Third Decade: Growth and Expansion

Carolina Population Center was a strong and preeminent population program as the third decade began in 1986. It had a reputation of conducting valuable research from a multidisciplinary perspective and providing high-quality training to students learning to be population researchers. J. Richard Udry, CPC Director, solidified positive relationships with University administration, academic departments, funders, and project partners throughout the world. He encouraged an environment in which professional staff had a "can do" approach, and they contributed new skills to research projects. CPC embraced new computer-based technologies to enhance research capabilities. Growth was on the horizon.

don_thomas_trainees_1991.jpg In 1987, Udry appointed Amy Tsui, CPC Fellow and Associate Professor of Maternal and Child Health, as Deputy Director of CPC. Chief among her responsibilities was to direct and strengthen the training program, while Don Thomas continued to run its day-to-day operations.

In 1986, there were 36 Fellows from 16 academic departments, increasing to 47 Fellows from 18 departments in 1995. The Fellows were highly respected scholars in their own disciplines and were very active in CPC research. Their acomplishments garnered international attention and attracted other faculty to UNC. Academic departments and CPC worked together to bring faculty who were interested in population research to UNC. Many of those faculty became CPC Fellows.

guilkey_entwisle_thailand_1991.jpg During these years, Fellows designed and submitted proposals for many research projects. Some projects were big, some were small, some were local to North Carolina, others had international perspectives, some looked in-depth at one issue, while others took a multidisciplinary perspective. Funding from the federal government and from foundations and other sources skyrocketed.

Projects at CPC nearly tripled from 41 in 1987 to 114 in 1995. As these new projects started, the need for additional staff was critical. During this same period, CPC staff grew from 65 to 117, most of whom were research project staff and Computer Services core staff. The Administrative unit was reorganized in 1990 to restructure the fiscal functions of the Center and improve administrative support to the growing Center.

CPC began several large-scale projects during this decade. By design, these projects were multidisciplinary and incorporated innovative data collection methodologies, which created datasets that would be analyzed by researchers throughout the world. They brought visibility to CPC, and provided the resources to explore different methodological approaches to research. In addition, they served to explore new meanings of the concept of population research. Some of the projects that began in this decade were: the China Health and Nutrition Survey (1988), the Ecuador Projects (1990), the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (1991), the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994), and the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition Study (1995). These were in addition to AdSex (which started in 1978), the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (which started in 1980), and the Nang Rong Projects (which started in 1984).

The American Teenage Study, the NIH-funded study of teen sexual behavior, adolescent pregnancy, and risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS, was scheduled to begin in 1991, but was canceled by U.S. Congress amid concerns about questions to be asked of the study participants. This resulted in considerable media attention, and articles and editorials about the cancellation appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Science, among others. Read excerpt of 1991 Congressional Record about canceling the study.

Also in 1991, the Evaluation Project was awarded by USAID, which marked CPC's first major project funded by USAID since 1977. Amy Tsui was the Principal Investigator, and soon resigned from her position as Deputy Director of the Center. The training program was in great shape, having added funding from the Hewlett Foundation, the Compton Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging for life course studies. The Deputy Director position was not filled by another person, and the Training Coordinator took sole responsibility for the training program.

The year 1991 also marked the Carolina Population Center's 25th Anniversary. To commemorate, a three-day symposium was held in May, bringing national and international population scholars to Chapel Hill. The papers and commentary from the symposium are gathered in Population: Growing as a Field. To provide balance to the scholarly event, CPC Fellows, trainees and staff performed Stranger Things Have Happened, a humorous seven-scene musical, co-written by two talented members of the staff.

After 15 years as Director, Udry resigned from the directorship in 1992. Though he had developed the Fellows program in his first month as Director, he had opted to not become a Fellow during his directorship. He was elected a Fellow in 1992, and is still affiliated with CPC. In CPC's 1992 Annual Review, Udry wrote, "As I complete my 15th (and last) year as director, I hand over to my successor an administrative challenge of a new order: a mature center with growing pains." Interview clip: Udry talks about leaving the Director position and Rindfuss taking the Directorship [VIDEO].

rindfuss_1992.jpg Ronald R. Rindfuss took on that challenge by becoming Director in 1992. Rindfuss, CPC Fellow and Professor of Sociology, had been involved with CPC since his arrival at UNC in 1976. He was able to take on management of a solid organization with numerous projects from diverse funding sources, and a strong international reputation.

He knew that Fellows and their research could be better supported if certain organizational changes were made. He re-organized the Cores into Administration, Computer Services, Information Services (which combined the Library and Editorial Services), and expanded Statistical Services. In addition, he developed the Spatial Analysis core, which was the first core of its type at a population center. At first, Fellows questioned the usefulness of a Spatial core but, as Barry Popkin, CPC Fellow and Professor of Nutrition said, Rindfuss saw spatial analysis "as a vision for the field."

Rindfuss also brought graphics services to CPC. He also worked with Tom Heath, CPC's Business Manager, and with University administration and academic departments to introduce a new formula for sharing the income from overhead receipts with the home departments of faculty Fellows and also with the Fellows themselves. Interview clip: Rindfuss speaks about the changes at CPC when he was Director [VIDEO].

CPC had long been a leader in the computing environment, owing much of the progress to Judy Kovenock, head of Computer Services. Computers had been networked at CPC since 1984, and the addition of numerous and complex research projects as well as the new Spatial Analysis core provided an opportunity for CPC to explore research questions with enhanced hardware, software, and new techniques in computer programming and computerized data analysis. In 1991, communication between CPC researchers, staff, and trainees became easier when the PC-based Da Vinci email replaced mainframe email. In 1992, CPC expanded to the Unix platform. In 1995, CPC had 150 PCs on the desks of most faculty and staff and launched its first website.

As its third decade ended, CPC was in its best shape ever. The scope of research — and the staff, resources, and space needed to conduct the research — had grown and was first-rate. The fourth decade was about to begin, and changes were imminent.

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