BA with Honors, 1964

I attended the University of North Carolina for two years, from June, 1962 until I graduated in 1964. At that time, women generally transferred to UNC-CH as juniors after completing two years of college. My first two years of college had been at a small, liberal arts school in Alabama, where I took my first Sociology course which opened my eyes to a different way of looking at the world and society; with the encouragement of a professor there, I transferred in order to have educational opportunities unavailable in the smaller school.

I was asked to write some reminiscences about my experience in the honors program, and I have found that a difficult task because the honors program was just one facet of my undergraduate experience in the Sociology Department. Throughout my two years there, I was a part of the department, with opportunities and benefits not usually part of the undergraduate experience at other schools – and for that matter part of the experience of my non-sociology-major friends at UNC. Courses were taught by world-class faculty, who were accessible and generous with their time for students who were enthusiastic about the subject matter.

Being in the honors program, I was mentored by people such as Drs. Blalock, Lenski, Cramer, Vance and Simpson. They were forgiving and kind as I muddled through data analysis and thesis defense! During my senior year, I also frequented the IRSS computer lab in Alumni Hall, where I wrestled with the IBM 075 and 101 counter-sorters while assisting in the North Carolina School Teachers Project. It was in that lab that I heard the news, on November 22, 1963, that President Kennedy had been shot. The lab, until then buzzing with activity, became silent and all action ceased as we began to understand this national tragedy.

Perhaps my most rewarding time in Chapel Hill occurred during the summer between my Junior and Senior years. An NSF grant that summer paired 10 undergraduates from UNC and other universities to work with 10 faculty (also from UNC and other universities) on research projects. I assisted Professor Wally Dynes, from University of Washington, on the Boeing Aircraft Project, and was able to participate in social science research on a scale that I wouldn’t have imagined prior to my time in Chapel Hill. Other students that summer were from William and Mary, Fordham, and Tulane, among other schools, and we spent the summer learning, a tight group of people with differing backgrounds and similar hopes for the future.

That summer, Chapel Hill was site of civil rights’ marches twice each week, seeking an open accommodation’s ordinance. We NSF students and faculty joined with others in the community in this endeavor and other related civil rights activities, which proved to be an important part of my education.

After graduation, I worked as a research assistant at the UNC Medical School, first working in the Medical Sociology, and later in the Department of Psychiatry in the Early Infantile Autism project. After leaving Chapel Hill with my then husband, Colin, I moved to Providence, Rhode Island for 7 years, then to Ann Arbor, Michigan. (We eventually got divorced.) I attended University of Michigan School of Social Work and got my MSW in 1979. Until my retirement in 2012, I worked as a medical social worker, the last 27 years in the University of Michigan Health System. My daughter, Rebecca, lives nearby with her husband Brett and their two children. My son, Christopher, lives in Philadelphia with his son, Gabby, and his new blended family—wife, Tina and her three daughters.

I remember my years in Chapel Hill with fondness, and with great appreciation to faculty, staff, and other students who so enriched my life.

julieliftin@att.net
submitted December 2016