Archive for December, 2010

NCCU Band Prepares for a Critical 110-Degree Turn

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The 200-plus members of North Carolina Central University’s Marching Sound Machine visited the Rose Bowl for their official photograph on Thursday and then toured the massive tents where volunteers were busy applying all natural materials to the bodies of the Rose Parade floats.

The most elaborate in one tent was the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) float called “Galactic Expedition.” Cal Poly student Sean Conant explained that the float had been in the works since the concept was decided in a contest last February. Half of the float was built at the Cal Poly Pomona campus and half at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus by 100 students from every discipline – including engineering, of course.

The steel frame was covered in foam and painted. And in the last five days, 150 volunteers have been applying more than 30,000 roses, chrysanthemums, and carnations. Two motors will power the float – one to move the vehicle and one to animate the telescopic nose cone, spinning a planet and working a crane that lands an explorer on the surface.

En route to the next stop, the band traveled along the parade route to help the members plan their performance. NCCU Band Director Jorim Reid is particularly concerned with a critical right turn from Orange Grove Boulevard onto Colorado Boulevard.

“I’m worried about that corner,” he said. “It’s 110 degrees, and that’s where they take the pictures.” The additional 20 degrees beyond a standard right-angle turn presents significant challenge as band members try to maintain their straight lines, he said. It’s called the “TV corner,” because that is where the local stations typically set their cameras. It’s considered to be the major test of precision in the Rose Parade.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to the band. Reid has known about it for months. He has measured the corner from satellite images and simulated it with traffic cones on the track at NCCU.

Along the parade route, Reid pointed out the massive bleachers installed in every open space in Pasadena’s downtown shopping district along Colorado Boulevard. “There’ll be hundreds of thousands of people here,” he said. To the members of the band, he pointed out the special blue and red lines painted on the road. The blue line delineates the boundary for the spectators, and the red line is used by float operators – whose field of vision is severely restricted – to keep their floats centered on the road. The bands also use the red line to aid in centering their formations.

One more brief practice tomorrow and the Marching Sound Machine will be ready for Saturday’s New Year’s Day and their first-ever Rose Parade.

NCCU Band Marches on Disneyland

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

For members of the North Carolina Central University marching band, Tuesday was the longest day – beginning at 2 a.m. packing up in Durham and ending 22 hours later in California with the receipt of their new uniforms.

The new costumes arrived at the hotel just in time for their first performance at Disneyland today. The design is the same as that developed in 2003, but the band members appreciated having bright new uniforms for their Rose Parade performance on New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

Wednesday started off with breakfast and a practice in the ballrooms of their hotel in Anaheim, near Disneyland. “We fine-tuned every piece the ensemble will perform during the trip,” said Turquoise Thompson, December graduate in public administration and captain of the auxiliary dance team.

Then, it was off to Disneyland to march in a parade from the “It’s a Small World” castle down Disneyland’s Main Street. The rain that had been falling all day broke just before the three visiting Rose Parade bands were scheduled to perform. According to a park employee, the bad weather had kept the crowds manageable. A day earlier, Disneyland had to close the gate at 10 a.m. to stem the tide in this holiday season.

NCCU was the third and last of the Rose Parade bands to perform, and it was the crowd-pleaser with its dance routine and quality sound. Bryan Burch, a junior music education major and trumpet player in the band, said, “We’re just having fun out here – making the most of it.”

There was no break in the crowd so there was no break in the performance either, said Kenneth Joyner, tenor saxophone player and 2010 graduate in music. This meant the band played Michael Jackson’s “Shake Your Body Down” continuously throughout the park route.

“The audience seemed to enjoy it,” said Joyner. “They saw a different style of marching.”

Tonight the band will have some down time, and many members will take the opportunity to return to the park just for the fun of it.

Marching Sound Machine Arrives in California, Ready to Show the World

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The 2 a.m. start for to the trip to California for NCCU’s Marching Sound Machine made for a very quiet flight to Los Angeles. Perhaps that was part of the plan.

Band members and administrators alike on Delta 1755 Tuesday morning were slumped in their seats, eyes closed. The only hint that about half the plane was occupied by Eagles came with the call and response: “Eagle Pride? Amplified!” when the band was welcomed by name by the plane’s captain.

For alto saxophone player Roberta Greene, a freshman in elementary education, this is a first trip to California, but she’s a veteran of middle and high school marching bands. She came to NCCU from Lexington Senior High School in Lexington, N.C., and plays in both the Symphonic and the Marching Sound Machine Bands at the Durham university.

All her thoughts are about the Rose Parade. “Once there, the adrenalin starts pumping and the two hours will fly by fast,” said Greene.

The band has been training for the physical test of the six-mile Rose Parade by marching and playing two hours every day since the beginning of November.

“It takes a lot of stamina to play for two hours,” said Greene. She has been practicing to ensure the consistency of her breathing. “You have to pace yourself but still have energy so the crowd can get pumped up.”

This is a particular concern for Greene as she is asthmatic and is worried about making it through the six miles without having to break formation and use her inhaler.

But Greene is completely confident about NCCU’s ability to deliver a winning performance. “I’m looking forward to our dancing – that separates us from all the other bands.”

There is no lack of confidence among the band members. After a full day of travel, Brian Henry, a junior in mass communication, was ready to go to practice and ready for the Rose Parade.
“It was everyone’s dream to go across the country in their undergrad years…to make the famous turn on Colorado Boulevard. We’re ready to show the world what we’re made of,” said Henry.

WNCU Broadcasts NPR’s Toast of the Nation Live on New Year’s Eve

Monday, December 20th, 2010

WNCU is broadcasting NPR’s Toast of the Year’s Eve, starting at 8pm EST.

Ring in the New Year with live music from coast to coast with…Lionel Loueke from The Berklee College of Music in Boston, The Jon Faddis Orchestra of New York with Nnenna Freelon in Washington DC, Cyrus Chestnut, Benny Green, Jimmy Heath, and Nicholas Payton in New York City, the battle of the saxes with Von Freeman and Edward Peterson in Chicago, and Dianne Reeves from Yoshi’s in San Francisco.

Frazier Named Head Football Coach at NCCU

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Last Year’s FCS Coach of the Year has Reputation for Rebuilding Football Programs

With 12 years of collegiate head coaching experience and a reputation for rebuilding football programs, Henry Frazier III was announced as North Carolina Central University’s 21st football head coach in school history on Thursday (Dec. 16, 2010) during a press conference in the William Jones Building on the campus of NCCU.

Frazier comes to NCCU after seven seasons as the head mentor at Prairie View A&M University. Prior to his arrival in Texas, the Panthers experienced the nation’s longest losing streak from 1989-98, dropping 80 contests in a row, and struggled through back-to-back 1-10 seasons in 2002 and 2003. Frazier closed his tenure with four straight winning seasons and delivered consecutive 9-1 records in 2008 and 2009, including a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) title in 2009, the program’s first conference championship since 1964.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Frazier was presented with a host of coaching honors in 2009, including SWAC Coach of the Year and a repeat selection as AFCA Region III FCS Coach of the Year. He also became the first coach from a historically black college or university to receive the Eddie Robinson Award, given annually by The Sports Network to the top coach in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Frazier enjoyed similar success as the head football coach at his alma mater, Bowie State University, from 1999-2003. In 2001, Frazier led Bowie State to its best season since 1989 with a 7-3 record. Frazier moved the BSU program to another level during the 2002 season with the Bulldogs first CIAA Eastern Division title and CIAA championship game appearance. Continuing the winning tradition in 2003, he guided the Bulldogs to their third consecutive winning season with a second place finish in the CIAA Eastern Division. Frazier’s 26-24 career record at Bowie State currently stands as the most victories by any football coach at BSU.

Frazier’s appointment is a five-year term beginning Jan. 1, with an annual salary of $225,000.

Frazier is married to the former LaNier Turner of Washington, D.C. They have three children, Brijan (20), Brinia (10) and Henry IV (9).

NCCU Marching Sound Machine Load Walmart Truck in Preparation for the Rose Parade

Monday, December 20th, 2010

When members of North Carolina Central University’s Marching Sound Machine arrive in Pasadena, Calif., to take part in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, they will not have to worry about lost luggage at the airport, thanks to a major in-kind gift from Walmart. The transportation services division of the discount giant will transport the band’s instruments, equipment, luggage and uniforms. This gift, valued at close to $100,000, is the largest donation received in support of the Tournament of Roses campaign.

Today, an 18-wheeler, emblazoned with the NCCU logo, rolled into Durham to load up and head west. The truck will cross eight states and arrive in California by Dec. 28. Walmart will also transport the equipment back to Durham on Jan. 5.

The Marching Sound Machine was selected as one of 16 bands to perform at the 2011 Rose Parade. Band members will assist with float preparation and perform in the annual Bandfest event before taking center stage as the first HBCU from North Carolina invited to the Tournament of Roses.

NCCU to Confer Record Number of Degrees Saturday

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

North Carolina Central University will set a record Saturday for the number of degrees it awards at a Fall Commencement.

The university will confer about 600 diplomas during the graduation ceremony at the public university. The actual number of students who will cross the stage will be slightly lower than the number of degrees conferred, since some students receive dual degrees.

The total includes more than 350 undergraduate and 230 graduate and law diplomas, according to NCCU’s Office of the Registrar. The university offers master’s and professional degrees in law, business administration and the sciences.

NCCU awarded 467 degrees in December 2009, which set the previous record. In December 2007, the university awarded 432 diplomas.

“We have yet to conduct the analysis but we are hopeful this is a sign that our efforts to increase retention and graduation rates are paying off,” said NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms.

Commencement begins at 9 a.m. Saturday in McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium. Graduates will hear a commencement address by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D – N.C.), an NCCU alumnus. Butterfield represents North Carolina’s First Congressional District, and won re-election to a fourth term last month.

N.C. Central University instituted December commencements in 1994. Thirty-one graduate and undergraduate degrees were awarded that year.

Rather than make them wait until May to receive their degrees, colleges instituted mid-year graduations several decades ago, because larger numbers of students were finishing course work at the mid-year mark.

At its Spring 2010 Commencement in May, NCCU granted nearly 800 degrees.

A former state Superior and appeals court judge, Butterfield received his undergraduate and law degrees from NCCU.

EPA Official Announces Expanded Law Program at NCCU

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Justin Anderson, a third-year student at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, spent part of his summer in an intensive environmental law program at Vermont Law School, considered one of the nation’s premier law schools for environmental and natural resources law.

Anderson joined other passionate law students and broadened his notion of public service.
“I’ve talked to so many students here about pollution, invasive species, water quality, agricultural practices and land development,” he told an interviewer.

Scott Fulton and Dean Raymond Pierce

NCCU’s School of Law will expand the program next year, adding paid federal internships at offices across the nation. On Monday, Scott Fulton, General Counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, traveled to the law school to announce the expanded 2011 EPA Fellows Program.

The program will finance paid, eight-week summer internships at EPA offices for five NCCU law students, along with two weeks in the environmental law program at Vermont Law School. Assistant Professor Kevin Foy, who heads the program at NCCU, said students will pick an area of environmental law on which to focus, such as clean air, toxic substances or litigation. That choice will determine the EPA office at which they will intern.
Each internship is valued at about $15,000.

NCCU entered into a formal agreement with the EPA and Vermont in 2009 to participate in the program. It was the federal agency’s first organized effort to train more lawyers to handle environmental justice issues in minority and low-income communities. Legal observers contend that such communities bear a disproportionate share of the health and environmental impacts from pollution.

Lisa Jackson, the nation’s first African-American EPA chief, has cited the program as being necessary to bring new leaders into the environmental movement.
Fulton also delivered an address at the law school on Monday. Craig G. Hooks, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management, appeared at the law school, too, for the announcement.

Foy said NCCU’s law school will expand its existing environmental law program even more next semester, adding energy law to its course offerings. It will allow concentration on such areas as nuclear energy, energy economics, alternative energy sources and consumer impacts.

The law school has gained increasing visibility, in North Carolina and nationally. Last year, U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. presided over a moot court competition at the law school. In recent years, it won first-place ranking nationally for best value by the National Jurist and preLaw magazines. The ranking is based on affordability, bar-passage rate and employment within nine months of graduation.

Nelms Joins Board of National Universities Group

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Charlie Nelms, chancellor of North Carolina Central University, has been elected to a one-year term on the board of directors of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities. Nelms was named to the board at the group’s annual meeting Nov. 22 in Charleston, S.C.

The AASCU is a Washington-based organization representing more than 400 public colleges, universities and systems. Its member institutions share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic and cultural development.

Nelms has led North Carolina Central University since 2007. During that time, despite a challenging budget climate, he has intensified the university’s emphasis on student success, setting ambitious goals for student retention and increased graduation rates. In both 2009 and 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked NCCU as the best public historically black college or university (HBCU) in the country.

Before coming to NCCU, Nelms served as vice president for Institutional Development and Student Affairs for the Indiana University system. He was also a chancellor twice before. In 1987, Nelms began a seven-year tenure as chancellor of Indiana University East, and in 1994 he was named chancellor of the University of Michigan at Flint (UMF). There, he resolved a significant campus budget deficit, reversed a four-year enrollment decline and secured more than $75 million in private gifts to UMF.

At NCCU, Nelms has reorganized the University College to provide intensive academic support and skills training for underprepared freshmen and sophomores, and he has instituted two programs to improve retention and graduate rates for African-American males.

He also has placed research and graduate education under the leadership of a vice chancellor for graduate education and research to better manage the university’s growing research sector. In 2009, two grants of $5 million each went to the College of Science and Technology for the Computational Center for Fundamental and Applied Science and the NASA Center for Aerospace Device Research and Education. And in October, NCCU was awarded the largest sponsored-research grant in its history, $7 million from the National Cancer Institute. The award was part of an $11.9 million Comprehensive Minority Institution Cancer Center Partnership Grant shared by NCCU and UNC-Chapel Hill and its UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In the 2009-10 academic year, Nelms presided over a yearlong celebration of NCCU’s centennial. Among the highlights was a symposium focusing on the future of historically black colleges and universities, which brought together national education leaders, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Active in professional, civic, and higher education organizations, Nelms served on the Board of Governors for the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and the National Advisory Board of the National Survey of Student Engagement, and served as chair of the American Council on Education Commission for Leadership Development. Currently, he is a member of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Board of Trustees.

Nelms is a native of Crawfordsville, Ark., and earned his undergraduate degree in agronomy and chemistry at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, graduating in 1968. He later earned a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs (1971) and a doctorate in higher education administration (1977) from Indiana University. Early in his career, he taught and held administrative positions at Earlham College in Indiana, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Indiana University Northwest in Gary and Sinclair Community College in Ohio.

Congressman, Alum is NCCU Commencement Speaker

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Central University alumnus who earlier this month won a fourth term in Congress, will deliver the Winter Commencement address at ceremonies on Dec. 11.

About 500 undergraduate and professional students will receive degrees at the mid-year Commencement. The ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. in NCCU’s McDougald–McLendon Gymnasium.

Butterfield, a Democrat, easily won re-election to his 1st U.S. House District seat this month, bucking a punishing election cycle for his party nationally. On the night of his victory, he told reporters, “The people know me and know I have a genuine concern for the quality of life in the 1st District.”

Butterfield earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology from NCCU in 1972. He earned his law degree from the university in 1974.

Chancellor Charlie Nelms hailed Butterfield’s return to the campus.

“This university was founded by a great man who sought to inspire others to become great,” said Nelms. “Congressman Butterfield is one of many who have fulfilled that vision. I’m pleased that our graduates and the NCCU family will have the chance to hear him speak.”

After obtaining his law degree, Butterfield embarked on a 14-year career in law in his hometown of Wilson, N.C. He won notice for successfully litigating several Eastern North Carolina voting rights cases. In 1988, he was elected to a state Superior Court post, where he remained for 12 years. He also held a seat on the state Supreme Court.

He was elected to Congress in July 2004, to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Frank Ballance. Butterfield has won re-election since then. He was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s candidacy for president, and became an adviser during the 2008 campaign.

A year earlier, he had been appointed to a party leadership post in the House, becoming a chief deputy whip. He is the first Democrat from the state to hold the post. Chief deputy whips help formulate policy for the party and are responsible for ensuring the passage of legislation.

Butterfield serves on the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce and is vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. He also serves on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and the U.S. Helsinki Commission.