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Film Brings Cherokee Language to Life

Posted on November 21, 2014 3:50 pm by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Filmmakers Danica Cullinan, Walt Wolfram and Neal Hutcheson with the Public Service Award they won at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival for First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee.

Filmmakers Danica Cullinan, Walt Wolfram and Neal Hutcheson with the Public Service Award they won at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival for First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee.

The Cherokee language has been spoken for three millennia in the Appalachian highlands of western North Carolina, but if current trends aren’t reversed, Cherokee will soon go extinct. Of the 13,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, only about 250 people are native Cherokee speakers who grew up speaking Cherokee as their first language in the home — and that number decreases every year as more of them pass away.

The Cherokee tribe is taking steps to preserve their language, but it’s an uphill battle. NC State’s North Carolina Language and Life Project has produced a film documenting the tribe’s efforts and sounding a call to save the language. First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee will premiere at the North Carolina Museum of History on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. First Language won the award for Best Public Service Film at the 2014 American Indian Film Festival. The film is available for purchase online.

The seed of First Language was planted when Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at NC State, and his chief collaborators on the film, video producers Danica Cullinan and Neal Hutcheson, went to western North Carolina a couple of years ago to do research on the English spoken by Cherokee speakers.

Read the full story at

Think and Do No Harm

Posted on November 18, 2014 3:49 pm by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Front row, from left, Sophia Webster, Sheron King, Johanna Elsensohn, Elizabeth Pitts and Jennifer Baltzegar. Back row, from left, David Berube, Jayce Sudweeks, Emily Nwakpuda, Barry Peddycord III, Rene Xavier Valdez and Jennifer Kuzma.

Front row, from left: Sophia Webster, Sheron King, Johanna Elsensohn, Elizabeth Pitts and Jennifer Baltzegar. Back row:  David Berube, Jayce Sudweeks, Emily Nwakpuda, Barry Peddycord III, Rene Xavier Valdez and Jennifer Kuzma.

An interdisciplinary team of NC State students -- including doctoral students from Humanities and Social Sciences -- won first place in an international synthetic biology competition this month for designing a Web-based decision-making tool to help people innovate responsibly.

The Ph.D. students – drawn from communication, genetics, entomology, public administration, public policy, computer science and conservation biology – won for developing the best policy and practices project at the annual iGem competition in Boston.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition engages hundreds of student teams from all over the world every summer to tackle some of the toughest problems in synthetic biology, the design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems. This year, 245 teams competed in categories ranging from entrepreneurship to manufacturing.

The NC State project involved the design of a concept-mapping framework to assess the ethical, legal, social and environmental issues related to the release of genetically engineered plants outside the laboratory.

Students worked with Glowing Plant, the world’s first crowd-funded genetically engineered organism, to test the framework.

“Rather than prescribing a single ‘responsible’ course of action, we enable individual users to decide how much weight to attribute to principles such as the conservation of biodiversity, the preservation of human health and safety, the advancement of entrepreneurship and innovation, and the promotion of social equity,” a project summary explained.

The framework “encourages reflexive thinking about the social, cultural and ethical negotiations involved in technological oversight.”

The team was sponsored by NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center under the guidance of professors Jennifer Kuzma and David Berube. Advisers included business executive Antony Evans and Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan.

Team members include Elizabeth Pitts, communication, rhetoric and digital media; Sheron King, Tina Ndoh and Jayce Sudweeks, public administration; Barry Peddycord III, computer science; Jennifer Baltzegar, genetics; Johanna Elsensohn and Sophia Webster, entomology; and Rene Xavier Valdez, fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. Emily Nwakpuda, a doctoral student in public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, also joined the team.

By David Hunt, University Communications. This article first appeared at

Step Up to Rule as Dean for a Day

Posted on November 15, 2014 7:54 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

DeanForADayBoyWIthCrownStep up to rule the College of Humanities and Social Sciences -- just for a day -- while Dean Jeff Braden takes over your schedule and gets a taste of student life.

On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Dean Jeff Braden will trade places with a Humanities and Social Sciences undergraduate student during our sixth annual Dean for a Day.

While Dean Braden attends your classes, eats lunch with your friends, studies in your spots, and walks your walk, you carry out his schedule: meet with the college's faculty, students, campus administrators, donors, and other deans; solve problems; and advocate for the college's needs.

Interested? Here are the requirements to be Dean for a Day:

  • You must be an undergraduate CHASS major; those with double majors with one CHASS major are welcome to apply.
  • You need to be available Wednesday, January 28. Ideally, you should be available from  5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 27, until 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
  • You should have at least two classes on your schedule on January 28. The busier, the better.
  • You should be prepared to keep a log of your experiences; we'll publish your diary afterwards.

There is no official form to apply — just email and include:

1) your name, class year and major(s)
2) your e-mail address and phone number
3) your 300-word proposal for why you should be Dean for a Day, and why Dean Braden should spend the day as you.

The deadline to for submission is Monday, December 1, 2014. Proposals will be juried by college student ambassadors, and their selection is final.

Curious about the Dean for a Day swaps of yesteryear? Check out the Dean for a Day Diaries from previous years: 2014, 20132012, 2011.


November Student of the Month

Posted on November 14, 2014 3:15 pm by dlleeder

student-Spechel-WootenMeet Spechel Wooten, Humanities and Social Sciences Student of the Month

Hometown: Kinston, NC

Class: Senior

Majors: Anthropology and Criminology

Minor: Forensic Science

Sample Courses:

  • Theories of Social Interaction
  • Human Paleopathology
  • Supreme Court and Public Policy


  • Intern, Wake County Public Defender’s Office, Raleigh: Fall 2014
  • Intern, NC State Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service (CSLEPS), Summer 2014
  • Intern, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), Greenville, NC: Summer 2012
  • Summer Conference Assistant, NC State Conference Services, Summer 2013
  • Community Assistant, NC State University Housing, 2011-present
  • Student Ambassador, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Community Service Chair, NC State National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Mentor, Downtown East Community Hope Mentoring Program, Raleigh


2013-14 and 2014-15, Mary Lee Taylor Memorial Scholarship

Postgraduate Plans:

Law school

What do you enjoy most about Humanities and Social Sciences?

I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and criminology just seemed to click. It changed a bit once I got here. I discovered anthropology in my second year, and loved the investigative aspects. I made it a second major and added forensic science as a minor. I have enjoyed discovering new passions through my Humanities and Social Sciences classes. There is always something exciting to learn, everyone motivates you to branch out, and you get to see what different disciplines have to offer.

What were your favorite Humanities and Social Sciences courses?

Introduction to Forensic Anthropology with Dr. Chelsey Juarez, which opened my eyes to a new field, and Advanced Methods in Forensic Anthropology with Dr. Ann Ross, which permitted me to actually work firsthand with skeletal material.

How did your internships support your academic experiences?

My internships helped me to realize that I am moving along the right path. My work with the SBI introduced me to long hours spent investigating criminal cases, and my work with CSLEPS helped connect me to the larger community and strengthened my goal of working in the public interest. My internship in the Public Defender’s Office gives me a look inside a law office and courtrooms. Taken together, all three internships have connected me - helped me to grow as a person and shaped my interest in becoming a public defender myself.

What advice would you give incoming students?

Try not to overdo it. There are so many opportunities here, you want to try this, try that ... really, try everything! At some point, you need to narrow down to what fits you best and stick with it. Also, realize that what you start with as a freshman is not likely going to be a set plan. Prepare to be flexible, because you will probably change your mind.

Student Success Research: Investigating Medical Errors

Posted on November 11, 2014 10:27 am by dlleeder

Riyana Dasgupta

Riyana Dasgupta

Research can deepen students' passion for a subject, challenging them to search for answers to complex questions.  It permits students to be creators of knowledge, and not simply recipients of past ideas.  This Q&A explores the role research can play for CHASS undergraduates.

Riyana Dasgupta is a senior majoring in psychology.

What/who sparked your interest in this research?

The psychology classes here at NC State, especially social psychology and the PSY 240 research methods series, sparked my interest. Attempting to answer the age-old question -- Why do people do the things they do? -- is why I became a psychology major, and this has contributed to my interest in research as well.

 What is your research about?

In summer 2014, I was a research assistant at the UNC Chapel Hill Radiation Oncology Department of UNC Health Care. I helped Drs. Lukasz Mazur and Prithima Mosaly research the likelihood of practitioners' errors when retrieving medicine from the computers at UNC Hospital. I helped analyze the data on a computer application called CogTool. I had never been exposed to these types of applications, but I was ready to learn and excited to see where our research would take us.

How do you feel the research relates to your major, career goals, and/or personal interests?  

A practitioner's error when retrieving medicine is a human error. Studying humans and their behavior is essentially what psychology is! This also is relevant to my career goals because I would like to go on to graduate school to ultimately become a psychologist/clinician. Research is pertinent to psychology and getting hands-on experience is so valuable.

What are some things you have learned?

I have learned that a research project is a tough endeavor for a student (or professor!) to take on. It requires diligence and patience. My mentors  andsupervisors for this project assisted me whenever I did not understand something while analyzing the data, and they have supported me throughout my senior year/post-grad endeavors.

What were some of the challenges?

When inputting the data to be analyzed, honestly, I had no idea where to begin.  CogTool was a brand new application for me, so I was unsure of how or where to start. However, I have learned that it is always better to ask questions, no matter how inconsequential they may seem. My supervisors and mentors were glad that I asked questions and that I was eager to learn.

 What about rewards?

Getting hands-on experience has been incredibly beneficial for me, as I have learned so much in terms of research methods and working in a hospital on a college campus. It has definitely reaffirmed my interest in becoming a clinician. Furthermore, after researching and analyzing data over the summer, my research supervisors and I are preparing a journal article for publication. This goes to show that if you put in the effort, you will see results.