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.  

4 students in a classroom take notes and engage in discussion.

Learn More About UNCG’s Commitment to Racial Equality.

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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

A UNCG student puts together panels for a museum exhibit.

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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.

Inspire Tomorrow’s Problem Solvers.

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Hernandez Wins Puerto Rico Amateur to Advance to U.S. Amateur

Posted on June 05, 2024

Golfer finishes a swing in a fairway with his golf bag behind him.

Spartan golfer claims the top spot in an amateur championship in his home country for a chance to compete in his first U.S. amateur tournament.

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UNCG Alumni Meet With NC Lawmakers

Posted on June 07, 2024

On the left, UNCG student Sarah Leck '24 speaks at a podium; on the right, Leck and Stacy Huff pose with a lawmaker.

Sarah Leck ’24 and Stacy Huff ’22 MS represented UNCG and the School of Education on Graduate Education Day, speaking with lawmakers about the ways they believe higher education can better impact more students.

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Campus Weekly Moves to Summer Schedule

Posted on June 04, 2024

Students walk around the UNCG clock tower.

Campus Weekly will continue to run through June and July to inform UNCG employees working during the summer months. Following the June 5 newsletter, it will move to a biweekly schedule until the Fall 2024 semester.

This summer, University Communications will roll out a new layout of Campus Weekly. Hopefully, this will expand our capacity to share more celebratory news of faculty and staff and to make everyone aware of more opportunities for on-campus engagement.

Updates to Campus Weekly will include:

  • A permanent toolbar with relevant links for events and Faculty and Staff Senates.
  • Minerva Milestones: A recurring report of faculty and staff who make the news, publish new research, and engage in unique professional opportunities off-campus.
  • Highlighting of discounts, special promotions, and perks made available to faculty and staff by UNCG units.
  • Blocks for winners of UNCG’s faculty and staff giveaways to share their own photos from attending community events.

Faculty and staff may continue to submit announcements they would like to run in Campus Weekly via this form. The deadline for a submission is at noon the Friday before the desired publishing date. Any questions related to Campus Weekly submissions and announcements can be emailed to Janet Imrick at jcimrick@uncg.edu.

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UNC System Emergency Communications Survey Now Available

Posted on June 03, 2024

A UNCG police cruiser parked on the street.

The UNC System has contracted with Jensen Hughes to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the constituent institutions’ role in providing timely, effective, helpful, and consistent emergency communications to their campuses, System leadership, and community partners when significant and dangerous incidents threaten the safety of the campus community.

The UNC System anticipates that the comprehensive assessment will identify how constituent institutions routinely advance emergency notifications as they evolve to crisis management. As part of this assessment, each campus’ constitutents are invited to participate via the survey below. Please complete the survey at your earliest convenience.

The survey is available at this link.

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Construction Impacts Parking as SOAR Begins

Posted on June 04, 2024

A line of new UNCG students cross a street.

UNCG is getting ready to welcome incoming students to campus for the traditional SOAR events, with the first session beginning on Thursday, June 6. As these new Spartans and their families arrive on campus for orientation, they will be met with the ongoing chilled water improvements along some of the most heavily trafficked areas at UNCG. 

Stirling Street was originally set to reopen this week. For several reasons, it will stay closed this week. While the construction is ongoing in this area, SOAR guests will only be able to access the Walker Parking Deck from Walker Avenue. The Office of New Student Transitions and First Year Experience are arranging for parking enforcement officers or other staff to be posted at the entrance gate to provide directions and try to speed up the process. However, it is likely that traffic congestion and backups will occur. 

UNCG asks everyone to give themselves extra time and be mindful of the additional traffic, particularly between 7:30-9:00 a.m. on SOAR days. UNCG thanks everyone in advance for their patience and for adjusting to the changes while welcoming new students. 

A schedule for this year’s SOAR sessions is available here. A breakdown of the chilled water construction phases can be read here.

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UNCG Receiving $1 million from Google to Launch Cybersecurity Clinic

Posted on June 04, 2024

A row of students sit typing in a computer lab for a UNCG computer science class.

UNC Greensboro’s Joseph M. Bryan School for Business and Economics is the first university in the state of North Carolina to receive $1 million in grant funding and wraparound support from Google’s Cybersecurity Clinics Fund. The grant will establish the Spartan CyberGuardian Academy (SCGA), a cybersecurity clinic at UNCG, training 870 students to assist 174 organizations over the next six years. The funding from Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm, is part of a $25 million collaboration with the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics.

“Through the establishment of the Spartan CyberGuardian Academy, our students will emerge with real-world experience and the knowledge and skills essential to meeting workforce demand in this fast-paced industry, to the immediate benefit of their clients,” said UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. “An example of community-engaged, inclusive excellence, the clinic will soon serve and protect under-resourced organizations in the Piedmont Triad from cyber threats.”

Cybersecurity clinics at higher education institutions provide free digital security services to under-resourced organizations, like how law or medical schools offer free community clinics. The new Spartan CyberGuardian Academy will give Bryan School students the opportunity to learn cybersecurity and AI skills in an effective, hands-on manner while simultaneously helping to protect vulnerable organizations and critical infrastructure, such as local small businesses, hospitals, schools, and energy grids, from cyber-attacks.

Meeting Workforce Demand

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Risks Report, cyber insecurity remains one of the top 10 global risks over the next 10 years. Currently, there are nearly 450,000 open cybersecurity jobs available in the U.S, including 13,251 in North Carolina (see a map here) and demand for cyber professionals is projected to grow 32% by 2033. To ensure that communities, critical infrastructure and businesses big and small across the U.S. are secure, we need a skilled, diverse and AI savvy cybersecurity workforce.

“The Spartan CyberGuardian Academy represents a significant step forward in our commitment to fostering exceptional problem solvers and principled leaders,” said Bryan School Dean McRae C. Banks. “This initiative not only enhances our students’ practical skills and prepares them for the demands of the cybersecurity field, but it also underscores our dedication to serving the community by protecting local organizations and critical infrastructure. We are deeply grateful to Google for their generous support and for recognizing the potential impact of our students on both a local and national level.”

The SCGA at UNCG will train a vast array of individuals, spanning from high school, community college, and university students to graduate-level scholars and organizations, arming them with practical cybersecurity knowledge and skills critical to the success of organizational cybersecurity practices.

“With the increasing complexity of cybersecurity incidents, hands-on training for students and preparing them for real-world experiences has become essential. However, such training and facilities are often inaccessible to many, including students from underserved communities and non-profit organizations,” said Dr. Moez Farokhniahamedani, assistant professor and PI on the grant. “Thanks to the generous $1 million grant from Google, we can bridge this gap by establishing the Spartan CyberGuardian Academy and offer free training sessions to students and employees of organizations that lack access to these resources. The cumulative knowledge and experience gained by these individuals will not only positively impact their career paths but also enhance the overall quality of cybersecurity in our region.”

The UNCG clinic will also offer essential cybersecurity services including auditing, training, and remediation to non-profit organizations, small businesses, and all entities within the Piedmont Triad region that lack resources or dedicated cybersecurity teams. Committed to bridging the gap, the SCGA is dedicated to providing education, training, and services to underserved audiences, ensuring equitable access to cybersecurity expertise. “The Clinic will train students to use advanced Cybersecurity technology and Artificial Intelligence and NIST Zero Trust Framework to help local businesses and government institutions to assess and enhance their Cybersecurity posture,” said Dr. Al Salam, professor and Co-PI on the grant.

In addition, the SCGA will leverage the existing programs in cybersecurity analytics at UNCG to develop new cybersecurity knowledge, artifacts, and practices.

Prepared For Technological Headwinds

Opening in spring 2025, the clinic will support non-profit organizations in the Piedmont Triad. Dr. Lakshmi Iyer, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management and grant co-PI said, “I am truly excited about the opportunities to engage and collaborate with our community, small and medium size organizations, and non-profits in cybersecurity that are essential to building a resilient digital ecosystem. By leveraging the expertise and resources the clinic can offer, we can enhance awareness, share critical knowledge, and develop robust defenses against cyber threats, ensuring that all members of our community are protected and informed.”

“The world is in a moment where emerging technologies, like AI, are creating both new opportunities and threats in the world of cybersecurity,” said Heather Adkins, VP of Security Engineering at Google. “It’s essential that we invest in growing a strong, diverse and widespread cybersecurity workforce to help protect everyone – from critical infrastructure to small businesses and schools. The 15 clinics that we’re helping to establish serve a wide variety of students across all corners of the U.S. and we’re excited to see the impact they’ll have in their local communities.”

“Google’s transformative investment is catalyzing cybersecurity for the public good,” says Ann Cleaveland, co-founder and co-chair of the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics and Executive Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. “We congratulate the recipients and applaud these awards, which propel forward the vision of the Consortium to establish a cybersecurity clinic in every U.S. state by 2030.”

UNCG is one of 15 new clinics set to launch in 2024 at higher education institutions across the country, thanks to a collaboration from Google and the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics. In addition to $1 million in Google.org funding, the tech company is offering UNCG volunteer mentorship from Google employees, Google Titan Security Keys, and scholarships for the Google Career Certificate in CybersecurityLearn more on Google’s blog and the Consortium’s website.

The announcement builds on Google’s 2023 support for 10 clinics, part of a combined commitment to launch 25 Google-supported cyber clinics nationwide by 2025. With the latest round of funding, Google.org has now committed more than $25 million toward creating the diverse and AI- and digital-security savvy workforce needed to protect critical U.S. infrastructure from cyber-attacks.

Story by University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

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Farmers, Teachers Dig into Soils with High-Tech Tools 

Posted on May 31, 2024

JSNN students get a lecture at University Farm site.

Farmers, aspiring farmers, high school teachers, and community college instructors got an up-close glimpse of the immense diversity of soil microbes and a better understanding of those microbes’ importance to agriculture, the environment, and society in general. They also got to dig into the kind of scientific tools that make such exploration possible. 

A workforce development partnership of UNC Greensboro, Forsyth Technical Community College, the private company Genome Insights, and the nonprofit Veteran’s Farm of North Carolina made that experience possible.  

Launched in 2021 and concluded in December, the project was funded by BioMADE, a manufacturing institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense to advance the nation’s bioindustrial manufacturing sector.  

Dr. Dan Herr, a professor in the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at UNCG; Russ Read, executive director of the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce at Forsyth Tech; and Laura Kavanagh of Genome Insights led the project, conducting four immersive, hands-on workshops – two for teachers and two for veterans. 

The goal: Inspiring the next generation of biomanufacturing workers 

JSNN students stand in front of a silo at University Farms.

Read says, “The goal of the two-day training sessions was to inspire those who will become the next generation of highly skilled bioindustrial manufacturing workers.” 

The partnership paired Forsyth Tech’s expertise in workforce development and informal community outreach with JSNN’s advanced technology.  

As Herr explains, “We have all these incredible tools at the Joint School that most people in the community would never have access to. And so, this program is helping bridge the formal educational environment with the informal.”  

The workshops gave participants insight into those tools used in the science behind bioindustrial manufacturing. 

Participants also went to N.C. A&T’s farm to learn about crop and livestock operations, tour the facilities, and collect samples from cow, pig, and chicken compost.  

Kavanaugh taught the participants how to load the samples into a portable DNA sequencer, which would run overnight and then provide information about the genetic makeup of microbes living in the samples.  

Exploring the vast diversity of life in the soil 

The next day, participants learned to mount samples to view them on a tabletop scanning electron microscope at the JSNN.  

Research slide for UNCG JSNN.

In the afternoon, Kavanaugh would share readouts of the DNA profiles of the samples, so participants could see how the microbial species varied in each sample. 

“If you look at a soil sample, you might have thousands of microbes, some more adaptable to the environment than others,” Herr explains. “You may find that you have a thousand different types of microbes, but there may be a family of five of them that really dominate the environment, and some of them are probably healthier for agriculture than others.” 

If you were to change management practices – adding fertilizer, for example – the distribution of soil organisms would change, Herr adds. “It’s that distribution of microbes that is key to helping understand soil health.” 

Technology feeding creative thought 

After learning about how the distribution of soil microbes varies, the instructors encouraged discussion. 

 “A lot of creative thought came out about what they could do with the technology,” Herr says. 

For example, the farmers discussed using the equipment to compare what happens to microbes when soil is tilled and when it is not tilled. 

“What came out of this was these farmers said, ‘We need a comparative study because we struggle to convince traditional farmers who tilled the soil for decades that you destroy some of the network connections between the microbes and the plants when you till,’” Herr recalls, noting that certain microbes help plants grow. 

Robert Elliott, a farmer and educator who leads the Veteran’s Farm of North Carolina, says he stresses soil health when he helps military veterans and service members who will soon be civilians learn about farming.  

“I think the workshop opened their eyes to how much life is actually in the soil,” Elliott says. “I can lecture about it all day, but when it gets down to it, it’s a ‘seeing is believing’ kind of thing.” 

A broader vision 

Herr and Read are still seeing benefits. Graduate students involved in the project received training as well, and they continue to adapt what they learned to other outreach efforts while honing their scientific communication skills. 

While the workshops’ focus was soil health, “the vision was broader than that,” Herr adds. 

Teachers could have students use the equipment to look at organisms in pond water, stormwater runoff, or a myriad other places.  

“The broader idea was giving the participants hands-on experiences where they can tinker and get ideas about biomanufacturing,” Herr says.  

“I would say that less than 1% of the population has ever used a DNA sequencer or a scanning electron microscope. Now we’re putting that capability in the hands of farmers and K-12 students,” he continues.  

“It’s introducing a new STEM world to these students. It’s a whole different world – a beautiful world.” 

Story by Dee Shore, AMBCopy  
Photography courtesy of Russ Read, FTCC and Dr. Daniel Herr, JSNN

JSNN students visit greenhouse.

What’s in your dirt?

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