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UNC-system happenings for September 2, 2014

Poverty in NC on the rise

A recent report analyzing poverty in the U.S. put four North Carolina cities among the top 15 urban areas with the fastest growing number of poverty-stricken residents.

The report, published by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, included the Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point areas. 

Keith Debbage, a geography professor at UNC-Greensboro who studies poverty trends in the Greensboro area, said the rankings of Winston-Salem and Greensboro were not surprising because the regions rely on the tobacco and manufacturing industries.

But he said he thought Raleigh and Charlotte, with their research and banking centers, would fare better nationally. 

“It tells me that, essentially, poverty is pervasive, and every community in the state is struggling with this issue of poverty,” he said. “Nobody is immune to the hardships of the current economy.”

Tibetan monks visit UNC-A

UNC-Asheville will host a group of Tibetan monks for a week-long residency in October as part of a nationwide tour endorsed by the Dalai Lama to promote peace and cultural awareness. 

Cori Anderson, program coordinator for UNC-Asheville’s Cultural Events and Special Academic Programs, said the monks will be giving free lectures and presenting a Tibetan music and dance performance. 

The monks will also work with students from one of UNC-Asheville’s art history classes in designing and creating a community mandala, a piece of art that makes intricate designs out of colored sand that is used in meditation.

“I think that learning about diverse culture, learning about Tibet and having it be an experience for the students and the community that this is living, sacred, ancient culture — it’s not something that’s from the past,” Anderson said.

“It’s something that’s happening; it’s relevant and happening now.”

NC State studies cyborg bugs

Researchers at N.C. State University are studying the flight coordination of moths in the hopes of creating remotely controlled “biobots” that will go into disaster areas and detect survivors or dangerous chemicals. 

Alexander Verderber, one of the graduate students working on the project, said the team is observing moths to understand how they use their muscles to fly. 

He said the goal of the project is to attach sensors to remotely controlled moths, which would allow them to act as first responders in earthquakes, tornadoes and chemical spills.

“The moths would be flying overhead and hopefully be able to detect the presence of humans or be able to monitor the chemical pollution in these environments,” he said.

Verderber said that a similar project with cockroaches has so far been successful, and the team ultimately hopes to have the moths and cockroaches work together in disaster areas.

An African queen at UNC-P

Nuekie Aku Opata got the best birthday present in 2013 — she became an African queen.

Opata, a licensure officer in UNC-Pembroke’s School of Education, is the granddaughter of the former chief of the Shai Tribe of Tema, Ghana. 

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Opata said she was instated in an official ceremony this summer, which included adopting a new name to signify her status. She’ll continue to work at UNC-Pembroke, but she said she’ll visit Ghana each summer. 

She said she was told by her father on her birthday that she could be instated as the tribe’s Queen Mother. 

“The first thing I asked him was, ‘Is this a paid position — do I get some money?’” she said. “And he started laughing and said, ‘No, it’s not paid; it’s birthright.’”

She said she is focusing on developing education for the girls of her tribe by collecting school supplies for them. She is also working with the mayor of her hometown, Laurinburg, N.C., on making Tema an official sister city.

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