What Makes Us Powerfully Engaged?

Two things all the people of UNC Asheville have in common are a desire to make a difference in the world and a drive to do the right things for the right reasons. You might say we are entrepreneurs with a social conscience. UNC Asheville students, staff, faculty, and alumni contribute thousands of hours of service annually, furthering our mission to contribute meaningfully to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of North Carolina and the world.

  • Rachel Carson

    Students engaged in Leah Greden Mathews “Talk at Tailgate Markets” research project cultivated their community connections in the backyard of campus, starting in Lot 28 with the North Asheville Tailgate Market. As patrons examine plant starts, devour pastries, and stock up on their favorite greens, the students stand back to watch the interactions.

    “As a health and wellness promotion major, I’m particularly interested in the answers to a couple of the survey and interview questions where consumers say they are purchasing more fruits and vegetables, trying new foods, and discovering new things at the market that they enjoy because of the experience and the information that vendors share with them,” said rising senior Rachel Carson. “Vendors have the opportunity to change people’s preferences individually and as a community.”

    The research team discovered that the average market consumer at the campus tailgate market is a 53-year-old female from North Asheville who learned about the market from word-of-mouth and now shops there weekly. She spends on average $29.48. The study also suggests that it’s the interactions surrounding the food which entice customers, who cite learning different kinds of information from vendors, including their growing practices and philosophies.

    Most of my research in economics deals with putting prices on things you can’t buy in the market. Over the years, I’ve been increasingly curious about how values are influenced by various interactions. This project gave me the opportunity to look at a piece of that, but the student team collaboratively evolved the project to include observations at the market.” -Leah Mathews

    They provided the first reports to market managers over the winter, allowing plenty of time to plan for the upcoming season and prepare for future interactions. It’s useful information that was unavailable or unnoticed before.

    “I am interested in the intangible,” said Mathews, Interdisciplinary Distinguished Professor of the Mountain South and professor of economics at UNC Asheville. “Most of my research in economics deals with putting prices on things you can’t buy in the market. Over the years, I’ve been increasingly curious about how values are influenced by various interactions. This project gave me the opportunity to look at a piece of that, but the student team collaboratively evolved the project to include observations at the market.”

    Their observations give them a better understanding of the talk at tailgate markets from the information exchange to the cost of goods, but the research itself has an added value.  The students also have the opportunity to graduate with distinction as a University Research Scholar.    

  • Katie Bachmayer

    The path from Fulbright scholar to advocate for people with disabilities may not be obvious, but that's exactly where Katie Bachmeyer has found herself. After graduating from UNC Asheville in 2008, she was awarded the prestigious post-graduate scholarship to teach English in Macedonia. During that experience, she found herself surprised and saddened by the way people with disabilities in Macedonia often led closeted lives—kept away from society, unable to live out their potential.

    Wanting to raise awareness about the conditions of isolation people with disabilities in Macedonia often face, Bachmeyer started organizing a toy drive for children with disabilities in the city where she was teaching. Next, she partnered with a world-cyclist amputee to start a 10-day long camp aimed at providing inclusive social and recreational opportunities for teenagers with physical disabilities. For many of the campers, it was the first time that they were away from their families, attempting life on their own.

    I owe a lot to UNC Asheville. I'm just glad to have an impact on people that matches what I was given at school.”

    Before her work in Macedonia ended, Bachmeyer had her sights set on Starfire Council, an organization in her hometown of Cincinnati, leading the way for people with disabilities to become active members of the community. Today, she serves as the organization's researcher-storyteller, a job that allows her to measure and share the organization's successes at changing lives.

  • Jennifer Mayer

    As a businessperson she's a local leader. As a philanthropist, she is a force of nature. And Jennifer Mayer's achievements are far more inspiring when you know her backstory.

    By the age of 16, Mayer already had lived a hard life. She was waitressing double shifts to support herself, and she could only read at the second-grade level. But at the urging of a close friend, she enrolled in a literacy program and eventually earned a high school GED.

    Later, Mayer enrolled at UNC Asheville where she pursued a degree in psychology to, as she tells it, achieve a better understanding of herself.

    Today, she is the owner and CEO of Charlotte Street Computers, one of Asheville's busiest independent computer shops, where her business model involves giving back to the community. Mayer commits most of her annual marketing budget strictly toward supporting non-profit organizations because she understands the power of associating her business with social enrichment. Whether it's supporting community theater or building playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods, Mayer knows the power of giving back.

  • Ricky Shriner

    With a few clicks of a mouse, Ricky Shriner can make rivers overflow their banks and turn an entire town into a disaster scene from the nightly news—well, virtually at least.

    Imagine anything you can already do with GoogleEarth, and now this allows you to make it interactive. From floods in Asheville to radiation clouds in Japan, with the right data, anything can be modeled."

    Shriner, a recent Computer Science graduate, participated in an undergraduate research project for the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) and a private company called The Elumenati. The project aimed to simulate flood conditions in Asheville's River District, so Shriner combined the county's sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) survey data and GoogleEarth imagery with UNITY -- the software engine used to create the digital worlds in online video games BattleStar Galactica and Lego Star Wars.

    Shriner's simulator was created to give city planners a realistic look at how the homes and businesses along the French Broad River would be affected in the event of 100-year and 500-year floods. Being able to see the destruction caused by such floods, the city can plan how to use this land in ways that will minimize damage in the event of a great flood. After all, environmental disasters don't come with a Reset button.