Chester Griffin

Chester is currently enrolled In UNCC. Chester just transferred from Central Piedmont Community College and plans to major in English and minor in Journalism. Some of his interests include movies, video games, and photography. If you have any questions for Chester, he can be contacted at

UNC Charlotte student’s latest victory carries on family’s drag racing legacy

Joel Warren's drag racing car. Photo courtesy of Joel Warren's Facebook
Joel Warren’s drag racing car. Photo courtesy of Joel Warren’s Facebook

On March 29, Mechanical Engineering major Joel Warren won the Stock Eliminator category at the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Being the third generation in a family of drag racers, Warren states that it adds some mental pressure which he welcomes as he feels it “brings out a racer’s true colors.”

“There’s nearly 200 years of combined racing experience in my family tree and countless trophies to go with it,” said Warren. “Something many people don’t know is that I have drag racing in my blood from both sides of my family. My mom’s dad (Phil Hardee) and his son (Michael Hardee) have been largely successful on the drag racing circuit since long before I was born.”

He cites his father, Joey Warren as his biggest source of influence, who he says watches him at the drag way every weekend, being there at both at his best and worst times.

“He doesn’t tolerate me getting down on myself, but instead he pushes me to be better and better,” said Warren. “And that’s what great coaches do.”

According to fayobserver, Joey Warren is responsible for winning the super stock at the 1993 NHRA Southern Nationals and Bobby Warren, Joel Warren’s grandfather is a three-time NHRA world champion.

“He (Bobby Warren) called me up last minute and asked if I wanted to race his car in this one, of course I didn’t turn down that offer! So happy it paid off,” said Warren.

Warren has participated in drag racing to some form since he was 7-years-old, but he said his interest in the sport predates that.

In the Stock Eliminator category, Warren explains that winning isn’t as simple as crossing the finish line, rather it involves two key elements: a “dial-in” and the driver’s reaction time.

“A ‘dial-in’ is your personal prediction of the amount of time it will take for your car to cover the quarter-mile,” said Warren. “This prediction is based on practice/qualifying runs prior to the start of elimination rounds, so you’re not completely in the dark on your estimate.”

Warren states that the aim is to stay as close to the dial-in without going faster, otherwise it’s considered a break-out, an automatic loss.

“In the final round of the race, my opponent beat me off the line but we both broke-out,” said Warren. “As it turned out, he broke-out by a greater margin than me (I was closer to my dial-in) yielding my first ever national event win.”

With drag racing in general, he explains that it goes beyond driving cars, requiring a hefty amount of dedication.

“Probably only about 10 percent of the time is spent at the race track. If you want to have the fastest car out there, it takes an insane amount of testing, building, tinkering, tuning, preparing, cleaning, etc. off the track,” said  Warren. “Huge sacrifices have to be made to participate in this sport; you have to be fully immersed.”

Part of why Warren relishes the sport so much is the challenge that it brings.

“I’ve always said drag racing is 80 percent psychological, 15 percent race car performance, and five percent skill. That 80 percent mental means it requires every ounce of focus you have,” said Warren. “To win, I need to have near-perfect reaction times and go dead on my dial-in. But I can’t do that without pushing myself to the limit on every single run. It’s wild and it’s addicting, I can’t get enough.”

Warren describes the feeling of his victory in one word, “Unbelievable” and it only raises his eagerness to get back on the drag way again.

“With a handful of event wins within smaller sanctioning bodies, I had tasted victory before this win. But to win an event of such magnitude at only 21-years-old was something special,” said Warren. “Few feelings compare to hoisting that Wally (trophy) in the winner’s circle.”

UNC Charlotte student accepts internship into NASA academy

Photo courtesy of the Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Photo courtesy of the Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management

After going through a series of finalists and an intense week of email exchanges, David Vutetakis, a masters student in Applied Energy and Electromechanical Systems, has been accepted into a summer internship at the NASA Aeronautics Academy in Hampton, VA.

“It was almost too good to be true, I was like ‘alright I made it this far, it’s not actually going to happen’ and then it finally did and I got the confirmation and I was really excited about it,” said Vutetakis.

Since a young age, Vutetakis has always been obsessed with flight and space. For his Senior Design Project, Vutetakis worked with the 49ers Miners team in the NASA Robotics Mining Competition.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always been kind of interested in engineering, I use to come up with my own inventions, I didn’t really know how they would work at that age when your like 10-years-old, but I knew what I wanted it to do so one of my main things was creating a jetpack,” said Vutetakis. “It was my main thing, I had all different versions of it and different designs, I was just obsessed with flight in general, it’s been up my alley ever since.”

While NASA Academy has been quiet about the work involved with the internship, Vutetakis has an idea of what he will be doing.

“I do know that I’ll be working on vertical takeoff and landing, unmanned aerial systems, that includes either design and build and test a system from scratch or they have existing systems in place that I could be conducting further research on for NASA to use in real applications,” said Vutetakis.

Vutetakis originally planned to graduate in the fall, but because of this internship he is pushing his graduation back until Spring of 2016.

As a fan of both theoretical and practical work, Vutetakis loves the satisfaction he gets from an end result. He looks forward to this satisfaction during the internship which he is able to get from designing, building and testing part of the project.

While he is a little worried about the difficulty of the internship, Vutetakis welcomes the challenge.

“It’s going to be 10 weeks, it’s going to be a very fast paced project to be designing and building it and testing it, like I’ve said that the robot I’ve built for the mining competition, that was almost a year’s worth of work, this is 10 weeks so it’s going to be very accelerated,” said Vutetakis.

Vutetakis has thanked a handful of people that have given him nothing but support including his father, UNC Charlotte Professor and his mentor Aidan Browne, his friends, God and all of the faculty in the Engineering Technology department.

Ideally, Vutetakis’s dream job would be getting hired by NASA, but after completing his Masters he plans to pursue a PHD first.

“As I mentioned before about eventually working for NASA, but it wouldn’t be soon, probably because I will be applying to PHD programs  and depending on where and if I get accepted, I will definitely pursue that route first because what I really want to do is research and I feel that a PHD will give me the tools needed to do that because for me I’m not really going to school or pursuing any of these degrees for the money, money helps and money is cool, but I’m doing it because it’s what I love to do and is something I take pride in,” said Vutetakis.

Death of Paris makes their mark on the Milestone

(photo courtesy of band Facebook)

On April 1, electronic pop/rock band Death of Paris finishes off their tour with a big finale at the Milestone in Charlotte.

“This will be the first time we’ve performed at the Milestone before, we’ve always seen it on the map when we’ve been in Charlotte, played a couple places up there, but we’ve never played at the Milestone,” said lead Guitarist and Keyboardist Blake Arambula. “So this will be the first time and we got some friends of ours that are going to playing the show with us that are up in Charlotte.”

Lead vocalist Jayna Doyle expressed particular excitement as this is their first tour with their new drummer Johnny Gornatl.

However with having a self-funded and self-booked tour, Doyle lamented several difficulties such as lacking the funding, having to reach out to press, planning out transportation and finding a place to stay.

“Even though all the leading up to it is super difficult and getting everything organized and other stressful things, at the end of the day we did it ourselves and made everything happen, it just feels very rewarding that we made it happen,” said Doyle

That night at the Milestone, Death of Paris will be performing with bands and artists such as Signs of Iris, Bad Karol, MR. GOLD and Summer Movie Clubhouse.

Arambula sees it as a perfect venue to finish their tour on a high note.

“Well I have heard that place is legendary, we definitely heard some things about it so we’re looking forward to making our mark on the Milestone,” said Arambula.

After the tour is over, Death of Paris has several upcoming projects they’re working on.

“As soon as the tour ends right in April, we’ve got a couple of different festival dates we’re excited to be a part of and we just got accepted to play at the Launch Music Conference in Lancaster, PA.,” said Arambula. “A bunch of big acts are playing it and the head guy from warped tour is going to be there speaking, it’s really more than just performing there, it’s really a good networking experience to go and be a part of.”

Death of Paris will also be performing at the Florida Music Festival in April.

(photo courtesy of band Facebook)


When asked about what they’re lives show are like, Doyle responded with “Have you seen Spinal Tap? It’s kind of like that.”

“I think people, they’ll listen to the new EP and really like it, but when they come and see it live, it’s like a whole another element that they weren’t able to get on the album so I think that is what draws the people out there, that we give them an experience,” said Arambula. “They can get away from the day-to-day and have a good time at our shows, that’s what we’re trying to prove I think.”

Lead Guitarist Patrick Beardsley explains that it can sometimes be difficult to find artist to perform with given that not as many people are doing what they’re doing.

“Being in the south, South Carolina, there aren’t a lot of electro-pop bands so coming out as that kind of band when there’s all these country folk, revival kind of bands, it’s kind of scary, but we’re taking complete ownership of ‘This is who we are, electro-pop band,” said Doyle.

Death of Paris recently released a music video based on their song “Shut Up and Kiss Me” which they filmed at a state fair.

Doyle says that the video perfectly matches the lighthearted tone of the song and everything seen is candid.

As for the name of the band, Doyle revealed there’s a much deeper meaning behind it.

“So when we were coming up with a name we wanted it to mean something so we came up with Death of Paris being more of an idea than just a name, and Death of Paris meaning death of romance if you think of Paris as this city of love,” said Doyle. “It’s death in romance in how like today, everyone is looking for a cheap thrill, on their phones, nobody’s connecting anymore like the chase is not a thing anymore, everyone just wants instant gratification, so it’s like a commentary on the death of  romance in our society.”

KEEPING WATCH features city of creeks exhibit at Center City Building

Associate Director of Urban and Regional affairs, Mary Newsom.  Photo courtesy of Nancy Pierce
Associate Director of Urban and Regional affairs, Mary Newsom. Photo courtesy of Nancy Pierce

On March 27, KEEPING WATCH kicks off the second part of its three year initiative with an exhibit opening at the Projective Eye Gallery at the UNC Charlotte Center City.

Their latest project is titled “KEEPING WATCH on WATER: City of Creeks.”

KEEPING WATCH was organized by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and College of Arts and Architecture with the intent “to bring attention to environmental topics using art and science and community engagement,” said one of its leading collaborators and Associate Director of Urban and Regional Affairs, Mary Newsom.

The KEEPING WATCH alliance is directed by Newsom, Director of Galleries for the College of Arts and Architecture, Crista Cammaroto and independent curator of Lambla artWORKS, June Lambla.

Newsom describes her attraction to the particular project as being a combination of both civic pride and the proximity of living near a creek.

“There are two real reasons, one is that ever since I’ve lived in Charlotte, the civic leaders will say sort of apologetically that ‘we don’t have a river, you know we don’t have a mountain, we don’t have a port’ and I rather look at what we do have and what we do have is this really amazing network of 3000 miles of creeks, folks have no idea,” said Newsom. “Reason number two is much more simple, there’s an old saying in journalism that ‘news is what happens near an editor’ and we have a creek that runs down the middle of the street where I live so I’ve been watching it for years and you just get interested.”

The upcoming exhibition features works produced by several artists and ends on June 17.

Both artists Marek Ranis and Tina Katsanos have created a video installation titled “STEWARDSHIP” which Newsom said will examine “the role that faith and belief play in peoples’ attitudes towards the environment.”

Artist Lauren Rosenthal has created “a huge cut-paper map of the watersheds of Mecklenburg County with video monitors in set that will be displaying other images and information about the creeks in Charlotte,” said Newsom.

The exhibit will also include Artist Stacy Levy’s “Watershed Pantry” which is a collection of jars filled with water from creeks all over Mecklenburg County provided by high school and early college students.

“The idea is to get students and people from all over the county contributing jars of water and they’ll be stacked in the front windows of the gallery,” said Newsom.

According to the brochure, Photographs by Nancy Pierce will also be on display, detailing both “the beauty and the troubles of our massive creek system.”

This exhibit is only a small part of what “KEEPING WATCH on WATER: City of Creeks” ultimately offers.

Students can partake in interactive actives such as Levy’s “Passage of Rain” which’ll be featured in west Charlotte’s Revolution Park neighborhood.

According to the brochure, the installation will feature “the path of rain and runoff along a .8 mile stretch, from street to storm drain to stream to a final destination in Irwin Creek.”

“One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that pollution by and large is not from factories and illegal dumpers, today is pollution is from storm water runoff which is a lot harder to control because we continue to pave our cities,” said Newsom.

Students can also attend the “Dirty Martini Film Screenings” at the UNC Charlotte Center City.

“One of our biggest lessons was that when you offer free martinis, it’s a great civic engagement tool, so we’re doing that again,” said Newsom.

The first screening “Lost Rivers” starts at 7:00 p.m. on April 9 and the second film, “Watermark” is on May 1 at 7:00 p.m.

KEEPING WATCH will also host several creek walks which’ll be at Irwin and Stewart Creeks on May 2, Little Sugar Creek on May 3, and McDowell Creek on May 30.

According to Newsom, one of the biggest contributors on the project has been Tenille Todd, a graduate student in the department of History.

Todd has been collecting oral histories of peoples’ memories of the creek which Newsom hopes will eventually be added to the special collections in Atkins Library.

Newsom said that KEEPING WATCH plans to stay away from huge policy recommendations and instead focus on basic awareness and what people can do.

“I have a modest goal, I want to completely change the way creeks are viewed in Mecklenburg county,” said Newsom. “I think a slightly less extravagant goal is to celebrate the creeks as they have never been celebrated before–which won’t be too hard because they’ve never been celebrated before.”

Newsom said that steps such as reducing amount of pavement, not dumping into storm drains and using less fertilizer can benefit creeks greatly.

“That little ditch you’re looking at, goes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and if you throw something in it, you’re going to pollute the water going all the way down,” said Newsom. The other thing is that storm drains run into creeks, but people think they somehow run into a treatment plant, but they don’t, they lead right into the creeks.”

Graduate School adds two assistantships for Veterans

This fall semester, the UNC Charlotte Graduate School is offering two graduate assistantships exclusive to veterans. Each assistantship is valued between $36,000 and $45,000 which includes full tuition, health insurance and an assistantship stipend.

Alan Freitag, a full time Communications professor and a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force joined the Graduate School this spring as a faculty fellow for UNC Charlotte’s veterans’ programming.

“Dean Tom Reynolds brought me on as what’s called a faculty fellow part time this term, so I’m working part time this term with the intention that eventually it could work to a full time job there,” said Freitag. “Here are the verbs I like to use, my job is to inventory, align and coalesce all campus activities in support of military affiliated students.”

According to Freitag, these assistantships being funded by Reynolds, are designed with the idea of completing either a Master’s degree or beginning a doctoral level of study.

“I think nearly every master’s program on campus can be completed in two years,” said Freitag. “Doctoral programs are typically three to five years, but he’s saying, ‘I’ll fund the first two years,’ and the hope is that for subsequent years the individual department will pick up the funding or there will be grant money by that time to fund the rest of it.”

Freitag adds that there will be a constant overlap as with each year they will bring on two more veteran students to start their assistantships.

Both he and Reynolds hope that this will encourage other colleges on campus to add assistantships which could open up the potential for outside funding.

For passing the application process, students only need to meet three basic criteria, that they be accepted into a program, be recommended by the graduate program director in that department and be a veteran.

Freitag points out that the Veteran population is very valuable in they are able to bring over a set of skills that can be beneficial to a particular community or region.

“The UNC system in partnership with the community college system, can be a conduit to help those men and women from the military to the private sector because we can take those qualities that they bring, the leadership skills, the problem solving skills, the teamwork skills, and we can add to that, the knowledge and qualifications matched to regional needs in terms of where the employment is, that helps them transition to civilian life,” said Freitag.

In the process, Freitag said they’re also providing a social good especially with veterans that struggle with the transition to civilian life with issues such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (traumatic Brain Injury), alcohol, drug and spouse abuse and suicide.

“Clearly there is a great deal of stress, well we can help address that so UNC Charlotte can certainly address the  higher education academic needs, but we can also have the capacity here at UNC Charlotte to address what I would call the social or student services needs,” said Freitag.

“We can provide career coaching and counseling, we can assist with things such as housing and medical and health care issues, we can do that to some extent, but we can also partner with community organizations that provide those sort of services and that way we’re working in cooperation with the community on all aspects of that transition for the military member.”

So far the assistantship program is already generating a positive response off campus

“When we announced it externally outside the campus to the media around military installations, I sent it to the pentagon, there’s a Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff office, I’ve sent it to a number of national veterans organizations and they are very excited about it so it’s really gained a lot of attention for UNC Charlotte,” said Freitag.  “Suddenly there’s a spotlight on it for what we’re doing for veterans, so I think it’s going to service UNC Charlotte very well.”

Freitag also commented that these assistantships and UNC Charlotte’s dedication to helping veteran traces back to 1946 when the school was first established to meet the higher education needs of WWII veterans.

“It’s in our DNA to serve the military affiliated population, so we’re not doing anything new, we’re going back to our roots, that’s pretty exciting stuff,” said Freitag.

Ceiling caves in at Circle Apartment complex

Photos by Linnea Stoops.

On Jan. 30, around 1 a.m., UNC Charlotte students Alexandria McLellan and Julie Book experienced a ceiling cave-in at their Circle University City apartment complex across from campus.

“The cave-in happened in our living room. It only caved in an area about 2-foot by 4-foot, along with cracks that ran all around the ceiling,” said Book, a pre-business major at UNC Charlotte. “From our apartment, it looks like it could be fixed easily, but the damage to the apartment above us was much worse than I thought.”

Although Book slept through the incident that night, McLellan was awake to witness the cave-in happen.

“I could obviously hear it from the other room because it was extremely loud, but I went into the kitchen/living room area and could literally see the ceiling cracking and bending as if it were about to cave in on us,” said McLellan, a psychology major at UNC Charlotte. “I was really freaked out and scared that we were going to get hurt.”

Darren Pierce, director of asset management for Crescent Communities, the development team behind Circle, responded as to how the incident occurred.

“A party at which an estimated 80 to 100 attendees overcrowded an apartment home at Circle University City caused damage to the floor of a fourth-floor unit and cosmetic damage to the ceiling of the unit directly underneath. The damage is isolated to these two units, reviews by independent experts are underway and no injuries were suffered.”

“Circle University City takes the well-being of its residents seriously. The code of conduct signed by each resident ensures a commitment by all residents to be respectful of their neighbors and the property. We are communicating directly with all of our residents to confirm they are aware of important rules that are in place for their comfort and well-being.”

While Pierce labels the overcapacity of the apartment above as the reason for the cave-in, both McLellan and Book believe it’s an issue of poor construction.

“They really had to throw this place up since they were already behind on building,” said McLellan. “I mean, I literally had to stay in a hotel the first few weeks of class first semester because they weren’t ready for us to move in yet.”

“While the girls above had more people in their apartment than they should have, a party still shouldn’t be the reason for a ceiling to cave in in a brand new apartment,” said Book.

McLellan said the next day the construction managers came by to examine the apartment.

“They said it was going to be about $50,000 worth of damage. This was before they came in and did a detailed survey of the room though, so I don’t know if that is still the damage estimate,” said McLellan. “But apparently it was a huge deal because the cracks and caving happened directly in the area of a big water pump in our wall, so the construction manager said if it happened to hit the pipe then all of C building would’ve completely flooded out. I think they were definitely worried about that happening as well as concerned with legal issues regarding our safety.”

A notice posted outside on the door of the affected apartment. Photo courtesy of Circle Problems Facebook page
A notice posted outside on the door of the affected apartment. Photo courtesy of Circle Problems Facebook page

The night after the cave-in, McLellan, Book and their roommates were told they would have to leave their apartment for safety concerns.

McLellan said they were told to pack at least one to two weeks’ worth of stuff together and leave.

“They did reserve a hotel for us, but it was 20 minutes away and I couldn’t afford the gas to drive back and forth, so I stayed with Julie’s parents which was still about a 15-minute drive, but a little closer,” said McLellan.

A week after the cave-in, Both McLellan and Book were initially expected to pay rent. After much complaining about the incident, they were granted free rent for the month of February. As of now, Book’s mother is working to get her rent reduced until her lease is up.

Book and McLellan also said there’s been a lack of communication from Circle.

“They would not communicate with us at all,” said Book. “I would have wished they would have said they are still trying to figure out how to fix it rather than not telling me anything at all.”

McLellan and Book are currently living in a different unit, waiting on a response from Circle regarding the state of their previous unit. Both have stated they don’t plan on re-signing their lease with Circle Apartments.

“They said this was going to be temporary, however they told us to move ‘all’ of our stuff out, but honestly I think it’s going to be permanent. I have not been informed how long it will take to fix,” said McLellan.

UNC Charlotte receives funding for Pilot Program, will add 20 charging stations for electric vehicles

UNC Charlotte has received two Clean Fuel Advanced Technology Project grants totaling $64,000.

The grant of $52,000 will be used to fund the building of 20 on-campus charging stations. The stations will be installed during Summer 2015 in the CRI and Village Parking decks.

The other grant, which totaled $12,000, will fund the Pilot Program to enable a battery monitoring system for low speed electric vehicles on campus such as Global Electric Motorcars (GEM), Electric Club Cars, Star Trams and Vantage Electric Mini Vans.

“We were approached by Vebar, they went ahead and gave us a demo, the demo they put five data loggers on five different vehicles and gave us a trial gateway to examine the data we were getting,” said Christopher Facente, automotive supervisor for the Facilities Management Department. “From that we’ve seen where we’ve had some issues, made some decisions just off those five data loggers and we decided we would do a pilot program with an additional 15 more data loggers.”

With Vebar’s system, they’re able to diagnose electric vehicles very similar to how they would with an internal combustion engine.

“If we were doing a diagnosis on an internal combustion engine, say we had a drivability problem, a trouble code would come on, check engine light,” said Facente. “We could read that trouble code and we have a lot of information that would help us with that trouble code like a data list which could determine a fault which we can even study while the vehicle is in operation. It will also save a freeze frame of when the code happened which allows us to study that data.”

“If we do this on an electric vehicle, we still get the code, but there’s no way of communicating with the controller, the  controller cannot give us a data list and so we end up having to run through a set of diagnostics out of the book, trying to figure it out,” said Facente. “Vebar’s system has got a data logger that constantly records, we go ahead and have a data list just like an ICE motor and so it helps us in diagnosis and repair of the electric vehicles.”

Facente said that the Vebar system had mainly been used for warehouse and forlift operations, but never for maintaining an electric fleet.

“UNCC has one of the largest electric fleets in the state, that’s why they’re excited to partner with us and test this technology out in a different manner,” said Facente

Facente also added that the system will alert them if they have a battery going down, even if it isn’t a part of their normal preventive maintenance. After showing an example of what a typical Vebar report looks like for a GEM on campus, Facente pointed out how the report was able to detect an unbalance in the source voltage.


“Without this system we would have never know we had this issue and this could kill one of those batteries no matter how new it is. So now we’re able to fix that, gives us a live look at the vehicle of operation and narrows the problem to a block of batteries,” said Facente. “A GEM has eight batteries, but it actually splits it into four and four, so we then know what side of the batteries has the issue, makes it a lot easier to diagnosis then having to check each individual battery.”

Facente also mentioned how over time, the system could potentially save them money.

“It’s hard to say the savings, the real savings will be when we can fix problems, when we can find problems like this that prematurely kill the batteries,” said Facente. “That’s where the real savings are going to come in at, we’re going to be able to find problems, one bad battery will kill a battery pack if you let it go long enough and so that’s going to be able to help us and Vebar, we’re going to be able to find that bad battery so we replace one battery and not a set of eight which can be up to 1500 to 2000 dollars.”

Chancellor Philip Dubois to receive CASE award for developing Campus Diversity Plan

Photo by Ben Coon
Photo by Ben Coon

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois will receive the 2014-15 Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award during the District III conference in Orlando, Fla.

The conference runs from Feb. 15 – Feb. 18.

The awards reception starts at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 17 and will be followed by a banquet at 6:30 p.m.

“On behalf of my administrative team, I’m honored to be recognized,” said Dubois.  “CASE is one of the country’s leading higher education organizations.”

Achieving the award was not a sole effort, as creating a diverse campus was achieved in thanks to a dedicated team.

“Our efforts have been led by the Council on University Community which developed our Campus Diversity Plan in 2008,” said Dubois.

According to the university’s website, the Council was appointed in 2006 by Dubois after he had stressed the importance of on-campus diversity in both his installation and convocation addresses.

“It is chaired by the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Joan Lorden and includes all of the vice chancellors and the athletic director,” said Dubois.  “They have done an outstanding job in moving us forward.”

Dubois lists several methods in which he along with his team were able to create a successfully diverse campus.

“Our approach has been broad, encompassing diversity in the recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and students as well as encouraging diverse perspectives to be included in the curriculum and in campus events,” said Dubois.  “We have also made major progress in ensuring that historically-underutilized businesses (HUB) owned by minorities and females receive an equitable share of our contracts for goods and services.”

Regardless of receiving the award, Dubois realizes there is still much left to be done.

“In the case of recruiting a diverse faculty and student body, there is always the question of whether an institution has attracted a ‘critical mass’ that makes prospective faculty and students believe that they will find a welcoming and inclusive environment on campus,” said Dubois.  “We still have more work to do, but we see increasing levels of success each year.”

Dubois says part of his motivation is to ensure that all students receive the same educational opportunities regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status.

“I think most higher education leaders see diversity as something we need to achieve, both for ensuring that our students receive the kind of education that will enable them to be successful in a multi-cultural world and for extending educational opportunity to as many citizens as we can,” said Dubois. “Compared to individuals who have not attended college,  degree recipients earn superior  annual and lifetime incomes, are healthier, less likely to have to rely upon social services, less likely to end up in trouble with the law, more likely to vote, and more likely to donate their time or money to charitable organizations.”

On the University’s website, it states that “Dubois and his team also have actively promoted inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses in the University’s construction work on new facilities and building renovations and as suppliers of University goods and services.”

Dubois said that the most crucial thing in regards to that was creating and funding a position for the now full-time HUB coordinator, Dorothy Vick, who is a part of the Facilities Management staff.

“Dorothy oversees our HUB program, stays in continuing contact with HUB vendors concerning emerging opportunities for construction and renovation contracts on campus, and ensures that general contractors effectively subcontract with HUB firms,” said Dubois. “Her work has produced two awards for the campus—North Carolina’s Good Faith Effort ‘HUB Advocate’ in 2012 and the 2013 North Carolina Good Faith Effort ‘Public Sector Owner.’”

His team’s work has also led to other achievements as well.

“We have the highest African-American participation in the UNC (University of North Carolina) system, exceeded by only two historically-black colleges, North Carolina Central University and Elizabeth City State University,” said Dubois. “We were also honored by the Charlotte Chamber’s Belk Innovation in Diversity Award in 2013.”

Dubois has received of several other awards including the Leo M. Lambert Engaged Leader Award 2014 and Charlotte Energy Leadership Award 2013.

“Some of these are individual and some are institutional but, as with most things in life, it takes a great team to get things done,” said Dubois.

UNC Charlotte professor wins national Jewish book award

Grymes with his award-winning book. Photo by Diedra Laird
Grymes with his award-winning book. Photo by Diedra Laird

In January 2015, UNC Charlotte Professor and Chair of the Music Department James Grymes won the 2014 National Jewish Book Award for his first commercialized novel, “Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust–Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour.”

“It’s an important book for me obviously, but it’s an important book for this campus because the book wouldn’t have happened had this campus not made a significant investment. It took a lot of money to bring the violins here and stage all these performances and exhibitions and workshops and lectures,” said Grymes.

The Presentation for the Awards will be held on March 11, 2015 at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.

While Grimes was excited to be a finalist, it never occurred to him that he would actually win the award.

“As proud as I am of “Violins of Hope,” I didn’t anticipate it being that well-received,” said Grymes. “It was completely unexpected and a wonderful surprise that I could not have anticipated to have my work recognized on the same scale of seminal works in literature that I’ve admired so much.”

“Violins of Hope” retraces the accounts of 18 violins all the way back to musicians in both concentration camps and ghettos.

“For them, playing the music that they loved when they were growing up, reminded them of a better time and gave them a sense of normalcy and restored a sense of humanity in Mankind’s darkest hour,” Grymes said.

The College of Arts and Architecture brought the 18 Violins of Hope to the UNC Charlotte campus in 2012.

“We had them on display, we had them during performances and that was the first and thus far the only time that the violins have been in the Western Hemisphere,” said Grymes. “I wasn’t a part of the team; it took about a three or four year process for the college to put the whole thing together, but as a member of this faculty and as a musician and as a historian and just as a human being, I was really fascinated by when I was here, what I was learning as the college was preparing to bring these instruments to Charlotte.”

A year before the instruments were brought over, Grymes took a trip out to Tel Aviv, Israel to meet Amnon Weinstein, a violin maker who assembled the collection for over the last 20 years.

“So the topic of the book is about violins played by Jewish musicians in concentrations camps and ghettos during the holocaust, but what’s holding it together is Amnon and his story and the way he uses the project to reconnect with the 400 family members he lost in the Holocaust who he never met and he never even knew their names and now through this project, it’s him reclaiming his lost heritage,” said Grymes.

Grymes describes the lengthy process that went into researching the book.

“It took about a year to research it and then a year to write it, basically 12 months nonstop, and that was just the nature of the contract,” said Grymes. “I wanted to take longer, but the contract, they wanted me to write it in nine months and I said no way, they said 12 months and that’s it. For 365 days, every day I came in and worked on the book, no holidays, no vacations, no breaks, I just had no choice but to crank.”

The lengthy process of research came with its own challenges for him.

“The stories were sort of all over the world and in different languages. I can handle German, French and Italian, but there were things in Norwegian, there were things in Hebrew, there were things in Yiddish, that I had to get translated and then track down a translator,” said Grymes. “It’s a bit of a challenge to do research in other languages because even before you have to get something translated, you have to find it and you have to figure out that this is important enough to get translated.”

While Grymes would like to write another novel, the possibilities seem less likely given his busy schedule.

“I wrote this book before I became the chairman of the department and when I started the process of writing it and getting an agent and, at that point I wasn’t a father so by the time I finished writing it, I was a father, a professor and a chair,” said Grymes. “I started out as a professor and it was just hard enough to be a professor and a writer, and now being a professor, a father and a chair, frankly I want to write another book, but right now at least, I simply don’t have the time or the day.”

SBTDC sees increase in student interest after move to PORTAL

The PORTAL building, new home to SBTDC.  Photo by Chris Crews
The PORTAL building, new home to SBTDC. Photo by Chris Crews

Originally located in the Ben Craig Center at the University Research Park, the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) recently relocated to UNC Charlotte’s Partnership, Outreach and Technology to Accelerate Learning (PORTAL) building on Jan. 4.

“One of the features of PORTAL was being able to pull together all the business and technology outreach components of the university under one roof, meaning Office of Technology Transfer, Ventureprise and ourselves,” said Regional Director of SBTDC George McAllister. “So we’re all in one location and able to work with area companies as well as students and faculty.”

Working within the PORTAL building, SBTDC hopes to become more involved with students.

“Since we’ve moved, we have definitely been able to work more with students as well as faculty members,” McAllister said. “Being on campus makes it a lot more convenient for us to interact with the students as well as faculty.”

McAllister finds himself pleasantly surprised by the large number of students interested in the services they offer.

“We have a lot of students out there that are interested in starting their own businesses and surprisingly, to us, there are quite a few students who are already in business,” McAllister said. “They have businesses in which we are able to work with because we provide businesses counseling services free of charge to students as well as faculty and the general public.”

These counselors are prepared to help businesses with needs such as marketing, funding, managing employees and international trade.

As regional director, some of McAllister’s responsibilities include being involved in business community activities, supporting the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, marketing SBTDC services and working with the clients they currently have.

“We reach out to the business community, making sure the local businesses are aware of everything that UNC Charlotte has to offer,” McAllister said.

SBTDC will also add a technology commercialization counselor to their staff early this year.

“This counselor will help companies that have new inventions or technologies they want to commercialize or start producing and selling,” McAllister said.

McAllister also mentioned how SBTDC helps students get involved with companies offering internships.

“The MBA school offers a course where students can work and conduct a consulting study for our clients. So these students are actually assigned companies in this region that have issues, and these student teams come up with recommendations on how these companies can resolve their issues,” McAllister said. “We’re trying to not only make the business community aware of what the university is doing, but also look at ways we can bring students whether undergrad or graduate into the business community.”

According to McAllister, students involved in the MBA internship have a chance of finding employment.

“In some cases, the students get hired, they’ll do the coursework and owners say ‘Wow, you’ve done a great job,’ and sometimes they get hired.”

On average, SBTDC sees a little over 1,000 clients a year.

“We have clients who we work with a couple times, maybe only three, four, five hours and then we have clients that are with us for five, 10, 15 years,” McAllister said.

Now operating from within the PORTAL building,  SBTDC will likely see an increase in numbers over the 2015 year.

For more information regarding SBTDC and their services, visit:

UNC Charlotte student takes a stab at the music industry


Shank for media interview
Khyran Shank (Photo Courtesy of MECAP Music)

Following the release of his mixtape, “Welcome to the  Intro,” Khyran Shank has  been working on new  projects and shows  for the past year.

“Throughout this year I’ve been to Atlanta doing showcase shows, I performed back  in my hometown of Indiana and then did  the talent show last year and got second place off of that,” Shank says.

His mixtape built him a fan base since its  release,  mostly  in the United Kingdom. There he came in contact with DJ Jack who he describes as being the DJ Khaled of the U.K.

“He wanted me to do a song on one of his tracks, it’s called ‘Lose Control’ and it’s actually on YouTube,” Shanks says. “It’s featuring me and a lot of other U.K artists so when they heard that, they got a hold of my sound cloud page and it’s been like that for a while.”

He says each song averages from 5,000 to 10,000 hits on Sound Cloud.

Shank was also contacted by songwriter and producer, Sid ‘Uncle Jamz’ Johnson, who’s now his manager.

“He actually co-wrote the song with Mariah Carey, ’We Belong Together,’ Shank says. “He’s managed Mariah Carey, Baby Face and Usher. He has some Grammy awards. He’s legit.”

Shank also released another project called “Random.” The song is a chronicle of three separate beats in which he freestyles to.

“It grabbed a lot of people’s attention as well from my Lyrical skill to a Sense of diversity to each beat I put on there because every beat that’s on there, is not the same,” Shank says.

On Sept. 23, Shank released his single, “Small Talk” on iTunes featuring UNC Charlotte student Nafisah Abdulkarim.

“This single, I feel like really tells my diversity and my style for hip hop, my flavor of hip hop, I mean I can get wild, I can get crazy, but I can still bring it back in to a nice little mellow type feel,” Shank says.

“Small Talk” is 99 cents and available on almost every digital media outlet including Google Play, Xbox Live and Spotify.

Shank says that there’s also a music video in the works. He plans to release it sometime in the fall.

“I’m really trying to get it school oriented, if not we were thinking about going to Atlanta to shoot it as well,” Shank says.

With his music, Shank avoids college trends in favor of something more authentic.

“I steer away from the traps of music, the whole get rich quick try to get a hit scheme,” Shanks says. “Most of those is just talking about violence and the demeaning of women, just some sort of cliché song that everybody rocks to for about a year, year and half, but then don’t know who the heck you are the next go around.”

He recently started his own campaign called #supportdarookie. He’s selling t-shirts with the logo, “SDR” on it.

Shank currently has projects planned out as far as Spring semester. “Expect a lot more from me this semester, there’s this fall and coming up in the spring, I have a ton of music, a ton of projects, just ready and lined up for everybody,” Shank says.


Into the Screen hops onto the canvas at Rowe’s Gallery

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Into the Screen: Still-Life and Moving Image is on display at the upper floor of Rowe’s Gallery between Oct. 2 and 29.

For his upcoming show, artist and part-time teacher, Andrew Leventis takes a screen still from a suspense or horror film and paints the image onto a canvas.

“In this series I’m going to be taking imagery from horror films and looking at moments in the narrative right before something happens to one of the central characters,” says Leventis. “So I’m taking inspiration from the movie ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Suspiria’ by Dario Argento, it’s not as well known, but it’s kind of a cult classic horror film.”

Leventis goes for a more retro style with some of his images by painting films that use Technicolor. “I got one that’s from ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ which is a horror film from the ’70s, so everything has this glowing Technicolor imagery,” Leventis says.

This past year as he worked on Into the screen, he found difficulties balancing it with his teaching schedule. “I’m really struggling to finish because teaching is new to me and so I’m struggling with balancing teaching and making work, trying to organize the classes and then the amount of time it takes teaching,” Leventis says.

Into the Screen’s date changed several times before settling on October. Leventis sees it as happy accident as it fits in with the theme of Halloween.

Despite his busy schedule, Leventis paints every day. A single painting can take anywhere from one to two months for him to complete. He hopes to have nine paintings finished by the deadline.

“I try to look at it like a full-time job if I can, so even I finish teaching I try to get in a little bit of painting in everyday, even if it’s just an hour or so,” Leventis says. “I can go like an eight hour to 12 hour stretch painting if I’m having a good day.”

Before Into the Screen, Leventis had been painting from historic dramas such as “The Tudors” and the original “Upstairs Downstairs” series.

“Well I’ve always looked at artists who have used mediated imagery in one way or another, like they haven’t just painted from direct observation,” Leventis says. “So the look of their paintings would be kind of distorted and grainy and dark a bit, and so doing it, those have always been influences for me for a while.”

Before attempting mediated imagery, Leventis attended an art school in London. There he toured museums, taking photos he’d planned to paint later.

“I tried to make them look like they weren’t taken from photographs and so I actually opened my laptop too and I would make paintings from the laptop screen because it looked more lifelike than a photograph,” Leventis says. “Eventually I was thinking why don’t I just try to emulate the look of the LCD screen or the kind of mediated imagery of the photograph that I’m using, instead of trying to cover it up and make it look more lifelike.”

During his time in art school, Leventis painted exclusively with oils which he continues to do today. “Like I said I went to this conceptually rigorous school and they were always trying to get us to use other media and try different techniques and I was kind of stubborn about it and always stuck with oil paintings,” Leventis says.

Leventis also has a solo Exhibit coming out in London in January 2015 which’ll include pieces from Into the Screen.

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“Still Life with Girl Embroidering” oil on linen painting by Andrew (photo courtesy of artist’s website)

Rowe’s Gallery receives Inheritance exhibit

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Photographer and University of Virginia Professor Pamela Pecchio displays her latest show, Inheritance, in Rowe’s upper gallery between Oct. 2 and 29.

Her interest in Photography spans back to 1994 when she was a student attending the University of Georgia. There she built a pinhole camera out of balsa wood under the teachings of her professor, Mary Ruth Moore.

Pecchio uses a large format camera with 4-by-3 sheet film. “I was trained as a darkroom printer, but now scan my negatives with a high end scanner and print them with an inkjet printer,” Pecchio says.

“Using the larger format like I do, the camera records more detail than I could capture with a nice DSLR,” Pecchio says. “The view camera also compresses space in an interesting way and sees more than the human eye does.”

Pecchio says by compressing space and recording details, photography is able to take something mundane and make it interesting.

“I love photographs that require long looking,” Pecchio says. “I love photographs that have a slow reveal and multiple layers; they may strike you at first as interesting, but the more time you spend with them, the more complexity you see.”

Pecchio has worked on her latest exhibition for over a year, but she’s been planning it since 2011.

“I’ve been thinking about it for years, since arriving at the University of Virginia in 2008,” Pecchio says. “I was struck by the reverence here for Thomas Jefferson (who founded UVA) and began to respond to it.”

Several of her still-life images in Inheritance feature various depictions of Jefferson, including a cracked bust.

“Some take a very long time to make, for example the wall of ivy with the sculpture head in the center is all ivy that I scanned, printed and cut before installing it,” Pecchio says. “I thought it would take a few weeks, but it took a couple of months to cut all the ivy.”

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One of Pecchio’s pieces feature in “Inheritance” (photo courtesy of artist’s website)

Most of the images featured in Inheritance were created in her studio. The farthest she’d ever taken a photo away from her studio was at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore Md. She photographed George Washington’s teeth.




Les Racquet, more music at the Evening Muse

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Les Racquet (Photo courtesy of band’s official Facebook page)

Les Racquet bring their schizophrenic blend of jazz, rock and roots to the Evening Muse on Sept. 26.

For 34 months, Les Racquet has been on the road, touring almost nonstop. “We started out in October of 2011 and have since then been living out of a minivan touring throughout the country,” said Bass player Kenneth Murphy.

In that time, they’ve released their album “Wail Hail” on Feb.18 2013, which had been successfully funded through KickStarter.

While non-stop touring may seem exhausting, Drummer Daniel Malone explains that’s it’s quite the opposite.

“It gets less and less exhausting, actually more realistically your body stops letting you know how exhausted you are because it’s kind of like survival mode,” Malone says. “It will happen to me where we’ll have three or four days off and on that third is when its finally catching up and finally  I’m like ‘ wow, I’m really really tired.’ When you’re in it, you don’t feel tired.”

“After you been doing it for a while, you just start to get better at your job, so it starts to be less taxing even though it’s still a grind that you drove eight hours to get there,” says guitarist Patrick Carroll.

When discussing their live shows, Carroll joked that it’s a great place to meet women.

“People who see us tend to be more sexually charged than when they got there, and Patrick’s kind of right, if you come to a Les Racquet show and you flirt with a girl, you’re going to get her,” Murphy says.

For their upcoming show at the Evening Muse, you can also expect to hear new songs being work shopped for their next album.

“We just spent the better part of a month, writing new stuff and creating new demos and when we get back on tour and you see us at the Evening Muse coming up, we’ll be playing a lot of new material for you,” Carroll says.

“We’ll workshop it as we go in and tour it, this fall we’ll be performing it live in front of different crowds,” Murphy says. “The songs will evolve based on how we see people react and what certain section needs this changed or developed based on how we perform them live with an audience.”

Now that they’ve become more familiar with their music and their craft, Malone says fans can expect songs that are more articulate and deliberate.

According to Murphy each show tends to be unique as they change up the formula based on the crowd and space of the venue.

“We build a set and show as a full experience where we will change methods every night based on the crowd and environment,” Murphy says. “If it’s a living room setting or if it’s a house party or whatnot then we feed off the energy of the crowd on that particular night and use our knowledge of musicality and pop sensibility to keep things catchy or keep things interesting.”