Shalala to help launch public service center

Donna Shalala, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will visit here Sept. 24 to help launch the new public service center.

The Carolina Center for Public Service will build on the University's strong tradition of good works by connecting its students, faculty, staff and many resources with the citizens of North Carolina. The center -- one of the few such university-based public service "clearinghouses" in the country -- is being made possible through a $1-million gift by an anonymous donor.

"The University has a history of reaching out to help people across the state, but in the past, citizens did not always know where to find help on Carolina's large campus," said Dr. Richard J. "Dick" Richardson, provost. "Now, thanks to the help of generous donors, Carolina can make itself available to everyone. With the launch of this new center, UNC can effectively reach out to people throughout the state and across the country."

Shalala, a strong advocate of public service, will deliver the keynote address during a 3 p.m. ceremony on Polk Place. The event and the reception following it are free and open to the public. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend.

The Carolina Center for Public Service has been called a gateway connecting Carolina's resources with the needs of citizens. The center will support, guide and coordinate the public-service activities of faculty, staff and students and connect people with services at the university.

Over the years, Carolina has developed into a major research institution with 23 graduate programs and specialty areas ranking among the top 25 nationwide in U.S. News & World Report magazine. With about 7 percent of its budget supporting public service, Carolina reaches more than 400,000 people each year.

However, public service at Carolina has been highly decentralized, making it hard for community members, faculty, staff and students to know exactly what services exist -- or find them if they do exist.

The Carolina Center for Public Service seeks to change this by offering "one-stop shopping" so anyone with a public-service question or need can contact the center, and officials will try to find helpful University resources. If Carolina does not have a resource needed, center officials will attempt to find help elsewhere.

Specifically, the center will:

* Increase the University's ability to respond to the state's public-service needs;

* Provide a convenient way for citizens, community leaders, legislators and government officials to ask about public service at Carolina;

* Strengthen Carolina's partnerships with public and private organizations;

* Support community-based education and public-service activities;

* Promote public service and community-based education among faculty, staff and students; and

* "Tell the story" of the University's public service to the people of North Carolina.

Among the center's first grants were a faculty project promoting good health for female employees of manufacturing plants, and a student project that put Goldilocks of Goldilocks and the Three Bears on trial to help educate elementary-school children about the American legal system.

Shalala, the longest-serving secretary of health and human services in U.S. history, joined the Clinton administration in January 1993 to lead the federal government's principal agency for protecting the health of Americans and providing essential human services.

With an annual budget of $381 billion and nearly 58,000 employees, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services oversees such offices and programs as Medicare, Medicaid, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Head Start.

During Shalala's tenure, the department has guided welfare reform; offered health insurance to 2.5 million children through the approval of the Children's Health Insurance Programs; raised child-immunization rates to the highest levels in history; led the fight against young peoples' use of tobacco; created national initiatives to fight breast cancer, racial and ethnic health disparities and violence against women; and crusaded for better access and better medications to treat AIDS.

Shalala has redefined the role of the Health and Human Services' secretary, partnering with businesses and other private-sector organizations to extend the department's public health and education mission. She appeared in a "Milk Mustache" ad to help prevent osteoporosis and threw the first pitch -- all 60 feet, six inches of it -- for the Baltimore Orioles' 1998 season after championing a campaign to break the link between smokeless tobacco and professional baseball.

Also during her tenure, the department launched its "Back to Sleep," "Girl Power!" and "Choose Your Cover" campaigns, working with corporations and advocacy organizations to improve the lives and health of babies, girls and young adults.

Before joining the Clinton administration, Shalala served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 1987-1993, was the first woman to head a Big Ten university, and was named one of the five best managers in higher education by Business Week magazine.

A noted scholar of state and local government and finance, Shalala earned her doctorate from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1970. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran.

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