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

Campus Briefs

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In Mixed Company

Headspace, Heart SpaceIn a lively two-hour presentation on Wednesday, speaker Ty-Ron Douglas used examples from his life, his work with student-athletes and the Monopoly board game to address issues of race and space and how they impact college students.

More than 400 people registered for the webinar Headspace, Heart Space: Straight Talk about Navigating Race, Place and Complex Space, sponsored by the Campus Safety Commission, in coordination with the Chancellor’s Office, the School of Social Work, the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Carolina Athletics. “This collaboration is an opportunity to learn, to engage and hopefully to elevate the level of understanding around student safety and belonging,” said DeVetta Holman-Copeland, co-chair of the Campus Safety Commission.

While the event has been in the works for two months, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz pointed out the timeliness of its presentation just days after the conclusion of the trial of the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd and, closer to home, the April 21 killing of Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man, by sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City.

“It’s always the right time to talk about these issues,” Guskiewicz said, but these recent events have “forced us to, again, contemplate the unyielding pain and suffering faced by African American and Black people in our country. As a community, we share in the pain, frustration and outrage over the abhorrent violence against African American and Black people who have been tragically killed by law enforcement. We stand in solidarity with all our students, faculty and staff in working to end racial injustice.”

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IAH Fellows Explore Race and Place

Oswaldo EstradaThe Institute for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship Program provides semester-long leaves for faculty to pursue research and creative work. In 2019, the institute announced it would award additional fellowships dedicated to faculty projects focusing on race, reckoning and memory.

The first two faculty to receive IAH Race, Memory, and Reckoning Initiative funding are Oswaldo Estrada, professor of romance studies, for a hybrid book of stories about the Latino immigrant experience in North Carolina, and John Sweet, associate professor of history, to explore how the built environment of Chapel Hill was shaped by Jim Crow. The initiative will fund two more fellowships next year and again in 2022-2023.

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Karla Slocum Named College of Arts & Sciences’ New Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Karla SlocumKarla Slocum has been named the College of Arts & Sciences’ new associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, effective July 1. 

Slocum has distinguished herself as a leader in her 25 years at Carolina. She is currently the Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy in the department of anthropology and has served as director of the Institute of African American Research since 2013. She was also co-director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP), a program designed to prepare undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds for future careers in the academy. 

At IAAR, she has led a number of programs that facilitate and raise the visibility of diverse approaches to scholarship on race. This past year, she has overseen the IAAR’s SLATE initiative — Student Learning to Advance Truth and Equity, an initiative to engage undergraduates in a critical understanding of race, racism and racial equity, especially as they concern African Americans.

She has spearheaded and co-chaired the anthropology department’s concentration on Race, Difference and Power; was the senior faculty mentor for the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity; and served as a board member for the Latina/o studies minor, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Center for the Study of the American South and the Stone Center for Black Culture and History. She has taught courses on gender and culture; race, ethnography and Black Communities; and Caribbean societies. Her research interests focus on the social dynamics of race and community, especially historic rural Black communities in the African diaspora. Most recently, she is the author of Black Towns, Black Futures: The Enduring Allure of a Black Place in the American West.

As associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and a member of Dean Terry Rhodes’ senior leadership team, Slocum will lead the College in implementing strategic initiatives, including the creation of a College diversity plan. She will advise on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, working with deans, department chairs and program directors; the dean’s faculty diversity advisory committee; the College’s departmental diversity liaisons; the administrative managers’ advisory committee; and the campus-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to assess needs and work collaboratively to enhance the experience for students, faculty and staff in the College.

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Amanda Smythers Awarded 2021 Multiple Fellowships

Amanda SmythersAmanda Smythers, a second-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been awarded both a 2021 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship as well as a 2021 Eastman Chemistry Fellowship in Analytical Chemistry and Polymer Characterization.

The Ford Fellowship is a three-year fellowship is administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that awards students who are committed to improving representation in higher education by using diversity as a resource to enhance higher education. Fellows are selected based on their previous scholarly productivity, their promise for future achievement in research, and their sustained engagement and empowerment of underrepresented communities.

The Eastman Chemistry Fellowship in Analytical Chemistry and Polymer Characterization is an $8,000 summer fellowship that selects students based on their research accomplishments, research potential, leadership, academic record, and overall career potential in chemistry.

“I am truly honored to receive these awards and am grateful for the vote of confidence in my research and other work thus far,” Smythers said. “I have been tremendously fortunate to have amazing mentors who have modeled what excellence in science and leadership means, and hope that I can continue to pay that forward throughout my time at Carolina.”

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Bianca Mack Will Oversee Admissions, Student Development and Diversity Matters at Carolina Law

UNC School of Law’s Assistant Dean for Admissions Bianca Mack stepped into her new role as associate dean for equity, admissions and student affairs on April 1. With this promotion, the law school joins other schools at UNC-Chapel Hill that have named assistant or associate deans to be responsible for DEI matters, as the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion has recommended.

Mack joined Carolina Law in 2016. Since last year, she has served as the law school’s liaison on the University Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council. Mack will retain responsibility for the Office of Admissions and will take over responsibility for the Office of Student Development from Associate Dean Kelly Podger Smith ’02.

“I have treasured the opportunity to work with Dean Mack over the past five years and look forward to her leadership in this new role,” says Martin H. Brinkley ’92, dean and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law.

Last summer, the Black Law Students Association presented the administration with a list of recommendations to increase diversity, equity and inclusion at Carolina Law. One of the recommendations was to create a position for a dean of equity.

“By promoting Dean Mack to associate dean for equity, admissions and student affairs, I want our community to know that we heard you and that we believe Carolina Law should be transparent with our DEI efforts,” says Brinkley. “We have much work to do but we are moving in a positive direction to produce tangible results.”

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Health is a Human Right

Joe BrownJoe Brown ’07 (Ph.D.), associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is researching how underserved populations and people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. are impacted by lack of access to water and sanitation. Poor sanitation is linked to a number of transmitted diseases, including cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Exposure to fecal pathogens is responsible for a substantial portion of the global burden of disease, affecting more than 2.2 billion people annually.

To address this public health crisis, the United Nations recognized access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right. It’s a human right and equity issue that often flies under the radar here in the United States.

Brown’s research interests are centered on how gut pathogens are transmitted from person to person through the environment. Together with partners in Alabama, his research group has been working for the last year on a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the prevalence of sanitation-related pathogens in low-income communities in rural Alabama.

“We are one of the only labs in the country looking at these specific infections in the rural United States,” said Brown. “We are playing an important role in trying to understand the extent of the problem of poor sanitation and whether it has a bearing on health outcomes.” The results of Brown’s study could support the case for increasing investment and continuing infrastructure improvements in the U.S.

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Diversity and Student Success “Beyond These Walls” Highlights Identity, Stress, and Resiliency Among Black Families

Diversity and Student Success (DSS), a signature initiative for graduate and professional students housed in The Graduate School, held its spring research showcase in late April, which featured three doctoral student experts in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Margarett McBride, Marketa Burnett ’17, and Janae Shaheed, all members of the department’s Strengths, Assets, Resilience (StAR) Lab, presented their research findings on Black people and families on topics ranging from discrimination, parenting stress, and identity at the event, Beyond These Walls.

McBride, an alumna of the University of Michigan, spoke about parenting stress, particularly among Black fathers.

“It takes a village to support a Black father,” McBride said. “The more Black fathers are stressed, the more negative their feelings toward parenting.” Her research explores social and parenting support systems, which can bolster Black fathers’ experiences and affect their child’s overall health and development. McBride aims to fill a gap in research examining the effects of Black fathers’ stress and how it affects families. McBride is funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Ford Foundation.

Burnett ’17 has researched how gendered racial stereotypes affect attitudes toward STEM among Black families. She examined how Black fathers talk to both sons and daughters about STEM fields, which Burnett explained is part of ethnic-racial socialization. When Black fathers discuss science, technology, engineering, and math with their children, Burnett found that the conversations can foster racial pride and also help prepare for biases that children might experience, such as discrimination.

“When parents are engaging in these messages, it actually buffers against some of the effects of these behaviors,” Burnett said.

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