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University Gazette

bullet Clark takes personal approach in mentoring students
bullet Charest, first HR department leader, to retire

bullet Appointment to endowed professorship: Arthuf Champagne
bullet Decorations & Distinctions

Clark takes personal approach in mentoring students

When Fred Clark came to Carolina from Florida to teach Spanish in 1967, he wasn’t even interviewed.

“They offered me a position in the mail back in those days,” Clark said.

Fred Clark received the Massey Award for his leadership in launching innovative mentoring programs for students.

He had never seen Chapel Hill when he left in his car.

“I remember I drove up from Florida. It was about two in the morning and I was in Carrboro and there was almost nothing there then and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is Chapel Hill.’”

He finally found the Holiday Inn and the next day he “found the University and realized what a great place it was.”

Nearly 40 years later, Clark has found no reason to go anywhere else. Last spring, he found himself surprised by a phone call from Chancellor James Moeser, who informed him he had won a 2006 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.

Clark is now a full professor and internationally recognized expert in Brazilian theater. As a senior member of the Portuguese section of the Department of Romance Languages, he is a popular teacher of Portuguese and Brazilian literature — both in the language and in translation — and has served as dissertation chair for several generations of graduate students in the Romance languages. His other duties have included interim chair of the Romance languages department and assistant dean in the General College.

Currently, as associate dean of academic services, he has responsibility for the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes, Learning Disabilities Services, the Learning Center, the Summer Bridge Program, chemistry and mathematics tutorials and the Writing Center.  He is integral to the 13 Carolina Testing and Orientation programs held each summer, is a faculty mentor to the Carolina Scholars and, most recently, serves as faculty coordinator of the Carolina Covenant Faculty Mentoring program.

He also spearheaded a new Covenant Scholar Mentor Program that began this fall.  “It is one thing to perform these roles,” wrote a colleague in her recommendation, “but quite another to do them the way he does.”

‘Number six out of seven’
He grew up outside Gainesville, Fla., in a family of four girls and three boys that had a spread of 18 years between youngest and oldest. Clark was “number six.”

His father was a contractor with little more than a grade-school education, his mother a nurse. When Clark went off to the University of Florida in Gainesville, his father thought it was good his son was going to school but had no concept of how it would change his son’s life. When Clark earned his Ph.D., his father’s idea of it was, “You’re a doctor now.”

During his last few months in graduate school in Florida, Clark went to Spain to work in the national library and collect material for his dissertation from 17th century manuscripts. He returned to Spain to finish his research after joining the Carolina faculty.

He was contracted to teach Spanish, but because he had done a minor in Portuguese, he taught both before moving exclusively into teaching Portuguese.

His Ph.D. is in 17th century Spanish theater, but over the years, both his teaching and research interests migrated to South America and the study of 20th century Brazilian theater.

More than 20 years ago — he can’t remember the exact year — Clark discovered yet another love when he started working in the advising program then housed in South Building. Later, he served as a faculty adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences and kept on a path that would eventually intersect with Shirley Ort and her idea for what would become the Carolina Covenant program, now in its third year.

When Ort, the University’s director of student financial aid, developed the idea for the Covenant program, she knew it had to be more than just a financial package. Through the program, Ort wanted to build an ongoing relationship, an emotional bond, between the student and the institution. And to help make that happen, Ort knew she needed somebody on the faculty with the know-how to create a mentoring program — and to be that lead mentor.

It is here that the Brazilian theater expert entered center stage.

When Ort asked Clark to run the program, he couldn’t tell her no.

Staying connected
When people talk about accessibility in higher education, they are talking about financial barriers that can keep qualified students from underprivileged backgrounds from attending college.

When Clark talks about accessibility, he is talking about his relationship to the students -- and the telephone.

During an hour-long interview, Clark’s phone kept ringing and Clark kept picking it up.

“I can almost never let a phone go,” Clark said.

He can’t ignore a phone because by doing so he could be ignoring students needing his help right away, or thinking they do, which in Clark’s mind is all the same.

In fact, he gives his students his home number, too, because he understands that problems don’t always happen during office hours.

As sophisticated as they are, as smart as they are, they are still just kids, Clark said. Many of them, when they have a problem, feel as if they have to solve it immediately. Sometimes, all that takes is a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone.

“My whole idea is to personalize this and I think that is what we are trying to do as a university. We are trying to personalize Carolina, from the chancellor down, to make it a personal experience and not to let it be this bureaucratic thing you would find at a really huge university.”

But personalized attention also requires face-to-face contact, which is something Ort thought of when she gave Clark a budget to have lunch and dinner with Carolina Covenant scholars.

The covenant is not just about finding a way to get top students from disadvantaged backgrounds into college and out debt-free. It’s about helping them to get through successfully once they are here. And to be successful once they leave. And that is what all those lunches and dinners are really about, Clark said.

The program has brought positive national attention to Carolina and, recently, to Clark. In a Sept. 27 story on the Carolina Covenant in USA Today, a Covenant scholar credited Clark with helping her find out she had a learning disability. After knowing she had it, she learned to compensate well enough to keep her grade point average at 3.6.

Clark describes working with this groundbreaking program as the best years of his career. But he also takes pains to point out that none of this is about him.

“This program will live beyond us,” Clark said. “This is a program that will really characterize Chancellor (James) Moeser’s tenure here. It is a big part of his legacy because it is something that is very dear to him and he has been very supportive.”

The same could be said of the University Board of Trustees and the state legislature, Clark said. Both have demonstrated strong support for need-based financial aid, one of the key components of the funding formula for the program.

His colleagues, both advisers and faculty members and administrators, regularly join him for these dinners and lunches with students and are no less reluctant than he in passing out their phone numbers to students.

 “All of these folks are in on it so that we can make this a very personal experience so that the students and the parents feel comfortable in asking for something. Our big thing is don’t be embarrassed to ask for it. It’s out there.”

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Charest, first HR department leader, to retire

Laurie Charest, the University’s long-serving associate vice chancellor for Human Resources (HR), will retire on Jan. 31, 2007.


David Perry, the interim vice hancellor for finance and administration, made the announcement to deans, directors, department chairs, business managers and HR facilitators on Oct. 12.

“Laurie is the first and only human resources professional to hold this important administrative position at Carolina, and has performed her duties with exceptional wisdom and dedication from 1990 to the present moment,” Perry said in the announcement.

“Her departure early next year will leave a void we all will be challenged to fill.  All her colleagues look forward to suitable opportunities in the coming weeks at which to express, individually and collectively, our thanks and gratitude for her service.”

Perry said that discussions of transitional planning for the vacancy in this position, as well as the search process for Charest’s eventual successor, are in their earliest stages.

Charest earned her undergraduate degree at Carolina and holds a master’s degree in public administration from N.C. State. She left her job at Duke University, where she was director of employment and human resource information systems, to come to the University to take charge of the newly created HR department.

Charest, in her message to HR staff, said she would leave with a sense of great pride in their many accomplishments and “with great confidence in each of you.”

“While it is hard to imagine getting up each day and not coming in to face the ongoing challenges of this job which I have lived and breathed with you for many hours of each day and night for 16 plus years, I believe that, after over 30 years in higher education administration, the time is right to retire,” Charest wrote. “I look forward to returning to the role of private citizen, to loving my alma mater from without instead of within, and to enjoying time and life with family and friends.”

She closed by thanking employees for their outstanding work and adding, “I cannot imagine a finer group of HR professionals — UNC-Chapel Hill is very lucky.”

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Appointment to endowed professorship


bullet Title: Class of 1989/ William C. Friday Distinguished Professor.

bullet Department: Physics and Astronomy.

bullet Education: Ph.D., Yale University.

bullet At Carolina since: 1990.

bullet Classes taught at the graduate level: Stellar Interiors, Nuclear Reaction Theory, Electricity and Magnetism.

bullet Classes taught at the undergraduate level: Introductory Mechanics, Introductory Electricity and Magnetism, Modern Physics, Nuclear Physics, Introductory Astronomy.

bullet Research focus: Nuclear astrophysics (i.e. stellar and galactic evolution, stellar explosions, origin of the elements).

bullet Major publications: Review articles in Reviews of Modern Physics, Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society; recent Physical Review Letter that revises a key nuclear reaction in stellar burning as well as the age of the galaxy.

bullet Major honors: Fellow, American Physical Society 2001.

bullet Little known fact: Rock/blues guitar for 31 years; a couple of gigs in Raleigh last year — no money made.

bullet About the endowment: The Class of 1989 Distinguished Teaching Professorship honors William C. Friday, the former UNC system president who served the University for nearly 40 years. The professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences was endowed in 1994 by the Class of 1989 and numerous private donors. The gift of $333,000 was supplemented with $167,000 in state funds from the Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund to create a $500,000 endowed professorship.

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Decorations & Distinctions

Camille Catlett
An investigator at FPG Child Development Institute, Catlett has received the 2006 Mary McEvoy Service to the Field Award from the Division of Early Childhood (DEC). DEC is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and the gifted.

The award recognizes Catlett’s significant contributions to improve the lives of young children with special needs around
the globe, their families and those who work on their behalf.

University Child Care Center
Also known as Victory Village, the University Child Care Center is the winner of the 2006 VIVA! Garden for Schools contest. The awards, announced Sept. 28 by plant and flower grower VIVA!, recognize 50 child-care centers nationwide for excellent gardens. The award to the center came in the category of “Best Garden Plans.”

A group of parent volunteers spent the past year and a half converting an 850 square-foot corner of sandy and unused playground into the award-winning outdoor space. Funding for the garden has come entirely from gifts and donations.


Jean DeSaix
Senior lecturer in the Department of Biology, DeSaix is the winner of the 2006 National Association of Biology Teachers’ Four-Year College Biology Teaching Award. The award recognizes a four-year college educator who demonstrates creativity and innovation in teaching.

DeSaix received the award during the group’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., earlier this month.

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