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(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Campus Briefs

Ida B. WellsMichael Jordan and the Jordan Brand pledge $1 million to support Ida B. Wells Society’s efforts to increase diversity in the field of investigative journalism

A $1 million grant from the Black Community Commitment made by basketball legend Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand will boost the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting’s efforts to increase diversity in the field of investigative journalism with outreach efforts aimed at aspiring young journalists of color.

The grant, announced in May, will enable the Society to expand its college internship partnerships, build a summer journalism program at a historically Black North Carolina college, and launch a yearlong high school journalism project at a majority Black and Latino public high school in that state.

The Ida B. Wells Society, housed at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and founded in 2016 to train and support reporters of color who want to pursue investigative and accountability reporting and to increase and improve reporting on racial inequality, is one of just three organizations in the country to be named as part of the latest efforts toward the pledge.

Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand’s sweeping 10-year, $100 million Black Community Commitment pledge supports social justice, economic justice and education and awareness. In a joint statement in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Jordan and Jordan Brand representatives said, “Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement. Until the ingrained racism that allows our country’s institutions to fail is completely eradicated, we will remain committed to protecting and improving the lives of Black people.”

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diverse peopleCreating a toolkit for equitable business

Although great strides are being made as a result of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matters movements, workplace diversity is still not being properly addressed by most organizations. Allison Schlobohm, clinical assistant professor of management and corporate communication, is forging answers. A first step to making strides on employee diversity goals is understanding “organizational equity” — the internal distribution of power and resources — and whether that distribution leads to equitable outcomes and growth opportunities for all employees.

With a team of student researchers from UNC Kenan-Flagler, Schlobohm produced the report “Organizational Equity: Your Missing Metric for Success” on how businesses can audit their organizational equity. To assess organizational equity, they suggest leaders of U.S. organizations perform regular audits using qualitative and quantitative methods. Their report explains the concepts of organizational equity and audits as well as details the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for organizations and their leaders.

“I was studying what organizations say about themselves,” she recalls. “They say they want to be anti-racist and that they are meritocracies, but if you look at the share of employees at entry level versus at the top, you consistently see more and more straight, CIS, white men the higher you go in an organization.”

This imbalance — and its cause, systemic inequity — reinforces biases in a company’s internal operations as well as its interactions with clients and consumers. Furthermore, if unchecked biases and inequities escalate into a public debacle, companies often find themselves ill-equipped to respond to scrutiny. “An organization can’t make effective interventions into any communications encounter if it doesn’t know what’s going on internally,” Schlobohm says. “An equity audit is an opportunity for an organization to put its actions where its words are because any action you take without an audit will only aim to fix the problem you think you have, not the one you really do.”

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Presenter from Program for DiscourseDiscourse or discord?

A panel of faculty experts for “Democracy and Public Discourse” discussed polarization in today’s political landscape.

“I’d like to put in a plug for polarization,” said Marc Hetherington, distinguished professor in political science in the College of Arts & Sciences. “The roots of the polarization that we’re experiencing now are to be found in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s and the gender equality movement of the ’60s and ’70s and the LGBT rights movement of the ’90s,” Hetherington continued. “It’s a demonstrably better world as a result of those battles. Yeah, we’re experiencing a lot of discomfort, but it’s not for no reason.”

From a historical perspective, “I’m not sure we’re in a different place,” said Claude Clegg, distinguished professor in history and African, African American and diaspora studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He compared the current climate with divisive politics during Bill Clinton’s presidency and the civil rights era. Saying public discourse is broken today “presumes there was a point when it was in good repair,” he said. “Public discourse is going to be sloppy. It’s going to be fraught. That’s the price you pay.”

Polarization isn’t something that can be reasoned away, according to the researchers. “When people talk to each other across divides, we think the best way to do so is to marshal facts. Eventually, I am going to fact you into submission,” said Kurt Gray, associate professor in psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts & Sciences and adjunct associate professor at Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Perhaps the most divisive issue for the panelists was the notion of civility itself, especially in relation to free speech. Or, as a member of the in-person audience asked, “Just because you can say something, should you say it?”

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Afghan refugees boarding flightThe triple trauma of refugees

Afghan refugees are coming to the Triangle, and Carolina’s School of Social Work is ready to help them.

Durham and Raleigh are among the cities that the State Department chose for resettlement of the refugees, which will happen as they move through the immigration process during the next few months. Department of Homeland Security figures put the total of Afghans who will settle in the United States over the next year at 50,000.

Josh Hinson, a clinical assistant professor in the UNC School of Social Work, developed the UNC Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative because master’s degree students asked for training in providing mental health services to refugees. Through the initiative, Hinson and program coordinator Marlowe Crews Kovach, along with graduate students, offer individual and group therapy and coordinate with local health care providers on the care of refugees they serve. They also identify the mental and behavioral health needs of clients and look locally for services to help. Additionally, they train local providers on how to identify refugee distress and help refugees understand how and why to seek mental health services.

“Many of the people coming from Afghanistan assisted the U.S. military and served alongside U.S. servicemen,” said Josh. “They put their lives and their families’ lives on the line for our military. When we talk about trauma after arrival, they feel like they’ve been deserted after they get here because they are told: “You’re on your own.” I don’t want to say that in a way that feels castigating and shaming, but it speaks to the level of support that people need. They deserve the same commitment that they gave to us and that we need to return to them. They are just one of many refugee populations. There are Syrian refugees, Iraqi refugees, refugees from Burma and refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, among many others. All of them have experienced trauma and need support.”

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Unsung Heroes MemorialNew faculty to study health and wellness in communities of color, U.S. slavery

New faculty members in the College of Arts & Sciences will work across disciplines to study health and wellness in communities of color.

Six faculty are part of the Health and Wellness in Communities of Color cluster hire. A cluster hire is a creative approach involving hiring diverse faculty across multiple departments who will conduct interdisciplinary research on a broad theme. In addition, two faculty will focus on issues of U.S. slavery and will work closely with the health and wellness faculty. The searches for an additional faculty member in psychology and neuroscience studying health and wellness, and a faculty member in history studying U.S. slavery will continue into next year.

“We are delighted to have these new faculty with diverse talents, backgrounds, research interests and experiences joining our Carolina community, and we look forward to facilitating their ability to work together across disciplines,” said Dean Terry Rhodes. “We also will be connecting these new faculty members with other scholars in the College and across campus to assist in creating appropriate interdisciplinary synergies.”

Rhodes said that after considering thoughtful feedback from the College community, and in keeping with the goal of enriching diversity, she and her senior leadership team determined that this cluster hire was the right direction for prioritizing hiring for the College. “These new faculty are doing innovative, high-impact work that will diversify and enhance the College’s research, teaching, and public outreach missions,” she added.

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Hospital buildingProviding gender-affirming care at UNC Health

A multidisciplinary team at UNC Children’s is improving health care for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth. Dr. Nina Jain, a pediatric endocrinologist, said, “As an endocrinologist, I had never been trained in gender-affirming care. But I was starting to see that patient need and recognized that there weren’t a lot of providers able to meet those needs.”

Jain had the background to understand the medicine behind the needed care and the willingness to do something about it. She consulted her colleagues at Duke Health and attended a training conference sponsored by Harvard University and Fenway Health. And, as luck would have it, Dr. Martha Perry came to Carolina just in time to help move things along.

Perry completed adolescent medicine training at Boston Children’s Hospital and a fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco — one of the first centers for gender-affirming care — before joining UNC Children’s as a general pediatrician and adolescent specialist. Shortly after her arrival, she and Jain helped start the Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic for Gender Wellness at UNC Children’s.

The clinic is approaching its fourth anniversary this October. Since its launch in 2017, Jain and Perry — and a multidisciplinary team that includes specialists from pediatric endocrinology, social work, pediatric psychology and psychiatry — have provided gender-affirming care to more than 250 patients in the pediatric and young adult population.

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Kate Sablosky Elengold“Dreams Interrupted” report explores completion barriers for Latinx college students

An aversion to taking on debt and lack of access to reliable transportation were major factors in Latino students’ ability and willingness to enroll and complete postsecondary education, according to a new study by UnidosUS and UNC School of Law that surveyed Latino students who began, but didn’t complete a college program.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Latino students were enrolling in college in record numbers but trailing their white and Asian American peers when it comes to earning a degree. “Dreams Interrupted: A Mixed-Methods Study Assessing Latino College Completion” is a qualitative companion to the quantitative findings of the 2020 report “Debt, Doubt and Dreams: Understanding the Latino College Completion Gap,” providing a more compelling understanding of Latinos’ hesitancy to take on educational debt.

According to the new report’s findings, Latino students who grew up in economically vulnerable communities affected by income inequality, systemic racism and predatory lending practices, associated college debt with a crushing financial burden that could undermine their family’s financial security and stability.

“Our debt-financed higher education system is not serving equity goals in higher education,” said Kate Sablosky Elengold, assistant professor of law at the School of Law, director of the school’s Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic and principal investigator on the research project. “As our data show, Latino students are disproportionately burdened by a system that requires a student and her family to shoulder the entire risk of higher education, especially in light of information asymmetry, unregulated predatory institutions and an uncertain and discriminatory labor market.”

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