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(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Campus Briefs

cultural displayVirtual Cultural Festival promotes intercultural education in K-12 classrooms

Carolina Navigators, a service-learning and global education outreach program at UNC took K-12 classes around the world in its 14th biannual Virtual Cultural Festival on April 23. A total of 27 classes and nearly 700 K-12 students attended at least one of the three sessions offered through the day via Zoom or YouTube. Nine North Carolina counties were represented among the schools in attendance and one class joined from Texas. Carolina Navigators has been connecting virtually with classrooms for the past decade.

Carolina Navigators offers opportunities for undergraduate student interns at UNC-Chapel Hill to inspire younger students to learn more about global issues, cultures and languages. Sessions were presented by Carolina Navigators undergraduate student interns. The program’s interns have extensive experience or expertise in intercultural exchange. This semester they created and shared presentations about transportation in El Salvador and Cuba, wildlife in Peru and Thailand, and governments of Cuba, China and India.

“The level of engagement, regardless of the barriers due to COVID, was amazing,” said Samantha Rivera ’21, who has interned with Carolina Navigators since 2019. Rivera grew up in a Salvadoran household and studied abroad in Tunisia in 2020. During her presentation, she spoke about different types of transportation in El Salvador and concluded with a question-and-answer session that covered Tunisia as well. “Students had many questions about El Salvador and Tunisia,” said Rivera. “I felt that although they have not experienced being abroad, I was able to provide them with a sense of what it is like.”

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Diverse facesUniversity Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks reflects on reckoning with the past and creating a more just and inclusive organization

Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks committed the University Libraries to action in reckoning with systemic racism and oppression following the police killing of George Floyd. In an interview with Windows about her vision for the future and her goals for the organization’s new Reckoning Initiative, she defined systemic racism and oppression as being embedded in the values and practices of organizations, thereby oppressing people in less overt ways. Therefore, she is purposefully creating an organization where bias is noted and checked, to create a better environment for everybody.

When asked about unintentional inequality, Elaine responded, “If you really want to know about that, you should ask the people who are not at the table, who feel as though they don’t have the same opportunities and advantages. We have essentially designed our systems, policies, practices and procedures around a certain kind of person—typically a white person who has been trained in an education system or a professional program that was also designed specifically for them.”

During the course of this enlightening Q&A, Elaine talks about the importance of social justice, developing diverse communities, archival historical collections and the true meaning of “Reckoning Initiative.”

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(Photo: Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Rising senior gives back to local Japanese families

Alyssa Cooper has been working with Southern Bridge International’s Prego Club, which focuses on helping pregnant or post-partum Japanese women in the Triangle navigate the American medical system. The rising senior has always embraced service. “It what makes me happy, knowing that I’m able to make an impact,” she says. “Even a small impact on someone’s life is very fulfilling for me.”

After her first year at Carolina, the double major in medical anthropology and women’s and gender studies spent her summer completing a two-month internship in Uganda for the non-profit Our Trees Our Future. And then, in her sophomore year, she was awarded the Carolina Center for Public Service’s MacDonald Community Service Scholarship, which involved completing a service project before graduation.

The scholarship marked an exciting opportunity, but she also felt pressure to make sure it was impactful – in more ways than one. “I’ve been stressing about it because I wanted it to be something that’s meaningful, not only for the community partner but also for me,” says Cooper, who is also a MacDonald Community Fellow.

Unable to study abroad in Japan during her sophomore year due toCOVID, Cooper – who speaks native Japanese – began connecting more deeply with the Japanese community.“The goal is to find what translation services are at the different hospitals and what pamphlets are in Japanese,” Cooper explains, “Even when they’re seeing their physicians, are they really understanding what is being told to them? Are they able to ask questions?” When the fall semester begins, her work will become even more hands-on. “My goal is to eventually serve as a doula for families,” she says.

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The Graduate School's Diversity & Student Success LogoSixth annual research symposium highlights pathway to Graduate School for diverse, underrepresented students

Diversity and Student Success, an initiative of The Graduate School, held its annual research symposium on July 27, which drew nearly 100 undergraduate student scholars from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to present research in order to foster a pipeline to graduate education.

More than 200 undergraduate students from around the country, including many from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, participated in the ten-week Summer Undergraduate Pipeline (SUP) program, which culminates in the research symposium for students who choose to participate. The SUP initiative partnered with more than 20 summer research programs to deliver a series of five professional development seminars during June and July. The seminars covered a variety of topics, including a graduate student panel, writing a personal statement, and drafting a resume.

Kate McAnulty, the associate dean for student affairs at The Graduate School, welcomed dozens of participants to the symposium, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The list of presentations and abstracts show the broad range of exciting research that you were engaged in, and it’s our hope that the experience provided a valuable glimpse into graduate student research and further motivation to pursue it,” McAnulty said.

McAnulty said that graduate education provides many benefits to communities, including personal and scientific discovery.

“The relationships and collaborations that you’ll make, the challenges that you will overcome, the persistence that you must show, the goals that you will reach, are all part of what makes the graduate journey special,” McAnulty said. “We hope you will strongly consider continuing your education here at UNC-Chapel Hill, but regardless, we wish you the best in your future endeavors and appreciate your work with us this summer.”

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The Old Well
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Carolina joins new NSF Institute to enhance artificial intelligence tools for a more equitable inclusive classroom experience

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will innovate and advance artificial intelligence to improve learning tools as a partner in the National Science Foundation’s new Artificial Intelligence Institute for Engaged Learning.

The institute launched today with a five-year, $20 million grant from the NSF, bringing together leading researchers and education experts from Carolina, lead partner North Carolina State University, Indiana University, Vanderbilt University and educational non-profit Digital Promise to make these AI tools more accessible.

The Institute’s researchers will create more equitable, inclusive educational experiences through advanced artificial intelligence tools. With a $4.5 million portion of the NSF grant, Carolina researchers will work to develop AI tools such as natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning for use in the classroom. The collaborative teams will also improve those tools through thoughtful design and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The work Carolina’s world-class researchers are doing alongside these partners embodies a spirit of collaboration for the public good,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “I’m excited to see what innovations this team develops and how it enhances learning for the children of North Carolina and beyond.”

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Seeking Justice reenactmentSeeking justice

UNC folklorist Glenn Hinson and students provided research that informed the re-enactment this summer of a 1921 Warren County court trial where 16 Black men were unfairly accused after being threatened by a white mob. In the class, students researched stories of the living descendants of Alfred Williams and Plummer Bullock, two Black men who were lynched by a white mob on Jan. 24, 1921, in Warren County following a series of incidents precipitated by an argument in a Norlina store.

“That history in Warren County was completely unknown to me. My family has been in the South my entire life,” said UNC senior Sydni Janell Walker of Greensboro. “As we were uncovering these stories, it was surreal to me. I didn’t understand how prevalent lynchings were.”

In fall 2020, Walker served as a student mentor for another of Hinson’s classes, “By Persons Unknown: Race and Reckoning in North Carolina.” That First Year Seminar documents the story that unfolded before the lynchings happened. A white mob threatened Black residents in the community of Norlina. Those Black residents then armed themselves to protect their community. Eighteen of those threatened were later arrested and jailed for “inciting to riot.” Bullock and Williams were then taken from the jail and lynched.

Walker would go on to serve as a mentor again — this time for an iteration of the “Descendants Project” in spring 2021.

This summer, undergraduate research by Walker and fellow students, under the mentorship of Hinson, informed a community-led re-enactment of the trial of the “Norlina 16,” 100 years later, in the Warren County courthouse that is still standing today. (Warren County is a rural county in the northern Piedmont, a little over an hour from Chapel Hill).

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