Taylor Koziarz


UNC Charlotte’s focus on reducing housing insecurities

According to a survey published by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, 36% of students said that their housing was insecure and 9% of students reported being homeless. Universities across the nation have been implementing student emergency housing programs with hopes to aid students who are experiencing homelessness. Housing insecurities really undermine students’ abilities to do well in school and focus on class.


UNC Charlotte department of Student Assistance and Support Services (SASS), just implemented a Student Emergency Housing program in hopes to aid students who are experiencing short term housing crisis. These emergencies include a house/apartment fire or flooding, sleeping in a car or any place that is not a residence, sleeping on a friend’s couch, having to move out of your current residence with no place to live, temporarily staying with family or friends.


To help students that are experiencing these emergencies, SASS and Housing and Residence Life have partnered together. Larry Gourdine, director of SASS says  “Having the Student Emergency Housing Program at UNC Charlotte shows a commitment to be a part of addressing how housing insecurity is affecting our students. The University is dedicated to and invested in the long-term and short-term success of our students, and the SEHP is a way for us to remove barriers that could impact a student’s ability to be successful.” The SEHP will be in the residence hall Maple.


To be eligible for SEHP, you must show proof that you have exhausted all other options. The SEHP costs $35 a night. It is not intended to replace long term housing, and students are only eligible for 60 days.


Sid Williams is a sophomore on campus, and planned to move into Haven 49 this past fall. There was much delay in the construction, and the apartment didn’t open until months after the school year had begun. Sid was often forced to sleep from couch to couch waiting for Haven to finally open. Williams thinks that “The emergency housing program sounds like a fantastic idea, however the cost per night seems very high.” If a student were to stay in Maple for 60 days through the SEHP, the total cost would be $2100. Sid says “If a student were experiencing housing insecurities, they probably wouldn’t be able to pay the cost.”


Many other universities have seen success through their housing programs, and have seen a decrease in students experiencing the effects of housing insecurities. “My hope is that the SEHP reaches the most vulnerable of our student population that needs support during a critical time in their lives,” said Larry Gourdine, director of SASS.


For more information about emergency housing, check out  https://sass.uncc.edu/services/emergency-housing

TEDx comes to UNC Charlotte

On Friday, March 22, UNC Charlotte will host its first ever TEDx event. TEDx, which stands for technology, entertainment, and design, is a program comprised of self-organized events that bring people together to learn from lectures by local speakers and experts.

Twelve people are set to speak about topics including health, racial bias, suicide and leadership. TEDx UNCC will take place in the Cone Center. All speakers will give their own interpretation of the event’s theme: “The Power of You Makes it Possible.” Michael Maksymowski, the lead organizer of the event, saw this phrase on the UNC Charlotte website and was inspired by it.

Maksymowski wanted to bring TEDx to UNC Charlotte because he believes it gives students, faculty and community members a platform to share their ideas. Maksymowski spoke at a TEDx event in 2013.

“What makes a great TED Talk is not just a great idea but something to back it up, such as a lived experience,” he says. He is excited about what the speakers are bringing to the table and how the event is taking off.

Tracey Benson, an assistant professor of educational leadership, will speak about racial bias. Benson is passionate about understanding structural and systemic racism in the school system.

Leslie Dill, a health education specialist with the Center for Wellness Promotion, will share her experiences about educating students on sexual health and will talk about porn culture and sexual health.

Erica Lennon, assistant director for outreach in the Price Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, will address suicide. She wants to talk about “taboo” topics and start important conversations about mental health.

UNC Charlotte doctoral student in health services research, Keith Murphy, will discuss artificial intelligence. He researches how to use technology to improve the lives of patients.

Another one of the key speakers is Alexus Widemon, a senior at UNC Greensboro. Her TED talk focuses on how intergenerational effects of parental incarceration can be disempowering for those who have grown up with a parent in prison. She is going to speak on her own experiences and how she tapped into her power and potential despite her circumstances.

Widemon can’t wait for TEDx. She says “UNC Charlotte is hosting its first TED conference, which is a huge deal for the institution and surrounding community. The day will be full of listening, learning and connecting with the community. I am most excited to be in a room with an open-minded crowd and speakers who have amazing stories to tell. Most of all, I am excited to be able to take the stage and share my ideas with everyone.”

The event is limited to 100 tickets. You can also hear Widemon, among many other talented speakers, talk at livestream.uncc.edu.


UNC Charlotte professor hopes to start her own podcast

Donna Sacco is one of three UNC Charlotte professors taking part in the Queen City PodQuest competition sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate WFAE. According to WFAE, five podcasts will receive one-on-one mentorship and compete for a cash prize and a podcast series at the station.

Sacco is a professor in the Special Education Department of UNC Charlotte. She started teaching here two years ago and is teaching Introduction to Special Education, Methods for Diverse Learning and a special education math class.

Sacco has not always been a teacher; she started her career as a professional actor. She did voice-overs, commercials and a little film work. She was also in a 90s television show called “Homicide Life on the Street.” After having two kids, she went back to school for her Master’s degree and later got her Ph.D. from George Mason University.

Her interest in education began after she started substitute teaching for special education classes. As a way to connect her passion for helping those with disabilities and her thespian talents, Sacco started a theater program in a psychiatric facility. When she observed the impact she made, she grew even more passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and teens with disabilities.

Sacco is a faculty advisor for two clubs on campus: Best Buddies and the Student Council for Exceptional Children. Best Buddies is a college organization for students to pair up with a child with disabilities. Best Buddies is participating in a walk on April 6 as a way to connect, dance and laugh with those who have intellectual or developmental issues. Professor Sacco has been involved with this organization for over 10 years and is excited about what the club is doing.

Sacco has always had a heart for the parents of kids with intellectual or developmental issues as well. She says, “Often parents are not expecting to be put into that situation and do not know how to take care of a child with special needs.” Professor Sacco remembers when she was a parent; there were often situations when she had no idea what to do.

This is what gave her the idea for her podcast. Her hopes for her podcast are to connect families and to help them with questions they might have. Each episode centers around a theme related to special education. There are two guests: a parent to share a personal story and an expert to share solutions and strategies for managing the issue at hand. For example, one week the podcast might feature a parent whose child has ADHD accompanied by an expert from the National Center on Learning Disabilities.

Sacco hopes to title the podcast “Our Exceptional Children.” The first round of the competition runs until Feb. 20 and NPR will release the top five at a later date.


Niner nation takes on Gold Rush 5K

On Feb. 2, UNC Charlotte University Recreation hosted the 17th annual Gold Rush 5K Run/Walk. Almost 400 students, faculty and people in the Charlotte community gathered and participated in this event.

The race had participants of all ages. The race results/award groups were broken up into groups by gender and also student, faculty and community members. Of the 400 runners, 146 of them were UNC Charlotte students.

Some of these students participating were members of the 49er Running Club. The 49er Running Club provides an opportunity for all who are interested in running with a friendly and fun organization, whether it be to get into better physical shape, to relieve stress or to compete. David Conlin, a member of the running club, placed first in the male student age group. He had a time of 20:30. David says, “Being a part of the UNC Charlotte running club has been a tremendous experience, it’s a great feeling having such a connected group of people to run with after class.” David, who is an experienced runner, said the running club definitely helped him prepare and perform so well in the race. He is hoping for more competition to come out next year.

If you are interested in joining the running club, you can check them out on Niner Engage. Practices are held Monday through Friday at 5:30 p.m. They are located at the Hauser Alumni Pavilion near the corner of Phillips Road and Cameron Boulevard.

The Gold Rush 5k brought the community together and was a fun way for students to spend their Saturday morning. Ally Doyle, a freshman at UNCC, said she was glad she participated in this event because she “had a fun time running with my friends for part of the race.” Her friend Andy Surla said, “I ran cross country in high school and love to compete. The 5k gave me an opportunity to do that. I will definitely be participating again next year.”

The Gold Rush 5k is a part of a race series called Healthy UCity. The Healthy UCity Race Series was designed to encourage health and wellness by providing opportunities for physical activity for all ages and fitness levels. They feature events from a one mile fun-run to a marathon. If you missed out on the Gold Rush 5k, they have many events coming up in the University Area. The next one is the Craft Beer Half Marathon on March 30, 2019. If interested, check out: https://www.healthyucity.org/.

Professor from Penn State speaks to UNC Charlotte students on justice and immigration

On Jan. 24, a professor from the Penn State University Department of Philosophy delivered a lecture on migration and memory, titled “Memento Vivere.” Memento vivere can be translated to “live in the moment.” In her speech, Ortega touched on issues of immigration and justice for undocumented immigrants.

The introduction was provided by Andrea Pitts, a UNC Charlotte assistant professor of philosophy who has known Ortega for ten years. Ortega is a mentor for Pitts and was one of the first Central American professors Pitts ever had.

“Mariana Ortega’s work is timely work that pushes boundaries,” Pitts said. “I have learned from her detail and I am inspired by her passion.” Pitts now teaches her own students about Ortega’s work.

Among the many students attending the event was Ana Valdez Curiel, president of We Come in Peace. We Come in Peace is a student organization that exists to support and advocate on behalf of undocumented people and immigrants in the UNC Charlotte and Charlotte community. Their mission is to educate about the misconceptions of immigrants and those that are undocumented by providing real-life accounts, public forums and various workshops on these issues. Ortega’s lecture resonated with the mission of the group.

We Come in Peace President Ana Valdez Curiel

To illustrate her lecture, Ortega used the work of Verónica Cárdenas, an artist from the bordertown of McAllen, Texas. Ortega showcased her series “Traveling Soles,” photographs about detained undocumented immigrants, including many Central American children. These images of shoes that undocumented immigrants left behind on their journey across the U.S. Border are displayed on the first floor of the Atkins Library. “These photos represent justice for the missing and for those crossing,” Ortega said. She encourages the audience to imagine the particular life that wore those shoes. These photos will be on display until Feb. 25.

Ortega is from Nicaragua and remembers her own challenges of immigrating into the United States. “I cannot imagine what these people and children went through and are still going through,” she said.

Ortega first grew interested in justice for the undocumented when she was teaching English as a second language in Los Angeles. She often taught undocumented immigrants who shared with her “the horrors of crossing the border.” She wanted to connect her work to this issue and continues to use her academic skill to bring light to these issues.

Memento Vivere is now part of Ortega’s book project. She hopes to use this project to honor the immigrants who are both invisible as people and hypervisible as criminals.

Another UNC Charlotte Dance Marathon

Since 1991, the Miracle Dance Movement has raised money for Children’s Miracle Network. It all began with students from Indiana University who wanted to do something in memory of a fellow student who passed away from HIV/AIDS. Today, there are over 400 Dance Marathon groups working to raising money so miracles can happen for local kids. The movement is happening in universities all across the country. This year, ECU and UNC Wilmington are having their first marathon ever. On April 7, UNC Charlotte will host its own Dance Marathon. Students will be standing and dancing for 12-hours straight for the kids who can’t. All proceeds will go to the Levine Children’s Hospital, located in Uptown Charlotte.

This year marks UNC Charlotte’s sixth year of participation in the Dance Marathon. It started as a Levine Scholars project and has now branched out as a student organization for anyone to join. There are 15 members on the executive board and 35 committee members.

Nathan Silvestri, a junior, is an involved organizer of the event. He works with companies in his fundraising efforts for the event. He first got involved with the Dance Marathon his freshman year and now serves as fundraising chair. Fundraising is a key part in the success of Dance Marathon. Last year, UNC Charlotte raised over $100,000 with 300 participants.

Nathan has a personal connection to the cause; when he was younger, his sister was hospitalized. Now, he “likes giving back to something which helped his own family.” There are countless stories like Nathan’s from people who have been impacted by the Levine’s Children Hospital. Participating in this event is a way to be a part of someone’s miracle.

This year’s goal is to recruit 500 participants and raise $110,000. To reach that goal the Dance Marathon committee is asking students to raise $49 each before the event. There will be free food, games and kids from the Levine Children’s Hospital.

Students can already sign up for the 24-hour event. Ben Shackelford, a first-time participant, signed up because he saw the group tabling. “I believe it serves a good cause in a fun and exciting way,” he said. “I am most excited for the day of the event, meeting new people and seeing the kids who we are helping.”

The Dance Marathon is also hosting Miracle Week during the first week in February, with events such as Defy Gravity Night and a tailgate for a basketball game.

To sign up for the Dance Marathon, go to charlottedm.org, grab a group of friends and start a fundraiser to make an impact on a child’s life.

UNC Charlotte students create new app

On Nov. 5, Alec Stevanovski and Chris Human released Thrive, an app to connect and network with students on campus. Stevanovski and Human are juniors with plans of majoring in management. The app is free; no subscriptions are required and there are no advertisements. Thrive is an app made by UNC Charlotte students for UNC Charlotte students.

How is this app different than other social media?

Stevanovski, app developer, came up with the idea for Thrive two years ago. He was trying to sell Koozies, the foam sleeve that holds cups and cans, but didn’t know how to put a logo on them. He reached out to his friends on Facebook but couldn’t find anyone to help. He knew there were a lot of people at UNC Charlotte who could help him, but he didn’t know how to get in touch with them. Stevanovski realized that social media only connects you with people you are already friends with. Thrive is different because it automatically connects you with everyone in the UNC Charlotte community. Human, app developer, says his favorite part of the app is “there is no need to add friends, just other students helping out other students.”

What does the app do?

Thrive can be utilized to ask for recommendations on classes and professors, safely buy and sell items such as textbook or furniture from other students, promote student organizations, seek academic help, or find a last-minute tutor or someone to sublease your apartment.

The app is simple and easy to use. It works similarly to Facebook; you post and people can like and comment. Stevanovski says his favorite part of the app is the different categories that organize the posts, including general, recommendations, job related, academic and housing.

Students have already posted about recommendations for restaurants in Charlotte, job inquiries and fundraiser promotions. The posts received comments on them from other students. You can also direct message a person if you want to get in touch with them about a post. Thrive is similar to the app Nextdoor; however, it is solely for college students.

You might have seen Human and Stevanovski outside Prospector last week giving out free Chick-fil-A to promote Thrive. Students lined up on the sidewalk to get some food and learn more about the app.

Thrive already has over 1,000 UNC Charlotte students connected. While the app is currently only available to Charlotte students, the developers’ dream is to take it to all universities. Whether you are looking for a roommate for next semester, selling a textbook, or promoting an event, Thrive provides a way to be heard. The app is the realization of the unaddressed demand for the untapped supply of knowledge and experience that fellow students can offer.

10 things to do before leaving for winter break

Thanksgiving is officially over and it is time to start getting festive. The holiday season is here and Charlotte has so many fun things to offer. Take a break from studying and make sure to check out some of these things before going home for winter break!

1. Uptown ice skating

Holiday on Ice is Charlotte’s outdoor ice rink right in the heart of Uptown. It is perfect for a romantic date or a night out with your friends. It is only $16, including skate rentals, for all day skating. Holiday on Ice is located right by the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is only a few minutes walk from the nearest light rail station. Nothing beats ice skating right in the middle of the city!

2. Drive the track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts a drive-through light show featuring more than 3.5 million lights over the remarkable 3.75-mile course for the holiday season. It is $25 to $30 per car, so grab a bunch of your friends and see the light display.

3. Order a Cookout eggnog milkshake

This Cookout holiday specialty is the quickest way to get in the holiday spirit. Try this yummy treat next time you’re at cookout.

4. Go see holiday lights at McAdenville

McAdenville is known as Christmas Town, USA. There is over 160 homes decorated festively and you can walk or drive through the light display. McAdenville is also completely free! Make sure you get there early; lots of people go and it closes at 11 p.m.

5. Carowinds Winterfest

All rides are open during Carowinds Winterfest, but also so much more. There is a light display, street performers and special holiday desserts. You can find tickets for as low as $26 if you purchase online. Go on Saturday when the park is open from 2-10 p.m. so you get a whole night of fun!

6. Gingerbread Lane

The Ballantyne Lane hosts a professional gingerbread competition during the month of December. You can view these amazing, intricate gingerbread designs completely free starting December 6th to the 26th. Maybe after visiting you will be inspired and you can make your own house with friends!

7. Fourth Ward Holiday Tour

Take a trip to Charlotte’s past by taking a self guided tour through some beautiful private homes in the Fourth Ward of Uptown Charlotte. There are houses that have been restored from the Victorian age as well as very modern homes.

8. Go visit Santa

This might seem a little cheesy, but Bass Pro Shops at Concord Mills Mall is offering free pictures with Santa. Take a trip to the mall, get some gift shopping done and get a free festive picture with friends.

9. Visit Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens not only have a beautiful light display and pretty scenery, but they also have live music daily, bonfires for S’mores, a model train display and Santa Claus. Admission is $12.95.

10. Host a gift exchange with friends

Winter Break is quickly approaching and people are going back home. Before everyone leaves, celebrate your favorite traditions with your friends from school! Whether it’s hosting a gift exchange or watching holiday movies, get together with everyone one last time before next semester!