Author Archives: Kristen Chavez

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Blue Morpho

Evana Bodiker in the Music Library Glass Room in Wilson Library.

Evana Bodiker in her favorite writing spot, the Music Library Glass Room in Wilson Library. She said in an article in the creative writing program’s newsletter, “For a young poet, this is so reassuring in terms of my future as a writer. … It’s still hard to believe a book of my poetry will be out in the world for people to read.” (photo by Kristen Chavez)

“Blue Morpho”

The greenhouse humidity

moved down our backs

like the sweat beads

on our Pimm’s cups

hours before in the garden

bar. She was our tiny

liaison, so that he and I

might say the right words

that evening more easily,

a tender empress fluttering

overhead until she chose

to land on his university

sweater first. Her frayedCover of Evana Bodiker's chapbook Ephemera.

wings burned cobalt

in the late London

afternoon. She let me

touch her next, climbing

onto my fingers

like they were sugar,

her gentle trapeze

teasing my skin.

He misread her name

on the placard, morphe,

but later he christened

her accurately: morpho.

For the rest of the day,

I dreamed of her

on my slouched shoulder,

my body an accomplice

in her disappearing act.


By Evana Bodiker ’18

Evana Bodiker is a senior pursuing majors in English and religious studies and a minor in creative writing. “Blue Morpho” is one of the poems featured in her new poetry collection, Ephemera (Texas Review Press, spring 2018). She won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize for Ephemera, which is composed largely of poems written in her intermediate and advanced poetry courses at UNC. In a blog interview with the press, she said, “In another life, I would have been a naturalist or an entomologist. I love how intricate insects’ lives are … [they] represent ephemerality to me. … Ephemera are things only enjoyed for a short period of time.”

Read more books by College faculty and alumni.

Winning Words: The sports announcer

Jim Lampley

Emmy Award-winning sports announcer Jim Lampley tells young people interested in his profession that “in live television commentary, it’s all about language skills.” (photo courtesy HBO)

Three UNC English majors diverged from traditional career paths but value their studies and the power of language that they learned. Read more stories, on stickwork artist Patrick Dougherty and health care advocate Elizabeth G. Taylor.

Jim Lampley (English ’71) is more poet than pugilist. But his ability with words has made him a king of the ring.

The announcer has spent four decades in network television, most recently as the voice of HBO’s “World Championship Boxing,” where he has called the blow-by-blow of many of the sport’s most significant bouts.

Lampley said his English degree has helped him to thrive in a difficult and competitive profession, as it did for announcers like the late Dick Enberg and Keith Jackson, both grammar fanatics who were so good in part because of their way with words.

“Over the years, thousands of young people have come to me looking to emulate what I’ve managed to do,” Lampley said. “I always say to them, everybody wants to do this as a sports fan. But what’s going to set you apart? Language skills.  In live television commentary, it’s all about language skills.”

Lampley grew up in Hendersonville, North Carolina. His father, a World War II bomber pilot, died when Lampley was 5, and his family moved to Miami when he was 11. At Carolina, Lampley nearly flunked out. But he loved reading novels, fiction and drama, so he majored in English by default.

“I was hoping it would stimulate me enough to go to class. … At the end of the day, that saved me – it helped me to get my act together.”

In high school, he recorded himself providing commentary as he played a tabletop football game. After college, he won a talent contest and worked as a college football sideline reporter for ABC. Later, he paid his dues on “Wide World of Sports,” traveling to novelty events such as demolition derbies and wrist-wrestling competitions.

Later, he covered 14 Olympic Games, first for ABC and later for NBC. His most memorable moment was being in the arena for the 1980 U.S. hockey victory over the Soviet Union at Lake Placid. In 1987, Lampley left ABC and landed a job at HBO.

Lampley was always a boxing aficionado. At 14, he saved lawn-cutting money to witness one of the greatest upsets when Cassius Clay – who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali – defeated Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center in 1964.

“Cassius Clay was my ultimate hero,” Lampley recalled. “You could never have designed a bigger hero for a white kid who grew up during the civil rights movement in a small town in the South being taught to resist all the pernicious elements of racism.”

Andre Ward, Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman commentate on the side of the ring at the HBO World Championship Boxing card.

From left, Andre Ward, Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman prepare to call an HBO World Championship Boxing card. (photo courtesy HBO)

The four-time Sports Emmy Award-winner has been at the mic for many of the sport’s most dramatic moments — from the biggest upset in heavyweight championship history (Buster Douglas’ defeat of Mike Tyson in 1990) to the triumph of 45-year-old George Foreman over Michael Moorer in 1994. He was also there for the showdown between Lennox Lewis and Tyson in 2002 and an epic confrontation between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

In 2015, Lampley was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Last year, he signed a long-term extension with HBO that will keep him as the host of all HBO Boxing telecasts as well as anchoring the sport’s only studio- based interview program, “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley,” for years to come. In inking the deal, HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson noted that Lampley’s “high journalistic standards, historical knowledge of the sport and enthusiasm for sharing the backstories of the fighters who enter the ring enriches the broadcast experience.”

Today, Lampley is based in Del Mar, Calif., and runs Atticus Entertainment, a production company that develops projects for HBO and other networks.

For HBO, Lampley did a one-hour retrospective when Ali died in 2016. “I pointed out that no other sport produces meaningful sociopolitical figures that can change their cultures the way boxing does,” said Lampley. “Only boxing produces a Muhammad Ali.”

“Fighters have a unique pipeline to the public heart.”


By Pamela Babcock

Winning Words: The health care advocate

Three UNC English majors diverged from traditional career paths but value their studies and the power of language that they learned. Read more stories, on sports announcer Jim Lampley and stickwork artist Patrick Dougherty.

Elizabeth Taylor smiles on a couch in Graham Memorial

Elizabeth G. Taylor, who came back to campus to deliver this spring’s Frank Porter Graham Lecture, says an English degree has been key to her success. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Elizabeth G. Taylor considered priesthood and later landed in law school. Now she has found her calling fighting for the rights of low-income individuals and families to have access to health care.

Taylor (English ’76) is executive director of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), founded in 1969 at the UCLA School of Law. For nearly five decades, the nonprofit’s lawyers have litigated cases around the country and provided expertise to advocates at the state level. NHeLP is considered the national expert in Medicaid law and policy.

“Right now, we have been working overtime,” Taylor said, noting the organization’s 2017 efforts to fight the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its current work to stem cutbacks to Medicaid funding and changes to the essential nature of the program.

NHeLP has grown significantly since Taylor joined in 2014, from an operating budget of about $5 million and staff of 31 to a more than $7.5 million budget and 43 employees. It has offices in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Carrboro.

Much of the growth “is in recognition of how important our work is to protecting essential health care for low-income people,” said Taylor, of Chevy Chase, Maryland. “There’s an increasing awareness that our country is stronger if everybody has access to health care. And we’ve been at the center of this fight for a very long time.”

Taylor said an English degree has been a key to her success: “On the most practical level, I make my living using words to convey ideas, to persuade and to excite people. And studying great literature gives you an appreciation of the power of language and ways that language can be used to inspire and educate people.”

It also opens up worlds that one can’t otherwise access, she said.

“There’s nothing in my life that gives me an understanding of slavery, but Toni Morrison opens that door up for me a little bit,” Taylor said. “Sylvia Plath gives me a glimpse into what it’s like to battle depression. And Faulkner, whom I studied at Carolina, helped me to articulate the conflict between the things about the South that I’m proud of and the horrible things about southern heritage,” Taylor said.

Before NHeLP, Taylor was principal deputy associate attorney general at the U.S. Justice Department, working to defend federal health care initiatives and other issues. She also had a stint at a private litigation firm and early in her career clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Carolina is a Taylor family tradition. Her father, mother and her mother’s seven siblings attended UNC. After graduation, Taylor won a fellowship designed to encourage students who might be headed in other directions to consider the ordained ministry. In her second year at Yale Divinity School, although she loved what she was studying, she wasn’t sure she was ready for ordination.

“I needed to figure out what my motives were and where I was going to do the most good,” she said.

A year later, she was enrolled at the University of Virginia Law School.

To honor their parents’ commitment to education, Taylor and her brother Bill (’66) endowed the William and Ida Taylor Honors Research Fellowship. Taylor returned to campus in February to deliver the Frank Porter Graham Lecture on “Health Care’s Seven Dirty Words.”

One of Taylor’s fondest memories at Carolina is the day an English professor handed the class an exam. “Write like angels,” he said before slipping out of the room.

“Literature gives you words for emotions and it teaches you to use words like music,” Taylor said. “Literature makes life richer. It’s about beauty. It’s about understanding. And it’s about using language effectively. We need more English majors, not fewer.”


By Pamela Babcock

Winning Words: The stickwork artist

Three UNC English majors diverged from traditional career paths but value their studies and the power of language that they learned. Read more stories, on sports announcer Jim Lampley and health care advocate Elizabeth G. Taylor.

Patrick Dougherty poses in front of one of the stickwork sculptures outside of Ackland Art Museum.

Patrick Dougherty says when you’re trying to elicit feelings and emotions through art, “that’s not unlike creating a great novel.” (photo by Audrey Shore)

“Step Right Up” is a fitting name for Patrick Dougherty’s outdoor sculpture at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill. That’s essentially what he’s been inviting the public, fascinated with his larger-than-life stick sculptures, to do for the last 30 years.

Step right up. Walk around. Go inside. Look up and down. Explore.

“There’s intrigue in thinking about what it would be like to stand inside a teapot, and we made one big enough for Aladdin to come out of,” Dougherty said. “There’s also the excitement of productivity that we assign to a stick, starting from childhood. It’s a drumstick, a piece of a wall, all of the things that you can imagine.”

A clay animal-shaped pouring vessel in the Ackland’s permanent collection caught Dougherty’s eye and served as the inspiration for five mammoth vessels constructed on the museum’s “front lawn” (the side facing Columbia Street). “Step Right Up” will be on display through August 2018; it’s the first major site-specific outdoor art installation by the museum in nearly 20 years.

The saplings used to make the sculpture, primarily maple and gum, were donated by Duke Forest and Triangle Land Conservancy and harvested with the help of a network of volunteers. Their support helps to “embed the work in the community,” Dougherty said.

Patrick Dougherty in a field at Irvin Nature Farm to collect saplings for his stickwork sculpture.

Patrick Dougherty uses a network of volunteers to help with his larger-than-life sculptures — “It helps to humanize the process.” (photo by Kristen Chavez)

The experience has been a homecoming of sorts for Dougherty (English ’67). He went on to earn a master’s in hospital and health administration from the University of Iowa in 1969, and returned to Carolina’s art department for post-graduate work in 1981 and 1982.

Dougherty said his time in the English department helped him to think about the conventions writers employ in making an exciting narrative, and he applies that to his art.

“When you’re trying to have a conversation with the public, and to elicit feelings and emotions through your work, that’s not unlike creating a great novel,” he said. “There was a lot of value in learning what makes something have resonance and power.”

He also values his postgraduate studies and the visiting artist program. To this day he remembers clay artist Susan Peterson saying “It’s just as easy to be a national artist as a local artist, but you have to want to be in the nation.”

For Dougherty, that has meant creating nearly 300 sculptures all over the United States and the world, from Scotland to Japan to Belgium to France. He’s constructed works for botanical gardens, children’s museums, universities, a winery, a zoo, even the U.S. Embassy in Serbia. “It has involved a lot of rental cars and meeting thousands of people and working with hundreds of organizations,” he said.

He has received numerous awards, including a Factor Prize for Southern Art and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. His work has been featured in a book, numerous media outlets and a documentary.

Still fame is elusive, Dougherty said, adding that “when I come home, my wife says, ‘the yard needs raking.’”

After working with sticks eight hours a day, he still does his own yardwork?

“I love physical activity and working. It’s been good for me,” he said.

The work is indeed physical, bending and shaping sticks all day, three weeks at a time, in all kinds of weather. But Dougherty has no intention of slowing down. Right now he has installations scheduled through 2019.

When asked if he considers himself an environmental artist, Dougherty said the context of his work has changed over the years. People are now more willing to accept it as being temporary.

“It reminds people of all of the moments they might have had,” he said. “It’s a bird’s nest, that first kiss under the lilac bush, a forest you took a walk in, a significant moment.”

“A lot of times people will ask me, ‘what does it mean?’ And I say, ‘it’s more about how it makes you feel.’”


Watch a video of the construction of “Step Right Up.” 

By Kim Weaver Spurr ‘88

Saving an Endangered Language

Sociolinguistic scholar Ben Frey helps revitalize Cherokee

American studies assistant professor Ben Frey at his computer with a coffee pot and surrounding mugs. A simple introductory greeting in Cherokee (translated as: “what is your name?" "My name is _____," and "Glad to meet you!") is written on the board behind him.

American studies assistant professor Ben Frey hosts a weekly Cherokee Coffee Hour at Carolina to encourage students to speak the language. (photo by Donn Young)

Walk past Abernethy Hall Room 102 on any given Friday afternoon during the semester and you’ll likely hear sounds of an endangered language wafting through the halls.

“Siyo.” (Hello.)

“Osigwotsu?” (How are you?)

“Osigwo.” (I am fine.)

“Ihina?” (And you?)

“Osda!” (Great!)

It’s “AniKahwi,” Cherokee Coffee Hour, for students interested in learning to speak Cherokee.

American studies assistant professor Ben Frey ’05 started the coffee hour in 2013 after returning to UNC-Chapel Hill as a Carolina Postdoctoral Fellow for Faculty Diversity. It is one of many ways he is working to revitalize the Cherokee language.

Indigenous people have spoken Cherokee in North Carolina for 11,000 years. Now, only 238 people — 1.4 percent of the 17,000 citizens of Eastern Band of Cherokees — speak the tribe’s Kituwah dialect. Most of them are 65 and older.

Preserving a culture’s language is important for many reasons, Frey said. Unique knowledge and traditions held by these cultures can offer solutions for today’s pressing challenges, from environmental sustainability to health care. Connecting to one’s heritage helps individuals and communities understand who they are.

Fortunately, Frey’s research on how language use declines — or shifts — offers a path forward to revive this endangered language.

Ben Frey writes a simple introductory exchange in Cherokee. The board translates as: “what is your name?" "My name is _____," and "Glad to meet you!"

Ben Frey writes a simple introductory exchange in Cherokee. (photo by Donn Young)

A personal journey

Frey’s Cherokee language education began while he was a German and linguistics major at UNC in the early 2000s. A citizen of the Eastern Band, Frey grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Cherokee was not taught at home.

His grandmother was among the Cherokee youth removed from their homes, placed in boarding schools and punished for speaking the language by a U.S. government bent on eradicating native cultures. While she and Frey’s great-grandmother spoke Cherokee to each other when they didn’t want the children to understand, they did not pass on the language.

Frey discovered he had a talent for languages while learning German in high school and pursued it at Carolina. During the summer of his sophomore year, he decided to put his acquisition skills to work learning his ancestral tongue in Cherokee, North Carolina, from cousins who oversaw the tribe’s language program.

Frey continued improving his Cherokee fluency while completing his degree at UNC and, later, during a year-long Cherokee master/apprentice program at Western Carolina University and while earning master’s and doctoral degrees in German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was his doctoral research in language shifts that provided insights that would inform his work to revitalize the Cherokee language.

Frey’s research compared the way language shifted in two very different settings: the German-speaking communities of eastern Wisconsin and the Cherokee-speaking communities of western North Carolina.

Both communities experienced cultural discrimination that curbed use of their native language. Frey expected to find that the use of Cherokee had declined to a greater extent than German because of the government’s eradication effort. To his surprise, Frey found that use of German in the Wisconsin communities declined more.

The reason for both shifts: the evolution of social network structures away from native languages due to industrialization, urbanization and tourism. Across the country during the 1800s and 1900s, enclaves of non-English-language speakers shifted their language to English out of necessity.

“Understanding the mechanics of how a language shift happens gives you a window into how it might go the other way,” Frey said. “So, if we’ve broken down social networks in order to shift a traditional language to English, presumably a way to shift back is to build them up.”


Creating social structures

It should be as easy for students to learn Cherokee as it is to learn Spanish or German, Frey said. Students in his Cherokee classes learn by listening, reading, writing, using conversation tools and doing exercises. But language is also about social interactions and context. Helping restore those interactions within the Cherokee community in North Carolina is key.

A sandwich board with a welcome written in Cherokee greets guests at Jackson’s Grocery in Birdtown

A sandwich board with a welcome written in Cherokee greets guests at Jackson’s Grocery in Birdtown. Frey and a UNC linguistics colleague received a grant to encourage local stores to conduct business in their native language.

“We went to a restaurant in Yellow Hill, the governmental seat of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the menu was in English and Spanish,” Frey said. “We need it in Cherokee.”

Frey and UNC linguistics colleague Misha Becker have received a grant to encourage local businesses in the Cherokee area to conduct business in their native language. The two have distributed window decals and sandwich boards that announce, “We support the Cherokee language,” and phrase cards customers can use to conduct business in Cherokee.

Starting the process with local businesspeople provides a platform for expanding use of Cherokee across the community, but reviving a language requires much more.

“Think about all the things you interact with that are in English — novels, music, radio, art, entertainment, social media memes, YouTube videos,” Frey said. “All of those things are necessary for people to experience in Cherokee, too.”

Frey has teamed with UNC music scholar Mark Katz, director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, to bring hip hop artist Joshua Rowsey to Cherokee to encourage music making among students at the Cherokee immersion school.

This spring, Frey plans to bring UNC students to the Second Annual Undergraduate Cherokee Language Symposium at Western Carolina University to interact with college students from across the country who are also learning Cherokee.

Frey’s revitalization efforts have found fertile ground in students like UNC sophomore Brooklyn Brown. A native of the Birdtown community of Cherokee and a first descendant of the Eastern Band, Brown wants to help her community bring the language back.

“The Cherokee language could be gone in a few decades,” Brown says. “We need all the support we can get to change that. I hope to be a part of the fight to save Cherokee and be able to pass this on to generations.”


North Carolina boasts the largest Indian population east of the Mississippi. UNC’s American Indian and indigenous studies (AIIS) area in the American studies department honors that distinction by offering an undergraduate major, a minor and a Ph.D. concentration. Undergraduates may take Cherokee to fulfill their foreign language requirement. 

AIIS’s interdisciplinary faculty study and teach the histories, contemporary experiences, languages, culture and political statuses of indigenous people living in and beyond the United States.

UNC’s American Indian Center, established in 2006, supports AIIS by building community among Native American students, connecting UNC students, faculty and staff to native communities, and collaborating on research, class projects and student support.

The center also supports assistant professor Ben Frey’s weekly Cherokee Coffee Hour.


By Cyndy Falgout

Shining a spotlight on African-American history

Mike Wiley in the rehearsal hall of the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art.

Mike Wiley’s latest play, “Leaving Eden,” will premiere in April at PlayMakers. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Mike Wiley was a young actor in 1999 when he discovered a historic tale that inspired him to write his first play. It changed his life.

The play is about Henry “Box” Brown, who used an unlikely prop to escape a life of slavery in 1849. He climbed into a wooden crate in Richmond, Virginia, and shipped himself north to freedom. Brown arrived safely in Philadelphia and spent his remaining days as a free man.

“I gravitated to the character,” said Wiley, who had struggled to find his own path in life.

After writing One Noble Journey, Wiley took his one-man, one-prop drama on the road to educate and entertain audiences of all ages. He won support through the National Black Theatre Festival, then produced, marketed and performed the play to schools, libraries and small venues.

It was a hit. Wiley was encouraged to pursue an MFA in dramatic art at UNC-Chapel Hill; he graduated in 2004. He kept writing plays that spotlight challenging chapters of African-American history. Audiences clamored for his one-man portrayals of Jackie Robinson and Emmett Till and a musical about unsung heroes of the civil rights movement.

Wiley has served as a distinguished visiting professor at Carolina and Duke. He has presented his works in the United States and abroad. For these achievements and “contributions to humanity,” he received the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award on University Day last October.

Wiley has won acclaim for creative versatility, as he morphs on stage into roles spanning gender, race and age. He embodied 36 characters in his play about the killing of Till.

“[His] solo works …  feel like an evening spent among an intense community of people, united at times and divided at others by a common dilemma,” wrote local theater critic Byron Woods.

It took Wiley a while to find his calling. He grew up in the ’70s and ’80s with a hard-working single mother in Roanoke, Virginia. He was bused across town to recently desegregated public schools, where he didn’t always feel welcome.

He tried out for school plays and once got to portray Abraham Lincoln. “I loved being someone else,” he said.

In 1989, during the summer before the Berlin Wall came down, he was among 15 American teens invited to perform with 15 Russian counterparts in Moscow and Stalingrad.

“That was my first taste of what touring with a troupe of actors was like,” he said. “It was a beautiful moment.”

Wiley became the first in his family to get a four-year degree, from Catawba College in Salisbury. Afterward, he traveled with a Shakespeare company and a children’s theater, where he learned the business of touring.

Poster art for PlayMakers Repertory’s production of ‘Leaving Eden.’ World premiere of Leaving Eden by Mike Wiley, music and lyrics by Laurelyn Dossett. Directed by Vivienne Benesch.

Mike Wiley’s Leaving Eden, with music and lyrics by Laurelyn Dossett, will make its world premiere at PlayMakers Repertory Company.

His most stunning achievement came from a collaboration with his students at Duke and Carolina in 2010, who helped him research stories of the Freedom Riders in the summer of 1961, about civil rights activists helping to desegregate public buses in the South.

That inspired The Parchman Hour, the musical Wiley wrote, produced and directed with a student cast. His students performed at Carolina and across the South, including at the 50th Freedom Riders’ reunion in Mississippi. Wiley directed another production of the show at PlayMakers Repertory Company in 2011, drawing yet more acclaim.

His newest play, Leaving Eden (at PlayMakers April 4-22), is a timely but hopeful fable of a fictional Southern town facing immigration, racism, economic woes and the rise of a dangerous demagogue. He will also premiere an ensemble version of his one-man play, Blood Done Sign My Name, at Raleigh Little Theatre in May.

Wiley especially loves to present his plays to young people, through his company Mike Wiley Productions, based in Pittsboro. He tells them that acting allows them to escape by trying on other people’s lives. “We can be heroes.”


Learn more at


By Dee Reid.

Interns Meet Former White House Communications Chief

UNC alumnus Don Baer chats with interns about his career.

UNC alumnus Don Baer (’76), now chair of global communications giant Burson Cohn & Wolfe, chats with interns about his career, which includes stints in the White House as President Bill Clinton’s communications director and as a top executive at Discovery Communications. (photo by Geneva Collins)

Interns quickly discover that one of the perks of participating in the UNC Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs is ample opportunity to network with Carolina alumni in influential positions in Washington.

Week Two of the 2018 internship program, for example, included a lunchtime chat with Don Baer, chair of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, one of the world’s largest global communications agencies.

Baer ’76 has had a heady career in media and law. After UNC (B.A., political science), London School of Economics (master’s, international relations) and University of Virginia (J.D.), he had a brief stint practicing at a New York law firm in the 1980s before switching to journalism, eventually covering politics and national affairs for U.S. News & World Report. He left to join the Clinton White House, first as chief speechwriter and later as director of communications and senior adviser to the president. From 1998 to 2007, he was a top executive at Discovery Communications. He has been at Burson Cohn & Wolfe (known as Burson-Marsteller before a recent merger) since 2008.

Baer has been involved with the UNC public policy internship program for the past three years, sharing career advice and Chapel Hill anecdotes with the students. He noted that the exchange is as valuable for him as it is for them.

“I’m blown away by their credentials, the experiences they’ve had, by their level of maturity, their insight. They seem a lot more put together than students in my era, myself included. More focused, directed, energized,” he said. “I’m struck by how many I’d like to have work here.”

At the January lunch at Burson, he regaled the students with memories of covering the Iran-Contra scandal as a journalist and what working in the White House was like. (He does a killer Bill Clinton impersonation.)

“I always tried to follow my interests. I always wanted to work on issues that mattered,” he said of his eclectic career, urging them to do the same.

At UNC, Baer worked on The Daily Tar Heel, was involved in student government, interned at a congressional office and chaired the Carolina Symposium, a speaker series.

“It was a great all-in experience for me,” he said of his college days. “I had extraordinary professors. … I had a lot of people watching over me.”

“Meeting Don Baer was such a privilege,” said intern Elisa Moore after the lunch. “Hearing his stories was so cool!”


Read more about “15 Weeks in DC” and the Honors Seminar in Public Policy and Global Affairs

By Geneva Collins

15 Weeks in D.C.

Lucy Russell at in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Lucy Russell, a sophomore and public policy major interning for a U.S. senator, said she was drawn to the UNC Honors Seminar program because it combined practical classroom instruction with immersive experiences.

UNC public policy interns spend their spring navigating the nation’s capital

“There’s a saying around here: If you want to understand this town, read the tax code.”

That’s how John Scott opens his lecture, “Budget and Taxes Part 1.” The town — you guessed it — is the nation’s capital, and Scott, a UNC research associate professor based in Washington, is standing in front of a PowerPoint in a large seminar room, 27 students listening attentively.

The large glass windows in the fifth-floor room lack a view of the iconic white marble buildings recognizable from movies and television, but no matter. The students in the UNC Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs already know them well. They are working at internships in the U.S. House and Senate and Cabinet-level agencies. They are working at nonprofits and think tanks, associations and research centers.

They are mastering the Metro system, deciphering policy-speak, soaking up the fabulous and free museums, blanching at the prices of D.C. restaurants.

“Nothing compares to actually being in the center of the nation’s policy hub,” said Karla Guadalupe Garcia, a senior and public policy major interning at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. “From our coworkers to our neighbors, everyone is doing important and meaningful work.”

Ying He, seated, confers with co-worker Meg VanDeusen at Feedback Labs.

Ying He, seated, confers with co-worker Meg VanDeusen at Feedback Labs, a consortium of nonprofits that helps make governments, NGOs and donors more responsive to their constituents. This was the sophomore public policy major’s first visit to Washington—“as an international student, I wanted to enrich my U.S. experience by having an internship.”

For 15 weeks every spring, students in the program spend four days a week at prestigious internships in the city’s corridors of power. Thursday is their day in the classroom. Mornings are spent taking a seminar led by Scott, UNC public policy chair Dan Gitterman, or other faculty affiliated with the program. Afternoon seminars are usually with a guest speaker and are often at the speaker’s place of work. Site visits this semester have included visits to the Pentagon, Politico and the Institute of Peace.

Scott’s Week Two class on tax code had a ripped-from-the-headlines air; less than a month before, Congress had passed the largest tax reform package in more than 30 years. After wrestling with such questions as What is a tax? Why do we have taxes? How do taxes function as ideological tools?, the students headed off to a working lunch at Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a global public relations and communications firm. Later in the day, they visited the offices of Pew Charitable Trusts, where Scott directs Pew’s retirement savings project, to chat with two recent UNC graduates who work at the nonprofit.

Mateo Carvalho, a sophomore public policy/political science double major, discusses work with Gloria Nlewedim in the office of U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.).

Mateo Carvalho, a sophomore public policy/political science double major, discusses work with Gloria Nlewedim in the office of U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.). He says unexpected events such as the government shutdown has kept the semester interesting.

The internship program in D.C. dates back to the late ’90s, said Gitterman, who has overseen the program as faculty director since 2011. The Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs is open to anyone with a 3.0 GPA, not just Honors Carolina students, and earns 14 credit hours for the semester. Students from all majors can apply, although the preponderance, not surprisingly, are from public policy, political science and global studies.

“It’s a fairly competitive application process. We’ve tried to meet increasing demand by taking more and more students, but about 30 is as large as we can go,” said Gitterman. He would love for public policy to be able to offer a fall internship program in addition to the spring one to accommodate more students.

The program has ongoing relationships with many internship sites (some through UNC alumni connections), but students research the internships and apply on their own. The assignments must be approved in advance, and the internship hosts must pledge to engage students in substantive policy-related work.

Andrew Brennan in the lobby outside of the Obama Foundation offices.

Andrew Brennan interned at the Obama Foundation. “Every day I am surrounded by folks who have already moved on from jobs and careers that I have only dreamed of,” said the junior political science major.

Elisa Moore, a junior majoring in global studies and French, has conducted primary source research in the National Archives and prepped her boss (former Ambassador Norm Eisen) for major media appearances during her internship at the Brookings Institution. She said one aspect of the program she hadn’t appreciated in advance was “how much access we would get to certain things just based on the kindness of UNC alumni. … I’m very excited each week to see who is coming to speak to us or who we get to go meet.”

Mary Katherine Falgout, a junior majoring in public policy with a minor in social and economic justice, is interning at the National Women’s Law Center. “I am working on child care policy advocacy. Some of my tasks include writing blogs, drafting tweets and reporting daily on talk of child care in the media,” she said. She envisions law school in her future and appreciates the opportunity to work with public interest lawyers.

Five of the 27 interns this semester have jobs on the Hill in Senate or House offices. Julia Herring, interning for Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Florida), has attended briefings and hearings, written memos and recommendations, and fielded phone calls from influential individuals.

“I really enjoy the balance of accountability, enthusiasm and liberty in this program,” said the sophomore majoring in political science and history. “While the real world is much more challenging than I ever imagined, the learning experience is far more rewarding as well.”

Working four days a week in an office gives students a taste of what life after graduation is like — but it doesn’t exempt them from course work. There are extensive readings, plus regular assignments — drafting op-eds, speeches and policy briefs, for example — for students to develop their research, writing and presentation skills.

To support the students, many of whom have never spent an extended period in a major city, Gitterman has developed a mentor system. All interns are assigned to one of four recent UNC alumni who went through the program themselves and now work in the capital. The mentors hold dinners and regular check-ins with the students, who stay in a dorm-style residence in the city.

UNC Honors in Public Policy and Global Affairs students at a pizzeria in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

A night out at a pizzeria in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

There are also some formal social and cultural activities built in, including an evening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A weekend excursion to New York City in April will provide this year’s group of interns the opportunity to meet Volcker Alliance President (and former UNC System President) Tom Ross, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni and Bloomberg LP chairman Peter Grauer (all are UNC undergraduate or law school alumni) and take in a Broadway show.

Asked to reflect on her early impression of the internship, sophomore and Senate intern Lucy Russell replied, “This has been the most unique experience of my Carolina journey so far. … I have been exposed to new career paths, have met fellow Tar Heels with a passion for public service, and have reaffirmed my gut feeling that I can be an agent of change in D.C. and beyond. … [UNC alumni] are always willing to offer life guidance, career support or just a listening ear. It is incredible how passionate they are for supporting their alma mater, and it makes me very grateful to be at UNC.”


Read more about Don Baer.

Story by Geneva Collins. Photos by Donn Young.

Igniting Creativity

Illustration by Nathan Golub.

Illustration by Nathan Golub.

Imagine. Inspire. Think. Create. Engineer. Ignite. Innovate.

In the College, those words make up the fabric of what we do every day, whether it’s showcasing unfinished works to create a dialogue between artist and audience, using a traditional discipline like geography in an unexpected way or providing campus makerspaces for students to invent and explore. The following stories show how creativity gets our gears going — how the art of making and creating is valuable to the work of faculty, students and alumni across the arts, humanities and sciences.

Honoring the Unfinished Work

Students Learn to ‘BeAM’ in Telescope-Building Class

A Report Card for Poverty

Mapping Infectious Disease

PlayMakers’ Vivienne Benesch: Creating ‘Richer and Deeper Art’

Entrepreneurial Opportunities Inspire Comic Book Nonprofit

Reveling in Reinvention

Quotes on Creativity:

Honoring the Unfinished Work

Rehearsal for "Silhouettes of Service," part of the Process Series' festival, Veterans and Their Families.

Joseph Megel gives notes after a rehearsal of “Silhouettes of Service.” (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Playwright Howard Craft’s connection with UNC’s Process Series led to an off-off Broadway production of his play Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green that won rave reviews from The New York Times.

Freight tells the story of an African-American man who exists in five dimensions of the same universe at different points in American history.

The Process Series, which just finished its eighth season, is a very different kind of performance series. Think of it as an arts laboratory, an incubator where works-in-progress are shown to an audience, often for the first time. The audience is invited to give feedback on the production in the midst of the artist’s sometimes messy creative process.

Craft calls it a “really cool dynamic,” a wonderful opportunity to make something stronger through an intellectual conversation between artist and audience.

“Writing, in my opinion, is done in the revision process,” he said. “I tell my students that playwriting is about problem-solving.”

If you love DVD extras that feature the making of a movie, the Process Series gives you a behind-the-scenes look that viewers of finished works may not see.

Joseph Megel (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Joseph Megel (photo by Kristen Chavez)

The Process Series is the brainchild of Joseph Megel, a director and artist-in-residence in the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of communication. It features work by guest artists from around the world, but also UNC faculty and students. Performances have involved dance, theater, music, art, poetry, oral history, storytelling and hybrid productions with digital arts and media.

The series benefits from partnerships with interdisciplinary departments across the college, including art, dramatic art, communication, English and comparative literature, music and African, African American and diaspora studies.

“What’s different about having this at a research-focused university is connecting the artists to the scholars. These relationships become critical to what happens on the stage,” Megel said.

For Marie Garlock, being a part of the Process Series changed the trajectory of her career.

Garlock received her undergraduate degree in global studies in 2008. Her project, It is In You: Health Justice Performance in Tanzania, was the first student work selected for the series.

Her fusion of theater, storytelling, dance and health justice was based on study abroad work she did with leaders in Tanzania “who were engaging in the politics of HIV, the body and international development.”

Participation in the Process Series helped her realize she could be both an artist and a scholar. She went on to receive her M.A. in communication studies in 2012 and is completing her Ph.D. in performance studies.

It is In You has since been featured at four national and international conferences, and Garlock has had artistic residencies at eight universities and community history centers. She also traveled back to Tanzania with Megel and other collaborators to perform the piece there. Her latest project, Flipping Cancer, focuses on people who face advanced stages of cancer.

“Through the Process Series you see how live performance can spark creative thinking and the possibilities for creative action toward the pressing issues of our time,” she said.

Rehearsal for "Silhouettes of Service," part of the Process Series' festival, Veterans and Their Families. Pictured: MFA acting candidate Gregory DeCandia, who wrote and performs 'Silhouettes.'

Gregory DeCandia wrote and performed for “Silhouettes of Service,” a multimedia docu-drama that was part of the Process Series’ festival, Veterans and Their Families.

Both Garlock and Craft praise the work of Megel, who they say has a real gift for cultivating diverse new works and supporting artists in their exploration.

Megel, in turn, notes that the collaboration with artists is what really gets his creative juices flowing. He also leads the audience feedback sessions.

“There’s something about being able to work with really, really talented writers and performers and musicians and having us all bring our best work into a room together — it really engages and challenges you,” Megel said.

Visit in the coming months for details on the 2016-2017 season.

By Kim Weaver Spurr ’88