Around the Quad

News on University Events and Milestones

Public Arts & Humanities

Mellon Foundation Grant Advances UNC Asheville's Local Leadership

UNC Asheville has been awarded a $700,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an arts and educational alliance focused on public humanities and community engagement.

The four-year project titled, “UNC Asheville: Leading the Public Arts and Humanities in the City of Asheville,” has four primary goals:

  • To enrich the partnership with the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC)
  • To further initiatives in Affrilachia, uncovering what has been the largely undocumented influence of African Americans on the culture and social fabric of Western North Carolina
  • To stimulate new partnerships with local community colleges and educational institutions in order to broaden awareness of and participation in the Humanities Program through the creation of new Humanities Readers and the establishment of an Affiliates and Fellows Program in Humanities
  • To create models for the public liberal arts and humanities through programming at the Center for Creative Entrepreneurship and UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio, and to foster and create partnerships with The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design

“Under the leadership of Chancellor Mary K. Grant, UNC Asheville has strengthened its ties with academic and cultural institutions in the surrounding community. This grant will help UNC Asheville further cultivate relationships with historic colleges and arts organizations in Western North Carolina, developing an alliance that promises to contribute significantly to the region in cultural, academic, and economic terms,” said Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer at the Mellon Foundation.


Commencement Celebrations

UNC Asheville’s Honorary Degrees Recognize Leaders in Their Fields

“At some point ‘life’ will happen,” said Barrett. “Maybe yours won’t involve as many twists and turns as mine, but life won’t always be easy. …You will know and come to honor your own personal brand of grit.” — Ko Barrett ’94, Commencement speaker

Almost 500 graduates received their degrees at the May 2017 Commencement, along with four honorary degree recipients who are leaders in their fields: alumna Ko Barrett, artist Stoney Lamar, pediatrician Olson Huff, and Cherokee elder Ellen Bird.

Ko BarrettBarrett, who received an honorary Doctor of Science degree, serves as the deputy assistant administrator for research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), supervising the daily operations and administration of NOAA’s research enterprise. She also has represented the United States on delegations charged with negotiating and adopting scientific assessments undertaken by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, Barrett and her fellow IPCC scientists were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to disseminate knowledge about climate change.

Olson Huff, M.D.Huff, a Kentucky native, has practiced pediatrics in North Carolina all of his professional career, first in Charlotte, and since 1982, in Asheville, where in 1987 he established the child development program, subsequently named in his honor, at Thoms Hospital. Among many other achievements, Huff became the founding Medical Director of the Ruth and Billy Graham Children’s Health Center at Mission Hospital and under his leadership, Mission Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital in Western North Carolina, was formed. Huff received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Stoney LamarLamar is a prolific woodturner who produces his work in Saluda, North Carolina, and has contributed exceptional skill and vision to the world of woodturning for more than 25 years. His work is included in public collections in the American Craft Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, and the Renwick Gallery of the Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Lamar received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.

Ellen BirdBird is an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and was recently given the title of Beloved Woman, a designation bestowed upon Cherokee women who are highly respected for their service to the community, their integrity, and their good character. A fluent Cherokee speaker, she has shared her knowledge of Cherokee traditions, including medicines, quilting, and food, not only with her 10 children, but also with the community. Bird received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.


The Write Place and Time
Award-winning Authors Find a Home on Campus
With a series of renowned visiting authors and the first recipient of the Ramsey Library Community Author Award taking her place on campus, UNC Asheville was “literally” the place to be this spring.
UNC Asheville hosted authors of a wide range of works, from poet Camille Dungy to Nigerian novelist Chinelo Okparanta to environmental activist Carolyn Finney. Campus was also the home to the creation of original work, with short-story writer Kim Mako taking her place as the first Ramsey Library Community Author.
“The Ramsey Library Community Author Award was designed for someone exactly like Kim Mako: an incredibly talented writer whose voice and style are strong and clear,” said UNC Asheville’s 2016-17 Writer-In-Residence Wiley Cash. “Writers like Ms. Mako don’t need to develop their work; what they need is the time and space to hone their craft and focus their creativity. Time and space are exactly what Ms. Mako is going to have as the winner of this award, and I have no doubt that we at UNC Asheville will one day be bragging that she was our inaugural recipient.”
“When I first heard about the award I knew I wanted to apply right away,” Mako said. “To connect with the UNCA campus and have my own working space at Ramsey Library is an incredible opportunity. I look forward to using these resources to complete my book and I’m so grateful for this wonderful gift of space and time.”

Pi Miles

First 5K with a Finish Line for Math Literacy

Math is no reason to run away—unless you’re running in the Asheville Initiative for Math’s Pi Run, which honored that special number with a 3.14 mile run or walk, beginning at 3:14 p.m. on the Sunday before Pi Day, 3/14.

“The Pi Day Run is a chance to show your support for math literacy,” said Professor Sam Kaplan, who also directs the Asheville Initiative for Mathematics at UNC Asheville. “Math literacy describes the ability to solve problems, understanding statistical concepts like risk, critical-thinking skills, and the ability to communicate effectively with numbers.” Math literacy is vital to making better decisions about personal health and finances, as well, Kaplan explained, and in the case of an almost-5K run, it offered a family-friendly afternoon that ended in pie at the finish line.


35th Anniversary

Center for Jewish Studies Celebrates 35 Years

Rick Chess gives the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture

UNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies celebrated its 35th anniversary in March, and recognized Rick Chess, professor of English, for his 25 years of leadership as the center’s director.

“The Jewish experience has been part of the human experience for a long time,” Chess said. “There’s a lot that one could learn that would be valuable to a person trying to become a fully developed mature adult and citizen of the world by studying Jewish history, culture, thought, and practice.”

The celebration consisted of a series of events and performances from March 23-26, including The Passion, the Beauty, the Heartbreak: Israel through Poetry and Music, by Israeli writer and recording artist Danny Maseng, a screening of a short film documenting the history of the Center for Jewish Studies, and the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture, presented by Chess.


Arts for Social Change

UNC Asheville Arts Fest

Third Annual Arts Fest Featured Music, Films, and Exhibits

Artist and author Clarissa SlighUNC Asheville’s third annual Arts Fest included everything from student-performed “space music” accompanying a special star-gazing on the Quad, to origami paper crane folding workshops and literary readings by middle school poets. The three-day festival on April 6-8, themed “Arts for Social Change,” featured performances, exhibitions, and talks by artist and lecturer David Hess; award-winning songwriter, speaker, and writer David LaMotte; and visual artist, photographer, and author Clarissa Sligh.

Student singersArts Fest culminated with a festival Saturday, April 8, followed by film screenings of student work and a documentary on student entrepreneurs. Musicians and dancers took the stage on the Reynolds Green, while art vendors displayed and sold their crafts. Hess’s interactive exhibit, “Gun Show: An Art Exhibit,” was on display, as were several science-related activities, including a giant interactive camera obscura and a presentation on “the art of physics.”