UNC students and staff partner with communities for hurricane relief

By Becca Bender

Lumberton disaster relief trip - groupOn Friday, Jan. 27, I had the opportunity to travel to Lumberton, North Carolina with 11 members of the UNC community (four staff members, including me, and eight undergraduate students) to provide continued assistance in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. As a native of eastern North Carolina, I am happy that UNC and the Carolina Center for Public Service made it a priority to work in partnership with the affected communities to offer relief.

We had a full day on Friday, leaving campus at 7:30 a.m. for the two-hour drive to Lumberton and returning back to campus at 7 p.m. Squeezing 12, mostly-strangers, into a van makes for a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other. We arrived in Lumberton and received a brief overview of the work that the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church has done after the storm and then drove to our first work site. Driving through parts of town, it is hard to believe it was underwater just a few short months ago. We were told as the water made its way through the town from the Lumber River, it traveled down the railroad tracks like a fire hose and quickly flooded surrounding areas.

We spent the day serving alongside volunteers from Morehead City, North Carolina who have been assisting with relief efforts through the United Methodist Church. Our group worked on two homes where we removed floorboards so the homes could be sprayed for mold. A crew will then decide if the home can be rebuilt or not. One of the lead volunteers mentioned that it is not Lumberton disaster relief tripuncommon to come back to Lumberton a few weeks after you complete a project and see that the house you worked on was torn down, but that is the nature of disaster relief and the slow rebuilding process.

At the end of the day, Mac Legerton, executive director of the Center for Community Action in Robeson County, shared some of his reflections on the storm and the recovery process. The Center for Community Action is a longtime partner of APPLES Service-Learning alternative break trips. Legerton shared some of the current work he is doing post-Hurricane Matthew to promote healthy energy, economic and environmental practices in a rural community like Robeson County.

As our group left Lumberton to return to campus, I felt incredibly humbled by the experience of offering assistance after such a huge disaster and seeing numerous homes and businesses now gutted, with their futures unknown. It was eye-opening to see the storm’s physical and emotional effects on community structures and residents. I am also grateful that our staff and student participants took time out of their schedules to commit to this experience and spend the day serving others.

Additional UNC disaster relief trips will continue to be offered. For details and to register, visit UNC disaster relief trips. The best source of updated information is posted on a dedicated website at ccps.unc.edu/HurricaneMatthew. The center will continue to collect and share information about relief efforts.

UNC community visits Tarboro to offer disaster relief

Tarrboro Hurricane Matthew relief tripWhile disaster recovery efforts continue in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the UNC community also continues to provide much-needed help through hurricane disaster relief trips. Fifteen members of the UNC community (seven undergraduate students, four staff, three faculty and one graduate student) travelled to Tarboro and Princeville, North Carolina Friday, Dec. 9 to help homeowners clean out their homes.

“Carolina students, faculty and staff care about service and were grateful for the opportunity to serve in partnership with communities down East”, said Kim Allen, program officer for faculty and campus programs at the Carolina Center for Public Service, who coordinated the relief trip in partnership with the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Leaving campus at 7 a.m. and returning at 7 p.m., volunteers worked alongside the homeowners and members of a work crew from Michigan.

Patricia Sullivan, associate professor in the Department of Public Safety, was one of three faculty members who volunteered. “Before this trip, I had never heard of Princeville and knew nothing about the plight of its residents,” she said. “It was sobering to see the extent of the damage caused by the flooding — almost every home uninhabitable and nearly all of each family’s belongings piled in front still waiting to be picked up and hauled away. It was good to do the little bit that we could and to learn more about the tremendous scope of the challenge facing the residents of this unique town. It was also wonderful to spend time with students, staff, and faculty in an entirely different setting. I would love to make a service trip like this a finals week ritual and I would especially welcome the opportunity to go back to work in Princeville.”

Additional UNC disaster relief trips will continue to be offered. For details and to register, visit UNC disaster relief trips. The best source of updated information is posted on a dedicated website at ccps.unc.edu/HurricaneMatthew. The center will continue to collect and share information about relief efforts.

UNC-Chapel Hill student honored for community service

campus_compact-300x244Jashawnna Gladney ’17, a global studies major from Thomasville, North Carolina was recognized for outstanding leadership and service by North Carolina Campus Compact, a statewide network of colleges and universities with a shared commitment to civic engagement. Gladney is a recipient of the network’s Community Impact Award, honoring one student leader at each member school.

Gladney has led Carolina’s on-campus food pantry, the Carolina Cupboard, during a crucial period of growth and new partnerships. She helped Carolina Cupboard secure new funding and a new space, and she has pushed for the capacity to accept and provide perishable foods. Gladney established partnerships with Residence Life, APPLES Service-Learning program, and the pan-campus Food for All committee. Her efforts have meant more food provided to students in need and increased awareness among the UNC community about the reality of food insecurity. In addition, she interned with nonprofits Nourish International and Carolina for Amani, and volunteers regularly with Carolina Covenant Achieve Pre-Health Society.

Gladney was honored at the Compact’s annual CSNAP student conference Nov. 12 at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The event convened more than 160 students and staff from 24 campuses in the network. The conference included student-led workshops on diverse community engagement topics and a showcase of organizations working for social change, including the Campus Kitchens Project, Rachel Carson Council and the Sustained Dialogue Institute.

Gladney was one of 25 students selected by their campus for the 2016 honor, joining more than 200 college students recognized by the network since the award was first presented in 2006.

North Carolina Campus Compact is a statewide coalition of 36 public, private and community colleges and universities that share a commitment to civic and community engagement. The network was founded in 2002 and is hosted by Elon University. North Carolina Campus Compact is an affiliate of the national Campus Compact organization, which claims 1,000 member schools representing nearly two million college students.

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Social justice is Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar Chérie Rivers Ndaliko’s passion

Chérie Rivers Ndaliko and her husband, Petna Ndaliko KatondoloIn 2010, Chérie Rivers Ndaliko and her husband, internationally acclaimed Congolese filmmaker and activist Petna Ndaliko Katondolo, traveled to 33 colleges and universities around the country to show their film, Jazz Mama, which documents the strength of Congolese women in the face of upheaval and violence. Before showing the film, she asked audience members if they knew anything about the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Few, if any, raised their hands. Ndaliko knew she had more work to do.

In the face of the economic conflict raging in Congo in which American consumers are complicit, “there’s no chance the political situation in the Congo is going to change when Americans have no idea that there’s anything even happening,” she said.

Social justice is Ndaliko’s passion, and she appreciates that she has found a space for it in academia. As a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar and an assistant professor of music and interdisciplinary scholar, Ndaliko researches and teaches about the intersection of creativity, conflict and social change in Africa. In addition, she and her husband run Yolé!Africa, an organization he founded that provides youth in eastern Congo the space, skills and alternative education necessary to thrive despite the deadly conflict in the region.

Ndaliko finds that the classroom gives students a safe space to discuss social justice issues. “People who are at a point in their lives where they’re really trying to form their values and figure out how they want to shape their adulthood — having these kinds of conversations is really powerful,” she said.

“As scholars of culture, we have very clear insight and recommendations that need to be considered on par with recommendations from engineers and doctors and economists.”

Such conversations will be part of a conference at UNC-Chapel Hill in Oct. 27-28, “The Art of Emergency: Aesthetics and Aid in African Crises.” Ndaliko is partnering with a fellow at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University, Samuel M. Anderson, to bring together an interdisciplinary mix of scholars, artists, community organizers and students to examine the relationship between creativity and humanitarian aid in conflict regions.

Her new book, on cultural activism and art in the Congo,Necessary Noise: Music, Film and Charitable Imperialism in the East of Congo, will be published in October.

While some nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian agencies attempt to address problems, few of them engage with the local community enough to guide long-lasting change, she said. What’s often lacking is an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills.

“That’s a prime example of the value of a humanities education,” she said. “As scholars of culture, we have very clear insight and recommendations that need to be considered on par with recommendations from engineers and doctors and economists.”

The conference is designed to be interactive and create discussions around best practices for social justice work.

“That kind of shift in thinking leads directly to structural change,” Ndaliko said. “It empowers people who are on the ground to be owners and agents of that change and to direct it as they see fit.”

By Kristen Chavez ’13 Carolina Arts & Sciences

Photo credit: Steve Exum 

APPLES alternative fall break participants serve where needed

rural2_343x255Each year, many UNC students spend their fall break at home, binge-watching their favorite Netflix show or catching up on sleep lost during midterms. But for 70 students participating in APPLES Service-Learning alternative fall breaks (AFB), fall break is spent serving communities throughout North Carolina, the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

APPLES alternative fall breaks are student-led, service-oriented experiences where students dedicate their service to participate in six focus areas: urban communities, Latino communities, rural communities, environmental issues, arts in public service and service-learning initiative. Because APPLES alternative breaks has long-standing relationships with community partners, the work students perform is aligned directly to what the community needs. So in the wake of the devastation Hurricane Matthew brought to Eastern North Carolina on Oct. 8, the rural communities alternative break revamped its work to focus on helping those affected by the hurricane.

“While in Robeson County, we felt angry about systemic injustices that people face, but also hopeful and inspired by the strength of the community,” said Rachael Purvis ‘18, a biology major from Gastonia, North Carolina. “One of our community partners told us to hold on to those feelings from this experience and let them carry us throughout our lives and careers.”

APPLES alternative fall break, rural communitiesThe 12 students who participated in the rural communities break visited Robeson County, a highly impoverished riverside community in Eastern North Carolina. Robeson County was one of many communities left flooded by Hurricane Matthew. Students spent their time cleaning out damaged homes, learning from local speakers about emergency response in rural and tribal communities, and assisting the Center for Community Action and the Robeson County Church and Community Center in their work serving the community.

These AFB students gained a first-hand account of how their service work can make a difference in a community only a few hours away from their university. While these Tar Heels only served Robeson County for a few days, the impact of this experience will last long past their return to UNC.

“The clean-up experience [with the students] was both excruciatingly painful and dramatically rewarding. We shared both aspects of the experience with each other and with family members,” said Reverend Mac Legerton, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Community Action. “The experience was deeply transformative, mainly because it included care and discomfort, heartache and heart affection. The classroom experience rarely takes you to either space and place. Community experience does, particularly when it provides both depth and breadth in one’s life that is made explicit through de-liberation and reciprocity. This is the core of meaningful and transformative service-learning.”

Beth Clifford ‘19 from Mount Prospect, Illinois said, “Robeson County changed us in ways we didn’t expect. Even though we just intended to serve, the community members made their mark on our lives.”

APPLES summer intern impacts local organizaton

By Catie Armstrong

Interns can do a lot to further an organization’s work, especially a nonprofit organization. This past summer, the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness hosted Morgan McLaughlin, a senior public policy and political science double major as its first APPLES Service-Learning intern. According to Michelle Goryn, Raleigh/Wake Partnership board member, the experiences were so positive on both sides that plans are to host another intern.

morgan-mclaughlin-apples-summer-intern“From day one, Morgan contributed to projects critical to the Partnership’s efforts,” Goryn said. “The contributions Morgan made benefitted the Partnership by expanding its outreach, awareness and capacity in the community.”

APPLES internships are unique, intense experiences in service for either the spring semester or summer. Students intern at a variety of nonprofit and government organizations, receive funding ($1,250 for spring and $2,500 for summer) and academic course credit through a course hosted by the School of Social Work. APPLES interns are considered staff in their organizations and have a great deal of responsibility as well as professional growth opportunities. Interns also receive individualized academic instruction from a faculty member and hands-on experience that will help them grow as community leaders. APPLES hosted 30 summer interns.

The Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homeless is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the issues surrounding being homeless in the Triangle area and working toward both short term and long term solutions. McLaughlin’s internship helped the organization expand to better serve the homeless community.

As a summer interns, McLaughlin implemented a comprehensive communications plan, created new content for the website and social media platforms, and developed a new donation management system to accompany an updated online donation platform.

McLaughlin’s internship experience extended beyond the impactful work she did for the Partnership; she also learned more about the issues with which she was working so closely. “I learned a lot about the American homeless service system and was able to contextualize the problem of wealth and income inequality in America,” McLaughlin said.

“As our first APPLES intern, Morgan witnessed the growing needs and capacity of the Partnership,” said Goryn. “She took the initiative to establish an ongoing volunteer and intern infrastructure for people to get involved with the organization in the future. By doing this, the Partnership will continue to benefit from the valuable work of other volunteers and interns that can bring talent, energy and community commitment similar to what Morgan brought this summer.”

Jesse White is passionate about public service

jessewhitephoto_206x315When I came to Carolina in January of 2003 I was immediately impressed with the spirit of public service that characterized our students and faculty. Soon I discovered a driving force behind this work, the Carolina Center for Public Service. I joined its advisory board and served until my retirement in early 2011. It was one of my best experiences at UNC.

This excitement with the Center’s work has its roots in my own lifelong commitment to government, politics and public service. I became a political scientist and spent my entire career in state and federal government, higher education and nonprofit management.

More than ever, we need our most talented young people to devote themselves to public service and to improving the common good. I find this commitment in the extraordinary students that I have met through the Center. But, few of them plan to run for public office, in part because of the divisive, even toxic, environment in political life.

However, the public sector has immense power to affect our future and the battlefield cannot be abandoned to the selfish, negative and short sighted. We need more of our best young leaders to consider seeking public office. That is why I increased my giving to the Center to create internships for our undergraduates with elected public officials, providing exposure to the real day to day work, issues and impact of being in public office. We placed four interns with public officials the first year and the response has been overwhelming from the interns and from the officials and staff with whom they work.

The Center cannot meet all of its existing needs or create other new opportunities for students without financial support, especially in light of declining state budgets. It is more important than ever for those of us who support the Center’s mission to step up and help financially. In my opinion, nothing less than our future is at stake. I ask you to join with me in supporting the Carolina Center for Public Service and investing in our future.

Jesse White

UNC-Chapel Hill named to President’s Honor Roll for Public Service

Chapel Hill, N.C. – Sept. 30, 2016 – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been named to the 2015 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The honor roll recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that support exemplary community service programs and raise the visibility of best practices in campus-community partnerships. UNC-Chapel Hill has consistently been recognized since the honor roll was created in 2006 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education, Campus Compact and the Interfaith Youth Core. 

During the 2013-2014 academic year, considered for the most recent honor roll recognition, UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty and staff engaged in a wide range of public service activities that the Carolina Center for Public Service estimated added up to more than 1.94 million hours.

“Community engagement is essential to the University’s mission of teaching, research and service,” said Lynn Blanchard, center director “Carolina is proud to be a public university and to have students, faculty and staff so committed to helping to meet the needs of people in North Carolina and beyond. Public service is a defining characteristic of our campus community.”

Students, faculty and staff find opportunities to help others through an array of centers and institutes at UNC-Chapel Hill that make public service a focal point. In 2013-2014, more than 2,000 students enrolled in the 89 service-learning courses offered in 28 departments, and 35 percent of the graduating class completed at least one service-learning course. Campus units reported more than 1,700 community partnerships involving more than 4,000 partners.

In its application for the honor roll, UNC-Chapel Hill highlighted three programs:  the Bonner Leaders Program, the Community Empowerment Fund and Enrich ELL.

Bonner Leaders Program

UNC Bonner LeadersThe Bonner Leaders Program, based in and staffed by the Campus Y, adapted a national model of student development, civic engagement and community leadership to provide sustained work with community-based nonprofit partners. Each year, a diverse group of first-year students who are eligible for federal work-study are chosen through a competitive process, and 37 students participated in 2013-2014. They progress from direct service to positions involved with program development, communications, and community-based and public policy research. The time commitment is significant – more than 250 hours during every academic year with the same community-based nonprofit for more than 1,000 total hours. This service is complemented by weekly workshops and seminars exceeding 250 hours over four years.

Community Empowerment Fund

Community Empowerment Fund, a Campus Y committee, cultivates opportunities, assets and communities that support alleviating poverty and homelessness in local communities. Students at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University run the nonprofit organization with a dual mission of empowering fund members to sustain transitions out of homelessness and develop student leadership. More than 100 UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates volunteer each semester and train as advocates who work one-on-one with fund members – homeless and low-income people – on achieving housing, income and financial goals. The fund fosters strong member-advocate relationships that provide mutual accountability and support members as they transition out of homelessness. The program expands students’ understanding of poverty and deepens their connection to the local community.

Enrich ELL

Enrich ELLEnrich ELL is a UNC student-run, English tutoring program for non-native adults in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The program brings people together through one-on-one tutoring sessions and community building events. Enrich ELL offers hour-long English classes twice weekly. The program promotes opportunities to foster cross-cultural understanding and build lasting relationships between UNC-Chapel Hill students and community members. The program began in 1995 and focused on helping Latina women improve their English to better communicate with their children’s teachers. Today, the program serves non-native community members from around the world.  

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 About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 113 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty – including two Nobel laureates – staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 317,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.

Carolina Center for Public Service contact: Rhonda Beatty, (919) 843-7568, rbeatty@unc.edu
Communications and Public Affairs contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593, mike_mcfarland@unc.edu

http://uncnews.unc.edu/2016/09/30/unc-chapel-hill-named-presidents-honor-roll-public-service/

Northside’s future takes shape

Northside community members and volunteers

Maggie West (Carolina alumna and neighborhood resident), Marian Cheek Jackson (lifetime resident and Jackson Center namesake), Willie Mae Patterson (lifetime resident and neighborhood leader) and George Barrett (Carolina alumnus, neighborhood resident and Jackson Center staff member).

For Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar Della Pollock, preserving people’s life stories is more than a way to chronicle the past. It also creates a path to cultivate future aspirations.

A multi-year project begun in 2007 in collaboration with St. Joseph C.M.E. Church proved that point in ways Pollock, professor of communication at Carolina, didn’t imagine at the time. As part of an APPLES service-learning course, Pollock began involving students in the life of Northside, a historically black neighborhood near downtown Chapel Hill, where they listened to oral histories of longtime residents and community leaders.

What started as an effort to learn the history of Northside and understand the role of the black church in the wake of desegregation eventually became a public history and community development organization, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History.

There, with Pollock as the center’s executive director, a community-based staff and more than 250 volunteers work each year alongside residents to honor, renew and build community in Northside. Carolina faculty members and students have always been an integral part of that work. In fact, Hudson Vaughan, co-founder and deputy director of the Jackson Center, is one of Pollock’s former students.

HISTORIC PARTNERSHIP CONTINUES

The relationship between the University and Northside was forged long ago.

For the past century, a number of Carolina employees have called the network of neighborhoods that make up Northside home.

“Residents’ ancestors built the stone walls that surround the University and hauled water from the Old Well to student dorms,” Pollock said. “Many current residents worked for the University and UNC Hospitals in the past, and some continue to work there today.”

With more than 200 oral histories catalogued, the Jackson Center has become the linchpin for revitalizing a neighborhood that during the past three decades had seen exponential growth in the number of investor-owned properties and a corresponding decline in its black population. The center, which has always had a strong interest in housing advocacy, has partnered with the University, the Town of Chapel Hill and Self- Help to find ways to make Northside a diverse, family-oriented neighborhood once again.

While previous efforts to stabilize the community never gained traction, this time seems to be different.

For one thing, it is a bottom-up leadership process, Pollock said. The Northside Neighborhood Compass Group, made up of community representatives and partners, has vetted the plans and guided the strategic decision-making on Northside properties, she said.

There also is strong motivation to use the past as a springboard for the future, just as the Jackson Center’s motto says: “Without the past, you have no future.” As residents shared their stories, they felt a renewed determination to build on the strengths of their multi-generational community.

Northside residents express a great love and respect for the past, said Linda Convissor, director of community relations at Carolina, but they also want to shape the future.

“Rather than trying to recreate the past or freeze the present, conversations now are more about preserving the traditional values of the African-American neighborhood as new residents move in,” she said. “People who live in Northside – many of whom have family ties that go back several generations – talk about the supportive, tight-knit community of their childhoods, and that’s what they want to carry into the future.”

In addition, residents have seen a revitalized commitment from the Town of Chapel Hill coupled with strong interest from top University leaders, beginning with former Chancellor Holden Thorp and continuing with the staunch support of Chancellor Carol L. Folt. Last March, the University provided a critical financial boost to the effort with a $3 million, 10-year, no-interest loan to Self-Help to help stabilize Northside.

A CATALYST FOR RENEWAL

The University’s loan was a major catalyst for the Northside Neighborhood Initiative, said Gordon Merklein, Carolina’s executive director of real estate development, but it is not a University-run effort.

“The Jackson Center is a gateway to the neighborhood – really the boots on the ground, the people who have the ear and pulse of the neighborhood,” Merklein said. “The town wants to see the area thrive, especially with a new elementary school there. Self-Help knows community development real estate better than anyone, and the University brings the money and a desire to see Northside stabilized. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Self-Help’s involvement is key, he explained, because the Durham-based institution understands the intricacies of buying, holding and selling properties to benefit the community. Self-Help acts as general contractor and loan manager. It pools the financial resources – the loan from the University plus grants the initiative has received – to acquire, renovate and resell avail- able Northside properties to aspiring homeowners or affordable housing agencies.

The concept is called land banking. As a property becomes available, funds from the land bank are used to purchase it, and the property is held in the land bank until a good match is found.

“Essentially, the land bank allows the home to sit until the right buyer is found, and when the home is sold later, that money recycles back into the land bank,” Merklein explained.

The University’s loan is used solely to buy a property, not to renovate it or buy down the purchase price. Those efforts are funded through grants – to date, $75,000 from the Town of Chapel Hill to launch the Promise of Home program so elderly or disabled residents can make home repairs, and $750,000 from the Oak Foundation to support needed renovations and discount the sale price of land bank properties to keep them affordable.

So far, the University loan has been used to acquire six properties, including vacant lots and vacant houses, for the land bank. One property has been sold to Habitat, which plans to build three new homes there for low-income, first-time homeowners. In fact, for 2016–17, Habitat will focus its construction efforts in Northside, with a goal to build a dozen homes in the neighborhood, said Dan Levine, Self-Help’s director of business development and project management.

In less than a year, Northside has seen tangible change. Elderly residents’ homes are being repaired so the residents can remain there, and properties that otherwise might have been snapped up by investors are being held and repaired for sale to families.

“We’ve seen success even more quickly than we had anticipated,” Merklein said. “The University’s backing gave the initiative the momentum it needed to get off the ground. It also paved the way for other organizations, such as Habitat and the Oak Foundation, to become involved.”

The chancellor was the driving force behind this unique opportunity to enhance the University’s historic relationship with Northside, he said. “Thanks to Chancellor Folt’s resolve to turn the vision and commitment of so many people into reality, the residents in Northside are seeing real evidence that their neighborhood will remain a vital part of our community.”

The neighborhood itself deserves much of the credit, Convissor said: “Northside residents have always been active and engaged. It may seem contradictory, but their deep, abiding commitment to preserving their neighborhood is what motivated the investments that will secure its future.”

By Patty Courtright, Finance and Administration

Published May 23, 2016

UNC-Chapel Hill faculty recognized for engaged scholarship connecting with community

fes-class-viCHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Engaging the community to help hungry children access food during the summer months is Maureen Berner’s passion. For the past two years, Berner, a professor in the School of Government, and seven other UNC faculty members worked on a variety of projects that connected them to the community in many ways.

Maureen Berner, Barbara Friedman, Cheryl Giscombe, Adam Jacks, Anne Johnston, Steve May, Vicki Mercer and Chérie Ndaliko will be honored as graduates of class V of the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars program during a lunch celebration beginning at noon, Aug. 31 at the Carolina Club in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

The program, an initiative of the Carolina Center for Public Service, brings together selected faculty from across campus to engage in a two-year experiential, competency-based curriculum designed to advance their engaged scholarship. Scholars participate in sessions in community settings to learn from Carolina faculty and their community partners. While developing individual projects, each class of scholars forms a learning community along with the faculty and community course directors to support one another’s projects and community partners. The growing network of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars reports outcomes including new interdisciplinary collaborations, successful grant applications and both traditional and innovative products of their scholarship.

“The Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars program is transformative. Rather than trying to fit engaged work into the traditional mold of scholarship, now I see how it can be embraced,” Berner said. “The impact of my work has multiplied, opening more doors to more research, more outreach and more collaborations. I speak about my project all the time – from an audience of 2,000 through a TEDx Talk, to a small group of young social entrepreneurs, to an international academic conference in Spain and to middle school students in a Future Food Security Leaders summer camp in Wake County. I am still writing for the research community, but I am also invited to be at the policy-makers’ table.”

The Carolina Center for Public Service created the Faculty Engaged Scholars program in 2007 to advance faculty involvement in engaged scholarship. In 2013, an endowment honoring UNC’s former chancellor H. Holden Thorp was established to support faculty in the program. Selected through a competitive process, Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars learn about and pursue community engagement through scholarly endeavors during the two-year program. Since the program began, 53 faculty members have been selected from 10 professional schools and the College of Arts and Sciences, representing more than 20 departments.

“The Faculty Engaged Scholars program transformed the way we thought about our communities and their involvement in our research,” said Anne Johnston, a professor in the School of Media and Journalism, who co-directs The Irina Project (TIP), a project that monitors and studies media

representations of sex trafficking and provides resources to news organizations and others for

accurate and responsible reporting of the issue. “The groups and organizations we visited were so committed to serving and helping their communities and to involving these communities in the development and implementation of their research and programs. This model of interacting with communities really expanded our view of who our communities are and how we should be engaged with all of them.”

The graduates and their work

These eight faculty members have distinguished themselves as engaged scholars through their commitment to serve others and strengthen university-community relationships.

Dr. Maureen Berner, professor in the School of Government, wanted to know more about how  communities can successfully address what she calls “wicked problems” – in her case, hunger and food insecurity. Her project focused on how hungry children access, or fail to access, available federally supported summer meal programs. Through in-depth interviews and data from across the state and close interaction with state officials and nonprofit leaders, Berner concluded that the key to feeding hungry children is building local government and nonprofit capacity. She is a founding member of a new consortium of university researchers providing monthly advice on these programs directly to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials and collaborating on new research projects prompted by USDA initiatives.

Dr. Barbara Friedman, associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism, and her colleague Dr. Anne Johnston, professor in the School of Media and Journalism, co-direct The Irina Project (TIP), a project that monitors and studies media representations of sex trafficking and provides resources to news organizations and others for accurate and responsible reporting of the issue. TIP is the only organization to have as its sole focus theoretical and applied research of media coverage of trafficking. For the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars program, the two advanced a web-based resource that includes best practices, interactive data on trafficking, and interviews with expert sources including survivors, blog essays, tip sheets, research notes and more. Friedman and Johnston trained print, broadcast and digital journalists to cover trafficking and continue to field queries from reporters around the world working on this issue. Most recently, they partnered with a group preparing an anti-trafficking campaign for the state of North Carolina.

Dr. Cheryl Giscombe is the LeVine Wellness Distinguished Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. Her work as a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar strengthened her existing partnership with Healing with CAARE, Inc. Through the Faculty Engaged Scholars program, Giscombe completed two research studies in collaboration with her community partner; one focused on substance abuse relapse prevention and the other focused on chronic stress and diabetes risk reduction. Giscombe provides training in culturally sensitive, contextually relevant, team-oriented, evidence-based, holistic care including a focus on healthcare systems and policy. This type of learning for healthcare professionals has been found to increase empathy and insight, and to increase acuity of focus on changes needed to positively impact care, access and population health.

Dr. Adam Jacks is an associate professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences – Speech and Hearing Sciences who studies the impact of stroke and other neurological diseases on communication. Much of his current work focuses on identifying predictors of life participation in community-dwelling stroke and brain injury survivors with impaired communication (i.e. aphasia). His Faculty Engaged Scholars project focused on providing language assessments to people with aphasia in the community with no access to treatment, as well as to those who attend communication groups at Triangle Aphasia Project Unlimited, a Cary-based nonprofit organization. Jacks’ project provided opportunities to build relationships with speech-language pathologists in the community, including a clinical research forum with equal contributions by academic researchers and practicing clinicians.

Dr. Steve May, associate professor in the Department of Communication, focuses his research on exploring organizational ethics and corporate social responsibility, with an emphasis on studying public-private, cross-sector partnerships that seek to solve a range of community problems. May’s Faculty Engaged Scholars project identified best practices of corporate social responsibility initiatives to understand successful strategies for business-community partnerships that are equitable, collaborative and produce sustainable impact. These best practices include creating a shared vision by focusing on common interests and values; identifying and engaging diverse sets of stakeholders, with mutually reinforcing activities; developing trust by communicating candidly and engaging in continuous learning; creating shared measurements of progress and impact; and providing knowledge and expertise through best practices. Using project findings, May produced a web-based knowledge database that includes scholarly findings, case studies, white papers, a blog and assessment tools used by cross-sector partners.

Dr. Vicki Mercer, associate professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences – Physical Therapy, focuses her research on improving balance and preventing falls in older adults and individuals with neurological disorders. In her Faculty Engaged Scholars project, she expanded her work with the Community Health and Mobility Partnership (CHAMP) program in western North Carolina. CHAMP is a falls prevention program that Mercer developed in 2009 with community partners from senior centers, hospitals, physical therapy clinics and community colleges. Through CHAMP, interdisciplinary teams of health care providers work with older adults at senior centers and other community sites to improve their balance and muscle strength and decrease their risk of falls.

Dr. Chérie Ndaliko, assistant professor in the Department of Music, explored parallels between students in eastern Congo whose lives are inflected by war and violence and students in economically underprivileged communities in North Carolina. Common to both groups of students is limited access to arts education that leaves them with fewer opportunities to develop empowering critical thinking skills. To interrupt this cycle, Ndaliko created an interactive arts curriculum for North Carolina students that uses examples from Africa to foster critical thinking skills and cultivate global perspectives. In partnership with the Global Scholars Academy in Durham, North Carolina, the curriculum allows students to partner on creative projects with their Congolese peers, permitting those without the financial means to travel to have cross-cultural experiences.

About the Carolina Center for Public Service

The Carolina Center for Public Service engages and supports the faculty, students and staff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in meeting the needs of North Carolina and beyond. The Center strengthens the University’s public service commitment by promoting scholarship and service that are responsive to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.

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