Tag Archives: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shining a spotlight on African-American history

Mike Wiley in the rehearsal hall of the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art.

Mike Wiley’s latest play, “Leaving Eden,” will premiere in April at PlayMakers.

Mike Wiley’s Leaving Eden debuts at PlayMakers

Mike Wiley was a young actor in 1999 when he discovered a historic tale that inspired him to write his first play. It changed his life.

The play is about Henry “Box” Brown, who used an unlikely prop to escape a life of slavery in 1849. He climbed into a wooden crate in Richmond, Virginia, and shipped himself north to freedom. Brown arrived safely in Philadelphia and spent his remaining days as a free man.

“I gravitated to the character,” said Wiley, who had struggled to find his own path in life.

After writing One Noble Journey, Wiley took his one-man, one-prop drama on the road to educate and entertain audiences of all ages. He won support through the National Black Theatre Festival, then produced, marketed and performed the play to schools, libraries and small venues.

It was a hit. Wiley was encouraged to pursue an MFA in dramatic art at UNC-Chapel Hill; he graduated in 2004. He kept writing plays that spotlight challenging chapters of African-American history. Audiences clamored for his one-man portrayals of Jackie Robinson and Emmett Till and a musical about unsung heroes of the civil rights movement.

Wiley has served as a distinguished visiting professor at Carolina and Duke. He has presented his works in the United States and abroad. For these achievements and “contributions to humanity,” he received the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award on University Day last October.

Wiley has won acclaim for creative versatility, as he morphs on stage into roles spanning gender, race and age. He embodied 36 characters in his play about the killing of Till.

“[His] solo works …  feel like an evening spent among an intense community of people, united at times and divided at others by a common dilemma,” wrote local theater critic Byron Woods.

It took Wiley a while to find his calling. He grew up in the ’70s and ’80s with a hard-working single mother in Roanoke, Virginia. He was bused across town to recently desegregated public schools, where he didn’t always feel welcome.

He tried out for school plays and once got to portray Abraham Lincoln. “I loved being someone else,” he said.

In 1989, during the summer before the Berlin Wall came down, he was among 15 American teens invited to perform with 15 Russian counterparts in Moscow and Stalingrad.

“That was my first taste of what touring with a troupe of actors was like,” he said. “It was a beautiful moment.”

Wiley became the first in his family to get a four-year degree, from Catawba College in Salisbury. Afterward, he traveled with a Shakespeare company and a children’s theater, where he learned the business of touring.

Poster art for PlayMakers Repertory’s production of ‘Leaving Eden.’ World premiere of Leaving Eden by Mike Wiley, music and lyrics by Laurelyn Dossett. Directed by Vivienne Benesch.

Mike Wiley’s “Leaving Eden,” with music and lyrics by Laurelyn Dossett, will make its world premiere at PlayMakers Repertory Company.

His most stunning achievement came from a collaboration with his students at Duke and Carolina in 2010, who helped him research stories of the Freedom Riders in the summer of 1961, about civil rights activists helping to desegregate public buses in the South.

That inspired The Parchman Hour, the musical Wiley wrote, produced and directed with a student cast. His students performed at Carolina and across the South, including at the 50th Freedom Riders’ reunion in Mississippi. Wiley directed another production of the show at PlayMakers Repertory Company in 2011, drawing yet more acclaim.

His newest play, Leaving Eden (at PlayMakers April 4-22), is a timely but hopeful fable of a fictional Southern town facing immigration, racism, economic woes and the rise of a dangerous demagogue. He will also premiere an ensemble version of his one-man play, Blood Done Sign My Name, at Raleigh Little Theatre in May.

Wiley especially loves to present his plays to young people, through his company Mike Wiley Productions, based in Pittsboro. He tells them that acting allows them to escape by trying on other people’s lives. “We can be heroes.”


Learn more at www.mikewileyproductions.com.

The right chemistry

Looking over early designs for our Institute for Convergent Science with Ed Samulski (red shirt), one of our giants of chemistry. (photo by Theo Dingemans)

Looking over early designs for our Institute for Convergent Science with Ed Samulski (red shirt), one of our giants of chemistry. (photo by Theo Dingemans)

Chemistry was not my strong suit in my undergraduate years at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.  I got through Chemistry I and II all right, but Organic Chemistry was a reckoning that made me rethink my career. Thirty years later, as the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, I have gained a new appreciation for the stellar chemistry faculty we have at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They are not only researchers and inventors who are making groundbreaking contributions to the field, they are excellent teachers in the classroom and mentors to the students who will become the next generation of innovators. It’s no small feat to be recognized as one of the top-ranked departments in the nation, with a record number of National Academy of Sciences members.

Carolina chemistry’s pathway to excellence started with a vision decades ago: Bring talented faculty here early in their careers, provide them with legendary mentors, a collaborative atmosphere and the resources they need to flourish, and they will go on to accomplish great things.

This led to a culture of collaboration that has made Carolina distinctly different, with chemists working alongside engineers, computer scientists, applied mathematicians and physicians to solve real-world problems to the benefit of the state, nation and world. This model has served as the catalyst for our new department of applied physical sciences and has informed the vision for our new Institute for Convergent Science.

It’s also a winning formula that we are working to apply to other disciplines. I do believe that collaboration and our common goal of being a university “of the public, for the public” is what sets Carolina apart from its peers.


Analyzing political accountability abroad

Katharine Aha (photo by Donn Young), seated at a table in the Graham Memorial Building lounge.

Katharine Aha (photo by Donn Young)

Druscilla French Fellowship helps Ph.D. candidate Katharine Aha advance her research on ethnic minority coalitions in East-Central Europe.

When Katharine Aha walked into a Carolina undergraduate class on “Politics in East-Central Europe,” she had little knowledge of the subject matter. But an inspirational professor brought the topic to life with memoirs, documentaries and a talk by a leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement.

That course shaped her future academic interests. Today, Aha is a UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral candidate in political science, and that same professor, Milada Vachudova, is chair of the curriculum in global studies and her dissertation adviser.

“A second class with Dr. Vachudova and a Burch Field Research Seminar in Vienna, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia made me know I wanted to continue researching this part of the world and pursue an academic career,” Aha added. “I’ve always been interested in minority rights and politics in the United States, and my work is expanding my interests to an international context.”

Aha studies the ability of ethnic minority political parties in East-Central Europe to join governing coalitions in nation-states as they transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. After the fall of communism in Slovakia and Romania, for example, sizable Hungarian minority populations chose to form political parties to represent their interests instead of joining a mainstream Romanian party. How do these parties interact with existing Romanian parties? Do minority party members benefit from such coalitions, and how does it affect the country’s transition to a democratic government?

Testing her theories required extensive work with data from these countries. Private support was critical, and a Druscilla French Graduate Student Fellowship enabled her to complete this work.

“Last summer I was able to compile voting and economic data sets for elections in Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania to understand how voters hold political parties accountable,” Aha said. “It’s crucial work that I could not have completed without this fellowship.”

Drucie French, who received a B.A. in English in 1971 and an M.A. in communication in 1978, both from Carolina, is a strong advocate for supporting graduate education. She went on to receive a Ph.D. in depth psychology and mythological studies from the Pacifica Graduate Institute.

“Universities are a three-legged stool: There are undergraduate students and faculty, but there are also graduate students who are an integral part of how a university works, particularly at a large public university like Carolina,” French said. “Graduate students are necessary to attract and maintain great faculty. They provide teaching assistance, and they are a critical part of the research process that makes us attractive for public and private grants.”

Returning to UNC was Aha’s first choice for her Ph.D. program, which is part of the Center for European Studies, one of only five in the nation to be designated as both a National Resource Center by the U.S. Department of Education and a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence by the European Union. She earned a master’s in diplomacy and international relations from Seton Hall University.

“UNC is one of the best universities to study European politics,” she said. “We have opportunities to work with scholars from all over the world.”

In addition to advancing her research, Aha has honed her teaching skills, teaching the very course that inspired her future studies.

“My goal is to help students look at issues through different lenses and be able to analyze and draw conclusions. I like the diversity at UNC. These differing perspectives make discussions richer and my interactions with students deeper.”

Dean Kevin Guskiewicz announced in February that 57 graduate students across the College of Arts & Sciences received fellowships funded by private support for the 2018-2019 year, including a new cohort of Druscilla French Graduate Fellows. Increasing support for graduate students has been a priority for Guskiewicz. The new awards include Thomas S. Kenan III Graduate Fellows, James Lampley Graduate Fellows (see alumni profile on Lampley on page 26), and Dean’s Graduate Fellows. The fellowships were funded thanks to new gifts to the College, plus funds from an existing unrestricted endowment. See a complete list of the new graduate fellowships.

By Dianne Gooch Shaw ’71




Respect your (book)shelf: New books by College faculty and alumni (fall 2017)

Once and For All  (Viking Books for Young Readers, June 2017) by Sarah Dessen (English ’93). The latest from young adult fiction writer Dessen focuses on wedding planner Louna, whose summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants, and maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.

Best Creative Nonfiction of the South, Volume II: North Carolina (Texas Review Press, October 2017), co-edited by Michael Chitwood, faculty member in creative writing, and Casey Clabough. This North Carolina volume contains essays that celebrate and document the Tar Heel state’s diverse cultures and geography, from the mountains to the sea. It features works by five UNC creative writing faculty members: Bland Simpson, Michael McFee, Stephanie Griest, Randall Kenan and Marianne Gingher. All of the writers included in the book come from diverse backgrounds, generations and artistic traditions.

Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race and Policy (University of Illinois Press, July 2017) by Kia Caldwell, associate professor of African, African American and diaspora studies. Brazil’s leadership role in the fight against HIV has brought its public health system widespread praise. But the nation still faces serious health challenges and inequities. Though home to the world’s second largest African-descendant population, Brazil failed to address many of its public health issues that disproportionately impact Afro-Brazilian women and men. Caldwell draws on 20 years of engagement with activists, issues and policy initiatives to document how the country’s feminist health movement and black women’s movement have fought for much-needed changes in women’s health.

The Land of Enterprise: A Business History of the United States (Simon & Schuster, April 2017) by Benjamin Waterhouse, associate professor of history. A new, gripping history of America —told through the executives, bankers, farmers and politicians who paved the way from colonial times to the present — reveals that this country was founded as much on the search for wealth and prosperity as the desire for freedom. The Land of Enterprise is not only a comprehensive look into our past achievements, but offers clues as to how to confront the challenges of today’s world: globalization, income inequality and technological change.

The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live and Die (Penguin Random House, May 2017) by Keith Payne, professor of psychology. The levels of inequality in the world today are on a scale that have not been seen in our lifetime, yet the disparity between rich and poor has ramifications that extend far beyond mere financial means. In The Broken Ladder, Payne examines how inequality divides us not just economically; it also has profound consequences for how we think, how we respond to stress, how our immune systems function, and even how we view moral concepts such as justice and fairness. Read more in The New York Times.

The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History (Harvard University Press, April 2017) by Cemil Aydin, professor of history. When President Barack Obama visited Cairo in 2009 to deliver an address to Muslims worldwide, he followed in the footsteps of countless politicians who have taken the existence of a unified global Muslim community for granted. But as Aydin explains in this provocative history, it is a misconception to think that the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims constitute a single religio-political entity. The Idea of the Muslim World searches for the intellectual origins of a mistaken notion and explains its enduring allure for non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

The Gauntlet (Balzer + Bray, May 2017) by Megan Shepherd (international studies ’04), New York Times bestselling author of the Madman’s Daughter Series. In this thrilling finale to the Cage series, Cora and her friends have escaped the Kindred station and landed at Armstrong — a supposed safe haven on a small moon — where they plan to regroup and figure out how to win the Gauntlet, the challenging competition to prove humanity’s intelligence and set them free. With the whole universe at stake, Cora will do whatever it takes, including pushing her body and mind to the breaking point, to escape Armstrong and run the Gauntlet — though it might destroy her in the process.

QL 4 (TouchPoint Press, May 2017) by James Garrison (English and history ’68). Private First Class Bell, a newly-minted U.S. Army MP, quickly discovers that there’s more than a war going on along QL 4, the main road from Saigon into the Mekong Delta. It is old-fashioned crime and corruption. He doesn’t want to get involved, just serve out his time and go home, but life for an American MP in Vietnam in 1970 doesn’t work that way. QL 4 is a story of intrigue, betrayal and crime among soldiers on the same side in an unpopular war.

Flame in the Mist (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, May 2017) by Renee Ahdieh (English and political science ’05). The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place — because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just 17, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort — but en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan who have been hired to kill her. Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. However, once within their ranks, she finds herself falling in love — a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

On Tokyo’s Edge: Gaijin Tales from Postwar Japan (Red Mountain Press, May 2017) by Gordon Ball (M.A. English ’76, Ph.D. English ’81). These 23 short stories reaffirm author Ball’s absorption with, and illumination of, “vanished” people, places and times. The book re-creates the texture of life among a rarefied group of relatively isolated foreigners in American–Occupied Japan and in the decade following Occupation. Peopling these interrelated short fictions are a great range of vivid characters, including schoolmates, lovers, military men, chemistry teachers, maids, a lustful preacher and a missionary of exemplary character.

Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital (UNC Press, November 2017) by Chris Myers Asch (M.A. history ’00, Ph.D. American history ‘05) and George Derek Musgrove. Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation’s capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America’s expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, the drug war and gentrification. But D.C. is more than just a seat of government, and authors Asch and Musgrove also highlight the city’s rich history of local activism.

New Voyages to Carolina: Reinterpreting North Carolina History (UNC Press, October 2017) by Larry E. Tise (Ph.D. American history ‘74) and Jeffrey J. Crow. New Voyages to Carolina offers a bold new approach for understanding and telling North Carolina’s history. Recognizing the need for such a fresh approach and reflecting a generation of recent scholarship, 18 distinguished authors have sculpted a broad, inclusive narrative of the state’s evolution over more than four centuries. The volume provides new lenses for reimagining the state’s past. Transcending traditional markers of wars and elections, the contributors map out a new chronology encompassing geological realities; the unappreciated presence of Indians, blacks and women; religious and cultural influences; and abiding preferences for industrial development within the limits of “progressive” politics.

Searching for Subversives: The Story of Italian Internment in Wartime America (UNC Press, November 2017) by Mary Elizabeth Basile Chopas (Ph.D. history ‘13). When the United States entered World War II, Italian nationals living in this country were declared enemy aliens and faced with legal restrictions. Several thousand aliens and a few U.S. citizens were arrested and underwent flawed hearings, and hundreds were interned. Shedding new light on an injustice often overshadowed by the mass confinement of Japanese Americans, Chopas traces how government and military leaders constructed wartime policies affecting Italian residents and demonstrates the lasting social and cultural effects of government policies on the Italian American community.

Claiming Turtle Mountain’s Constitution: The History, Legacy, and Future of a Tribal Nation’s Founding Documents (UNC Press, September 2017) by Keith Richotte Jr, an assistant professor of American studies. In this book, Richotte offers a critical examination of one tribal nation’s decision to adopt a constitution. By asking why the citizens of Turtle Mountain voted to adopt the document despite perceived flaws, he confronts assumptions about how tribal constitutions came to be, reexamines the status of tribal governments in the present and offers a fresh set of questions as we look to the future of governance in Native America and beyond.

Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle over Educational Equality (UNC Press, September 2017) by Pamela Grundy (M.A. history ’91, Ph.D. history ’97). At a time when race and inequality dominate national debates, the story of West Charlotte High School illuminates the possibilities and challenges of using racial and economic desegregation to foster educational equality. Drawing on nearly two decades of interviews with students, educators and alumni, Grundy uses the history of a community’s beloved school to tell a broader American story of education, community, democracy and race — all while raising questions about present-day strategies for school reform.

The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm (UNC Press, September 2017) by Jamie DeMent (B.A. history ’01). From fall’s “Sage- and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash” to “Pear and Bacon Salad,” to summer’s “Sugarcane Barbecue Chicken” and “Watermelon Mojitos,” DeMent’s cooking style highlights no-nonsense approaches using great ingredients combined with easy preparations for supercharged flavor. Accompanying the recipes are DeMent’s deliciously observant stories illuminating what life is really like on a working farm.

Lost Luggage (Poisoned Pen Press, October 2017) by Wendall Thomas (B.A. English ’81, M.A. English ’85). Cyd Redondo, a young, third-generation Brooklyn travel agent who specializes in senior citizens, has never ventured farther than New Jersey. Yet even Jersey proves risky when her Travel Agents’ Convention fling, Roger Claymore sneaks out of her Atlantic City hotel room at 3 a.m. Back in Brooklyn, when she reads about smugglers stopped at JFK with skinks in their socks or monkeys down their pants, she never imagines she will join their ranks. But days after the pet store owner next door to Redondo Travel is poisoned, she finds herself thrown heels-first into the bizarre and sinister world of international animal smuggling.

The Bright Hour (Simon & Schuster, June 2017) by the late Nina Riggs, former UNC creative writing instructor. Nina Riggs was just 37 years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer. Within a year Riggs, the mother of two sons ages 7 and 9, and married 16 years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal. How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty? Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Riggs’s breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins (Duke University Press, August 2017) by David Garcia, associate professor of music. In Listening for Africa, Garcia explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics and activists engaged with the idea of black music and dance’s African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. Garcia examines the work of figures ranging from Melville J. Herskovits to Dámaso Pérez Prado, and others who believed that linking black music and dance with Africa and nature would help realize modernity’s promises of freedom in the face of fascism and racism in Europe and the Americas, colonialism in Africa, and the nuclear threat at the start of the Cold War.

Reenu-You (Book Smugglers Publishing, March 2017) by Michele Tracy Berger, associate professor of women’s studies. New York City, August 1998. On a muggy summer day, five women wake up to discover purple scab-like lesions on their faces — a rash that pulses, oozes and spreads in spiral patterns. As more women show up with the symptoms, one clear correlation emerges: an all-natural, first-of-its-kind hair relaxer called Reenu-You. At the heart of the epidemic are these five original women; each from different walks of life. As the world crumbles around them, they will discover more about each other, about themselves, and draw strength to face the future together.

Deadly Justice: A Statistical Portrait of the Death Penalty (Oxford University Press, October 2017) by Frank Baumgartner, Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Marty Davidson, Kaneesha R. Johnson, Arvind Krishnamurthy and Colin P. Wilson. Deadly Justice, which Baumgartner wrote with four former UNC undergraduate students, is a comprehensive examination of the record established through 40 years of experience with the “new and improved” death penalty. The book’s empirical focus provides hard statistical evidence that not only has the modern system retained the vast majority of the issues that concerned the justices in Furman v. Georgia, but several new problems have arisen as well.

Brooklyn’s Renaissance: Commerce, Culture and Community in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (Palgrave Macmillan, June 2017) by Melissa Meriam Bullard, a UNC professor of Renaissance and Early Modern European history. The book shows how modern Brooklyn’s proud urban identity as an arts-friendly community originated in the mid-19th century.  Before and after the Civil War, Brooklyn’s elite, many engaged in Atlantic trade, established more than a dozen cultural societies, including the Philharmonic Society, Academy of Music, and Art Association. Bullard provides a cultural analysis of Brooklyn’s development in the context of the Renaissance in Europe.

The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government and Cheap Lives (The New Press, September 2017) by Bryant Simon (B.A. history ’83, Ph.D. history ’92), professor of history at Temple University. On the morning of Sept. 3, 1991, the day after Labor Day, the Imperial Food Products chicken plant factory that had never been inspected burst into flame. Twenty-five people — many of whom were black women with children, living on their own — perished that day behind the plant’s locked and bolted doors. After spending several years talking to local residents, state officials and survivors of the fire, award-winning historian Bryant Simon has written a vivid, potent, and disturbing social autopsy of the town of Hamlet, the chicken factory, and this time that shows how cheap labor, cheap government and cheap food came together in a way that was bound for tragedy. Read a Washington Post review.

Rocket Fantastic: Poems (Persea, September 2017) by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, assistant professor of creative writing and Walker Percy Fellow in Poetry. Rocket Fantastic reinvents the landscape and language of the body in interconnected poems that entwine a fabular past with an iridescent future by blurring, with disarming vulnerability, the real and the imaginary. Publishers Weekly writes: “These poems balance wildness and control in a fearless treatment of eros, identity, trauma and all that resists easy categorization.” The book has been called “a spellbinding reinvention of self, family and gender.”

Deborah and Her Sisters: How One Nineteenth-Century Melodrama and a Host of Celebrated Actresses Put Judaism on the World Stage (University of Pennsylvania Press, November 2017) by Jonathan M. Hess, Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor and chair, department of Germanic languages and literatures. Before Fiddler on the Roof, before The Jazz Singer, there was Deborah, a tear-jerking melodrama about a Jewish woman forsaken by her non-Jewish lover. Within a few years of its 1849 debut in Hamburg, the play was seen on stages across Germany and Austria, as well as throughout Europe, the British Empire, and North America. Hess offers the first comprehensive history of this transnational phenomenon, focusing on its unique ability to bring Jews and non-Jews together during a period of increasing antisemitism.

A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Home Ownership (Oxford University Press, October 2017) by Roberto Quercia, director of UNC’s Center for Community Capital (CCC), and former CCC researchers Kim Manturuk and Mark R. Lindblad. The book offers a rigorous analysis of the social impacts and non-financial effects of affordable homeownership. A Place Called Home argues that homeownership is not only important for financial reasons, but also functions as a social tool that can improve the lives of low- and moderate-income people. The authors observe that homeowners, when compared with renters, have: better health outcomes; experience less stress in times of financial hardship; experience a greater sense of trust in their neighbors; have access to more social capital resources; and are more likely to vote.

Read a Q&A with Dana Coen, director of UNC’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program, about the new book, Twenty-Five Short Plays: Selected Works from The University of North Carolina Long Story Shorts Festival, 2011-2015 (UNC Press).

New book celebrates UNC student playwrights

Dana Coen, director of UNC’s Writing for the Screen and Stage minor in the department of communication, brings extensive professional experience as a playwright and screenwriter to the classroom. Before arriving at Carolina in 2009, Coen spent over 35 years in New York and Hollywood. He wrote and directed numerous plays prior to serving as co-executive producer of the CBS series JAG for eight seasons.

Dana Coen, director of the Writing for the Screen and Stage program, says a new book featuring former students’ one-act plays gives readers “an opportunity to visit the minds of young creatives” at UNC

Dana Coen, director of the Writing for the Screen and Stage program, says a new book featuring former students’ one-act plays gives readers “an opportunity to visit the minds of young creatives” at UNC.


Recently he discussed the program and Twenty-Five Short Plays: Selected Works from The University of North Carolina Long Story Shorts Festival, 2011-2015, published by UNC Press in September.

Q: What is The Long Story Shorts One-Act Festival, and what inspired you to create it?

A: A few years after joining the program, I altered the introductory course so that students wrote a short play and a short screenplay. When I read the f

irst set of short plays, I thought, “I need to do something with these.”  So I started imagining a way that students could develop the work in collaboration with professionals, seasoned actors and directors. The festival is a celebration of their work. One-act plays allow playwrights to address big topics in economical ways. It’s a great way to start them off.

Q: What was your goal in pulling together these plays into a book?

A: I want the world to know that college-age students are capable of good writing as long as there’s supervision. This book provides a living example that young writers can produce work of value.

Q: Why should a general audience read this book?

A: It provides an opportunity to visit the minds of our young creatives. The writers express a depth of intellect and feeling that I don’t think most people would expect from 19- and 20-year-olds. The plays are so diverse. I describe Chill Pill as “politically correct reunites with socially correct.” In Pegging Out, two brothers, trapped in a British coal mine, ponder their individual destinies. Bad Connection is a satirical comedy about device-addicted college students struggling to communicate.

Q: What have some of the student playwrights gone on to do?

A: One graduate turned an internship on the TV series The Flash into a produced episode. She was only two years out of the program. Another is running the L.A. office of a well-known production company. One of our playwrights has had two of his plays produced Off-Broadway. A graduate was a staff writer for Haven on the Syfy channel for a number of years.

Q: Tell us about this year’s festival.

A: One of the plays is written entirely in iambic pentameter. Another is simply two mismatched characters in a car.  It’s hilarious. And then there’s one in which a father and son work out their relationship in a game of poker. These are just three examples of how different these plays can be. I’ve discovered if you challenge students to dig deeply about who they are and how they view their world, they will express themselves in fascinating ways.

Watch a video about the Writing for the Screen and Stage Program.

Long Story Shorts 2017 will take place in Swain Hall, Studio 6, Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 4, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Admission is free. For more details, visit UNC Writing for the Screen & Stage on Facebook or http://go.unc.edu/unc-wss.

Actors who have performed in the plays featured in the book will do a series of readings at local bookstores this fall. Visit www.uncpress.org/author/dana-coen for more information.

This is just one example of the various works published every year by Carolina faculty and alumni; find more here!

Interview by Michele Lynn


Opening doors, emboldening dreams

College’s role in UNC campaign emphasizes innovation, entrepreneurship, experiential learning and more.

College campaign priorities include support for first generation students like Lookout Scholar Samantha Grounds.

College campaign priorities include support for first generation students like Lookout Scholar Samantha Grounds.

First-year student Samantha Grounds of Marietta, Ga., arrived on campus in August as one of Carolina’s first Lookout Scholars. Class valedictorian, captain of the soccer team and president of her high school’s National Honor Society, she is eager to explore all that Carolina has to offer.

She hopes to pursue a degree in public health. Her dream is to travel the world, providing medical care in impoverished countries, a passion she discovered during recent mission trips to Nicaragua and Peru.

Lookout Scholars is a donor-funded initiative that supports first-generation college students, providing the resources they need to succeed at Carolina. Grounds is part of the inaugural class of 40 Lookout Scholars at UNC. (Read more at college.unc.edu/SamanthaGrounds.)

A donor’s generosity has opened doors of access and opportunity for Grounds. The Oct. 6 public launch of the University’s comprehensive campaign, The Campaign for Carolina, hopes to similarly inspire Carolina alumni and friends to support transformative initiatives that advance the mission and vision of the College of Arts & Sciences under Dean Kevin Guskiewicz.

A critical juncture

The College’s goal for the campaign will exceed $700 million as part of a broader University-wide goal. During the campaign’s “quiet” phase, which began Jan. 1, 2015, the College raised more than $265 million. This includes a record-shattering $91.3 million in new gifts and commitments in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That total is 30 percent more than the previous year — a record in itself.

Doctoral Hooding ceremony held May 13, 2017 at the Dean Smith Center. Photo by Jon Gardiner.

Doctoral Hooding ceremony held May 13, 2017 at the Dean Smith Center. Photo by Jon Gardiner.

Leadership gifts have supported entrepreneurship, PlayMakers and dramatic art, Honors Carolina, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Learning and Writing Center, graduate student stipends and other areas of critical support for students and faculty.

“We’re at a critical juncture in the pursuit of knowledge and the need to push boundaries to address the problems that we as a nation and a world face,” said Rob Parker, senior associate dean for development for the College. “For us to continue to remain a top university globally, philanthropic support is more essential than ever.”

Campaign priorities

Among the College’s key campaign priorities are investments in research and teaching that will have a dramatic impact on North Carolina, the nation and the world.

The new Institute for Convergent Science (read more here) will bring together chemists, physicists,

Kirsten Consing at her internship at the UNC Mother Infant Research Studies through the Karen M. Gil Internship Program in Psychology.

Kirsten Consing at her internship at the UNC Mother Infant Research Studies through the Karen M. Gil Internship Program in Psychology.

biologists and health scientists to develop real-world applications that tackle challenges in fields including renewable energy, clean water and more effective drug delivery solutions.

Another focal point will be increasing experiential learning opportunities for students through study abroad (read more here), academic internships, faculty-mentored research and the new campus makerspaces.

Other key priorities include support for faculty recruitment and retention, entrepreneurship, Southern studies, Jewish studies, digital humanities, graduate student support and global education.

“Our donors are stepping up to propel UNC forward as a leader among public research universities both nationally and internationally,” Guskiewicz said. “I could not think of a more exciting time to be at Carolina.”

Read more about campaign priorities.

Story by Erin Kelley ’13 

PlayMakers, dramatic art celebrate $12 million gift

A $12 million gift to PlayMakers Repertory Company and the department of dramatic art will significantly increase the University’s performing arts programming by expanding educational opportunities for students and enhancing performance and outreach offerings available to the community.

at the gift celebration with the Cole Porter song “You’re The Top.” Photo by Jon Gardiner.

Graduate students serenaded Gillings at the gift celebration with the Cole Porter song “You’re The Top.” Photo by Jon Gardiner.

The endowment, from longtime arts patron Joan H. Gillings, is the largest single gift by a living individual to benefit the performing arts at Carolina. In honor of the historic gift, the Center for Dramatic Art will be named the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt joined Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; Adam Versényi, chair of the department of dramatic art; and Vivienne Benesch, PlayMakers’ producing artistic director, at a celebration announcing the gift on Sept. 11.

Gillings’ commitment will enable the department to recruit and retain top graduate students by funding additional scholarships in acting, costume production and technical production annually. It will also expand PlayMakers’ vital education and outreach programs, including a ­­new Mobile

Joan H. Gillings is honored Monday September 11, 2017 at the UNC Center for Dramatic Art on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill resident and longtime arts patron, Joan H. Gillings, has committed the largest single gift ever to the performing arts at Carolina. The $12 million endowment will enable PlayMakers to increase community outreach efforts, introduce new theatre works and support graduate students in the department of dramatic art. The building that houses the department and PlayMakers will also be named the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art. Photo by Jon Gardner.

Joan H. Gillings is honored at the UNC Center for Dramatic Art. Gillings has committed the largest single gift ever to the performing arts at Carolina. Photo by Jon Gardner.

Shakespeare initiative, and its K-12 educational matinee and teaching artist residency programs. In addition, the gift will foster the development of new plays to engage the University and national theater community with innovative and socially conscious work.

Gillings, who has served on the Friends of PlayMakers Advisory Board since 2008 and as its chair since 2013, acquired a love of theater while attending plays on Broadway and in London’s West End. She said that the high quality of PlayMakers productions and her interactions with master of fine arts students inspired her gift.

“I can’t tell you how important this is to me. Having PlayMakers in our own backyard is incredible,” Gillings said. “It’s all about the students. They are our future.”

Established in 1925, the department of dramatic art is the second-oldest theater department in the country. PlayMakers, the professional theater in residence, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Read more about the endowment, celebration, and the value of PlayMakers on the College’s website, here and here.

$3 million gift will benefit Honors Carolina

Laurie and Peter Grauer. A $3 million gift will endow the Peter T. Grauer Associate Dean for Honors Carolina Fund.

Laurie and Peter Grauer. A $3 million gift will endow the Peter T. Grauer Associate Dean for Honors Carolina Fund.

Peter Grauer ’68 believes in how Honors Carolina can change students’ lives.

Grauer, chair of worldwide media company Bloomberg L.P., served for more than 15 years as chair of the Honors Carolina Advisory Board. A recent $3 million gift commitment will endow the Peter T. Grauer Associate Dean for Honors Carolina Fund.

The endowment will provide salary and research funding. It allows the associate dean to pursue scholarly endeavors and to have a source of discretionary funding to support ongoing program development and curriculum innovation.

“Honors Carolina is a magnet to attract the best and brightest students,” Grauer said. “It gives Carolina a bold and lasting competitive advantage. It provides our faculty with the opportunity to work with truly gifted students. Honors Carolina makes the Chapel Hill experience even more unique, even better.”

Associate Dean for Honors Carolina Jim Leloudis is the fund’s first recipient. Leloudis has served as associate dean for Honors and founding director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence for more than 18 years. His research focuses on the history of the modern South, with emphases on labor, education, race and reform.

Heather Boneparth ’80, current chair of the Honors Carolina Advisory Board, said, “It is quite fitting that Peter’s gift will honor Jim’s exceptional leadership and ensure that Honors Carolina will continue to benefit from the leadership required to continue the path of innovation which has become the hallmark of the program.”

Dean Kevin Guskiewicz added, “The Grauer Fund will allow Jim and his successors to sustain the tradition of excellence associated with Honors Carolina.”

Grauer is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development. He is a former member of the UNC Board of Trustees.

Story by Mary Moorefield


With Mellon grant, launches ‘Humanities for the Public Good’

The Southern Oral History Program, in collaboration with Carolina Public Humanities’ Carolina K-12 program, hosted the Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows in Civil Rights workshop at UNC in June.

The Southern Oral History Program, in collaboration with Carolina Public Humanities’ Carolina K-12 program, hosted the Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows in Civil Rights workshop at UNC in June.

A four-year, $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will significantly advance Carolina’s efforts in humanities education, research and teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The initiative, “Humanities for the Public Good,” will use multiple strategies to integrat

e public humanities into the curriculum, tap the potential of digital technology for humanities scholarship and teaching, and reach out to diverse communities to elevate awareness of existing humanities activities at Carolina as well as foster new avenues of public engagement.

The principal investigator of the grant is Terry Rhodes, senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities in the College. Robyn Schroeder, who oversaw several public humanities efforts at Brown University, will manage the grant’s programmatic elements as initiative director.

It will focus on three broad themes:

  • Employing new educational models for the humanities that reconfigure education and promote the public humanities in the curriculum.
  • Integrating contemporary, digital approaches into research and education.
  • Expanding the public humanities through more engagement with diverse communities beyond the academy.

“What is exciting about this initiative is that it is a natural evolution of Carolina’s identity as a university ‘of the public and for the public,’” Rhodes said. “This grant will allow us to meaningfully advance the theme of ‘humanities for the public good’ in ways that will benefit our students and faculty enormously.”

Read more here.

Colloredo-Mansfeld tapped for senior leadership post

Colloredo-Mansfeld, senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs.

Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs.

Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld became senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs in the College of Arts & Sciences on July 1.

As senior associate dean, Colloredo-Mansfeld oversees the departments/curricula and other units in the social sciences as well as the global programs of the College that are housed together in the FedEx Global Education Center.

Colloredo-Mansfeld served as chair of the department of anthropology from 2013 to 2017.

He has been at Carolina since 2008, coming from the University of Iowa. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA in 1992 and 1996, respectively, and his B.A. in anthropology and European history from UNC in 1987, where he was a Morehead Scholar and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

His scholarly research and teaching focus on indigenous peoples, consumer cultures and local food systems. Much of his work has concerned indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian highlands. He recently began collaborating with colleagues at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, or USFQ (Carolina’s partner in the Galápagos Science Center), comparing models of community tourism in conservation areas in the Galápagos and the Andes.

Colloredo-Mansfeld replaces Jonathan Hartlyn, who served as senior associate dean for nearly eight years and has returned to his home department of political science.