News & Events
December 13, 2012
UNC Asheville will hold its December 2012 Commencement, with 243 graduates receiving diplomas, in a ceremony that begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in Kimmel Arena.
The commencement address will be delivered by Thomas "Ted" Meigs, GlaxoismithKline Professor of Molecular Biology, who this year became the first faculty member to receive two of UNC Asheville's most prestigious awards in the same year – the UNC Asheville Distinguished Teaching Award and the UNC Asheville Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award. Meigs, who joined the faculty in 2003, involves his students in research on specialized molecular interactions within and among cells, which could ultimately lead to development of new drugs that inhibit cancer growth.
Among the graduates are 12 who have completed UNC Asheville's growing Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) Program. This is the largest number of graduates to receive master's degrees at one time from UNC Asheville; 10 MLA students received degrees last December.
December's graduates include: a Blue Ridge Parkway ranger, now armed with a degree in biology and ready to work in environmental preservation of the northern Rockies; a New York native who has already started his own video production company with an international client list; an Asheville native who has now earned her master's and bachelor's degrees at UNC Asheville and is working to develop awareness of green burial options; a writer already co-teaching university courses as an undergraduate and producing readings for local writers downtown; and many others. (Selected student profiles follow below.)
For complete information about commencement and related events, visit the commencement website or call UNC Asheville News Services at 828/251-6526.
- Avery Artman earned her Bachelor of Science degree in only 3-1/2 years, and expects to enter a master's in public health program in the fall. While competition for those graduate school positions is fierce, Artman has a leg up – she was part of a UNC Asheville faculty/student research team and presented the group's findings this fall at the American Public Health Association conference. There, she met faculty at universities where she is applying. One professor who heard Artman's presentation expressed interest in implementing those ideas in her own courses.
Artman embodies the participatory and interdisciplinary nature of UNC Asheville's academic approach. She came to the university expecting to major in art, but started to focus on health and wellness after readings in a language and literature course. That interest solidified through an internship with ASAP, involvement with the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council, and research through the university's health and wellness department. Artman's goal is to promote health policies that increase access to healthy foods through health communications.
- Amarra Ghani, a New York City native who earned her bachelor's degree in mass communication with a concentration in journalism, is already working in her field as a media specialist for the U.S. Forest Service. Ghani's involvement at the Forest Service began with an internship and turned into a job writing articles, doing community outreach, and fielding calls from the news media.
Ghani hopes eventually to become a broadcast journalist on the national or international level. She has already attracted media attention for her role in founding and leading UNC Asheville's Muslim Student Association. She also received the 2011 N.C. Campus Compact Community Impact Student Award, and last spring received UNC Asheville's Carolyn Briggs Diversity Award, while the Muslim Student Association, under Ghani's leadership, was named the university's Outstanding Student Organization.
- Phil Kwarta, a graduate in mass communication from Buffalo, N.Y., who selected UNC Asheville for its film program, has already launched his own business, First Roll Productions, specializing in video production, graphic design and website work. As an undergraduate, Kwarta completed projects for Outback Steak House and the U.K.-based Hardy Fly Fishing, as well as local bands.
"Every job changes you a little bit," said Kwarta reflecting upon his growth as a videographer. "It's awesome to look back at your entire reel of work and see how you've evolved ... You have to work your way up and gain technical skills. It's all about becoming comfortable with yourself, your style and the equipment." Kwarta expects to remain in Asheville at least through the spring, while seeking to build his client base and pursue professional opportunities.
- Andrea McClure, who has lived in Asheville all her life, was able to earn a master's as well as a bachelor's degree without leaving home. After earning a B.A. in sociology at UNC Asheville in 2009, she joined the university's Master of Liberal Arts program, and will be one of 12 students receiving MLA degrees at the December commencement.
During a class in environmental consumerism, McClure became interested in the idea of "green burials" and for her master's thesis, researched the environmental impact of the funeral industry. "There's no need to put a $7,000 box into the ground and use embalming fluid," said McClure, who is now training to be a doula for death care, through the Center for End of Life Transitions. "In learning about life cycles, birth and death are really similar," she said. McClure is hoping to help develop awareness of green burial alternatives in Asheville and nationally.
- Jesse Rice-Evans, a creative writer who transferred to UNC Asheville from UNC-Chapel Hill, has carved a place for herself in Asheville's literary community both on and off-campus. A Wilmington native who earned a bachelor's degree in literature with a minor in Africana studies, Rice-Evans has edited Metabolism, UNC Asheville's student art magazine, served as a consultant to other students in the university's Writing Center, and co-taught an upper-level literature course with a member of the faculty. She also produces Downtown Books & News' reading series, Juniper Bends.
After graduation, Rice-Evans plans to continue her work with Juniper Bends, her involvement with other local writers, and her "day job" at Greenlife, while working on her portfolio. If you encounter her poetry, you'll find narrative elements and strong images, and a call to your own imagination – "I like to create a 'feel' for the poem, rather than directly telling you where the poem is set or what is happening," says Rice-Evans, "so the reader can respond to it by creating a vision for themselves through the words."
- Drew Sovilla, a post-baccalaureate student from Cincinnati who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental studies, will leave Asheville and his job as a Blue Ridge Parkway ranger after commencement. "I've done a lot of environmental education geared toward the general public, and I'm hoping to use this degree, perhaps getting a master's as well, to get into hard science – the research side of environmental work," said Sovilla.
He now has research experience to show prospective employers, having worked at UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center analyzing the changing balance of native and invasive plant species on islands around the world. Sovilla is headed west, optimistic about finding work with one of the environmental organizations working to preserve the northern Rockies.
- Kelsey Viscount, a religious studies major who is passionate about the connection between faith and food, won the award for best undergraduate paper, "Produce and Provision: Agrarian Revivalism among Protestants in the South," at the recent meeting of the N.C. Religious Studies Association. Her analysis and research – she spent nine months traveling the state to interview pastors, farmers and congregants – is also gaining attention beyond North Carolina. She has been invited to present the paper next spring at the Southeast Commission for Study of Religion conference.