The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

Professors Bring Expertise to UNC

Though these accomplishments sound like those of famous figures, all of these have been achieved by UNC faculty.

Students might view their professors as one-dimensional instructors, but many of UNC's faculty are considered experts in their fields and are respected and known around the world.

Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff said she is proud of the national and international presence of many of UNC's faculty members.

She said it is astonishing how many people have editorial appointments -- such as advising a journal in their specific field -- or sit on boards that review funding and endowment.

"I can safely assume that the senior faculty are all recognized as outstanding in their field, and the junior faculty are more than on their way," Estroff said.

Journalism Professor Phil Meyer is one of those accomplished senior faculty members.

Meyer has been a leader in establishing precision journalism. Practicing journalism in the 1960s, he discovered that existing tools for reaching sources were inadequate for covering events such as the civil rights movement.

In response, Meyer used social science research methods to develop ways to increase accuracy in journalism.

Meyer is consulted two or three times a month by various newspaper representatives who want help interpreting polls. He also has written five books and published numerous articles in scholarly journals.

Along with teaching a graduate level course in mass communication research methods this semester, Meyer has a grant from the Knight Foundation for research on measuring quality in journalism.

"(Teaching and research) are beautifully integrated," Meyer said. "I've got a lot of student support on this research project."

Another professor who has reaped benefits from research and has been recognized for her work is psychology Professor Regina Carelli.

Carelli,who has taught at UNC for five years, received a surprising call in July telling her that she, along with 59 other scientists and engineers, had won the Presidential Early Career Award.

The award, created by the National Science and Technology Council in 1996, acknowledges promising work by scientists and engineers.

"I went to the White House to receive the award," Carelli said. "It was very exciting."

Carelli won the award for her research project on the biological basis of drug addiction

Carelli first realized she was interested in biological psychology during her undergraduate years. Now she teaches both undergraduate and graduate level classes, including physiological psychology and various seminars on the biological basis of behavior.

"It's a great balance -- to do some teaching both in the laboratory and in the classroom and to do research that you love," Carelli said.

Husband and wife team Bill Svanoe and Joan Darling also have struck a balance between doing what they love and teaching what they love.

The couple has moved from Hollywood to teach for a year at UNC.

Darling, an Emmy Award winner who has directed and acted in television shows such as "M.A.S.H" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," teaches dramatic arts classes.

Svanoe is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has had several plays produced in the United States and Europe. He is now teaching beginning screenwriting and playwriting classes at UNC.

"A friend teaching at UNC arranged for us to come to teach," Svanoe said. "We're very excited to be here."

Svanoe said Darling's involvement with teaching led to his own start in the field. They have taught various seminars and workshops and given guest lectures at colleges around the country.

Head of UNC's creative writing department Marianne Gingher is yet another nationally recognized professor on campus. Gingher has written three books in the past decade -- "A Girl's Life," "Bobby Rex's Greatest Hit," and "Teen Angel."

"I've been interested in writing since the first grade, ever since I learned how to write," Gingher said. "Writing is a childhood addiction that never went away."

She cites her children, friends and students as sources of inspiration for her books.

"I learn an awful lot from students -- more than they realize they're teaching me," Gingher said.

Gingher, who has been at UNC since 1975, teaches "Introduction to Fiction" and an intermediate fiction workshop for undergraduates. She said her years of experience have only fueled her optimism for creative writing.

"Refinement of the revision process is the best tool to sharpen, and I learn how to sharpen my toolshed working with students," she said. "The longer I've done it, the more energetic I become."

Another known author in the creative writing department is Lecturer Sarah Dessen, who writes young adult books.

Her first two books, "That Summer" and "Someone Like You," will be combined and made into a movie starring Mandy Moore. It is tentatively titled "How to Deal" and is slated for release in February 2003.

Dessen said teaching and writing novels at the same time was tiring when she started, but she enjoys the challenge.

"You draw from the same creative energy," she said. "Plus you get a really nice summer break."

Estroff said vacation time and other perks are just a small part of the reason UNC attracts top faculty such as Meyer, Carelli, Svanoe, Darling, Gingher and Dessen.

"It's not just about the salary and benefits," she said. "They know there are other really excellent people here. Success kind of rubs off on you."

The Features Editor can be reached at features@unc.edu.

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