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

Campus Briefs

Julian CastroJulián Castro gives keynote address

The former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development spoke about a bright future for the Latinx community, in keeping with this year’s Latinx Heritage Month theme, “Heels Pa’lante,” which translates to “Heels moving forward.” Castro told the audience that the Latinx community’s destiny has never been more intertwined with the larger destiny of the U.S.

“I’m convinced that the Latinx community can be a tremendous asset for this country going forward,” said Castro, who served in President Barack Obama’s second term. “We’re young, we’re often bilingual, bicultural, spread out in communities throughout this country. We’re hungry, hardworking, striving, entrepreneurial, optimistic. We have values that have made this nation a special place.”

Castro, who was mayor of San Antonio, Texas, before his Cabinet term, gave the keynote address for the 2021 Latinx Heritage Month celebration, presented by the Carolina Latinx Center. Castro spoke about a bright future for the Latinx community, in keeping with the theme for this year’s celebration, “Heels Pa’lante,” which translates to “Heels moving forward.”

“You’re the future and that’s true,” he told the hundreds gathered and masked in the Great Hall of the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. “You’re also the present. In many ways, you are who our nation is counting on to make us stronger and more prosperous in the years to come.”

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CPPFD FellowsNewest cohort of CPPFD Fellows named

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is pleased to announce the 2021-2023 Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity (CPPFD) Fellows.

The fellows began their appointments on July 1, and as program participants, each receives a paid, two-year postdoctoral position in their department. Fellows work closely with faculty members in their respective disciplines. The program provides additional funds for research as well as professional development and networking opportunities.

Since 1983, the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity (CPPFD) has recruited, developed, and supported scholars from underrepresented demographics. It’s one of the oldest diversity postdoctoral programs in the country.

Sibby Anderson-Thompkins guided the program to such success for 10 years. She is now chief diversity officer at Sewanee: University of the South. Most recently, the leadership of CPPFD has now transitioned to Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Joyce Tan.

“For over 30 years, CPPFD has been an invaluable program for identifying and training talented research scholars from diverse backgrounds to prepare for faculty positions,” Tan says. “As we look to the future, we are dedicated to continuing and expanding this signature program to continue to diversify Carolina’s faculty and contribute to training talented diverse scholars for academic careers.”

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Candice PowellSetting a course for a stronger future

The Carolina Covenant has helped more than 10,000 Tar Heels graduate debt-free and ready to make an impact in their communities.

Launched in 2004, the Carolina Covenant initiative provides students whose household income is less than 200% of the federal poverty level the opportunity to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill without loans through a combination of grants, scholarships and a work-study job. The program has helped more than 10,000 students earn a college degree and set a course for a strong future.

“By combining significant financial aid and other resources with the power of community, the covenant creates a bridge across the barriers our low-income students face in higher education,” said Candice Powell ’06, ’21 (Ph.D.), who has served as the director of the program since 2019. “I am so proud to be part of an effort that has helped more than 10,000 students come to Carolina — a place that I love and that helped shape me, my sister, and my closest friends — to graduate without the kind of debt that may hinder their ability to apply the skills they gained in college to make our world a better place.”

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Unsung Heroes MemorialThe eye of the beholder

For the first time in 20 years, descendants of the enslaved workers the Unsung Founders Memorial was meant to honor heard directly from its originators.

The webinar, “Unsung Founders Memorial: Past and Present,” brought together members of the community with some of the memorial’s originators for the first time in two decades, acknowledging a lack of community involvement in the original process that has long been a sore point.

The memorial, a gift from the Class of 2002, in McCorkle Place is a table made of black granite supported by 300 bronze figurines. The table is surrounded by five black stone seats. The inscription around the edge of the table reads, “The Class of 2002 honors the University’s Unsung Founders — the people of color bond and free — who helped build the Carolina that we cherish today.”

The artist and class officers intended the low table — 2 feet tall and 5 feet across — to be a welcoming and interactive counterpoint to the imposing Confederate Monument it shared space with at its 2005 dedication.

But descendants of the workers the memorial is meant to honor and other Black members of the Carolina community see it as a symbol of oppression and belittlement. “I don’t think it’s possible to honor me and make me a footrest,” said Reginald Hildebrand, an emeritus professor of the African, African American and diaspora studies department. “Why show the unsung heroes still holding, still being oppressed, by this huge stone?” said Delores Bailey, a commission member and executive director of EmPOWERment Inc.

“(Our) ancestors were represented by people who were 2 feet tall, that people peed on, changed their babies’ diapers on and put their feet on. It hits us differently,” said Danita Mason-Hogans, a commission member and project coordinator of critical oral histories at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. “And those of us who were not invited to the table, I believe, would have added a healthier, heftier conversation piece.”

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Aunchalee PalmquistPalmquist receives Gillings Faculty Award for Excellence in health equity research

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, MA, IBCLC, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been selected as the recipient of this year’s Gillings Faculty Award for Excellence in Health Equity Research.

The Gillings Health Equity Faculty Research Award recognizes faculty who demonstrate excellence in research that has made a substantial impact on improved equitable outcomes or sustained reduction in inequities in a pressing public health issue.

Palmquist fully embodies the intent of the award through her work to address the intersectionality of perinatal maternal, newborn and young child health disparities globally and in the United States, with an emphasis on breastfeeding. Her focus on reproductive rights and humanitarian emergencies uses a combination of community-based participatory research, ethnographic methods and mixed-methods approaches. Her scholarship and practice are informed by human rights-based approaches and a reproductive justice lens.

“During the pandemic and in periods of national and local emergencies, Dr. Pamquist’s research informs us about the threats to vulnerable populations and what can be done about them,” said Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, Alumni Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Gillings School. “She contributes to human health by uncovering problems and applying solutions.”

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Clara YangCreating sound stories

When Clara Yang sits down at the piano, she sees an opportunity to help people expand their world views.

A classically trained pianist, the associate professor of music and head of keyboard studies in the College of Arts & Sciences’ music department has performed in venues worldwide, including Beijing, Shanghai, Moscow, London, Sydney, New York, Chicago, Madrid and Barcelona. She is equally at home performing classical standards and interpreting contemporary and new music. Her 2015 solo album, “Folding Time,” won a Global Music Awards Gold Medal.

“Classical music isn’t an art form that only preserves the past; it is still evolving. Within classical music there is so much diversity — in style and in the ethnicities of the composers — with tons of cross-genre collaboration,” she explained.

The newer composers, particularly in America, tend to break down barriers and create music that reflects contemporary society, Yang said, so collaborating with these composers helps redefine what classical music means. It’s one reason she believes in elevating the voices of underrepresented composers — on stage and in the classroom.

This past spring, for example, Carolina piano students performed a concert, via Zoom, that celebrated Black composers. As a continuation of a project begun in fall 2020, the students each chose a Black composer to research and performed a piece by that composer. Yang then edited the performances into a composite video.

Now her focus is on women, who are underrepresented as composers. As part of the UNC Process Series, Yang will perform with award-winning Korean-American violinist Sunmi Chang this spring in “Her Story: Journey into the Musical Worlds of Women Composers.”

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