciate it from our the bottom of our hearts.”

Faculty Chair Bruce Cairns, who served in the Navy for 19 years before becoming the director of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care, was the ceremony’s featured speaker.

Reflecting on his own time in the military, which included serving as the general surgeon at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam, Cairns discussed the service military members provide every day in the face of challenging situations.

“People from all over the country, with different backgrounds, training, goals and aspirations came together for a common cause: the belief in a commitment to serve our country,” he said.

It is a similar commitment, Cairns said, that Americans owe to veterans and service members today for the sacrifices they’ve made.

“No matter what your station is in life, whether you’ve served or not, that your nation, your fellow citizens, your veterans need your support,” he said. “Do what you can do. No complaining. No whining. It’s just what we need to do.”

Story by Brandon Bieltz, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Video by Rob Holliday, Office of Communications and Public Affairs          

Published November 10, 2016.
Updated November 11, 2016.


A college preview

As she guided her students through the Pit, Aycock Middle School counselor Dena Keeling saw her students’ faces light up with excitement as they walked on a college campus for the first time.

“If it wasn’t for this, they may not get to see the college campus,” she said. “It gives them the opportunity to see a college campus, know that they can go to college — that it is an option for them.”

Keeling’s group of students were among the nearly 300 North Carolina middle schoolers getting their first look at college life during Tar Heel Preview Day on Oct. 28. Hosted by the Carolina Millennial Scholars, the program features academic sessions with faculty members and panels with current students.

In its third year, Tar Heel Preview Day showcases the college experience to middle school boys from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The goal is to introduce the students to the idea of college as a reality for them,” said Rachel Tates, recruitment program specialist with Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “We want them to experience what it’s like and also give them the proper tools to navigate their way from middle school to college.”

The students spent a majority of their Carolina experience in the classroom learning about world cultures, economics, psychology and science, seeing firsthand what college courses can offer. “They’re exposed to many different types of academic experiences and they’re able to talk to their peers about what they learned during the sessions,” said Ada Wilson, director of inclusive student excellence at DMA.

But Tar Heel Preview Day was more than academic sessions and a stroll through campus. Students also had the chance to mingle with Carolina students. And for some of the middle schoolers, it was the first time they had met a college student. “I want the students to actively see current college students working and succeeding,” Wilson said. “As middle school students, they’re seeing students from the very moment they walk in, from registration to welcoming the sessions to the panels, they’re seeing themselves through the current Carolina students.”

By showcasing the college experience to students at such a young age, Tates said, the middle schoolers have the time to put themselves on a track that could lead them to college.

“We’re trying to give students the tools so they can be as prepared as possible to make whatever decisions they want to make in their lives and so they’ll be set to go to college if they want to go,” Tates said.

Keeling has seen firsthand how a trip to Carolina can redirect students’ paths.

“I always have students walking away from here feeling like ‘I’m going to college,’” Keeling said. “I see their behavior change when they get back to school because they make that connection of ‘What I’m doing here affects me in the future.’”

By Brandon Bieltz, Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Published October 28, 2016


Sharbari Dey Earns 3-Legged Stool Award

Sharbari Dey won the 2016 Employee Forum Community Award–also known as the Three Legged Stool Award. Photo by Jon Gardiner

When Sharbari Dey received an email about winning the Employee Forum Community Award—also known as the Three Legged Stool—she didn’t do anything with it.

“I was very embarrassed,” she said.

It took some convincing from her colleagues before Dey, who came to the University from Virginia Tech in December 2012, started to believe she had won it. Then she ran into Natiaya Neal, who chairs the Recognition and Awards Committee of the Employee Forum, at an event. Neal asked if Dey had gotten the email. Dey told her she had and reluctantly agreed to attend the Sept. 14 meeting to be recognized.

The aim of the Three Legged Stool Award is to recognize distinguished contributions by individuals who work to promote cooperation and collaboration among faculty, staff and students. In her role as the assistant director of education and special initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA), Dey works with countless units across campus to develop strategic initiatives to advance diversity and address workplace climate concerns.

Dey’s colleagues believe few connect the University better than she does. In one nomination letter, a colleague said she is “one of the University’s most passionate, thoughtful and intentional collaborators” whose “very ethos involves collaborating with campus partners in an effort to not only advance diversity and inclusion at UNC but also leverage the talents of each collaborator.”

Sense of belonging

Dey said she’s thoughtful about working with so many campus units because she wants each student and faculty and staff member to feel a sense of belonging as soon as he or she steps foot on campus.

“When you walk into a big space like a university, if you feel that sense of belonging, then you stay,” she said.

Dey felt that way when she came to campus. By cultivating this welcoming environment, Dey hopes to create a community at Carolina like the one in which she grew up in Pune, India—a small city close to Mumbai—where everyone looked out for one another.

“You couldn’t step out of the neighborhood without someone asking where you’re going,” she said.

She didn’t find that intrusive. “Everybody should know you and watch out for you,” Dey said, “and if there’s something going on in your life where you need support, you should have multiple people whom you are able to talk to.”

Coming together

Dey works to make everyone feel welcome in her office, and she extends that culture all over campus by creating opportunities for faculty, staff and students to come together to discuss topics in common spaces.

“There is a wide variety of very passionate people who are interested in making sure that others are successful here,” she said. “I have the great fortune to work alongside an incredibly dedicated team at Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.  All of us are passionate about creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive Carolina. Perhaps that is why I find it difficult to accept this award on my own behalf.”

In the words of Ada Wilson, DMA’s director of inclusive student excellence, “Sharbari is much too humble. She helped start the annual Diversity THIINKposium in 2012, which she still manages.  That’s one of the best occasions to introduce concepts centered on a healthy campus culture,” she said.

In most of Dey’s diversity trainings or conferences, the focus is on content. The goal of the THINKposium is to take what has been learned about diversity and inclusion and continue the conversation after the conference.

“We’ve got to show you how to take that back with you,” Dey said. “Here’s a tool. Use it. These are some tangible things you can take back to your classroom or to your workplace, so try them.”

Each year, the THINKposium builds on the skills and lessons learned in the previous year. This year’s theme was “lived experiences of difference.” THINKposium 2016 was a day to examine why the world feels so polarized, to peer into the “empathy gap,” to ponder the browning and graying of America. After a summer of heightened racial unrest nationally, the topic of diversity seemed particularly relevant.

Indeed, Dey has a 10-year plan for the THINKposium on a dry-erase board in her office. Her goal for the 10th year—which would be 2021—is to discuss inclusive excellence, but that can’t be done in one year.

“What we discussed last year and the previous year, we build upon it and build upon it,” Dey said. “It’s a progression. It takes building blocks.”

Creating this space for continued professional development and competency building is the aim of the THINKposium and many of the other programs Dey researches, designs and coordinates on campus and in the community.

Making a difference

She still can’t believe that her “really small” work is valued on such a large campus. “I think there is a lot of power in collective movements. I don’t know if any one individual can change everything on their own. It truly does take a village and an openness to diverse voices,” she said.

But her colleagues and the Employee Forum think she is an individual who has made a difference. That’s why they honored her.

“I think the Employee Forum has many people who do tremendous work to make sure that employees here feel like they’re valued and affirmed. It’s very humbling to be recognized,” she said. “It’s something I’ll treasure forever.”

By Will Rimer, Communications and Public Affairs

Moreno still a Latina trailblazer in her 80s

Puerto Rican singer, dancer and actress Rita Moreno delivers the keynote speech to begin Carolina’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The first Latina to be recognized as an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner, Moreno was brought to campus by the Carolina Union Activities Board, The Carolina Latina/o Collaborative, Scholars’ Latino Initiative, Teatro Latino, and the Latina/o Studies Program. Photo by Jon Gardiner.

The average 84-year-old doesn’t wear a black leather jacket, skinny pants and boots studded with silver, the same color as her big hoop earrings and short hair. But Rita Moreno – one of only 12 entertainers to win competitive Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards – is no ordinary 84-year-old.

“The leather surprised you, didn’t it?” she said, after receiving a standing ovation from about 200 fans in the Student Union’s Great Hall. Moreno, a Puerto Rican-American, came to Chapel Hill on Sept. 30 to deliver the keynote address kicking off the campus celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The talk was sponsored by the Carolina Union Activities Board in collaboration with the Carolina Latino/a Collaborative, the Scholars’ Latino Initiative, Teatro Latino and the Latina/o Studies Program.

For the next hour, Moreno shared stories of her personal and professional life, always going for a laugh even when talking about her struggles as an immigrant in New York City and a Latina in mid-century Hollywood. Twice she broke into song.

“Dream when you’re feeling blue. Dream – that’s the thing to do,” she crooned, after telling the audience how, as a child, she liked to go out on the fire escape to listen to the radio and pretend.

‘My blanket is like a magic carpet’

“My blanket is like a magic carpet, and when I close my eyes, I can go anywhere and be anybody,” she said.

At the time, she and her mother were living in poverty in New York. They had emigrated from Puerto Rico in 1936, when Moreno was only 5 years old and thought Lady Liberty’s torch was “the biggest ice cream cone I’d ever seen.”

Her mother worked as a “sweatshop seamstress,” but dreamed of better things for her talented daughter. She sent Rita to dance class, sewed costumes for her and allowed her, as a teen, to travel with a group of entertainers as their “Spanish dancer.”

A talent scout spotted her and arranged a meeting with movie mogul Louis B. Mayer of MGM Studios. Moreno and her mother spent hours before the meeting trying to make Moreno look like the current exemplar of feminine beauty, actress Elizabeth Taylor. Moreno straightened her “Puerto Rican curls,” cinched in her waist and powdered her brown face.

“She looks like a Spanish Elizabeth Taylor!” Mayer declared. Recalling the moment, Moreno pumped both fists and shouted, “Yes!”

But once Moreno arrived on the MGM lot, she said, she found herself cast only in minor ethnic roles, a “dusky maiden” of any nationality who was “ignorant, uneducated and morally bankrupt.”

It wasn’t until Gene Kelly cast her in 1952’s Singing in the Rain that Moreno played a non-ethnic role, Zelda Zanders. But not long after that, MGM didn’t renew her contract and she found herself starting over again at 20th Century Fox with ethnic bit parts.

She persevered. “Hope is an essential part of my DNA,” Moreno said. And in 1961, she got the role she was born to play, fiery Anita in the musical West Side Story, a Puerto Rican-American but not a stereotype. She received an Oscar for her performance.

“I was 27 years old and I had never played that kind of part,” she said. “That role would change my life and career forever.”

But not in the way she might have expected. Even with the Oscar, she was still offered mostly minor ethnic roles in Hollywood, so she turned to the theater. She also got involved in political causes, sharing the stage with Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington.

And she got married, to “the most wonderful man in the world,” Jewish cardiologist Leonard Gordon, who didn’t know she was a famous actress when he asked her out. They had a daughter, and Moreno turned her focus to television, working from 1971 to 1977 on the PBS children’s show, The Electric Company. She also managed to win a Grammy (1972), a Tony (1975) and a couple of Emmys (1977, 1978).

After 1981, Moreno didn’t make another movie for the next 10 years. When she was finally invited to audition for a film, the first Latina to win all four major entertainment awards was devastated to discover that the part wasn’t a major role, but a brothel madam with two lines of dialogue in Spanish.

“I was stripped of every ounce of dignity,” she said. “I was 6 years old again.”

She continued to work in television, with occasional roles in movies or onstage, and is about to launch a new series on Netflix, a reboot of the comedy One Day at a Time, this time with a Cuban-American family. Moreno plays Lydia, the grandmother.

In a question and answer session after her talk, Moreno was asked about the status of women of color in today’s Hollywood. “The door is really open now. Now we’ve got to get the important roles. What we really need, I think, in the film industry, is writers who will write those roles.” Audience members snapped their fingers in agreement.

In closing, Moreno encouraged the Latinos and Latinas in the audience to develop a positive image. “Understand that you have value and that you have worth,” she said, eliciting more finger snaps. “Nobody should allow anybody to tell you what is good for you. That’s the dream.”

By Susan Hudson, University Gazette
Published October 3, 2016

Freeman wins 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award

Ashalla Freeman has received the 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.

As director of diversity affairs in the Office of Graduate Education at the School of Medicine, Freeman manages diversity recruitment efforts and monitors the admissions process for underrepresented applicants to the biomedical PhD programs at Carolina.  The award honors women who work to make a difference in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Freeman will be featured, along with 65 other recipients, in the September 2016 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

“We know women in STEM fields are not always represented or recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship to others,” said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor those who are inspirations to their colleagues, their community, and to young girls everywhere who may be interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these women as role models to all.”

Freeman, who has been an integral part of the School of Medicine’s initiatives to increase faculty diversity, and student recruitment and success in the biosciences, greeted news of the award with humility.  “I’ve just never thought of what I do as something that I might be recognized for,” she said.  I want to help diversify STEM – that’s been my interest and passion since I was an undergrad.  I love my job because I am able to achieve that goal in more ways than I ever imagine.  It never occurred to me that I was thought of so highly or that I am influential!”

Indeed, her involvement has been vital to student success and lasting change in scientific culture at UNC-Chapel Hill – and elsewhere – for a variety of reasons:  She’s established credibility and trust with faculty and serves as a resource as they make admissions decisions; she enhances the education and professional training of our students through participation in our first year graduate student curriculum; she provides insights to students and faculty at other universities regarding strategies for gaining admission to and succeeding in graduate school through her recruitment and outreach efforts; and she’s been able to connect faculty and students with opportunities and resources for success in graduate school and beyond through trans-university and national collaborations.

Her work continues with her recent acceptance into the BRIDGES Academic Leadership for Women program for this semester.  “I’m thrilled,” she exclaims, of this opportunity to broaden her influence.  “With BRIDGES training, I hope to expand the skills and knowledge that I’ve developed to shape institutional policies and practices, particularly in the areas of graduate education and diversity.”

In spite of the great strides that she has made in moving towards a diverse and equitable culture in the STEM fields for women and minorities, Freeman still sees challenges that need to be tackled.  “There is a widely held idea that diversity equals inclusion…which it does not.  We must have both,” she points out. “We need people with different experiences and perspectives to be present and seated at the table of innovation and change and we also must respect and engage these people, value all that they can contribute, and eagerly incorporate their values and ideas in all that we do.”

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