Cody Ellis Hired as Head Coach of UNCG Baseball

Posted on May 30, 2024

UNCG Baseball Coach Cody Ellis speaks to a player in the dugout.

Days after being named the 2024 SoCon Coach of the Year and SoCon Sports Media Association Coach of the Year, Cody Ellis has had the interim tag removed from his title.

News

2023-2024 Year in Review

Posted on May 29, 2024

UNCG students enjoy a nice day on campus with food trucks.
Students enjoy a nice day on campus with food trucks at UNCG's annual Spartapalooza celebration.

Every year at UNC Greensboro begins with excitement and anticipation of what students, faculty, and staff will achieve. From earning their dream degrees to beautifying the campus in ways that will last for future students, they’ve done much to celebrate during the 2023-24 academic year:

Thriving Learning Environment 

The year culminated in more than 4,700 degrees conferred in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024. Among their graduates is Nick Loflin ’23, a Greensboro firefighter who sought new opportunities and used his knowledge of handling life-saving resources to earn his master’s in applied economics. Mother-daughter duo Dena and Rylee Blossey ’24 donned caps and gowns together after getting their bachelors of fine art in interior architecture

2023 was an incredible year for research funding, with more than $67 million raised, a 74 percent increase over five years. That work by UNCG faculty was featured in the Research Magazine, including the work of Biology Professor Gideon Wasserberg to understand how disease may potentially spread via ticks and chiggers in North Carolina. The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) celebrated 15 years of raising new leaders in ground-breaking technology. 

All of these speak to the reputation of UNCG’s academics and research. The work of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to increase its representation of professors and students helped UNCG earn its sixth consecutive Insight into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award. Thirty faculty made the coveted Stanford-Elsevier List for being among the most cited scientists in the world, based on data from nearly 35,000 peer-reviewed journals. 

Thanks to a landmark $5 million grant secured this year from the Mellon Foundation, hundreds of UNCG’s humanities students will receive paid internships at local non-profits beginning in Spring 2025.

Lead by Example

UNCG brought onboard new faculty with years of research and practical experiences to inspire their students. The College of Visual and Performing Arts added renowned artists such as Broadway performer Janinah Burnett and UNCG alumnus Hugh Hysell ’88 MFA

Staff went above and beyond to promote a welcoming and safe study environment for students. The work of Mahdi Fahim, director of research operations and environmental health and safety, garnered an award for JSNN. Biology research specialist Lee Griffin led by example while taking part in a popular PBS show about having respectful conversations amid disagreement. 

Faculty find engaging ways to give to the community. Public Health Education Associate Professor Mike Perko started the 500 Fist Bumps initiative to build self-esteem in children playing sports.

Engaged With the World Around Them 

Real-world impact begins before graduation at UNCG, and students jumped at the chance to work on projects with immediate results in the community. The School of Nursing put into gear the Minerva’s Mobile Health clinic, a place that can bring the care of students, faculty, and staff directly into underserved communities. Their new family nurse practitioner concentration will help more medical professionals realize their dreams. 

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, UNCG can lift another weight off the shoulders of students by providing free childcare to qualifying student-parents. Meanwhile, the School of Education worked closely with public schools to form a cohort of current educators studying for their master’s in library and information science, helping fill the need for dedicated library or media specialists in area schools. 

In the consumer, apparel, and retail studies department, students partnered with elementary students to design outfits for their morning news show. 

Since retirement, Professors Emeriti Ron Cassell and Keith Cushman keep members of the community coming back for more with their popular film course “The Profs Do the Movies.” 

Campus Enhancements 

Spartans got creative when it came to maximizing the physical campus space to improve the learning environment. UNCG launched Spartans Thrive to help them tap into wellness resources and prioritize all dimensions of physical and mental health. For a second year, they used iBelong grants for projects such as a fashion show with Native American-inspired clothing and create a special recognition of kindness on campus, all about making everyone feel more welcome at UNCG. 

The Spartan Recovery Program expanded, giving students who have been struggling with addiction more room to build a supportive network of peers and map out a plan to help them prevail through the stressful demands of college life. 

Interior architecture student Lisa Williams created a new sensory room, using artwork, aromatherapy, scarf swings, buttons, textured fabrics, and sound devices to create a place for her fellow Spartans to relax and focus. Welcoming efforts extend to wildlife, as UNCG became an affiliate of Bee Campus USA for creating a healthy habitat for pollinators. 

In Moran Commons, students refill their coffee cups and hang out at the new cafe at Fountain View or meet up at the community piano, the brainchild of one student to bring people together through music. 

On the Ball 

Spartans celebrated some impressive upsets in athletics. Men’s basketball triumphed over No. 14 Arkansas in their first Southeastern Conference win and their first win against a Top 25 team. The baseball team saw two wins against a ranked opponent, topping No. 1 Wake Forest 4-3 at home and NC State 18-3

Two coaches also hit milestones. Women’s basketball coach Trina Patterson saw her 300th career win in a match against Mercer, while softball Coach Janelle Breneman saw her 500th victory while her team swept in-state foe Elon in a doubleheader. Baseball Interim Head Coach Cody Ellis was named SoCon Coach of the Year

UNCG will celebrate some of its star alumni this summer, retiring the jerseys of basketball players Isaiah Miller and Francis Alonso, two of the most decorated players in program history.

Fun to be a Spartan 

The 2023-24 University Concert and Lecture Series continued to connect College of Visual and Performing Arts with professional artists and performers. One of those to hold a masterclass was acclaimed singer-songwriter Jewel

A Week at the G returned in October, in which campus staff, students, and faculty took photographs as they went about their days, capturing fun moments, slices of life, and campus beauty. 

UNCG also celebrated some of its traditions that bridge all generations of students. The Rawk turned 50 years old. It has stood in a central location on campus since it was gifted by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity in 1973, where it has served as a community bulletin board to mark celebrations and awareness campaigns. 

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications 
Photography by Sean Norona, David Lee Row, and Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Video by David Lee Row, University Communications

Students chatting in Moran Commons at UNCG.

Join a dedicated community of learning.

News

Spartan Tours with ‘Hairspray!’

Posted on May 28, 2024

UNCG acting major and

UNCG acting major Gabriel Yarborough’s lifelong dreams of performance have brought him into the cast of the popular show’s revival. His tour stops in North Carolina with shows in Charlotte from May 31 to June 2.

News

Cozart, Ellis Highlight Baseball’s 20 All-SoCon Recognitions

Posted on May 23, 2024

Featured Image for Cozart, Ellis Highlight Baseball’s 20 All-SoCon Recognitions

UNCG baseball senior Caleb Cozart was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year, while Interim Head Coach Cody Ellis earned SoCon Coach of the Year.

News

CLASS OF 2024: KATHERINE WYRICK PURSUES HER PASSION FOR LITERATURE

Posted on May 24, 2024

Student in a cap and gown holds a T.S. Eliot book in an inset shot over a background photo of UNCG's Humanities Building.

As Katherine Wyrick ’24 completes her UNCG undergraduate studies in English, she looks ahead to a fully funded master’s program at Wake Forest University.

News

UNCG Applied Sport Psychology Professor Studies what Motivates Athletes

Posted on May 23, 2024

A headshot of a professor with the UNCG logo behind him.

In high school, Alan Chu was on the path to becoming a professional table tennis player when his motivation started to slip. He lost close matches at a junior national team trial. He was feeling the pressure of juggling academics with five sports.

Chu decided to give the sport one last shot by joining the City University of Hong Kong’s table tennis team. The experience changed his relationship with the game.

“To be honest, I thought I’d play for one or two months,” Chu says. “But then, I had a really supportive coach and team that kept me going.” He went on to captain the championship winning team.

Losing and rediscovering his motivation sparked Chu’s interest in helping other athletes – both through hands-on work and scholarly discovery. Now, he’s an associate professor of applied sports psychology in UNCG’s Department of Kinesiology with research centered on better understanding athlete motivation.

“After my own experience with sports, I became really curious about how different people in the environment impact athletes’ motivation,” he says. “I’m interested in the dynamics within the team and how a coach impacts the player.”

Identity matters, and not just the athlete’s

Growing up in Hong Kong, Chu says he had no problem fitting in. That changed when he moved to a new country.

“I came to the U.S. speaking English as a third language and not playing football or baseball. That journey gave me a different lens and a sense of what it’s like to be underrepresented as an ethnic minority in sport,” he says. “Now, I want to look at those layers and unpeel them as much as I can.”

Chu is researching how an athlete’s background may relate to their experience of their coach’s support – or lack thereof. In a recent study, he compared how Hispanic, Black, and White high school and college athletes perceived their sporting environment.

“There have been quite a few studies on this topic looking at gender and cultural differences from a qualitative standpoint, but they have not looked at the combination of these factors using a quantitative approach, which is crucial,” says Chu.

A professor sits around a round table with his students.
Chu trains graduate students for jobs in applied sports psychology.

His findings contained some surprises: they showed that while Black males had the most negative perceptions of their coaching climate and satisfaction with their psychological needs, Black females had the most positive perceptions.

“When individuals have more than one marginalized identity, they tend to feel isolated and less supported,” Chu says “So, it was surprising that Black females had the most positive perceptions of their sports environments, which were mostly male-dominated spaces in this study.”

In future studies, Chu plans to explore how athletes from more backgrounds, including Asian, Indigenous and Native American athletes, perceive their coaches. He also hopes to conduct studies with larger samples and different types of colleges.

Moving forward, Chu suggests coaches take a nuanced and personalized approach to ensure athletes from all backgrounds feel supported in sports.

“Even though your coaching approach may work for 80 percent of your athletes, it doesn’t mean you should just stick with that approach,” he said. “There may be some athletes that need a different method, and you have to adapt.”

It’s not only coaches who affect the athlete.

Chu has also recently investigated the roles parents may play. He found that athletes perceived parents who had previously played sports as being more supportive in fostering their personal growth – and less focused on winning – compared to athletes whose parent didn’t play sports.

Winning the mind game

While Chu’s findings suggest many people play a key role in athletes’ motivations, he’s also curious about how an athlete’s own internal monologue can shape their motivation and performance – a topic Chu knows all too well.

“I tried out for the junior national team, and that was probably one of the most difficult moments in my sports journey,” he says. “I actually had a pretty good shot at it, but I got nervous and made mistakes. I was upset with myself, and of course, ended up losing more right after.”

Chu now studies how mindfulness and self-compassion can ground an athlete. When athletes make inevitable mistakes, how can they cultivate their own positive internal monologue and compassion to buoy them?

From research to the real world

As a Certified Mental Performance Consultant Chu puts his research – from mindfulness to fostering a supportive environment – into action. He trains athletes and shares evidence-based strategies.

He also teaches the next generation of athlete wellness professionals in UNCG classrooms. There, he finds new research leads and inspiration.

“The more I’m in this field, the more I’m stuck in my own way of doing things,” Chu says. “But then, students give me some creative tools and make it fun.”

Where his students land after UNCG also expands his understanding of the impact of his field. He says many of them begin working in the military after graduating: an environment where applied sport and performance psychology can make a big difference.

“Training helps athletes to be more confident and focused. In the military, that’s even more important because you have a smaller margin of error,” he says.

These skills can make a difference in everyday environments, too. He says undergraduates, whom he teaches in his Psychological Skills for Optimal Performance course, may even find it helpful in their activities off the court.

“These undergrads say that learning about sport psychology helps them with their anxiety about tests, presentations, and experiences in their daily life.”

Chu also applies his research to his own life every now and then while playing table tennis – now a hobby instead of a career.  

“My mental game is so strong now,” he says with a laugh.

Story by Rachel Damiani
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

A student displays a soccer ball with inspirational statements.

Ready to put sport psychology into action?

News

NCInnovation Grant Goes Toward UNCG Professor’s Lithium Refining Research

Posted on May 20, 2024

Dr. Hemali Rathnayake in her JSNN lab coat in front of a microscope machine at UNCG.

Lithium is a component of batteries used in phones and vehicles. At UNCG, Dr. Hemali Rathnayake leads pioneering research into a more efficient and cost-effective method of converting lithium.

News

5 Perks of a UNCG Degree That Maximize Lifelong Earnings

Posted on May 21, 2024

Students walk down College Ave in UNCG t-shirts.

For high school students contemplating their next step, advice is a mixed bag these days. From trade schools and gap years to military service and job offers, the choices are vast. Attending an expensive college can lead to debt and going straight to work can minimize lifelong earnings, but matching personal goals with the right environment enlightens a path forward. 

Graduate walks across stage in cap and gown with arms raised in a muscle flex pose.

UNC Greensboro’s accolades prove that Spartans are making practical decisions that prioritize a return on their educational investment. UNCG is consistently ranked high for excellence, value, and overall student experience including: 

Rankings give prospective students a sketch of what UNCG can do for them, but the unexpected benefits of a UNCG education bring color and detail to a student’s vision of their future, and those benefits are best described by Spartans themselves.  

1. Diversity Immersion 

Alyssa Odom, a public health major with plans to be a licensed social worker, looked for diversity when she toured colleges. “I chose UNCG because of its diversity. I wanted to go to a school that looks like the real world.”  

Students arrive at UNCG from different backgrounds, socio-economic groups, and interests and are encouraged to be their most authentic selves as they learn and grow here. They meet new people, work in teams, and prepare themselves to serve diverse communities and global corporations.  

Additionally, when students search for experiences beyond North Carolina, UNCG’s International Programs Center (IPC) makes study abroad accessible to all regardless of a student’s economic status. IPC brings the world to Spartans, preparing them to bring cultural sensitivity, foreign language skills, and worldly perspectives that demand high salaries from employers.  

Dana Broadus ’23 had never been on a plane before she enrolled in the Lloyd International Honors College and embarked on a college experience that included studying abroad in Spain, a campus job at University Communications, and undergraduate research. “My journey at UNCG has broadened my world in ways I could never have imagined,” she said. 

2. Career Exploration and Inspiration 

The college environment at UNCG encourages creativity, experimentation, and a healthy exchange of ideas. This not only makes the campus a place for learning, but also for self-exploration.  

A high school graduate may think they’ve found the perfect career and can go straight to work or enroll in a trade school, but what if they find the work unfulfilling? College students participate in campus jobs, service and social organizations, research labs, and take classes in varied academic programs. This helps them match their interests and skills with applicable career options. 

What’s more, UNCG’s size makes it big enough to allow students to sample widely different programs, but small enough to connect with advisors and peer mentors for help navigating the choices at their fingertips.  

Sarah Korb ’24 arrived at UNCG with an interest in music and biochemistry, and her UNCG experience led to an acceptance in a prestigious chemistry PhD program at Princeton University. “It’s beneficial how close I was able to get to my professors here,” she said. “They know me well and could easily highlight my experience and strengths. The publication and sheer amount of research I’ve done at UNCG was also key to my Princeton acceptance.”   

Career exploration leads to long-term happiness, which is what Sam Giron considered when he made a drastic pivot from chemistry to the esports concentration in the hospitality and tourism management major at UNCG. “I know that esports is something I can be happy with,” Giron confidently stated. “My first class with Dr. Erick Byrd, combined with the professionals I’ve met at campus tournaments, has me convinced that it will be a profitable career.”   

3. Time Management Life Skills  

The academic exploration and student engagement encouraged on a busy campus like UNCG creates a secondary perk for students – time management skills. Campus resources help students balance academics with healthy living and make time for activities that mean the most to them. 

Student and professor in lab coats work with hi-tech science equipment in a lab.
Marcos Tapia works with Dr. Hematian in a UNCG lab.

Students living on campus learn firsthand about balancing school with work and knowing when to take on new responsibilities, and this is a life skill that all adults need. Furthermore, professionals who multitask are built for leadership positions.  

An excellent example is UNCG’s 2024 Goldwater Scholar, Marcos Tapia. His mentor Dr. Shabnam Hematian credited his dexterity for the prestigious appointment: “Our lab is very collaborative and interdisciplinary, so we have a lot of projects going on at once and Marcos is a strong multitasker. His experience has broadened his perspective of chemistry,” said Hematian. “This honor is the culmination of his hard work, curiosity, and initiative.” 

4. Presentation Polish and Shine 

Not only did Tapia’s time management skills lead to his scholarship, but he gained effective presentation skills at UNCG. Tapia took advantage of opportunities to attend conferences and present his research. And like any good scientist, he never wavered from asking questions. 

Interactions like these prepare students for the most intense interviews for high paying positions. But rather than building confidence through competition, UNCG’s network of mentors builds confidence through cooperation. Students watch presentations and practice sharing expertise by teaching others what they know. Collaborative college environments give students four years to perfect the art of selling themselves, a skill that always pays dividends. 

Ethan Divon, a classical studies major, won a 2024 Undergraduate Research and Creativity award for his study of video games that use Greek and Roman mythological characters and storylines. Presenting to different audiences and learning from mistakes polished his skills. “Presenting the same topic at multiple conferences allows you to improve and rework the presentation for your strengths,” he said. “The questions are always useful for improvements to your presentation.” 

5. Spartan Support – Now and Forever  

Although skipping college and going straight to work may seem like a more lucrative path in the short term, the connections built through a college network position graduates to always look out for new opportunities and salary bumps. 

Even before students graduate, faculty introduce them to opportunities like Tapia’s Goldwater Scholarship or resume-building internships. Plus, there are numerous UNCG recruiting events, job fairs and networking events at the department level. Imagine a job where your supervisor will train you to interview for a better job. All colleges do this, but UNCG’s tight-knit faculty-student relationships mean they do it in a way that is customized to each student’s goals. 

Across the country and beyond, Spartan alumni pride themselves on lighting the way for others, as others did for them. Alumni engagement and networking give graduates the opportunity to share their professional tips and success with other Spartans. It’s a connection that opens doors for career advancement. 

Recently, Dr. Ashley Leak Bryant ’03, ’05 MSN established an endowed scholarship for UNCG nursing students. Her commitment to helping future nursing students stems from the success she has found since making the decision to attend college at UNCG.  

“UNCG is a hidden gem,” she says. Her advice to tomorrow’s students is common among Spartan alumni: “Surround yourself with people who want to help you grow and succeed.” 

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

Student reads on a blanket in UNCG's quad lawn with a residence hall in the background.

Make a Commitment That Pays Dividends.

News

Siblings Deepen Bonds While Studying Nanoscience

Posted on May 17, 2024

Two JSNN students in the UNCG lab working.

Siblings share a bond like no other. And for three pairs of siblings in UNC Greensboro’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, getting to attend the school together grows that bond.

Brothers Frederick and Kelvin Adrah, sisters Tanjina and Tasmia Islam, and Panesun Tukur are pursuing Ph.D.s in nanoscience. Panesun’s brother, Frank Tukur ’23 Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow in nanoscience.

The Islam Sisters

From Bangladesh, Tanjina and Tasmia have both enjoyed their time together at UNCG as synthetic biology students, getting to work in the same lab for a while and making time to study, cook, bake, watch movies, hike, and even sing and play musical instruments together.

Tasmia joined Tanjina at UNCG when Tanjina was in her third year of the Ph.D. program.

“I was relieved to have her by my side. It felt like home again,” Tanjina says. “We have been close to each other always, so going to the same graduate school has been a blessing for us.”

Both Tasmia and Tanjina are deeply interested in science and motivated to gain knowledge, and that motivation is reflected in the accolades each has received. Both Tanjina and Tasmia have been research assistants and earned fellowships at UNCG. And both are mentored by Dr. Eric A. Josephs.

Tanjina also won a UNCG General Endowed Scholarship and the Foy and Phyllis Kohler Endowment Scholarship and had a paper published in Nucleic Acid Research (NAR).

And Tasmia is the first author on a publication featured on the cover of the prestigious journal ACS Synthetic Biology. She also received the Junior Graduate Research Assistant Award in 2022.

Tasmia says she’s enjoyed the companionship and sense of familiarity that have come from being at UNCG with her sister.

“Attending the same school provides us emotional support,” she says. “We lean on each other during stressful times, celebrate each other’s successes, and navigate the challenges of academic life together.”

The Adrah Brothers

Although Frederick and Kelvin are studying different areas within nanoscience, they find it gratifying to share ideas, attend classes together, and see each other often.

The brothers grew up in Ghana, then Kelvin went to North Carolina A&T State University for a master’s in food science and chemistry.

Kelvin came to UNCG in 2021 because of the reputation of its doctoral program in nanoscience and the expertise of its faculty members, and Frederick followed in 2022.

“My brother told me so much about the wonderful research facilities at UNCG and JSNN as well as the vibrant Greensboro community,” Frederick says.

The brothers both work hard and are determined to succeed, and that has led them to excel. Kelvin is a JSNN Rising Graduate Research Scholar, and Frederick was able to graduate with a master’s degree in nanoscience in under two years.

When their schedules allow it, the brothers enjoy playing word games like Ruzzle and Scrabble, plus outdoor soccer on weekends.

The Tukur Brothers

For Panesun Tukur, the decision to come to UNCG wasn’t difficult. At the time he applied, it was one of just two U.S. universities that offered a specialized doctoral program in nanoscience. And his brother, Frank, happened to be a student.

“At that point, the choice of coming to UNCG became clear and easy,” he says.

Frank earned his Ph.D. in nanoscience in May 2023 and works at UNCG, and Panesun is a third-year doctoral candidate. The brothers are from Africa.

Frank says he’s grateful to be with his brother at UNCG.

“First, it brings a sense of home even when living in a foreign country,” he says. “Second, it strengthens our relationship as we go through new experiences and challenges together. And third, it has a significant impact on the quality of our work – we encourage, challenge, brainstorm, and critique each other’s work in a way that only family can!”

Both Tukurs work with Dr. Jianjun Wei on research. As research collaborators, the brothers have published papers in two peer-reviewed journals, ACS Applied Nano Materials and Elsevier’s Next Materials, and have two more in review.

Panesun was also a first place poster winner at the Carolina Science Symposium in 2023 and earned a Nanoscience Rising Graduate Scholar Award this year.

The Tukurs share several traits: “We are both fueled by challenges and goals, we’re very focused, and we prefer conducting our experiments late at night when the lab is empty and quiet,” Frank says.

Still, their research and career interests are different: While Panesun is drawn to solving dilemmas related to clean energy, Frank is interested in developing inexpensive tools for early disease diagnosis.

Panesun finds having his brother close by as he pursues a challenging Ph.D. a comfort and relief. For leisure, they share a passion for soccer, even though it can bring out their differences.

As Frank explains, “We play together whenever we get the chance and watch games together — with a healthy dose of rivalry because he supports the wrong club.”

Story by Dee Shore, AMBCopy  
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications  


Two JSNN student shaking hands on inside UNCG building.

Driven to Innovate?

News

Hernandez Advances to NCAA Championship for First Appearance in Program History

Posted on May 16, 2024

UNCG golf player Kelvin Hernandez

Kelvin Hernandez of the UNC Greensboro men’s golf team finished as the top individual not on an advancing team at the NCAA Regionals at The University of Texas Golf Club to advance to the NCAA Championship.

News