David Brooks plugs the humanities

June 9, 2010

New York Times columnist David Brooks stood up today for the value of a humanities education, even during hard times when students are worried about whether it will help them get a job.

Studying humanities can improve your ability to read and write, he argues. “You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo.”

Studying humanities exposes you to the “language of emotion,” he says, which is important for taking a technically brilliant innovation to the masses via effective advertising and branding.

Perhaps most important, he argues that studying humanities helps you get in touch with “The Big Shaggy,” i.e. the beast within all of us that tempts us to misbehave (think sex scandals) or be overconfident or arrogant in the face of risk (think oil spill), while at the same time gives us the drive to excel (think Kobe Bryant).

Brooks writes, that “…over the centuries, there have been rare and strange people who possessed the skill of taking the upheavals of thought that emanate from The Big Shaggy and representing them in the form of story, music, myth, painting, liturgy, architecture, sculpture, landscape and speech. [They] developed languages that help us understand these yearnings and also educate and mold them.”

Click here to read the whole column.

Brooks was the Frey Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professor in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2008.


Wind Power, Rwanda Revisited and Facing the Past

March 25, 2010

 In this issue of our periodic e-news,  you can read about:

• Marine scientists Harvey Seim and Pete Peterson, who conducted research with the assistance of undergraduates, showing that North Carolina could derive 20 percent of its energy from wind power.

• Donna LeFebvre and 20 undergraduates, who traveled to Africa last summer to confront the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda They learned about hope from the survivors.

• Minrose Gwin, a prominent southern literature scholar, whose first novel explores the segregated south of the past. Her book has been compared favorably with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Click here to read online.


Carolina Arts and Sciences magazine online

February 25, 2010

PlayMakers Reaches Out, Football Fallout, Hotel Rwanda Revisited….  

These stories and more are available in the Spring 2010 issue of Carolina Arts and Sciences magazine. Our semi-annual publication is mailed to faculty, alumni and friends who have made a gift to the College, and is available to all online.


HOPE Garden: Where homeless and neighbors grow together

November 10, 2009

David Baron — a UNC-Chapel Hill undergrad studying biology, ecology and social entrepreneurship – understands the importance of fresh whole food for human and environmental health. But it bothers him that not everyone has access to locally raised fruits and vegetables.

So last year he founded HOPE Garden, combining community garden plots with a small-scale urban farm and job training program for homeless people.

The project, part of UNC’s Campus Y Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication (HOPE) project, will rent about 25 individual, 4×8-foot raised-bed plots to local residents for $100 annually. At the same time, the garden will provide transitional employment, skill-building, income and food for homeless people tending common space in nine adjacent 60-foot beds.

“We combined an urban farm with a community garden to bring the community in to help socialize the homeless and give them a support network,” Baron said. He explained that he and project volunteers would work with homeless individuals they know are ready for employment training.

The 5,000-plus square-foot garden is enclosed by deer fencing on publicly owned land at 2200 Homestead Road. Farmers have access to free public transportation via Chapel Hill Transit. The homeless gardeners will be able to sell produce at the local farmer’s markets and donate the rest of their harvest to a local homeless shelter and kitchen.

Baron received a $10,000 grant for the garden from philanthropist Kathryn Davis (Projects for Peace). He’s taking time off from his undergraduate studies this fall to develop the gardens with volunteers, including students from UNC and local public schools as well as homeless people. They have been working together to grow collards, kale, lettuce and turnip greens.

Saturday a group of volunteers showed up to plant mulberry trees and blueberry bushes, with guidance from expert garden installers and educators associated with Bountiful Backyards.

Last summer, Baron had an internship with Growing Power, run by urban farming guru and McArthur “Genius” Fellow Will Allen. Baron trained at Allen’s famous Milwaukee farm, helped run the project’s other farm in downtown Chicago and sold produce at local farmer’s markets there. Before that he apprenticed on a farm in Tanzania.

UNC’s APPLES Service Learning program is giving students academic credit for participating in HOPE Garden. Other partners are the Town of Chapel Hill, N.C. State University, Active Living by Design program , the NC Botanical Gardens, and several local nurseries and garden businesses.

Anyone interested in particpating in HOPE Garden can reach Baron at baronsdavid@gmail.com


UNC’s living laboratory in the Galapagos

October 14, 2009

UNC and partners at the University of San Francisco – Quito, Ecuador, are developing a living laboratory to prevent ecological damage in the fragile Galapagos Islands. Learn more.


Alum is new social-entrepreneur-in-residence

September 24, 2009

Micah C. Gilmer ’03, a Morehead-Cain Scholar and UNC College alumnus, is Carolina’s new social entrepreneur-in-residence.

Gilmer is now directing Project Innovation, an initiative to examine the courses, programs and services needed to support students interested in social innovation and entrepreneurship. He will create a development and funding plan as well.

He is teaching a new course in public policy called Implementing Change: Barriers and Opportunities n Policy, Government and the Nonprofit Sector.

“UNC has a tremendous history and culture of public service and engagement,” says Gilmer, who has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Duke.

Click here to learn more about Gilmer and social entrepreneurship across the UNC campus.


10 Tips for Taking a First Year Seminar

July 23, 2009

U.S. News & World Report has lauded UNC’s “imaginative” first-year seminars in a story on how college campuses are changing. At Carolina, some of the best teachers and scholars volunteer eagerly to teach small groups of first-year students for a full semester, using the opportunity to delve into complex issues across disciplines. And more than 60 percent of the newbie students get exposed to intellectually demanding work with a top professor in their first or second semester.

Steve Reznick, UNC professor of psychology and associate dean for first-year seminars and academic experiences, offered his best insider tips on how students can get the most out of such seminars in a US News Professors Guide Blog. These are brief excerpts:

!. Explore new territory. You may not get your top choice… so be strategic.

2. Play to your strengths. Pick a class that is built upon a type of activity that you enjoy.

3. Avoid your “major.” This is an opportunity to try something new.

4. Speak up. If speaking in class makes you uncomfortable, that’s all the more reason to do it.. find your college voice.

5. Add some spice to the stew. If your seminar doesn’t seem interesting, do something to make it more engaging.

6. Show up. In a class with only 15 to 25 students, your absence will be very noticeable… If you aren’t in class, you aren’t in the dialogue.

7. Experience courses are courses. Have fun, but don’t forget to get the job done.

8. Make friends. “Make” is an active verb. Start conversations, issue invitations and organize events.

9. Establish a relationship with your instructor. This can be helpful in many ways: picking future courses, getting academic advice, and ultimately obtaining a letter of recommendation.

10. Spread the words. You’ll learn more deeply about the focal topic by describing your seminar to others and by processing their questions and observations.

— UNC’s First Year Seminars Program is now in its 10th year.