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|For immediate use||May 5, 1999 - No. 318|
New Tar Heels to learn about state, its culture and people, during UNC-CHs third bus tour
By KAREN STINNEFORD
UNC-CH News Services
CHAPEL HILL -- In Louisburg, they will tour a tobacco farm and meet the people whose crop has driven North Carolinas economy for decades and who face the uncertainty associated with the governments recent settlement with tobacco companies.
From New Bern, they will float down the ailing Neuse River to see first-hand what is being done to save this polluted waterway.
And, along the way, they will meet teachers, bankers, government officials, lay health leaders and textile manufacturers while partaking in the states signature treats of barbecue and bluegrass music.
"I need to get to know North Carolina better, and the bus tour will be a beginning point for this education," said Dr. Megan Lewis, a native of San Rafael, Calif., who is assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The mobile classroom starts May 17, when about 30 new UNC-CH faculty and administrators embark on the 1999 Tar Heel Bus Tour. In a weeklong road trip, they will cover 1,200 miles through 31 counties while learning about the real North Carolina.
From coastal New Bern to Chimney Rock, the professors, doctors and deans will make 15 site visits designed to enhance their teaching, research and public service for the good of the state.Michael Smith, director of the UNC-CH Institute of Government, will lead this years tour. Smith co-directed the Public Service Roundtable, a volunteer group of faculty, staff and students dedicated to promoting public service at UNC-CH. One of the roundtables recommendations was instituting the bus tour; Chancellor Michael Hooker authorized private funding for the trip.
Said Smith, "The Institute of Government is about improving the lives of North Carolinians by improving their government, and part of my job is to know something about the issues facing our state.
There is no better introduction to those issues than the Tar Heel Bus Tour. It gives me a renewed feel for regional, economic, political and cultural differences, and an opportunity to think about how the institute might respond to the challenges facing our different communities."
The Tar Heel Bus Tour also benefits participants in another way, Smith said. It allows faculty of different disciplines to meet, get to know each other informally and look for ways to collaborate.
"During the first bus tour, I found myself keeping notes about all sorts of things -- people I met and how to connect with them later, creative approaches to problem-solving, and new program ideas," Smith said. "Some of those ideas were generated by talking with people at different stops on the tour, but other ideas were from bus tour participants."
Carolina is among a handful of major public universities that take newcomers to the far reaches of their states. The University of Georgia started the tradition in 1977. Other tours include those at Michigan State, N.C. State University, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Wisconsin. The University of Michigan plans to offer a bus tour for the first time this year.
The rationale for the bus tour is simple: Carolina is an internationally renowned research institution that attracts faculty from across the globe. Yet 82 percent of her undergraduate students hail from North Carolina. The bus tour allows new faculty -- some of whom have never stepped foot outside the Triangle -- to meet the people whose taxes support their paychecks and offers them insight into where their students come from.
UNC-CHs community relations office planned the 1999 tour with feedback from previous participants and input from a faculty panel. The bus route aims to spotlight the states diversity. The bus tour is privately funded with the income from a bequest left for the unrestricted use by the university.
Lewis is interested in learning more about North Carolinas social and economic changes.
"North Carolina seems to be in transition as a state, reflecting both the old and the new South," she said. "I'm hoping the bus tour will highlight the needs of those who live in both the old and new North Carolina."
Laura A. Jansen, clinical associate professor of dental hygiene, said she welcomes the chance to see North Carolina. "Until last summer, I had lived in Ohio my entire life," she said. "However, I have had wonderful experiences here in Chapel Hill and feel more like a Tar Heel every day. I have minimal knowledge of this state and would like to learn as much as possible about my new home."
Dr. Rosa Haritos, assistant professor of sociology and a New York City native, is interested in breast-cancer screening, which is the focus of a Williamston stop with lay volunteers of the N.C. Breast Cancer Screening Program. The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center operates the program to increase awareness of the disease among rural black women in five Northeastern counties.
"I think its important for faculty to balance their academic research with real life issues," she said. "Too often we lose sight of how we can help those in our community and state, and the tour seems like an ideal way to get involved -- find out whats happening in North Carolina and also explore ways where I can help. This also feeds back into the classroom, where we can convey our experience to our students."
Joan Ferguson, an associate librarian and cataloger in the N.C. Collection, already knows a lot about North Carolina from her work cataloging books, pamphlets, periodicals, videos, cassettes, maps, posters and even board games detailing and describing the state.
But book smarts -- or board-game smarts, as the case may be -- cant compensate entirely for seeing things first hand, said Ferguson, a native of Denville, N.J.
"Just from my job, I have learned an incredible amount about the state -- its people, culture, history and geography," she said. "Im looking forward to learning even more while on the tour, putting names to places Ive only read about and picking up items to add to the collection. Plus, maybe by the time Im done, Ill be on a more even keel with my Tar Heel husband."
Dr. Richard N. "Pete" Andrews, a two-year tour veteran and faculty chair, said the bus tour has allowed him to help mentor new faculty and learn more about the states citizens.
"The tour has been an extraordinarily rich opportunity -- both to get to know more of the state and its people than I knew even after 18 years here, and to share what I do know of it with new faculty," he said. "Especially, however, as faculty chair, I welcome the opportunity to meet so many new faculty and to share with them my knowledge of faculty culture, issues and opportunities, and to help them come to know the things that I value most about it."
Like previous bus tours, this one is fast-paced and jam-packed. Organizers have told participants to bring several pairs of good walking shoes. Here are some highlights from this years itinerary:
Dr. Joseph Porter, an assistant professor of history originally from Richland Center, Wis., said he was excited about the bus tour.
"I am seeking detailed knowledge of the geography and history of North Carolina, which will be crucial to me as I work with my students here," he said. "This will help me relate to my students how the history of North Carolina is significant to the history of this country. The Tar Heel Bus Tour sounds like a wonderful, rewarding way to learn about North Carolina."
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Note: Additional background about the bus tour can be found at www.dev.unc.edu/pubrel/bustour/. News Services will supply additional information to media outlets in communities where the bus tour will stop.
News Services contact: Karen Stinneford, 919-962-8415 or email@example.com