Diane Gromelski

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Diane is the Copy Editor of the Niner Times and a junior English and political science major.

MAX promotes arts Uptown

Photo by Daniel Coston
Photo by Daniel Coston

UNC Charlotte College of Arts and Architecture has developed and launched the Mobile Arts and Community Experience (MAX), a transportable performance venue and community assembly space. MAX was unveiled to the public on April 10 on the Levine Avenue for the Arts, housing musical, acrobatic and theatrical performances throughout the weekend.

A number of other departments on campus including the urban design, geography and education programs as well as off-campus organizations have also been involved in creating MAX.

Boxman Studios, a Charlotte-based company that modifies used shipping containers for use as temporary and mobile real estate, partnered in the assembly and production of MAX.

The project was funded by the Knight Foundation, which provided a $350,000 grant in an effort to inform and engage the Charlotte community by promoting the arts, according to Susan Patterson, program director of the foundation’s Charlotte operation.

“Instead of a permanent building, this pop-up public space will go to where the people are and invite them to engage around the arts and community issues,” Patterson said. “Knight believes MAX has the potential to reach residents who don’t normally participate in community problem-solving, and we need all residents to help address our critical problems. We are also providing a stage for less-seen artists and artistic performances that will add vitality to our cultural sector.”

Charlotte’s art scene has historically been concentrated uptown and lacked variety, according to Carlos Cruz, assistant professor of voice and movement in the UNC Charlotte Department of Theatre. Cruz, who attended college and acted in Puerto Rico, developed the idea for MAX as a way to diversify and spread the arts in Charlotte, but also hopes it will serve as a model for other U.S. cities.

“There’s not much going on with arts in Charlotte, and what is out there is not totally representative of the talent in the community The whole idea of the traveling stage is to bring the arts to communities that don’t have art. They have been very popular in Europe and Latin America, but not so much in the United States,” Cruz said. Dean of the School of Arts and Architecture Ken Lambla said he agrees with Cruz that cities in the United States, particularly Charlotte, haven’t done enough to foster the arts at the community level.

Photo by Meg Whalen
Photo by Meg Whalen

“We tend to have a fairly narrow definition of what performing arts are because in Charlotte, they’re either delivered by a major arts organization or you have to drive 20 miles to them,” Lambla said. “What we believe is that the arts in your backyard may be just as good and may be more important to the solidarity and identity of the neighborhood.”

While MAX has only been used as a performance space since it was unveiled, the space will primarily be used as a community gathering place going forward as it was designed as not just a theatre, but also a classroom and design studio. There is not yet an established schedule of where MAX will be traveling, but Lambla said it will be used in local neighborhoods that have existing relationships with UNC Charlotte such as Reid Park.

“It (MAX) has a great active presence as a performance vehicle, but it is important to understand that 60-70 percent of its use will be for the academic engagement of neighborhoods in Charlotte,” Lambla said. “We did not design and make MAX, nor did the Knight Foundation fund MAX, to bring the university to neighborhoods. The concept is to use MAX as a vehicle to work with the community to bring from the community music, theatre, dance, architecture, urban design and community planning.”

MAX’s debut on the UNC Charlotte campus will occur April 21-24 as it hosts three free performances of “The Life of that Little Scoundrel Lazari.”

MetLife Foundation donates 100K to Women in Business program

The Belk College of Business announced on Jan. 26 that they are working with the MetLife Foundation to create a “Women in Business” leadership program.

The program will be designed and run by the Student Center for Professional Development (SCPD) in coordination with MetLife and is likely to begin in fall 2015.

MetLife has been partnering with the Belk College of Business since the company relocated their retail headquarters to Charlotte in 2013.

Jim Boylan, vice president of human resources for MetLife’s U.S. retail division, said the Belk College of Business presented several ideas for possible programming MetLife could sponsor, but the company opted to fund the creation of a leadership program for women because it is cohesive with MetLife’s values.

“We thought that (the Women in Business Leadership Program) was a great fit for us because MetLife has a strong commitment to diversity and to women leadership,” Boylan said. “While there has been a lot done in recent years to promote women in business and the workplace, there is still a lot more that can be done, so I think it is important for us to continue to be involved in the development of women business leaders of the future. I think this program will help address some issues and help female students with some of the skills that they need to be successful in a business world and really take leadership roles down the line.”

Director of SCPD Kristine Hopkins said the main goal of the program is to help students develop the non-technical skills they will need in the workforce that they would not normally learn in standard business classes. Few women are head honchos

“We do a lot of work with employers, and over   the years they have told us we have great candidates in terms of the technical side, so they know their accounting, marketing and management, but they’re lacking the soft skills they really need to be good in management and make them employable in the workforce,” Hopkins said. “Soft skills are things like good communication, problem-solving, working in teams, but also navigating culture at work when you’re new to that environment.”

Many details surrounding the program such as how many students it will include, how students will be admitted and what specific programming will look like have yet to be determined.

Hopkins said SPCD will spend the remainder of the spring semester as well as the summer planning the program.

Some of the confirmed benefits for students in the program are the opportunity to be mentored by and intern with business leaders in the Charlotte area, membership in a student organization for women and access to networking events with local businesses.

“What we envision is creating a tailored experience that will help undergraduate women prepare for careers in business and leadership roles, having some programs on various skill-building, gaps we see where we can have some training,” Boylan said “I think it’s about giving people a real-life example and advice on what it’s like to make the transition from being in the classroom to being in a conference room. With mentoring and bringing people to the school to talk about the workforce, we want to help give students the tools they need so they are successful when they walk in the employers’ door.”

According to a survey by Bloomberg Business, incoming freshmen males are twice as likely to major in a business-related field than freshmen females, leading to a male-dominated workforce.

Boylan said he wants the program to encourage mentorships with male and female business leaders of all ages in order to give students a well-rounded perspective of the industry.

“We definitely want to focus on mentorships with both women and men. I think we sometimes focus on programs that just say it’s about women, but we definitely want men involved in this because there are men as leaders in the community of business and we want them to translate and transpose to women in school some of their learning as well,” Boylan said. “We want to get women involved in all levels of business because I think when you’re a student you can look up to a leader as a role model, but I also think you want to know what it’s like to walk in the door.”

Mickelson named 2014 University Professor

When Roslyn Mickelson became a high school social studies teacher in 1970, she had no intention of ever becoming a college professor, but when she began to notice the ways in which the demographics changes in her community and in her students were affecting the dynamics of her classroom, she was inspired to attend graduate school and pursue a doctoral degree in the sociology of education.

“The social changes that southern California was undergoing demographically and politically in the 1970s really affected the community and school in which I taught,” Mickelson said. “The experience raised a number of questions for me, and I went to graduate school to get those questions answered.”

Mickelson received her Bachelor of Arts, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles and is now a professor of sociology with appointments in public policy and women and gender studies at UNC Charlotte.

She has published more than 100 book chapters and journal articles and has written two books about the sociology of education.

Thanks to her research accomplishments fueled by her passion for education, she was named the 2014 University Professor, an honor given to tenured professors who have demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service to the university and greater academic community.

“A University Professor is typically somebody, such as myself, whose work transcends the disciplinary boundaries of the programs they are associated with,” Mickelson said. “The person also has made contributions as a public intellectual. In other words, their work resonates with issues important to a larger society.”

UNC Charlotte faculty members nominate their colleagues to a committee made up of the university provost, four faculty members and the current University Professor. The committee then passes their recommendation on to Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, who, upon his approval, takes it to the Board of Trustees for the final decision.

Mickelson learned she had been named the 2014 University Professor in December through an email from Chair of the Sociology Department Stephanie Moller. Because the selection process is “conducted in a confidential manner” according to university policy, she had no previous knowledge that she was even nominated for the award.

“I’m so very grateful. I am also appreciative that my colleagues recognize the work that I’ve done, and my colleagues are not only the people at UNC Charlotte, but also people outside of the university in the larger society. In order to get support for this award, the committee seeks recommendations from people external to UNC Charlotte. They received some that were quite laudatory, so I am very moved and humbled by it,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson has been teaching at UNC Charlotte since 1985 when she joined the faculty as an assistant professor, and she says her favorite part of working at the university is the opportunity to work with a diverse group of students and supportive colleagues.

“We are very fortunate at UNC Charlotte to have a fabulous range of students from all age, ethnic and racial groups. We have people from all social class backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and that mix creates a wonderful intellectual atmosphere that resonates with my teaching style and energizes my classroom,” Mickelson said. “UNC Charlotte draws a lot of students that are first generation college students or graduate students, and they have a very good grounding in reality; they’re very hardworking and appreciative of the opportunities that UNC Charlotte gives them to learn about themselves, about the world, and to learn the intellectual and technical skills that will enable them to make a contribution to this world.”

Not only has Mickelson served UNC Charlotte over the past 30 years, but her work has also influenced decisions regarding educational policy on a national level. In 2007, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas cited Mickelson’s research on diversity and educational performance in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in his opinion on a case about school desegregation policy. Another national leader, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, invited Mickelson to present her research on the benefits of attending diverse schools to him and his cabinet in 2011.

“(Presenting for Duncan) was nerve-wracking for several reasons,” Mickelson said. “I was required to distill 10 years of research into 10 minutes. I had also prepared a PowerPoint, and there was a technology failure so it didn’t work. But because I was prepared and there was no PowerPoint, he stared into my eyes and I looked directly across the conference table at him as I presented my research.”

Mickelson has also promoted her research interests to students and other scholars by creating the Spivack Archive, a database of more than 500 articles about the relationship between social factors and education that includes abstracts she wrote herself.

“The reason I created this website is because there is a great deal of debate in this country about whether it matters if our schools are racially and socioeconomically segregated or not,” Mickelson said. “There was a time 50 years ago when people thought it mattered a great deal, morally and otherwise, but since then, racial desegregation has been pushed to the side by other concerns. It’s tragic that that has happened because the research shows with segregation, very few of the other reforms we are attempting are likely to be successful.”

Currently, Mickelson is working with professors from her department, Moller and Elizabeth Stearns, to research the demographics of students who major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the University of North Carolina system. She said her main objectives for the remainder of her career are to continue shaping the field of sociology through her teaching and research as well as to influence the way the public views public education.

“I would like the attacks on public education to cease; public education is the solution, not the problem,” Mickelson said. “There is a lot of public discourse that presents public schools and teachers as a problem that needs to be solved for our society to move forward. My goal is to change public discourse to embrace public education and educators and enhance public education’s capacity to provide equality of educational opportunities to our children. Doing that will help to build the kind of society I want my grandchildren to live in.”

Inaugural Albert Scholars named

Speaker with a Formula One race car. Photo courtesy of Henry Speaker
Speaker with a Formula One race car. Photo courtesy of Henry Speaker

Once a student in The William States Lee College of Engineering, and now the director of the largest global and civil engineering company in the nation, Craig Albert is giving back to his alma mater by funding a merit-based scholarship program for upcoming innovators in the field of engineering.

The program, titled the Albert Engineering Leadership Scholars Program, was developed to instill marketable leadership qualities in its participants.

“I’ve seen how important leadership is in accomplishing great things, and I believe the best leaders in our country have good technical backgrounds in addition to good leadership skills. I think engineers, because of their technical background, have the potential to be the best leaders, so I want to teach engineers about leadership so they can leverage more than their own personal capability,” Albert said, according to a statement released by The William States Lee College of Engineering.

The Albert Scholars Program was inspired by the Levine Scholars Program, which offers full tuition and board among other benefits to outstanding incoming students from any major. Because the Levine program offers a limited number of slots to engineering majors, those who are finalists for the Levine scholarship but do not receive the award are automatically entered into the applicant pool for the Albert scholarship.

To be eligible for the program, students must be incoming freshmen with majors in The William States Lee College of Engineering who are applying in the fall semester following graduation from high school. Applicants are evaluated based on their GPAs, standardized test scores, community service involvement and leadership potential. 

As the inaugural recipients of the program, Corin Brown of Boone, N.C. and Henry Speaker of Takoma Park, Md., will receive funds for tuition, housing, meals and books as well as a $6,000 stipend for study abroad and summer research experiences.

Brown and Speaker will also have the opportunity to participate in the freshman learning community for engineers and the Lee College for Engineering Leadership Academy, a leadership development program that includes several off-campus trips and the completion of a service project.

“A number of engineering leaders in business essentially get together with a few students who are in the academy to learn about what makes a leader really perform well in the field of engineering,” Speaker said. “It helps contextualize all of the leadership skills we already have; it’s not the same thing as what you would get from a book. You get a better understanding of what kind of leadership is really needed in the engineering field.”

Speaker has always known he wanted to pursue a career in a scientific or technological field, but it was not until he began racing go-karts in high school that he realized his passion for motorsports.

“The engineer in me wanted to figure out ‘How is this all working?’ so in my free time I watched videos, went online and worked in an auto-repair shop because I wanted to learn how cars worked,” Speaker said. “I was really enjoying the understanding that came with it. I can build a mental picture in my head of what’s going on, and it’s very intuitive now.”

Inspired by his interest in chemistry and material science, Speaker said he hopes to spend a portion of his $6,000 experience stipend on researching materials that would make cars lighter and faster. He will use the remaining amount on studying abroad in Europe, the home of Formula One racing.

Initially attracted to UNC Charlotte because of its motorsports program and proximity to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Speaker decided to attend the school as soon as he opened his award letter in March. After he completes the Albert Scholars Program, Speaker said he wants to pursue a career as a race engineer.

“The race engineer works with the driver, helping them manage the car as much as possible. There are a lot of adjustments that they can make on the car based on what computers and data tell them to figure out what is best to win the race,” Speaker said. “Before the race, you set up a strategy to decide when the pit stops will be. During a race, the driver has a limited amount of fuel, so you help them conserve it, you manage the break and tire temperatures and you help mitigate any problems with the car.”

Speaker considers himself to be different from most engineering majors due to his interest in exploring a wide variety of disciplines, a quality he says is supported by the diverse academic community at UNC Charlotte.

“I know a lot of engineering students don’t like to take writing classes or liberal studies courses, but I like being able to go to classes that range from very technical or scientific like organic chemistry to something like history, or writing or literature,” Speaker said. “Having a diversity of strong programs that I can access is really nice. Engineering is great, but I like to experience a lot of different things beyond engineering.”