Well Said: Carlos Perez-Heydrich

Carlos:Earlier this morning, I was actually taking my graduation photos. I’ve been dressed in it all morning for about an hour taking photos. And at one point, the girl shows me one of the photos of me standing in front of South Building with my tassel and everything. And it kind of hit me. In that moment, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh. I’m graduating.’ It kind of hit me like a waterfall.

Host:That was Carlos Perez-Heydrich. He’s a Chancellor’s Science Scholar and a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying biology with minors in neuroscience and chemistry.

Host:Welcome to Well Said, Carolina’s official storytelling podcast. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Carlos ‘studied’ biology, neuroscience and chemistry at Carolina. The Miami native will graduate from Carolina at Winter Commencement, which takes place on Sunday, Dec. 16th in the Dean E. Smith Center.

Carlos:It means a culmination of a lot of things in a way. Coming to Carolina in the first place was leaving Miami, a place that was always my home, and my family is still there. I’m actually the youngest of three, but I was the first one to leave home. It was kind of my way to find myself a bit. There was a lot of influence around me in Miami. So you go be a doctor or go into business or do real estate. And I felt that going away and finding myself and finding my own path was really important to me. And now that I’m graduating studying biology with plans to go into the medical field, it’s definitely the culmination of who I’ve wanted to become and then the next step forward as well.

Host:Carlos is most looking forward to spending time with his family this weekend and showing them around Chapel Hill, his adopted home.

Carlos:I’m pretty excited to have my family up here and everything all together. They’ve all visited me at different points, and my sister brought me in. She actually drove up and moved me into my new room this year. My parents dropped me off of course. I’ve never had my whole family here at one time. And so for everyone to be here, and I’ll be able to show them around. I really want them to see the environment that I’ve been talking about for long because it’s different when you say — I call my mom every day and tell her about, ‘Oh, this campus is beautiful. The leaves are changing. It feels like a home. It’s definitely become so welcoming to me.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s cool.’ And it’s just the picture on the wall for them. They don’t really get it. And so I’m really excited for them to be able to see where I’ve been for the last few years.

Host:As excited as he is to share that moment with his family, Carlos says he doesn’t know how it will feel for him to turn the tassel and move from Tar Heel student to Tar Heel alumnus.

Carlos:I kind of haven’t let it hit me that much, you know. Earlier this morning, I was actually taking my graduation photos. I’ve been dressed in it all morning for about an hour taking photos. And at one point, the girl shows me one of the photos of me standing in front of South Building with my tassel and everything. And it kind of hit me. In that moment, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh. I’m graduating.’ It kind of hit me like a waterfall, and it’s kind of been coming those moments, like those random moments. I thought about that kind like, ‘Wow, I’m moving on.’ And so I don’t know how I’ll feel in that moment that the tassel moves to the other side. Maybe it’s another waterfall. Maybe I’ll just get it off the side of my cheek.

Host:Something that contributes to these waterfall moments is reflecting on the personal development he’s experienced since he enrolled at Carolina in 2015.

Carlos:I’ve seen my kind of years change. My goals for each year are definitely taking different focus. From my first year, just what is my support group? Or what am I taking here? I’m going to be studying here, and then the next year, I moved on. What am I research? What I want to pursue at an academic level and contribute to a project. So when I reflect about it, it’s these different threads that kind of tie into one another. The friends I made first year are still the best friends I have today. The friends I met in the Chancellor’s Science Program, students I met before I even actually started as a freshman or first-year in my fall semester. I actually met them in the summer before. We built these great bonds. And so I mean some of the things I reflect about and think about often is the stories from first-year and how bright-eyed we were walking on campus for the first time not knowing where Genome Science Building was to now I’m directing kids to it. I’m telling kids how to get involved in research and everything else, so I guess I think about it in different ways.

Host:The Chancellor’s Science Scholars program is focused on diversifying science, technology, engineering and mathematics by providing access to jobs in those fields. And it’s one of the things that convinced Carlos to come to Carolina.

Carlos:I was definitely apprehensive of becoming part of such a big school at times. I think I’ve mentioned being from a very close-knit Cuban community in Miami, where a lot of times you say ‘Perez-Heydrich’ or ‘Carlos Perez-Heydrich,’ sometimes someone notices, which is very weird because my grandfather was also named Carlos and my uncle also Carlos. And so it was like everyone kind of knows each other’s brothers or sisters, and it’s a very fun thing to be a part of. And so when I assigned to go to a big state school somewhere else, that was something that I thought about, something that I was deciding. I was like, ‘Well, I need to at least find a way to make it smaller for me.’ And then when I was invited to be a part of the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program, I was like, ‘This is the moment. This is what I’ve been looking for.’ And it was a community of I think we ended up somewhere around 34 students per year, and you know they’re the friends that I study with late at nights studying for orgo. It’s about 2 in the morning in one of our suites, and we snuck out to Chapman Hall to finish studying. It’s the nights that we spent together, the days that we spent elsewhere, going to games, waiting outside and doing everything together, and I feel like I’m so grateful for what they offered me. And it’s not just the friends I made. It’s also the connections I made to professors that I felt I wouldn’t have been able to develop otherwise. They definitely facilitated a lot those connections.

Host:The Chancellor’s Science Scholars program is also focused on exposing these students to academic research.

Carlos:That’s definitely a story that’s almost defined what my future career is. A lot of my family is actually in the medical field. My grandfather is a surgeon. Two of my aunts are general. One’s a general surgeon, and the other’s plastic. My cousin’s going into plastics. Just a lot of medicine around. And going into UNC, I was like, ‘Well, I like the sciences. I was good at biology in high school. Let’s keep it going.’ And so I was a biology major. But you know I didn’t know being premed is what I wanted, and the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program it’s not focused on making a bunch of premeds because a lot of kids are going to be premeds regardless. What it’s really focused on is getting kids interested in research, getting kids to pursue and contribute to the academic world because it’s just so valuable, and the things that the skills that I was able to get there and produce there is just really amazing. And so that’s what they offered me. And they connected me to research programs across the nation. Really, I was able to turn research in the University of Michigan into working with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in a different institution, and then this last summer, I was working up at Massachusetts General Hospital. And these were all through connections I made through the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program, and kind of that path of going to different lives and being able to contribute to research or to realize I definitely see myself working in an academic institution contributing to this field. But I also realize I would want that patient contact as well. And so that’s really what the Chancellor’s Science Scholars offered me: the experience to connect to these real problems and study them in a very intimate way and then be able to think about how I want to be able to address that in the real world.

Host:Carlos has been addressing one of those problems as a student. He’s been working in Todd Thiele’s lab. Todd is a faculty member in Carolina’s behavior and integrative neuroscience program.

Carlos: It’s actually studying ethanol abuse or alcohol abuse. And the project that I’ve been working on for the last three years, it’s actually studying a certain neuropeptide in the brain. It’s this anti-stress peptide and how it plays into the development of ethanol abuse. We’ve done a lot of different projects, but what we’ve seen with continued ethanol abuse, this anti-stress hormone level goes down. A lot of the way I think about and explain it to my friends when I say, ‘neuropeptide,’ why all these other stuff, they’re like they nod politely. Of course of the ways you think about it and a lot of when you think about the model of addiction, right, where a person starts drinking because, ‘Oh, this is nice. I like to drink.’ And then over time they’re like, ‘Oh, well. I need to drink just to feel normal,’ right? So the way you kind of think about this neuropeptide is that first you might say you have 10 of this neuropeptide, and that helps you be at a certain level of non-stressed. Well, now that you drink, let’s say you’re at 15 and you’re super relaxed. But over time your body doesn’t want to always be at 15 because you can’t regulate that. So what you do over time is that your body lowers those levels. And so normally you’ll be at like let’s say 5 neuropeptide, and the alcohol is going to get you to 10 again.

Host:His time at Carolina has involved lots of research, studying and basketball, too. And it’s help Carlos develop into the person he wants to be.

Carlos:I realize how important my heritage is to me, how important the fact that I was able to grow up in a place that understood my family, everything else. I realized how vital that was to me. In Miami, everyone understands our story of Cuban immigrants coming to Miami after an exile and having to start over. It’s just the norm, and being here I was able to realize how important that is and how special it is to me. And that’s something I’ve realized, something I can’t lose in myself and eventually my kids too. It’s something I want to hold onto.

Host:It’s something he’ll hold onto wherever he goes. The next step is medical school. But, first, Carlos will actually come back to Chapel Hill.

Carlos:I decided to stay for a little victory lap in a way. I’ll be graduating, but I actually will continue working in my lab as a laboratory assistant. Just basically n the end just helping out in the lab and continuing on the projects that I’ve worked on as an undergrad. So that was a good way to maybe stay around for a lot of the senior fun activities that also take place in the spring. Maybe go to a few basketball games if I can. But also still be able to contribute to my lab in a certain way.

Host:And when Carlos does move on, he’ll always some part of Carolina with him.

Carlos:Definitely all of the Carolina blue I’ve acquired in my wardrobe. I think today I’m wearing a Carolina blue tie and stripes of blue. Apart from that, it’s just I guess what Carolina has given me is something that has modeled for me in a way is not just the fact that we’re excellent in a lot of things but that you know we know where we came from and want to give back. We try to develop this well-rounded person. And thinking about medical school and everywhere I want to be in the workplace, I want to be in a place that respects people as a whole person. And that’s I think what UNC has really showed me over time really going for the best but also knowing who you are, where you’re from as well as what else you have going on in your life. And I feel that all the progress I’ve had and the friends I’ve made here really care about the person as a whole. And I definitely feel that UNC promoted that for me.

Host:To meet more Carolina students who will be graduating at Winter Commencement, please go to UNC.edu.

Host:If you have a story idea for Well Said or if you’d like to just let us know what you think of the show, please send an email to Well Said at UNC.edu. Or send us a tweet at UNC.

Host:Thanks for listening to this episode of Well Said. See you next week.

Well Said: The Morton family of photographers

Jack Morton:I am a basketball junkie in addition to being a photographer, so the fact that I get to scrunch up and sit on the baseline and be that close to not only watching the game but hearing it, smelling it, sensing it. I mean, I am so spoiled. I told someone the other day that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch a game from the stands again because the perspective is so unique.

Host:It’s basketball season in Chapel Hill. That was Jack Morton, a local freelance photographer and self-proclaimed basketball junkie. He’ll be at games throughout the season. He’s in his 13th year of scrunching up on Carolina’s baseline to take photos. But Carolina basketball has been a part of his family for many more. Welcome to Well Said, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s official storytelling podcast. Jack graduated from Carolina in 2000 with a degree in journalism. On this week’s episode, Jack will share his journey into photography. His story is a tale of two families — a family of photographers and the Carolina basketball family. But first about Jack’s family of photographers. The Mortons’ history with photography starts with Jack’s grandfather, Hugh.

Morton:So my grandfather — and I don’t remember all the details perfectly, but — he picked up photography when he was a teenager, so that would have been in the mid-1930s. He grew up in Wilmington, but he went to summer camp up in the Linville area. There was a camp for boys called Camp Yonahnoka. And he grew up going there as a kid during the summers, but then he became a counselor, and he had taken an introductory course there one summer, and then he showed up the next summer, and the man that ran the camp told him that the gentleman that was supposed to teach the course that summer wasn’t going to be there and that he was going to be the teacher. And so he started teaching photography when he was I’m guessing I don’t know 16, something like that, at camp every summer. And so it became a passion of his and a hobby for him before even he came to Chapel Hill. And then when he got here, he photographed for the Daily Tar Heel and Yakety Yak and all that. I mean I think everything sort of crossed over back at that time, and then he went on to be a newsreel photographer in the war. And one thing obviously continued to lead to another. Photography was something he continued for decades after World War II.

Host:Hugh is often called North Carolina’s unofficial photographer. Many of the beautiful pictures you’ve seen of the state is probably are probably his. He also photographed Carolina basketball for more than 60 years. So Jack grew up in this family of talented photographers, but he says he never really studied it himself.

Morton: I went to the best journalism school in the country, and I never took a photography course here, which I look back on that sometimes and sort of wonder if that was a missed opportunity, but at the same time, you know with time, you look back with hindsight and realize that things sort of played out the way that they were supposed to. And I think it’s funny. My education with photography came by way of just being a member of my family and watching him over the years. And then also my dad and my uncle were both phenomenal photographers. Neither one really pursued it career-wise just because I think of who their father was. There probably was just that factor that a lot of fathers and sons have. Not wanting to try to do exactly what your dad does or did. And I think I’ve benefited from being a generation removed from it, but you know my education with it was just growing up around it.

Host:Jack says his grandfather, uncle and dad didn’t exactly try to teach him photography. It was just something he was exposed to.

Morton:There were only a handful of I mean if you want to call them like ‘teachable moments’ or ‘show me moment’s that I even had, and they were primarily with my granddad, and they were also later. I mean I photographed one football game with him, and that was my freshman year here in the fall of ’96. Carolina played over at Duke, and he for whatever reason had an extra sideline pass and asked me if I wanted to go, and I think I shot maybe two or three rolls of film. You know, I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing. I wasn’t trying obviously to do it so much on a professional level. But you know I think that that was more of a, ‘Hey, do you want to tag along?’ kind of thing than it was a, ‘Let me show you how to do this’ sort of thing. When I worked up at Grandfather Mountain doing family stuff in the fall of 2000 right after I graduated from college, photography was a good part of what I did up there during that period of time.

Host:The Morton family owned and operated Grandfather Mountain until 2008. Hugh inherited the mountain when his father died. Hugh led the family in converting it into a nature preserve and tourist attraction, building a road to the top to give tourists a one-of-a-kind view. In 2008, the family sold it to the state, and it’s now a North Carolina state park. So working in the family business at Grandfather Mountain after college exposed him even more to what could be called the other family business, photography.

Morton:So I did spend some time with both my grandfather and my uncle Jim Morton going out working on specific sorts of things. My primary project that fall was actually just as much for WRAL here over in Raleigh as it was for Grandfather Mountain, but they were at that time really trying to drive traffic to their website. And so they wanted to have a fall color gallery. It was really sort of like a day-to-day evolution of fall color in the mountains. And so I would go out each day to various places and try to find nice scenery, good fall color photos — that sort of thing. And my uncle helped me a little bit with that. At that time, we had up there at the mountain was the first digital camera that they had. And you could take about four or five photos and then you had to go back to the office and download them. There was no capacity beyond that. So you still had to be very choosy with what you did. You know and then there would be a moment or two. I won’t go into it, but where you know there are the sort of classic quote unquote Hugh Morton scenes up there. I mean he had his go-to spots for various visuals, and he took me along once or twice to show me you know kind of the hidden spot for this or the best spot for that vantage point, and there was some of that. But in terms of the technical aspects of photography, how to frame a photo, how to do this with your subject, how to — none of that fundamental stuff was taught. That was just sort of acquired through experience and things that I had seen over the years.

Host:Those moments have a special meaning to Jack. Because of them and because of his grandfather, places that mean a lot to North Carolinians mean something a little different to Jack.

Morton:The one that comes to mind the most is the spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you have the ideal view of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which was that last piece of the puzzle that they built. I think it opened in ’87, and you know not to get into the story but he for years he fought the parkway folks. They wanted to finish the Blue Ridge Parkway by going over a part of Grandfather Mountain, and he refused to let that happen. And they wound up building what’s still considered a state of the art bridge that sort of hugs the side of the mountain. You know one of the fun facts is that it’s actually held together with glue. It goes at such an angle that it’s almost like driving the curve of a racetrack. When it opened and the way that it was nestled against the side of the mountain, it was a visual that he loved. I think he loved it visually. I think it was also probably very rewarding because it came as a result of him being very determined to  keep the actual parkway off of the mountain itself. And so he got into the habit of going out to that spot and photographing it in every condition that you can imagine, fall color, sunsets, snow, you know anything along those lines. So that’s where he took me in the fall of 2000 to sort of you know it was one of those ‘show me’ moments, and we had to really kind of bushwhack to get back to the spot that he had sort of created. At that time, there was a tiny there really wasn’t even a walking trail. I mean he had gone back in there enough that he had cut back enough branches to kind of create a little path. And that was pretty remarkable to look back on because it was for the millennium Rand McNally atlas, so the one that came out in 2000, 2001 right in there, they actually put one of his photos of the viaduct on the cover. And from that point on the people, the tourists, the visitors all went on this mission to find that same spot because they wanted to take the same picture. And I haven’t been up there to that actual area to go out and see it in years, but the last time I went probably 10 years ago, I mean you know there’s a dozen cars parked along the side of the Parkway and people waiting to go the spot. The ground has been tread there. There’s no grass left. People figured out pretty quickly where that was. But yeah, it was neat to see that in its early stages.

Host:After his experience at Grandfather Mountain, Jack started doing his own photography. He also wrote and did other things too for places like a local magazine and a private high school. He also did internal communications for a large company in Raleigh. Then something changed.

Morton:So my grandfather passed away June 1 of 2006. And it was at his funeral service that the folks from sports information at UNC were there, and Steve Kirschner who’s been sports information director here for years came up to me, and I mean I’ll never forget it because it completely blindsided me. He said, ‘Your grandfather photographed Carolina athletics for over 60 years, and we’d like for you to do it for another 60.’ You know something along those lines and so yeah this will be my 13th year of doing Carolina football and basketball, but I didn’t know at that point in time. I was doing photography in jobs, but I had not gone out on my own with my own business in 2006. That didn’t actually happen until 2009. It’s interesting that there was only one instance where I ever showed my grandad any of my basketball photos, and it was only because he happened to be in the hospital here during that winter of ’05-’06 before he died. They had randomly asked me if I wanted to shoot a game, which I did, and I showed him some of those pictures. And there was a little bit of critique, which was fine because I look back on that again in hindsight. That was the only time. That was it. When you think about the thread that runs through this whole story — and hopefully I can continue to do it for another 40-plus years or however long and then for how long he did it — it’s pretty amazing that there was only one instance where I showed him anything or he saw any of my work because I don’t think everything really clicked for me until after he passed away. And I don’t really know why. I don’t know that there’s a reason for that. I think maybe that’s just the way that my life was intended to play out in terms of a timeline. Continuing to do what he did is incredibly unique. It’s very special. I am a basketball junkie in addition to being a photographer, so the fact that I get to scrunch up and sit on the baseline and be that close to not only watching the game but hearing it, smelling it, sensing it, I mean I am so spoiled. I told someone the other day that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch a game from the stands again because the perspective is so unique. But you know those first few years after he died, at games people like the ushers and folks that sit at the scorer’s table you know and you would randomly bump into, it seemed like every other person had a Hugh Morton story or, ‘Sure do miss your granddad.’ There was a lot of that those first few years after he died. And there’s still some of it now. We’re 12 years removed from his passing, so it’s sort of fading at this point. But I think the thing that I always come back to is I didn’t set out with this objective, but I think it’s just how it’s happened. You always keep in mind and appreciate and salute the foot that got you into the door and how the door was opened, the connection, the person, the lineage, whatever you want to call it. But then I think you over time you develop your way of doing it, so you’re not a clone of your grandfather. You’re your own creative individual, so finding that balance. It’s sort of like walking a tightrope at times because you don’t want to completely disregard how you got where you are.

Host:Thanks for listening to this episode of Well Said. Be sure to tune in next week when Jack continues his story. He’ll share how the Carolina basketball family helped him overcome a particularly difficult day.

Morton :It’s amazing how when a day like that happens or something like that happens how you remember every single detail. And I think so much of that also comes from your senses. I remember how humid it was that day. I remember the fact that we had a thunderstorm that night and the power went out at our house after I’d found out what had happened. I know where I was where I was when my mom called me and very calmly said, ‘I think you better come home.’

Well Said: Jack Morton's second family

Jack Morton:I was in a cozy place with good people and with people that are concerned first and foremost about the young students and student-athletes that they have as a part of that program. And I know that the basketball component of it is what everybody knows, but the lineage and history of that program being a family does branch beyond just the players. Even a scrubby little Gatorade pusher like myself as a freshman felt that warmth, and that made all the difference.

Host:It’s basketball season in Chapel Hill. That was Jack Morton, a local freelance photographer. He’ll be at games throughout the season. Jack’s in his 13th year of taking photos at Carolina basketball games. But Carolina basketball has been a part of his life for many more. Welcome to Well Said, Carolina’s official storytelling podcast. Jack graduated from Carolina in 2000 with a degree in journalism. On this week’s episode, Jack will share the second part of his journey into photography. It’s a story of two families. Last week, he talked about his family of photographers. Be sure to listen to that episode before Jack continues with his story. This week, Jack will tell you the story of his other family. It’s one you might be familiar with, the Carolina basketball family led by legendary coach Dean Smith. This family helped Jack deal with a personal tragedy. After high school, Jack followed the other members of his family to Chapel Hill. Transitioning into your first year at Carolina is often met with anticipation and excitement. But that wasn’t the case for Jack.

Morton:That summer of ’96, I graduated from high school. I had knee surgery, and I was trying to get ready for college. It was a challenging summer to begin with prior to July the 30th.

Host:On that day, Jack’s dad took his own life.

Morton:It’s amazing how when a day like that happens or something like that happens how you remember every single detail. And I think so much of that also comes from your senses. I remember how humid it was that day. I remember the fact that we had a thunderstorm that night and the night the power went out at our house after I’d found out about what had happened. I know where I was when my mom called me and very calmly said, ‘I think you better come home.’ And then she met me at the back door and told me what had happened. And then I remember going on a walk to a park nearby with a friend. And then it just keeps going from there. And you know over the course of the next few days, it’s just one of those — you’re in the shock stage. I mean it’s like with any profound news that you have in your life. And that doesn’t have to be loss. It can be anything. You have that period of time where you’re just sort of floating through it. You don’t really I don’t think have a tangible grasp on what’s happening.

Host:Jack remembers being told that his dad was struggling with issues surrounding mental health.

Morton:Christmas of 1994 was the first time that I had any inkling that my dad was struggling with anything from a mental health standpoint. And even in 1994 general education or understanding of mental health struggles was so different than it is even now. There was no internet. The access to information and understanding really was so limited. And I think it’s still even then also it was very hush hush in a way. I mean I think people were hesitant to talk about it. I don’t know if there was embarrassment involved or what, but they told me at Christmas of ’94 that he had I mean I can’t remember the exact words that were used but that he struggled with depression, but it was something that he was working on. Earlier in ’94, he had gone to a clinic of some sort in the Atlanta area for several weeks. There was an explanation kind of that’s where Dad was that sort of thing. When someone takes their own life, you’re blindsided anyway. I mean I don’t think there’s any even if you were to suspect that O.K. this might be a risk or this might be a possibility for an individual, I don’t think you have any way of preparing for it and certainly not as an 18-year-old kid. There’s just not any way of seeing that coming.

Host:In a period of just 37 days, Jack’s dad committed suicide, and Hurricane Fran rolled through North Carolina. In between those two events, Jack started college.

Morton:There’s an element to it again of you only go to college — well, most of us, hopefully — one time. And so you only start college once in your life. There’s no recipe for how to do that. And there’s no previous experience to compare it to what you can compare it. And so for me, my college experience, and particularly the beginning of college, it may not have fallen into the category of normal. I felt lost at times because this campus when you’re a freshman and you know you’re wandering around and you’re surrounded by thousands of people, you can feel very, very lost. But at the same time, I think coming out of high school with everything that had happened, at times feeling anonymous was healthy. I think I sort of needed to fade into the fabric of the campus and not recognize faces everywhere I went.

Host:Jack credits friends on campus for helping him with the transition. He also thinks working with the basketball team as a J.V. manager helped him.

Morton:That wound up being the kind of family unit that I needed. I’ve shared a story a handful of times, not that anybody listening would have ever really read it. But because of my grandfather being relatively known in North Carolina and the connections he had at the University and the people that he was friends with, the timeline of his work as a photographer, he and Coach Smith were good friends. And my freshman year wound up being Coach Smith’s final year as head coach, which was you know even just from a Carolina basketball standpoint, that was a special thing to be around to see. But the system was the same for years because Coach Smith ran the program years, you would start off  if you were invited to, you would go in and interview with Coach Guthridge if you were invited to work as a manager with the program. Everybody had to start at the bottom level, which was as a J.V. manager, and then at the end of the year, they would narrow down the list and whittle away, invite you to come to camp and work as a counselor for three weeks. Anyway, by the time it all ended, a group of 40 people would be whittled down to about seven or eight. Something like that. The J.V. team would always practice in the Smith Center after the varsity team, which makes sense, so we would have to wait in the tunnel for the varsity team to clear the court so to speak, and then we could go in and practice, but J.V. practices a lot of the time wouldn’t even start until 9’o’clock at night, and Coach Phil Ford was coaching the J.V. team at that time, and as a side note, that was another blessing for me because Coach Ford and my dad were actually pretty good buddies. And so with him, there was a familiarity with my situation and with everything that had recently happened, but no I remember distinctly one night in October of ’96 when basketball practice had really just started. I’d been around Coach Smith a handful of times in my life, but you know we weren’t on a ‘Hey, how you are you doing?’ basis necessarily, and the varsity team came through the curtain exiting the floor, and we were getting ready to go out there for J.V. practice, and I stopped him, and I said, you know I introduced myself. I just wanted to thank him basically for the opportunity, and he sort of interrupted me before I could really get any further. And he kind of went into talking about mental health and depression, and he got emotional — started to, anyway — and said, ‘If you ever need anything, come see me.’ And I just I don’t know. I felt like that was the first time that anything really clicked. And at that point in time, I sort of felt like I don’t know where this is going to go over the course of my college years, but this is the best place for me right now because it’s not only giving me structure forcing me to do my studies at certain times and know that I have to be at the Smith Center each night at a certain time, and I’ve got responsibilities, and I have checklists and all these other things. But I was in a cozy place with good people and with people that are concerned first and foremost about the young students and student-athletes that they have as a part of that program. And I know that the basketball component of it is what everybody knows, but the lineage and history of that program being a family does branch beyond just the players. Even a scrubby little Gatorade pusher like myself as a freshman felt that warmth, and that made all the difference, and I think that really gave me a family component when I really needed it.

Host:Working with the basketball team also gave Jack the opportunity to see his grandfather Hugh regularly too. Hugh, a famous North Carolina photographer, took photos of Carolina basketball for more than 60 years.

Morton:I mean, you talk about a routine. He would come out of that visiting tunnel, set his stuff down over on his corner where they pulled the cushy chairs out, and then he would walk the baseline, come around where I was or I’d meet him over there, and he would tell me what the weather had been like up at the mountain, which during basketball season, of course, it’s always you know snow or ice or high winds and kind of let me know what people know, what my uncle was up to or how my grandmother was doing, and he always — and he did this with other people. And I think it’s I’ve always thought it was a really neat thing that he used to do. Of course he always wore a jacket of some sort. But he always had four-by-six prints in his breast pocket. And they would either be photos from previous games, or they’d be pictures of something up in the mountains, of the lake that they lived on with ice on it or fall color or whatever the case would be, and he would either he would give them to me or he’d give a copy to one of his friends that he may see around the floor before the game, and it was almost like he was handing out business cards. But it wasn’t a networking thing. It was just that was one of the aspects of him in a pre-digital, pre-internet world. That’s how he shared himself, I think, and that’s how he shared not only his craft but also who he was and where he was. It’s neat because this day and age if I took a photo at a game or up in the mountains and wanted to text it to you, you’d get it within a few seconds, and then you could forward it onto friends and then I could put it on Instagram and then everyone has seen, but his concept was the same as that, but it was I don’t know there’s a nostalgic sort of feeling to it because he would physically hand you, ‘Here’s a photo of the swinging bridge with ice hanging on the edge of it. We had 130-mile-an-hour winds the other night.’ You physically held a photo, and then you could take it home with you and put it on your refrigerator. That’s what he would do. Those are the kind of little chit-chats we would have. He photographed Carolina basketball for, gosh, I mean 60 to 70 years in the big picture. He certainly understood the game, and was a fan of the game, but he was not really a basketball junkie so to speak. When you would talk to him, you wouldn’t really talk to him about so and so’s field goal percentage or ‘hate that we can’t rebound against Virginia’ or whatever the case was. He didn’t you didn’t really talk basketball so much. It just sort of happened that that was one of the things that was a big part of his life, but those were what the little visits were like, and my friends that worked as managers with the program, he’d come over, and we’d chit-chat, and they’d get a chance to say hello to him, and he’d maybe give them a photo. You know, that kind of thing. I could always drive back to Raleigh and in 30 minutes go see my mom and have a home-cooked meal and sleep in my home bed. The mountains at that time felt further away. I mean it physically took longer to get up there anyway back then, so I think it was important for me to have an in-person connection with those folks at that time. And seeing him consistently I think let him know that I was doing O.K. I definitely wear my emotions on my sleeve a lot more than he ever did. That was just his generation. So maybe I didn’t look at those visits as gauging whether or not he was doing all right. But I think that it let him know, ‘O.K. Jack’s in a good place with good people. He seems to be doing all right.’ I mean, it just adds to the special place where I was able to spend so much time during those years.

Host:After his grandfather passed away in 2006, Jack was presented with the chance to continue his legacy of shooting Carolina basketball games for another 60 years. Now in his 13th season, Jack feels that sharing the story about how he continues to overcome his father’s death helps him and others, too.

Morton:You live 0 to 18, and then one day happens, and then your entire life changes from that point forward. Being able to help others who maybe have dealt with something similar or who perhaps are dealing with a crisis of a different type. You know they appreciate somebody sharing how they got through something or somebody sharing the grief process is like or whatever the angle is that you’re sharing. It helps you heal when you feel like you’re helping somebody else perhaps heal or process or whatever the case may be. It’s not driven by your own benefit, but you know that in addition to helping somebody else perhaps by being open and honest about your experiences you’re also helping yourself. And I think that that’s O.K. I mean I think we deserve to try to find a little piece of healing for ourselves even if it’s 22 years later. I feel like photography is an expressive avenue for emotion, and not to get into a different subject, but wedding photography is a large part of what I do, and you know those experiences even in college basketball games, there are so many events in life that are so driven by emotion. And I think that that’s also been a helpful thing. I’ve never really thought much about that I guess, but when you can see emotion daily in your work, be around it, try to capture it, I think I’ve just learned so much about the value of recognizing emotion and recognizing openness about being transparent in the last I’d say probably 10 years, and I look back lastly and I don’t fault myself for how I responded to my dad’s death. You survive and you do what you need to do to get by. And I think I did that well at the time. I do recognize that for a period of time I pretty much buried a lot of stuff down inside of me and didn’t address certain aspects of what happened and then what that meant going forward in my life. But again there’s no textbook for how to handle a parent taking their life or anyone taking their life for that matter. But it’s a continual process. It never ends. Every day, I don’t want to say that I’m focused on it because that’s not the case. But I would say just about every day without even really realizing it. There are corners or aspects or little places of your life where if you stopped and you recognized it that you would know that that impact is still there. It can have an effect with decision-making and can play a role in how you look at something, and that’s not saying that you’re hung up on the past or anything like that. I think you just recognize that something of that magnitude changes you, and then it embeds itself in different ways in different parts of who you are, and you never really get past it, but I think it’s that that matter of adapting. I mean I guess it’s sort of like a I don’t know you hear stories about things like lizards or whatever. They lose a tail or something to that effect and maybe they grow a new one or maybe. I mean we have a dog in our neighborhood that has three legs. And it’s the sweetest most wonderful thing to watch that dog’s owner take it on a walk because that dog is as happy as he could be walking, hopping, whatever you would call it along with three legs. I mean it’s like he doesn’t even realize it happened because he adapted to whatever happened, and he’s continued with his life. And I think that’s the key thing, but I do recognize the value of sharing what that adaptation is like and not being ashamed of it not being embarrassed about it not being hesitant to be transparent, and if you get emotional talking about something, if you get mad, if it puts you in a funk, you’re addressing it and you’re not ignoring it and you’re not burying it. That is just such a healthy component to moving forward with your life.

Host:Thank you for listening to this episode of Well Said and for tuning in all semester. See you next week.

Well Said: Fall semester rewind

Host:Hey, everybody and welcome to Well Said, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s official storytelling podcast.

Host:It’s a new year and a new semester, but before we jump into telling you new stories, we want to revisit some that we told you this past fall.

Host:On this week’s episode, we’ll update you on three of the stories. We’ll take you to the Old Well, the Carolina coast and even to Mars.

Host:Kind of, anyway. This past August, incoming first-year student Alex Longo shared his story about how he started working with NASA by submitting a suggestion for the Mars 2020 rover landing site on a whim when he was 13 years old.

Host:Just before he started at Carolina, Alex was preparing to present at the final NASA workshop in Los Angeles — in front of Mars scientists. He was arguing in defense of the Gusev Crater as a landing site for the rover.

Alex:There were actually more talks at this site workshop than I believe in any other one of these meetings in NASA’s history. So many people were engaged and interested in what this rover was going to do. And so the talks were structured into the first day where you just go through an overview of the mission, and general things you want to find. In particular, discussing environments where ancient life could have survived, and that could have been preserved because Mars hasn’t had water for the past three-and-a-half billion years, and we want to make sure that the fossils we’re looking for are actually going to be there.

Host:Alex was responsible for developing his own segment of his team’s presentation, and once he arrived in Los Angeles, the team began to look at the presentation as a whole.

Alex:We went through the presentations one by one and what became very clear very quickly was that the presentation, which had so lovingly refined wasn’t going to cut it. We want to make sure that our talks really meshed with each other instead of seeing like five different talks by five different people. And also these guys have been working on Mars exploration for the past 20 or 30 years. They just know so much more about it than I do. So they were able to provide a lot of helpful feedback and constructive criticism that really eliminate potential problems that kind of commentary the question and answer session.

Host:It was a late night for Alex and his team as the prepared for the presentation the following day.

Alex:So going into the afternoon where we were scheduled to present, I really had not gone over the new presentation at all, and I’m sitting there in the stands — in the audience — looking at the presentation on my computer, and I start to have a panic attack I start thinking that there is no way I’m going to be able to finish this, other than stuttering my way to the finish line. And I was probably more nervous about this than I was about my first presentation. Steve goes first gives the first presentation, and then he walks off the stage, and he gives me a big high five. That was a huge confidence booster. And then Matt Golombek, one of the co-chairs of the workshop, goes up and gives an introduction. And what Steve and Matt did … I think really helped me feel that this is somewhere where I belong. These are people who are supporting me and who, although they’re going to ask tough questions because it’s a Mars landing site conference, they really want me to succeed. And from that point on, I just owned it.

Host:The workshop continued with more discussions among the researchers, and it continued for weeks after the workshop ended. While the Gusev Crater was not the ultimate selection, Alex continues to show his support to the community that was so welcoming to him.

Alex:I think that being an environment where people are supporting you really allows you to do your best. So I’m very thankful to everyone at the workshop for being willing to listen to me and for laughing at my jokes and for really accepting me as a member of their community. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world where you can learn as much and meet so many interesting people you just spend a few days. I feel like I grow by a few months or a few years each time I go to these meetings — in a good way.

Host:Aside from heading to the final Mars 2020 workshop this fall, it also marked Alex’s first semester at Carolina.

Alex:It has been everything I could possibly wish for. And, yes, it’s been a learning curve, but I am thankful to be in some very exciting classes with great teachers, and I feel I have already learned a lot. And one of the things that I appreciate most is just being able to step out early in the morning and walk across two or three miles of what really is some very beautiful forest and very beautiful scenery on my way to class. I think it’s little things like that when you’re in the middle of a big transition that really make the difference between whether you love it or hate it. I think just being able to appreciate the yellow leaves on the trees can really make your day — if you choose to.

Host:Alex was in his first semester at Carolina, but we also met a senior this year as well. On the first day of classes each semester, Taylor Franklin waits in line to take a sip from the Old Well.

Host:Tradition says that if you take a sip from the Old Well, you’ll get a 4.0. Taylor says it works a little differently in practice.

Taylor:Whenever you interviewed me at the start of the semester, I was pretty confident I’d at least make the dean’s list. That’s been my experience drinking from the Old Well before, and it is looking like that’s going to work out again this semester.

Host:Taylor says there’s more to the tradition than just its promise of perfect performance.

Taylor:I believe that it’s something that unites Tar Heels. And it kind of makes you hold good on that promise that you made to yourself at the start of the semester because you start the semester with so much hope. You know, like I’m going to do it. This is going to be a great semester and then as finals come around, you can kind of lose your spirit and begin to be defeated by the looming monster that is the end of the semester. But you just have to remember that you can do it. … Commit to try your best. And maybe you don’t get a 4.0 or maybe you don’t make the dean’s list, but you tried your best and whatever that looks like for you, it’s still the best you could do. … Luck isn’t always enough to carry you across the finish line. And if you think that you can get by on just luck alone, you’re not going to make it. But it’s that commitment and that collective spirit that we all have as Tar Heels that help us reach the finish line.

Host:In her final semester at Carolina, Taylor will be out there at the Old Well again on the first day of classes in the spring.

Taylor:I definitely will be out there on Jan. 9. I have a photo from every semester thus far, and I hope to get one for the beginning of my last semester as well. … I can’t imagine our first day of classes here without going to the Old Well.

Host: We also introduced you to a few faculty members as well. One of those was Hans Paerl, a water quality expert at the UNC Institute for Marine Sciences in Morehead City. We talked to him immediately after Hurricane Florence rocked the Carolina coast. He told us about the unique destruction caused by that hurricane.

Host:The Kenan Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences updates us on the status of Carolina’s coast. The last time we talked to him he was using a generator to charge his phone.

Hans:Well, we’re past that, thank goodness. We’re still dealing with trees and trash and rubbish and that still along the roads in some places in Carteret County. Landscape just around where I live has changed tremendously. We probably lost about maybe a third of our trees altogether from this event. And they’ve all been big trees so that the taller they were, the easier they came down. And that of course was because the winds assisted for a very long time because of this storm creeping along so slowly, and you know the cut that the Carteret County coast directly faced the sort of upper part of the hurricane which tends to be the most windy, the northeastern part. So we were particularly badly hit by the winds, and it persisted for a long time. And then if you throw 20 inches of rain on top of all that, you’re basically dealing with the soil that is sort of like Jell-o. So any kind of substantial wind will strongly impact trees, and of course the bigger they are, the bigger target they are. So we had a lot of trees that either snapped or got uprooted. Many of them 100-plus year old tall pine trees. All I can say is that the neighborhood looks very different from what it was before.

Host: This latest hurricane season continues a trend that worries Hans and other researchers.

Hans: We’re always concerned about a hurricane hitting and having to deal with the aftermath, but now what we’re seeing since the mid-‘90s is a much higher frequency of landfalls of hurricanes in eastern North Carlina. And I might mention in addition to hurricanes also nor’easters during the winter time and other severe storms that might not meet the hurricane standard, but nevertheless they are also sort of part of this increased frequency of storm events that we’re seeing in our coastal zone. So you know there are sort of two issues there. One is dealing with the immediate aftermath, but the other problem is that we’re sort of facing a situation where as our ecosystems are recovering from a storm event, another one might hit, so there’s this sort of instability that seems to be establishing itself in our coastal ecosystems where they’re still recovering from a prior hurricane, and then they’re hit by another one. And what I mean by that is for example water quality issues in our estuaries and sound systems. You know for example after Hurricane Floyd, it took about five to six years or so for the crab fishing and bottom dwelling fisheries such as oysters, clams, etc. to really recover from that event. So if you can imagine another hurricane or  a major storm hitting within that five to six year window, we’re sort of seeing this perpetual instability in the system. One thing we’re concerned about is what will this lead to in the long term. Are we going to be facing with dwindling resources because the system can’t recover fast enough before a new one hits? And of course that will impact fisheries, but it would also impact lots of other things like recreational use of these waters. Food safety contamination issues. All sorts of things that impact our habitat. And this is something that we’re really focusing in on now is sort of a new normal of increased frequency in the storm events but also increase in the intensity of the storm events. … I’ve lived here over 40 years now. The first 20 years of that I don’t even recall a serious landfall of a hurricane. And since the mid-‘90s, it seems to be essentially one to two events per year maybe skipping one year here and there. But certainly the intensity has increased. We are now looking at the long-term data from the USGS on hurricane impacts and flood events that are occurring, and we’re seeing definitely a rise in these freshwater flooding events that are occurring with the major storm. So we’re into a new normal. Lots of issues and questions that need to be addressed not the least of which is you know how serious is it impacting our coastal habitats.

Host:Hans and other Carolina researchers will be trying to answer those questions. But he says all North Carolinians should be paying attention.

Hans:We’re at the forefront here in North Carolina in terms of climate change issues not only in terms of hurricanes and you know the items we’ve talked about, this increased intensity and more rainfall but also sea level rise. And you know these things are sort of synergistic. You know we’re dealing with higher sea levels here. And you know we’re superimposing a higher frequency of storm events and flood events, so you know things are changing quite rapidly, and we should be prepared for that and not be surprised if we see follow-up events on two-to-five-year intervals or maybe even shorter. I’m personally hoping that it’s not true because I live here and enjoy the great environment we have here at the coastal zone. But you know the reality is that we are seeing more of these events, and there’s certainly evidence for sea level rise.

Host:If you missed any of those episodes from this past fall semester, don’t worry. You can find Well Said wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a story idea for Well Said or would like to let us know what you think of the show, please send an email to WellSaid@UNC.edu. Or tweet us at UNC.  Thanks for listening to this episode of Well Said. See you next week.

Well Said: How to achieve your weight loss resolution

Rachel Manor: It is one of the greatest myths in our society that weight loss will equal better health. And that’s simply not true, that individuals can engage in health promoting behaviors and have better energy or performance, or better agency or blood pressure without any change in weight at all.

Host: Welcome to Well Said, the official storytelling podcast from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

With a new year comes the tradition for many of us to set a resolution. Some aspire to learn a new skill, and others resolve to focus on their body, mind, or both. According to a 2017 Statista poll, 45 percent of Americans made the resolution to lose weight or get in shape, so this week, we decided to ask Rachel Manor, the director of Olympic sports nutrition in UNC Athletics about her approach to educating student athletes about their relationship with food.

What’s the first thing that many who are looking to lose weight this year will do? Likely, it’s head straight to the internet and search “diets.” From there, dozens of different suggestions will pop up, most of them contradictory. Eat no carbs, eat only carbs. Eat 20% protein, eat 80% protein. With the influence of social media and the ease with which we can attain information, it’s unsurprising that this can be an overwhelming process. No matter what carb-to-protein ratio, it’s likely the recommendation will be some sort of restricted eating, which Rachel advises against.

Manor: I tend to steer people away from diets. Research has shown that not only do diets not work, but restrictive eating is actually harmful in the college population for individuals of all sizes. Some research shows that 60 to 80 percent of college women have dieted within the past year. And we know that dieting is a major risk factor for the development of disordered eating and eating disorders.

Host: This is what Rachel calls diet culture, and something she teaches Carolina students about through individual nutrition counseling.

Manor: College students tend to have minimal nutrition knowledge, and then also there’s so many contradictory conflicting nutrition messages out in our media. So trying to learn to navigate through diet culture has its challenges. [] I think learning that skill to identify that culture is really important. Once I teach a student about diet culture and kind of what the characteristics of it are their diet culture radar goes up and they see it everywhere. [] So if we can identify diet culture for what it is and then try to create space away from it to allow for a more body attunement and learning what self-aware practices work best for us.

Host: This self-awareness that Rachel is talking about is called intuitive eating, which Rachel recommends to Carolina students as well as anyone looking to build healthy habits. Our weight is predetermined by our genetics and so if we can trust our bodies listen to our bodies internal wisdom our bodies weight will find where it needs to go.

Manor: Intuitive Eating is this dynamic process that integrates attunement of the mind, body, and food. And really we were all – the vast majority of us were born intuitive eaters, but then sometimes as we grow up, environmental factors can disconnect us. For example, you know, the time constraints, our financial situation, the stress and anxiety that comes with being in college, you know messages we get from social media, the cultural thin ideal – there are so many things that come into our world that can disconnect us from our bodies and take us away from that inner intuitive eating voice that we all have inside. So it’s my job to try to help people reconnect with their body’s internal wisdom and learn to honor hunger, respectfulness, and find satisfaction with food. But I do understand that has its challenges as as college students – you know – meal planning, managing a budget, grocery shopping, cooking, all present challenges so I like to help student athletes develop those life skills as well.

Host: Another one of those challenges is the labels we all have given to the foods we eat. Learning not to rely so heavily on those labels when we think about what we’re going to eat is particularly hard.

Manor: If we’ve grown up in a household or with a coach, or at a school that has taught us to categorize foods as good or bad – it can lead to some overeating. If we deem it food to be bad we’re more likely to over eat it. So I do a lot of work with students to help them neutralize foods – that all foods serves a function and a purpose. And if we truly give ourselves unconditional permission to eat all foods you know we find that we have a more peaceful relationship with our food and our body which doesn’t happen overnight.

Host: Wait wait wait. Unconditional permission to eat all foods? This does notsound like a method of weight loss. But, who am I to complain if a certified sports dietician says I can have as many cookies as I want, right?

Manor: That is one of the common misconceptions of intuitive eating is that ‘Oh well since Rachel recommends intuitive eating I can just eat 100 cookies. That’s not necessarily what I’m recommending. I’m recommending people tune into their bodies. If you’re truly listening to your body and you’re learning from previous lived experiences and you’ll find that maybe eating 100 cookies won’t be the most comfortable situation. But if you’re eating one cookie and enjoying it if it’s really delicious, giving yourself permission to have that second one and then you might find that you’re satisfied after that, but also trying to reduce shame around food is something I’m really passionate about.

Host: At Carolina, Rachel is working to combat diet culture and help students move away from categorizing foods as only “good” or “bad.” And while, yes, it still isn’t the best idea to eat 100 cookies in one sitting, the method Rachel teaches allows her students to focus on building healthy habits and trust that their body’s weight will fall into a healthy range.

Manor: So, I promote this weight neutral approach to health. Just trying to help student athletes take the focus off of it and try to focus on health promoting behaviors, you know since weight is not a behavior, so it’s not really an appropriate target for behavior modification. So instead of a goal to – for example – lose five pounds, we try to set goals that are actually helpful. So for example, trying a new recipe each month maybe trying to make a grocery list before we go to the grocery store. Maybe prepping vegetables when we get home so that we’re more likely to cook or eat them instead of letting them spoil. So just trying to help them set goals that are beneficial to their health as opposed to weight related goals.

Host: Becoming in-tune with your body is something that takes practice, and Rachel recommends an easy tool to get started.

Manor: So, the hunger scale is a really excellent tool. It’s a scale of one to ten; one being grouchy, ravenous, low on energy. Two being preoccupied with your hunger, three is where you’ve got this physiological urge to eat, and five is neutral. Six is you need a few more bites, seven is like that sweet spot where you’re feeling satisfied, content. You know that that food is going to hold you over through classes or through practice, and then eight is where you might have eaten a few bites too many because you eat too quickly or the food is really tasty – for whatever reason some folks might overeat once in a while. And then 9’s and 10’s on the hunger scale are, you know, that Thanksgiving all or just feeling overly stuffed.

So just teaching these students this language, just to help them tune into their bodies and trying to encourage them to check into their bodies before they eat and trying to gauge ‘where am I at on the hunger scale right now.’ And then when you can identify where you’re at you’re able to choose what foods feel best to you. the amounts that feel best to you and then move on with your day.

Host: Aside from checking in with our bodies and using the hunger scale before we start eating, Rachel also offered some other ways to build healthy habits going into the new year.

Manor: I definitely try to give our student athletes some nutrition guidelines but I also like to refer to it as gentle nutrition like they do in the intuitive eating text but giving them the general guidelines of meal buildings. I try to recommend students build meals that incorporate fruits and vegetables into carbohydrate and protein and effect. So for example there could be banana oatmeal peanut butter and milk a very simple meal that kind of hits all those macronutrients so we can try to build at least three meals per day that fit that guideline would be really helpful and then incorporating snacks when need be for example when we drop into that 3 maybe between lunch and dinner and be a good time to have a snack and so I try to encourage folks to think about snacks that incorporate carbs and proteins to help have stable energy so that could be something like an apple and string cheese or a cliff bar or something like that.

It’s definitely a dynamic process. It’s it takes intentionality it takes being aware of our thoughts. I often am recommending food and feelings logs. Sometimes athletes are used to writing down their food and sharing it with a dietitian. But I’m more interested in their thoughts and feelings behind the food that they’re eating. So kind of increasing that awareness to writing down what we’re eating how it makes us feel and learning from that experience.

So instead of setting a new year’s resolution to lose five pounds perhaps we could set a goal to try a new recipe each month. Maybe we could set a goal to drink at least one liter of water before we leave work. Maybe we could start a gratitude journal. Maybe we could try to do yoga once a week. There are so many different health promoting behaviors that we can engage in that has absolutely nothing to do with weight.

Host: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Well Said, the official storytelling podcast from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you’re interested in other nutrition resources at Carolina, visit campushealth.unc.edu.

Do you have an idea for an upcoming episode of Well Said? Send us at Tweet @UNC or shoot us an email at WellSaid@UNC.edu. And if your New Years Resolution was to listen to more podcasts, you can find Well Said wherever you listen, so we hope you’ll subscribe and leave us a review. See you next week.


Well Said: Growing the family business

Andy Moore: I’m sure there are many different ways to handle that kind of relationship. But, broadly speaking I think you can either really leave work at work and have family as family, or you can be comfortable with mixing the two a little bit. And we’re both so obsessed with restaurants, and thinking about restaurants, and running restaurants and talking about the company that we’re OK with talking about business in a family setting.




Host: That’s Andy Moore, an online MBA student here at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. And the relationship he’s talking about is with his boss – also known as his dad. This week, Andy will share what it’s like to be a local celebrity, and the resources he’s taking advantage of at Carolina to help run a popular North Carolina burger chain with his family.


Welcome to Well Said, the official storytelling podcast from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.




Host: it’s 1991 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. With 500 dollars and a used car, Kenny Moore – that’s Andy’s dad – sought to open a restaurant. Located in the Berkeley Mall, he cooked every burger himself, all with an open-grill setup. He greeted customers as they walked in, chatted with guests at the counter, and was able to show his guests that their meals were made fresh with care.


Moore: It’s funny. It was it was actually originally called Andy’s. It was called Andy’s – named after me – until 2012. So I was very involved from the start. My name was up there. And some of my earliest memories really involve being in the restaurant. Dad worked really hard for a long time, so a lot of the times the best times to see him were in the stores. So I would go and try to help even at four or five years old. And that definitely involved tipping over a few trash cans and just generally causing chaos. But I have very clear memories of store openings. We expanded very quickly in the early days. I think Dad had five or six restaurants open after his first two or three years and then it expanded pretty rapidly in the late 90’s from there. So I would try to go to all the store openings. I really enjoyed going and seeing the new cook lines and seeing how they had set up each store in a different way. Yeah, it was a huge part of my childhood.


Host: Even though his earliest memories of his father’s restaurant – since renamed to Hwy 55 –  included some unproductive behavior, Andy became a celebrity to those who frequented the growing chain. As the Moore family grew, so did the business, which meant Kenny had to find a way to include Andy’s three younger siblings in the operation.


Moore: At one point different parts of the company were named that for each one of them. So the special flavor of ice cream that we have in the stores is named after my sister, Emma. There was a food distribution business that actually distributed the food to each one of the stores, that was called Bell Foods for my sister Isabelle, and then Dylan and had the equipment company. And dad always liked to say that if anything ever went wrong, he never named anything after himself. That was said with love.


Host: Because the restaurant was named Andy’s for the first 21 years, you’d think Andy would be pretty much obligated to work at the restaurant, right?



Moore: I worked in the stores in high school. You know, started by dropping fries when I was 16, and they finally let me actually grill the burgers by the time I graduated from high school, which was a big step. Then I went to college a little bit down the road from from Chapel Hill – a different shade of blue, but we don’t have to talk about that. And I came back during the summers and work with the company after my freshman and sophomore year, but got really involved with actually, journalism. I worked for the student paper and kind of saw a potential different career path open up for me in that. So, by the time my senior year rolled around I was actually applying to different jobs outside of the restaurant industry in media and digital media and ended up going up to New York for two years.


Host: Even though he loved his job in New York City and the friends he made, Andy couldn’t help but miss home and helping out at Hwy 55.


Moore: You know after a couple of years I kind of – not kind of I really did – miss the job. I missed the people I had worked with. And I felt like I wanted to do something meaningful with my family’s business. So I made a pretty tough decision to come back, but I don’t regret it.


Host: Landing a job at Hwy 55 wasn’t as simple as sending a quick text to has dad. Andy wanted to earn his way into the management of the company fair and square, which meant he had to apply for a job. And it was one that didn’t yet exist.


Moore: I’ve always felt like I needed to earn whatever role I was given. So I remember this really well – sitting on my couch, brushing up on my resume. And I wrote a really long email to my dad. Basically trying to lay out where I could bring value and where I thought I could fill a gap. At the time that turned out to be marketing, especially digital marketing. I felt that we weren’t really at the place where we needed to be, and I had seen my role then, how we could spend money really effectively and reach a lot of people by doing that. So. spent a lot of time really thinking about where I could kind of fill a gap and not just be placed in there as Kenny’s son. So by the time I came back, I felt pretty confident that I was going to be able to make an impact. And that was really nice. It was really good because I felt like I could kind of hit the ground running from day one.


Host: And he did. To make it more official, Andy was named the first Director of Communications for Hwy 55. In his first week, he called a meeting and began to introduce new ideas about social media to the team.


Moore: I moved from Director of Communications to an area developer role where I’m actually overseeing our operations and our expansions in Texas. Responsible now for overseeing our current stores in the market, and also growing the market as well and building new stores in the Dallas and Waco and Austin area.


Host: Not only is Andy managing a new role with Hwy 55, but he’s also enrolled in the online MBA program at UNC, putting lessons to practice and also bringing his experience to the classroom.


Moore: There are things that I have learned and, kind of getting my hands dirty and working in restaurants, and working with a very entrepreneurial founder figure like my dad that are tough to take up in the classroom. But I think it’s also true that there are elements of the job, especially as we grow, and we’re really trying to scale – we’re in a real growth stage right now. We’re looking to possibly build a much bigger organization than what we currently have. That sort of – the theoretical framework that you pick up from business school is also really really helpful. There have been times where I’ve learned something in a class and then was able to apply it the next day. So, yeah I think it’s just constantly seeking out that information wherever it comes from and valuing it equally – sort of the hands on, nitty-gritty parts of running a business and also the really well researched and informative things that I’m picking up in my classes.



Host: Even with all the responsibility of a new job and earning an MBA, Andy still works alongside his dad, which is a relationship he’s learned to manage – in part thanks to the team at the Family Enterprise Center including business professors Cooper Biersach and Steve Miller, and engagement manager Lauren Willets. They help students who are part of a family-run business by developing small conferences, offering lectures, and establishing a supportive network of current students and alumni.


Moore: Being in a family business is really not like being in other businesses. Cooper and Steve and Lauren are bringing a tremendous amount of experience and research and kind of helping people who are in this particular situation navigate what could be a potential minefield. Of working with family relationships and business relationships and the intersection between the two. So. The classes that I took and I’ve also been working with them through conferences that they hold and other things outside of the classes has been really really helpful especially with the relationship between my dad and me. And helping out, you know really work together as effectively as possible.


I’m sure there are many different ways to handle that kind of relationship. But, broadly speaking I think you can either really leave work at work and have family as family, or you can be comfortable with mixing the two a little bit. And we’re both so obsessed with restaurants, and thinking about restaurants, and running restaurants and talking about the company that we’re OK with talking about business in a family setting.


I think having having dad in a mentor role has been extremely helpful. Having a lot of people in this company who have been around now for 20 plus years who I really grew up with and have perspective for a long time and being able to work alongside them, it’s also been tremendously valuable. These are people who are like family to me and they go out of their way to impart some knowledge and wisdom and expertise. And it’s been really cool to be working along with them.


Host: Without counting his years behind the counter, Andy has been working at Hwy 55 for nearly five years, and has been able to watch the company grow from the original Andy’s in Berkeley Mall to 135 locations in 17 states.


Moore: We had our owners conference where every franchisee in the company comes together once a year, and there’s a lot of information shared – so sort of a big get together. And the night before there was there was a meeting in my dad’s hotel room where all the speakers for the conference kind of got together talked about what they’d be presenting the next day. And I have a very clear memory of being in that room, and really kind of appreciating where I was because it was a lot of people who I had looked up to for a long time. And I was sitting there more or less as an equal. And that was that was pretty great. And it felt like I was a part of something much bigger than myself. And that’s a good feeling.




Host: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Well Said, the official storytelling podcast from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you’re interested in learning more about The MBA at UNC program or the Family Enterprise Center, visit the Kenan Flagler website at kenan-flagler.unc.edu.


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