Psychology and Self-Forgiveness: A Long Journey

About her research in self-forgiveness, Dr. Karen Neal says: “Forgiveness is a process.” The validity of that statement is most apparent in the research study Dr. Neal has been conducting over the past five years. That’s because it focuses on the person we least think of forgiving: ourselves. Her study, which follows its primarily university-based subjects through nine modules, approaches self-forgiveness holistically: it includes topics such as psychology, psychiatry, and religion. Dr. Neal, of the Psychology Department, has been working with Dr. Lauren Toussaint of Luther College, one of the leading voices in the psychology of self-forgiveness. Now, after five years of dedication and diligence, she and her research partner are looking toward publication.

After writing her dissertation on perceptions of parenting styles’ effects on children’s forgiveness, Dr. Neal knew she wanted to continue digging into the science of forgiveness. This study is a manifestation of that desire, as Dr. Toussaint allowed her to join his research in the efficacy of self-forgiveness. At the beginning of each module, subjects are given a pre-course assessment to better measure their development, from the beginning to the end of the course. According to Dr. Neal, the majority of subjects reported significant improvements in self-efficacy, dealing with guilt, self-loathing, and resentment, as well as promoting self-acceptance, all qualities necessary for positive self-worth. Neal says these results were also generally linked to positive living and good health. Although she would “never tell you ‘you have to forgive,” her research gives subjects the tools they need to start the process of forgiveness.

And while the study has been a focus for the past five years, her work doesn’t end there. Professor Neal has been a member of the Queens Psychology department for 15 years, and for 13 of those years she’s offered PSY 351 Forgiveness: Theory, Research, and Practice. The course allows students to explore similar topics in forgiveness. The flexible nature of Queens’ courses allowed Dr. Neal the freedom she craved to put together a course for all university students that gave them the tools necessary for positive self-affirmation. The course is often offered as an evening course, allowing students to lead class discussion and present research on forgiveness to a close community. Students have had just as positive a reaction to the course as subjects in the study, going so far as to create an Instagram page to further promote what they’ve learned.

“Queens was a bit of a career goal for me,” Dr. Neal says, primarily because our liberal arts approach allows students an opportunity that is rare at other institutions, especially at the undergraduate level. In effect, Queens’ liberal arts tradition has said “Yes And” to her work in forgiveness.

In spite of the pandemic, Dr. Neal continues her work in 2021, connecting with her students and promoting positive mental health practices in a time when we need them most. In fact, the way her course is organized allows for a somewhat easy transition in our new COVID-era of learning, since it’s basically a hybrid already. And though the course lacks the same synergy created from in-person connections, her students have still been engaged and dedicated to growing through the course. Her research has always focused on positive development in psychology. And in this study, we see her fostering that same positivity at Queens.

Nia Murat

Dancing with Technology; Debating with Ethics

Dancing with Technology

Recently, Dr. Eric Mullis of the Philosophy and Interfaith department earned a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in the dance program at Taiwan National University in TaiPei. Dr. Mullis will focus his course on the philosophy of the body and self when intertwined with dance and technology. In the class he will ask questions about the philosophy of body and mind in dance, and how various technologies add or take away from that. He and his students will look at technologies such as prosthetics, holographic imaging, robotics, and how they influence contemporary dance.

Dr. Mullis’s education is eclectic indeed, with degrees in both dance and philosophy, and as seen in his book, Pragmatist Philosophy and Dance: Dance Research in the American South. He also has a variety of performances on his website that display his dance research, as well as his current work.1496108248_maxresdefault.jpg
A figure of dance and technology, from Dr. Mullis’s website.

Dr. Mullis says that the Fulbright scholarship gives him an opportunity to represent Queens and teach content that he is passionate about doing at other universities and sharing pedagogies with them. He, along with other professors, will focus on not only dance, but will also have the opportunity to incorporate philosophical ideas as well. Furthermore, in the link to the course, he offers some guiding questions about the intersections of philosophy, dance, and technology: 

“What do technologies such as automata, prosthetics, robots, motion capture, and interactive digital environments reveal about embodied experience? How have dance artists considered those questions? How has contemporary dance technique been shaped by technology? How do cultural beliefs about technology factor into the reception of dance technology? What conceptual tools can be useful for the dance artist working with innovative technologies? This course uses an interdisciplinary methodology—including history, theory, and studio practice—to answer these questions”

In Mullis’s words, the Fulbright Scholarship is about more than just traveling abroad and gaining new experiences: it also entails international cooperation and collaboration, as well as an expansion in knowledge and discourse. For example, with his opportunities to share his pedagogies and research with other faculty at Taiwan University, he is able to reach students across areas of study. He really looks forward to the cooperative part of the time in Taiwan, which he feels will give him a well-rounded experience and a new perspective on both dance and philosophy. He hopes for successful cooperation and a fruitful time abroad. Additional photos and videos of his work may be viewed on his website, linked here

Debating with Ethics

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Students Tasha Groburg, Kaylor DeBrew, Brooke Edwards, Joy Ward, and Dr. Mullis at the Ethics Bowl.

Every year, Dr. Mullis and the Queens Ethics Bowl team travels to Raleigh to compete against other universities. Students work with Mullis, the team’s academic advisor, as they develop critical thinking skills, decision-making, and argumentative skills that they can then transfer to their other studies. This year, students Kayler Debrew, Joseph Hines, Joy Ward, Emely Barahona, and Tasha Groburg comprised Queens’ most successful team so far. They won three out of four rounds, on their way to becoming semifinalists.

Students on the Ethics Bowl team work with Dr. Mullis to prep these cases by engaging in various discourses throughout the semester to practice. Prepping the cases is only the first part, but it takes up an important majority of the team’s time. Mullis explains that prepping through the year is what makes them geared for success. The Ethics Bowl often incorporates current events into their cases, making it a great way to flex and develop these skills, as well as exercise them effectively. The Ethics Bowl is designed to encourage deep thinking and foster learning, while giving its competitors a taste of real-world examples. The judges and overseers are former lawyers, judges, legislators and representatives who have been working with ethics and tough decisions their whole lives. 

The Queens Ethics Bowl team is not only made up of Philosophy majors. The team also consists of Environmental Science and Political Science majors, as well as students on various tracks such as Dental, Pre-Med, and Pre-Law. Such a range of majors and tracks just goes to show just how diverse a team can be while also maintaining the strength needed to push through the various levels of competition. 

Senior Emely Barahona says that so much more goes into it than what scratched the surface: “Everyone on our team had a different skill. For example, Kayler and Joy were biology/sustainability majors so they would take on the science side while Joe, Tasha, and I were on the philosophical theory application side. We would practice each meeting, and we constantly gave each other feedback and practiced how to come up with what we were going to say under timed pressure”.

Barahona says that she has learned a lot from her time competing but ultimately, “my favorite part was being able to be the first Queens team to win three out of four rounds. It was such a huge accomplishment and something exciting we got to bring back to campus. I also loved going to Raleigh and having the reception in the museum of science and natural history! It was so cool!”

Queens is proud and privileged to have a semifinalist Ethics Bowl team! Congratulations to the members and Dr. Mullis, and may there be many more to come!
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Students Kayler Debrew, Joseph Hines, Joy Ward, Emely Barahona,
and Tasha Groburg with Dr. Mullis in Raleigh

by Izzy Harvey

Brought to You by the Jim Rogers Summer Institute: Research and Creative Collaborations

Last summer, the inaugural Jim Rogers Summer Institute swept in a new kind of student-faculty collaboration. The results were impressive: a written adaptation of a video game, a social-justice documentary, and a legal research survey. With the Institute’s generosity and vision, three pairs of students and faculty from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and the Knight School of Communication embarked on exciting research projects and creative endeavors. Jacenta Wallingford collaborated with Prof. Julie Funderburk (English department) on the adaptation, Pascalle Williams worked with Prof. Shawn Bowers (English department) on the documentary, and Emily Iknayan, the writer of this post, teamed up with Dr. Andrea McCrary (English department) on the research project.

The Jim Rogers Summer Institute “provides students immersive independent research experiences of 6 to 12 weeks on the Queens University of Charlotte campus in collaboration with or under the supervision of Queens faculty members.”

Jacenta Wallingford, a senior majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Professional Writing and Rhetoric, worked with Professor Julie Funderburk on an adaptation of adventure game What Remains of Edith Finch. Through the Institute, Wallingford was able to commence the experimental work–amalgamating poetry and prose to adapt a video game–she had not yet been able to produce in a creative writing classroom. Wallingford discussed her experience of engaging in a collaborative creative writing process with Professor Funderburk: “The mentorship part on top of the conversing about what short stories and what poems would best work to exemplify what I’m trying to do like style wise. It made me feel like that’s what writers actually do when it comes to collaborating on pieces, on work, and it helped me understand that creative writing can be collaborative. It doesn’t have to be solitary.”

Professor Funderburk described her role in the project: “The whole project was her, something she conceived of, and so really being able to work more as a guide than anything else to help her get where she was trying to go, it was an exciting place to be as a faculty member.” She elaborated on her experience working with Jacenta: “Another joy for me in working with her on this is that it was project driven and process driven and part of that is because of Jacenta’s mindset. She’s an artist, she’s a writer, and she wants to focus on that. But to be free: and I mean that to be free of grading, and to just be able to embark on process.” Wallingford’s adaptation will be about the size of a novella by the time the work is finished, but the end result is not as important as the process of the project because her goals were process-oriented.

Pascale Williams, a senior majoring in Multimedia Storytelling with a concentration in Digital Media Production, collaborated with Professor Shawn Bowers to explore how predominantly white institutions, particularly Queens, engage with students of color by way of a documentary. The idea derived from a 200-level QLC, a creative writing class about place and identity, taught by Professor Bowers that was made up of mostly international students, in which Pascale was a student. One question,“What do you want your white professor to know about how you show up mentally, physically, otherwise in a classroom?,” served as a jumping-off point for their project.

Pascale Williams filming part of her creative project

Professor Bowers described Williams as a “creative genius,” stating “I think she sees things cinematically like she just, you know, approaches the world that way,” which made a documentary an appropriate medium for the content of their project. Williams explained her goal for the project: “to tell a story that educates and empowers, I think, is my goal, a story that empowers students, educates students, empowers professors, educates professors, and also just maybe promotes some change.” Their collaboration was a critical component of their project as Williams illuminated that Professor Bowers “has been a champion of me as a student since I was a sophomore, which is when I met her in class, and her belief in me as a student and as a person has helped us, I think, propel this whole thing forward. So, I’m really, really grateful for her support and her collaboration.”

As a mentor, Professor Bowers expressed appreciation for the Jim Rogers Summer Institute allowing students to see themselves as “peers and co-collaborators and colleagues” of their professors. She emphasized the “brilliance” of her students and the importance of student-faculty collaboration: “I think it’s important for faculty and students to collaborate together. I think we faculty stand a lot to learn from our students, and I think that there’s something to be said for a relationship that puts students and faculty sort of on the same level, that hierarchy doesn’t necessarily always exist.” Together, Pascale and Professor Bowers have created work that encourages their audience to be agents of change, to interrogate what a classroom is and how it can be transformed. 

S. T. E. P. Program logo. Courtesy of Mecklenburg County Government Website

As a Professional Writing and Rhetoric and History double-major, I also had the opportunity to participate in the Jim Rogers Summer Institute. I collaborated with Dr. Andrea McCrary to research the structure and functioning of Mecklenburg County’s Supervision, Treatment, Education, and Prevention (S. T. E. P.) Program and how participants in this program see themselves. We were lucky that our research was not postponed by the pandemic because we were able to conduct our background readings, court observations, ethnographic work, interviews, and writing process virtually. Dr. McCrary appreciated how we were able to engage in “a genuinely collaborative process and not a sort of hierarchical process,” which I agreed with as the Institute allowed me to not only see myself as a student but also as a researcher. My work with Dr. McCrary was incredibly enriching as she taught me how to go about being a researcher and an equal collaborator throughout the process as we delved into a project that truly excited us. 

Dr. McCrary construed the importance of Queens having programs like the Jim Rogers Summer Institute: “I think that finding ways to provide resources to people who have projects in mind that go beyond the bounds of the academic year or that go beyond the bounds of a particular classroom really demonstrates an institution’s commitment to developing both working relationships between students and faculty, but also to helping students and faculty develop robust research projects.” Because of the Institute’s support, I am so thankful that Queens validated my scholarly interests by allowing me to participate in this program.

The results of our creative and research projects are intriguing and will be available to the Queens community. If you are interested in hearing and viewing these projects from the initial Jim Rogers Summer Institute, we will present them at Marking Excellence on 23 April.

Emily Iknayan

Happy New Year! 2021 is Here!

Spotlighting the Queens University of Charlotte CAS Success Blog staff and what they are looking forward to in 2021!

I’m Izzy Harvey, a Creative Writing major, with a double minor in Psychology and Professional Writing and Rhetoric. I’m also a junior and a Presidential Scholar. I’m from a small town in Georgia called Sharpsburg, just southwest of Atlanta, and I live in Charlotte for the school year.

This past year, Queens has supported me as a student by allowing us to continue school safely online, as well as providing assistance for my health safety as a student. Our Health and Wellness Center goes above and beyond for students, so much so that they helped me out so much during the pandemic. My professors have been very gracious and allowing of extensions and flexibility, which I am very grateful for.
Something I am looking forward to in 2021 is moving into a new house and my brother’s wedding. I am also looking forward to rejoining on campus and seeing professors!
Have a happy New Year!
Izzy Harvey

Hi! My name is Emily Iknayan, and I’m a junior double-majoring in History and Professional Writing and Rhetoric and minoring in Philosophy. I’m from and still live in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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Queens has supported me in numerous ways this year, one example being my professors asking how each student was doing before our synchronous class sessions. These acts were small but nonetheless incredibly meaningful. Additionally, I was glad I was able to continue my work in the Writing Center as a Senior Tutor so that I could support students in their writing process during this unusually difficult semester. 
In 2021, I am looking forward to completing my Professional Writing and Rhetoric Capstone. I’m hoping that the books I read over the break will help me narrow in on a topic. My first winter break read will be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. For the new year, I plan on reading more critical theory, watching a lot of movies on Criterion, learning how to make rugs, and searching for a summer internship.
Emily Iknayan

Hi! Nia Murat here, and I’m a senior double majoring in Creative Writing and Literature as well as being a part of the Queens University Honors Program. Like Izzy, I’ve had the pleasure of being a Presidential Scholar. I’m originally from Portland, Oregon and have been attending school remotely from Vancouver, Washington.

Queens has been immensely supportive this year, allowing me to continue learning remotely and giving my all the tools I need to do that from the other side of the country. Many of my professors have reached out to me to ensure my health and safety, even those I didn’t have classes with. Even with a pandemic scattering us all over the country, people at Queens still found ways of strengthening the the bonds forged in our tight knit community. In a year when isolation and separation were paramount, the support from my classmates and professors at Queens was immeasurably important.

In 2021, I look forward to finishing my Capstones, in Prose as well as Professional Writing and Rhetoric, and going on to graduate from Queens. It will be bittersweet, leaving Queens and starting my journey outside the academic sphere, but I look forward to the start of a new journey. I’m also looking forward to having the opportunity to read and write some poetry, maybe even submit some work for publication!
Nia Murat

Of Heath Care and Honey Bees: Success in the Sciences

Spotlighting the Department of Biology

As we continue to quarantine, we’ve all had to adapt to this new virtual world in a variety of ways. Yet the pandemic challenge hasn’t stopped the Biology department at Queens from continuing their work in the Charlotte community, as they pivot in these unprecedented times.

We want to highlight the work of two distinct groups of students and faculty. Students Irene Kuriakose and Jackie Kincaid have had an eventful semester working with Dr. Susan Rucker and Dr. Zahra Bahrani-Mostafavi in the Health Care Justice Student chapter. Also, Senior Madison Jays, along with Dr. Scott Weir, have found inventive ways to work on her capstone project. In the following two stories, they show how they’ve adapted–to thrive in our new virtual world.

The Health Care Student Justice chapter was started nearly three years ago at Queens and is now led by the current President Irene Kuriakose, Jackie Kincaid, and faculty advisors Susan Rucker and Zahra Bahrani-Mostafavi. Queens’ Health Care Justice (HCJ) chapter is a student chapter of HCJ NC and Physicians for a National Health Program, often partnering with the sister organization at UNCC. Before the onset of the pandemic, they hosted a wide variety of in-person events to promote education and advocacy in the Charlotte area, often partnering with UNCC, HCJ NC, Physicians for a National Health Program, and practicing physicians. And with the health care crisis present in our country right now, they haven’t let the pandemic beat them down, thanks to their fantastic leadership.

Irene, a Pre-Med Biology major with a minor in Spanish, was inspired to join the organization after they hosted a showing of the film “FIX IT – Healthcare At The Tipping Point,” a documentary detailing the injustice and inequality present in the American health care system. From there, she started going to more events and engaging in the organization on a leadership level, as she felt called to this organization’s mission. Once the last wave of leadership graduated, Irene was ready to step up and continue leading the organization as it strove to continue fighting for equal and affordable health care.

Under her leadership and guidance of Dr. Rucker and Dr. Zahra Bahrani-Mostafavi, they’ve managed to keep events going via Ring Central and are even planning more opportunities in the future. In November, they had an event in partnership with the Greater Charlotte Health Care Executives group. This forum was with one of the nation’s leading health care executives, Don Berwick, and was concerned with racial and ethnic disparities in health care services. They’ve also hosted texting parties to inform voters about the health care plans of the politicians in the state, fun events like trivia nights, and a video campaign in partnership with UNCC that highlighted testimonies of those who have faced challenges with the health care system.

And according to Irene, there’s only more to come. As a small chapter in a larger organization, membership in the Health Care Justice chapter allows students interested in medicine at every level to engage with the industry, learn from practicing or retired physicians, and network before they’ve even finished their bachelor’s degree. Irene, with the help of Dr. Rucker and Dr. Bahrani-Mostafavi, plans to create even more opportunities in the future – maybe even partnering with “Pfeiffer and Johnson C. Smith to get even more students involved.”

In the Health Care Justice chapter at Queens, we see the very essence of our motto here as they forge through the fires of a global pandemic to promote advocacy, education, and opportunity: “Not to be served, but to serve.”

***

In addition to health care advocacy, the Biology department has adopted some fresh approaches to help students continue their capstones. Senior Madison Jayes has set her sights on a different way of serving the community. When Dr. Scott Weir approached the senior with an idea for her Capstone project, her first question was: “Do I get to wear one of the beekeeper suits?”

As a Biology major with a minor in Sustainable Science, Madison knew she wanted to work with live resources and incorporate her interest in sustainability. So when Dr. Weir caught wind of an opportunity to collaborate with Discovery Place, a Charlotte science museum, to survey bee populations in urban environments, he knew Madison would be a perfect fit. Before the onset of the pandemic, Madison was positioned to study bees up close and personal with Discovery Place, which focuses on hands-on science. She’d be working with Discovery Place to study the risks posed to bee populations in Charlotte so they could then apply the results to other urban areas.

From there, she would have been able to present to Discovery Place, as well as to the Queens community. Under ideal circumstances, she would have been able to observe the bees throughout the fall and record her findings in the spring to then send off for peer review – they were even looking into presentations at Discovery Place. But, of course, nothing about the conditions of this fall have been ideal.

With the COVID-19 lock-down, Madison and Dr. Weir didn’t have access to the bees, nor the ability to partner with Discovery Place. But, instead of giving up on the project all together, the two went back to the drawing board and were eventually able to pivot. Instead of collecting raw data and compiling her research into a paper, the two decided that the project would evolve into a review. According to Madison, “it’s a lot more research and compiling other sources than data collection.”

It’s been difficult to adjust to this new approach, but Dr. Weir is immensely proud of the way Madison has stepped up to the challenge, especially during the pandemic. As one of the few students to continue her independent research, Madison has forged ahead and found away. In the spirit of Queens, she worked within her community to find a way.

Once she’s finished her research, Madison aims to submit her review to a journal in the Northeast, as well as the QUEST Scientific Journal at Queens. Though she has yet to be able to work with the bees she seeks to save, let’s hope one day gets to fulfill her dream of wearing a beekeeper’s suit.

Nia Murat

Queens Goes Abroad to Make a Map, to tell a Soldier’s Story

Queens group with Professor Sian Nicholas outside of Gregynog in Wales.

Queens students and professors recently reached across the pond to their Welsh counterparts, and together, they built an interactive map charting the experience of Welsh soldiers in World War I. Students in history and political science, led by Dr. Barry Robinson and Dr. Margaret Commins, collaborated with Dr. Sian Nicholas and students from Aberystwyth University in Wales.

To compose the interactive map, students from both universities first gathered information on the soldiers. Then, they plotted on the map the following vital information: birth and death dates, where the soldiers were from, and where they served in the war, which ranged all over the world.

The map was the culmination of a JBIP course and Study Abroad in Aberystwyth, Wales. Their work stands as a testament to Queens students’ and faculty’s ability to persevere and follow through, even in a pandemic.

First, students completed a preparatory course, which included background information on the war, Welsh culture, and the context of the war in both Europe and Wales. The course was an initiative to prepare students for their work abroad and research on Wales and the past. They explored the effects of colonialism on Wales, as well as more modern studies such as women’s history throughout the early 20th century, and the effect of industry on Welsh culture.

To better prepare them for the names and artifacts they would encounter, students also completed a language course in Welsh online. They even had a lesson on how to pronounce “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll llantysiliogogogoch,” a village in Anglesey, Wales. They enjoyed other educational tools throughout class that would help them be better prepared for encountering longer, more unfamiliar names in Welsh. Dr. Commins noted that it was interesting to see that many Welsh names ended in an ‘s’ and came back to tell then-President Dr. Pamela Davies that she perhaps had Welsh heritage.

The collaboration between Dr. Nicholas and Dr. Robinson and their respective universities began when a grant was received from the Welsh National Heritage lottery. According to Dr. Robinson, the purpose of the grant was “to develop a community-based public history effort to understand the local experience of World War I in and around Aberystwyth.” Students worked together across both departments–sometimes in groups–to more easily compare and contrast information in their archival research.

The project itself, while rooted in the past, also allowed for current perspectives. Students were able to study Wales’ current climate in respect to the war. They visited historic sites, such as castles and libraries, to gather information on both current and past Welsh culture. Dr. Commins added that they often took excursions outside of the traditional project plans and enjoyed learning and experiencing Welsh culture.

Now-alumnus Sydney Memminger said that the international collaboration helped her bring skills back to the classroom: “I can definitely say that I learned to actively listen. When hearing another’s perspective, taking notes or recording is very helpful for history collaborations.”

Then-senior Brianna Paglia added that such a big research project was only made possible by collaboration between groups. She also said that it has helped her, post-graduation, to develop her research skills and added, “Ultimately it also helped build a bigger stepping stone off my undergrad foundation for researching and writing a robust masters thesis.” The project required a lot of research, plus information outlining and gathering, so it’s no wonder that the amount of work put in by students paid off immensely for their post-graduation plans.

Dr. Robinson said that the importance of the project goes beyond just the Wales community, as it aims to mark the influence of the world on Wales and the war. He noted that the collaboration between students also allowed students to gain different perspectives on what they were already learning. For instance, the archival research gave students an access to historical materials they could include in the database. Dr. Commins said that in her opinion it could have been the most impactful for students, “…getting to touch the artifacts, the coins. The town would send cigarette boxes to the soldiers… it was just really cool.” 

If CAS Success blog readers/viewers want to access and navigate this engaging interactive map, they may do so here. Enjoy. Each red touchpoint on the map indicates a person and place relevant to the war and their outcome. Some include pictures and “artifacts” of the person’s life/ the place’s significance.

This interactive map, and the role of Queens students and faculty in fashioning it, have brought the past into the present.

Izzy Harvey

Black Lives Matter at Queens, in Charlotte, and Beyond

Amidst other hardships this year, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained national attention after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. In the reactions to their deaths and subsequent protests, division has reigned supreme in our already divided country.

Yet, we have also found moments to come together, uniting over our common beliefs and empathy. We at Queens have done the same, by coming together to create a stunning piece of public art, the Black Lives Matter mural. This summer, Professor Mike Wirth of the Art, Design, and Music department and Queens alumna Bree Stallings (’13) helped design and paint the mural on Tryon Street.

Since the mural’s completion, Queens faculty, staff, and students have visited. It’s easy to do so. That’s because Tryon Street between Third and Fourth Streets is blocked off, encouraging people to walk among the letters.

Queens Alumni Bree Stallings working on a mural in uptown Charlotte

Wirth and Stallings, along with a host of Charlotte artists, painted each letter in an array of bold and inspiring colors and designs. When Professor Wirth was contacted by a fellow Charlotte artist, he enthusiastically agreed to help with the mural, inspired to help the movement. Wirth said: “Justice interested me in the project. It’s important to do this now, because we’ve never really spoken this way, together as a community. In fact, the message is way long overdue.” He saw it as an opportunity to work within the community to promote empathy. Together, he and a few other local artists got to work, organizing and delegating the work on the mural.

According to Wirth, “The core team (organizers, key assistants, myself, Bree, Haley, and others) arrived a 5:30 am to pick up over 80 gallons of street surface paint and set up the street for the artists to arrive later that morning. We also worked with another local artist friend and keeper of the laser cutting fab lab at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to cut the street-sized letter stencils. We laid out each one and chalked in the letter template so that artists could arrive and begin to paint immediately. Later, [we] all assisted individual artists and also floated between the murals. We also made sure that artists were fed and hydrated throughout the day. We wanted to remove any obstacle that artists may have to complete their work in the designated day.”

Stallings stenciling the letters for the mural
Artists working on the Black Lives Matter mural

The result of all this hard work and preparation was an amazing show of unity and camaraderie. Both artists and the Charlotteans walking by felt this unity. “We definitely solidified existing relationships and forged new relationships during the workday. Morale was high, and it seemed like we were onto something big. Since that date, other projects have happened to keep the momentum going,” Wirth said. “The press and the public were incredibly supportive and were curious who we all were. As the day went on, local businesses started to show up with food, drinks, snacks, tents, paint supplies, and plenty of goodwill. Soon, other people were helping to paint. It was really magical.”

Stallings and a photographer smiling for the camera

This magic was built by community members uniting in the common goals of empathy and justice. There was a call for all these artists to come together in a time when our country is more fractured than ever before. In valiantly answering this call, Queens’ artists have put into practice our motto of not to be served, but to serve.

Their work, the Black Lives Matter mural on the main street of Charlotte, was not only a powerful piece of art that promoted what millions of people are fighting for, but also proof that there is more that binds us than separates us.

And in this day and age, that’s a message that’s just as important as the cause they’ve united around.

#Black Lives Matter

by Nia Murat

Civic Engagement in the Time of Coronavirus

Every four years, Americans reach the pinnacle of their political participation by casting their votes in the presidential election. Sadly, such high stakes are met with significant apathy by too many American citizens. As this year’s Civic Engagement Fellow, Emily Sears, senior Political Science major and History and Interfaith Studies double-minor, works to prevent such apathy.

A global pandemic has not been able to stop the urgent work that Sears does. In fact, she’s found creative solutions to continue her efforts by engaging students and the broader Charlotte community in the political process, even if she cannot physically be on campus. 

Sears recognizes that 2020 is a critical year for her. She’s the Civic Engagement Fellow in both her senior year and a presidential election year. The Civic Engagement Fellow position began in 2016 with a broad focus on civic engagement, ranging from voter registration to taking student voters to the polls. Sears’ work centers around “ensur[ing] that people are registered to vote and that they follow through with that registration to cast their ballots,” she says. Beyond voter registration, Sears wants to “emphasize voter education, particularly when it comes to what services the local and state offices provide and how our vote truly matters,” and she has made it her “mission to put on a plethora of events that would operate outside of the normal civic engagement efforts to actually get people talking.”

Sears identifies the Civic Engagement Fellowship as “the most important position I would have during my time at Queens.” In her role, she has been able to enact her “mantra of ‘people over party’” to support her classmates and community members in becoming active and informed participants in their community and democratic processes. An essential lesson that Sears has learned “is that we all have individual agency that can be combined to make a force for change. I sometimes get into the weeds of planning events or social media campaigns, and I forget why I am doing this work. Then, I look at the news, speak to a student, or converse with a professor, and I realize that there is no job more important than the one I am in right now.”

Leading up to the semester, Sears worked with her supervisor Jenn Marts, the Director of the Wells Fargo Center for Community Engagement, to develop a webinar series with the intent “to educate voters on the offices and issues that are at stake in this election, and most other elections as well.” With the help of many Queens professors as keynote speakers in the webinars, “four topics including absentee ballots, the electoral college/why does my vote matter, the vital role and job description of state and local offices, and foreign policy” have already been covered. Sears maintains that although these topics cannot be wholly examined in a thirty-minute session, they are “a crucial step in making sure that voters can confidently cast their ballots because they have received expert and non-partisan knowledge from Queens and UNCC educators.” The webinars, occurring every Tuesday at noon and lasting for thirty minutes, can be signed up for through a link in the @qu_votes Instagram bio. A “Why I Vote” series is also featured on the Instagram account, which includes the perspectives of current students and alumni. 

Sears’ duties as the Civic Engagement Fellow require her to be a critical thinker, moderator, event planner, fact checker, and then some, which she knows will serve her well in the future as she pursues graduate school and a career in national security. Events like Engage Her and the Lunch and Learn Series have allowed her to practice public speaking and the aforementioned skills. She appreciates how the Wells Fargo Center for Community Engagement has made “all of the work we are doing possible.” Additionally, she expresses gratitude for her professors as they “have also been highly supportive of our work and have continually showed up for events, promoted our work in their classrooms, and some have even participated in our Lunch and Learn series.”

Along with civic engagement, Political Science Professor Dr. Commins finds that the Civic Engagement Fellow works to advance civic knowledge, civic skills, and civic identity in their communities. Dr. Commins wants “for Queens students to see themselves as important members of the community that have not only a right to participate but a responsibility to participate actively.” The Civic Engagement Fellow is a fundamental player in executing the university’s civic mission.  She has identified Sears as someone who “has thought broadly about what it means to be civically engaged.”

Dr. Commins explains how the Engage Her webinar “provid[ed] as service for the community,” demonstrating that “we have something to contribute to helping make Charlotte a better place.” The creation of the Wells Fargo Center for Community  Engagement has made the civic mission of Queens a lasting one, and Dr. Commins appreciates how Dr. Fatherly and President Lugo have supported the work of civic engagement. Additionally, Dr. Commins speaks to the involvement of the College of Arts and Sciences, particularly the Political Science Department: “We’re very invested in supporting the work of the Civic Engagement Fellow and supporting the work of the Wells Fargo Center.”

Given the high stakes of our current political moment, Sears, as a responsible citizen and the Civic Engagement Fellow, challenges her peers to take action: “How much longer will it take before the young people realize how much power we have to influence the makeup of our government and let our elected officials know what we want for our future? The time to be apathetic and passive has been gone for a while. It is time now to take a stand, become informed, and go vote.”

Emily Iknayan

Looking Forward, Celebrating Success

Welcome back to Queens! As we start our new year virtually, we appreciate the university’s priority in keeping our community safe and healthy. When we went online last spring, our blog writers shared what they’ll miss, what they’re grateful for, and what they’re looking forward to. For this blog, we asked them again to share their thoughts. We wanted to see what had changed and what hadn’t.
Undaunted by the new virtual world, our faculty and students have continued their fine work. Join us this year, as we continue to highlight those successes.

from Emily Iknayan.

What I’ve missed about Queens. The thing I’ve missed most about Queens is physically being in classrooms with my professors and peers. I disdain the potential for unstable WiFi connections kicking me out of my synchronous online courses, but I’ve been struck by how we’ve managed to build community online within this first two weeks, whether this means seeing an array of pets on RingCentral meetings or introducing people to different features on RingCentral.

What I’m grateful for. I’m grateful that I attend a university that has taken the global pandemic seriously. I empathize with students across the country who have had their semesters upended by the inevitable shift to online learning, so I’m glad Queens made the decision to be online. I admire the resilience that the students and professors have displayed, and I am appreciative that we can continue our degree progress in the safest way possible.

Me with my senior dog, Little Bo Peep

What I looking forward to my senior year. This semester, I’m looking forward to taking on junior year and all of the work associated with it. I’m excited to begin my work as a Senior Tutor for the Center for Student Success. And I intend to designate at least 30 minutes of my time to reading that is not required, so I hope I’m up for the challenge!

From Nia Murat.

What I’ve missed about Queens. Nia here! I’m excited to be back with the CAS blog and working remotely. One thing I miss most about Queens is the sense of community we have seeing each other on campus everyday. As much as I enjoy doing homework while petting my dog, Winston Furchill, I miss the classroom conversations, poking my head in during office hours to say hi, and the random encounters on campus. Even so, I am very grateful that I’m able to continue my degree safely and have all the tools to do so.

What I’m grateful for. I am also grateful that Queens prioritized the safety of their staff, students, and faculty in making the difficult decision to go online. I am also grateful that our professors were all able to adapt their teaching style and course work to the online setting so quickly and efficiently. As challenging as this process has been on the Queens community, all of us have been able to adapt and overcome all of the hardships put before us.

I’m also grateful for this new addition to our family, Winston Furchill!

What I’m looking forward to my senior year. As a senior, I’m looking forward to savoring every last moment I have at Queens. This fall I’m once again submitting an abstract to be considered for SAMLA, a language and literature conference, encouraged by Professor Hull and Shishko in the English department. I’m very excited at the prospect of preparing and sharing a paper once again. Fingers crossed my proposal is accepted!

from Izzy Harvey.

What I’ve missed about Queens.  Queens is known for its beautiful campus that makes being outside in the heat so much more pleasant. When walking across the red brick paths and beside fresh mowed grass that never looks unkempt, I would see people out and about on the quad. When walking to class, I would always see familiar faces, and it made living in a small dorm and eating cafeteria food that much more rewarding. There was something about seeing a professor getting coffee or eating lunch and stopping to have a conversation with them.

What I’m grateful for. At the start of this pandemic I was scared. Coming from a middle class family that doesn’t have health insurance security, I was worried that with my increased risk, I would have to leave Queens and finish college from home or transfer. When we moved online in the spring, my fears relaxed a little, but there was still worry in my mind that Fall semester would resume, and I wouldn’t be ready. I’m grateful for the opportunity to stay safe while still staying “in class” and seeing fellow students and professors every day.

Relaxing with Snickers last summer.

What I’m looking forward to this year. Virtual learning will definitely be different this semester, but professors seem prepared to make it work. I myself am feeling excited that we will be able to have school from the comfort of our own homes, but also that some surprise guests (my fat grey cat, Chunky, specifically) will make surprise appearances. The introvert in me loves asynchronous work, but the idea of video class is daunting as well. For many students, professors have presented flexibility that wasn’t present in face to face classes. If you miss a class, some professors record them, so when watching, it’s almost as if you were a fly on someone’s MacBook Air. With all of us trudging through, I hope that we can all still appreciate class time together.

Veterans Tell History

This semester, Sophomore Health Science Major, Amaya Farr, is fighting for more than honors credits. Working with the Congress’ Veterans History Project, she is building a monument of memories to honor men and women who have served their country.

Amaya Farr's headshot in Queens University lab coat
Amaya Farr is Majoring in Health Science

It all started when Dr. Karen Neal, Associate Professor in the Psychology Department, visited the Library of Congress in Washington DC. “I saw flyers for their Veterans History Project . . . [and] realized this would be a wonderful project which relates directly to my area of psychology, human development,” she said. The project falls in her field, but she says it is also close to her heart. “[M]y father fought in WWII, and my husband is a retired army officer” Neal told me.

Farr is a Preyer Honors Program student who took Neal’s Developmental Psychology course this semester. Neal introduced her to the project and set her up with all the connections she needed. “Dr. Neal has been an amazing assist in helping me with technology and personal contact,” said Farr.

Armed with incredible faculty support, she was excited to get started. “The final [goal] is a 30 min+ voice recording of me interviewing the veteran to document and recap his/her time in service.” With her objective in place, she began collecting information.

Unfortunately, midway through her research, current events seeped into Farr’s preservation of the past. As Queens responded to the global pandemic, campus closed, and students went home.

“Before we left due to COVID-19, I was partnered with the president of our campus Veterans Center. We were in contact and he was very willing and excited to participate in the project alongside me” explained Farr. As classes reopened online, students took a deep breath and returned to their coursework. Dropped into unprecedented circumstances with a substantial class load and social distancing in full effect, Neal expected Farr would have to pause her work on the project.

Back in her home town, Farr scoped out her position in a surreal new normal and then got back on her feet. “After the switch I kind of had to uproot all that we established and completely change subjects to a veteran from my hometown,” she said. She found a new connection and pushed forward with her research. Even though she “had to essentially complete [the work] twice,” Farr was dedicated to “contributing to American historical documentation.” For her, it was important to record these experiences for “future scholars . . . to learn and understand the events that occurred during [a] specific veteran’s lifetime” from a “primary perspective.”

Most of her resources may have shifted, but Dr. Neal’s support and guidance remains the same.

As students honor Veterans through listening and remembrance, their lives are touched. “I know that each student who completes the project will be powerfully affected, as Amaya has been, by the experiences of veterans who have served in combat” said Neal. Her vision has major impact. “I hope Queens students are able to record the stories of many veterans in the area,” she said. As the project lifts up heroes within our communities, Neal hopes it will also “encourage students to contribute the stories of their own friends and family members.”

As studies at Queens continue and the world buffers back into motion online, Farr is one of many students demonstrating remarkable persistence as she harnesses technology to carry the experiences and perspectives of Veterans into the future.

Gabrielle Girard