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People briefs

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April 19, 2007

Art, history and biology professors awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded fellowships to support research and artistic creation to three professors at the UNC-Chapel Hill in art, history and biology.

Jeff Whetstone, assistant professor of art; Dr. William Ferris, Joel R. Williamson eminent professor of history and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South; and Dr. Bob Goldstein, associate professor of biology, all in the College of Arts and Sciences, are the recipients of 2007 fellowships, the foundation announced in April.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed based on distinguished past achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. The 2007 winners include 189 artists, scholars and scientists selected from almost 2,800 applicants for awards totaling $7.6 million. The Guggenheim Fellowship program considers applicants in 78 different fields, from the natural sciences to the creative arts.

Whetstone will use his Guggenheim Fellowship to “travel North America, in between the towns and on the outer rims of the cities to photograph the nascent wilderness all around us,” he wrote in his Guggenheim proposal. “I want to photograph the New Wilderness, a wilderness that includes us. Natural parks and nature preserves do not interest me, as they are tokens of some bygone era or totems to our frontier past. What I want to photograph is the wilderness of the present.”

Ferris will use his Guggenheim Fellowship for a book and multimedia project, “Mississippi Blues: Voices and Roots,” which will feature musicians and their worlds that he photographed, recorded and filmed in the 1960s. He will juxtapose the lives and music of these Mississippi musicians with post-Hurricane Katrina musicians “to underscore how poverty, music and black culture shape our national experience,” Ferris wrote in his Guggenheim proposal. He will also consider how water-related tragedies — from enslavement and the Great Passage to natural disasters such as the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and Hurricane Katrina — are powerful backdrops for the blues.

Goldstein will use his Guggenheim Fellowship for research in Cambridge, England, where he will conduct experiments with stem cells at The Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute. At Cambridge, Goldstein will test whether the divisions of certain stem cells are oriented similarly by signals from neighboring cells, using fruit flies as a source of stem cells. He will conduct the research in the laboratory of Dr. Andrea Brand, a pioneer in the study of stem cell biology in fruit flies.

For more information on the Guggenheim Fellows, visit


Sturgeon elected to post at American School of Classical Studies

UNC-Chapel Hill art professor Mary C. Sturgeon has been elected chairwoman of the managing committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, founded in 1881, is the principal resource in Greece for American scholars conducting advanced research on the language, literature, art, history, archaeology and philosophy of Greece and the Greek world from pre-Hellenic times to the present. Students from graduate programs across North America, including UNC-Chapel Hill, regularly attend the school’s year-long program. The school’s summer sessions also reach out to graduate students, advanced undergraduate students and secondary school teachers.

Two world-class libraries at the school serve not only members, but visiting scholars from around the world. The school also sponsors two ongoing excavations at ancient Corinth and the Athenian Agora.

Sturgeon has been elected to a five-year term as head of the 304-member managing committee. The committee, under the general control of the board of trustees, has full charge of the American School and of the work done by it. In the United States and Canada, 174 colleges and universities are cooperating institutions of the school.

At Carolina, Sturgeon teaches courses on Greek and Roman sculpture and Greek painting. Her research interests have focused on sculpture excavated from the School’s excavations at Ancient Corinth. Her recent work at Corinth includes study of its Hellenistic sculpture and the reconstruction of the sculptures on the theater facade of the Hadrianic period. In 2003, she and UNC-Chapel Hill students in two classes organized an exhibition of ancient Mediterranean art in the Ackland Art Museum.

In 1998-99, Sturgeon served as Elizabeth Whitehead Visiting Professor at the American School, and in 2004-2005, she served a second term as professor in charge at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome.

Sturgeon was chairwoman of the UNC-Chapel Hill art department from 1993 to 2003. Her latest book is “Corinth IX, Part 3: The Assemblage from the Theater.” At the time of its creation in the Hadrianic period, the theater at Corinth was one of the most elaborate examples of Roman architecture ever built. Sculpture played an important part in the decorative scheme, and Sturgeon’s new book presents all the freestanding and architectural sculptures that can be reconstructed from the fragmentary remains.


Strauss to be honored for cleft-craniofacial care achievements

Dr. Ronald Strauss, dental director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Craniofacial Center since 1977, has been named the recipient of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association’s highest honor: the Honors of the Association award.

Strauss also is chairman and Dental Friends distinguished professor within the UNC School of Dentistry’s department of dental ecology, as well as a professor in the School of Medicine’s department of social medicine.

The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) will present the award on April 27 at the organization’s annual meeting in Broomfield, Colo. The award honors individuals whose lifetime of research, health care delivery or leadership has improved physical, behavioral or social effects associated with cleft lip and palate or other craniofacial disorders.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Craniofacial Center is an interdisciplinary team of professionals dedicated to the care of patients with cleft lip, cleft palate and other craniofacial disorders.

The ACPA is an international nonprofit medical society of health care professionals who treat and or perform research on birth defects of the head and face.  


Kotch leads effort to prevent child abuse in North Carolina

Dr. Jonathan Kotch, a professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health, has been awarded a $682,000 Duke Endowment grant to help prevent child maltreatment in eastern North Carolina. Over three years, the Family-Friendly Child Care program, with Kotch as principal investigator, will develop and implement a plan that includes direct services for families and child care providers in Lenoir and Beaufort Counties.

Family-Friendly Child Care focuses on out-of-home child care providers and centers, the only such group setting where children and their families can be reached on a large scale prior to enrolling in public school. Nearly a third of all young children in the U.S. attend regular child care, and so the opportunity exists to discover problems early and offer early intervention on behalf of at-risk children.

Kotch, who has conducted research on illness and injury in child care settings for more than 20 years, said he is pleased that the Duke Endowment invests in direct services for these underserved families. “We hope to demonstrate that child care centers can be resources for the whole community, not just warehouses where children stay during the day.  We are training child care providers as role models in child-rearing techniques.”

Note: Kotch can be reached at (919) 966-5976 or


History professor awarded fellowship for Harlem church study

Genna Rae McNeil, Ph.D., history professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a research fellowship by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Her project title is “Witness: Two Centuries of African American Faith and Practice of the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, New York, 1808-2008.”

McNeil will conduct research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.

McNeil received a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago. She has received numerous awards: the Mary Lowther Ranney Distinguished Alumna Award from the Westridge School in Pasadena, Calif.; the Order of the Golden Fleece Award for outstanding contributions to the UNC-Chapel Hill community; the UNC-Chapel Hill Black Student Movement Award for Outstanding Teacher; and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at the International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. She is the author of the book “Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights.”

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. Increasingly national and international in scope, the institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. The institute also funds awards including the Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and George Washington Book Prizes.

For more information, visit


UNC junior wins in Atlantic Monthly writing contest

Sarah Bull of Durham, a junior English and creative writing major in the UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences, has won an honorable mention in The Atlantic Monthly’s student writing contest.

Bull won one of seven honorable mentions given in the fiction category for her short story, “Like Gold.” The other two contest categories were poetry and personal or journalistic essay. The Atlantic Monthly will publish some of the winning manuscripts; Bull is still waiting to hear if hers will be chosen. Winners will be announced in the May 2007 issue.

Bull is a transfer student from The University of Montana at Missoula, and her first semester at UNC-Chapel Hill was fall of 2006. She has lived in Flemington, N.J.; Franklin, Mass.; and Binghamton, N.Y.

Her transient nature is reflected in “Like Gold,” which takes its title from a line in John Donne’s poem, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

“I wrote the story in Durham shortly after my parents and I moved here,” she said. “Having left The University of Montana and then SUNY-Binghamton, where I took a few courses during the summer, I felt as though my life had become a series of drawings away from the people I barely had a chance to appreciate. … I think an almost fundamental human experience is feeling helpless in the face of one’s circumstances. I wrote the story in that spirit.”


UNC-Chapel Hill library director joins National Institutes of Health committee

Sarah C. Michalak, university librarian and associate provost for university libraries, has been appointed to the PubMed Central National Advisory Committee of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PubMed Central is a free digital archive of journal articles in the biomedical and life sciences. Launched by NIH in 2000, it provides unrestricted access to the full text of critical, peer-reviewed scientific publications.       

More than 300 journals currently participate in the archive, and every recipient of an NIH research grant is asked to deposit a copy of published results with PubMed Central.

The Advisory Committee provides independent advice on the content and operation of PubMed Central, ensuring that the archive remains responsive to the needs of researchers, publishers, librarians and the general public. Michalak’s appointment to the committee is through 2011.

For more on PubMed Central, visit  


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School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, (919) 966-7467,
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