Meet 3 UNC Asheville professors making a positive community impact

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UNC Asheville is an award-winning university (way to go, Bulldogs) that prides itself on a talented faculty and staff + specialized programs that attract students from all walks of life. The stories of the university’s impact can be told through students on campus and staff members making a difference throughout the local community — and beyond.

Meet three professors contributing to the university’s initiative to make a positive community impactand the exciting projects they’re currently working on.

Kathleen Lawlor, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Economics

What happens when a community is destroyed by urban renewal? Kathleen and a team of UNC Asheville students are working diligently to find answers to this question by analyzing 170+ boxes of historical documents now housed in UNC Asheville’s Special Collections and University Archives.

Kathleen hopes some of the answers can be found in maps, images, and detailed documents of ~1,240 Asheville homes, lots, and businesses that were demolished or repurposed during the city’s urban renewal campaigns from the 60s to 90s — campaigns that predominantly impacted Black communities. See what the project is uncovering. 📖

Landon Ward. Courtesy of UNC Asheville and Rafael Aguilera copy

Landon brings students out into nature to show them reptiles and amphibians local to Asheville. | Photo provided by UNC Asheville and Rafael Aguilera

Landon Ward, Ph.D., Lecturer of Environmental Studies

Landon teaches environmental studies with a specialty in herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians. He works with several local organizations, including the Asheville City Schools Foundation and My Daddy Taught Me That, to empower youth + to bring STEM-focused programs to local students who wouldn’t usually have access to hands-on experiences.

You’ll find Landon visiting classrooms, after-school programs, and out in the community discussing the importance of environmental awareness; showcasing the flora and fauna that can be found in our backyards right here in Asheville; and sparking an interest in STEM for students who might not have been interested in science before.

Amanda Wray. Courtesy UNC Asheville and Rafael Aguilera copy

Along with oral histories, Amanda and her team collect physical artifacts (like newspaper clippings) to help build a complete record. | Photo provided by UNC Asheville and Rafael Aguilera

Amanda Wray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English

60+. That’s how many students and volunteers who are currently working to help build the LGBTQIA+ Archive housed in the Ramsey Library at UNC Asheville. Led by Amanda Wray, Ph.D., the project focuses on collecting the history of the LGBTQ+ population in and around Asheville with the help of Blue Ridge Pride.

“I am intentional to pair LGBTQ+ youth with LGBTQ+ elders, so that they can interview one another,” Amanda told the Mountain Xpress in 2021, noting the importance of intergenerational dialogue to deepen the community’s understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, identity and history. “If you aren’t talking to your elders now, what the hell are you waiting for?” *

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