UNCG Magazine

Fall 2020


Fall 2020



The aspiring music teacher is inaugural Sloan Scholar. Not that she’d toot her own horn. Read more.

Feature Stories

Novel Virus

Novel Virus

Many members of the larger Spartan community are playing big roles in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.


THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has created unprecedented challenges for the world. But for some, it has presented unique opportunities. Equipped with the right mix of experience, knowledge, and tools, those with a vision and willingness to take risks have embarked on journeys into uncharted waters in the hope of finding better solutions.

Two UNC Greensboro alumni – Keivan Ettefagh ’13 PhD and James Patrick Healy ’14 PhD – have taken the leap, and they are moving full-sail ahead on mass-producing an innovative technique for collecting and testing samples for COVID-19.

As vice president of technical innovation and lab manager, respectively, they are part of Greensboro’s Select Laboratory Partners (SLP), a local company that specializes in laboratory implementation, management, and support for healthcare practitioners.

“What’s wonderful about our company is it’s very science- driven.”

— Keivan Ettefagh ’13 PhD

“You’re watching every step and asking, ‘What can we do better?’.”

— James Patrick Healy ’14 PhD


Kepley Biosystems, led by Dr. Anthony Dellinger ’15 PhD and co-founded by UNCG nanoscience professor Dr. Christopher Kepley, is a North Carolina life sciences startup that looks for sustainable solutions to environmental problems through invention.

Their projects run the gamut – from a synthetic and sustainable fishing bait, to odor technology to help train newly adopted dogs, to microbial-resistant technology initially created for the management of horseshoe crab blood.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the bioscientist team realized they had an impetus to develop something to help the medical community, as well as patients and potentially others.


Tasmin Farzana ’14 MBA has learned plenty of new things while working from home during quarantine. For one, there’s chess, a game she admits she hasn’t quite mastered. Another is chemistry.

Farzana, senior procurement manager of Global Operations at Hanesbrands Inc., oversaw the chemical component of the company’s agreement to supply the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency with more than 20 million medical gowns. The water repellent gowns needed to be tested before use by medical professionals.

“I had to rely on my high school chemistry,” Farzana jested. “Before the agreement, we had never made gowns. The part I led was the chemical, which I’d never managed before. I had to learn quickly.”


An international team of researchers, including UNCG Biochemistry professor Ethan W. Taylor, has identified a significant association between COVID-19 prognosis and regional selenium status in China.

Selenium is an essential dietary trace element that over the last 40 years has been found to be a significant factor affecting the incidence, severity, or mortality of various viral diseases, in animals and humans. This has been studied most extensively in the case of HIV and AIDS, where selenium status has proven to be an important determinant of disease progression and mortality. As China has geographical regions known to have either extremely high or low soil selenium levels, one of the first human diseases associated with selenium deficiency was identified there, in a region of Heilongjiang province named Keshan.



BEVIN STRICKLAND ’20 DNP, who graduated this August from UNCG’s Nurse Anesthesia Program, worked last spring in the emergency department of Mount Sinai Queens in New York City. The city was the nation’s hot sport for the virus, and she was compelled to help.

She cared for the critically ill by using ultrasound technology to get IV access for patients, managing critical cardiac drips, and even intubating patients. Her creativity and critical thinking were skills developed during coursework and experiential learning at UNCG. “My ICU and CRNA training prepared me to care for patients with knowledge and skills that the other emergency department nurses didn’t have. The didactic education and clinical rotations I had gave me the confidence to support the Mount Sinai staff.”


DR. ERNEST GRANT ’93 MSN, ’15 PHD was invited to the White House in May. He presented his views to Dr. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, about the challenges nurses are facing. He also spoke with Vice President Pence. “I asked him to strongly suggest to the governors of the 50 states that, as they implement their reopening plans, they add a nurse – particularly a community or public health nurse – to their task force. Nurses should be at the table to discuss best practices so that the reopening process can be done in a safe and effective manner.”



Spartan artists proclaim Black Lives Matter in broad strokes

With the horrifying video from Minneapolis of police choking George Floyd, pinning the man’s neck to the street for 8 minutes, the world could no longer look away. The deaths of Black men and women at the hand of police or self-appointed vigilantes have filled the headlines, one after another.

The summer of 2020 seemed to mark a societal shift. People marched down streets and barged through big-box stores. They blogged and tweeted. They read and listened, while others shouted. Black artists and allies – including many Spartans – created very public art to amplify the issues and to represent what they knew deep inside: pain, hope, and constant struggle.

Phillip Marsh was an organizer for BLM artwork efforts on S. Elm Street.

Art as action

“One love.” It’s a radical lyric.

Phillip Marsh grew up as hip-hop music was emerging in popular culture. But the music and Rastafarian philosophy of Bob Marley was his guiding beacon.

Phillip’s neighborhood outside Washington, DC, was a tough one. He had some run-ins with the law. “Made some choices,” as he explains. Once you have a record, it gets harder to get a job, he adds.

For him, it wasn’t police. “My problem was with the system,” again and again. Finally, a drug possession conviction put him in prison for three years.

But he found his life’s calling. Art put him on a trajectory to express his outlook on the world, and to make his livelihood.

Kidd Graves ’20 interacts with artwork she helped create at Elsewhere Museum.

Give it extra dimension

Every artist has a story.

Kidd Graves ’20 arrives for the planning meeting for the large plywood storefront at Elsewhere Museum. What’s the message, the tale to tell?

The artists gather round, wearing masks or social distancing. They build on their discussions from the weekend before: it’ll be the narrative of a Black girl, developing her voice. The center will be a butterfly.

Kidd will help craft the dramatic three-dimensional wings, a symbol of metamorphosis. She proposed the 3-D flower designs, and will create those as well.

With the given name Karena, Kidd identifies as a woman sometimes, as non-binary gender sometimes, she says. She aligns with the Black Lives Matter movement. “I don’t necessarily consider myself an activist. I consider myself an artist.”

Kidd earned her UNCG degree in sculpture in May, and is now enrolled in graduate school at ECU to hone her work. She wants to explore, through her art, “my Blackness, my queerness.”

Essence Foster’s mural depicts a Black woman, her face a swirl of emotions.

Paint it loud

Near the Lewis St. corner, Essence Foster has completed her work, an image of a woman created with charcoal, spray paint, and a collage of magazine clippings. Through a mask, Essence speaks with the other artists, as dusk approaches.

Essence, who already holds a bachelor’s degree, is on the pre-med track at UNCG. With an inner need to help people and a sweet spot for children, she plans to be a pediatrician.

Black History, Black Art

Nejla Harris paints upward-stretching triangles to represent the uplifting of Black men.

Across the street, Nejla Harris is putting final touches on her work.

“Breathe for those who don’t get a chance to.” – Londrelle

“Black love, Brown pride.” – Nipsey Hussle

These quotes set the tone for Nejla’s mural: the first referencing the horrific murder of George Floyd and the second sending a message of unity.

When the protests ended, Nejla didn’t wait for an invitation.

After seeing artists downtown, she called her friend Ryan Oakley – a Wake Forest University alumna who’d taken UNCG summer courses. They picked a plywood wall, and went to work. They composed separate pieces, which together formed “To Be Black Is: Black Men & Black Women.”

People of color are a common theme of Nejla’s art. She’s always taken an interest in Black history, and at UNCG she’s pursuing a minor in African diaspora studies to complement her degree in interior architecture – noting she didn’t want to study art because it’s too personal to her.

University Libraries recommended books about racial justice. Perspectives on racism and White privilege from fellow Spartans. UNCG policies on discrimination. A listing of upcoming talks. These resources and many more are hosted on the Racial Equity at UNCG website.

“In moments of great pain, universities can show the way forward, but we must be fearless and bold enough to name that which is most difficult to acknowledge – and this is the promise of the website. It is a gathering place where we may ask difficult questions, seek out a community in dialogue, and find resources to learn and grow as we affirm our commitment to racial equity and shared fate,” says Dr. Andrea Hunter, professor and, along with Dr. Julia Mendez Smith, a Chancellor’s Fellow for Campus Climate.

Lessons from the Past

Spartans at Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum connect history to today’s pressing issues

Off a busy, rural road in Gibsonville, North Carolina, stands the one state historic site in North Carolina focusing on African American history – and the only one honoring a woman.

Brick dormitories, pastel teachers’ cottages, and a school bell mark what was once the Palmer Memorial Institute, a 20th-century boarding school where more than 2,000 African American high schoolers had the rare opportunity to earn a “New England education” in the heart of the South.

The boarding school was opened in 1902 by a headstrong young educator, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, when she was only 19 years old. From its humble beginnings in a blacksmith’s cabin, it grew to include 200 acres and to produce professors, lawyers, and politicians who would go on to change history in their own ways.

This school was Dr. Brown’s life’s mission.

Today, three young women – all graduates of UNC Greensboro’s museum studies master’s program – are continuing that mission in their own way. As the small but mighty staff of what is now the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, these alumni are dedicated to sharing a piece of history that is often overlooked – or in this case, driven past.

Yet for those who take the time to stop, to walk the museum’s peaceful acres and listen to the story of Dr. Brown and her school, what they will find is a history that resonates with startling relevance today.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown, founder and principal of the Palmer Memorial Institute

Greensboro’s ‘Green Book’ history

THE MAGNOLIA HOUSE is entering its second act. And a class of Spartans are determined that its first is well-documented.

In the Jim Crow era, hotels in the South were segregated. African American travelers relied on the Green Book Motorist Guide for listings of hotels.

Greensboro’s The Magnolia House is one of only four buildings still standing in North Carolina that were “Green Book” hotels.

Situated between downtown and Bennett College, its guests included James Brown, Jackie Robinson, James Baldwin, Ike and Tina Turner, and thousands of other travelers. It was a center of its community.

A class of UNCG museum studies master’s students have combed archives, scanned old photos, and interviewed community members and the current owners, the Pass family. The students are creating lesson plans for teachers and planning programming.

They’re helping create an exhibition space in the house, to tell an important story – of the community, of past racial restrictions and racist mores, of some figures in its history.

Falderal Memories

Who remembers Falderal, or the Fall Charlies? The five-day fall celebration took place on UNCG’s campus beginning in the late 60s and continuing through the 70s, with many concerts, dances, performances, speakers, crafts, fireworks, and even a mime troupe. “A bit of finery, a bit of nonsense,” the festival served up apple cider and doughnuts, pizza for a pizza-eating contest, as well as beer at “Suds and Sounds” for those of-age.


    UNCG has been a remarkable place during these extraordinary times.

    In our faculty and staff, I see tireless dedication to our mission – literally thousands of people pulling together to create the best possible academic, social, and cultural experience for our students as they pursue their dreams.

    In our alumni, I see passionate support and a willingness to give time, expertise, and treasure where all of these resources are much needed and deeply appreciated. Spartans are coming together to support UNCG and our students in new and meaningful ways.

    In our community, I see the power of our shared place and fate and the unique role we play in making Greensboro a vibrant city.

    And most of all, I see in our students resilience, persistence, focus, an strength. They have earned our admiration and respect. They have embraced life-saving community standards in ways that have directly contributed to our ability to manage this pandemic as effectively as possible. I am grateful to them, proud of them, and inspired by them.

    Better days are ahead. For the present, we face our challenges united by our common purpose as “one great unbroken band,” as our school song says.

    Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Chancellor
    Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.


    Alumna Caroline Blair delivers fact-based journalism

    Alumna Caroline Blair delivers fact-based journalism

    Since graduating from UNC Greensboro, Caroline Blair ’06 has worked in newsrooms from New York to Georgia writing, reporting, and producing fact-based news stories. The whole time, she has followed one guiding light – journalistic integrity. “I think it’s important for those of us who call ourselves journalists to make sure that we are reporting […]

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    Dr. Frank Woods and late ‘Logie’ Meachum honored

    Dr. Frank Woods and late ‘Logie’ Meachum honored

    Two spaces in UNCG’s African American and African Diaspora Studies program will have an official name. And each honors an outstanding individual. The two spaces? Lorenzo “Logie” Meachum Lecturer’s OfficeN. Frank Woods, Jr. Library A naming ceremony, titled “Celebrating our Names,” was held last Friday in Curry Auditorium. It was sponsored by African American and […]

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    Benjamins’ artistic gift at Weatherspoon

    Benjamins’ artistic gift at Weatherspoon

    Margaret ’01 MALS and Bill Benjamin, active champions of the Weatherspoon Art Museum, have made a generous gift to endow a faculty fellowship grant and to support the museum director’s discretionary fund to further increase accessibility to the museum and its collection.In recognition of their impact, the Weatherspoon’s 145-seat auditorium was dedicated in the Benjamins’ […]

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    Setting the Stage

    Setting the Stage

    CARMENS, TOREADORS, AND FIGAROS; TOSCAS, BESSES, AND QUEENS OF THE NIGHT – WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? In North Carolina, UNCG Opera Theatre is the premier incubator for singers who advance to the world’s greatest stages. In the past two years, they moved to virtual performances to modified live performances to almost-normal productions, except for […]

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    Broadway COVID Safety, with Hugh Hysell

    Broadway COVID Safety, with Hugh Hysell

    As Broadway audiences have cautiously returned to theaters after the Omicron variant wave, safety is top priority for Hugh Hysell ‘88. The actor and Tony Award winning producer now leads The Broadway COVID Safety Team. In addition to checking proof of vaccination and photo ID of every ticket holder, the safety team also provides manpower […]

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    Lorraine O’Grady exhibition from Brooklyn Museum of Art

    Lorraine O’Grady exhibition from Brooklyn Museum of Art

    It’s a big exhibition straight from the Big Apple. “Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And,” on loan from the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, is the first comprehensive overview of the work of Lorraine O’Grady, one of the most significant figures in contemporary performance, conceptual, and feminist art. O’Grady is widely known for her radical persona […]

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    A lesson of their own, with Geena Davis

    A lesson of their own, with Geena Davis

    When Geena Davis offers you a masterclass on acting for the camera, you grab your notepad and get the best seat you can. Acting major Katherine Gerondelis loved Davis’ funny stories and the practical tips. “I learned that using your emotions before a shoot is okay – and to make sure to somewhat put yourself […]

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    STANDING ON CEREMONY Faculty Convocation is held every September. This year’s was held with social distancing protocols, with Spartan-spirited face coverings, and with most faculty participating remotely via Zoom video conferencing. Dr. Anthony Chow, joined by Dr. Laurie Kennedy-Malone and Dr. Michael A. Hemphill, made a very thoughtful gesture. They knew many students start their year by placing a coin, a flower, or an apple at the base of the Minerva statue, which represents wisdom. It’s said to bring good luck. This fall,
    relatively few students could do that. So in the Sept. 9 ceremony, they each set beautiful, large sunflowers at the base. It’s not known how many actually believe in the good luck tradition. But this feeling of care for our students is something to believe in with all our hearts.

    Photograph by Martin W. Kane
    “The real ceremony begins where the formal one ends …”
    — Linda K. Hogan
    Fall 2020

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