Elizabeth Bartholf

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Studies go high-tech in new library entrance

The new student work stations that will be located on the ground floor of Atkin's Library. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lansford

The J. Murrey Atkins Library in Spring 2012 unveiled the new North Entrance to provide students with a much easier route to the building and also as a technological step forward for college study habits.

The new renovations are part of a two-phase plan to build more student study spaces and integrate technology with collaborative work. Stanley Wilder, university librarian, says the renovations of phase one by the North Entrance are a demonstration of renovation ideas for phase two.

“It’s a new entrance to a new kind of space—one that supports the collaborative work that [students] do,” said Wilder.

Walk through the North Entrance and immediately there is a conference room equipped with a flat screen monitor for displaying presentations and videoconferencing.

Wilder says the conference room was designed specifically for students to practice presentations and work on group projects – including glass walls students can use for brainstorming ideas. Students can connect laptops through ports in the conference table to view projects on the screen. The nearby work area allows them to collaborate with two inTouch Interactive Tables from T1Visions, a company that specializes in interactive touch screen surfaces.

Each table has a built-in touch screen that can be spilt into four screens, allowing up to four groups or individuals to work at the same time on different tasks. The tables are connected to the library network for Internet browsing and use of library databases.

Ports and power sources in the tables also allow students to connect laptops and USB devices to view files on the touch screens and on larger flat screen monitors by each table. The tables are designed to let users share and view files. Interactive games are included for short study breaks.

Prior to the renovations, library staff sought student input to design spaces students would find user friendly. Posters in the new spaces feature the student ideas used in building the study areas.

Unlike many group study rooms in the library the new spaces will be available exclusively for students without a reservation process. The space will not be reserved for classes, events or study sessions. Students can use the space any time they choose.

“It’s really important to [the library staff] that this space belongs to students all the time,” said Wilder.

The new entrance will also include a new circulation desk for checking in and out books. Laptops, inter-library loan books and course reserves, however, will continue to be circulated and returned at the circulation desk by the main entrance.

While the project was funded in part with state money, much of the funding for this addition came from donations from parents of current students.

According to Wilder the new entrance and study spaces cost around $675,000. As part of total expenses the interactive tables cost from $12,000 to $13,000 each.

“[The new study spaces] represent what a 21st century research library is becoming.  Over the past two years, we’ve worked hard to become the best and most relevant place for students to get their work done—no matter what their work preferences are,” said Shelly Theriault, library communications and marketing manager.

“From 24/5 availability to more usable, comfortable furniture and from increasing group study spaces to new technology we’re simply not the old, traditional view of a library.” In June phase two of the renovations will begin with tearing down the wall of white boards in Peet’s and expanding into the nearby office spaces. The offices will be relocated to the lower level of the library freeing what Wilder calls “prime space” to add to study spaces by the new entrance.

Phase two renovations will add 16,000 square feet to the newly renovated 14,000 square feet of study spaces. Construction for phase two is expected to last two to three months.

With the North Entrance and future additions, Wilder says he and library staff look to continue energizing the student community and investing in learning on campus.

“We hope to help build the culture of study here [at UNC Charlotte] and make student studying visible. Walking in from the coffee shop you almost have to trip over all the groups working [together] at white boards. It’s natural to see that and think, ‘It’s time to get to work,’” said Wilder.

 

J. Murrey Atkins Library. Photo by Haley Twist.

Atkins Library: Services, information, and interesting facts

  • The J. Murrey Atkins Library is open 24 hours Sunday through Thursday nights and 24/7 during exams.
  • Wireless service is available on every floor. Laptops are available to check out and there are over 200 computer
  • workstations throughout the library.
  • The Atkins Library has 10 floors, making it the tallest building on the UNC Charlotte campus.
  • Group study rooms are available for usage equipped with computers, tables, chairs and a white board.
  • The library houses Special Collections, and the oldest book it contains was published in 1471.
  • The library also houses a Peet’s Coffee and Tea to satisfy 49er caffeine cravings and munchies.
  • Books can be requested and held online at www.library.uncc.edu
  • Library phone #: 704-687-2030
  • Facebook: UNC Charlotte Atkins Library / Twitter: @atkinslibrary

 

 

UNC Charlotte professor works to vaccinate breast cancer

Scientist in the lab work on various research projects. MCT Campus

For 15 years, Dr. Pinku Mukherjee has worked developing a vaccine for patients with breast cancer. The vaccine works by targeting specific proteins in the cancerous tumors associated with breast cancer. The ultimate goal is to boost the patient’s immune system to destroy breast cancer cells using the body’s own defenses.

“I don’t see there is any other way to completely fight [cancer] other than programming your own body to fight it,” said Mukherjee.

Mukherjee, Irwin Belk Distinguished Scholar of Cancer Research and professor of cancer biology at UNC Charlotte, thinks the future of cancer treatments can be found in using vaccines that boost the patient’s own immune system to fight cancerous tumors, just like vaccines are used to prevent viruses.

“The only thing that has really revolutionized our health care over the years is vaccine. We have been able to eradicate many diseases because of good vaccines. In my mind, [vaccines] will be one of the biggest ways that we can [fight] cancer,” she said.

A recent clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic tested the effectiveness of the vaccine. About 40 breast cancer patients were given doses of the vaccine over several years. Patients had already fought primary tumors and were in the remission phase. The vaccine is designed to help patients in this stage to fight the recurrence of tumors.

Mukherjee hopes for further development and testing of the vaccine and says many patients from the trial have seen positive results.

“There were some promising results and promising immune responses. More work needs to be done and more patients need to be enrolled [in further trials]. [The vaccine] is still very much in the research phase,” she said.

Even during childhood Mukherjee knew she wanted to use her interest in science to help fight cancer, especially breast cancer.

“My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I saw how it affected my cousins who I went to school with. They completely blocked themselves off [from everyone] and would not play or laugh. It completely changed their lives. I wanted to do something about it if I ever got a chance,” she said.

Mukherjee found her opportunity at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she worked for 11 years with fellow researchers developing the vaccine for breast cancer.

Today she works on campus with her graduate and doctoral students improving the vaccine. Mukherjee anticipates further clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic and is using a similar approach to develop a vaccine for patients with pancreatic cancer.

After four years teaching and researching at UNC Charlotte, Mukherjee still hopes to sees a need for expanded cancer research at UNC Charlotte.

“I envision having a center for cancer research [with] faculty from various disciplines [including] environmental scientists, toxicologists, chemists, bioengineers and biologists. You need all these [disciplines] to come together to make something really big happen [in cancer research],” she said.

Campus Earth Day festival blossoms

UNC Charlotte organizations and other groups between the College of Education and College of Health and Human Services at a previous Earth Day celebration. Photo courtesy of Devin Hatley

Last year UNC Charlotte broke campus records, recycling over 2 million pounds of materials and diverting 39 percent of campus waste from landfills. As the university recycles another 2 million pounds this year, the campus community will celebrate and promote green initiatives at the upcoming Earth Day Festival.

UNC Charlotte’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling will host its 20th annual Earth Day Festival Wednesday, April 25, 2012, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) Plaza. The free event is open to the public and will include live music and games.

“We want students, faculty and staff to come and learn about [the environmental work of] local business and other groups on campus,” said Devin Hatley, environmental educator for the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling.

This year’s celebration will feature the work of various campus groups including UNC Charlotte’s Sustainability Office, Charlotte Green Initiative, Venture, Earth Club, Geography Club and Recreational Services.

As part of new recycling initiatives on campus UNC Charlotte engineering students will unveil two original interactive recycling bins. Two teams of seniors have designed and built recycling bins with game components for their senior projects.

One bin, which is designed for indoor use, starts a football themed game when you recycle a can in the bin. The second bin contains a solar component and launches game inspired by a the Price is Right inspired Plinko board. Both bins will available for use on campus starting this summer.

“We make a huge impact with over 30,000 people on this campus every day. How we go about our daily business makes a large impact [as we] recycle.”

Recently the Carolina Recycling Association named UNC Charlotte’s Recycling Department as the best among many colleges and universities in the Carolinas.

According to Hatley, “the award recognizes the program that best represents sustainable resource use through waste reduction, re-use and recycling on a college campus.”

Hatley looks forward to continued expansion of campus recycling programs and environmental education at UNC Charlotte.

“It’s important that we think about our use of natural resources and be conscious of how we live [and protect] the environment for future generations,” he said.

Vendors from the Charlotte community will also showcase their environmental products and services including Reedy Creek Nature Center, Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition, Charlotte Area Transit System and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. Toyota Prius and Nissan LEAF vehicles will be displayed.

College of Education nationally ranked

The U.S. News Media Group recently announced UNC Charlotte’s College of Education graduate programs rank among the top in the nation. In U.S. News’ list of best education schools for 2013 Charlotte is 84 out of 238 schools assessed, an increase from last year’s rank of 101.

U.S. News ranks schools according to several assessments, including surveys of graduate and education deans and superintendents across the country on their perceptions of the quality of education offered at graduate schools. Programs are rated on a scale of 1 to 5.

“The perception of UNC Charlotte is growing in stature nationwide. More people in positions of authority are aware of the very good work that is going on here,” said Mary Calhoun, dean of the College of Education.

Schools are also evaluated by acceptance rates, student-to-faculty ratios and the number of doctoral degrees granted.

Charlotte’s doctoral education programs include 91 full-time faculty and a 1.3:1 ratio of full-time doctoral students to full-time faculty.

“[UNC Charlotte’s College of Education] is not the top tier [in rankings] because we are new, but we are doing the kind of work that will increasingly have a positive impact on schools and communities. I really think our work [in doctoral education programs] is outstanding,” said Calhoun.

Calhoun says having new graduate programs that are still developing is also an advantage for the university.

“[Charlotte] programs are not tied to practices of the past. We can examine the needs of today and create programs that respond effectively to these needs without having to change traditional practice,” she said.

The College of Education offers four doctoral degrees in education: a Doctor of Education in educational leadership and Doctors of Philosophy degrees in counseling, special education and curriculum and instruction.

Sequoya Mungo, former education graduate student, knows firsthand about the opportunities in Charlotte’s growing doctoral programs. Mungo earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and now works as a teacher recruiter for UNC Charlotte, educating future undergraduate students about Charlotte’s education degrees.

“Moving up the rankings is a testament to [graduates’] education and they should be proud. It’s also something for them to share with their students so they might come to UNC Charlotte to become teachers too,” said Mungo.

Many other graduates from UNC Charlotte’s Ph.D. education programs teach as professors in colleges across the country including Temple University, Ohio State University, University of Kentucky, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Wilmington and Western Carolina University.

“For doctoral programs [in education] that are barely over ten years old to have this kind of quality and impact is exciting,” said Calhoun.

UNC Charlotte is the second highest producer of teachers in North Carolina, after East Carolina University.

“There are exciting opportunities for graduate study [at UNC Charlotte]. The rankings help communicate that this is a place worth looking at,” said Calhoun.

North Entrance of library brings new student workspace

The new student work stations that will be located on the ground floor of Atkin's Library. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Lansford

Picture the entrance through Peet’s Cafe at J. Murray Atkins Library. Now picture a more open, welcoming work space which furthers the changes made to the library with the new North Entrance. This is the vision that library staff see when they think of the completed renovations to the library.

The new renovations are part of a two-phase plan to build more student study spaces and integrate technology with collaborative work. Stanley Wilder, university librarian, says the renovations of phase one by the North Entrance are a demonstration of renovation ideas for phase two.

“It’s a new entrance to a new kind of space—one that supports the collaborative work that [students] do,” said Wilder.

Walk through the North Entrance and immediately there is a conference room equipped with a flat screen monitor for displaying presentations and videoconferencing.

Wilder says the conference room was designed specifically for students to practice presentations and work on group projects, including glass walls of the room students can easily write ideas on. Students can connect laptops through ports in the conference table to view projects on the screen and the nearby work area allows them to share work and collaborate with two inTouch Interactive Tables in the new space from T1Visions, a company that specializes in interactive touch screen surfaces.

Each table has a built-in touch screen that can be spilt into four screens, allowing up to four groups or individuals to work at the same time on different tasks. The tables are connected to the library network for Internet browsing and use of library databases.

Ports and power sources in the tables also allow students to connect laptops and USB devices to view files on the touch screens and on larger flat screen monitors by each table. The tables are designed to let users share and view files. Interactive games are included for short study breaks.

No matter what reason students come to work in the library, staff sought student input to design spaces students will want to use. Posters in the new spaces will feature the student ideas used in building the study areas.

Unlike many group study rooms in the library the new spaces will be available exclusively for students without a reservation process. The space will not be reserved for classes, events or study sessions. Students can use the space any time they choose.

“It’s really important to [the library staff] that this space belongs to students all the time,” said Wilder.

The new entrance will also include a new circulation desk for checking in and out books. Laptops, inter-library loan books and course reserves, however, will continue to be circulated and returned at the circulation desk by the main entrance.

While the project was funded in part with state money, much of the funding for this addition came from donations from parents of current students.

According to Wilder the new entrance and study spaces cost around $675,000. As part of total expenses the interactive tables cost from $12,000 to $13,000 apiece.

“[The new study spaces] represent what a 21st century research library is becoming.  Over the past two years, we’ve worked hard to become the best and most relevant place for students to get their work done—no matter what their work preferences are,” said Shelly Theriault, library communications and marketing manager.

“From 24/5 availability to more usable, comfortable furniture and from increasing group study spaces to new technology we’re simply not the old, traditional view of a library.”

This June phase two of the renovations will begin with tearing down the wall of white boards in Peet’s and expanding into the nearby office spaces. The offices will be relocated to the lower level of the library freeing what Wilder calls “prime space” to add to study spaces by the new entrance.

Phase two renovations will add 16,000 square feet to the newly renovated 14,000 square feet of study spaces. Construction for phase two is expected to last two to three months.

“We want to see it fully up and running this fall and will send intermittent progress updates during this time,” said Theriault.

With the North Entrance and future additions, Wilder says he and library staff look to continue energizing the student community and investing in learning on campus.

“We hope to help build the culture of study here [at UNC Charlotte] and make student studying visible. Walking in from the coffee shop you almost have to trip over all the groups working [together] at white boards. It’s natural to see that and think, ‘It’s time to get to work,’” said Wilder.

UNC Charlotte Relay For Life fights against cancer

Participants of a prevous year’s Relay For Life begin their trek around Belk Track and Field in support of cancer awareness. File Photo

According to the American Cancer Society over 577,000 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year. UNC Charlotte students, faculty and staff are coming together to change these numbers.

Through the American Cancer Society, the university will host its own Relay For Life fundraiser to support cancer research and outreach programs for promoting awareness and supporting cancer patients and their families.

UNC Charlotte’s Relay For Life will be a 12-hour event from Friday, April 13, 2012, at 6 p.m. until the next morning at 6 a.m. at the Belk Track and Field.

“Relay is about coming together as a community and taking steps forward to fight back,” said freshman Jessica Connors, co-chair of the committee for Relay For Life of UNC Charlotte.

This event is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Over 830 participants have registered online to begin fundraising for Charlotte’s Relay and to participate in the walk. Many of these participants are part of campus based teams, of which there are 72. So far UNC Charlotte has raised over $10,900 for Relay For Life.

“[Relay] is my personal way of fighting back. I want cancer to be an out-of-date word. I want there to be a cure,” said Connors.

As a new part of the event this year, two UNC Charlotte professors will speak about their findings in cancer research on campus.

Dr. Didier Dréau, assistant professor of biology, specializes in lung, breast and skin cancer research. In a project funded by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Dréau works to develop a model of late phase breast cancer to determine why the cancer cells move into the bone.

Dr. Pinku Mukherjee, Irwin Belk Distinguished Scholar of Cancer Research and former associate professor of immunology at the Mayo Clinic, researches pancreas and breast cancer, immunotherapy and tumor immunology.

“People [will have] a chance to hear about what’s really being done right now [with cancer research],” said Sean Langley, assistant director for Off Campus and Volunteer Outreach at the Dean of Students Office.

The event also includes a dinner meant to honor breast cancer survivors and their families.

“Everybody is rooting [the survivors] on. They feel the love and support [of participants] and share their joy in fighting back and beating cancer,” said Langley.

UNC Charlotte’s event will also feature live entertainment and activities throughout the night to continue raising funds for the American Cancer Society.

As participants honor cancer survivors, they also remember those who have lost their lives to cancer. In the luminaria ceremony luminaries are given in honor of people with cancer, those who have defeated the disease and those who have lost the battle against it. As luminaries are lit participants take a silent lap.

“[The luminaria ceremony] reminds you what Relay is really about. There are people losing their lives to cancer. Children losing parents and parents losing children. It reminds you why you want to work even harder for Relay,” said senior Shantel Adams, chair of UNC Charlotte’s Relay For Life Committee.

“Almost everyone knows someone who has lost someone to cancer or been diagnosed with cancer. Come out to Relay and help others fight back. Your support doesn’t go overlooked,” said Adams.

UNC Charlotte celebrates seventh annual International Women’s Day

Participants of the 2011 International Women’s Day pose together for a group shot. Photo courtesy of the UNC Charlotte Office of International Programs.

This week UNC Charlotte will join countries worldwide in celebrating the achievements and contributions of women in its seventh annual International Women’s Day.

The event is free and open to all UNC Charlotte students, faculty and staff and will be held Thursday, March 22, at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Union Multipurpose Room.

“I thought bringing International Women’s Day [to UNC Charlotte] would be a nice unification for women across all cultures on our campus because it’s designed to incorporate students, faculty and staff both from the U.S. and around the world,” said Denise Medeiros, Assistant Director at UNC Charlotte’s International Student/Scholar Office (ISSO).

Medeiros previously worked in Cornell University’s ISSO and helped start Cornell’s own celebration of International Women’s Day before founding celebrations at UNC Charlotte.

The celebration will include a reception with refreshments and recognition ceremony to honor U.S. and international female students, faculty and staff nominated by peers for supporting international and women’s initiatives and community service.

All nominees are recognized equally and there is currently no limit on the number of accepted nominations. This year 35 UNC Charlotte women will be recognized.

“We have lots of amazing women on our campus. To see new women recognized and to hear their stories is inspiring. I am proud to be able to provide the venue for this,” said Medeiros.

Previous years’ nominees include active students demonstrating leadership qualities, award-winning professors and dedicated staff members. One student collected funds to build a house for a family of 11 living under a bridge in her hometown in Brazil. The same year a faculty member was recognized for work establishing a hospital-based domestic violence response program. A custodian was recognized for welcoming all at UNC Charlotte equally.

International Women’s Day grew from the 1900s movement supporting women’s right to work, vote and hold public office. Today it is an official holiday in many countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia.

In Russia, men traditionally give flowers to the significant women in their lives and even women they pass on the street. In China, female government workers may get a half-day paid leave.

The United Nations recognizes International Women’s Day and has held several global conferences to coordinate support for women’s rights.

“[At Charlotte’s event] the emphasis is on reminding and educating about [women’s] history, taking a look the present and looking forward to the future,” said Medeiros.

The International Women’s Day Planning Committee, chaired by Medeiros, includes students, faculty and staff working to promote the event. The Multicultural Resource Center is the event’s co-sponsor.

The event also includes a performance by Women’s Glee, UNC Charlotte’s all female choir.

While attendees are primarily females, Medeiros says the event is open to everyone at UNC Charlotte.

“We hope men will feel welcome to come as well,” she said. Both men and women on campus have participated in past events.

“It’s not intended to be a divisive day. It’s a day to call attention to the plight of women,” said Medeiros.

Medeiros hopes to see another successful celebration this year and continued future growth. “We would like as many people as possible on our campus to enjoy [International Women’s Day].”

Gamers working to find cures for HIV and AIDS

A screen shot from the interactive game Fold It where gamers can work with proteins to find cures for diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bartholf

Everyone can contribute to science by playing online game Foldit and solving puzzles crucial to finding treatments for diseases. Many scientists believe Foldit players’ success marks the beginning of more important discoveries.

The gamers’ success started when they unlocked in three weeks what scientists searched a decade for, the structure of a protein that allows the HIV virus to spread and grow into AIDS. With this discovery scientists are a step closer to developing new drugs to fight HIV and AIDS.

Gamers use Foldit, a free multiplayer online game, to play with three-dimensional models of proteins and find their functional structures. Foldit brings everyone the opportunity to contribute to science by advancing knowledge of proteins needed to cure diseases.

“The idea behind Foldit is pretty awesome, pull together tons people who are not scientists to get involved in science and solve important problems. The results of such extreme coordination of many diverse human thinkers guided towards solving difficult scientific problems [are] very powerful and very exciting to take part in,” said researcher Dr. David La.

La works as a senior research fellow in the Baker Laboratory at the University of Washington, which produces Foldit and La designs new protein structures to directly tackle infectious diseases in humans with protein-based vaccines.

Dr. Dennis Livesay, Associate Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics at UNC Charlotte, also recognizes the importance of Foldit to connecting the general public to scientific research.

“One of my biggest complaints about science and scientists is that we’re kind of exclusive. We have to develop our own jargon to describe what we are doing and that comes across as impenetrable to someone who doesn’t have a [scientific] background. People are given very few opportunities to contribute to science,” said Livesay.

Foldit players, who are primarily not practicing scientists, can design new protein structures and explore existing protein models with the game’s interactive, user-friendly tools.

“I think people play Foldit because it makes it very easy and fun to fold proteins and design new proteins. And most importantly all the time devoted to playing Foldit would eventually help in discovering new cures to diseases,” said La.

Foldit players work on solving structures of proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease and cancers, as well as HIV and AIDS.

Think of a protein as a charm bracelet containing many charms that repel or attract one another. Due to these interactions, the charm bracelet folds into a three dimensional shape. Likewise, each protein folds into a specific shape according to how its parts interact. The unique shape of a protein determines its function.

According to Livesay, “The number of possible shapes [of proteins] is greater than the number of atoms in the universe. This is what makes [discovering] protein structures so difficult.”

As Foldit players solve protein structures, scientists can learn more about the function of given proteins and how to combat diseases they cause.

“Combining games with something useful [like examining proteins] is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Andriy Baunketner, Assistant Professor of Physics and Optical Science at UNC Charlotte.

“This is a step in the right direction to engage more people in the game [which] increases the likelihood that new structures of proteins will be solved. [The game] also attracts more attention to the problem of protein folding.”

La expects continued success from Foldit players.

“Foldit players hold much success in finding new solutions for solving structures of proteins, which is a difficult problem for even the most advanced computer algorithms,” said La. “Foldit players may not only predict structures of proteins well but also hold great promise in coming up with new and interesting algorithms for improving the current protein structure prediction methods.”

Livesay admits he was among the initial skeptics of Foldit until players’ discoveries were published in several scientific journals, including Nature, one of the most distinguished science sources.

“I’ve misjudged [Foldit] several times. When it first came out I thought it was kind of clever and cute and would be fun to play. I totally underappreciated what [Foldit players] were going to be able to do in the future and now they are solving really important scientific problems and energizing a huge base of participants,” said Livesay.

“I don’t think there is any limitation on what Foldit [players] can do.”

UNC Charlotte students and Shenzhen native speaks on Foxconn controversy

Applicants lining up at a recruiting booth in China with hopes of receiving a job at the Foxconn factory that works to make products by Apple, Samsung, Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Nintendo. MCT Campus

For the past fiscal quarter Apple Inc. announced record-breaking sales of over 37 million iPhones, 15 million iPads and 5 million Mac computers. With record highs in productivity, consumers continue questioning where their Apple products are coming from and how the people who make them are treated.

Foxconn Technology Group, Apple’s main Chinese supplier, employs over 1 million workers in factories worldwide and also manufactures products for Samsung, Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, International Business Machines (IBM), Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Nintendo.

Between March and May 2010 nine workers in Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen, China committed suicide. Labor rights groups reported that a total of 18 workers in Foxconn plants attempted or committed suicide in 2010.

UNC Charlotte student and former Shenzhen resident Zhong Ren does not want his native city to be associated with its many factories, especially recent negative publicity surrounding the Shenzhen Foxconn factory.

“I think Shenzhen is the most beautiful city in China because it doesn’t have many old things. All the buildings are brand new. It’s a modern city,” said Ren.

Ren was born in Jinan, China and lived there with his grandparents while his parents worked in Shenzhen. His father was an officer in Shenzhen’s military and now works as a police officer. Ren’s mother worked as an accountant.

Ren moved to Shenzhen when he was 3 years old and lived in the city for more than 20 years before coming to the U.S. in Aug. 2010.

Ren earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science at Shenzhen University and will graduate from UNC Charlotte May 2012, with a master’s degree in computer science.

“If you ask the young people [of China] about Shenzhen, I don’t think they know Shenzhen has many big factories nearby. They just consider Shenzhen to be like New York. It’s a big modern city with many bank and technology companies,” said Ren.

Ren had not heard of Foxconn and its large plant in Shenzhen. He said because the factories are located in the region of Shenzhen outside of the main city, he does not consider them to be part the Shenzhen he enjoyed growing up in.

“I also think the factories shouldn’t have a connection [with Shenzhen] because the company is responsible for conditions in its factories [not the city],” said Ren. “[News sources] make that title—that connection with Shenzhen—to attract your attention. What [we] know is from the news. I’m not really sure what is actually happening.”

Student organization hopes to shine in national Solar Decathalon

Two Solar Decathalon 2011 entries this past fall in Washington D.C. Photos courtesy of USGBC

Sustainable energy and the green movement are two trends sweeping across the world, changing the way people everywhere think. One new student group at UNC Charlotte looks to build up the university’s image by promoting green architecture.

“Buildings take up way too much energy and emit way too much carbon dioxide. We need to fix that, whether it’s with existing buildings or new buildings,” said architecture graduate student Allison Schaefer.

Schaefer is president of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Students, and organization which aims to connect students to the green building movement.

Schaefer anticipates USGBC members will primarily be students with architecture, engineering, construction management and business as a major seeking careers in sustainable building.

USGBC plans to expand current green initiatives on campus, including partnering with the Charlotte Green Initiative, which fosters sustainability on campus and allocates funds from a green student tuition fee.

Schaefer said one goal of USBGC Students is to bridge the gap and bring groups promoting a green campus together.

One major step will be joining the UNC Charlotte Solar Decathlon team, which will work for two years designing, building and testing original solar-powered houses.

“One of my hopes is that [USGBC officers and advisory board] get people who are interested in USGBC to be interested in the Solar Decathlon so we can help and get hands-on experience with green building,” said Schaefer.

UNC Charlotte has been selected to compete in the 2013 Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Twenty collegiate teams were selected from around the world.

UNC Charlotte will compete against schools including George Washington University, California Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Vienna University of Technology.

The teams will take their houses to Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California for judging in 10 contests, including architecture, market appeal, affordability, appliances and home entertainment.

“You don’t understand [a building] until you see it. You can look at pictures but it’s not the same as when you experience the space yourself,” said Schaefer.

In the appliances contest, houses are evaluated on the efficiency and effectiveness of appliances powered by solar energy. Refrigerators and freezers must maintain designated functional temperatures and dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers must complete full cycles.

2013 Solar Decathlon will learn valuable skills by building their own houses as well as assessing houses of their competitors.

As part of the home entertainment contest, teams host two dinner parties for other contestants and VIP guests, such as media and government employees. All meals must be prepared in the houses using the solar energy powered appliances.

Dinner parties are evaluated according to the quality of the meal provided and overall setting and atmosphere of the house.

With these contests ahead, the UNC Charlotte team begins tackling the first of many challenges on the path to the Solar Decathlon.

“[In architecture] you have a problem and there are [so many] different ways can you solve it. You have to pick the right one, or the better one, and go with it and stand behind it,” said Schaefer.

For more information about USGBC Students, email usgbcstudents@uncc.edu.

Rate of home schooled students at UNC Charlotte increasing

At UNC Charlotte, 238 homeschool students were admitted to join the ranks of the 49ers in fall 2011.

Freshman Cara DeCoste enjoyed working on schoolwork curled up on her couch at home. As a 7-year-old, junior Bethany Wescott woke up at 5 a.m. with her older sisters and studied. “We would get all our work done before our parents got up and jump back in bed when we were done,” she said.

DeCoste and Wescott were home-schooled from elementary school through high school and took college courses through dual enrollment at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) before coming to UNC Charlotte.

DeCoste seeks a major in electrical engineering and physics with a minor in mathematics.

For DeCoste, one of the highlights of home schooling was her flexible schedule. She frequently took history-related field trips with her family, including visits to Gettysburg, presidential and historical houses and museums.

Her two younger sisters, ages 13 and 17, also have been home-schooled since elementary school. DeCoste’s parents consider it a privilege to teach their children.

“North Carolina is one of the best states for home schooling. A lot of states have a lot more regulations. [Other states] want to know what curriculum you are using. They will send officers to your home to look at the work kids are doing,” said DeCoste.

DeCoste registered with the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education and took required yearly standardized tests upon completion of course material. As a N.C. home-schooler, DeCoste and her parents could choose her school curriculums. She enjoyed teaching herself from several curriculums and learning through family discussions about world and church history, literature, geography and economics.

“Home school is about self-directed learning. It’s about raising kids to love learning so that when they have the opportunity they will choose to learn themselves,” said DeCoste.

DeCoste also was involved in her church and met with other home-schoolers, both from church and her community, and learned from hired lab instructors and friends who were chemistry and biology professors.

“A lot of people have this stereotype of home-schoolers as shy and antisocial, which may be easy [to be] without church or support groups,” she said.

Wescott said she also made lasting friendships with people from her church who were home-schooled. Wescott’s parents decided to home-school their children to help them “grow and mature following a Godly example,” said Wescott. She has five siblings—two older sisters, two younger sisters and one younger brother.

Through home schooling, Wescott said she developed deep connections with her siblings and grew up in a close-knit family.

Wescott plays cello in a quartet with her older sisters and younger brother. They started their own music business, Wescottage Music, two years ago and play at weddings and holiday and church events.

“We had a school on wheels sometimes,” said Wescott. When one sibling had a music lesson, the whole family would come along and have school in their van.

Wescott considers herself very competitive and has enjoyed playing softball since she was 10-years-old. Wescott started on a recreational softball team and advanced to play travel softball and compete in many tournaments. In spring 2011, Wescott coached the middle school softball team at Covenant Day School, a private Christian school in Matthews, N.C.

“I loved working with the girls [on the team]. It was really eye opening to see that’s how I was when I first started [playing softball]. I had amazing coaches over the years and was able to apply what I was taught to coaching the team,” said Wescott.

While she coached, Wescott was a full-time student at CPCC. She began dual enrollment at CPCC in high school and enrolled full-time when she finished her senior year of high school a semester early.

Wescott came to UNC Charlotte with the college credits of a first semester sophomore and pursues a major in marketing and minors in music and communications.

DeCoste and Wescott commute to school from their homes in Charlotte. They said they miss teaching themselves at home but have adjusted well to life at the university. Both said taking classes at CPCC helped prepare them for the college environment.

 

International student Jingjing Zhao sees ‘big picture’ at UNC Charlotte

Jingjing Zhao enjoys the weather in the Bahamas summer of 2010. Photo courtesy of Jingjing Zhao.

Some newcomers to the U.S. seek American dreams of prosperity and new opportunity. One international student at UNC Charlotte dreams even bigger.

“I have personal international dreams. I want to travel around the world and have experiences firsthand—not just from a book or TV. I want to live with the local people and experience the life they are living,” said Jingjing Zhao.

Zhao, originally from China, moved to Charlotte three years ago. She went to high school in Charlotte and is now a sophomore majoring in mathematics and finance at UNC Charlotte.

“I always wanted to study abroad. It was my dream since I first opened my English textbook. I thought if I could go to an English-speaking country and learn English and study other subjects, [it] would be very fascinating,” she said.

At Myers Park High School in Charlotte, N.C., Zhao enjoyed working on projects for English class, including making posters and powerpoints and writing poems. Zhao said she was inspired by these creative projects and began to see the world in a different point of view.

“In China the homework is not like that at all—it’s always quizzes, papers and question after question,” said Zhao.

At UNC Charlotte, she’s found her place beyond the classroom. Zhao was vice president of the International Club her freshman year and now serves as president. She has worked managing the club’s budget and coordinating their trips to Washington, D.C., Orlando and New York City. Zhao became involved with the International Club when she went on a previous trip to Orlando.

“I fell in love with the international experience. I wanted to get involved and be part of the International Club—not just a member,” said Zhao.

In the International Student/Scholar Office, Zhao helps incoming and current international students navigate paperwork and the transition to Charlotte.

Zhao is secretary for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and will run for president next fall. She also serves as sophomore class president and a student in the Business Honors Program.

She has always wanted to go into business and may venture into international business. She competes with students from ivy league schools as she applies to study abroad this summer at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Zhao thinks of herself as a global citizen and dreams of traveling the world. She urges Charlotte students to get involved on campus, be open-minded to new experiences and travel whenever possible.

“You [students] need to open your eyes and see the whole world instead of just one district, one school, one class,” said Zhao.

Before coming to the U.S., Zhao said she didn’t “see the big picture” of the world and just focused on her life in China. “[Now] I see myself differently. If I never studied abroad, if I never came to the U.S. I wouldn’t think the way I do right now. I would be a totally different person. I feel like I would never go back to the ‘little Jingjing’ anymore, and I don’t want to.”

International students come together to socialize and work on English language

The International Student/Scholar Office (ISSO) sponsors International Coffee Hour for international students to get to know one another, as well as practice their English with American students.  The event began March 2004.

International Coffee Hour provides a relaxed environment for attendees to share ideas and refreshments and play board games together. Meetings are free and open to all UNC Charlotte students, faculty and staff.

“U.S. students should have more of a presence here,” said Adriel Ray, U.S. student and long-time International Coffee Hour attendee.

“I was interested in the international scene. I wanted to meet new people from other countries and talk about world views, politics and religion,” said Ray. He believes knowledge about the world is critical and urges all students to take advantage of this opportunity to make new friends and learn about new cultures.

At the last meeting, Jan. 29, 2012, 75 of the 82 attendees were International students. Only seven U.S. students attended.

UNC Charlotte students Sean Wilson from the U.S., Adriana Pisani from Venezuela and Jocsa Cortes from Colombia were new to International Coffee Hour. All three heard about International Coffee Hour from friends who had previously attended and were not familiar with the ISSO or other international programs.

Xianlin Hu, another newcomer to the meeting, came to practice English. Hu, a Ph.D. student studying computer science originally from China, has lived in the U.S. for four and a half years. She likes the diversity on campus and came to International Coffee Hour to meet American students and learn about their culture.

According to Carrie Berkman, the ISSO Program Assistant in charge of International Coffee Hour, many attendees are students in UNC Charlotte’s English Language Training Institute (ELTI). This program is specifically designed for international students to develop English speaking, reading, writing and listening skills. Berkman, an ELTI Instructor, said that many ELTI students come to International Coffee Hour to talk to American students and hear how they speak and express ideas in an informal setting.

During the Jan. 29 meeting, 37 of the 75 international attendees were ELTI students.

Unlike Berkman, attendee Tom Knight feels the current proportion of International students to American students attending International Coffee Hour is “overall pretty balanced.” He argues “International Coffee Hour is a coffee hour for international students.”

Knight is in charge of a nonprofit organization called Charlotte International Fellowship, which aims to help international students learn about both U.S. and international cultures. He has attended International Coffee meetings since they started in 2004.

Berkman has a different opinion. “Students may hear International Coffee Hour and think it’s only for international students, but everyone is welcome. We’re always looking to attract new people—new Americans, new undergraduate students, new graduate students. Within ELTI, [International Coffee Hour] sort of publicizes itself, so I think we will be starting to publicize more and more outside of the ELTI community,” said Berkman.

Ray suggested the ISSO advertise International Coffee Hour with flyers around campus where more students will see them, like in the Student Union. Currently, the only flyers advertising International Coffee Hour are located in the ISSO, where mainly international students see them.

Berkman looks forward to expanding International Coffee Hour and continuing to see new faces at meetings.

“I have been so pleased to see how much fun people have just sitting and talking and playing games. [There is] a really good energy in the room and a really good group of people who are always open to having a new person pull up a chair at the table.”

International Coffee Hour is held every first and third Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. in the faculty/staff dining room of Prospector. For more information, visit http://isso.uncc.edu/.

UNC Charlotte will not see marching band with addition of football

With the addition of football in 2013 UNC Charlotte will not have a marching band, but Chancellor Philip Dubios says it is in the plans for the future. MCT Campus

As the first football kickoff draws nearer, something is still missing. Players? Check! Hyped 49er fans? Check! Marching band? Maybe later.

“It was always our intention and still is our intention to have a marching band,” said Darin Spease, senior associate ahletic director for Business Affairs. Due to funding, however, UNC Charlotte will not have a marching band when football begins in Fall 2013.

Until UNC Charlotte has its own marching band, other bands, including local high school marching bands, will be invited to play during halftime shows.

Spease noted, “It’s part of the DNA of college football to have a marching band. [Marching bands] are part of why fans get to the game early—to watch them perform. They’re why fans stay in their seats—to watch them at halftime. Those are all things we want our fans to experience.

In initial talks about bringing football to UNC Charlotte, marching band was part of the discussion. In 2007, Chancellor Philip Dubois commissioned a group, including UNC Charlotte faculty, students, Charlotte community members and business owners, to assess the feasibility of adding a football program.

In their 2008 recommendation to the chancellor, the UNC Charlotte Football Feasibility Committee listed football expenses, including funds for a marching band.

The report states, “As a complement to football, the committee feels strongly that the addition of a marching band adds to school spirit and the recruitment of gifted student musicians to the university.”

Chancellor Dubois assessed the recommendations from the committee and after further research, presented a plan to the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees. As part of his statements, the chancellor said, “My proposal would defer the implementation of a marching band program for three or four years, perhaps fewer, depending upon what the budget will permit.”

The board unanimously endorsed the chancellor’s recommendations on the football program.

Spease recognized the importance of marching band to the entertainment and culture football games. “There’s an energy that a band brings, [without a band] there’s a void, something is missing.”

Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands, Dr. Laurence Marks, had no comment for this article.