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Scene of the Well, with South Building in background
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Campus Briefs

Four honored for advancement of women

A doula, a graduate mentor, a solar energy researcher and a career development director have received the 2021 University Awards for the Advancement of Women. These women and the 2020 award recipients, whose ceremony was canceled because of the pandemic, were honored at a virtual event on March 8.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz presented the awards. “Carolina endeavors to build a community where everyone knows they belong and has equal access to academic, professional and personal fulfillment and success,” he said, adding that the goal aligns with the Build Our Community Together initiative from the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. “Achieving this goal means tearing down barriers to equity and elevating the work of those who bring us closer to this goal.”

A collaborative effort of the Office of the Chancellor and the Carolina Women’s Center, the awards have recognized the efforts of nearly 50 advocates for gender equity since they were established in 2006. Faculty and staff recipients receive $5,000 each, and the student recipients $2,500 each.

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Carolina Indian Circle takes its annual Powwow virtual

For more than 30 years, the spinning of colorful regalia and thumping sounds of Native American drums at the Carolina Indian Circle’s powwow has been a yearly spring tradition in Chapel Hill.

Although the pandemic has forced the student organizers to move the event outside Fetzer Hall this year, the Carolina community can still join in on the cultural celebration on social media. The Carolina Indian Circle has reimagined the annual event into a virtual format with powwow dancers in their full regalia submitting videos, which will then be shared online.

Dancers began submitting videos Wednesday afternoon using the hashtag #CICvirtualpowwow, and the student organization will continue to collect submissions through Friday at midnight. The videos will then be published on the Carolina Indian Circle’s Facebook page on Sunday when the winners are announced.

Traditionally held on Carolina’s campus, the celebration draws dozens of dancers and drummers from Native American tribes in North Carolina and the surrounding states to kick off the powwow season.

“Powwows are dances and a traditional space where native people can come together and showcase their traditions,” said Skylar Chavis, a UNC-Chapel Hill senior and president of the Carolina Indian Circle. “That’s our first and foremost purpose  — to be part of our culture.”

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Program to recruit, train Black doulas receives Harvey Award

An initiative to improve birth outcomes for Black women by increasing their access to trained Black doulas has received the C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Venus Standard, assistant clinical professor in the UNC School of Medicine’s department of family medicine, will lead the pilot doula training program that was selected for the award. Doulas are trained professionals who guide mothers and families before, during and after childbirth. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has recommended that families receive care from doulas to improve birth outcomes, and Standard’s program aims to create a pipeline of Black doulas to attend births of Black families in North Carolina.

“I was notified just 48 hours after my presentation, so it took me by surprise and I was just elated,” Standard said of learning she had won the Harvey Award. “I called everybody and told everybody, especially all the supporters and community partners who had helped.”

Standard’s award proposal received letters of support from multiple organizations, including the North Carolina Medical Society and the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society.

Black women in the United States die at three to four times the rate of Non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women during childbirth, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. Standard believes that helping connect Black women and Black doulas presents a potential solution to those elevated birth risks.

“Having somebody that looks like you, that understands your struggle, your culture and how to relate to you [is] unquestionably beneficial,” Standard said, referencing recent research that showed reduced infant mortality for Black newborns cared for by Black medical providers.

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Staff grants will advance equity and inclusion work at the University Libraries

IDEA DesignThe University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has selected eight projects to receive funding through its newly established IDEA Action internal grant program.

IDEA Action puts the values of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to work in the day-to-day activities of the University Libraries. The grants incentivize this work by empowering Library employees to identify systemic racism or exclusionary practices and to move forward with solutions or new approaches.

Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks launched the program in 2020 as part of the University Libraries’ commitment to reckon with systemic racism and oppression.

Westbrooks wanted the University Libraries to move beyond the statements and learning activities that sprang up at libraries and universities following the killings of unarmed Black people and the protests that followed. “Trainings and reading groups are important,” said Westbrooks, “but the only way to truly make change is to invest in it and support the people doing the work.”

Westbrooks has allocated $250,000 over two years for projects and initiatives that help to build more inclusive collections, services and approaches. Staff members can propose projects to an IDEA Action committee that reviews them and distributes the funding. “Our goal is to say ‘yes’ to as many proposals as we can,” said Kristan Shawgo, social sciences librarian and IDEA Action committee chair. “Advancing inclusion and equity takes action and the committee is thrilled to see this important and critical project work take shape.”

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Leach receives award for work to reduce stigma and promote mental health

Barbara LeachBarbara Leach, family support specialist and special projects coordinator with the School’s Family Support Program, was recently selected to receive The Dr. Francis Sumner – Community Pillar Award from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare.

Leach was among four recipients of the award and was recognized for her work to reduce stigma and to promote mental health for families with children who have mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Leach has more than 30 years of personal and professional experience advocating for families with children who have IDD and other special needs.

Cardinal Innovations presented Leach and the other recipients with the award last month during a virtual event.

The community pillar award was named after Francis Sumner, Ph.D., the first African American to receive a doctorate in psychology in 1920. Considered a paragon of mental health, Sumner was known widely as the “Father of Black Psychology.”

Leach’s contributions to the field of mental health, including numerous state and national initiatives, are worthy of recognition, said Tamara Norris, director of the Family Support Program. “Throughout her career, Barbara has championed the improvement of mental and behavioral health services for children and families,” Norris said. “She ensures that families’ voices are represented where the decisions are made.”

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Veda Patil and Thilini Weerakkody reflect on their term as Campus Y 2020-21 co-presidents

Three years ago, friends Veda Patil ’21 and Thilini Weerakkody ’21 sat in Lenoir Dining Hall together, joking and dreaming about what it would be like if they led the Campus Y, UNC-Chapel Hill’s social justice hub and home to 33 student organizations.

Last February, a once-abstract vision became a reality: Patil and Weerakkody were elected as the Campus Y 2020-21 co-presidents. The name of their campaign platform, “A Place at the Table,” befitted their status as the first co-presidents who are both women of color in the organization’s 161-year history. Patil is Indian American, and Weerakkody is Sri Lankan.

The pair passed the torch to Montia Daniels ’22 and Patrice McGloin ’23 on March 12. Daniels and McGloin, who ran on the platform “Our voices will not be silenced,” will also break ground as the organization’s first Black female co-presidents.

Patil told The Daily Tar Heel that she looks forward to seeing her successors build on the community organizing work that lies at the heart of the Campus Y. In the meantime, she and Weerakkody remain resolute in their effort to serve “with empathy, grace and compassion” (Campus Y Instagram).

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