June 20, 2007 edition

TOP STORIES:

Hyatt

Ronald W. Hyatt, long-time professor of exercise and sport science and faculty marshal from 1992 to 2003, gave to the University, the state and his profession for much of his life.

He died June 13 at age 73 after a long battle with cancer.

Details ...

Budget proposals now under negotiation between the state House and Senate point to another potentially good year coming up for the UNC system.

For the 2007-08 fiscal year that begins July 1, the House proposed giving SPA employees a 4.25 percent raise, compared to the 4 percent increase recommended by the Senate. The House also recommended a 4.25 percent raise for EPA employees, while the Senate called for a 5 percent raise for faculty and a 4 percent increase for EPA non-faculty.

Details ...

On May 24, Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost Bernadette Gray-Little presented a proposal for streamlining the process to the University Board of Trustees. By establishing a stronger line of communication between the Tuition and Fee Advisory Task Force and the University trustees, she said, the trustees’ views could be incorporated earlier in the process.

Details ...

Cheek

Described by her co-workers as a creative problem-solver with “friendly shrewdness,” Kathryn Cheek received this year’s University Managers Association award in recognition of her accomplishments, both inside and outside her job duties, and her long-time commitment to the University.

Details ...

test well

 

Workers drill a 500-foot geothermal test well May 22 on the site of the North Carolina Botanical Garden ’s future Visitor Education Center.

Details ...

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More Stories

bullet Carolina First campaign update           
bullet Board discusses construction on and off campus
bullet Botanist extraordinaire
bullet Carolina makes list of top 25 for academics and sports programs
bullet Employee Forum: Forum discusses student housing upkeep and ombuds office
bullet Cheek recognized for management creativity
bullet Grant to boost Ph.D. completions  
bullet Green building in progress: North Carolina Botanical Garden's Visitor Education Center  
bullet
Carolina North plans winnowed
bullet Venable Hall project sets standard for recycling, reuse
bullet What ITS About: Help site’s goal: helping users help themselves
bullet Communication studies staff member turns playwright
bullet Burroughs Wellcome Fund to help yield math, science teachers
bullet FYI Research: Researchers find how cells repair, resist cancer therapy
bullet Officials remove restrictions on water use in campus buildings  
bullet UNC balances growth and preservation  
bullet
ArtiFACTS: McAden portrait hangs in chancellor’s residence
bullet UNC nears professorship goal

Carolina First: gift of the month

Gift of the Month: May

Gift: $100,000

Donor: Edward A. and Martha Sharpless

Purpose: To endow the Sharpless Family Loyalty Fund Scholarship in the School of Medicine

Alumni Edward A. and Martha K. Sharpless of Greensboro have endowed a Loyalty Fund Scholarship in the School of Medicine to provide need- or merit-based scholarships. Both received their medical education and training at UNC; two of their children are also medical school alumni. Son Norman E. Sharpless is assistant professor at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and daughter Elizabeth Sharpless Bonanno specializes in psychiatry.

Goal: $2 billion

Raised: (as of May 29) $2.116 billion

Amount of campaign complete: 93 percent

Amount raised in May: $19.5 million

Campaign runs through: Dec. 31, 2007

More information: carolinafirst.unc.edu.

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Board discusses construction on and off campus

Steve Zeisel, director of the UNC Nutrition Institute, briefed the Board of Trustees at its May meeting on progress with the 350-acre North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis.

In September 2005, the UNC system joined with David H. Murdock, owner of Castle & Cooke Inc. and Dole Foods Company to unveil plans for the campus. When completed, it will serve as a massive scientific and economic revitalization project encompassing the former Cannon Mills plant and the entire downtown area of Kannapolis.

The 83-year-old Murdock, who is one of the wealthiest men in the world, believes that his diet has kept him healthy and is interested in the study of nutrition as a way to better people’s health, Zeisel said.

That kind of research will have a home at Carolina’s 120,000-square-foot National Research Institute building now under construction and scheduled for completion in January 2008.

Scientists know that nutritional requirements vary widely from individual to individual, Zeisel said, although current research tends to gear medicine for “the average.” At the new Carolina institute, researchers will be able to identify individual genetic and metabolic variations and use them to tailor a diet for each person’s unique set of susceptibilities, he said.

In other action, the board approved the design for the renovation and 15,000-square-foot addition to Carmichael Auditorium as well as the site for the new Robertson Scholars Program facility. The trustees also approved the firms selected to install sprinkler systems in Hinton James Residence Hall and residence halls in Upper Quad and Lower Quad. 

The board referred to staff for additional study a design proposal for a pedestrian bridge on South Road. The bridge would connect the yet-to-be-built Genomic Sciences Building beside the Bell Tower with the Science Complex and the Student Union, both of which are across South Road.

The board first looked at architectural drawings of the proposed bridge in November. Based on trustees’ comments, the drawings were tweaked and the Buildings and Grounds Committee approved the design for the bridge, with the proviso that the University look into finding an alternative material to industrial-grade concrete for the bridge.

At the full board meeting, however, Trustee Paul Fulton and others objected to the negative effect any bridge would have on one of the most beautiful vistas on campus.

Chancellor James Moeser said that a bridge would enhance safety by allowing students, faculty and staff to cross South Road above the traffic.

In other action, trustees Chair Nelson Schwab announced the nominating committee recommendations for board officers for the upcoming year.  Roger Perry was nominated as chair, Karol Mason as vice chair and Rusty Carter as secretary. The slate will be voted on in July.

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Botanist Extraordinaire

McVaugh

Rogers McVaugh, research professor of botany and the UNC Herbarium’s curator of Mexican plants, blows out the candles on a cake held by his son, Michael McVaugh, professor of history. The elder McVaugh, who celebrated his 98th birthday May 30 at Coker Hall, has been on the Carolina faculty since 1980. The Herbarium’s database includes a few dozen specimens collected by McVaugh, primarily in the 1930s and 1940s, and as the collection is catalogued more will likely be added.

A native of New York City, McVaugh earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in botany from Swarthmore College in 1931 and a doctorate in botany from the University of Pennsylvania in 1935. He published his first paper, “Recent Changes in the Composition of a Local Flora,” in 1935 and his latest publication, “Marcus E. Jones in Mexico, 1892,” in 2005.

An active researcher, McVaugh continues to work on “Flora Novo-Galiciana,” a multi-volume work focusing on the diverse flora of a region in western Mexico. In 1984, he was awarded the Botanical Society of America’s Henry Allan Gleason Award for his work on this project.

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Carolina makes list of top 25 for academics and sports programs

Move over, U.S. News & World Report. While Carolina consistently receives high marks in the magazine’s annual “best colleges” rankings, the University has two additional – and unique – top 25 rankings to add to its list of credentials. One recognizes Carolina among top research universities; the other acknowledges the overall quality of the sports programs here.

In the 2006 annual report of the Top American Research Universities, UNC ranked in the top 25 among all public universities on each of nine measures: research funding, endowment assets, annual private giving, national academy members, faculty awards, doctorates granted, postdoctoral appointees and the range of SAT/ACT scores.

Only six public universities achieved that level of excellence, Chancellor James Moeser explained at the May 24 Board of Trustees meeting. In addition to Carolina, the universities of California (Berkeley and Los Angeles), Michigan, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin ranked in the top 25 in all measures.

The Center for Measuring University Performance, based at Arizona State University, compiled the report using objective data to evaluate the top private and public U.S. research universities with at least $20 million in annual federal research expenditures. The report was co-edited by John V. Lombardi, former University of Florida president.

In the seven years the center has conducted its analysis, only four universities have had all nine measures ranked in the top 25 each year: Carolina, Berkeley, UCLA and Michigan.

Carolina recently earned a top ranking outside the classroom as well. Sports Illustrated rated Carolina athletics number one in the country.

The All-Sports Rankings, which appeared in the magazine’s On Campus issue, were calculated by taking the top 25 in men’s and women’s tennis, lacrosse, cross country, soccer, basketball, water polo, volleyball and hockey, as well as women’s softball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s baseball and football.

The magazine gave a weighted score for rankings one through 25, with a top ranking receiving 25 points and a number 25 ranking receiving one point. The exceptions were football and men’s basketball, in which a number one ranking was awarded 50 points and a number 25 ranking received 25 points.

UNC dominated college sports across the board, according to the article. The University, which was awarded 223 total points, fielded top 10 teams in men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, men’s basketball and baseball. In addition, the women’s soccer team won another national championship.

“This is just one measure, but it’s a great one,” Chancellor James Moeser said at the Board of Trustees meeting.

Moeser noted, for example, that Carolina was the only school in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the top 10 for the annual National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Cup competition, which ends this month. Carolina currently is ranked fourth overall.

The award, which originated in 1993, is given annually to the colleges and universities with the most success in college athletics. From 1994 to 2006, Carolina was one of only four schools to finish in the top 10 at least 11 times.

Moeser also noted that athletic excellence at Carolina had never been pursued at the expense of academic standards. In the current school year, 334 students, or roughly half the number of athletes, finished with grade-point averages of 3.0 or higher.

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Employee Forum News

Forum discusses student housing upkeep
and ombuds office

Keeping student housing in tip-top shape is much like housework in one fundamental respect: The cycle never ends.

At the June 6 meeting of the Employee Forum, Larry Hicks, director of housing and residential education, described the details of that never-ending task — made even more complicated as the number of buildings and rooms continues to grow.

The oldest building that Student Housing is responsible for is the 214-year-old Old East Residence Hall. The newest buildings are less than a year old.

“One of the things we are very proud of is our facilities and our continuous upkeep of these facilities,” Hicks said. “We do not believe in deferred maintenance.”

Student Housing is an auxiliary unit that receives no state funding, Hicks said. “Its budget of $44 million receives no state support and is funded entirely by paid rent and interest revenues.”

Most of the money — $15 million — is committed to debt service for renovation and construction, while $12.8 million is earmarked for personnel, including the small army of housekeepers, housing support staff and groundskeepers who keep the residential halls up and running. Another $1.7 million is used to pay some 500 student workers. Most of the remaining money — $8.3 million — pays for utilities.

In the same way a house is cleaned one room at a time, renovations for residence halls are similarly choreographed. Almost every year since the opening of Carmichael Residence Hall in 1986, the department has had at least one residence hall off line for renovation, said Hicks, who joined the department in 1985.

In all but two occasions since 1986, renovations have been completed in time for incoming students the following fall, Hicks said.

Student Housing has a nearly perfect record for coming in on time and on budget with new construction projects as well, Hicks said, but the one exception is significant.

Ram Village, which provides apartment-style housing on south campus for some 900 students, was originally expected to cost $70 million in 2003. It ended up costing about $18 million more, he said. The reasons for the overrun, however, were beyond the University’s control.

Rebuilding efforts along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 along with exports to China and Iraq led to the price of concrete and steel spiraling upward by 40 percent, Hicks said. These costs were further exacerbated because the state and local bond projects under way put heightened demand on the limited supply of contractors and construction workers available to do the work. As a result, labor costs also soared.

At the start of the 2007-08 school year, Hicks said, Student Housing will serve more than 9,000 students on campus — a population bigger than the size of most small towns in North Carolina.

In other matters, Wayne Blair and Laurie Mesibov from the University’s Ombuds Office reviewed the office’s operations for the past year.

Since July 1, 2006, the office has handled more than 250 cases, Blair said. To preserve confidentiality, names are not used as a part of record keeping. One case might consist of a single person whose issue is handled in a single visit, Blair said, while other cases could entail talking to a number of people in a department multiple times. Each issue, no matter how simple or complicated, is considered a case.

In 2004, as a result of the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace, the University created two ombudsperson positions to provide confidential, informal and neutral dispute resolution services to University employees.

Blair, who served as the ombuds officer at Columbia University, was hired into a full-time, non-faculty position when the office opened in 2005. Mesibov, a longtime professor in the School of Government, has continued working halftime in her tenured faculty post while serving halftime with Blair in the Ombuds Office.

The forum also passed a resolution calling on Chancellor James Moeser to encourage all University departments to mitigate the rapidly increasing costs of commuting to work as a result of high gasoline prices.

Among the strategies cited in the resolution are adopting, where practicable, four 10-hour workdays or allowing employees telecommuting options. The resolution encouraged the continued promotion of vanpooling, carpooling and the use of public transit as well.

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Cheek recognized for management creativity

Cheek

Kathryn Cheek, from Health Policy and Administration, receives the University Managers Association award from John Gullo, from the School of Government.

Described by her co-workers as a creative problem-solver with “friendly shrewdness,” Kathryn Cheek received this year’s University Managers Association award in recognition of her accomplishments, both inside and outside her job duties, and her long-time commitment to the University.

As assistant to the chair for resource management in the School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Administration for the past seven years, Cheek manages the budgetary, grant submission and staffing requirements of the department while she balances the diverse needs of its faculty, staff and students.

She wears these many hats with “grace, professionalism and a great deal of humor,” said Cathy Padgett, the department’s career services coordinator.

Overall, Cheek was commended for her ability to address complex financial issues, particularly during a time of transition within the school’s senior management.

“This year she deserves special recognition because of the extra work she assumed as part of her everyday tasks. … At points in time, she was educating people in senior positions about how the University financial systems work,” said Peggy Leatt, department chair.

In particular, Cheek was cited for creating an integrated Student Services Office to support the needs of applicants, students and alumni in the department’s certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs — involving some 500 students in all.

“She established this office, created the job descriptions and hired all five staff. This outstanding resource exists because of Kathy’s administrative prowess that allowed her vision to be realized,” said Morris Weinberger, Vergil N. Slee distinguished professor of health-care quality management. 

A Carolina employee since 1974, Cheek has earned a reputation for turning the workplace into a learning environment as she encourages staff members to perform to their full potential.

Ned Brooks, clinical associate professor of health policy and administration, called Cheek one of the best managers he had worked with in the past 35 years.

“She is a top-notch leader who has the courage, creativity, character, conviction, communication skills and common sense to help make this department one of the top two academic units of its kind in the nation,” he said. “The bottom line: We wouldn’t be as good as we are without Kathy.”

Kathryn Cheek, from Health Policy and Administration, receives the University Managers Association award from John Gullo, from the School of Government.

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Grant to boost Ph.D. completions

To address the issue of attrition rates among doctoral students, Carolina has been named a university research partner in a Ph.D. completion project by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). CGS, with funding from Pfizer Inc and the Ford Foundation, will award each of the 22 participating research universities up to $80,000.

Research has shown that dropout rates for students in Ph.D. programs nationwide are between 30 and 50 percent. This initiative is designed to address issues of doctoral attrition and completion in the sciences, engineering, mathematics and the humanities and social sciences.

The research partners, who were selected by an external committee of leaders from academia, industry and research programs on minority graduate education, will collect data on doctoral completion and attrition; develop interventions in areas such as selection, mentoring and financial support; and measure the impact of these interventions.

CGS is comprised of more than 480 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees.

For more information about the completion project, refer to www.phdcompletion.org. For specific information about the initiatives proposed by the Graduate School at Carolina, refer to www.gradschool.unc.edu/events/compl.html.

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Green building in progress:
North carolina botanical garden’s visitor education center

Visitor Education Center

James Ward, interim manager of horticulture at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, looks on as workers drill a 500-foot geothermal test well May 22 on the site of the garden’s future Visitor Education Center. The center is the first UNC project designed to meet the highest standards (LEED Platinum Level) of the U.S. Green Building Council. A year ago, the student-funded, student-run Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee awarded $210,000 to help construct the new center’s geothermal well system, the first of its kind on the Carolina campus. This system is designed to significantly reduce the cost of heating and cooling the 29,000-square-foot center. According to experts, geothermal wells like this one will pay for themselves in less than nine years, factoring in rising energy costs. In 2004, Carolina students voted to approve the fee that generated the funding for the center’s geothermal well system.

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Carolina North plans winnowed

University officials have pared the three conceptual plans for Carolina North presented at the March and April community meetings down to two plans. At the most recent community meeting held May 29, those two plans were presented: North-South and East-West.

Jack Evans, executive director of Carolina North, has said that participants’ comments and suggestions from all three sessions have helped planners to combine the best elements of the different plans as the winnowing process continues. At the June 21 community meeting, one plan will be presented.

After reviewing comments from this meeting, the University will develop a draft plan to present to the Board of Trustees in July. In September, the final plan will be presented to trustees.

All of these efforts, Evans said, are directed toward meeting the deadline trustees set for University officials to have a concept plan ready to submit to the Town of Chapel Hill by October.

Both plans under consideration would be compact, mixed-used developments designed to support a sustainable, high-performance campus. Both would take up no more than 250 acres on the 900-acre tract for the next 50 years. Based on early estimates, which are subject to change, both would consist of some 2.5 million square feet after the completion of the first 15-year phase.

The North-South plan would straddle Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., which defines the property’s eastern border. The East-West plan, on the other hand, cuts west from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and encompasses more of the existing Horace Williams Airport off Estes Drive.

If the North-South plan is selected, the western portion of the airport area would be reestablished as a natural area. The North- South plan also calls for the old waste and impoundment area, informally known as Larry’s Lake, to be cleaned up. In the East-West plan, that area would remain a pond.

While the North-South plan allocates space for parking lots or decks on the outer edges of the developed area, the East-West plan calls for parking areas and open space to be distributed throughout the development.

Both plans call for residential housing to be located at the outer edges of development. The new campus is expected to include some retail and commercial space as well.

Evans has emphasized throughout the community meetings that the driving force for Carolina North is the University’s mission — education, research and public service — and a responsibility to help meet the state’s economic development needs.

University officials envision Carolina North as a space for University activities that no longer fit on the main campus and a means to develop partnerships with the private sector to create jobs and conduct research that can help improve the lives of people worldwide.

The June 21 community meeting will be held in repeat sessions at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in room 2603 of the School of Government.

For more information, refer to research.unc.edu/cn/index.php.

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Venable Hall project sets standard for recycling, reuse

Since 1925, thousands of students have benefited from the instruction and research inside Venable Hall’s classrooms, laboratories, offices, lecture halls and chemistry library.

Venable recycling

Furniture and equipment are loaded onto a truck behind old Venable Hall, destined for Haiti.

Photo: BJ Tipton

Today, even more students and citizens are benefiting from what Venable has to offer – in the form of classroom furnishings and equipment, office furniture, bookshelves and various other useful items. What makes this arrangement even more noteworthy is the fact thatthe beneficiaries are from the island nation of Haiti.

The demolition of the current Venable Hall in order to make way for the new Physical Science building is part of the two-phase construction project that — in accordance with the Campus Master Plan — will bring a large, modern science complex to north campus. Planning for the closing and demolition of old Venable has spanned several years and has involved numerous policy-makers, campus departments, outside contractors and other stakeholders.

UNC’s Office of Waste Reduction & Recycling (OWRR) partnered with the project team  to ensure that recycling and reusing materials and contents from Venable remained a priority during each stage of the planning and decision- making process. OWRR worked with contractors such as Design Collective Inc. and UNC’s Facilities Planning & Construction, Surplus Property, the departments of Chemistry and Marine Sciences, and Facilities Services shops to make sure that as much material as possible would be reused on campus.

Once the University reached capacity for reusing materials, a subcontractor removed more than 16 tons of furnishings and equipment over a two-day period in May. These items are destined for Haiti, where they will be redistributed and used by those with the greatest need.

This unique undertaking was coordinated by the Institution Recycling Network (IRN), a cooperative organization that assists agencies in loading, shipping and distributing property that is suitable for reuse throughout the United States and disadvantaged countries around the world. The University subcontracted with IRN early in the process to conduct an inventory of materials from Venable that could be recovered and reused.

“I’m very pleased with the success of this initiative,” said Sarah Myers, OWRR construction waste specialist. “Many, many people worked to make this salvage effort a success. Fixed assets make up a small proportion of a building by weight, but can have a high reuse value. Maximizing reuse of these assets benefits UNC, the environment and both the local and global communities.”

In addition to aiding IRN’s charitable efforts, old Venable’s resources will continue to have an impact on the University community in a number of ways. For example:

bullet  The Surplus Retail Store received 20 two-ton truckloads of furniture and equipment;

bullet  The chemistry and marine sciences departments are utilizing furniture and equipment to upgrade other areas on campus. In addition, a truckload of office furniture was sent to the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City;

bullet  UNC Maintenance Shops salvaged items such as pumps and electrical panels, and the Roofing Shop will acquire the slate roofing and concrete roofing pavers for reuse in campus projects; and

bullet  Granite steps and door surrounds will be reused in constructing New Venable Hall.

Also, in an effort to divert at least 70 percent of Venable’s materials from the landfill, materials earmarked for recycling will be separated on site instead of mixing them and sorting them at another location.

Considering the reuse of a building’s materials during renovation and demolition planning is a relatively new concept, Myers said. While state surplus laws and regulations govern collecting, storing and reallocating state property, standard practices for recycling and reusing a building’s fixed assets (such as whiteboards, shelves or auditorium-style seating) are still in the infancy stage. In the past, building renovation or demolition plans consisted of a large X through a floor plan with little consideration for what might be salvageable, usable and appreciated by others in need, she said.

Given the success of the Venable project’s “green” initiatives, OWRR foresees the project as a model for developing standards for future campus construction and demolition projects.

“We’re always looking for new ways to keep valuable materials in use and out of the landfill,” says Myers.

For more information about the University’s waste reduction and recycling initiatives, refer to www.fac.unc.edu/WasteReduction.

Editor’s Note: Brandon Thomas, from Facilities Services, contributed this article.

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What ITS About

Help site’s goal: helping users help themselves

Each day, about 3,000 users turn to the UNC Help site at help.unc.edu for answers to their technology questions. Staff, faculty, students and even the Help Desk support staff rely on the site to access more than 1,500 Help documents stored in a document repository (called the knowledge base) to provide user support and information.

Recently redesigned for easier use, the Help site’s improvements include new search fields, easy-to-use left-hand navigation and reorganized categories that make searches simpler.

Another new highlight of the site is the expansion of document information, giving users better tools in their search for answers. When searching or browsing pulls up a list of documents, expanded document information may include a short summary or description provided by the document’s author. In addition, the document may be categorized according to its type or genre. FAQs, policy/guidelines, tutorials, software description, solutions and manuals are just a few of the available choices.

New information in the footer of individual documents includes tags and subjects that can help users find other related documents. Clicking on a tag or subject link instantly performs a search for documents that have that same tag or subject. Also identified in the document footer is the target audience for each document and who it is written for:  faculty, student, staff and beginner or advanced.

For additional information on advanced searching, refer to help.unc.edu/5765.

ITS offers RSS feeds
Need a little tech support? Sometimes you don’t need to call 962-HELP or visit the ITS Response Center — you just need a little bit of information. Sign up for several ITS information sources via RSS so that you can receive specialized information as often as every day.

RSS stands for “really simple syndication” or “rich site summary.” It’s basically a way to pick and choose the news and information you would like to receive, and then have it delivered straight to your computer without unnecessary web surfing and ads. If a site has an RSS feed, you’ll see a logo somewhere on the page (usually orange, and usually on the right side or bottom). When you click the RSS button, the page will generate a link for you to copy and paste into your RSS feed reader.

All the RSS feeds you subscribe to are assembled into a single information source called a feed reader or aggregator. It will display a list of your RSS feeds. For each feed, the reader can access a list of headlines, brief summaries or introductions and a link to the full story.

ITS offers several RSS options for those interested in ITS activities and services.  To subscribe or learn more, refer to its.unc.edu/about-its/web-site-information/about-the-web-site.html.

New registration system launched for LearnIT workshops, events
ITS Teaching and Learning recently implemented a new registration program for ITS LearnIT instructor-led workshops and events.

The new system replaces the previous Training Registration and Class Scheduler registration program and offers increased capability. The program’s new features allow users to view workshops by category, search options for current and past workshops and complete online evaluation forms. Users can also view and/or print a record of their training at workshops and events offered through the new ITS registration program.

To view the current schedule of ITS workshops and events, refer to learnit.unc.edu/workshops. In addition to instructor-led workshops, computer-based training and “Just-in-Time Tutorials” are also available. To learn more refer to learnit.unc.edu.

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Communication studies staff member turns playwright

It’s been a long, hard road for Rob Hamilton, but he looks back on it without regret.

Hamilton

Rob Hamilton poses with some of the masks created for “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.”

It has taken him to cities from coast to coast, and given his life more twists and turns than he ever imagined as a boy who once had his whole future mapped out as an actor atop the stage.

But it would take a bus ride to work in Chapel Hill, and the special book he read on the way, to reconnect Hamilton to another of those early dreams left behind years — ago — the dream of writing a play script and seeing it produced.

The book, “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress,” by Chinese-born novelist Dai Sijie, was published in 2000 and spent 23 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Captivated by the novel’s poetic story, Hamilton decided he would write a play script as a means of earning a master’s degree in fine arts that he had left unfinished years before. But after the script served its intended purpose, the story wouldn’t let go of him. The lives of the characters still danced in his head, still demanded his attention. Hamilton found himself going back over that overlong script, cutting and hammering it into a tighter, stronger form that might actually work for a real play.

The result of his efforts was first seen June 14 with the opening of the production based on his script, which he fashioned into a blend of Eastern and Western stagecraft complete with masks, live music, multimedia and puppets. The Department of Communication Studies is presenting the play through July 1 at the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art. Hamilton, a technical director and designer in the communication studies department in his day job, also directed and designed the production.

The book and performance are set against the backdrop of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, when hundreds of thousands of Chinese intellectuals were forcibly sent to peasant villages for “reeducation.”

“Balzac” tells the tale of two young men sent into the remote mountains of Sichuan for reeducation, and what happens when they discover a cache of forbidden Western literature and attempt to reeducate a beautiful little seamstress on their own.

An unrepentant hippie
Hamilton’s journey began in the Deep South, in Mississippi, set against the backdrop of the Sixties. While it would be unfair to say that Hamilton remains stuck in the Sixties, it is obvious that much about that era has stuck with him. His earring, ponytail and unwavering liberal politics are proof.

“There is no maybe about it,” Hamilton said. “I was a hippie.”

Some of his high school counselors tried to steer him into a career in radio. He had a rich, sonorous voice that you would likely hear on
National Public Radio. The thought of being able to wear sloppy clothes in a dark, windowless studio — and to smoke while doing it — had its appeal. On the other hand, he didn’t like the thought of being isolated, or more precisely, of being stuck someplace where there wouldn’t be any girls.

One place where that wouldn’t be a problem, he knew, was the stage, and that was where Hamilton found his home — first in high school, then at the local community college and finally at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg where he earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in 1974.

All along, he wanted to be an actor. He also dabbled with directing, but found himself bumping up against the rigid conservatism of old-line professors who squashed his plans to produce anything from the Beat Generation playwrights he liked.

All the while, Hamilton designed sets for no other reason than there was nobody else around who could do it. Working in the
design shop also was the way he paid his way through college. And unlike his acting, he had a knack for it.

In 1974, Hamilton left Mississippi for graduate school at the University of Montana. At the end of two years, he had completed his orals and his thesis and had done everything required of him to earn his master of fine arts degree. Everything, that is, except for the three credits that remained incomplete for some 30 years.

The same week he completed his orals, Hamilton received the divorce papers for the marriage he entered at 19, and he flew to
Indianapolis for a gig in summer stock. First, he landed in Minneapolis to meet the
parents of the woman he had been seeing while
separated from his wife. When the summer stock gig fell through, Hamilton found himself staying in Minneapolis longer than
he expected.

Three years longer to be exact. It was the first time that his life got bumped onto an unexpected course because of a woman, but it would not be the last.

The Big Apple
Everyone involved in the theater, it seems, must make the holy sojourn to New York City at some point in their careers. Once Hamilton arrived there, he thought he would never leave.

He did — six years later — for yet another woman, an actor and singer he met at an off-Broadway show. But her work took her away -— first to Los Angeles with a company producing “Evita,” then to Washington D.C., and later Philadelphia, while working as an understudy in the first national touring company of “Cats.”

When she was in Philadelphia, Hamilton worked on the off-Broadway musical comedy “Little Shop of Horrors.” After the show finished on Saturday nights, Hamilton would catch a train to Philadelphia to spend what was left of the weekend with her. By the time “Cats” closed in Philadelphia and was about to open in Chicago, Hamilton knew if he was going to get the girl he would have to give up the city he loved nearly as much.

Anna Marie Gutierrez agreed to marry him but marriage did not mean settling down. After several moves, the couple ended up in California so that Hamilton could design and direct a production of “Hair” in San Jose. The play was performed in an old
theater without air conditioning — in the middle of July. Still, the show sold out so many times it was extended for a month.

For a baseball player, that would be like hitting a home run. For Hamilton, “It was like, ‘Hey, the hippie comes home.’”

A new direction
Since 2000, Chapel Hill has been home for this settled hippie and his wife. They moved here to be close to Gutierrez’s aging parents. Almost as soon as they arrived, Hamilton began working in the Playmakers Repertory Company design shop. And for the past three years, he has worked as a technical director/designer in the Department of Communication Studies. Earlier this year, Hamilton and his wife celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary along with the news that his script would be produced at the University this summer.

Even now, Hamilton is struck by how a $10 book he picked up four years ago to read on his daily bus ride to work affected his life.

The University of Montana awarded him the three credits based on the body of his professional work as a designer, Hamilton said.  But he still had to be enrolled there to be awarded the degree, and without that requirement, there would have been no reason to write the script.

“Ultimately, books save lives — perhaps the lives of the three young people of ‘Balzac,’ caught as they are in a repressive régime with no inkling of any other way of life, or perhaps the life of a lonely child trapped in a nightmare under dysfunctional parents,” Hamilton said.

“The capacity to conceive an alternative existence instills in us the hope and the drive to seek out that alternative in order to thrive, to survive. It is in the imagination that we find the true revolution.”

It has been a long road, to be sure, but an expansive one as well. And now, as a budding playwright with his first credits behind him, Hamilton has a fresh sense of wonder about where that road might still lead.

Editor’s Note: Theater-goers should be aware that the production includes some adult themes and  language.

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Burroughs Wellcome Fund to help yield math, science teachers

Attracting bright, capable students to teaching careers in math and science should be a little easier, thanks to a $5.3 million grant to help “fast track” those careers.

Carolina is one of four UNC system schools designated to receive support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant to help expand the pipeline of science and mathematics teachers in North Carolina. Qualifying junior and senior students majoring in science or mathematics will have an opportunity to earn high school teacher certification along with a bachelor’s degree.

Carolina’s “fast track” program has been created through a partnership between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences in which undergraduate science students have the means to become certified teachers without lengthening the time needed to graduate. The program is being piloted in the departments of Biology and Physics and Astronomy, with the hope of expanding it to the departments of Chemistry, Geological Sciences and eventually Mathematics. The first graduates of the program are expected by 2010.

The Chancellors Task Force on Engagement with North Carolina, which completed its work in fall 2006, identified the need to increase the number of science and math teachers for the state as an educational priority. Toward this goal, the University wants to attract science and math majors into a fourth-year accelerated teaching major.

Beginning in the third year, students in the “fast track” program will take four courses followed by student teaching in the spring semester of the fourth year. At the end of that period, they will have earned a degree in the major plus teacher certification in science or math.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is providing an additional incentive for “fast track” students through $6,500 in annual scholarships, a full-time classroom internship with intensive mentoring and extra support in transitioning to the classroom as a new teacher. Also, Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholars who graduate and are then employed as licensed science or mathematics teachers in a North Carolina public school will receive a $5,000 annual salary supplement for up to five years.

“If our children and grandchildren are going to be equipped to compete successfully in a knowledge-based global economy, we just have to do more to increase the pool of qualified science and mathematics teachers for our classrooms and attract the best and the brightest into teaching,” said Erskine Bowles, UNC system president. “Working in partnership with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, we are going to attack this problem head-on here in North Carolina.”

At Carolina, administrators hope the financial incentive provided by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund will draw students who want to use their education to make a difference.

“These funds will allow us to recruit excellent students who we hope will go out and make a big difference in science teaching in the public schools in North Carolina,” said Laurie McNeil, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Carolina students already have the motivation to help others, given the number who head for Teach for America, she said. “Through the ‘fast track’ program, we’ll provide them with training in how to teach.”

Initially, the program will use internal resources focused on students studying biology and physics, McNeill said. If the University receives state funding, plans call for extending the program and expanding it to include chemistry, geological sciences and mathematics.

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FYI Research

Researchers find how cells repair, resist cancer therapy

Preventing skin cancer

Researchers have found that among skin cancer patients, excessive sun exposure early in life leads to a different gene mutation than the mutation caused by sun exposure later in life.

The human body’s natural response to prevent skin cancer may also
hinder cancer treatments from working, a twist of fate that UNC pathologist William Kaufmann and his collaborators uncovered.

Kaufmann’s team demonstrated that two cellular proteins — Tipin and Timeless — help slow the rate of DNA replication. This slowdown gives cells additional time to repair DNA that ultraviolet radiation has damaged. It is this damage, or cellular mutation, that if left untreated could lead to skin cancer, a disease that affects one million Americans each year.

The slowdown of DNA replication, of course, is a good thing; it’s nature’s way of protecting the body from cancerous growths.

“But the protective response may make some cells more resistant to certain types of cancer therapy, such as radiation treatment and chemotherapeutic agents, which work by inducing the cancer cell to die,” Kaufmann said. “If a cancer cell is given this additional time to recover from treatment, it may be able to survive the treatment, much to the detriment of the patient.”

Kaufmann said that scientists have known for 25 years that cells can keep DNA from starting to replicate when cells detect damage in their own DNA, but only in the past several years have researchers been able to understand why.

And only now, thanks in part to UNC researchers, have scientists shown that DNA replication already under way can be slowed down because of Timeless and Tipin.

UNC’s team includes several scientists who contributed key findings. Pathologist Paul Chastain developed a way to label DNA molecules with fluorescent colors so scientists can study what happens to different DNA molecules under various conditions. Biochemist Keziban Unsal-Kacmaz, who since has left UNC, created chemical reagents that reduce the effects of Timeless and Tipin within cell nuclei.

As a team, the researchers learned what happens to DNA when Timeless and Tipin are suppressed in cells exposed to very low doses of ultraviolet radiation.

If Tipin’s effect is suppressed, then the effects of Timeless are completely stopped; if Timeless is taken out, then Tipin’s power to slow replication is reduced, but not completely. But if the two proteins are left to their own devices, they can help slow down or stop DNA replication, allowing cells to repair damage and thereby resist cancer treatment.

“These are the kinds of things we would want to inhibit when applying chemotherapy or radiation to cancer cells because taking out this system will make killing cancer cells more effective,” Kaufmann said.

Shade is good
In an unrelated skin cancer study, UNC researchers led by dermatologist Nancy Thomas found that skin cancer patients who were exposed to a lot of sunlight early in life are more likely to have a gene mutation that is different than the gene mutation caused by sun exposure later in life.

This epidemiological study indicates that patients with melanomas that contain the BRAF gene mutation — found in about half of all melanomas — were more likely to have been exposed to high levels of ultraviolet radiation before age 20.

People with the NRAS gene mutation — found in about 15 percent of melanomas — were more likely to have been exposed to high levels of sunlight between the ages of 50 and 60.

This preliminary study included 214 melanoma patients. Ultimately, the study will include more than 1,000 patients from the United States
and Australia.

Thomas said that this research should help with the development of target skin cancer drugs and bolster current recommendations to protect children from too much sunlight.

Provided by the Division of Research and Economic Development
Editor: Neil Caudle
Writer: Mark Derewicz

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Officials remove restrictions on water use
in campus buildings

University officials have given the green light to unrestricted water use in four campus buildings that recently had been tested for elevated lead levels.

 At the end of May, the Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) notified the occupants of Chapman Hall that water use throughout the building was no longer restricted since the latest round of testing showed no elevated lead levels in the water. Earlier in the month, occupants in Caudill Labs, the Campus Y and Information Technology Services (ITS) Manning received the same notice.

In keeping with the procedure outlined by the University’s consultant, Marc Edwards, Charles Lunsford professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, EHS staff flushed the water systems and tested the water from a representative sample of fixtures, including drinking fountains and sink faucets, in all four buildings. Testing was conducted in accordance with EPA protocols, which mandate that water in the pipes must be held more than six hours before samples are taken to increase the likelihood of finding lead in the water, Edwards said.

When none of the samples within a specific building showed elevated lead levels, EHS then tested water from every fixture intended for human consumption in that building. Once those samples came back “clean,” that is, showing no elevated lead levels, EHS gave the okay for people to use the water throughout the building.

“This effort required a lot of hard work and dedication from many University employees in many different departments so that unrestricted water use in these buildings could be restored,” said Ray Hackney, interim director of EHS.  “We are also very grateful for the guidance that Dr. Edwards provided to resolve this issue.”

The problem surfaced in March, after building occupants complained of bad taste in the water. University officials tested the water in Caudill Labs and Chapman Hall, and when the test results showed elevated levels of lead, officials also tested the water in the Campus Y, ITS Manning and the FedEx Global Education Center, all recently occupied after renovation or construction.

Water in the FedEx Global Education Center showed no signs of elevated lead levels. Because testing in the other buildings showed elevated lead levels in some water samples, however, University officials restricted water use and supplied bottled water for drinking.

The lead problem arose because very pure drinking water, such as that serving the campus, has a high tendency to leach lead from new brass plumbing devices. The high natural corrosivity of the drinking water is largely countered at the water treatment plant by raising the pH and adding corrosion inhibitors, but the distributed water is still corrosive enough to cause lead to leach at levels above the EPA standard, Edwards said.

A year ago, Edwards published a paper showing that test methods used to certify the safety of brass plumbing devices were using water with a very low tendency to leach lead from brass. The paper predicted that problems with lead could sometimes arise in situations exactly like those present in some of the UNC buildings.

The problem can be resolved over time, Edwards said. As water flows through the brass fixtures, a protective film eventually forms that protects the plumbing and reduces lead leaching.  Flushing the water lines hastens the formation of the protective film, he said. Edwards was on campus last month to discuss updated test results and answer questions from people who work and study in the affected buildings.

To further verify that the situation has been resolved, later this summer EHS officials will assess water samples from about 10 fixtures in each of the four campus buildings. The higher temperatures in water during the summer months maximize the likelihood of finding any remaining lead problems, even though existing data prove that lead is not currently a problem, Edwards said.

The latest findings and the PowerPoint presentation Edwards gave during the May meeting are available on the EHS web site, www.ehs.unc.edu. A press release describing Edwards’ earlier work on brass is available on the National Science Foundation web site, www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=104334.

The Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), which provides water in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, has contracted with Edwards to advise them regarding ways to further reduce the leaching effect of their water, and has begun testing the drinking water at several new buildings to evaluate whether there is a link between newly installed plumbing and the potential for lead contamination. For more information about the OWASA testing, refer to www.owasa.org.

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UNC balances growth and preservation

As the University navigates its long-range roadmap, defined by the Campus Master Plan, administrators invariably have to balance two guiding principles: accommodating growth and preserving the natural beauty of the campus. Sometimes, though, one has to outweigh the other — at least in the short-term.

In the construction projects near the School of Dentistry and UNC Hospitals, which include a steam line, electrical duct bank and new Dental Sciences Building, growth has the upper hand.

Energy Services is replacing both the 50-year-old steam line — serving the dental and medical schools and the hospital — and defective underground electrical cables near the dental school. Also, an existing dental building will be replaced with a new Dental Sciences Building. The projects affect a large willow oak that was growing between the Dental Office Building and the Health Sciences Library.

University officials explored routing the steam line around the tree. Because the tree was also within the geographical footprint of the proposed Dental Sciences Building, however, it would have to come down during construction of the new building. And that was the deciding factor in removing the tree earlier this month.

“If there were not going to be a new dental building, we would have designed the steam line and electrical duct bank projects to avoid the tree,” said Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for Campus Services. “But it isn’t cost-effective to avoid the tree now only to buy a year or less of life.”

The new dental building is included in the Senate’s budget proposal and University officials are hopeful the project will receive funding for the coming fiscal year. As it is currently designed, the Dental Sciences Building will replace more than three-fourths of the existing dental research space and include state-of-the-art technology, a 220-seat auditorium and 110-seat lecture halls. Plans discussed include high-performance glass, a rainwater collection system and heat-recovery mechanical systems, among other sustainable features.

Officials also explored delaying the removal of the tree but agreed that the critical need to complete the steam line and repair the damaged electrical cables warranted taking down the tree now.

“Like many of you, it will trouble me to see this tree come down,” John Williams, dean of the School of Dentistry, said in a June 12 e-mail
to the school’s faculty and staff. “A delay in this project could create significant operational problems for other areas of our University.”

At the request of dental school administrators, the Grounds crew saved logs from the tree to be cut for lumber — possibly to be used for benches, although a specific purpose had not been identified, said Kirk Pelland, director of Grounds Services.

Under the University’s “no net loss of trees” initiative, a fee is paid for any tree removed due to construction. The fee is based on the diameter of the tree that was removed, and collections are used to buy and plant new trees. This fall, the Grounds Department will use the payment for the willow oak to plant several trees somewhere on campus.

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ArtiFACTS

McAden portrait hangs in chancellor’s residence

McAden portrait

Five-year-old girls do not usually like to sit still — not when there are games to invent, books to look at, dolls to play with and mothers to shadow. Little Convere McAden was about five when artist Camelia Whitehurst painted her portrait, and if the likeness is true, she does not appear to have enjoyed the process. She turns sideways on her chair, gazing solemnly from the canvas, her yellow socks drooping around her ankles and a china doll on her lap. Did she hide her blonde curls under a big white sunbonnet just for this portrait, or had she been outside playing in the sun?

Camelia Whitehurst was a Baltimore artist who specialized in portraits of children. Born in 1871, in the last years of the 19th century, she studied under William Merritt Chase and Cecilia Beaux at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She lived for a time in Paris and traveled throughout Europe. After returning to the United States, her work was exhibited widely in the nineteen-teens and twenties, and she was particularly active in the South. Whitehurst was a member of the National Association of Women Artists, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Society of Washington Artists. She died in 1936.

The portrait of Convere McAden dates to about 1917 and was given to the University by the Friends of Art approximately 60 years ago.  The Friends of Art was a group of Chapel Hill residents who, encouraged and probably guided by art professor John Allcott, purchased artwork for the gallery then housed in Person Hall. Some of the art from the Person Hall gallery wound up in the Ackland Art Museum; this portrait, however, hung in Spencer Residence Hall for some years before being transferred to the chancellor’s residence in 1988.

As for the little girl in the portrait, evidence suggests that she grew up in Charlotte, attended Sarah Lawrence College, married lawyer Henry John Oechler, spent her adult life living variously in New York, Paris and London, and died in 1999 at age 87.

Editor’s note: ArtiFACTS is a showcase of interesting art objects found across the University campus. In future issues, Historic Collection Curator Anne Douglas will highlight more of Carolina’s treasures.

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UNC nears professorship goal

The University now has 32 distinguished professorships in the queue for matching funds from a state program that encourages the creation of endowed chairs at UNC system schools.

The state’s fiscal year 2007-08 budget proposal includes $10 million for the Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund. If approved by the General Assembly, the $10 million would reflect an increase of $2 million from last year that Erskine Bowles, UNC system president, asked for in his budget request for the system. The increase would be a one-time allocation on top of the recurring $8 million now budgeted for the trust fund.

The trust fund benefits all 16 UNC system campuses, with each year’s allocation shared by the schools to match private dollars. The 32 professorships in the queue at Carolina would qualify for $9.58 million from the fund.

These numbers look even better, Chancellor James Moeser told University trustees last month, thanks to two challenge grants announced in May by the Charlotte-based C.D. Spangler Foundation. Spangler, a successful businessman, was president of the UNC system from 1986 to 1997.

The foundation will make $26.9 million available for 96 new distinguished professorships throughout the UNC system. For Carolina, the gift initially would fully fund one $1 million chair, with $333,000 coming from state matching funds. Then the foundation would contribute $250,000 to each of another five professorships over the next five years. These would need the $750,000 balance to be covered by a combination of state matching funds and private dollars.

In all instances, the matching funds would come from $4.6 million that Bowles and the UNC General Administration have requested for each of the next six years. This request, which needs legislative approval, would be in addition to the $10 million request for the trust fund in 2007-08.

The University’s Carolina First Campaign, which began July 1, 1999, and will end Dec. 31, set out to create 200 new endowed professorships. To date, the University has created 195 endowed professorships, including 175 that call for state matching money. Of these, 93 have been matched.

Moeser noted the campaign’s tremendous success in establishing professorships and added that the availability of additional state money would create even more leverage to end the Carolina First Campaign with a powerful surge.

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