PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory to perform ‘Hairspray’

For immediate use: Wednesday, June 11, 2014


A cast of young student actors will perform the Tony Award-winning musical “Hairspray” July 16-20 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


High school actors and technicians will begin work on the production June 16.


PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theater in residence in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, will present the Broadway musical as the culmination of its Summer Youth Conservatory.


The book for “Hairspray” is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The musical is based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters.


Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. July 16-19 and 2 p.m. July 20 in the Paul Green Theatre inside the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and children under 18, and they may be purchased by calling (919) 962-PLAY (7529), logging online at or visiting the PlayMakers box office.

“Hairspray” is set in 1962 Baltimore. Plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has one desire: to dance on “The Corny Collins Show.” After getting her big break, she quickly sees behind the TV dance party’s glossy veneer. Can Tracy tackle the show’s racial inequality, dethrone the reigning Teen Queen and win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin — all without denting her ’do?


Variety called “Hairspray” a “sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection.” The New York Times described the show as packed with “deliriously tuneful songs” and “as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay.”


“Hairspray” will be directed by Seattle/San Francisco-based director Desdemona Chiang. Chiang has directed for Azeotrope,  Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Impact Theatre, FringeNYC, Playwrights Foundation, Golden Thread Productions and Washington Ensemble Theatre, among others. She worked with producing artistic director Joseph Haj on PlayMakers’ production of “The Making of a King: Henry IV & V.”


New York City-based performer/choreographer Matthew Steffens will choreograph and serve as associate director. Steffens appeared on Broadway in “Ladies on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown” with Patti Lupone and opposite Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenowith in “Promises, Promises.” He served as associate choreographer for the immersive theater hit, “Queen of the Night.” Television and film credits include “Across the Universe,”  “The Black Box,” “Smash” and the upcoming film “The Last Five Years,” for which he was also assistant choreographer.


The Summer Youth Conservatory is a unique educational and performance opportunity for young people, which includes working with professional directors, choreographers and musical directors at PlayMakers.


Recognized as “a model program for youth theater in North Carolina” by the North Carolina Theatre Conference, the Conservatory features three programs: Theatre Intensive and TheatreTech for high school students and Theatre Quest for middle- schoolers.


Beginning June 16, high school actors in the Theatre Intensive program will train, rehearse and perform “Hairspray” in PlayMakers’ professional theater space.


At the same time, participants in TheatreTech begin a program in scenic, costume and lighting production. TheatreTech includes in-depth technical coursework followed by a month-long apprenticeship with PlayMakers’ staff.


During Theatre Quest, middle school students participate in a series of week-long classes from June 16 to July 18. The program gives students the opportunity to train with professional artists in a variety of subjects, including Principles of Acting, Shakespeare and Stage Combat, Musical Theatre I: Solo Showcase, Musical Theatre II: ShowStoppers and Acting for the Camera. Students can attend one week or more, based on availability.


A limited number of spots are still available for Theatre Quest. Contact PlayMakers education manager Jennifer Wales at (919) 962-2491 or to enroll. Tuition is $300 per week, except Musical Theatre I: Solo Showcase which is $250.


For more information, visit


Coverage note: Reporters, photographers or videographers who wish to cover conservatory sessions and rehearsals may also contact Tim Scales at (919) 636-9809,


Images: Summer Youth Conservatory photos and “Hairspray” poster art are available on request.



PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359,

News Services contact: Robbi Pickeral, (919) 962-8589,




Message from Chancellor Carol L. Folt

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Dear Carolina Community:


Over the past few days, I have received many questions from members of our community in response to an ESPN story on claims – some new, some not – regarding academics and athletics at Carolina. It is clear that our community cares deeply about these issues, and I want to assure you that we are doing our best to resolve remaining questions. I also want to take this opportunity to reconfirm that we are going to respond to these questions at the right time, and to provide some perspective as to how Carolina is moving forward.


First, we take reports of academic irregularities very seriously, which is why UNC President Tom Ross and I hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in February to conduct an independent investigation into these very issues. Mr. Wainstein has full autonomy and authority to ask the tough questions and follow the facts wherever they lead. I believe we have a responsibility to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and University community at large to ensure we get this right, to empower Mr. Wainstein to investigate fully, thoughtfully and without any interference – and I encourage anyone who has relevant information to contact him directly.


This process takes time. Until the investigation is complete, we may not be able to respond to each new report or allegation. In some cases that is because we do not want to jump to conclusions or otherwise impede the investigation. In other cases it is because we must not violate our students’ federally protected privacy rights – even when doing so limits the extent to which we can correct inaccuracies and defend our former student-athletes.


Once we know the extent of Mr. Wainstein’s findings, which he will release to the public, we will take appropriate action, building on the significant reforms we have already implemented. At that time we will also be better equipped to respond to individual claims. Until then, we appreciate your patience and understanding. I encourage you to visit to learn more about our ongoing work.


You and I know that Carolina is so much more than these immediate challenges. As I write this, I am reminded of our faculty and students who are conducting research and innovating to improve lives, as well as our alumni who are leading companies and founding non-profit organizations that serve our state and communities around the globe.


Finally, we recognize that we will remain part of the broader national conversation on these issues. As the nation’s first public university, we also have a responsibility to lead it – both with words and actions. We will do this thoughtfully, responsibly and thoroughly, in the finest traditions of this great University.




Carol L. Folt



Statement on Student-Athletes

Friday, June 6, 2014

“It is disappointing any time a student is dissatisfied with his or her experience. I welcome the opportunity to speak with Rashad McCants about returning to UNC to continue his academic career – just as we have welcomed many former student-athletes interested in completing their degrees.


The University hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in January to conduct an independent investigation into past academic and athletic irregularities. While these are the first allegations we have heard from Mr. McCants, I encourage him to speak with Mr. Wainstein. We are confident Mr. Wainstein’s inquiry will provide us with a full understanding of these issues.


Since becoming Carolina’s director of athletics, I have gotten to know some of Mr. McCants’ teammates, and I know that claims about their academic experience have affected them deeply. They are adamant that they had a different experience at UNC-Chapel Hill than has been portrayed by Mr. McCants and others. I am impressed with their love for Carolina and passion for their education. Several of them have continued to take classes and finish their degrees and all of them are proud of their academic achievements. We, too, are proud of them.”


Bubba Cunningham
Director of Athletics


Managing editor of Fortune to speak on business journalism June 11

For immediate use: Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fortune magazine managing editor Andy Serwer will speak at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  about how his magazine covers business and economics topics, as well as the future of media. The free public event will begin at 5 p.m. June 11 in the Freedom Forum Conference Center in Carroll Hall, home of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Co-sponsored by the journalism school and the department of public policy in the College of Arts and Sciences, Serwer’s talk is the Carolina seminar on business journalism and public policy. For the seminar, Serwer will field questions from three School of Journalism and Mass Communication students.

As managing editor of Fortune, Serwer is responsible for overseeing the magazine and, with a combined audience of more than 11 million readers, as well as Fortune digital media and Fortune’s conferences. He was named managing editor of Fortune in October 2006.

In 2000, he was named Business Journalist of the Year by TJFR Business News Reporter, which called him “perhaps the nation’s top multimedia talent, successfully juggling the roles of serious journalist, astute commentator and occasional court jester.” He is a regular guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and CNBC’s Squawkbox, and from 2001 to 2006 he served as the business anchor for CNN’s American Morning.
Those who plan to attend should contact Chris Roush at by June 9.

School of Journalism contact: Kyle York, (919) 966-3323,


Researcher Kelly Ryoo chosen as 2014-2015 National Academy of Education Fellow

For immediate use: Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Kihyun Kelly Ryoo, an assistant professor of learning sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been awarded $55,000 as a 2014-2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. Only 25 fellows were selected from a pool of 365 applicants.


The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society. They are funded by a grant to the Academy from the Spencer Foundation. Now in its 28th year, the fellowship program is the oldest source of support for education research, nationally or internationally, for recent recipients of the doctorate.


Ryoo’s research in the learning sciences and psychological studies program in the School of Education focuses on innovative technologies to support English learners and language minority students in understanding complex science concepts. She received her doctorate in learning sciences and technology design with a specialization in science education from Stanford University. Before joining the UNC faculty, Ryoo was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.


School of Education contact: Michael Hobbs, (919) 962-8687,



UNC Latino Oral History Initiative awarded $240,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities

For immediate release: Thursday, May 22, 2014


A Latino oral history initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been awarded $240,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. “New Roots: Improving Global Access of Latino Oral Histories” is a collaborative initiative of the Latino Migration Project, The Southern Oral History Program and the University Libraries. The initiative was established in 2007 to document demographic transformations in the U.S. South by collecting stories of migration, settlement and integration in North Carolina. The collection receives regular contributions of at least 40 interviews annually from UNC scholars through an ongoing research program of the Latino Migration Project at the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Center for Global Initiatives. For more information, please see:


UNC Global contact: Katie Bowler Young, (919) 962-4504,

School of Government receives $7.1 million pledge from local government credit union

For immediate use: Thursday, May 22, 2014


The School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a pledge of $7.1 million from Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU) for initiatives to support North Carolina local governments.


UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced the news today (May 22) at a meeting of the UNC Board of Trustees.


“We’re tremendously grateful for this pledge, which builds on the past generosity of Local Government Federal Credit Union,” Folt said. “A core part of our mission is to help our state build stronger communities to serve North Carolina citizens, and these funds will greatly advance that commitment.”


The School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI) will receive $2.84 million over 10 years to expand opportunities for economically distressed communities in North Carolina by increasing their access to and use of cutting-edge development finance instruments.


In 2011, LGFCU granted the School of Government $1 million to partner with local governments to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and development expertise. Since that time, DFI has worked on more than 50 projects in nearly 40 communities across North Carolina. Projects range from analysis of a historic downtown building to an assessment of district-wide financial tools to attract private investment to distressed neighborhoods. DFI has expanded staffing in response to requests from local governments and has engaged graduate students as community revitalization fellows to provide research on real estate development, draft financing models, create GIS maps and analyze demographic and economic trends.


With the new grant, DFI will continue to work with existing local partners to move their projects from pre-development to development, while exploring new partnership opportunities for development in additional communities.


LGFCU, a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative established to serve the financial needs of North Carolina local government employees, elected officials, volunteers and their families, has also granted $2.22 million over 10 years to support the LGFCU Fellows program. This program provides mid-level public executives with the skills needed to build the pool of local government talent prepared for leadership succession.


As in many other states, local governments in North Carolina are facing a significant number of retirements in their leadership ranks over the next several years. In 2011, LGFCU granted the School of Government $625,000 to create the fellows program. Since that time, 74 emerging leaders have participated in an intensive training program, “Leading for Results,” as LGFCU Fellows. The program includes the development of leadership and communication skills and includes one-on-one professional coaching. Since completing the program, more than 10 percent of LGFCU Fellows have been promoted to new roles, and a large percentage report taking on new responsibilities. Across the board, Fellows express a renewed commitment to public service.


With the new LGFCU grant, the Fellows program will help to ensure that communities across the state have high-performing individuals prepared to take on critical leadership roles.


LGFCU also committed $2.04 million in undesignated funds to the School of Government over 10 years. The school will use this grant to create an Innovation Fund to support new and existing projects that maximize the school’s impact and support its mission of improving the lives of North Carolinians.


“The initial investment that LGFCU made in the Development Finance Initiative and the LGFCU Fellows program continues to deliver on its intended purpose of enhancing North Carolina communities at the local level,” said Maurice Smith, LGFCU president and chief executive officer. “It is no surprise that given the resources made available through DFI and the LGFCU Fellows program, local governments have been able to leverage their connections to the School of Government to move forward in preparing the next generation of leaders and in planning and implementing transformative development projects. We believe continued support of these initiatives is a wise and fitting investment in the North Carolina communities where our members live and work.”


School of Government Dean Mike Smith added, “I am grateful to LGFCU, and especially to Maurice Smith and the members of the LGFCU Board, for their trust in the school and their commitment to North Carolina. These funds will allow us to develop and expand the innovative ways we assist local governments as they face continuing economic and workforce challenges. This gift will have a major impact.”


School of Government website:

Development Finance Initiative contact: Michael Lemanski, (919) 962-0942,

LGFCU Fellows program contact: Willow Jacobson, (919) 966-4760,

School of Government contact: Sonja Matanovic, (919) 966-4178,



New grant will help Carolina expand STEM recruitment and training program

For immediate use: Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is looking to change the face of science, technology, engineering and math – by continuing to add more diverse faces in those fields.


Carolina was one of three universities jointly awarded a $7.75 million grant this week for STEM education support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), an elite private medical organization that funds scientists and educational programs across the country. The funding will allow UNC-Chapel Hill; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); and the Pennsylvania State University to enhance existing programs that increase the number of college students – particularly underrepresented, low-income and first-generation students – in STEM fields.


Carolina will use the grant money to expand and evaluate its Chancellor’s Science Scholars program, which was launched in 2013 and provides scholarships, mentoring and other support to students interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Earlier this year at the White House, Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced that she would double the program from its inaugural target of a class of 20 students per year to 40 students per year.


“Carolina’s investment in these bright students is helping the United States build a diverse workforce of problem solvers and thinkers who are capable of addressing our nation’s biggest problems,” Folt said. “With this grant from HHMI, we’re proud that we are charting a new course for how to train the next generation of great scientists and engineers.”


The Chancellor’s Science Scholars program is modeled after the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC, which was created in 1988 to train underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. Originally focused on African American males, the Meyerhoff program later opened to all extremely bright and motivated students while retaining its goal of increasing the diversity of students who continue on to STEM careers. While the program has been extremely successful at UMBC, other universities have struggled to replicate its success.


Although UNC-Chapel Hill and Penn State’s programs are based on the Meyerhoff program, the goal of the grant is to adapt the Meyerhoff model so that it works best at each campus, developing a blueprint that can be used by other top universities around the nation. They will gather data about how the students learn and collaborate, how the university communities around them contribute and benefit from the programs, and whether the students face similar challenges and pressures at each school.


The schools will work together over the next five years to evaluate the effectiveness of each of their programs with the ultimate goal of developing a national model for how other universities can expand their own STEM programs for underrepresented students.


“This is the right thing for UNC-Chapel Hill to do,” said Joe Templeton,Venable Professor of Chemistry and special assistant to the chancellor who spearheaded the grant application.” UMBC has been so generous in sharing their expertise with us every step along the way.”


The announcement of the grant comes on the heels of Association of American Universities’ selection of UNC-Chapel Hill as one of eight universities to serve as project sites for the association’s three-year initiative to improve the quality of undergraduate education in STEM fields.


“Training the best scientists is critical now, yet our talent pool is shrinking,” said Mark Peifer, Hooker Distinguished Professor of Biology at UNC. “If we are going to solve the world’s problems, we need everybody at the table.”



News Services contact: Thania Benios, (919) 962-8596,



Health startup from first Launch class secures funding, stays in Chapel Hill

For immediate use: Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Keona Health is a spin-out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and initially gained traction with a $450,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Keona Health, a recent graduate of the Launch Chapel Hill Business Accelerator, has secured Series A funding with a $2.5 million investment round and negotiated a multiyear lease to remain in town.


Keona Health is a spin-out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and initially gained traction with a $450,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. With this Series A funding – the first round of significant investment into a start-up venture by either venture capitalists or corporate investors — Keona will focus on scaling the product and growing the business.


Co-founded by a veteran software developer Oakkar Oakkar and Javed Mostafa, a professor in the School of Information and Library Science, Keona Health was one of seven teams first selected to participate in the Launch program when it opened in 2013.


Launch Chapel Hill is a unique cooperative investment of UNC-Chapel Hill, the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County, the Downtown Chapel Hill Partnership and a private donor, the Becker family, who provided initial funding in memory of their daughter, Cara Becker. They all work together to fund this initiative to help develop Chapel Hill’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.


During its 22-week session at Launch, Keona Health worked to improve its technology to aid healthcare providers in filtering customer calls using a cloud-delivered “Online Health Advice” solution.


Dina Mills, program manager at Launch, worked closely with the town and team to identify available lease space for the company post-graduation. Keona Health occupied temporary annex space for several months until securing a spot at Europa Center in Chapel Hill, signing a multiyear lease. This fulfills several goals of the Launch program: to help companies coming out of UNC to get connected to funding, get on their feet and stay local if they want to.


“From my interview at UNC and every step along the way, UNC, the Chapel Hill community and particularly Launch Chapel Hill were there to nourish my idea and help me secure the resources to keep moving forward – whether that be mentors, introductions to potential clients or help in negotiating the seed and later Series A funding for Keona Health,” said Oakkar, the company’s chief executive officer. “We are thrilled to be staying in Chapel Hill as we continue to grow our business.”


“We are so excited by Keona’s success,” Mills said. “Launch provided mentorship, resources and access to Entrepreneurs in Residence; Oakkar and the team took it from there. It’s great to see how our program can benefit a company like Keona who can really take advantage of the resources we offer.”


In addition, Keona Health worked with other UNC programs like Launching the Venture in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network.


Steve Brantley, Orange County economic development director, and Dwight Bassett, Chapel Hill economic development officer, are pleased with Keona’s success and how it’s translating to the surrounding communities.


“We see this as a signal to other young startups that Chapel Hill is a great place for your business,” Bassett said. He and others are already looking at the current group of Launch companies and discussing strategies for helping them stay local.


Brantley, whose economic development office looks for opportunities to help new businesses expand and grow in this area, says that Launch Chapel Hill is only the beginning of what the town and county can do to support entrepreneurs.


As the next round of Launch companies work through the accelerator program, they’ll be looking to alumni like Keona Health for mentorship and support. “It’s great to be part of this growing entrepreneurial community,” said Fred Stuzman, founder of 80Percent Solutions. “When I looked at other places in the region where I could start my company, it was obvious that I wanted to stay in Chapel Hill. Launch is making that possible.”


Launch Chapel Hill is accepting applications through May 31 for the July – December 2014 co-hort. To learn more and to apply, see


Launch Chapel Hill contact: Dina Mills, (919) 423-2770,

Keona Health contact: Stephen Dean, (919) 951-5700,

News Services contact: Susan Hudson, (919) 962-8514,





Ackland Art Museum changes hours

For immediate use: Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Beginning June 1, the Ackland Art Museum and Ackland Museum Store at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will eliminate their Thursday evening hours.

As of June 1, the Ackland Art Museum’s hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Ackland Museum Store’s new hours will be 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The museum and the store will continue to hold opening receptions and other special programs in the evenings on an occasional basis.

Admission to the Ackland Art Museum is free.


Ackland Art Museum contact: Emily Bowles, Director of Communications, (919) 843-3675,