Year in Review: Our Top Stories of 2018
Our community of thinkers and doers never fails to amaze.
In 2018, our students put their minds to work. They studied in the classroom and beyond the walls of campus, exploring theories of human thought and action and applying what they learned through internships, research and study abroad.
Our faculty extended their scholarship to communities near and far. They used their expertise not only to create new knowledge, but to inform debates on social issues, to help shape public policy, to solve real problems.
And our alumni, working as judges and journalists, actors and activists, cartoonists and clinical psychologists, helped address the needs of their neighbors. They worked to make the world a better place.
We have countless stories to tell about our pack, too many to list in one place. Here are some favorites from the past year, both the stories you viewed the most and a few of our top picks.
Alumna Maggie Kane (International Studies ’13) did more than dream about a place where people of all means could break bread and share community. She made it happen. A Place at the Table, a pay-what-you-can cafe in downtown Raleigh, offers delicious food and opportunities for connection across socioeconomic divides.
The cafe’s flexible menu gives patrons several options to pay for their meals — and to pay it forward for others. If someone doesn’t have enough cash, they can pay half the price or volunteer with the restaurant for their meal. If another customer wants to tip $40 on a cup of coffee or buy a meal token for someone else, that’s cool, too.
Kane had the idea for A Place at the Table about four years ago, not long after earning her bachelor’s degree in international studies from NC State. After visiting local soup kitchens with people experiencing homelessness and poverty, she set out to build a new restaurant where all people could order from a menu and have dignity while they dined.
The Language and Life Project at NC State (LLP) has a nickname for the diversity of distinct language varieties across North Carolina: Dialect Heaven.
In this quiz developed by LLP director Walt Wolfram, you can explore dialects from across the state by listening to speakers and guessing where they live. Each audio clip tells a story of our state’s unique language tradition and conveys a sense of how dialects dynamically transmit the rich history and culture of our state.
NC State Psychology Professor Mary Haskett studied hunger and homelessness among a population that may surprise many: NC State students.
Working with a group of NC State faculty, staff and community leaders, Haskett surveyed 7,000 NC State students to assess the extent of food and housing insecurity on campus. The group found that 14 percent of NC State students reported low or very low food security within the past month. In addition, 9.6 percent of respondents reported experiencing homelessness over the past year, most frequently staying with others temporarily or sleeping in outdoor locations.
Now the campus community is working together to ensure that all NC State students have access to sufficient and nutritious food, in addition to safe and affordable housing accessible to the university.
With the city of Prague as their classroom, a group of NC State students explored public history during a two-week summer course in the Czech Republic.
During the course, students visited medieval monuments, a concentration camp and nearly a dozen other sites in and around the capital city. Students read about new sites each night, then visited them the next day. They studied how historians employ their expertise to enrich each site and also observed visitor interactions.
For their final project, students designed their own historical tours of the city. With themes ranging from Czech libraries to artwork by the sculptor David Černý, the tours offer a unique perspective of Prague.
When you can’t speak the language where you live and work, you’re at an extreme disadvantage. We’re training English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers who can bridge language gaps around the globe — and in our own backyard.
Through NC State’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Program, students like Cecilia Tomasatti take intensive courses. What’s more, they also practice teaching. En route to earning her master’s degree in sociolinguistics, Tomasatti led a pilot Workplace Communication class in 2018 for NC State facilities staff who are learning English.
Watch the video above to learn more about Tomasatti’s purposeful experience.
With support from college donors, political science major Amith Mandavilli served as one of 15 interns at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations this fall. The prestigious position provided an up close and personal exploration of foreign policy and international relations at the highest level.
Mandavilli’s tasks included attending and reporting on U.N. Security Council meetings, escorting foreign nationals throughout the U.N. headquarters, and working closely with U.N. staff. In early November, he even had an opportunity to officially staff a Security Council meeting, sitting directly behind U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen during the proceeding.
He says some of his favorite memories occurred outside of work as he got to know other interns from around the world.
“Seeing how we integrated the histories of our various countries into the questions we were talking about was a very intellectually rich and stimulating experience.”
Fanice Thomas, an NC State doctoral student in psychology, honed her leadership skills as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar. She’ll apply what she learns through the prestigious fellowship to improve health and well-being in immigrant communities.
As a Health Policy Research Scholar, she had access to mentoring from experts in various disciplines; opportunities to collaborate with fellow scholars who she says have become like family to her; training in public health and policy; and the chance to develop leadership skills that will serve her throughout her career.
A Kenya native, Thomas’ own scope of research in examining and improving health behavior in African immigrant populations is expanding. She’s now focusing not only on individual behaviors, but also on the individual within the societal context.
Partnering with bioarchaeologists, English professor Tim Stinson is collecting collagen and DNA from the pages of medieval manuscripts.
Tests of the samples reveal what animal skins bookmakers used to furnish parchment, the primary material used for writing in the Middle Ages. They also provide insight into ancient manufacturing practices, economic models, animal husbandry and more, Stinson says.
“Potentially written in the genetic record is evidence of selective breeding or clues to how events like plagues affected livestock and impacted the availability, the price, or the desirability of parchment,” Stinson says. “These tests might allow me to answer questions from my own area of specialization, such as when and where these texts were produced, whereas scientists and archaeologists might be able to answer questions related to animal husbandry or the manufacture of parchment.
“It’s also this truly interdisciplinary nexus. Just as it was when these books were made, where you have scholars, you have religious writers, you have folks raising the animals, you have folks selling the parchment, preparing it, all these things, so it is today, a sort of nexus of interdisciplinary inquiry.”
Religious studies professor Jason Bivins curated this list of 10 legendary musicians that make a case for the importance of North Carolina as a root source for American sound. In addition to his research on the intersection of religion and politics, Bivins has had a lengthy career as a professional guitarist. His book Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion focuses on the intersections of jazz and religion.
Bivins says his list, which includes greats like Nina Simone, Emmylou Harris and Charlie Poole, reflects his personal taste as well as his sense of historical significance. And it includes not just musicians who lived their whole lives here, but also those who simply spent meaningful time in N.C., whether “after the strange alchemy of birth and place or at life’s twilight.”
For student Brandy Osborne, the damaging effects of Hurricane Florence posed challenges at work and at home.
Osborne, who is enrolled in NC State’s online Leadership in the Public Sector program, serves as the emergency communications director for Carteret County on the North Carolina coast. During the hurricane, she stayed behind with a team of first responders, emergency management personnel and essential county employees to provide emergency services during the storm.
She’s had to balance responsibilities at work with flooding and other damage at her own home. It’s been a lot to manage, but Osborne considers herself lucky; many of her neighbors didn’t fare as well. And as the recovery process continues, she’s motivated by the resiliency of everyone affected by the storm.
“I have never seen such self-sustaining people,” Osborne says. “They experienced so much catastrophic loss, but they pick up and rebuild. It’s amazing to see.”
In February, NC State’s Department of Social Work and Campbell Law School announced a new dual degree program that enables students to earn a Master of Social Work and a Juris Doctor simultaneously. The new JD/MSW program marks NC State’s fourth dual degree program with Campbell Law and the second with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“We are pleased to partner again with Campbell Law to provide students the opportunity to obtain high levels of expertise in law and in social work,” says Jeff Braden, dean of NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “This dual JD/MSW degree approach is a well-respected model around the country. And it’s fully in keeping with NC State’s ‘think and do’ mantra.”
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences had 38 presenters at the 2018 Graduate Student Research Symposium, more than any other college on campus. In addition, six students received awards for their research posters.
The symposium, held each March, includes poster presentations from more than 200 graduate students from NC State. In the past three years, more than 120 Humanities and Social Sciences graduate students have presented their research at the event.
Do Good. Be Kind. Change the World. That’s the message behind a new sign campaign created by alumna Amber Smith (Interdisciplinary Studies ’09; MPA ’12).
Amber is the co-founder and executive director of Activate Good, a nonprofit volunteer center based in Raleigh. The group aims to boost volunteerism by helping connect people with charitable causes in the community. To accomplish that goal, Amber says the group looks to not only forge new partnerships but also foster an environment of kindness, unity and service. That’s where the signs come in.
“We work with a large group of volunteers who are from all walks of life, different religious backgrounds and different political backgrounds,” Smith says. “Whatever we’re volunteering for is bigger than any differences.”
NC State’s Institute for Nonprofits graduated its inaugural class of Social Innovation Fellows in 2018.
The program partners students with nonprofits and businesses that aim to solve social problems in communities. Students in the first cohort worked on six interdisciplinary teams to tackle challenges associated with food and water insecurity. Projects ranged from helping the nonprofit Wine to Water brainstorm new ideas for the water filters it provides communities in need, to assisting the Haiti Goat Project, which supports the development of sustainable animal agriculture in Haiti.
The Institute for Nonprofits recently selected its second cohort of students, which is already hard at work.
What can you do with an NC State degree in international studies? Ask Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, founder of Bee Downtown.
Bonner (International Studies, ’15) founded her company to help save honey bee populations. She partners with businesses to install and maintain hives — on rooftops and in other urban locales — and teaches hands-on classes to educate children and adults about sustainable agriculture and the vital bee.
Bonner’s work continues to be recognized across the nation. Inc. Magazine and Forbes both recently named Bonner to their 30 under 30 lists of young entrepreneurs.
As an intern at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, anthropology major Colin Gravelle spent his summer researching vegetable caterpillars, tekotekos and other unique objects.
During his internship, Gravelle prepared curatorial notes for objects in the museum’s Pacific and African collections. The notes add historical and cultural context to lesser-known items, which are searchable in the museum’s online database.
A Humanities and Social Sciences scholarship recipient, Gravelle says the experience provided a new perspective of a museum he often visited as a kid. It has also allowed him to explore real-world applications of the courses he’s taken at NC State: Cultural Anthropology, Archaeology and Physical Anthropology, among others.
“Anthropology is a massive field,” he says. “So, for me, I feel like I’ve not only learned a lot about cultures like the Māori, but also the overarching field itself.”
After working as a sports media producer for more than 25 years, alumnus John Ward (Communication ’91) has gained a reputation as an industry “startup guy.” Give him a concept and a budget, and he’ll give you a new studio, a new show, a new channel.
The recipient of the college’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award, Ward has collected a dozen Sports Emmy Awards over the years while quarterbacking projects for Fox Sports, DirecTV and AT&T.