Honoring Black Artists: Zaire Miles-Moultrie

Posted on February 29, 2024

UNCG student Zaire Miles-Moultrie looks over his work

Zaire Miles-Moultrie says choosing UNCG allowed him to be “who I wanted to be.” In one year, the entrepreneurship and fine art double major has launched an exhibit, taken first place at UNCG’s undergrad expo, and become an AXA Art Prize finalist.

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UNCG Police Seeking Community Feedback for Reaccreditation Process

Posted on February 28, 2024

A UNCG police officer walks across campus with the police K-9.

The UNC Greensboro Police Department (UNCG PD) will host a four-year, on-site assessment from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. (CALEA®). The assessment is part of the CALEA reaccreditation process for UNCG PD. Police departments accredited by CALEA are highly regarded for their recognition of public safety excellence.

CALEA assessor, Chief Kenneth Rogers from Mississippi State University Police Department, will arrive at UNCG on March 10, 2024, to examine all aspects of the UNCG Police Department’s policy and procedures, management, operations, and support services. The goal of the CALEA assessor is to verify that the department meets the Commission’s state-of-the-art standards. 

As part of the reaccreditation process, University employees and members of the community are invited to offer comments related to the department’s compliance with the CALEA standards, engagement in community service, delivery of public safety services and overall candidacy for accredited status. 

Public comments can be given via the CALEA public comment portal found on the UNCG Police Department website. The overall intent of the accreditation process is to provide the department with information to support continuous improvement, as well as to foster the pursuit of professional excellence. 

A list of standards can be found on the CALEA website. For more information regarding the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. visit calea.org

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UNCG and Guilford College Create Collaborative “Compost” Exhibition

Posted on February 28, 2024

UNCG student looks at artwork in GPS

UNC Greensboro’s School of Art students are going beyond their own classroom by collaborating with students at another local University and presenting their work to the community in an exhibition featuring real-world issues.

Christopher Thomas, UNCG’s director of foundations, printmaking, and drawing, along with Guilford College Associate Professor of Art Mark Dixon, are bringing their classes together for the collaborative project centered around environmental issues.

“We share this topic of what can artists do in the space of ecology, sustainability, and even survivability, with respect to all sorts of ecological concerns, which have political, social and personal dimensions,” says Dixon. “We are starting with a very broad net and trying to gauge how our students feel about things like climate change and extinction.”

CREATIVE COMPOST COLLABORATION

The students have been going through an “art exchange” each week – sending back and forth a box of materials, or as Thomas and Dixon call it: “a compost bin.” The exhibition of the student’s work is at Greensboro Project Space aptly titled “Compost Collab 2024.”

“We talked about these issues of ecology and sustainability from an art perspective,” says Thomas. “Compost as a metaphor is easy to grasp, it has to do with breakdown, deconstruction, or regeneration, a kind of recycling.”

Materials from the box, including prints, photos, writing, and more get turned over and reconstructed into something new.

“It is a way for us to start thinking about collaboration,” says fourth-year student Judith Briand. “We’ve been reading a book called ‘The Artist’s Way,’ which is really about taking things in and meditating on those things, while also thinking about our art in a non-distractive way.”

“We’re really thinking about compost’s ultimate complexity – how soil is unknowable and the whole breakdown is rich and fertile. It is a very confusing space,” says Dixon. “These students have the incredible challenge of moving from that space, compost, to growing something.”

SOMETHING IN THE UNCERTAINTY

And if the project seems a bit open ended – Thomas and Dixon say that’s the point. “There’s something in the uncertainty,” says Dixon. “If you’re an 18- or 22-year-old and you’ve inherited a world where there cannot be a future that looks like today, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“I don’t think anyone had an exact direction when we first started collaborating,” says Briand, who is earning her bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in new media and design. Hearing everyone’s ideas helped solidify our own direction and I think the compost box had something to do with that as well.”

Briand’s work is focused on the sustainability of fashion, particularly clothing and textiles.

“That’s where my sustainability journey started. My own relationship with the world and waste in this current climate,” she says. “I didn’t know where to start, it was overwhelming. But years ago, I stopped participating in buying new clothes and looked to renewable options.”

RETHINKING FASHION

For the GPS exhibition, Briand has taken donated clothing from stores like Goodwill and the UNCG’s Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies open closet and printed slogans on the items to bring awareness of sustainability in the fashion industry. The piece is also interactive, with a clothing rack of available clothes for people to take, if needed.

Fourth-year student Luz Borrayo is also focusing on sustainability in fashion for her piece. Borrayo built a loom in her home as a starting point for her eventual work at GPS.

“The actual piece is the patches that I’m working on within the loom,” says Borrayo, a studio art major with a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies. “I’ve taken a bunch of clothing and I’ve been cutting it up into strips and tying it together and looming it.”

Borrayo is working to make the project even more sustainable but using the clothing scraps to make a table mold which will hold pamphlets for people to learn more about her artwork and sustainability.

While Thomas’ class is focused on printmaking and Dixon’s is on sculpture, the students are not required to stay within one medium.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to have a chance to extend themselves. This is also an excuse to allow young artists to work together,” says Thomas. “They’re in the same city, but they might never cross paths and it’s a missed opportunity when there’s not this chance to network and see how other people are operating.”

The “Compost Collab 2024” exhibit is on display at Greensboro Project Space until March 2. A public reception with the students will be held on February 29 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

UNCG alum Ashe Smith works on an art piece involving two TVs in Greensboro Project Space

Collaborate Creatively

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UNCG Scientist Fueled by Passion for Public Parks

Posted on February 28, 2024

A man smiles at the camera in front of a public park

As a teenager in Illinois, Benjamin Hickerson worked just about every job he could in public parks, including cutting the grass, refereeing sporting events, and helping in the front office.

Across these roles, he adopted an unofficial title: people watcher.

“It was fascinating to see so many people coming to the same park with so many different ideas of what they were going to do there,” he says. “Watching people always provided me with new fodder to consider.”

Now, as an associate professor in the Department of Community and Therapeutic Recreation, Dr. Hickerson turns his fascination with park users into social science research. He’s particularly interested in people’s perceptions of the purposes of public parks.

“We’re trying to figure out how to empower everyone through the development of parks and make sure everybody’s interests are in mind,” Hickerson says.

Public Perspective on Parks

Hickerson’s recent research centers on public attitudes toward people experiencing homelessness who are using the park for personal needs, including shelter. This is a timely topic, as the number of people experiencing homelessness who are seeking shelter in public places, known as unsheltered homelessness, has increased across the U.S.

“People have varying opinions about whether that’s acceptable or not, and this has been a big topic in the city of Greensboro,” he says.

Hickerson’s goal is to better understand people’s perspectives towards parks and recreation providing housing support, such as connecting people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing, and service-related assistance, such as providing free meals.

With colleagues Dr. Lauren Mullenbach and Dr. Nick Pitas, Hickerson conducted a national survey of 952 individuals, the majority of whom were park users. The survey was funded by a UNCG School of Health and Human Sciences Faculty Research Grant.

The scientists found that younger people, regular park users, and more affluent individuals are in general, more favorable toward agencies providing a variety of housing and service-related support. People had the highest level of agreement with the following actions: providing temporary shelter at parks during adverse weather, allowing access to bathrooms for hygiene during specific times, and connecting those living in parks with resources.

A man walks in front of a sign that states Park.
Hickerson walks through Greensboro’s LeBauer Park & City Center Park.

Hickerson and his colleagues explored why people may differ in their attitudes. Among their findings, they found that people who have had positive experiences with people experiencing homelessness, and who had experienced homelessness themselves, were more likely to support agencies taking action to help these individuals.

The team published these findings in both the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration and International Journal of Public Administration. They also shared their findings with the National Recreation and Park Association, which disseminates data to park leaders across the country.

“I really love this topic. It’s basic, but it’s the essence of what we wanted to do,” Hickerson says. “If I’m a park director, and I want to figure out how I can play a role in providing services to people experiencing homelessness, what are studies saying?”

Training future park leaders

Hickerson was a business major in college who had no idea his current field was a career option.

“I spent all this time working in parks and didn’t even realize that this was a profession, and I think that’s true for a lot of people,” he says. “They often overlook the importance of parks and recreation services to any audience.”

At UNCG, Hickerson is motivated to help educate future leaders, especially in a city that has such diversity in its parks and residents. Students in his Parks and Health course analyze a Greensboro census tract and propose potential park-related improvements, such as renovations or new buildings, that could aid the community.

“It’s been really cool to have a living environment that myself and my students can go into and observe and come up with real-world solutions that are hopefully going to be employed in the future,” he says.

Hickerson hopes these students, many who are the first of their families to attend college, may take the lessons they learn in these courses back into their home communities.

“They’re going to be advocates of parks and recreation wherever they go,” he says. “The principles they’re learning aren’t just for quizzes – they’re for life.”

As for Hickerson, he says he feels grateful his path has led him to UNCG.

“One of the things I love about UNCG is the integration of the University and the community,” he says. “One reason I came here was because I knew there were things to consider in parks that will really help people.”

Story by Rachel Damiani
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

A man walks in a park.

Pursue your path in parks and recreation

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UNCG Alum Makes Somethin’ Outta Nothin’ in New Cookbook

Posted on February 27, 2024

UNCG alum Lorenzo Espada does a cooking demo with Jennifer Hudson

Lorenzo Espada ’20 knew he wanted to be a chef since he was six years old: “I used to always watch cooking shows, while also learning from my mother and grandmother. Then I just started trial and error.”

That childhood aspiration has now become a reality with his first published cookbook, a massive social media following, and even an appearance on “The Jennifer Hudson Show.” Espada has found his way and come full circle, but one important stop on that journey was UNC Greensboro.

THE PERFECT RECIPE

“I started out as a kinesiology major, wanting to go into physical therapy,” says Espada, who is from Gastonia, North Carolina. Then, I had my daughter in 2019 and needed to transition to online education. That’s when I found the integrated professional studies program.”

Espada earned a bachelor of science degree in professional studies from UNCG’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2020. He credits the program with helping him earn his degree while juggling the demands of raising a family. The professional studies degree program is fully online and designed for working professionals to help them develop depth in their area of interest.

“I was working at the time and focusing on that degree helped me settle down and figure out what direction I wanted to go,” he says. “It was perfect for me.”

It was also at UNCG where he started to polish his professional cooking skills – selling hot meals to students.

“I had this idea around how college students can’t get that home-cooked meal every weekend,” he says. “So, I was trying to figure out how to incorporate that sort of nice Sunday meal experience.”

EATING WITH ZO

Soon, Espada was doing catering, planning brunches, and organizing private dinners. All the while, he was also posting on social media, updating his followers on his recipes.

“I was just trying to get my feet wet and make content,” he says. “I really didn’t know what I was doing. So, it took a long time to get where I am today.”

After graduating amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Espada zeroed in on his cooking aspirations and social media efforts. Now, he has about 2 million followers on his Instagram and TikTok all focused on one rule: keep it simple.

“I want to show you how to make amazing recipes that not only look good, but are easy to make and taste good,” he says. “I don’t believe in making something that takes five million steps and then you come out with the wrong product at the end.”

SOMETHIN’ OUTTA NOTHIN’

Espada also started writing e-cookbooks to share his recipes, but in 2023 he went offline and onto bookstore shelves with his first physical cookbook “Somethin’ Outta Nothin’.”

“It was the first time I ever was able to have a physical product in people’s hands and homes,” he says. “It was amazing. It’s still mind blowing to me.”

When designing the cookbook, Espada kept in mind his theme of simplicity and ease.

“I didn’t want it to come off as Michelin 5 Star restaurant plating quality. I wanted it to look nice, but at the same time, look like it could be in your kitchen,” he says.

The cookbook features 100 different “creative comfort food” recipes, including twice-baked loaded chicken and broccoli potatoes, crab cake stuffed cheddar biscuits, and peach cobbler pound cake.

Jammin’ with JHud

Espada even had the chance to share his sweet potato stuffed French toast recipe with Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner Jennifer Hudson when he was invited on her daytime talk show.

“It was a surreal moment,” he says. “Jennifer Hudson was amazing. It was a moment where I was able to go on national television and showcase my story, showcase who I am with my recipes, and just have fun,” he says. “It’s just this energetic and authentic moment. I’m all about authenticity.”

Espada has done cooking demos in the past, including on a YouTube show promoted by chef Gordon Ramsay, but his success continues to rise, and he says none of it would have happened without UNCG.

“The University education got me to where I am today,” he says. “I turned 18 the day I got to college and started developing my social and problem-solving skills, then learning how to start a business. I definitely credit UNCG for that.”

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Lorenzo Espada

Earn A Degree That Fits Your Life

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Honoring Black Artists: Princess Johnson

Posted on February 26, 2024

UNCG alumna Princess Johnson smiles

UNCG alumna Princess Johnson ’07 will be taking audiences on “The Hair Journey,” in her original ballet, premiering in April. Tickets are now on sale.

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Funding Friday: Farm Resilience and Lithium

Posted on February 23, 2024

A UNCG faculty member and student work with plants in the greenhouse.

Nearly two dozen funding announcements support faculty’s efforts to better understand topics such as anticancer leads, childhood obesity risks, and outdoor recreation.

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UNCG Professors Spark Innovative Learning in NC High Schools

Posted on February 23, 2024

2 professors make a presentation about esports academic endeavors to other adults in the esports arena.
Greg Greive and John Borchert work with other professors to develop academic content related to video gaming. Photo by Sean Norona.

UNC Greensboro’s commitment to developing a pipeline that streams students into profitable jobs in the video game industry now includes reaching into high school classrooms.  

UNCG Scholastic Esports Alliance and the Network for the Cultural Study of Videogaming (NCSV) has partnered with SparkNC to provide on-demand learning experiences for high school students designed by UNCG professors.  

Igniting High School Minds 

SparkNC is a non-profit organization that works with school districts across the state to encourage students to discover careers in high-tech fields like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and software development. Currently, SparkNC is connected with 17 North Carolina school districts to offer students educational opportunities outside of the traditional classroom in SparkLabs.  

Students in a SparkNC classroom watch a monitor featuring an instructor who is leading the class virtually.
High schoolers in a SparkLab.

In these lab settings, students choose from a catalog of learning experiences that build their skills in a personalized way, and SparkLab leaders have flexibility to support their students in collaborative ways. Students explore the units at their own pace and once completed, they can demonstrate their skills by building portfolio entries to share when they apply for college or tech jobs.  

This is the ideal environment to present high school students with educational concepts related to video gaming and introduce them to career paths they may not be aware of. Since professors are already offering courses like this at UNCG, helping SparkNC develop curricula was simple. 

Adapting College Courses for High Schoolers 

UNCG faculty members from varied disciplines drew from courses they teach to develop the units that were introduced through the SparkNC digital platform in the fall of 2023. 

“The professors were challenged with adapting their courses to make them accessible to a highschooler,” SparkNC Senior Director Dana Brinson explains. “But I love the intellectual rigor that each professor brought to the modules. Students are supported to build their analytical skills and use conceptional thinking that they may not even be aware of because it is packaged in such an intriguing and interesting way. It was a great marriage of the skill sets of both of our teams.” 

Content of the units includes video game designing, video game theory, and using video games to learn other subjects: 

When a Spark Lab student selects one of the UNCG modules, they immediately see the UNCG esports logo with credit that the lessons are made possible through a partnership with the NCSV and through the expertise of the professor who developed the course. “We really thought it was important for students to understand that these are examples of areas of learning that are possible at UNCG,” says Brinson. 

Screenshot of a desktop with SparkLab dashboard featuring video game controller icons and unit names.

Fueling Academic Interests 

The game design units have been very popular in the Spark Labs, not only for gamers who want to design their own creations, but for students who are interested in music or art and want to apply their passions to a medium like video games. The music unit has inspired many students to build their own video game soundtracks.  

Student in a SparkLab works with an instructor.
SparkLab student studies video game soundtracks with his instructor.

Individual learners appreciate the buildable skills offered by the modules and traditional classes have also been using the Spark Lab units developed by UNCG professors. High school teachers are finding that units like “Questioning Narratives” reinforce concepts taught in classes like language arts in ways that are engaging for high schoolers.  

Brinson says that new educational connections are discovered every day.  

“Our Guilford County Schools lab brought in a health class to explore UNCG’s ‘Health Hacks for Esports’ unit and study nutrition and mental health for competitive gamers,” Brinson says. “And our New Hanover County Schools lab students were inspired by music from a game they explored in the “Gods, Heroes and Monsters” unit, so they reached out to the composer, Darren Korb, who joined the lab via zoom to talk about his work and the process of world building in games through music.”   

Broadening UNCG’s Educational Reach 

Professor talks to a student in the esports arena.
John Borchert discusses connects with a student in the esports arena. Photo by Sean Norona.

Contributing professor and NCSV Director John Borchert is passionate about reaching students in new ways through partnerships like this one. 

“I have this dream of a student completing high school by learning in modules like SparkNC provides, and then coming to a school like UNCG where they can continue learning and building skill sets that are truly based on their specific interests and goals,” Borchert says.  

UNCG’s involvement in the project illustrates the University’s commitment to improving education in North Carolina and enhancing the state’s economy through career prep for high-tech industries. Furthermore, the partnership presents UNCG educational opportunities directly to prospective students. It’s a win-win effort for all involved. 

“Partnerships like this make education better for all learners in North Carolina,” Borchert says. “I’d love to roll out more of these modules as we introduce new courses. It’s a great model for making higher education accessible for all.” 

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography submitted by SparkNC, unless otherwise noted.

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Meet the Meshroom: A Mash-Up of Art, Dance, and Music

Posted on February 23, 2024

A person dances with their arms outstretched

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Honoring Black Artists: Robin Gee

Posted on February 22, 2024

UNCG professor Robin Gee dances with her back turned to camera. A group of people dancers in front of her.

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