By Russell C. Campbell
"Gazette" contributing writer
Editor's note: To read additional
excerpts of Campbell's interview with Deb Aikat, refer to www.unc.edu/~rcc3/aikat.html.
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
"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
Carolina employees encouraged
to apply for jobs in new Ombudsperson Office
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
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
to faculty and staff and discuss their problems/concerns;
with appropriate campus administrative offices to obtain explanations
of University policies and procedures and help faculty and staff
avenues of communication and gather information;
as a "liaison" between the person with the concern and the person
with whom the conflict exists;
through established administrative channels to assist in resolving
faculty and staff of alternative courses of action and help pursue
up to ensure concerns are addressed; and
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 hr.unc.edu/jobseekers.
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 hr.unc.edu/hottopics/betterworkplace/.
Grade inflation gets exam
have overtaken B's as the leading grade University professors
issue to their students.
What do you do when excellence
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
Some say the grades are
so high because the teachers and students are so good.
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
Instead, it explored grading
trends over the past four years and offered several steps that
"should be studied for possible implementation" to address grade
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
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
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
Wegner said a written analysis
of the survey would be presented to the Faculty Council in the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: www.bwc.gov
CAP registration begins
the second week in May. To find out more, see:
Bus tour an overview of the health
of the state
crash course might be a poor choice of words to describe any classroom
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
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:
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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 www.unc.edu/bustour.
Epi-Aid appears when public health
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
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
"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
"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
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
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 www.moreheadplanetarium.org.
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.
Morehead Planetarium and
Science Center's production of "Magic Tree House Space Mission"
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.,
For information about
all of the center's shows, see: www.moreheadplanetarium.org.
"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
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.
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,
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
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
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
Wilhelmsen's lab has been
developing automated gene mapping technologies to study the genetics
"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
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
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.
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.
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
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