Class of 2024 Grads Thrive at The Middle College at UNCG

Posted on June 19, 2024

Group of graduates from the Middle College at UNCG stand together in their yellow caps and gowns.
Middle College of UNCG Class of 2024

The Middle College at UNC Greensboro offers a unique high school experience for Guilford County students interested in pursuing careers in health sciences. Opening its doors in 2011, the high school benefits from its location on UNCG’s campus to provide college courses to students. Students must also obtain 250 service hours to graduate, which is easy when you’re connected to a university whose motto is “Service”.  

Last month, the Middle College graduated its twelfth class, including some very accomplished students. Their stories illustrate how the Middle College at UNCG is providing accelerated educational opportunities, enhanced service-learning experiences, and access to UNCG’s campus which makes the transition to any college easier for its graduates.  

Pavan Ariyawansa’s Fast Track to Pre-Med 

Headshot of a student in a yellow cap and gown with Middle College at UNCG on the sash.
Pavan Ariyawansa

When Ariyawansa finished middle school, he knew he needed a challenging high school environment that offered as many college level courses as possible.  

“I have always taken college classes, not to fulfill requirements or to become Valedictorian, but purely for learning,” Ariyawansa explains. “I took numerous biology, and chemistry college classes and took many classes over the summer while interning in places such as the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Wake Forest Center for Precision Medicine, and currently Duke University.”  

He appreciated the academic rigor and the flexibility of course scheduling at the Middle College. His courses at UNCG gave him experience with time management and allowed him to mix with undergraduates. 

“I had more independence than high school students and was slowly exposed to college culture and the typical struggles of undergraduates.”  

By setting goals early, staying motivated, and taking heavy course loads, Ariyawansa was able to graduate from high school 1.5 years earlier than the average student. He finished his senior year with an internship in a research group at Duke University that simulates and designs proteins. In the fall, he will attend UNC-Chapel Hill on the pre-medical track with a long-term goal of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.  

“Despite having long days at my internship and long nights working to complete yearlong courses in a matter of weeks, I have no regrets about the results,” Ariyawansa states. “Through my high school experience at the Middle College at UNCG, I have realized how much potential I have and how much more I can do in the future.” 

Chloe Thompson Finds Her Voice 

Graduate poses in cap and gown with Native American accessories and many cords and medals to signify achievements.
Chloe Thompson

Chloe Thompson originally came to the Middle College at UNCG because of her interest in health science careers. A Type 1 Diabetic since the age of two, she always wanted to help others who struggled with the disease. As a high achieving student, she was drawn to the smaller class sizes and the opportunity to take classes at UNCG that other high schools didn’t offer.  

“I felt like I had more freedom in my education,” Thompson explains. “The smaller class sizes gave me more one-on-one time with teachers. I was able to voice my opinions and ideas in classes, and I could have meetings with my guidance counselors to talk about my specific college and career plans.” 

Working with teachers gave her confidence and direction, and access to UNCG’s campus acquainted Thompson with a university atmosphere. 

“For example, my high school chemistry class was able to use the UNCG labs for experiments to prepare us for college labs,” she says. “I also remember how lecture classes initially intimidated me since they were so large, but support from my Middle College teachers helped me overcome my anxiety.” 

Furthermore, she found extracurricular activities where she discovered a passion for her Native American culture. From participating in the Middle College’s diversity club to leading activities at UNCG’s pow-wow this spring, Thompson has expanded her connection to her Mohawk ancestry during her high school years. 

Participating in conferences and organizations through Guilford County School’s American Indian Education program enlightened Thompson about Dartmouth College’s Indigenous Fly-In Program. In December, she was one of 70 students from across the country selected for the program. It was an opportunity to attend a prestigious Ivy League institution 800 miles from home while remaining connected to a community of Native American students. 

Thompson credits the Middle College with academic preparation and support to explore her passions, which ultimately enlightened a path to Dartmouth College. There she plans to major in biology, with minors in Native American and Indigenous Studies and English. 

“The Middle College has helped me so much in my education,” she raves. “I’m not sure what I would be doing for college if I hadn’t come here.” 

Salvador Perez-Toledo Discovers a Whole New World 

Graduate poses in yellow cap and gown with cords and medals.
Salvador Perez-Toledo

“My favorite memory from the Middle College at UNCG was exploring the UNCG campus and realizing how massive it was,” Salvador Perez-Toledo remembers.  

High school at the Middle College not only expanded Salvador Perez-Toledo’s view of a college campus, but it gave him a comfortable transition to the next step. He thrived in a high school atmosphere with lots of class options and flexibility.  

“At the Middle College, I was able to discover and adapt to the college lifestyle at an early age which allowed me to mentally mature at a quicker rate,” he says. “This was all possible because college classes immersed me into a new environment full of others with similar ideas.” 

Perez-Toledo came to the Middle College with health science interests but when he began to question his commitment to a medical career, he took advantage of UNCG’s classes to explore other career directions. 

“I enrolled into some business classes which ultimately made me realize my passion for business,” he explains. “Although I figured out my path on my own, I give a lot of credit to our career coordinator, Mr. Prioleau, for offering me advice and guidance along my journey. He cemented my idea of becoming a successful businessman.” 

Those early classes and the community he witnessed on the UNCG campus made Perez-Toledo decide to continue his college studies right here at the Bryan School of Business and Economics. 

“The Middle College at UNCG gave me freedom to spread my wings and enjoy finding my own path in life,” he says. “There will be obstacles, but no good story is a straight arrow. I look forward to joining the Spartan family and fighting for my success.” 

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications. 
Photography courtesy of the Middle College at UNCG and its students. 

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Undergraduate Researchers Show Their Work at UNCG Expo

Posted on June 18, 2024

A woman walks past a line of poster boards displays in UNCG's Cone Ballroom.

At the close of every spring semester at UNC Greensboro, students get the chance to share the outcomes of their scholarly activity at the undergraduate and graduate research and creativity expos. They display their results on posters in UNCG’s Cone Ballroom, through performances and art exhibitions, or in oral presentations. 

We spoke with some of the winners from the 2024 Carolyn & Norwood Thomas Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo. They describe it as an incredible chance to hone their presentation skills and give back to UNCG. 

Modern Myths

Rising fourth-year classical studies major Ethan Divon blended his favorite hobbies – mythology and video games – into his research. With mentorship from Dr. Aisha Dad in classical studies, Divon is studying the ways that Greek and Roman mythology gets worked into games, part of what is known in academia as “classical reception.” 

“I can spend 30 minutes talking to Aisha about the ‘Hades 2’ game’s technical tests. And we not only talk about how it’s a cool game, but how it’s receiving this literature.” 

He hopes his findings will help make video games an effective teaching tool for educators. “Seeing how those classical ideas have been imagined and reimagined, accurately or inaccurately, is super fascinating and can tell you a lot about a culture.” 

Divon had taken his research to several conferences, most recently the Southern Regional Honors Conference. He says he felt his poster in UNCG’s Undergraduate Expo last year was not as good as it could be, not helped by his field revolving around long epics comprised of text. For his oral presentation this year, he made sure he had appealing images in his slides. He was excited to learn that he took first place for the humanities category. 

“Conveying research through speech allows you a little bit more flexibility than a paper,” he says. “When talking, I try to keep my presentation a little bit lighter, a little more casual.” 

While his prior experience in band, theatre, and choir prepared him to speak in front of a crowd, Divon says it was somewhat stressful to speak in front of peers and professors, so he practiced in front of friends. “It’s a strategy I use for my papers as well. Before I write, I usually try and talk to a friend in a conspiracy theory-style rant. It helps me get all my thoughts in order.”

Class Notes 

Abby Hughes ’24 and Tyler Rae Durkee ’24 share a love of music but play different musical instruments. That became the basis of their research to help music teachers teach students how to play instruments they themselves are not used to playing. Working with Dr. Rebecca MacLeod, professor of music education, they won first place in the Expo’s performing arts category for a presentation specifically about how colleges can prepare educators to teach string instruments.

In 2023, they spoke at the National Conference for the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). They had to shorten that presentation to fit the time limit at UNCG’s Expo.

“It was tough, taking what we already condensed down into 45 minutes, then condensing that further to 12 minutes,” says Hughes. “And at the ASTA conference, we were talking to other music teachers and string players. For URSCO, our audience did not necessarily have that background. So, we met to figure out how to make sure it made sense and was still appealing to them.”

With MacLeod as their mentor, Hughes says they brought three unique perspectives to craft effective tools for music educators. “Rebecca helped us brainstorm ideas and asked us questions that challenged us to go even further with our research.”

The Expo was during their last semester before graduating with degrees in music education. Hughes and Durkee were also completing student teaching. Hughes said their friendship and a shared love of the research topic helped them get ready. “Almost every week, we would meet so that we would get more comfortable with what we were saying,” she says. “It got to the point that we could easily go back and forth, taking turns speaking. We figured out a rhythm.”

Having shared their presentation at a national conference, Hughes was happy for the chance to bring it home to UNCG.

“We were excited to find out that we won, and that people liked our presentation,” says Hughes. “One of our goals is spreading awareness of the string teacher shortage and giving an option to all music education students. To have that message spread further was really cool for both of us.”

Mind the Gaps 

Rising third-year student Kendal Walker majors in mathematics and statistics, but her research on the post-pandemic data of STEM participation was deemed the best presentation for the category for business, education, social and behavioral sciences.

Walker studied undergraduate students’ participation in STEM classes. Her data initially showed few disparities between racial and gender groups, but only when all STEM-related fields were averaged together. She delved deeper and identified the fields where gaps were apparent: physics, engineering, and computer science. 

At the Expo, Walker took great care in making her poster an attention grabber. She picked one angle of her multi-faceted research that would stand out in a room full of posters. “It makes me feel like a salesperson,” she says. “I can grab people walking by, if they even glance at my poster for a second. I like to pull them in.” 

While not in the oral presentation lineup, Walker still had to be comfortable with speaking. “Some people come look at the poster, read it, and then ask questions. I like that format better than an oral presentation. You can make it more interactive.” 

Walker sets a high standard for herself as an undergraduate, saying, “The project I’m doing is something that I could be doing for my career. I treat it as I would treat my job.” 

She’s grateful for the help of all her department faculty, particularly her mentor, Economics Professor Dora Gicheva. “She always had time to give me feedback at any stage of this process,” says Walker. “She was available for once-a-week meetings. And I could email her and receive feedback within a day or two.” 

More support came from Dr. Julie Edmunds, the director of the Early College Research Center at the SERVE Center, a UNCG initiative to promote positive outcomes in education that was working with the same post-pandemic data. Edmunds met regularly with Walker and gave advice on presenting her own findings. 

Finally, Walker appreciated the chance to step back from her own research and see the other UNCG students and faculty presentations at the Expo. She says, “I got to talk to other professors and make connections with professors that I might not normally talk to.”

UNCG congratulates all winners of the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Expo, listed here: 

Business, Education, Social and Behavioral Sciences 
1st Place
Kendal Walker, Mathematics & Statistics
STEM Enrollment Gaps by Race/Ethnicity and Gender before and after the COVID Pandemic: Evidence from North Carolina Public Colleges and Universities

2nd Place (tied)
Nathan Dang, Public Health Education
Chronic Health Disparities in the U.S. Hmong Population: A National Profile with Implications for a Community-Driven Needs Assessment in NC

Kimberly Cang, Biology; and Tiffany Tan, Psychology
Conversations About Discrimination Among Asian American Parents and Adolescents

Humanities
1st Place
Ethan Divon, Classical Studies
Expanding Classics: Comparative World Mythology and its Reception in Gaming

2nd Place
Sofie Muska, English
Scions of the Solar Sea

3rd Place
Matthew Henderson, Anthropology
Zooarchaeological Considerations at Crusader-Period Caesarea Maritima

(STEM) Mathematics, Life and Physical Sciences
1st Place
Sarah Hudson, Biology
Exposure to Microplastics and Nanoplastics (MNPLs) Triggered Inflammatory Response in Human Aortic Endothelial Cells (HAEC)

2nd Place
Sarah Korb, Biochemistry
Enantioselective Effects of Co-Catalysts on Tetrahydropyran Protected Alcohols

3rd Place
Yeancarlos Jalouf-Zogbi, Biology; and Grant Koher, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Māmaki Ethanol Extracts Inhibit TNF-Α-Induced Endothelial Proinflammatory Gene Expression in Human Aortic Endothelial Cells

Performing Arts
1st Place
Tyler Rae Durkee, Music Education; and Abigail Hughes, Music Education
Everybody Can Play Strings: Including Non-String Primaries in Your Program

Visual Arts Exhibition
1st Place
Annabelle Kizer, Art
The Children of Nightmare

2nd Place
Sophie Shahan, Theatre
Exploring History and Theatrical Mobility

3rd Place
Sarah Smith, Art; and Amiah Jones, Art
Murals and Large-Scale Painting: Bridging Creative Research and Community Development

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications 
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

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UNCG Students Receive Coveted National Science Foundation Fellowship

Posted on June 17, 2024

Scientist pours colorful liquid into a beaker in a lab.

Four students from UNCG have been awarded the 2024 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship which covers up to three years of graduate school expenses.

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UNCG’s Dominick Amendum Helps Bring “Wicked” to the Big Screen

Posted on June 14, 2024

Man stands on a stage with a microphone and a red curtain behind him.

Professor and Musical Theater Director Dominick Amendum ’01 juggles teaching with film production after being tapped to join the production team for the “Wicked” feature film, set for release in November 2024.

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UNCG Honors Juneteenth with Reflection Through the Arts

Posted on June 12, 2024

A man stands at a microphone holding a paper with musical instruments in the background.
Josephus Thompson III performed for UNCG’s first Juneteenth event in 2021 and returns for the 2024's “Echoes of Freedom: Celebrating Juneteenth Through the Arts.”

UNC Greensboro demonstrates its enduring community leadership in creative expression and in civil rights with an event honoring Juneteenth. On Wednesday, June 19, the campus and surrounding community are invited to attend “Echoes of Freedom: Celebrating Juneteenth Through the Arts” in the courtyard of the Weatherspoon Art Museum.  

The Art of Equality 

This year, UNCG’s Juneteenth planning committee was inspired to assemble artists to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, educate the public about the history of the day, and reflect on our journey towards equality.  

Spoken word performance poet, Josephus Thompson III will headline the event. Thompson was named Greensboro’s first Poet Laureate in 2023 and serves as an activist, lecturer, teacher, and author.  

Joining Thompson are UNCG poet D. Noble, Bennett College’s Poet Laurette Jasmine Faison, and local youth poet Kingzton Tacorie. Their work will be featured alongside musicians like drummer Isaac Cousar, vocalist Jade Spratling, and Christian hip-hop artist Kayo Bracey. The celebration will also include a West African drum and dance performance.  

Graphic for Echoes of Freedom listing event details over green, yellow and red background and clip art of an African Woman's profile with head wrap and hoop earrings.

Be Inspired 

Observing Juneteenth through the arts is a natural choice for a university that takes pride in the educational and artistic opportunities it provides to its students and the surrounding community. 

“We are thrilled to host ‘Echoes of Freedom: Celebrating Juneteenth Through the Arts’ at UNCG,” said Dr. Channelle James, lecturer at the Bryan School of Business and Economics and Juneteenth event organizer. “This event is a meaningful opportunity to unite as a community, reflect on our shared history, and celebrate the enduring spirit of freedom through the arts. ‘Juneteenth @ UNCG’ is focused on better understanding of the African American experience in our country. This is our fourth Juneteenth celebration, and we are proud to make this event a UNCG tradition.” 

The showcase of African American artists begins at 11:00 A.M. and will last approximately an hour and a half. James and her committee members hope that the midday timing will encourage the community to take a break in their day to be inspired by art that celebrates freedom, resilience, and progress towards equality.   

A Taste of Freedom 

Although some Black communities have celebrated Juneteenth since 1865 when the final emancipation of slaves was issued in Texas following the American Civil War, the holiday wasn’t federally recognized until 2021. UNCG held its first campus observance of Juneteenth that year and has hosted celebrations like 2023’s Juneteenth walking tour every year since. 

In addition to the Echoes of Freedom arts showcase, UNCG is also a sponsor of the Juneteenth Greensboro event planned for June 15 and 16. This celebration in downtown Greensboro will feature music, art, and food trucks.  

Local artists will display their works in Sternberger Park on Saturday, June 15 from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Afterward, festival goers can sample tasty treats from over forty Black- owned food trucks at the Black Food Truck Festival from 5:00 to 11:00 P.M. Princess Howell Johnson ’07, founding director of Royal Expressions Contemporary Ballet, helped to organize the event which concludes with a gospel interfaith program on Sunday from 2:30 to 5:30 P.M. 

The Juneteenth arts showcase at Weatherspoon on June 19 and the downtown Juneteenth Greensboro festivities June 15 and 16 are free and open to the public. 

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications. 
Photography by Martin Kane, University Communications.  

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Spartan Summer Excursions: Culture and History

Posted on June 13, 2024

People are walking down the street in downtown Greensboro with the sun shining through.

One of UNC Greensboro’s perks is its central location within North Carolina. UNCG students needing a weekend getaway or an impromptu summer trip can visit the coast, the mountains, or explore attractions right here in the Piedmont-Triad. Whether you like a weekend packed with sightseeing, a vigorous hike outdoors, or a quiet evening indoors, something fun is an easy walk, drive, or bus ride away. 

Thanks to diligent historians and scientists, many destinations provide an educational angle. Museums, reenactments, traveling exhibits, food, crafts, and dance lend to a fun and immersive experience for anyone who wants to snap up a history lesson over the summer. 

Explore Movements of Change

UNCG students look at the historic sit-in counter at a museum.
International Civil Rights Center & Museum

Greensboro was one of the centers of change for civil rights, most notably during the 1960 sit-in at the F.W. Woolworth’s lunch counter. That counter was enshrined in the International Civil Rights Center & Museum on South Elm Street, an official stop on the US Civil Rights Trail. Its special exhibits this summer cover the sit-in movement and the 1963 March on Washington. UNCG faculty and alumni have worked closely with the museum on projects promoting a greater understanding of civil rights history. 

Another well-known draw is the Historic Magnolia House Inn, a former Green Book site on Gorrell Street. Green Book sites were marked as safe for African Americans to stay while traveling during the Jim Crow era. It still functions as an inn, so you can book a room overnight and savor its renowned Southern brunch. 

An hour from UNCG, a historic site in Montgomery County is hosting a traveling exhibit dedicated to the fight for the right to vote. “Making Our Voices Heard” is on display at Town Creek Indian Mound through the month of June. At no cost, visitors can learn about seven North Carolinians who championed the cause of democracy. 

Get Your Share of Scares

Anyone into spine-chilling ghost tales may be interested in a ghost tour with Carolina History & Haunts. Tour guides will lead thrill-seekers through the streets of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, or Charlotte and relay the stories behind local hauntings. 

Treacherous rocks along the North Carolina coast earned it the foreboding nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Those shipwrecks inspired a museum of the same name in Hatteras, not far from the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Admission is free, so anyone can explore the scavenged artifacts from famous shipwrecks, such as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach’s pirate ship Queen Anne’s Revenge or the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor. Other exhibits focus on the US Life-Saving Service, a precursor to the Coast Guard. 

Visit a Reenactment

A reenactor in colonial dress speaks to a group of children.
Old Salem

Dedicated actors breathe life into North Carolina history. One famous tourist spot is not far from UNCG. Old Salem preserves the story of the early Moravian settlers. Reenactors continue the Moravians’ daily lives and trades, such as blacksmithing. You can stop at their Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and bring home one of its famous Moravian cookies or star ornaments. 

The mountains are home to the Oconaluftee Indian Village. Reenactors educate visitors about the Cherokee of the 18th century, with tours beginning every 15 minutes. The beautiful natural landscape helps you get immersed in the experience. 

Heading in the other direction to the Outer Banks will take you to Island Farm, the historic home of a family on Roanoke Island who witnessed the turmoil of the Civil War, the dangers of seafaring, and the excitement of the Wright brothers’ first flight. Demonstrations let visitors see what it was like to run a farm, cook, and weave clothing during the 19th century. 

A Museum for Every Interest

The state capital of Raleigh is home to many museums, guaranteed to cover all types of interests. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has an aquarium, a conservatory, and a 3D theater to learn more about wildlife and oceans. Pollinator Week falls on June 17-23 this year, so the museum will host butterfly walks and a bumblebee watch. July 2 will feature a presentation on the history of tracking UFOs. 

The Museum of History‘s artifacts and interactive displays cover more than 14,000 years in North Carolina. Some floors are temporarily closed for renovations, but their website contains digital versions of its exhibits you can view from the comfort of home. The Museum of Art is another popular spot with collections by American, European, and African artists. Its 164-acre campus has an outdoor park full of sculptures where you can walk, run, or bike from dawn to dusk. 

If you don’t want to drive far, there are many unique museums in Greensboro. Elsewhere houses the collection of Sylvia Gray, a Greensboro resident who made a thrift store business out of selling second-hand furniture and textile scraps. Her family transformed her store and collection into an artist residency, which has collaborated with UNCG students and faculty. For those interested in architecture, visit the historic Blandwood Mansion, once owned by former Governor John Morehead and one of the best surviving examples of the 19th-century Italianate building style. 

Remember the Fallen

A family stands in front of a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial.
The Wall That Heals

On June 20-22, North Carolina will host “The Wall that Heals,” a traveling replica of Washington’s Vietnam War Memorial. It will be set up in Asheboro, a half-hour drive from UNCG. Its mobile education center will help all visitors understand how that impacted the service members while they were deployed and when they returned to the US.

Permanent memorials for armed service members include the Carolina Field of Honor of Kernersville. Its tall obelisk and water cascades create a solemn atmosphere while reading the displays dedicated to each war. Guilford County has its own Veterans Memorial, with a Ring of Walls covered in maps and descriptions, and a brick path bearing the names of veterans who served. 

Find a Festival

Performers wear Cherokee dress during nighttime performance.
Unto These Hills

Music, performances, and games are an incredible way to appreciate other cultures, especially those deeply rooted in North Carolina. 

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, to be held this year July 11-14, is a popular draw every summer. It celebrates North Carolinians of Scottish descent and lets visitors enjoy Gaelic music and dance, bagpipes and drums, athletic competitions, and sheepdog demonstrations.

On August 9-10, the Waldensian Festival will celebrate a 17th century victory of the Waldensian people against French forces, allowing them to return to their homes in Europe after years of religious persecution. The town of Valdese in Burke County was founded by Waldensians seeking a new life, and its heritage museum preserves artifacts of that era.

Summer also marks the annual return of “Unto These Hills.” Through mid-August, this outdoor theatre will let people gather as the sun sets to watch a dramatization of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Trail of Tears. 

Bring Something Home

Southern Randolph County is an artistic trifecta, within an hour’s drive from Greensboro. The town of Seagrove became a draw for potters in the 18th century due to its unique clay. Its 30-mile-long North Carolina Pottery Trail lets visitors drop into pottery studios still in operation. If pottery is not your thing, you can check out Carolina Bronze, a foundry that specializes in bronze and aluminum casting with pieces in high demand all over the country; or Starworks, a glassblowing, ceramics, and metalworks studio that does live demonstrations. 

To the west, there’s Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, the oldest Native American cooperative in the US. Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians created it in the 1940s to help preserve their traditional art. More than 60 artists are currently there, making beadwork, carvings, jewelry, and clothing. 

Whether you come home with a piece of North Carolina culture or a broader understanding of the history of our state, there is much to explore through fun day trips in and around Greensboro. Check out a map and hit the road this weekend!

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications 
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications; Old Salem; Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; Museum of the Cherokee People

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Capt. DeDona Retires From UNCG Police

Posted on June 18, 2024

Headshot of UNCG Police Captain DeDona against a landscape image of the campus.

Steve DeDona was sworn as a UNCG Police Officer on December 4, 2000, and quickly moved up the ranks. In 2007, he was promoted to lieutenant and Supervisor of Fields Operations. In 2016, he was promoted to Captain. During his career at UNCG, he took on the responsibility of training not only the UNCG officers, but also the students, faculty and staff.

UNCG Police invite the campus community to bid Capt. DeDona a fond farewell at a reception in his honor at the Alumni House Oakley Room, on Tuesday, July 30 from 2-4 p.m. with remarks at 3:00 p.m.

Some of the programs he created and implemented include an active shooter survival course for students, staff, and faculty in 2016. This included his creation of the RUN HIDE FIGHT presentation. His first class was at Gove Health and to this day, continues to be offered to the campus students, faculty and staff. Capt. DeDona has taught more than 300 classes and received over 200 hits as part of this incredible training, including an atomic elbow drop by Chancellor Gilliam that we have on video.

Capt. DeDona also brought a dunking booth to campus during a student carnival to encourage everyone to sign up for LiveSafe in 2017, which has since been replaced with the Spartan Safe App. At this event Capt. Dedona must have been dunked a thousand times, but he significantly increased enrollment and made LiveSafe another major program for the police department.

Capt. DeDona is also known for being a great Boy Scout Leader and planning the Old Town Beer Run which benefited the NC Special Olympics as well as the UNCG Military-Affiliated Services Office. Most recently, Capt. DeDona developed and managed training programs for the UNC System Office at Samarcand Training Academy. These training programs are offered to numerous North Carolina law enforcement agencies. Capt. DeDona has also received many awards throughout his career at UNCG, most notably the 2018 Betty Hardin Award for Excellence in Business Affairs, 2023 Honorable Mention for Police Officer of the Year from the UNC System Office.

Captain DeDona knows the value of service and the benefit of community engagement. His acts of compassion are extraordinary and his commitment to the community is exemplary.

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UNCG Encourages STEM Education in Girls Who Game

Posted on June 06, 2024

Six middle school girls in matching t-shirts jump and cheer with their two teachers in front of the
Kiser Middle School's Girls Who Game club members and their advisors.

Although the UNC Greensboro campus is typically quiet between sessions in mid-May, the Esports Arena and Learning Lab in Moran Commons was bustling like a typical Friday night in September. But on this evening, the gamers didn’t fit the typical collegiate profile. Instead, middle and high school girls from across Guilford County occupied the consoles for their Girls Who Game end-of-year celebration. 

Girls Who Game is an extra-curricular program developed by Dell Technologies, in partnership with Intel and Microsoft, to encourage middle school girls throughout North America to stay engaged with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.  

Partnerships for Girls  

This spring, UNCG’s Institute for Partnerships in Education (IPiE) partnered with Innovate UNCG to establish a Girls Who Game program for Guilford County Schools. IPiE supports teachers in organizing the clubs and offering curriculum and UNCG Esports and Gaming Club members serve as mentors.  

“Research shows that girls start losing interest in STEM fields in middle school,” said Faith Freeman, IPiE co-director. “Girls Who Game engages girls in STEM through gaming, but it also creates a safe space for them to play. Video games are so male dominated, and we’re creating sisterhood within this space.” 

4 people stand in outside of the esports arena with video monitors featuring a welcome message for the Girls Who Game celebration.
Faith Freeman, IPiE co-coordinator; Janiese McKenzie, GCS director of Blended Learning and STEM; Brad Rhew, GCS K-8 STEM coordinator; Carrie Burch, IPiE project manager; and Holt Wilson, IPiE co-coordinator.

For the pilot program, Northwest Middle, Kiser Middle, Swann Middle, and Southwest Middle participated in Girls Who Game, with high schoolers from Middle College at GTCC (Guilford Technical Community College) and Kearns Academy in High Point.  

Lohanna Sanchez saw first-hand how esports clubs could be dominated by boys when she coached a middle school esports club. “We had around 60 students in the club but only three girls, and by the end of the semester, all of the girls had dropped out.” 

Now a computer science teacher at Kearns Academy, Sanchez jumped at the opportunity to lead a club that was only for girls. When she assured the interested students that boys wouldn’t be involved in this club, they were relieved. “Good,” they said. “Boys are way too mean when it comes to video games.” Sanchez was eager to give the girls a space to collaborate and be creative together. 

Building Solutions for Real Issues 

Girls Who Game is a Minecraft Education program. Its vision is “to create a more inclusive and equitable world through global collaboration, problem solving and innovation.”  

At club meetings, the girls are challenged to work together to build Minecraft cities with solutions to social issues that are relatable in the communities they live in.  

“They are using Minecraft to solve a real-world problem that is happening in their own backyard,” Freeman explained. “One of our participating schools is located in a food desert so the challenge to build a city without food insecurity was very relevant for them.” 

Two middle school girls give each other a high five in the esports arena.
Auburn Whitehurst and Avis Campbell, 7th graders at Kiser Middle School worked together to create a Minecraft world without poverty.

Avis Campbell and Auburn Whitehurst, sixth graders at Kiser Middle School, worked with the girls in their club to create a Minecraft world without poverty. They made sure to include homes, good paying jobs, farms to produce food for everyone, a school, shopping centers, and a city hall.  

“We learned about how people needed to live within walking distance to jobs, and how cities must have enough homes for all and adequate services for everyone,” Campbell says. 

“We made a farm for food and a wind farm for energy,” Whitehurst added. “We learned stuff from the outside world by playing fun little games and creating our cities.” 

“The challenges check boxes for academics,” says Freeman. “But they also check boxes for social and emotional learning.” 

Spartan Support for Unconventional Learning 

Two girls sit at the consoles in the esports arena and look over their shoulders to pose for the camera.
Nikola Saunders (right), UNCG MBA student and Girls Who Game mentor, works with a Kearns Academy student.

Nikola Saunders, a UNCG master’s student and esports club member, was inspired by the creativity of the Girls Who Game students she mentored and was struck by the interesting ways that traditional subjects could be taught to middle and high schoolers through video games.  

“I never had anything like this in school when I was growing up,” Saunders said. “It was great to foster comradery among the girls. I know I would’ve liked a club like this when I was young, so mentoring was so fun for me. I loved it!” 

IPiE’s Carrie Burch praised this opportunity for the School of Education to provide an alternative learning environment in Guilford County Schools. “We have some flexibility on what we can offer that traditional school systems don’t have the time or funds for. It’s important that we are showing teachers, mentors, and students that there are alternative ways to learn.” 

All in attendance looked ahead to expanding the program next year with more competitions between schools, but first the coaches and girls enjoyed capping their first season at the esports arena.  

“It’s awesome that we can bring students here,” said Brad Rhew ’10, K-8 STEM Coordinator for Guilford County Schools. “Hopefully this experience will inspire some future STEM careers for these girls.” 

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications.

Middle school teacher works with a young student in the esports arena.

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