Keenan Fredheim

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Student veterans speak at Veterans Health Conference

A panel of UNC Charlotte student veterans was one of many groups to speak at a conference in the Student Union Feb. 28. Other distinguished guest speakers included current North Carolina Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Prosser and UNC Charlotte Psychology Professor Richard Tedeschi. Topics ranged from research on post traumatic stress conducted by university professors to panel talks by representatives from the Student Veterans Association who discussed personal experiences adjusting to life outside the armed services.

The Student Veterans Association is an on-campus, student-led organization that provides a social support network for student veterans from all military branches. Members in the panel represented three branches of the armed forces and fielded questions from students, faculty and miscellaneous conference attendees. Faculty and staff discussed methods to better connect student veterans with essential, relatable social support on campus, such as veteran specific SOAR sessions and improved training on preventing the alienation of student veterans on campus.

Panel moderator and retired U.S. Army veteran Jerry Dahlberg spoke on the impact that veteran outreach in the campus has on welcoming service members home. Dahlberg, a UNC Charlotte College of Engineering graduate, now works in the College of Engineering helping veterans excel and plug-in upon entering the college environment. Dahlberg works with the Department of Veteran Student Services which provides specialized service for student veterans entering the UNC system. Dahlberg has been involved with helping veteran students enter the workforce in places like the Department of Defense and naval research and development careers. Dahlberg has been involved with staff training to help utilize student veterans to improve performance of not only the student veterans themselves, but the class as a whole.

“We’re putting these vets in positions of responsibility in the classrooms and using the skills we already have to get the job done every day,” Dahlberg said.

The panel of six student veterans, comprised of both officer and enlisted military personnel, each took questions addressing their own personal experiences and opinions on returning to civilian life. A popular topic at the panel was the discussion of the difference felt by student veterans between themselves and their peers on the topic of work ethic and mindsets involving coursework. The panel highlighted the critical importance of helping veterans, both returning to college after hiatus and the student veteran entering the college environment for the first time, feel connected and supported by a network of peers and mentors who both experienced and truly understand what veterans experience.

The Student Veterans Association continues to reach out and provide support for all service members on the UNC Charlotte campus.

Campus remains uninformed after sexual assault, trespassing

Student residents remain largely uninformed after a sexual assault and unrelated string of trespassings this past week. UNC Charlotte campus police have not distributed e-mail alerts to students after a sexual assault took place in Holshouser Hall.  This follows a flurry of questions from students regarding a lack of e-mail notification after a notice was distributed to South Village Resident advisors regarding a repeat dormitory trespasser earlier this January. Campus police advised South Village resident advisors to look out for Brandon Mangkhala after receiving multiple police calls regarding Mangkhala trespassing in the dorms.

30-year-old Mangkhala had four outstanding warrants and previous criminal charges that include carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct at the time resident advisors were informed. Despite resident advisors being notified by the University after multiple reports, South Village residents received no notifications from campus police.

Students like South Village resident Drew Covert have been finding out about recent incidents via word of mouth rather than from university officials.

“It’s really surprising not hearing about something as serious as the assault or someone scary sounding that you could just bump into in the halls,” Covert said.

Covert was referring to an allegation of sexual assault that was reported in South Village. Freshman (*name rescinded) was arrested and charged with second-degree rape last Saturday after leaving an off-campus party with another student. In the state of North Carolina, a second-degree rape charge, a Class C felony, is filed when a victim is mentally incapacitated, disabled or unable to resist physically. A UNC Charlotte campus police affidavit obtained by the Charlotte Observer noted both the accused and the victim were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the assault. Students were not notified of the incident via campus alert.

“When I think of rape, I think of someone attacking girls in the dark on the street, but not where I’m supposed to be safe on campus,” said South Village resident Olivia Felk.

“It reminded me that rape happens everywhere. I think it’s ridiculous that the University hasn’t released a statement of some sort. To be fair, the University has put up posters in my dorm about consent and how no means no. The University shouldn’t be blamed for this, but there should have been a statement that tells the truth about the situation so that everyone isn’t running around coming up with false accounts of what happened.”

According to security guidelines published on the UNC Charlotte campus police website, crime alerts are only released “…in the event of a serious crime where the suspect has not been arrested and there is a belief that the campus community could be targeted…”

In regards to the trespassings earlier last January, UNC Charlotte Campus Police Chief Jeff Baker stated that as Mangkhala’s previous charges were misdemeanors and the trespassing offence was minor in nature, that the criteria for a campus alert were not met. Despite this, students continue to voice their concern over the lack of notification from the University and say there should be more campus awareness for incidents such as these.

UNC Charlotte to receive $225,000 grant in national research study

Four UNC Charlotte departments and 20 academic advisors will be participating in a $225 thousand national research program this semester, says Dr. John Smail, Dean of University College.

The program aims to connect college advisors with students who may be struggling academically. UNC Charlotte is participating in the study alongside two other colleges in the U.S. The grant, called Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS), provides the funding for “predictive analytics tools” that flag students who are labeled potentially at risk and follow their progress through their courses.

UNC Charlotte academic advisors hope with these tools, they will be better able to highlight students who are, or may be at academic risk. With predictive analytics, college advisors can better monitor and assist students with encouragement and strategy to improve academic performance.

“Advisors are in contact with students every two weeks or so, initially with positive messages and suggesting success strategies. If students show signs of risk, then the messages progressively become more insistent,” Smail said.

2,600 UNC Charlotte students are to be a part of the IPASS study involving the Belk College of Business, Computing and Informatics, Liberal Arts & Sciences and University College. Randomized controlled trials are to be conducted which compare flagged student groups that are only engaged by analytic tools and automated, infrequent advising messages against groups of flagged students that are exposed to persistent, unrelenting personal advising support. Researchers will compare the impact these analytic tools have when employed alone versus coupling the analytic tools with personalized and consistent support from college advisors.

Smail said UNC Charlotte attracted the IPASS grant award as a result of advising restructuring implemented in the fall 2015 semester. Funding for the IPASS grant is disbursed over three years and is provided by the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Gates Foundation. Research throughout the program’s duration is being done in conjunction with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University and another social research institution, the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC). The California State University system’s Fresno campus and Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania are the other two institutions participating in the study.

Students can expect research trials to begin in upcoming semesters.