Cherokee Language Program collaborates with publisher to print curriculum materials

The Cherokee Language Program at Western Carolina University has teamed up with a local, independent publisher to produce books for children. EarlyLight Books, which specializes in science books for children and adults, will publish a bilingual and Cherokee-only version of a book titled “Animal Colors,” a low-level “concept book” designed to teach children about colors and animals. The book has been translated into the Cherokee syllabary and should be released to the public in July, said Dawn Cusick MS ’08, owner of EarlyLight, based in Waynesville.

Cherokee Language Program director Hartwell Francis and coordinator Tom Belt worked together to translate and edit the book’s original text by Beth Fielding. The program helps produce materials for a Cherokee language immersion project on the Qualla Boundary for children from 6 months old through second grade. It is an effort to keep alive the Cherokee language after findings indicated a small percentage of fluent speakers remained among members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and that most of the remaining speakers were older than 51.

In the past, the program has produced two books in the Cherokee language, “Grouchy Old Woman” and “Spearfinger,” both based on Cherokee legend, and has produced children’s books with the Eastern Band’s Kituwah Preservation and Education Program, which oversees the immersion program’s early childhood component and primary grade classrooms, called the Kituwah Academy. The Cherokee Language Program also has put books online in video form and that can be printed by individuals, and is working with WCU programs in entrepreneurship and computer information systems to develop a Cherokee language learning application for mobile devices.

Low-level academic books are a critical need for children learning Cherokee, said Bo Lossiah ’05, a curriculum specialist at Kituwah Academy. “I need science books, social studies books, math books,” said Lossiah. Developing such work is painstaking, he said, because words sometimes don’t exist for the subject matter being covered. “The vocabulary is coming along slowly,” he said. “I’ve been working on ‘centimeter’ and ‘millimeter.’ We had a word for ‘meter’ but it wasn’t different from ‘yard.’”

Cusick, the publisher, envisions an audience beyond schoolchildren for the book. “I can’t imagine that tourists aren’t really tired of getting a T-shirt. It seems like a great souvenir,” she said. “The Cherokee syllabary is absolutely beautiful in its printed form. When you see it with the colors behind it, it’s just beautiful.”

Cusick segued into EarlyLight after nearly two decades with Lark Books in Asheville. Discovering a love of science, she returned to school and earned a master’s degree in biology from WCU. She now teaches biology at Haywood Community College. In 2010, Cusick won the Outstanding Children’s Book Award from the Animal Behavior Society for her nonfiction book “Bug Butts,” which explores how bugs use their rear ends for communication, protection, construction and more.

Rec Therapy Reinstates the Karen Styles Spirit Award

After a six-year lapse, the Recreational Therapy Program at Western Carolina University reinstated an award honoring a much-loved alumna who was the victim of a high-profile Western North Carolina murder. Karen Lynn Styles ’94 had just accepted her first job post graduation, as a wilderness counselor, when she disappeared Oct. 31, 1994, while on a run in the Bent Creek Recreation Area of Pisgah National Forest. Her body was found about a month later, and a local man was convicted in her death. In honor of Styles, who was known for her generosity, spiritedness and campus involvement, her classmates established the Karen Styles Spirit Award in 1995.

“Karen was a beautiful person with a true desire to serve humanity,” said Richard Starnes ’92 MA ’94, associate professor and chair of the history department at WCU who became friends with Styles when they both were WCU students.

The award lapsed, however, after faculty members who had known her retired. It was brought back this year after current faculty members heard about Styles and connected with her mother. Robert Thomas Fox, a senior from Lincolnton majoring in recreational therapy, was selected by his fellow students to receive the 2012 Karen Styles Spirit Award for his high academic achievement, active lifestyle, community involvement and commitment to the profession.

During his time at WCU, he has served as an officer with the Recreational Therapy Association, presented at professional conferences and worked with residents with Alzheimer’s disease and adolescents with autism and learning disabilities. After working closely with a young man with cerebral palsy during an adaptive skiing program this past winter at Cataloochee Ski Area in Haywood County, Fox has decided on a career in physical rehabilitation and adaptive sports in particular.

“There were so many great students that I didn’t think I had a chance. It felt really good that my fellow classmates thought that much of me,” Fox said of receiving the award. “It really was a great honor.”

Student-created films screened at Festival

Films created by Western Carolina University students were screened at the fourth annual Controlled Chaos Film Festival held on campus this spring, with a range of short works as well as three senior-thesis film projects written, directed and produced by students from the Motion Picture and Television Production Program and starring performers from the School of Stage and Screen.

The first senior-thesis film, “Moses Cove,” is set in the Appalachian Mountains and conveys the story of a man forced to make an important moral decision in a way that offers a poignant view of responsibility and ethics. The second, “Crossroads,” is set in Asheville and centers on a woman who must choose between having the career of her dreams and being with the man that she loves. The third is a documentary about Cullowhee that captures the community’s past, present and future in the context of its beauty and history.

“This event is the highlight of our season because it showcases our entire student body’s skills encompassing directing, writing, acting, cinematography, design and production skills, culminating in a fascinating and eclectic mix of student films,” said Thomas Salzman, director of the School of Stage and Screen.

Click here to see the films online

Guide to green colleges tags WCU

“The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition” identified Western Carolina University as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America. The guide highlights “Reducing Our Carbon Paw Print,” a program at WCU that resulted in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in energy usage on campus; the university’s commitment to building to national standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental, or LEED, certification (including the new Health and Human Sciences Building, at right); and a reduction in petroleum usage. Through the introduction of six neighborhood electric vehicles and by switching to E10, a blend of ethanol and unleaded gas, to power the campus fleet, WCU reduced petroleum usage 15 percent in five years.

WCU named ‘College of Distinction’

An online guide that puts the spotlight on the “hidden gems” of higher education has recognized Western Carolina University as one of six North Carolina Colleges of Distinction. The website collegesofdistinction.com describes WCU as an institution where “students get to know their instructors, explore the over 150 student organizations, collaborate with faculty on research, and take classes in foreign countries. With an innumerable list of academic areas of study, there is something at Western for every student.”

Fellowship enables professor to pursue Darwin book

Professor James T. Costa is recipient of a one-year fellowship at the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study to research Charles Darwin’s original experiments and how they can be used to enhance education today. The fellowship will enable Costa, also director of Highlands Biological Station, to complete research for a book that gives readers a sense of the scientific context of why Darwin pursued them and how they fueled his publications, including “On the Origin of Species,” which helped lay the foundation for the modern theory of evolution, and another dozen books.

“I’m especially interested in how Darwin’s experimental work, which was done in his home, garden, and surrounding fields and meadows – often with the help of his kids, friends and neighbors as ‘research assistants’ – can be used today in teaching about Darwin, scientific method, ecology and evolution,” said Costa.

Professor wins Fulbright for Bulgaria project

Rob Young, director of Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, will spend five months in Bulgaria next year as a Fulbright Scholar helping develop science-based criteria for sustainable development of the burgeoning tourism industry along the coast of the Black Sea. “Coastal development that is unplanned and not carefully regulated can destroy the key economic resource – the beach – that tourists come to enjoy, and can result in significant environmental damage,” said Young, one of the nation’s foremost experts in coastal geology and shoreline development policy.