Chapel Hill welcomes new students, traffic snarls and all

Our SPH Feels Their Energy

Each fall, when the new group of students arrives, energetic, enthusiastic and optimistic, it’s a major adrenaline boost for everyone here, me included. Last week was non-stop orientations. Our all-School orientation, which I wrote about last week, was the best one I’ve seen in my time here. Felicia Mebane and her team did a great job, and what a terrific group of students! I especially enjoyed our session with undergraduates. While they are fewer in number than our graduate students, they are no less important. We are better, because we have undergraduate students. In fact, undergraduate public health is a wave of the future.

Scholarship of Learning

In preparation for our Chancellor’s Retreat last week, I read several books, including Disrupting Class, by Clay Christensen, and Digital Learning by Cathy Davidson. Christenson argues that schools should move from one size fits all education to student-centered education. Although his focus was public schools, a lot of what he said applies to universities as well. Davidson asks what kind of university is possible in the digital age. The university she imagines is one that builds on the possibilities of the internet, using open source, collaborative learning, communities of interest, networked collaboration, user-generated content and more. It’s exciting to conceive of a reinvented notion of learning in which students are partners! The real challenge is how to operationalize it.

Remembering Katrina

zeitoun_david-eggers.pngwaterrolling_nyt_2010.jpgFive years ago, literally, as we were dedicating the Michael Hooker Research Center, New Orleans and the surrounding areas were being pummeled by winds of almost inconceivable rage. At the end, major parts of the city were shredded, and parts of it will never be the same. People died, lives were shattered, homes were destroyed, occupations lost, and families were cast about. We read both about the resilience of survivors, and the people whose losses continued to mount as the system made it difficult for them to recover. As usual, the poor, minorities and disadvantaged bore a disproportionate burden. We at the School helped in a variety of important ways, including welcoming some Tulane faculty and students, but we had the luxury of food and shelter. Today, on the anniversary of Katrina, I think of the people of New Orleans, especially those who still are trying to rebuild their lives. I plan on reading the book Zeitoun, which is a compelling story of the injustice experienced by one man and his family, because of their Syrian ancestry.

Planning for 2020

We began a new effort to draw a future picture of the SPH in the year 2020. It’s a picture of what people want the school to be 10 years from now.  See http://www.sph.unc.edu/sph2020. SPH2020 reflects the coming together of the School’s departments, units and our many communities, to anticipate and plan for the future we want.

Happy Monday. Barbara

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