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Education
UNC System Awards$4.2 Million In Research Grants PDF Print E-mail
Education
By Administrator   
Monday, 24 September 2018 09:35
UNC System announced the recipients of research grants distributed from the System Office across the University of North Carolina System. In total, the System Office has awarded 15 grants totaling more than 4.2 million dollars, nested in three different categories. Each of these grant initiatives is specifically designed to support inter-institutional research.
 
“These grants harness the incredible wealth of talent across the UNC System for the benefit of North Carolinians in all 100 counties,” said UNC President Margaret Spellings. “I’m especially grateful for the General Assembly’s continued support of the Research Opportunities Initiative, as it funds game-changing research, this year in manufacturing and cancer treatment.”
 
This year’s recipients include:
 
Novel Mentoring Assessment for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. Principal investigator: Stephanie George, ECU. Partnering institution: FSU. The objective of this research is to gather data that will help evaluate and improve mentoring in undergraduate research situations. This first stage of research will develop a comprehensive mentoring instrument tying program features and participant characteristics to the perceived quality of the relationship and program outcomes.
 
Integration of Authentic Research Experiences into Traditional Undergraduate Laboratory Courses Across the UNC System. Principal investigator: Michael E. Taveirne, NCSU. Partnering institutions: FSU, N.C. A&T, NC Central University.  This project aims to incorporate inquiry-guided research into undergraduate microbiology laboratory courses across multiple UNC System institutions. In addition to developing a network of CURE courses, this project will develop an assessment instrument to measure skills-based learning outcomes in research courses. 
 
Empowering Students to Combat Poverty Through Community Action: Undergraduate Research on ‘The Poverty Simulation.’ Callie Schultz, WCU. Partnering institution: Elizabeth City State University. This project will license The Poverty Simulation—a live-action experience where participants navigate the struggles life in poverty—and train facilitators to use this learning tool on campus. Undergraduate students working with the investigators will undertake research projects related to the poverty simulations. 
 
Recognizing the Value and Educational Impact of Research Experiences: Identify and Market the Transformative Skill Development in High Impact Learning Opportunities. Principal investigator: Sarah Shoemaker, NC School of Science and Mathematics. Partnering institution: UNC Pembroke.  This project will provide a framework for communicating the outcomes of a high impact experience and for assessing the impact or value of these experiences. The focus is on the development and documentation of the transformative (soft) skills that students gain in a research experience. The challenge is that these skills are not easily assessed and more importantly often go unnoticed by students.
 
The UNC System Research Opportunities Initiative (ROI) is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly to promote innovative and  important research projects within the UNC System.
 
These awards are designed to build capacity in research areas that are strategically important to North Carolina. Priority research areas for the UNC ROI program are pharmacoengineering, advanced manufacturing, energy, data science, marine sciences as well as the military and other security-related issues.
ROI grants fund collaborative research projects with the intent of providing the needed boost to enhance their national or international profile and to provide a competitive edge in pursuit of large scale research funding. This year’s grant recipients include: 
 
North Carolina Consortium for Self-Aware Machining and Metrology. Principal Investigator:
Dr. Tony Schmitz, UNC Charlotte. Partnering institutions: UNC-Chapel Hill, Fayetteville State University. This project will generate new knowledge in the application of artificial intelligence in manufacturing processes for precision parts, enabling machines to understand their current state and surroundings and respond accordingly.
 
Pharmacoengineering Approaches to Enhance the Immune Response to Neoantigens. Principal Investigators: Andrew Wang, MD, UNC-Chapel Hill; Jonathan Serody, MD, UNC-Chapel Hill; Zhen Gu, PhD, NC State University. Partnering Institution: UNC Charlotte. Personalized cancer vaccines based on neoantigens (tumor-specific peptides) have the potential to revolutionize cancer immunotherapy. But multiple challenges remain before these drugs are ready for clinical adoption, including defining the best approach to inducing immune response to the neoantigens comprising the vaccine. The goal of the research is to use pharmacoengineering approaches to generate a more robust neoantigen vaccine.
 
UNC System Inter-Institutional Planning Grants
 
The UNC System Inter-institutional Planning Grant (IPG) initiative is designed to promote collaboration among UNC Institutions (particularly between larger and smaller institutions) and across disciplinary boundaries. IPG incentivizes innovative and productive relationships within the UNC System and increases the System’s competitiveness in attracting external funds. 
 
This year’s recipients will receive a one-time award to initiate the collaborative effort, with the expectation that the team will use the funding period to position itself to obtain external funding to support continuation of the project:
 
Creating an Interdisciplinary Network to Investigate the Drivers of Urban Biodiversity. Principle investigators: Sara Gagné, UNC Charlotte. Partnering institutions: UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington. This project will organize seminars to establish a national network of interdisciplinary scholars, a workshop, formal group meetings, and informal social events exploring what drives biodiversity in cities.
 
Establishing a State-wide Public Health Entomology Research Consortium: Addressing National Entomological Surveillance Needs by Developing Novel Diagnostic Methods Through Transdisciplinary Collaborations. Principal investigator: Brian D. Byrd, Western Carolina University. Partnering institutions: NC State University, East Carolina University. This planning project will bring together investigators from three UNC System universities to begin establishing a research consortium focused on streamlining mosquito identification and addressing insecticide resistance. The long-term goal is to enhance public health responses to outbreaks and reduce endemic threats posed by mosquito-borne diseases. 
 
Envisioning HeArt. Principal investigator: Carolyn Berry, Winston-Salem State University. Partnering institutions: UNC Asheville, UNC School of the Arts. This project will establish a design studio housed within the Center for Design Innovation that will focus on the intersection of health and art, addressing biases in health care and improving health outcomes.
 
Conceptualization of Data Science in Exploring Business Ecosystems: Big Data and Networks Analytics Challenge. Principal investigator: Kayvan Miri Lavassani, North Carolina Central University. Partnering institutions: N.C. A&T, UNC-Chapel Hill. This project will establish an inter-institutional and cross-disciplinary research team and plan a new center at NCCU's school of business dedicated to the study of the business ecosystems. The long-term objective is to establish a regional hub of research on business ecosystems that conduct regional, nation-wide, and global research.
 
New Focus on a Regional Problem in Eastern NC: What are the Impacts of Increased Salinity on Mercury, Parasite Prevalence in Fish, Fishing Behaviors, and Perceptions of Human Health Risk?
Principal investigators: Martin Tsui, UNC Greensboro; Marcelo Ardón-Sayao, NC State; April Blakeslee, ECU; Cynthia Grace-McCaskey, ECU.  This project will establish an interdisciplinary team to tackle the issue of the increased mercury levels in fish resulting from sea level rise.
 
Exploring the Viability of Small-Scale Forest Carbon Offsets. Principal investigator: Tatyana Ruseva, Appalachian State University. Partnering institutions: NC State, UNC Asheville. The Appalachian Carbon Research Group will expand its multidisciplinary work through an inter-institutional collaboration to develop an innovative accounting protocol for forest carbon offset projects. The goal is to identify and evaluate alternative forest inventory methodologies that could make small-scale forest carbon offset projects viable, and to pursue external funding for testing and refinement.
 
Exploiting Tardigrade Stress Resistance to Develop Novel Therapeutic Delivery Strategies. Principal investigators: Brooke E. Christian, App State; Gary J. Pielak, UNC-Chapel Hill. Protein-based drugs, such as Herceptin for treating breast cancer and insulin for diabetes, are inherently unstable at room temperature and require refrigerated transport and storage. This project will test a novel stabilization strategy for these drugs that exploits the natural stress-resistance abilities of tardigrades.
 
Synchronous Mapping of Coastal Habitat Change Using Multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Principal investigators: Narcisa Pricope, UNCW; Srinivas Akella, UNC Charlotte. This project will develop new strategies for using drone and satellite imagery to develop models for predicting how invasive species will spread into native wetlands. This research will be useful in habitat monitoring across the US and worldwide. 
 
Design of Bio-Inorganic Hydrogels with Nanostructured Components. Principal investigator: Yaroslava G. Yingling, NC State. Partnering institutions: UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro. This project will establish a strong, collaborative, inter-institutional, and interdisciplinary team to address fundamental design aspects of responsive biocompatible gels that could revolutionize many applications in health sciences and pharmacoengineering. It further plans to design a pilot training program for science communication.
 
The UNC System Undergraduate Research Program
The University of North Carolina Undergraduate Research Program Award is a grant mechanism to provide funding to universities or consortia of universities within the UNC System to support undergraduate research.
 
Undergraduate research provides students with intensive, high impact learning opportunities and supports the University’s teaching mission to pursue multiple approaches to student learning while allowing students and faculty to undertake scholarly activities of the highest intellectual caliber. 
 
This year’s grants were awarded to projects related to one or more of the following areas essential to developing, enhancing, and promoting undergraduate research:
 
•         Assessment: Development or expansion of novel or innovative methods to assess UR outcomes. 
 
•         CUREs: Development or expansion of novel or innovative curricula that substantively include UR, recognizing that the goal of CUREs is to enhance research skills and to expand access to UR opportunities. 
 
•         Inclusive Excellence: Development or expansion of novel and/or innovative strategies/methods to expand awareness, access, and participation in UR opportunities to all students, especially students from underrepresented groups. 
 
•         Digital Learning: Development or expansion of novel or innovative methods that include digital learning tools in support of undergraduate research in distance learning environments.
Last Updated on Monday, 24 September 2018 09:38
 
Senate President Pro Tempore Touts Teacher Raises PDF Print E-mail
Education
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 28 August 2018 10:52
This release was issued by Senator Phil Berger's office: 
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Since assuming power in 2011, the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly reversed years of teacher pay stagnation caused by massive budget deficits and unmanageable spending. Republicans acted quickly to put teacher pay on a sustainable path while still delivering crucial raises.
 
“Providing a high-quality education is critically important for North Carolina’s next generation,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “Investments in teachers are key to encouraging the best and brightest to make a long-term commitment to their profession, our students, and our state.”
 
Before Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011, Democrats eliminated thousands of teaching positions, furloughed educators, and froze pay. The recession stressed state budgets throughout the country, but North Carolina’s fiscal situation turned into a crisis because of irresponsible and unsustainable spending levels in the years leading up to the recession. Democrats diverted funding away from teacher pay and schools to plug holes in one of the largest budget deficits in the entire country. Between 2008 and 2010, education spending dropped by 9.1% and teacher pay plummeted from 28th in the country to 41st.
 
Since assuming leadership of the General Assembly in 2011, legislative Republicans followed a sustainable path that significantly increased pay for educators whose hard work and commitment are vital to the success of our children.
 
In the 2012 budget, the Republican-led General Assembly provided public school teachers their first raise since 2008, but that was just the beginning. Legislative Republicans made a promise to dramatically increase teacher pay in North Carolina, and they kept that promise. In 2014, the Republican-led General Assembly invested $282 million in teacher pay –the highest raise in the entire nation.
 
In addition to providing teachers with an average 7% raise in the 2014 budget, Republicans also collapsed the antiquated 33-step pay scale, replacing it with a simpler, evidence-based approach. Republicans also increased the starting teacher salary from $30,800 to $35,000, improving the state’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality educators. 
 
Legislative Republicans have continued delivering on their promise to raise teacher pay, as the raise in 2014 began five consecutive years of salary increases. 
 
“Digging out from the massive cuts was a monumental task, but Republicans established the viable path forward on teacher pay five years ago,” said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow). “We’ve enacted raises each year since, and we were at or near the top in the entire country for three of those years. This is a success story, and we’re going to stay the course moving forward.” 
 
UNC BOG Chair and UNC System President Issue Statement On ‘Silent Sam’ Vandalism PDF Print E-mail
Education
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 21 August 2018 09:01
Chapel Hill - A statement from UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings, in response to the removal of Silent Sam last night on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill: 
 
“We have been in touch with UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Cochrane and Chancellor Folt both last night and this morning about the removal of the Silent Sam statue on UNC-CH’s campus. Campus leadership is in collaboration with campus police, who are pulling together a timeline of the events, reviewing video evidence, and conducting interviews that will inform a full criminal investigation. 
 
The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff is paramount. And the actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible. We are a nation of laws—and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.” 
 
UNC System Launches App That Provides Virtual Tour of 17 Campuses PDF Print E-mail
Education
By Administrator   
Thursday, 16 August 2018 09:36
 The University of North Carolina System has unveiled a new app that will allow users to take immersive virtual reality tours of each of the UNC System’s 16 universities. This innovative initiative, made possible through the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) NC program, marks the first wide-scale use of virtual reality to promote and facilitate college access.
 
The GEAR UP NC VR app is the first-of-its-kind and the largest VR project for social good to date. While other campuses have begun offering virtual tours, this marks the first time a university system has used the technology across all of its institutions. 
 
GEAR UP NC VR was created with the specific purpose of helping students in rural, low-wealth, and first-generation families engage with the decision-making and application processes other college-bound students face with more secure support systems. The app helps build a college-going culture across the state, encouraging students to aspire to higher education and connecting them with the institution that will help them attain their academic and personal goals.
 
“Many of us don’t fully appreciate that the campus visit is an accessibility issue. Without it, college can become a guessing game or, too often, a distant pipe dream,” says UNC System President Margaret Spellings. “This virtual reality technology gives every North Carolinian the opportunity to make more informed choices about where they want to go. Just as importantly, it helps them figure out how they’re going to get there.”
 
There is no charge for downloading or using the GEAR UP NC VR app, which is available in the Apple and Google stores. In addition, 21 GEAR UP high schools across the state will receive GEAR UP NC branded cardboard virtual reality headsets and earbuds—enough to ensure that each school can coordinate class-wide “tours.” Students will own the cardboard goggles, enabling them and their families to “visit” campuses multiple times to help in making a college decision.     
 
Free universal access to the content and the broad distribution of VR hardware ensure that many North Carolinians who might otherwise lack support, time, or financial means will be able to visit 16 institutions over the course of a single afternoon without disrupting their studies.
 
Students who access the app will find 16 short virtual reality videos, which highlight the unique features that characterize each institution. Anyone who does not have access to a VR headset will still be able to watch the 360 degree videos on a phone or computer, toggling controls to pan left and right, up and down.
 
The app’s architecture will also function as an information portal, directing users to institution-specific links, including websites, admissions pages, financial aid information and advising, and social media links.
 
The app’s landing page will feature tiles and short videos providing users with valuable information about what the college experience entails. These videos are tailored to a first-generation college student audience and explain the concept of a degree major, cover the basics of the application process, and broadly introduce users to the perks of campus life.
 
The undertaking began in January 2017 with a pilot project in collaboration with Missy Julian Fox, director of the UNC-Chapel Hill First Look program.  The First Look pilot evolved into the GEAR UP NC app’s capacity to accommodate all 16 UNC System campuses as well as the introductory tiles.  Since October 2017, the project has involved more than 500 hours of planning and about 350 hours of filming.  Editors sifted through 30 hours of raw footage to generate each institution’s final cut.
 
Funding for the project was provided by a national GEAR UP grant issued by the U.S. Department of Education.  
 
“GEAR UP NC faced a challenge of time, distance, and cost moving 21,000 GEAR UP students across the state for college visits.  We looked for a technology innovation to address our challenge, and we are very pleased with the app and content,” said Principal Investigator Dr. Carol Cutler White.  “We are researching the project to determine the impact on student motivation and knowledge of college.  In our next stage of development, we intend to incorporate chatbots with our AdmitHub partner to allow students to begin a discussion with campuses that interest them.  Eventually we’d like the app to have content from all of North Carolina’s community colleges and its private colleges and universities.  This expanded scope would provide a comprehensive view of college choice in NC.”
 
To develop the app, GEAR UP NC partnered with Associate Professor Steven King’s Emerging Technologies Lab at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism, a leader in virtual reality.  “We started with a proven learning framework developed by the First Look program at UNC-Chapel Hill and we expanded it by leveraging these new technologies to enable more students across the state to have this opportunity,” said King.
 
To create the virtual reality content, GEAR UP NC partnered with the Los Angeles-based storytelling agency SeeBoundless and the Emerging Technologies Lab to shoot and edit hundreds of hours of 360 degree video.  
 
The producers actively enlisted each institution’s admissions and communications teams to help author the scripts and choose shooting locations. This cooperative effort ensured that the app is comprehensive, offering a broad overview of the entire UNC System while also amplifying each institution’s unique identity. 
 
“We wanted to ensure the campuses had input on the planning, production, and final product so that the videos match the institution’s unique contribution to the UNC System,” said SeeBoundless founder Steve Johnson. “Campus leaders suggested locations and activities to film and also had input on the script to make sure the video looked and felt authentic to their campus.”  
 
The GEAR UP VR app can be downloaded from the itunes store at  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gear-up-vr/id1390999670?mt=8 or from the Google Play store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.askmedia.gearup&hl=en_IN
It can also be found in the Apple App store or the Google Play store by searching for GEAR UP VR.
 
Sample video files can also be downloaded at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6tfpdxp86pz57tp/AABP6zr2NeGpDkEGcF0Qt_uPa?dl=0
 
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