Fill your bookshelf: New books by College faculty and alumni (fall 2019)

October 2, 2019
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Looking for a good book? Check out these new options for your bookshelf from College of Arts & Sciences’ faculty and alumni, published this fall.

Fill your bookshelf: New books by College faculty and alumni (fall 2019)

Read a story about Carolina alumnus and Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford’s new book, Our Better Angels: Seven Simple Virtues That Will Change Your Life and the World.

The Shining Path: Love, Madness and Revolution in the Andes (W.W. Norton & Company, April 2019) by Miguel La Serna, associate professor of history, and Orin Starn of Duke University. On May 17, 1980, on the eve of Peru’s presidential election, five masked men stormed a small town in the Andean heartland. They set election ballots ablaze and vanished into the night, but not before planting a red hammer-and-sickle banner in the town square. The lone man arrested the next morning later swore allegiance to a group called Shining Path. La Serna and Starn’s narrative history of Shining Path is set against the socioeconomic upheavals of Peru’s rocky transition from military dictatorship to elected democracy.  Read a story about the book.

Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for The Soul of America (W.W. Norton & Company, May 2019) by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Julia Cherry Spruill Professor Emerita of History. The Lumpkin sisters grew up in a former slaveholding family in which devotion to white supremacy and veneration of the Confederacy went hand in hand. Elizabeth, the eldest, remained a lifelong believer, but her younger sisters chose vastly different lives for themselves. In Sisters and Rebels, Hall offers an epic narrative of American history told through a buried tradition of expatriation, female reinvention, and Southern radicalism and reaction that speaks directly to our own times. The book was reviewed by The New York Times. Read a magazine story that features the book.

A South You Never Ate book coverA South You Never Ate: Savoring Flavors and Stories from the Eastern Shore of Virginia (UNC Press, October 2019) by Bernard L. Herman, interim chair of American studies and George B. Tindall Professor of Southern Studies. In this inviting narrative, Herman welcomes readers into the communities, stories and flavors that season a land where the distance from tide to tide is often less than five miles. Blending personal observation, history, memories of harvests and feasts and recipes, Herman tells of life along the Virginian Eastern Shore through the eyes of its growers, watermen, oyster and clam farmers, foragers, church cooks, restaurant owners and everyday residents.

The Food We Eat, the Stories We Tell: Contemporary Appalachian Tables (Ohio University Press, October 2019) by Elizabeth Engelhardt, interim senior associate dean of fine arts and humanities and the John Shelton Reed Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies, and Lora E. Smith, who directs the Appalachian Impact Fund. Blue Ridge tacos, kimchi with soup beans and cornbread, family stories hiding in cookbook marginalia, African American mountain The Food We Eat , The Stories We Tell book covergardens —this wide-ranging anthology considers all these and more. Diverse contributors show us that contemporary Appalachian tables and the stories they hold offer new ways into understanding past, present and future American food practices.

Black Towns, Black Futures: The Enduring Allure of a Black Place in the American West (UNC Press, November 2019) by Karla Slocum, director of the Institute of African American Research and associate professor of anthropology. Some know Oklahoma’s black towns as historic communities that thrived during the Jim Crow era — this is only part of the story. Drawing on interviews and observations of town life spanning several years, Slocum reveals that people from diverse backgrounds are still attracted to the communities because of the towns’ remarkable history as well as their racial identity and rurality. Giving readers a complex window into black town and rural life, Slocum ultimately makes the case that these communities are places for affirming, building and dreaming of black community success even as they contend with the sometimes marginality of black and rural America.

Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, May 2019) by Jodi Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism. Two thousand years ago, 967 Jewish men, women and children — the last holdouts of the revolt against Rome following the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple — reportedly took their own lives rather than surrender to the Roman army. This dramatic event, which took place on top of Masada, a barren and windswept mountain overlooking the Dead Sea, spawned a powerful story of Jewish resistance that came to symbolize the embattled modern State of Israel. Magness, an archaeologist who has excavated at Masada, explains what happened there, how we know it and how recent developments might change understandings of the story. The book was featured in Mosaic magazine. Read another article in The Times of Israel.

Peaceful Families: American Muslim Efforts Against Domestic Violence (Princeton University Press, September 2019) by Juliane Hammer, associate professor of religious studies. In Peaceful Families, Hammer chronicles and examines the efforts, stories, arguments and strategies of individuals and organizations doing Muslim anti–domestic violence work in the United States. Hammer demonstrates how Muslim advocates mobilize a rich religious tradition in community efforts against domestic violence, and identify religion and culture as resources or roadblocks to prevent harm and to restore family peace. Highlighting the place of Islam as an American religion, Peaceful Families delves into the efforts made by Muslim Americans against domestic violence and the ways this refashions society at large.

The Rest of the Story book cover The Rest of the Story (Balzer + Bray, June 2019) by Sarah Dessen (English ’93). In Dessen’s latest novel, her 14th in the young adult fiction genre, Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was 12. But Emma does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges. Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable … until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family that she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. Read a News & Observer story on the book.

The Two Powers: The Papacy, the Empire and the Struggle for Sovereignty in the Thirteenth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, June 2019) by Brett Whalen, associate professor of history. Historians commonly designate the High Middle Ages as the era of the “papal monarchy,” when the popes of Rome vied with secular rulers for spiritual and temporal supremacy. Covering pivotal decades that included the last major crusades, the birth of the Inquisition, and the unexpected invasion of the Mongols, The Two Powers shows how Gregory IX and Innocent IV’s battles with Frederick II shaped the historical destiny of the 13th-century papacy and its role in the public realm of medieval Christendom.

Monsters to Destroy book coverMonsters to Destroy: Understanding the War on Terror (Oxford University Press, November 2019) by Navin Bapat, professor of political science and chair of the curriculum in peace, war and defense. Terrorism kills far fewer Americans annually than automobile accidents, firearms or even lightning strikes. Given this minimal risk, why does the United States continue expending lives and treasure to fight the global war on terror? In Monsters to Destroy, Bapat argues that the war on terror provides the U.S. a cover for its efforts to expand and preserve American control over global energy markets. Bapat provides a sweeping look at how the loss of influence over these states, who are critical in the extraction, sale and transportation of energy, has accelerated the decline of U.S. economic and military power, locking it into a permanent war for its own economic security.

Difference and Orientation: An Alexander Kluge Reader (Cornell University Press, September 2019) edited by Richard Langston, professor of German. Alexander Kluge is one of contemporary Germany’s leading intellectuals and artists. A key architect of the New German Cinema and a pioneer of auteur television programming, he has also co-written three acclaimed volumes of critical theory, published countless essays and numerous works of fiction and continues to make films even as he expands his video production to the internet. With the aim of introducing Kluge to a broader readership, this landmark volume brings together some of his most fundamental statements on literature, film, pre- and post-cinematic media and social theory, nearly all for the first time in English translation.

The End of the World in Medieval Thought and Spirituality (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2019) by Jessica Boon, associate professor of religious studies and Eric Knibbs of Monumenta Germaniae Historica and Erica Gelser of Wellesley. This essay collection studies the Apocalypse and the end of the world, as these themes occupied the minds of biblical scholars, theologians and ordinary people in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Early Modernity. It opens with an innovative series of studies on “Gendering the Apocalypse.” In these essays, scholars of history, theology and literature create a dialogue that considers how fear of the end of the world, among the most pervasive emotions in human experience, underlies a great part of Western cultural production.

Recursion book coverRecursion (Random House, June 2019) by Blake Crouch (English and creative writing ’00.) Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome — a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. Neuroscientist Helena Smith has dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let people  preserve the most precious moments of their pasts. As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease — a force that attacks not just people’s minds but the very fabric of the past. how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?  Read a story on the book in The News & Observer.

Build: The Power of Hip Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World (Oxford University Press, November 2019) by Mark Katz, professor of music. Since 2001, the U.S. Department of State has been sending hip hop artists abroad to perform and teach as goodwill ambassadors. Hip hop has, from its beginning, been a means of creating community through artistic collaboration, fostering what hip hop artists call building. A timely study of U.S. diplomacy, Katz’s book Build reveals the power of art to bridge cultural divides, facilitate understanding, and express and heal trauma. He makes the case that hip hop, at its best, can promote positive, productive international relations between people and nations.

Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy (University of California Press, March 2019) by Alexandrea J. Ravenelle, assistant professor of sociology. Choose your hours, choose your work, be your own boss, control your own income. Welcome to the sharing economy, a nebulous collection of online platforms and apps that promise to transcend capitalism. Ravenelle shares the personal stories of nearly 80 predominantly millennial workers from Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit and Kitchensurfing. Their stories underline the volatility of working in the gig economy: the autonomy these young workers expected has been usurped by the need to maintain algorithm-approved acceptance and response rates. Discerning three types of gig economy workers — Success Stories, who have used the gig economy to create the life they want; Strugglers, who can’t make ends meet; and Strivers, who have stable jobs and use the sharing economy for extra cash — Ravenelle examines the costs, benefit and societal impact of this new economic movement.

The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Twenty-Five Years of Architecture (Chapel Hill Historical Society, September 2019) by John V. Allcott, with an addendum by JJ Bauer, visual resources curator and teaching assistant professor in the department of art and art history. Explore the architectural history and significance of iconic buildings on the UNC campus: the ideas and architects involved, the people (including high-spirited students) who were prime movers for specific buildings, and how green design initiatives have been incorporated into current buildings. The newly released and updated book from the Chapel Hill Historical Society, The Campus at Chapel Hill: 225 Years of Architecture, provides an in-depth look at the architecture of the nation’s oldest campus. Read a story on the book.

Speaking of Feminism book coverSpeaking of Feminism: Today’s Activists on the Past, Present and Future of the U.S. Women’s Movement (UNC Press, July 2019) by Rachel F. Seidman, director of the Southern Oral History Program. From the Women’s Marches to the MeToo movement, it is clear that feminist activism is still alive and well in the 21st century. Seidman presents insights from 25 feminist activists from around the United States, ranging in age from 20 to 50. Allowing their voices to take center stage through the use of in-depth oral history interviews, Seidman places their narratives in historical context and argues that they help explain how recent new forms of activism developed and flourished so quickly. These individuals’ compelling life stories reveal their hard work to build flexible networks, bridge past and present, and forge global connections.

Arrayed in Splendor: Art, Fashion and Textiles in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Brepols Publishers, May 2019) by Christoph Brachmann, Mary H. Cain Distinguished Professor of Art History. Precious textiles, fabrics, embroideries and tapestries played an important role in medieval and early modern cultures of representation. Ranging from the 12th to the 17th centuries, this collection of essays of leading scholars in the field offers an invaluable window into the complexity of the textile arts and their medium, from the overpowering splendour of liturgical and princely garments and the luxurious fabrics used for them in the Middle Ages and early modern period, to the visual world of monumental room decorations in the form of tapestries.

Ghosts of Sheridan Circle: How a Washington Assassination Brought Pinochet’s Terror State to Justice (UNC Press, September 2019) by Alan McPherson (Ph.D. history ’01). On September 21, 1976, a car bomb killed Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the United States, along with his colleague Ghosts of Sheridan Circle book coverRonni Moffitt. With interviews from three continents, never-before-used documents and recently declassified sources that conclude that Pinochet himself ordered the hit and then covered it up, McPherson has produced the definitive history of one of the Cold War’s most consequential assassinations. This page-turning real-life political thriller combines a police investigation, diplomatic intrigue, courtroom drama and survivors’ tales of sorrow and tenacity.

Cyber-Smarts: Raising Children in a Digital Age (BASIL, April 2019) by Richard Bromfield (M.A. psychology ’83, Ph.D. psychology ’85). The internet and technology are wonders that inform, entertain and prepare children for tomorrow. But they also comprise a world that holds its own perils. Cyber-Smarts lends parents a perspective and strategies to help their young children grow up learning to use and inhabit their screens more safely, responsibly and independently. Bromfield, a Harvard Medical School psychologist, writes about children, families and psychotherapy.

The Safecracker (TouchPoint Press, September 2019) by Jim Garrison (English and history ’68). In this multi-layered legal thriller, idealistic young lawyer Patricia Egan has a housemate she doesn’t like and a client she doesn’t want — a professional safecracker who seems far removed from the well-heeled civil clients her firm has been representing. But the safecracker and her former clients are closely linked in their respective criminal enterprises, something they want no one to discover, certainly not Patricia or her fellow lawyer and housemate, Jack Alexander. There’s a string of dead and maimed people to prove it.



Summer conference unites Jane Austen fans, scholars

September 30, 2019
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Attendees are encouraged to dress in period clothing for the Regency Ball, and to snap a photo with “Mr. Darcy,” as represented by Colin Firth.

Soniah Kamal, who penned an Austen adaptation, was one of the authors invited to this year’s conference. She co-led a creative writing workshop with UNC professor Randall Kenan.

Undergraduate Brett Harris presented his research on Kamal’s work.

Summer conference unites Jane Austen fans, scholars

Jane Austen’s works have inspired films and television shows, sequels and spin-offs, and even tabletop role-playing games. She and her beloved novels have been celebrated annually with the Jane Austen Summer Program, organized by English and comparative literature faculty and graduate students. The conference, which celebrated its seventh year, covered the legacies of Austen’s works with this year’s theme of “Pride and Prejudice and its Afterlives.”

JASP is part academic conference and part fan convention, offering screenings of popular adaptations and an evening Regency ball alongside poster presentations, teacher workshops and plenary sessions.

English and comparative literature associate professor Inger Brodey, who co-founded the conference with fellow professor James Thompson, appreciates the atmosphere that JASP fosters.

“I don’t view it as just academics bringing information to the public,” said Brodey. “I really think the public plays a huge role in bringing these things to life for the academics.

“I think this is an embodiment of what public humanities should be.”

An undergraduate summer session course is taught alongside the conference. This was graduate student Michele Robinson’s first time teaching “Studies in Jane Austen.” Although she has participated in some capacity each year, including leading panels and performing in theatrical skits, teaching gave her the opportunity to approach Austen’s works in a multitude of ways, she said.

Robinson, an English and comparative literature Ph.D. candidate who is also pursuing a women’s and gender studies minor, believes JASP reinvigorates her own research about how women are defined by spaces in Victorian literature.

“There are ways in which certain avenues of research have blossomed before my eyes and made me want to expand and be more invested in interdisciplinary projects,” she said.

One of her students, Brett Harris ’21, hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice before this course, but he and his classmates were tasked with analyzing an adaptation. He chose Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal, one of the conference’s invited authors.

Knowing that the author of the book he researched could walk by his poster at any time created an added layer of exhilaration and anticipation. Hearing from Kamal directly at her author Q&A reaffirmed his analysis of her book.

“The fact that I was somehow on the same wavelength with this woman who wrote this amazing book was mind-blowing,” Harris said.

Though the conference has explored all of Austen’s novels, and now one novel’s multitude of adaptations, JASP will continue to explore the world and life of the author in 2020. The conference’s existence proves the longevity of Austen and her work, inviting fans and scholars alike to return to her texts or create their own spins.

During her Q&A, Kamal spoke of the universality of certain themes in Pride and Prejudice that acted as an inspiration for her own adaptation. This was something Harris noted in his experiences with the adaptations and remarked on the ways a single book can resonate and be re-imagined for people of different times and backgrounds.

“It really speaks to the power of adaptation.”


Story and photos Kristen Chavez ’13

Watch a video about the program.

Uniquely Carolina

September 30, 2019
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Interim Dean Terry Rhodes takes a sip from the Old Well on the first day of classes.

Uniquely Carolina

This issue celebrates the tenacity of our first-generation students — and a few of the uniquely Carolina programs that support them during their time on campus. I am enormously proud of the national recognition we are receiving for our longstanding commitment to help first-generation, rural, transfer and underserved students overcome barriers to access and affordability and to graduate on time.

I am also impressed with the students I have met in these programs. They are making the most of their time as Tar Heels by delving deeply into research opportunities, studying abroad, serving the community and participating in academic internships. I am profoundly grateful to the inspired alumni whose generosity made possible some of these student success programs.

Our new general education curriculum, known as IDEAs in Action, is another uniquely Carolina undertaking. If you’re not familiar with the term, the gen ed curriculum is the core coursework all students take regardless of their major. Our new curriculum, three years in the making, has been boldly reimagined: new interdisciplinary courses for first-year students, more opportunities to conduct research and empirical investigations, more encouragement to take part in global education. It won’t be fully implemented until next year, but we are piloting key courses now. You can read more about the new curriculum in this issue, too.

I also believe the deep-rooted dedication of our faculty to their students and their work is another uniquely Carolina trait. For what I mean, see our feature story on three faculty who have retired but continue to shine a light on UNC through impressive research productivity, course development and student mentoring.


Terry Ellen Rhodes signature

Places and spaces

September 30, 2019
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JJ Bauer, teaching assistant professor in the department of art and history, helps illuminate the stories behind Carolina’s buildings in a book on campus architecture. (photo by Donn Young)

This whimsical sketch by John Allcott of ballroom dancing in Smith Hall (now Playmakers Theatre) is featured in the book.

Places and spaces

An updated version of art professor John Allcott’s seminal The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Twenty-Five Years of Architecture was published this fall. The 1986 book is filled with historical photos, rare documents, Allcott’s whimsical sketches and stories of some of the people behind the buildings, which date back to 1793.

An addendum by JJ Bauer, visual resources curator and teaching assistant professor in the department of art and art history, showcases seven significant building projects since 1986.

Asked to sum up the look and feel of the University since then, Bauer responded, “Clearly tradition still has a stronghold.”

“Even with as modern a building as the FedEx Global Education Center or the Genome Sciences Building, you recognize elements of tradition. The red brick, for instance, is a constant. But on a philosophical level, one of the things that makes the campus so attractive is all of the open plazas and spaces for just hanging out,” she said.

“This idea that it’s about making places and spaces is still very much a part of UNC-Chapel Hill.”

The book is available through the Chapel Hill Historical Society and local bookstores.

Read a longer story about the book.


Igniting a global spark in students

September 30, 2019
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Michael-Bryant Hicks created a scholarship to support first-generation students of color; it’s named for his son, Marleigh. (photo courtesy of Michael-Bryant Hicks)

Scholarship recipient Savannah Baker participated in an Honors Carolina semester in London. (photo courtesy of Savannah Baker)

Igniting a global spark in students

“I want to take away any number of fears that may prevent a student — who grew up like me — from studying abroad,” explained Michael-Bryant Hicks ’96.

Hicks is doing just that through the Marleigh Desmond Hicks Study Abroad Scholarship Fund, which has provided stipends for seven undergraduates. The scholarship supports first-generation students of color as they participate in a University study abroad program.

Hicks, a corporate lawyer and former Fulbright Scholar, explained that the most rewarding aspect of establishing the scholarship is spending time with students.

“It’s important to be visible to those students like me — especially minority students coming from rural North Carolina who may be thinking that their challenges in accessing a college education are unique,” said Hicks, who has been a member since 2007 of the Chancellor’s Global Leadership Council, which is charged with expanding and deepening the University’s reach to people and institutions around the world. Hicks cherishes the University and continues to challenge Carolina to become an even more inclusive environment for students of color.

During a dinner with his scholarship recipients in fall 2018, he identified with a lot of the sentiments they shared —“no one in my family has ever left the country” and “no one in my family has a passport,” he said.

Coming from rural Forsyth County just outside of Winston-Salem, N.C., Hicks was the first in his family to graduate college. While at UNC, he benefited from mentors who encouraged his participation in campus life. He became involved with several student organizations: the NC Fellows Program, the Black Student Movement’s Gospel Choir and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. A psychology major, he served as a research assistant for Donald H. Baucom, the Richard Lee Simpson Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

While Hicks didn’t study abroad until he got to Yale Law School, he does credit his time at Carolina with exposing him to the importance of a global mindset.

“There were always global speakers and lectures on campus,” he said. “Carolina is a microcosm of the world, and it is important for students to seek out and access as many different backgrounds and cultures as they can.”

Scholarship recipient Savannah Baker ’20 of Kenansville, N.C., was motivated to do just that. Baker, who is majoring in political science and philosophy and minoring in social and economic justice, participated in Honors Carolina’s semester-long study abroad program in London. It was the first time she had traveled internationally. “I felt like a little fish in a big pond at times,” she said. “However, by successfully navigating this experience I was able to learn valuable networking skills and meet a new community of people who still continue to support me.”

Baker added that she now feels more confident in stepping outside of her comfort zone.

“At an event last semester, I reached out to a speaker who I was interested in working with over the summer,” she said. “That five-minute interaction turned into a three-month fellowship at the Carolina Justice Policy Center. I do not think I would have been confident enough to network in that way without my experience in London.”

Besides fostering a global mindset, Hicks hopes that the Marleigh Desmond Hicks Study Abroad Scholarship Fund is “helping to ignite a spark in students — a spark that helps get them on their way to pursuing experiences that may change the course of their lives,” he said.

Hicks’ passion for international experiences is something that he is now passing on to his son, Marleigh, for whom the scholarship is named. Marleigh is in sixth grade and fluent in Mandarin and Spanish.

“My son is growing up much differently than I did,” Hicks said. “He’s had summers abroad in China and Ecuador, and I see how valuable it is for him. I want all students who come from backgrounds like mine to have exposure to opportunities like these.”


By Meredith Tunney

New College initiatives tackle difficult topics

September 27, 2019
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New College initiatives tackle difficult topics

Under the leadership of Interim Dean Terry Rhodes, the College of Arts & Sciences launched two new initiatives this fall designed to foster community and understanding.

“Reckoning: Race, Memory and Reimagining the Public University” supports student learning and discussions about heritage, race, post-conflict legacies, politics of remembrance and contemporary projects of reconciliation. Students enrolled in one of the 18 participating courses are examining Carolina’s complicated history in the context of U.S. and global histories. Courses include “Class, Race and Inequality in America,” “Race and Memory at UNC,” “Arabic Sources on American Slavery” and “Modern South Africa.”

Although the courses have their own unique subject matter, all 800-plus students in the initiative will read three selected texts and attend thematically linked lectures, films and other events. At semester’s end, students will present their research at a Reckoning forum. They will practice difficult conversations, gain a vocabulary for engaging in the moment and connect diverse fields of study to current issues.

The second initiative is “Countering Hate: Overcoming Fear of Differences.” Like others across the country, the UNC community has experienced painful incidents of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The College will present programming, and in spring 2020, courses aimed at better understanding these troubling phenomena.

“Countering Hate” kicks off with a signature event — a Nov. 7 lecture by Kenneth Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate at Bard College. The talk will be at 5:30 p.m. in the FedEx Global Education Center’s Nelson Mandela Auditorium.

Learn more at  and

Mellon funding supports environmental humanities

September 27, 2019
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Elizabeth Engelhardt (photo by Donn Young)

Mellon funding supports environmental humanities

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $150,000 two-year grant to pilot a consortium of four research institutions and their public partners to study coasts, climates and the environmental humanities.

The Coasts, Climates, the Humanities and the Environment Consortium (CCHEC) is a partnership of Louisiana State University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as an alliance of regional stakeholders.

“This opportunity to collaborate institutionally has the potential to transform individual partnerships into ongoing pipelines between our institutions and communities,” said Elizabeth Engelhardt, a co-principal investigator on the grant. She is interim senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities in the College. “Moreover, the issues we are discussing demand that we work to scale. The problems are large; our partnerships need to be equally ambitious. This effort promises to be.”

Research into the diversity and complexity of coastal zones and cultures through the medium of environmental humanities approaches is growing rapidly in context of climate instability. CCHEC engages the sea and land grant missions of its member institutions via two initial clusters: “Coasts, Archives and Climates” and “Coastal Futures and the Public Humanities.”

These clusters will engage diverse community groups, students and faculty in projects that study the environmental history and impacts of storms and tidal waters on a series of specific locations. Each cluster will integrate archival research with public engagement in order to create humanities-informed models of understanding for contemporary and emerging challenges.


Celebrating Carolina Firsts

September 27, 2019
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Lookout Scholars Briyete Garcia-Diaz, Sara Coello and Hannah Thompson examine a campus map during an orientation scavenger hunt. (photo by Donn Young)

Summer 2019 Cumpston Fellows and leaders celebrate in the Genome Sciences Building at an orientation event for first-generation students during the first week of fall classes. (photo by Donn Young)

Summer 2019 Cumpston Fellows pause for a photo as they arrive at Tucson International Airport. (photo by Darian Abernathy)

The Lookout Scholars Program creates a shared community experience for first-generation students and helps them develop as citizen-leaders. (photo by Donn Young)

Celebrating Carolina Firsts

Carolina has been recognized nationally for its efforts to support first-generation students, who make up about 20% of the undergraduate student population. Among the lauded programs is a study abroad fellowship that sends students to the U.S.-Mexico border to examine the concept of “borderlands” as it relates to their own first-generation identities.

As junior Darian Abernathy stood at the United States-Mexico border listening to a presentation by a medic with Cruz Roja (the Mexican Red Cross), she was captivated by the seven principles emblazoned in red on the speaker’s white vest (right): humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

While visiting the border between the sister cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, students learned about the suffering witnessed at that space: injuries, illness, rape, hunger, human trafficking.

When Abernathy asked the Red Cross medic if she could take a picture of his vest, he quietly took it off, then gave it to her to keep.

“Tears started streaming down my face. I was so shocked but grateful. All I could do was say, ‘muchos gracias,’” said Abernathy, a native of Hickory, N.C., who is majoring in human development and family studies. “Kindness was a theme while we were there. Friends and even strangers would go out of their way to make us feel comfortable.”

This was Abernathy’s second time at the border; for many students it was their first. She was a student leader this past summer for “Navigating Education in Borderlands,” a three-credit-hour study abroad course. The research-intensive, service-oriented experience is a partnership between UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Sonora in Hermosillo.

This is the second year of the course; students are supported by the Cumpston Fellowship in the Lookout Scholars Program in the Office of Undergraduate Education. Seven rising sophomores, two returning student leaders and UNC instructors Carmen Gonzalez, Candice Powell and Carmen Huerta-Bapat spent three weeks in Arizona and Mexico examining the concept of “borderlands” as it relates to students’ first-generation identity. First-generation students make up about 20% of Carolina’s undergraduate student population.

Both the scholars program and the fellowship are made possible thanks to philanthropic support.

Lookout Scholars Program Director Carmen Gonzalez addresses students. Lookout Scholars Program Director Carmen Gonzalez addresses students. (photo by Donn Young)

The Lookout Scholars Program, created two years ago with support from alumni Sunny and Lee Burrows through their Lookout Foundation, targets approximately 40 incoming first-generation students each year, offering them a rich cohort experience designed to help them become citizen leaders during their four years at Carolina. They take several introductory classes together and have access to faculty, staff and peer mentors and activities that foster success. Gonzalez directs the program.

Rusty Cumpston (mathematical sciences ’83), a first-generation alumnus from Havelock, N.C., was inspired by what was happening through Lookout Scholars. He and his wife, Christine, wanted to do something to help. He believes that providing immersive opportunities are essential to preparing students to solve “the significant problems that our state and country face now and in the future.”

He met with some of the students after their first trip in summer 2018 and said he was “blown away by their experiences.”

“The students got a first-person view of the daily realities that are happening at the border. The depth and breadth of the issues they studied were impressive,” Cumpston said. “But the most impactful parts of the trip were the unexpected personal and emotional experiences they had with people who desperately want to pursue a safer and better life in the United States.”

First-time study abroad

Kwaji Bullock takes a selfie with other Cumpston Fellows during their border trip. For sophomore Cumpston Fellows Kwaji Bullock (right) of Henderson and Alexandra Domrongchai of Indian Trail, this was the North Carolinians’ first time outside the country. Students engaged in fieldwork throughout the trip — conducting interviews, making presentations about what they were learning and writing a 10-page research paper reflecting on their experiences.

One of the highlights for Bullock was visiting the Tohono O’odham Nation, a reservation of indigenous people native to Arizona and Mexico who live on both sides of the border. Students spent time at the San Miguel Gate border crossing.

“Immigration laws prohibit people of the Tohono O’odham Nation from collecting and receiving goods, visiting their loved ones and other activities that are important to their culture,” said Bullock, who hopes to pursue a business major. “This gave me the indigenous people’s perspective of the U.S.-Mexico border, which is often overlooked.”

Domrongchai said she was grateful for people sharing their stories, no matter how vulnerable it made them.

“An important thing that will always stay with me is ‘without testimony, there can be no advocacy,’” said Domrongchai, a political science and English major. “This experience has helped me to open up more and be proud of the borders within my life and really tackle my own imposter syndrome.”

Gonzalez added: “One of the biggest takeaways for the students is they start to conceive of borderlands not just as a physical space, but a theoretical idea of what it’s like to go through a transition in your life.”

First-generation graduates pose for pictures at the Carolina Firsts graduation and pinning ceremony. First-generation graduates pose for pictures at the Carolina Firsts graduation and pinning ceremony. (photo by Benton Fairchild)

National recognition for Carolina’s programs

This past spring, Carolina was named a First Forward Advisory Institution by the Center for First-Generation Student Success. UNC was among only nine institutions tapped to serve in a leadership capacity for its long-standing commitment to supporting first-generation students.

Although the Lookout Scholars and Cumpston Fellows programs are relatively new, Carolina has a rich history of supporting first-generation students. It was recognized specifically for Carolina Firsts, offered through the Office of Undergraduate Education in the College, and Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS, offered within The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success Program. Student Affairs and New Student and Family Programs are critical partners for the undergraduate Carolina Firsts.

“It’s a rigorous application process, but Carolina was a no-brainer for us in terms of choosing it as an advisory institution,” said Sarah Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-Generation Student Success. “It was top of the class.”

Carolina Firsts was founded in 2008 to create a sense of community for first-generation undergraduates. Its programs support students through signature events such as a welcome back reception and a graduation recognition and pinning ceremony, as well as advocacy training for faculty and staff. The Carolina Firsts graduation ceremony last May featured the largest attendance yet — more than 200 graduates and their families filled the Great Hall in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union for the event.

A first-generation student herself, Huerta-Bapat joined the program as a graduate assistant in 2012 while completing her doctorate in sociology, then became Carolina Firsts’ program director in 2015. She created the first collegiate honors program in the nation designed specifically for first-generation students; it was lauded by the national first-generation center in a report. Focused not just on GPA, it requires students to complete a number of experiential activities and write a reflective essay as they explore, connect and celebrate their first-generation and Carolina identities.

Participating as instructors for the “Borderlands” course this year was bittersweet for Huerta-Bapat and Powell. Although both left the Office of Undergraduate Education at the end of the summer, they will continue to support first-generation students in new positions at the University. Huerta-Bapat became a teaching assistant professor in the global studies curriculum, and she’s leading a fall honors course called “The Migratory Experience.” Powell became the new director of the Carolina Covenant. Launched in 2004, the scholarship program provides eligible low-income students the opportunity to graduate from Carolina debt-free.

“It’s so important to provide support to these students who are the first in their family to attend college,” said Abigail Panter, senior associate dean for undergraduate education. “We are proud that we are at the forefront among our peers in providing innovative, high-impact educational opportunities for them.”

Lookout Scholars gather for an orientation presentation in Wilson Library. Lookout Scholars gather for an orientation presentation in Wilson Library. (photo by Donn Young)

Students supporting students

Senior Viviana Gonzalez’s parents emigrated from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Saxapahaw, N.C., when she was just a year old. From an early age, it became her dream to pursue higher education. Today Gonzalez, who is majoring in psychology and pursuing the Spanish for the professions minor, is president of the Carolina Firsts student organization. She hopes to go to medical school to become a pediatrician.

Next May, she and her sister, Alejandra, a dental hygiene major, will become the first in their family to graduate from college.

“I have fallen in love with Carolina so much. It has opened the door to a greater, broader world that I didn’t know existed,” Viviana said. “Because of my education at Carolina, and all of the skills I have acquired, I am becoming the well-rounded person I have always dreamed of becoming.”

Morgan Teeters knows the odds are often stacked against first-generation students — “we’re not as likely to be retained for a second year; we aren’t as likely to graduate, and for some, college is an unattainable dream,” she said.

The junior media and journalism major from Tellico Plains, Tenn., served as a returning student leader for the Cumpston Fellows trip this past summer. She looks forward to the opportunity to be an advocate for people dealing with borders — real and metaphorical — in all aspects of their lives.

“Now I have the job of sharing what I’ve seen and learned. You can’t understand the idea of borderlands until you’ve been on both sides of that ‘wall’ yourself,” she said. “It’s the job of border-crossers to educate people about existence in both of those spaces.”

Watch a video of the Cumpston Fellows’ 2018 trip.

By Kim Weaver Spurr ’88



Climate Game-Changers

September 27, 2019
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Maribel Herrera and Nehemiah Stewart, also first-gen students, record water velocity and channel depth and width of one of their stream sites.

These brightly colored clubmosses lycopodium crassum, look like something you’d find in the ocean, but they are native to the Andes Mountains.

From left to right: Maribel Herrera, Anayancy Estacio-Manning, Megan Raisle, Chloe Schneider, Andrew Murray, Diego Riveros-Iregui, and Nehemiah Stewart.

Chloe Schneider and Megan Raisle test their floating device for measuring C02 in the air as it off-gasses from a waterbody. Students built these devices using saws, drills, and other tools in the lab during their time in Ecuador.

Climate Game-Changers

For thousands of years, the northern Andes Mountains have acted as a carbon sink, preserving organic matter as thick soil. As the planet warms, what will happen to all that carbon? This past summer, Carolina undergraduates traveled to Ecuador to take a closer look.

Students drop a sensor into a peatland poolFrom left, Maribel Herrera, Chloe Schneider and Nehemiah Stewart drop a sensor into the small pools of these peatlands, located at the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve in Ecuador’s northern Andes Mountains, to measure carbon. As part of UNC geographer Diego Riveros-Iregui’s NSF Early Career Award project, these undergrads — along with two more and a PhD student — spent seven weeks studying this environment to learn how carbon travels through a watershed.

Moss-covered molehills pepper the landscape, each a different shade of autumn. Some are mustard yellow, others evergreen. Upon closer inspection, petite red buds can be seen peeping through the growth while spindly, fingerlike plants called lycophytes grow long and tall on the mounds’ surface. It’s as if a coral reef was scooped up from the ocean and plopped 14,000 feet on top of a mountain.

Students leap from one mossy hump to another, occasionally overshooting their mark and slipping into the muddy waters in between. As the students stop to catch their breath, they drop a sensor into one of the pools to measure carbon. Between measurements, they look up to admire the dusty white peaks of Antisana, the fourth-highest volcano in Ecuador. Just behind it sits Cotopaxi, once thought to be the highest summit in the world and now one of South America’s most active volcanoes, having erupted more than 50 times since 1738.

Home to 27 volcanoes, Ecuador has accumulated organic matter for thousands of years, as volcanic soils accumulate more carbon than any other ecosystem. Called a páramo, this type of landscape is found in the northern Andes. It’s a tropical environment, but because of the high elevation, the temperature remains low and the decomposition of organic matter slows. Scientists call locations like this carbon sinks — places of long-term carbon storage.

“The carbon content per unit area of soil is among the highest on the planet in this area,” says Diego Riveros-Iregui, associate professor of geography in the College of Arts & Sciences. “While these high-elevation mountains occupy only a very small area of the Andes Mountains, they are carbon-rich.”

In the last three centuries, both natural and human-made carbon dioxide emissions have contributed more to climate change than any other greenhouse gas. As the planet continues to warm, carbon decomposition rates within the North Andean páramo will increase and release all that organic matter into the atmosphere, further heating the planet.

Diego Riveros-Iregui stands and talks to students at a stream site. Riveros-Iregui (right) reviews the day’s plan with Maribel Herrera, Megan Raisle, and Nehemiah Stewart at one of the stream sites.

Riveros-Iregui is using his 2019 National Science Foundation Early Career Award, a five-year grant that combines research and education, to better understand these processes. He spent six weeks in Chapel Hill training five undergraduates and a Ph.D. student on carbon measurement methods within water systems. This past summer, the team spent two months in Ecuador measuring the carbon in a watershed at Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve. This is the first of three cohorts he will take to South America.

Inland waters like those found in the North Andean páramo are very important in the carbon cycle because they emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane at different times of the year, depending on how much water is flowing downhill.

“Given the elevation and mean annual temperature of these tropical environments, these would be sources of atmospheric carbon that are currently unaccounted for,” Riveros-Iregui explains.

These tropical watersheds have never undergone consistent monitoring for this long, and the students involved have never conducted fieldwork — a challenge that entices Riveros-Iregui.


Data deluge

Knit hats. Face masks. Waterproof gloves. Winter jackets. Rainboots on top of three layers of socks. This is the reality of conducting research at the reserve, located just west of the continental divide. Some days it’s 50 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny; others, it’s 25 and sleeting.

When humidity generated hundreds of miles away in the Amazon crashes into the Andes Mountains, it undergoes orographic lifting, which is when air is forced from lower to higher elevation, causing it to cool quickly and form precipitation.

Today, a white mist settles over the mountain. It’s 36 degrees. The wind moves at about 10 mph. Visibility is 30 feet. Just 15 minutes away, toward town, the sky is blue and the sun is shining. But here, it’s like being trapped in a snow globe.

Chloe Scheider preps a floating device for deploymentChloe Schneider — wrapped from head to toe in winter clothes — preps one of the floating devices for deployment.

Senior Chloe Schneider, an environmental science and geography major, heads down a steep wooded hill, grabbing handfuls of long grasses and shrubs to stay upright. She carries a homemade carbon dioxide monitoring station — a gray plastic box attached to two pieces of wood and containing a battery-powered datalogger. Senior Megan Raisle follows, wielding a piece of rebar that will secure it to the ground.

After making their way to the slope’s bottom, they secure the monitoring station, running a wire from the box to a sensor placed inside a PVC pipe embedded in the streambed. Later in the day, Schneider and Raisle, an environmental studies and geography major, repeat this trek, a different instrument in tow. On top of measuring the CO2 present in the water, they also need to record what’s being emitted into the air. To do this, they’ve created floating sensors using large flowerpot saucers, with plumbing components wedged into the centers to hold the air collection chamber firmly in place.

“Building the sensor housings and platforms feels like an exercise in critical thinking,” says geography Ph.D. student Andrew Murray, who designed the first iteration of these devices.

Additional sensors — 18 in all — measure water flow, dissolved oxygen, solutes like chlorophyll, other forms of carbon and salt. During the entire two-month expedition, they remained in place, collectively recording nearly 2,000 environmental observations a day.

“These measurements allow us to paint a broad picture of what happens to the carbon stored in these ecosystems every time it rains,” Riveros-Iregui says.

Senior Maribel Herrera is well-versed in geography and environmental studies, her two majors, but she’s just beginning to learn the analysis aspect. “I’m comfortable with deploying the sensors,” she says. “But then when I get the data, I’m like,Okay, how do I synthesize this and what do these numbers mean?’”

Cue Murray. Not only did he create the blueprints for the sensor stations and oversee the project’s execution in Ecuador, but he also specializes in R — a high-level computer programming language for data management analysis — and he guided the students in that work.

“Collecting good data is just one piece of the puzzle,” Murray says. “Knowing what to do with it and being able to work on it collaboratively with other people is essential to being a successful researcher.”


Path to the páramos

Riveros-Iregui grew up in Fusagasugá, Colombia, which sits about 10 miles from the Sumapaz páramo. While these environments have long fascinated him, he didn’t begin studying them until the past decade.

After finishing an undergraduate geoscience degree in Colombia in 2001, he traveled to the United States with the plan to enroll in graduate school. But he discovered that his English was insufficient, the cost more than expected and the U.S. education system confusing.

A neighbor suggested enrolling in a community college, even though he already had a four-year degree from a Colombian university. “It sounded like a good idea,” Riveros-Iregui says, laughing. “And I did not have a plan B.” After earning an associate’s degree in computer science, he was offered a teaching assistantship at the University of Minnesota, where he completed his master’s in geology.

Stumbling over the graduate school process is far from unique, he says. “I come across so many students who want to go to graduate school, but don’t know how to go about it. With the right guidance and gaining some exposure to research during their undergraduate [career], students can become competitive for graduate school fellowships.”


Mentors and friends

For junior Anayancy Estacio-Manning, a global studies major, just being out in the field is unfamiliar, let alone being in an extreme environment.

Despite spending more than a month in Chapel Hill prepping for the international fieldwork, Estacio-Manning felt lost at first. The other students, three of whom are studying geography and environmental science, would often discuss things like pH and dissolved oxygen levels with ease as they practiced setting up experiments. “I’d go back home and look up whatever it was they were talking about,” she said.

Anayancy Estacio-Manning sets up a data collection on her laptop.Anayancy Estacio-Manning, a first-generation student, sets up a data collection program on her laptop. The only social scientist in the group, she valued her first time in the field, adapting quickly to the long days and harsh environment of the Andes Mountains.

But Riveros-Iregui encouraged her abilities, and now that she’s back in Chapel Hill, Estacio-Manning recognizes how far she’s come and has grown more confident. “Knowing the two, physical science and social science, makes me sort of bilingual. And so now I can be that translator.”

This fall, Estacio-Manning and the four other students will use these new skills at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, where they will present on the work they performed in Ecuador to North Carolina families.

Riveros-Iregui places special emphasis on teaching and mentorship, noting that he had few mentors during his college career. He navigated academia alone — a feat that draws him to students like Estacio-Manning, one of three first-generation students working on this project.

“I want them to know that if I could do it, so can they,” Riveros-Iregui says.

Beyond the field experience, the five students agree that one of the biggest benefits has been getting to know one another.

“No one can take [away] this bond we have,” says junior Nehemiah Stewart, who is majoring in chemistry. “What we’ve formed here is something crazy. What we’ve formed is lifelong friendships.”


Story and photos by Alyssa LaFaro, editor of Endeavors magazine. Watch a video

Educating to Empower

September 27, 2019
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Psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson leads a class in “Health and Happiness,” an offering in a set of courses created for the new curriculum known as “Ideas, Information and Inquiry” — or Triple I for short. (photo by Donn Young)

A study abroad fair showcases Carolina’s global programs. The IDEAs in Action curriculum will emphasize global education and participation in experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Educating to Empower

Carolina builds a new general education curriculum from the ground up, with a new emphasis on the first year, essential skills and experiential learning.

Evolutionary, revolutionary, whatever you call it, Carolina’s new general education curriculum is a new way of thinking about what today’s — and the next generation’s — students will need from their college degrees.

The general education curriculum, overseen by the College of Arts & Sciences, refers to the core requirements that every student at any college or university needs to take regardless of major. The traditional approach has been to prescribe a certain number of courses in a range of academic fields, from English and history to science and math, ensuring that students are exposed to a breadth of subjects. That was the approach that UNC-Chapel Hill took when it approved the current general education curriculum, implemented in 2006.

Last spring, UNC faculty formally adopted IDEAs in Action, a curriculum to be implemented starting in fall 2021. IDEA stands for Identify, Discover, Evaluate and Act, which is precisely what the new curriculum will ask students to do — think critically, collaborate with others, make reasoned judgments and approach problems with creativity.

Gone are the prescribed X number of courses in X subjects. Instead, there’s a new emphasis on essential skills known as Focus Capacities [see sidebar]. The capacities aren’t limited to a single department. For example, “Engagement with the Human Past” could be fulfilled by taking a history, astronomy or religious studies course, as long as it teaches students to work with evidence and ideas specific to the human past.

The new curriculum was three years in the making, with substantive input from faculty, students, alumni, staff and others.

“IDEAs in Action will provide students the tools they need to use evidence and judgment in the workplace and to become fully engaged citizens and leaders,” said Andrew Perrin, a professor of sociology who chaired the Curriculum Coordinating Committee. (In July, Perrin became director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.)

It also incorporates new pedagogy — instructional techniques that are based on a better understanding of how young adults learn.

An emphasis on First Year Foundations is an essential new component. Research has shown that the first year is critical for student success in college, and all students, no matter how well prepared they are for the rigor of Carolina, can benefit from tools and techniques that help them discover how they learn best and expose them to the wide variety of opportunities available to them at UNC. Out of this grew three new required courses for first-year students:

  • First Year Thriving, which will introduce students to the research, resources and practical skills they need to thrive at a major research university.
  • Ideas, Information and Inquiry, nicknamed “Triple I,” are courses team-taught by faculty members across three disciplines. The courses address broad themes such as “Death and Dying” and “The Idea of Race” and teach the power of interdisciplinary thinking. They also expose students to a range of academic disciplines and foundational skills early in their Carolina career. [Read more about Triple I at].
  • First Year Seminar/First Year Launch. First Year Seminars have been a popular option at UNC for years, but they (or a launch course) will now be required. These courses explore diverse topics and hands-on, mentored research opportunities. First Year Launch courses are new; these courses introduce students to a discipline or field of study that directly relates to a major offered at UNC. They also have capped enrollment to keep class sizes small.

These courses were piloted this past year and received positive feedback. Student evaluations on the Thriving course included comments such as “every major problem a college student will have, they will show you how to deal with” and “TAKE IT OMG.” One student who took a Triple I class wrote, “This course is awesome. I think the concept of having three professors teach a topic together and incorporate their different fields and ways of approaching the same ideas shows a way of thinking that can be taken and applied to all aspects of life and learning.”

IDEAs in Action carries over a few core requirements from the last curriculum, including English 105: “Writing at the Research University,” a foreign language (or demonstrated proficiency) and Lifetime Fitness.

A key goal of the curriculum planners was to provide more freedom for students, said Perrin. With fewer hours devoted to gen ed curriculum requirements, undergraduates can explore other academic interests or take more courses in their majors and minors.

The third pillar of IDEAs in Action (the first two being First Year Foundations and Focus Capacities) is a series of courses and experiences called Reflection and Integration.

In a Research and Discovery course, students will take on a research project that incorporates reflection and revision to produce original scholarship or creative work. High-Impact Experiences offer the opportunity to study abroad, do an internship or perform community service, among other options. Communication Beyond Carolina, typically taken in the junior or senior year, teaches students advanced communication practices — learning to persuasively convey knowledge, ideas and information to distinct audiences. To help integrate students into the vibrant extracurricular offerings that Carolina provides, students will participate in Campus Life Experiences, such as lectures, workshops and performances.

“In designing this curriculum, we were asking ourselves: What will students remember from their Carolina education 20 years from now?” said Kelly Hogan, associate dean of instructional innovation, a member of the Curriculum Coordinating Committee and a teaching professor in biology. “Students may not remember a specific fact or quote or formula 20 years out, but if they have learned to think analytically, collaborate effectively and express themselves persuasively, these capacities will be useful in solving the problems they encounter along their future life paths.”


Focus Capacities

Aesthetic and Interpretive Analysis

Creative Expression, Practice and Production

Engagement with the Human Past

Ethical and Civic Values

Global Understanding and Engagement

Natural Scientific Investigation

Power, Difference and Inequality

Quantitative Reasoning

Ways of Knowing

*One Focus Capacity course must include an Empirical Investigation lab. 

By Geneva Collins