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Seeking Global Strategic Partners: Travels to Uganda

Posted on November 24, 2014 7:22 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Left to right: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maamma Watali founder, Derek Aday, Minster of Education, Second Deputy of the Bugandan Kingdom, Jeff Braden, Minister of Lands and Agriculture (back), Minister of Tourism (front), James Kiwanuka-Tondo. Photo taken in front of the Bugandan Parliment building.

Left to right: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maamma Watali founder, Derek Aday, Minster of Education, Second Deputy of the Bugandan Kingdom, Jeff Braden, Minister of Lands and Agriculture (back), Minister of Tourism (front), James Kiwanuka-Tondo. Photo taken in front of the Bugandan Parliment building.

This blog post was written by NC State Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden:

NC State seeks out strategic partners around the globe. That quest took me to Uganda recently, where I led a university delegation to explore the potential for partnerships between Makarere University, the Kingdom of Buganda, The Aids Support Organization (TASO), and the Maamma Watali Project. My goal was to assess the resources, capabilities and needs of our potential partners in order to advise the Office of International Affairs on whether or how to proceed in developing partnerships and, if appropriate, to document them through Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

NC State does not lack for global partners. Our university has hundreds of MOUs with various entities around the globe. However, one of our provost’s goals is to develop strategic partnerships—meaning fewer relationships that serve a small number of faculty and students, and instead have much deeper and richer partnerships that serve a wide range of disciplines and interests on our campus. While fewer, richer partnerships make sense for administrative reasons, they are also more likely to foster the key strategic goal of developing interdisciplinary scholarship and research to address the world’s challenges. In other words, rather than have paper and wood scientists going to one set of universities in Africa, while crop scientists and textile colleagues go to other institutions, and humanities and social sciences students and faculty heading for yet other institutions –each pursuing their own disciplinary goals – we should instead bring a range of disciplines together to address grand challenges in partnership. Doing so will reduce administrative complexity while increasing interdisciplinary collaboration.

Of course, the trick is to find institutions and settings that provide rich options for a wide range of campus disciplines and constituencies. Hence, the reason for my visit. From a distance, the matchup with Makarere University looked promising. MU has just about all of the disciplines we do at NC State, and most are organized in similar administrative units: for example, they also have colleges of humanities and social sciences, veterinary medicine, and natural resources. MU is also the oldest and most prestigious university in Uganda, and arguably in East Africa, a region that is important for geopolitical, agricultural, and other reasons. Furthermore, NC State claims a few MU alumni among its faculty; one alumnus, James Kiwanuka-Tondo, associate professor of communication, was part of our delegation, and was instrumental in initiating the contact. The other member of our delegation was Derek Aday, professor of applied ecology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

We met with MU’s vice chancellor (in universities following the British system, the vice chancellor functions as our chancellor does at NC State) as well as individual professors. Our goal was to look for places where their faculty, student and infrastructure capacity either matched or complemented our own. Over two days of meetings, we asked about and searched for common interests and capacity. As NC State’s emissary, I inquired about companion animal vs. large animal vet practices in Uganda, whether they had nuclear engineering and data analytics, and what they did in fashion and architecture. In nearly all cases, they were interested, although they often had more interest than capacity.

I found great potential for non-university partnerships as well. The Maamma Watali (literally, “in the absence of mothers”) project, founded by a woman whose mother and two sisters died in the ravages of war and HIV/AIDS that swept Uganda’s Loweero district from the late 1970s through the mid-2000s, showed possibilities for combining disciplines as diverse as HIV/AIDS communication (James Kiwanuka-Tondo’s speciality), oral history, water resource management, micro-lending and sustainable organic farming areas. The needs of the area are great, and the promise of a comprehensive site where we could coordinate study abroad, service learning, research and scholarship was truly exciting.

Which brings me to the highlight of the trip—a meeting with ministers of foreign affairs, agriculture, tourism, land, education and the second deputy for Buganda at the Bugandan Parliament. The primary point of discussion was to secure a gift of land from the kingdom to build facilities to house visiting scholars and students, provide preventive and primary health care, a civic meeting area, and a library to house books we have already given—and perhaps more importantly, the HIV/AIDS communication materials and the oral histories of the elders of the region we hope to create. All agreed that a grant of 15-20 acres for initial investment and development was the best place to start, and could be followed by additional grants for land appropriate to specific projects (e.g., aqua culture would require different land configuration than a community chicken coop).

Although I was buoyed by the content of the discussion, what struck me most was that the meeting opened and closed with all in attendance (at least, those who knew the words in Bugandan!) singing together. It was quite striking and moving to see the group do so without a whiff of self-consciousness. I could only imagine what would happen if we sang “Where the Winds of Dixie Softly Blow” at the beginning and end of each of our meetings.

Our delegation concluded the trip with visits to such historic and cultural sites as the source of the Nile River and the colonial capitol of Entebbe. As we shared dinner before heading home, one of the grand challenges impacting Uganda made itself evident. Two years earlier, Derek and James had eaten at the same restaurant on the beach of Lake Victoria—but the water level of the lake had completely covered where they had been seated. The increased rise in the level of Lake Victoria threatens communities, habitat and more. The case for collaboration could not have been more compelling.


Alums Get in the Game (Shows)

Posted on October 8, 2014 10:16 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Our alumni get out there and get in the game. Literally, in some cases.

Tensie Taylor

Tensie Taylor on the set of Wheel of Fortune

Tensie Taylor ('09 BA, Communication with a minor in Psychology) will appear on Wheel of Fortune on Thursday, October 9 (7:30 pm on ABC). Taylor, who today manages the Black Alumni Association at USC, is fulfilling a lifelong  ambition. She told her story to NC State's alumni association in this article, and to the News and Observer in a recent interview.

Taylor worked for two years at NC State's Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity before heading to school in L.A. in August 2012. She focused on her studies and earned a master's of education in postsecondary administration from the University of Southern California in May. Meanwhile, she pursued her Wheel of Fortune dream with dogged determination: she applied 365 times in 2013.

Taylor foretold her future at a going-away party before she left her hometown of Louisburg, NC, for California in 2012, assuring her friends and family that one day they would see her compete. Everybody laughed then.

As  N&O reporter Lori Wiggins writes,

Taylor credits her tenacity to family, just as much as she does the bullies who tormented her physically and emotionally throughout school for being both petite and academically gifted – or, in the misguided words of some, “white on the inside and black on the outside, like an Oreo.”

Taylor’s already a winner with a message she’ll one day record in a book she will call “The Oreo Cookie that Didn’t Crumble.”

“I want to use my voice as a beacon of hope to other people: Don’t give up, be persistent and be patient,” she said. “Whatever dream you have, don’t ever give up; just don’t ever give up. I thank those people now.

“I refused to let them see me fail, or to let myself fail; I turned negative situations into positive ones. Now, look ... I get the last laugh.”

Josh Hager

Josh Hager with Alex Trebek on Jeopardy

Another alum, Josh Hager ('11, MA, Public History), competed on Jeopardy last week. He reigned as champion for a full two hours, and walked away with $26,100 -- enough to pay off his student loans -- as he told NC State's alumni association in this article.

When he's not competing on national television, Hager works as a correspondence assistant at the State Archives of North Carolina. “I love the fact that I get to work with North Carolina history every day,” Hager told the alumni association. “It is common for me to work with 200-year-old documents every day. What really is most rewarding to me is helping people find what they are looking for.”


Alums Create "Harbinger"

Posted on August 25, 2014 10:29 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Harbinger posterFilmmakers Kieran Moreira and Andrew Martin were sitting around in the summer of 2012, charged by their boss at Drawbridge Media, a Raleigh video production company, to find content the studio could produce. They read script after script, but nothing really struck the pair. So Moreira decided to present his own idea.

“I had this one idea I called ‘Cloud Fortress,’” says Moreira, who graduated from NC State with a film studies degree in 2011. “I had this image of a boy trying to climb up to the sky.”

That nugget turned into the new short film, Harbinger, that Moreira directed and co-wrote with Martin. The independent movie will premiere at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on Centennial Campus Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

The film centers around the relationship between a mother and her young son Harold, whose imagination helps him deal with the changing complexities of his reality. “We had always seen it as a fantasy based in reality,” Moreira says. “The fantasy hides the more harsh realities of the world. Harold is at a transition. He is discovering things from his past. So the fantasy is an escape, but it is a shield, too.”

Moreira and Martin, who graduated from NC State in 1999 with a textile engineering degree, learned their own realities could be harsh as well in the three years it’s taken to get the film out. They launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for the production costs, and they didn’t reach their goal. And they didn’t have the luxury of focusing solely on their movie.

“There were tremendous challenges,” Martin says. “This was going to be a year or two of our lives. Even though Drawbridge was encouraging us, we still had a full slate of work from our day jobs.”

But the fact they were able to pull it off with the help of many volunteers was instrumental in accomplishing one of their main goals. They felt they could show that while movies like Iron Man 3, some of which was shot in Cary, N.C., garner a lot of attention for the film industry in North Carolina, there is a strong independent movement afoot in the state that is already producing quality work.

“Something we always wanted to do was to showcase the talents here at home,” says Paul Frateschi, the film’s director of photography and a 2009 NC State communication graduate. “A lot of those big films come in and bring in a DP [director of photography] from New York or out of state. We wanted to show what quality work we’re doing here locally. It was freelance crew people. It was the actors. We wanted to tell a North Carolina story with a North Carolina crew and cast.”

And that goal is tied to another one Martin sees as directly tied to his Wolfpack roots. “Ultimately, so much of the reason we did this was to build the community,” he says. “We would love to build the film studies program and communication department at NC State so more film can come out of there.”

This article by Chris Saunders originally appeared in NC State's Red and White for Life blog, produced by the NC State Alumni Association.


Conducting Defining Research: A Defining Experience for Undergrads

Posted on July 22, 2014 7:43 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Student researcher Ann Paschall works alongside Prof. Ann Ross.

Student researcher Anna Paschall works alongside Professor Ann Ross.

Creating new knowledge. It's one of the big benefits of studying at a research-intensive university like NC State. And conducting important research is not reserved for faculty and graduate students; we encourage undergrads to conduct research, too.

CHASS Associate Dean Vicki Gallagher has spearheaded our college’s drive to get more undergraduates involved with research. Students can propose research projects and work with faculty mentors, supported by small grants made possible through, among other sources, contributions to the NC State University Foundation. "These research projects give students hands-on mentoring in how to be a researcher," says Gallagher. "It's akin to an apprenticeship. And while the experience has a profound and lasting impact on the students, the resulting research produces new knowledge that is of value to others as well." Gallagher hopes to make funds available again this year.

In the video below, three students describe their projects: Daniel Gallagher (Communication, '13), worked alongside Assistant Professor of Communication Nicholas Taylor on a mixed methods analysis of the growth and development of the electronic sports scene globally, and at the hugely popular League of Legends game specifically. Kevin Farrow (English, '13) worked with Associate Professor of English Huiling Ding  to look at retracted publications in the field of engineering as a way to study misconduct such as plagiarism and falsification of evidence. Anna Paschall (Biological Sciences '16) was mentored by Professor of Anthropology Ann Ross as she investigated how to estimate the size of bullets from cranial gunshot wounds.

Want to support student research? You can make a life-changing experience possible for a student with your gift to the CHASS Enhancement Fund.

This video was produced by students in COM 437, Advanced Digital Video, in 2014.


In Ancient Artifacts, A Newfound Passion

Posted on June 17, 2014 10:20 am by Lauren Kirkpatrick

Jordan Karlis describes herself as an "incredibly shy" incoming student at NC State. That's hard to imagine when you see the confident, articulate senior in this video. But listen as she describes how the archaeological dig she worked on in Petra, Jordan -- the Petra North Ridge Project -- changed her life. Take note of her enthusiasm for the research that has given her a window to the ancient past. Hear her describe what a privilege she finds it to work with pieces of pottery that are 2,000 years old -- how connected she feels to the people who once used them. You understand the transformation this first-generation college student has undergone as she conducted research and studied abroad. She has found her passion.

Since she participated in the Petra dig in 2012, Karlis, who's majoring in history and in anthropology, has been immersed in a research project related to the Petra artifacts under the mentorship of  Professor of History S. Thomas Parker. She returned to Amman, Jordan, in 2013 to present her research findings at an international conference."For an undergraduate to give a paper at an international conference is quite a feather in anyone's cap," says Parker, who has served on archaeological expeditions in the Middle East for more than 30 years. "I'm really proud of her."

The featured video was produced by NC State undergraduate students of COM 437, Advanced Digital Video, in 2014.