Pioneering civil rights attorney, University alumnus and N.C. Central University Chancellor Emeritus, Julius Chambers will deliver the spring commencement address on May 9


Copyright 2004
SBridging worlds through understanding
Future of old high rises teeters
Julius Chambers to speak at commencement
University Gazette

By Russell C. Campbell III
"Gazette" contributing writer

Editor's note: To read additional excerpts of Campbell's interview with Deb Aikat, refer to

I found it ironic that a few hours before I was to sit down and talk with Deb Aikat, associate professor and media futurist at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the campus server was down. Despite some phone calls and idle paperwork, a gaping hole was left in my day. My e-mail hadn't budged -- not even a spam -- and it became obvious how much of my job is based online. Not that that fact is a surprise -- it's one of those things you don't miss until it's gone, and then you're left to wonder, "What did I do before e-mail?"
IN TOUCH WITH THE INTERNET As a media futurist in the journalism school, Associate Professor Deb Aikat analyzes the changes that communications technology are making in our lives. He recently was named the Scripps Howard Foundation's 2003 National Journalism Teacher of the Year.

The web, the Internet, e-mail -- these things have revolutionized not only the way we do work but also how we interact socially. Ever get jokes forwarded to you from an old friend you don't talk to anymore?

This media is not very old and the days of word processors and typewriters are not that far removed. So the question is: Where are we heading?

Aikat's bio reads that he "teaches online research and reporting and conducts research on Internet applications and the future of communication." He joined the journalism school faculty in 1995 when the Internet was in its adolescent phase and ready to hit a growth spurt that would leave us spinning in our tracks.

"I explore how communication technology is reshaping our lives in diverse ways," Aikat said. "The human mind has become so smart, our students, our society have become so smart, that it's not enough to present information on just paper. People are looking for a body of written or pictorial information written in such a complex way that it's beyond paper. We have become very smart information seekers."

During our conversation, Aikat covered a lot of ground, nearly the entire history of the Internet and into the future. He certainly does not profess to be a soothsayer; he relies on the past to determine future possibilities.

"I cannot sit here and predict we will not use paper, which was the prediction 10 years ago when people were talking about a paperless society," he said. "There have been so many changes that it's hard to keep up with the model so I use history to address the future."

Aikat speaks fast, but he's engaging. There's passion behind his words, his works -- you could say that for many professors on campus, but his is infectious. I cling to every word; his office becomes my classroom. It is little wonder why Aikat recently was named the Scripps Howard Foundation's 2003 National Journalism Teacher of the Year.

A major concern of technology is the digital divide, the gulf between the tech savvy and non-tech savvy.

"The television reaches 98 percent of the population," Aikat said. "For someone to enjoy television, it's like an idiot box: You don't have to do anything, you can just relax. For the Internet, there's a threshold level that's economical, educational and kind of social. It would take years for computers to reach 98 percent of the population; the rest will have to do with the old systems.

"A lot of people who are not used to using a computer on a regular basis are tuning themselves out. They're getting further behind."

Aikat's plan for this summer is to analyze information overload. He feels that it affects the psyche of the American workplace and classrooms.

"Some people complain `I have so much e-mail that it would take me another lifetime to answer it,'" he said. "It's creating a new dimension which we never thought of.

"The American worker is taking less vacation time than the workers in Europe. We have that guilt feeling if you're on vacation that, `Hey I'm missing something.' One of the biggest luxuries ... is to be without e-mail, to not have to worry about your cell phone ringing. I could throw away my e-mail, my cell phone out to the wind but I would be in depression."


Carolina employees encouraged to apply for jobs in new Ombudsperson Office

The campus encourages Carolina employees to apply for jobs with a new University Ombudsperson Office, an initiative that emerged from the Chancellor's Task Force for a Better Workplace.

The new office will offer all faculty and staff a confidential, informal and neutral dispute-resolution service. It also will identify and recommend improvements or structural changes that may improve the work environment for all employees.

Designed to supplement the University grievance procedures for faculty or staff, the office will play an advisory role in that formal process.

Officials hope to fill the office's positions by Sept. 1.

It will be staffed by two ombudspersons, one a full-time, EPA non-faculty position and the other a half-time faculty appointment. The office also will employ an administrative support staffer, who will be supervised by the full-time ombudsperson.

The part-time ombudsperson will be a tenured Carolina faculty member. And while the non-faculty job will be open to anyone, members of the committee looking to fill it want to encourage qualified faculty and staff from this campus to apply.

"The committee discussed the extent to which university experience -- and experience with this University -- are important," said Frayda Bluestein, search committee chair and professor of public law and government in the Institute of Government. "While we don't feel either is essential, and we would consider an otherwise qualified candidate without that experience, the general consensus was that a familiarity with the procedures and culture of this campus would be an advantage.

"We strongly encourage interested faculty or staff to apply, and we're also encouraging people on this campus to nominate people they know and consider to be qualified to fill these important roles."

According to the ombudsperson position description, each person filling the post will be "neither an advocate for any individual nor the University, but rather, an advocate for fairness who provides information, advice, intervention and referrals to ensure that all members of the University community receive fair and equitable treatment. The rights and interests of all parties are considered, with the goal of achieving fair outcomes."

Ombudspersons will:

Listen to faculty and staff and discuss their problems/concerns;

Coordinate with appropriate campus administrative offices to obtain explanations of University policies and procedures and help faculty and staff use them;

Open avenues of communication and gather information;

Serve as a "liaison" between the person with the concern and the person with whom the conflict exists;

Work through established administrative channels to assist in resolving problems;

Advise faculty and staff of alternative courses of action and help pursue them;

Follow up to ensure concerns are addressed; and

Recommend changes to correct problem areas.

The deadline to apply for the ombudsperson positions is May 28. Complete position descriptions and information for applicants is at

Judith Wegner, faculty chair, serves on the ombudspersons search committee and also was a member of the Chancellor's Task Force for a Better Workplace. She said the new office will fill a valuable role on campus.

"An ombuds office often saves time and money by getting problems resolved before they get deeply embedded and move to the courts," Wegner said. "Giving people a sense of recourse in a safe, neutral, confidential environment is critically important to workplace morale."

Wegner said many other universities have such offices, which have been "very effective" in issues ranging from perceptions of incivility in the workplace to the treatment of junior faculty and post-docs.

The office here will be equipped using funds that would have gone to Chancellor James Moeser as a pay bonus. He directed that they instead be used to help implement the task force's recommendations.

For more information about the task force, see


Grade inflation gets exam

A's have overtaken B's as the leading grade University professors issue to their students.

What do you do when excellence becomes average?

Do you sound the alarm?

Or ring the bell in celebration?

It depends on whether the slew of A's is viewed as a symptom of academic rigor -- or the lack of it.

These questions are at the heart of the Faculty Council's on-again, off-again debate over grade inflation. The debate resumed at the council's April 23 meeting in response to a report issued by its Educational Policy Committee (EPC).

Some say the grades are so high because the teachers and students are so good.
In memoriam

The April 23 Faculty Council meeting recognized faculty members who died over the past school year. They were:

Elie Maynard Adams, Kenan professor of philosophy emeritus (appointed in 1948), died Nov. 17, 2003;

John Bissell Carroll, William Rand Kenan Jr. professor of psychology emeritus (appointed in 1974), died July 1, 2003;

Phillip Palmer Green Jr., Albert Coates professor of public law and government emeritus (appointed in 1949), died Aug. 9, 2003;

Dennis G. Hillenbrand, clinical associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery (appointed in 1988), died Nov. 10, 2003;

Robert Galloway Kirkpatrick Jr., associate professor of English (appointed in 1967), died Feb. 24;

Anders S. Lunde, adjunct professor of biostatistics emeritus (appointed in 1968), died April 4;

Pierre Morrell, professor of biochemistry and biophysics (appointed in 1973), died July 15, 2003;

Jeffrey L. Obler, associate professor of political science (appointed in 1963), died March 27;

Nelson Ferebee Taylor, Cary C. Boshamer professor of law emeritus and retired University chancellor (appointed 1972), died Feb. 25;

William Alexander White, professor of geology emeritus (appointed 1944), died Feb. 12;

Warren Jake Wicker, Gladys Hall Coates professor of public law and government emeritus (appointed 1955), died June 25, 2003; and

Marilyn V. Yarbrough, professor of law (appointed in 1992), died March 10.

Put a talented teacher in the same room with talented and motivated students, and it doesn't take a research scientist to figure out that the inevitable outcome will be a mastery of the subject worthy of A's.

Others, though, argue that more professors should raise the bar higher so that jumping over it requires more exerted effort.

The issue first drew serious attention four years ago when the EPC, led by economics professor Boone Turchi, submitted a report that documented a steady increase in grade point averages between 1967 and 1999 and concluded that grade inflation was a serious problem.

In response to what is now referred to as "the Turchi Report," the Faculty Council created a task force on grading standards that issued an April 2001 report that was far less critical than the Turchi Report.

The EPC's new report acknowledged that the argument remains as up in the air as the grades at issue.

But the report also acknowledged that not all members of the EPC see higher grades as a problem that needs addressing at all. While "a substantial majority" of EPC members believe grade inflation is a serious problem, a smaller group disagrees. The philosophical divide between EPC members mirrors the contrasting perspectives found in the Turchi Report and the 2001 report written in response to it.

"We want to acknowledge that GPAs are an important and controversial subject," the EPC report said. "It is not controversial that average grades have gotten higher over the last 40 years, but there is strong disagreement about why this has happened, what it means, and whether anything should be done about it."

The 2004 report did not review such questions as the purpose of grading or why grades are rising. Nor did it look at the disparities in grades across disciplines.

Instead, it explored grading trends over the past four years and offered several steps that "should be studied for possible implementation" to address grade inflation.

Over the four-year period from spring of 1999 to spring of 2003, grade averages increased an average of .0185 grade points per year, compared to an average rate of increase of .0208 points per year during the longer period the Turchi report documented.

"I don't believe in the mythic past when things were right," said Peter Gordon, a psychology professor and chair of the EPC. "But these scores are going up."

And, he said, they are going up at a faster rate than rising SAT scores of incoming freshmen can explain them.

The report also included a substantial review of national trends in grading that indicated grades are increasing at a rate of .0146 per year.

In fact, Gordon said, grades are even higher at the most elite private colleges than they are at public universities.

Again, the explanations split two ways, he said.

Is it because the students are even smarter and the teachers even better than everywhere else? Or does the explanation fall under the "please the customer" model. Because the customers at the elite institutions are paying more for their education, they demand a higher level of satisfaction that is met in the form of better grades.

In the spring of 1999 at Carolina, A's constituted 37.76 percent of all undergraduate grades, while 38.96 percent were B's. By spring of 2003, A's had climbed to 40.6 percent of all grades, while B's fell slightly to 39.38 percent. The percentage of C's fell from 16.98 to 14.57 during the same four-year span.

Dwight Rogers of the School of Education, for one, said he was dismayed by the idea that professors should be proud of low grade point averages in their classrooms. "If my students don't do well, it's my fault, too."

Another professor complained of a Catch 22 of contradictory expectations about grading.

On the one hand, the University appears to be asking professors to grade tougher to ensure academic rigor is not compromised. Under this thinking, students should have to work to get a high mark. On the other hand, professors are expected to have full classrooms, and the popularity or lack of popularity is heavily considered in decisions over which professors will get tenure and which will not.

To be sure, students keep closer score of professors now, thanks to a for-profit web service called Pick-a-Prof. The service provides information about grade distributions in individual sections, listed by instructor, for classes taught at the University.

The EPC cited this service as a cause for concern. If more students were to use the service to select courses, it would lead to greater demand for instructors who grade high, and thus reinforce the problem that needs to be reversed.

The EPC gave recommendations that it would like to see "explored," including one that would set 2.7 as the mean grade point average for all departments. It would be enforced by budgetary sanctions to departments with grades that exceeded the standard.

Another recommendation was to look at a statistical procedure instituted by the University of Washington that would account for the effect grading practices have on overall student evaluations of teachers.

The final recommendation was to devise a simple system that would convert grades given to a particular class into ranks so that an individual student's grade could be viewed in context with his or her classmates.

Chancellor James Moeser said he rejects the idea of imposing a budget penalty on departments for their grading practices but said the questions that the report documents are too important to ignore.

"I would really like to hear faculty views on this," Moeser said. "Ultimately, this is destructive to our students when readers of transcripts don't know what to make of them."

In another matter of interest, Faculty Chair Judith Wegner reviewed the preliminary results of a faculty survey circulated this spring that looks at what variables beyond pay play into decisions about whether to stay at the University or leave.

Wegner said a written analysis of the survey would be presented to the Faculty Council in the fall.

Moeser said he is often asked what his greatest challenge is. Faculty retention, he said, is "always my answer."

Good news on this front is the Carolina First campaign's success so far in raising funds for faculty support, Moeser said.

The campaign has brought in nearly $189 million in commitments -- or 63 percent -- of its original $300 million goal for this area, and the steering committee recently increased that goal by $100 million. Campuswide, Carolina First donors have created 115 endowed professorships, more than half of the 200-professorship goal.

"Our friends are responding because they understand the importance of this faculty and its role in the transformation of the North Carolina economy and the advancement of knowledge in our nation and world," Moeser said.


Griffin enters senate race

Tommy Griffin, chair of the Employee Forum, will run for the state senate.

Griffin has filed to run for the 18th district, which covers Chatham and Lee counties, along with a part of Durham County. The seat was recently vacated by Wib Gulley. A Chatham County resident, Griffin will run as a Democrat.

Griffin, an HVAC mechanic, has worked at Carolina for 31 years. He is in his third year of leading the Employee Forum. State personnel regulations allow Griffin to run for political office, although he will be prohibited from campaigning during work time.

Griffin plans to retire from the University if he is elected.


Commuting options garner accolade

A campaign that began April 20 to raise awareness about local traffic congestion and air quality-related issues is preaching to the choir at Carolina. That's because the Triangle Best Workplaces for Commuters Program (BWC) already has acknowledged the University -- and just 10 other Triangle employers -- as best workplaces for commuters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the N.C. Department of Transportation are working together in a partnership aimed at improving the way people get to and from work. The BWC program publicly recognizes employers whose commuter benefits reach a national standard of excellence. The program builds on the efforts of many top employers to help get employees to work safely, on time and free of commuter-related stress.

Carolina's inclusion among the Triangle elite is a reflection of its ongoing initiatives to improve parking on, and commuting to, campus. Examples include:

Park-and-ride lots. Free parking was implemented in 1998 at six park-and-ride lots, and there are now eight from which to choose: three controlled by the University and five provided by the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. For people who park and ride, the Department of Public Safety offers an emergency ride-back service (a key support system for park-and-ride services).

Commuter Alternatives Program (CAP). CAP was initiated in April 2002 as a means to reduce traffic congestion and the number of vehicles parked on campus. CAP supports all forms of alternative transportation, including bicycling, walking, transit, park-and-ride, carpool and vanpool.

Fare-free transit. In January 2002, Chapel Hill Transit became fare free, thanks to a partnership between the University and the Town of Chapel Hill. Now anyone on campus can board a bus and ride it free for as far as it will go.

Zipcars. Four silver Volkswagen Beetles -- the Zipcar fleet -- arrived on campus on Jan. 7, and users are able to rent them by the hour as a way to go off campus or around it without having to own a car or pay for a place to park it.

Debby Freed, transportation demand manager for the Department of Public Safety, Transportation and Parking said, "The University is very pleased to be among the first workplaces in North Carolina to be designated as a Best Workplace for Commuters. However, having achieved that designation does not signal a stopping point, but a place from which we will continue to move forward.

"In fall, the University will begin subsidizing TTA (Triangle Transit Authority) transit passes offering all UNC and UNCH employees and students monthly passes for a cost of $10 a month, $38 less than the cost of a regular TTA transit pass. In addition, the University will subsidize $10 a month of the cost of TTA vanpool riders."

The Best Workplaces for Commuters Program in the Triangle is funded by a grant approved by the Triangle J Council of Governments. It will include employers in the counties of Durham, Orange and Wake and will focus on increasing the number of employer-based transportation programs aimed at reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx, which is released by fuel combustion).

These goals will be achieved by increasing employers' awareness of the BWC program, assisting employers in becoming designated as BWC, supporting regional transportation demand management efforts and identifying innovative solutions to commuter transportation and mobility needs.

To qualify to be a Best Workplace for Commuters, an employer must offer one primary benefit (fare-free transit, for example), usually three secondary benefits (such as shuttles to and from transit stations, ridesharing or carpool matching), and emergency rides home.

Carolina may have a way to travel before its students and employees make a wholesale switch away from private cars, but the inroads have been made. Now it's a matter of driving on them regularly.

For more information about Triangle Best Workplaces for Commuters, see: or

CAP registration begins the second week in May. To find out more, see:


Bus tour an overview of the health of the state

A crash course might be a poor choice of words to describe any classroom with wheels.

But that sums up what the Tar Heel Bus Tour once again sets out to be when it loads up its passengers and hits the road on May 10.

There's just one subject -- North Carolina -- but the prisms through which it will be viewed will shift as fast as the passing scenery, from economics to history to culture.

One new wrinkle this year will be the direct participation of the Carolina Center for Public Service, with two of its staffers -- Amy Gorely and Elaine Tola -- included among coordinators.

The bus tour was designed not only as an information primer to the state, but a reminder for newly arrived faculty and staff that service to North Carolina is a part of the University's legacy and remains part of its charge.

"As you travel across the state, I hope you will observe how Carolina faculty are using their research to improve local communities and that you will look for ways to provide your own service to North Carolina," Chancellor James Moeser said in a note to tour participants.

Michael Hooker, the late University chancellor, began the privately funded tour in 1997 as a means of exposing incoming professors and administrators to the rich tapestry of culture and history and commerce that is North Carolina.

Moeser has said there is no better way for the University to make connections with the people of the state.

Listed below are just a few of this year's stops:

Neuse River (New Bern). Faculty from Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences will guide a boat tour down the Neuse to show how water quality is measured and assessed, as well as how recent hurricanes have affected it.

Tri-County Health Clinic (Dunn). Members of the Community Advisory Committee and Carolina's Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention will discuss how the program HOPE Works encourages healthy eating habits, stress reduction and career counseling in the community.

Pillowtex (Kannapolis). In July 2003, more than 4,800 textile workers in North Carolina lost their jobs when Pillowtex Corp. closed. Hit hardest was Kannapolis. The Kannapolis town manager and former Pillowtex employees will talk about how their community has coped with the loss, and tour participant Jonathan Morgan will discuss how the University is helping with recovery efforts.

Bernhardt Furniture Co. (Lenoir). North Carolina leads the nation in production of household furniture and fixtures and the industry is the second largest employer in the state's factory sector.

Grandfather Mountain. After Hugh Morton shares his award-winning photography, the group will take in the view from the top of the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the highest footbridge in America.

Joe Gibbs Race Shop (Huntersville). Motor sports generates an estimated $1.5 billion for the state's economy and provides more than 10,000 jobs. Trisha Fuller will take the group on a behind-the-scenes look at the industry's cultural, economic and political impact on the state.

To learn more about this year's bus tour, see


Epi-Aid appears when public health at risk

State officials are regularly calling upon Carolina students to help investigate public health concerns close to home, such as the January gastrointestinal outbreak on the campus.

The results of their investigations are helping officials out of state, too. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used the students' analysis of a Buncombe County hepatitis A outbreak to help investigate a possible source for a multi-state outbreak.

TEAM EPI-AID Graduate students Drew Voetsch (left) and Michelle Torok are members of the N.C. Center for Public Health Preparedness initiative -- based in the School of Public Health's N.C. Institute for Public Health -- that deals with outbreak investigations and other short-term public health projects.

These students are members of Team Epi-Aid, an initiative of the N.C. Center for Public Health Preparedness, which is based in the School of Public Health's N.C. Institute for Public Health.

The year-old program comprises 103 graduate students enrolled in the schools of public health, medicine and pharmacy. These students assist the N.C. Division of Public Health and local health departments with outbreak investigations and other short-term public health projects. Since its formation, Team Epi-Aid has helped with nine separate applied public health activities.

When significant numbers of students turned up at the Student Health Service in January with reports of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, Team Epi-Aid students were recruited to help Orange County Health Department officials investigate the cause.

"Team Epi-Aid members were responsible for contacting UNC students over the phone and interviewing them about their health, activities and recent meals," said Nikki Jarrett, a master's degree student in epidemiology and one of 10 Team Epi-Aid members assisting with the investigation.

Grant to put volunteers in counties

Part of a $100,000 grant from the Association of Schools of Public Health to the Carolina School of Public Health will be used to put Team Epi-Aid volunteers to work in local counties.

The association is a national organization representing the deans, faculty and students of the accredited member schools of public health and other programs seeking accreditation as schools of public health. It serves as a data center and a liaison among the schools, government, other professional bodies and the public.

In the three weeks following the initial report of symptoms, more than 240 students were diagnosed as having been exposed to noroviruses, a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis or the stomach flu. Students who had eaten in Lenoir Dining Hall on Jan. 19 were found to be about five times more likely to have acquired the noroviruses as students who had not eaten there.

Such investigations give Team Epi-Aid students a chance to get hands-on experience in their field of study, said Pia MacDonald, director of the N.C. Center for Public Health Preparedness, a research assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and the program's founder.

"Students are hungry for applied experience in public health," MacDonald said. "This is a chance for them to see some of the things they learn about in class in a real-life setting."

Team Epi-Aid also supports the state in important ways, said state epidemiologist Jeffrey Engel.

"Before Team Epi-Aid, many outbreaks would not be investigated simply because morbidity was low, numbers were low and/or the outbreak was short lived and spontaneously abated without a specific public health intervention," he said. "Now that the state is able to investigate many of these outbreaks using Team Epi-Aid, state and local public health authorities are better able to plan prevention strategies and learn how to conduct outbreak investigations."

Michelle Torok, a Team Epi-Aid member who helped investigate a hepatitis A outbreak in Buncombe County last fall, said working on the investigation has given her new perspective.

"It's one thing to learn about this stuff in class," said Torok, who is pursuing her doctorate in epidemiology in the School of Public Health, "but it's a very different experience to go through the process of a real investigation and experience the time pressure to interview people who may have been exposed during an outbreak."

Sixteen people were diagnosed with hepatitis A during the Buncombe County outbreak, including many who had eaten in an Asheville noodle shop. Team Epi-Aid members worked with state and local officials to determine the source of the outbreak, including designing a case-control study, conducting interviews with people who had become ill and also those who hadn't, entering and analyzing data and writing a summary report.

Contaminated produce may have been the illness source. Study results, with contributions by Team Epi-Aid members, was presented at the 53rd Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference in Atlanta in April.

The CDC also used Team Epi-Aid's analysis for comparison with reports of other hepatitis A outbreaks that occurred during at the same time in Georgia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania to determine if a common source caused the multi-state outbreak. In at least one of the other states, contaminated produce was determined to be a probable cause.

Other activities in which Team Epi-Aid has participated in the past year include an HIV cluster investigation, a SARS investigation and response, a hepatitis B outbreak investigation, a food-borne illness surveillance study, a study of adverse events in response to smallpox vaccinations and a rapid needs assessment of counties affected by Hurricane Isabel.

Students have also staffed the state's Public Health Command Center at the Division of Public Health during emergencies when it is opened.

"Team Epi-Aid has been a wonderful way for me to gain experience in applied epidemiology, meet and network with students and experts in the field, and help others," Jarrett said. "It's rewarding to know that my work might prevent others from becoming ill."


The sky's the limit for Morehead

Holden Thorp took over as director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center with a vision of what the center could become.

The planetarium, which opened in 1949, was the first in the world to be built on a college campus. But when Thorp took over in summer of 2001, there was talk about closing it because of dated, narrow programs and dwindling attendance.
'THE STARRY NIGHT SKY' Mary Pope Osborne, author of the children's book series "Magic Tree House," chats with husband and scriptwriter Will (center) about production notes while Morehead Center Director Holden Thorp (right) looks on. "Magic Tree House Space Mission" made its debut in March at the planetarium. For information on the production, see

Now, attendance records are being broken and plans call for a 100,000 square-foot addition for a new lobby and visitor area along Franklin Street.

Thorp said he is encouraged by the progress but much remains to be done. The center is a far different place than what it was three years ago, but so, too, is the vision of what the center might become.

"Much of what we have learned has been by trial and error, so the vision I had three years ago is not the same as it is now," Thorp said. "I would be a lousy leader if that were the case."

The reconfigured vision that he and his staff have developed seeks to tailor the service to the customer while engaging the entire University community in contributing to the center and enjoying it themselves.

The latest sign of progress came when the center set a new weekly attendance record when 5,816 visitors attended planetarium programming for the week of March 22 - 28. The record was set on the strength of the 3,500 people who saw "Magic Tree House Space Mission," a new show based on the "Magic Tree House" book series by Mary Pope Osborne.

Thorp said the show's success may be viewed as a milestone in the center's turnaround.

Show times

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center's production of "Magic Tree House Space Mission" runs:

Fridays -- 7 p.m.;

Saturdays -- 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 7 p.m.; and

Sundays -- 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.

For information about all of the center's shows, see:

"I think everyone was really scratching their head about the future of the planetarium, and there was a good chance it could have gotten shut down," Thorp said. "So the milestone of having 800 kids show up for the opening of "Magic Tree House" and having a blockbuster franchise like that with its exclusive home at MPSC is that it's a long way from where we were.

"This result indicates the enthusiasm that is out there for high-quality programs and the ability of our team to deliver."

But this show should also be viewed as part of a larger trend.

In 2001, for instance, the center received a $1.5 million grant from NASA to begin revamping programs.

In 2002, three key staff people were added. Bob Gotwals was hired as associate director with a focus on middle and high school programs. Denise Young came in to concentrate on education programs suited for children from kindergarten to fifth grade. Jeff Hill was hired as marketing director to promote the array of new programs.

The year was capped with the premier of the revamped "Star of Bethlehem" show. Featuring University faculty experts and new digital video technology, the show quadrupled the previous year's public attendance.

In 2003, the center premiered the film: "DNA: The Secret of Life," which played at science museums all over the country. Thorp arranged for Jim Watson, who was one of the scientists to win the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA's double helix, to visit the campus and give a lecture in connection with the film's opening.

That same year, the center opened "Life in the Universe," the first Star Theater show for a middle school audience. "Life in the Universe" features Nobel Laureate Christian DeDuve, a number of University faculty, actress Sharon Lawrence and men's basketball coach Roy Williams.

Hill works closely with the education team that develops the programs that Hill promotes.

"The give-and-take between the programming and marketing is the key -- you can't market a product no one wants, and you don't want to give great programs to empty seats," Thorp said.

Star Theater shows have been augmented with video and digital elements that Thorp believes offer a unique approach to planetarium experiences.

Thorp said Desmond Mullen and Richard McColman from his staff deserve a huge amount of credit for adding these new technologies into the mix. "I think the beautiful intersection of content and audiovisual ingenuity that we have figured out is as great as anywhere in the country."

Getting other faculty members involved in the educational programming has also been critical, Thorp said.

The National Science Foundation and other funding agencies like to see mainstream investigators involved in educational outreach efforts. One example of that is the outreach effort involving chemistry's Mark Schoenfish, who will offer a two-week camp for middle school girls this summer based on his research.

"We have scientists right here, and we have students who want to learn to teach, develop programs and think about business things like marketing and retail," Thorp said. "Involving the students is a big deal, and we're just getting started at figuring out how to do that."

This year, the center awarded its first fellowships for Carolina undergraduates to physics-astronomy major Jesse Richuso and chemistry major Wesley Ange.

The center also began Spanish language programs spearheaded by undergraduate Mark Sanders, earning him a Bryan Fellowship for public service.

Thorp came to the center as a chemistry professor who graduated from the University in 1986 and returned here to teach in 1993. Three years later, he founded a company, Xanthon, based on technology developed at the University for detection of nucleic acids.

When Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Shelton announced Thorp's hiring, he cited Thorp's success both as a successful research scientist and as an entrepreneur.

But Thorp also carried with him lessons in showmanship taught to him by his mother Bo, who was instrumental in creating and sustaining a theater in Fayetteville that has lasted more than four decades.

"I think the thing I learned from her is that if you want to build an institution that is based on ticket sales, you'd better set high expectations in your audience and keep meeting them," Thorp said.

"After the first time we watched a complete version of the `Magic Tree House' show, I said to Desmond and Richard that the only thing wrong with it was that it would be hard to top. "Desmond responded by saying, `Yeah, but you'll figure out some way to make us do it.'

"The education, content and marketing team we've got now doesn't need me to make them continue to push forward -- they want to do it and we figured all of this out together. That's our business plan in a nutshell."


New faculty dive into Carolina's gene pool

Three recent faculty arrivals in the genetics department in Carolina's School of Medicine are studying how the interaction of multiple genes is involved in common and complex human diseases.

Last year saw the arrival from Virginia Commonwealth University of Patrick Sullivan, professor of genetics and psychiatry in the medical schools and an adjunct professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health.

Sullivan, a psychiatric geneticist, has written more than 120 professional publications. A major theme in his laboratory's research is understanding the etiology of a number of important health problems, such as smoking behavior, schizophrenia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

"These disorders exhibit complex patterns of inheritance," he said. "Developing an understanding of these disorders requires the integration of findings from multiple investigative approaches such as epidemiology, [gene] linkage analysis and association studies."

Kirk Wilhelmsen, associate professor of genetics and neurology, has a long-standing interest in the human brain and how genetic variation causes differences in human behavior. He focuses on genetic mapping of genes responsible for neurodegenerative disorders. He came to Carolina in December, 2003, from the University of California at San Francisco with a large collection of blood samples from patients recruited for clinical studies.

Wilhelmsen's lab has been developing automated gene mapping technologies to study the genetics of alcoholism.

"There are few conditions where there is a genetic susceptibility that shows more complex interactions between genes and the environment than alcoholism," he said. "Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that genetics play a role in alcoholism, but it is also clear that there are complex interactions between genes and the environment that remain ill-defined."

Teasing out these interactions will be a daunting challenge as his group attempts to find key susceptibility genes for alcoholism.

Wilhelmsen also uses gene mapping technologies to study the gene responsible for a family of disorders called frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17). In collaboration with a consortium of researchers, his lab recently identified mutations in the "tau" gene that are linked to FTDP-17. His research seeks to determine how mutations in this gene produce disease and what role tau plays in other neurodegenerative conditions.

Karen L. Mohlke, assistant professor of genetics, earned her doctorate from the University of Michigan and joined the University faculty in January. Her interest in genomics and complex diseases has included research as a graduate student in the molecular basis of von Willebrand's disease, a bleeding disorder, and studies on predictors of genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.

After completing her doctorate, Mohlke joined Francis Collins, who graduated from medical school here, at the National Human Genome Research Institute, where she led a team working to uncover susceptibility genes for type 2 diabetes. aThis study represents the most comprehensive collection of data focused on genetics of adult onset diabetes in the academic sector. The team identified a specific candidate gene on chromosome 20 and a region on chromosome 22.

Sullivan, Wilhelmsen and Mohlke also are members of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences.

"I think we've assembled a strong group in human genetics. The synergy now has formed quite nicely between human and mouse genetics," said center director Terry Magnuson, Sarah Graham Kenan professor of genetics. "The establishment last year of our clinical genetics research center as a component of CCGS will enable basic scientists to understand the relationship between genetics and disease by allowing them to tap into clinical work at Carolina with patients and their families."

In 2001, Chancellor James Moeser announced a campuswide genomics initiative representing a public-private investment of at least $245 million over the next 10 years. Four new buildings affiliated with genomics research are supported by a combination of funds from the statewide higher education bond referendum, prior state appropriations and campus sources, including private gifts.

The initiative involves faculty from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health -- as well as the College of Arts & Sciences and the schools of information and library science and law.


The "Gazette" now attempts to include most photos that are presented as "stand alone" entities in the print version of the paper. In addition, these photos may be available to download as high-resolution images. See photos.html.

SUMMER JOB FAIR   Alfred Reid, research instructor in family medicine, checks out job possibilities for his son, Patrick, with Jill Ridky (right), research associate professor and director of program development of the Center for Women's Health Research at the Summer Job Fair held April 30 at the Friday Center. Next in line is Donzella Richardson, office assistant at the Friday Center, who is checking on jobs for her daughters Lotya and Latonia, both students at UNC system schools. The fair was implemented as one of the initiatives proposed by the Chancellor's Task Force for a Better Workplace.

BRIGHT FUTURE Energy Services employees Ralph Taylor (left) and Meg Holton roll out the department's new conservation awareness banner on Earth Day, April 22. The slogan, "Keep the Future Bright, Turn off the Light," was the winner among six student-submitted slogans to find a catch phrase to accompany the launch of an energy conservation awareness campaign in the fall. The campaign stems from the state's Utility Savings Initiative, which calls for state agencies to save at least 4 percent on their utility bills each year through 2008 as a way to help offset budget cuts.

'THE GIFT' Left, the courtyard between the old and new Student Union buildings is transformed by the new public art by Haliwa-Saponi artist Senora Lynch of Warrenton. The mosaic of light-colored brick is the campus's first monument to Native Americans. The enclosed pedestrian bridge above the walkway is the best place to view "The Gift.' Right, Carolina Union Director Don Luse is presented with a Native American blanket at the April 20 dedication of the artwork. For more information on the project, see