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Thursday, October 5, 2006

UNCP Professor Sally Vallabha named chair of Human Relations Commission

Sally Vallabha, a faculty member in UNC Pembroke’s Chemistry and Physics Department, was recently elected chair of the Human Relations Commission (HRC) of the City of Fayetteville, N.C., and Cumberland County for 2006-07.

State Sen. Tony Rand, left, and outgoing HRC Chair Carl Mitchell congratulate Sally Vallabha on her appointment as chair for 2006-07.

State Sen. Tony Rand, left, and outgoing HRC Chair Carl Mitchell congratulate Sally Vallabha on her appointment as chair for 2006-07.

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Her initial nomination to the commission was made by former Mayor Marshall Pitts, and her new position was approved recently by the county commission, the city council and new Mayor Tony Chavonne.

Vallabha’s interest in human relations runs deep, and, as chair, she will set the agenda for the commission’s upcoming year. She said her initial appointment stemmed from mutual interests in her community.

“Former Mayor Pitts and I are friends, and we always discussed community issues,” Vallabha said. “I volunteered for several advisory councils, and joining the Human Relations Commission grew out of that.”

Vallabha said there is work to be done on human relations in Fayetteville.

“Fayetteville says it is an All-American City that is proud of its diversity,” she said. “But we are light years from becoming a community where everybody is sitting at the same table.”

The year ahead for the HRC offers the community bridge-building programs such as study circles, interfaith dialogues between religious leaders and speaking engagements for Vallabha across the community.

The topics on the table for discussion are many, including racial and cultural diversity, mass transit, recycling, planning and senior citizens issues, she said.

“There are many, many issues that need to be worked on,” Vallabha said.

When she left her native Madras, India, Vallabha’s goal was to get an education. She earned a master’s degree from North Carolina A&T and served on the faculty of Fayetteville State and UNCP.

She has put roots down in southeastern North Carolina and that has led to community involvement.

“I came to this country to go to school, but I have several friends and a vested interest here now, and I feel compelled to give back,” she said. “Even on campus, I don’t teach and go home. I try to participate in many campus activities and to encourage students to be involved as well.”

One of Vallabha’s accomplishments at UNCP was a recently funded $1 million grant from the National Institute of Health. The grant will provide undergraduate students in science valuable research experiences.

“The grant is a joint effort between the Biology and Chemistry departments, and I served as co-author for our area,” she said. “The grant will help students who go onto graduate school.

“From my own experience, I have found that undergraduate research is very important to student success in the sciences, and I am grateful that University leadership is promoting undergraduate research at UNCP,” Vallabha said.

Vallabha said “karma” brought her to North Carolina, but whatever it was, she is leaving good karma in her wake.

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