Rah, Rah, Carolina, 'Lina
Once a Heel,
always a Heel,
as many young
No more homework, no more tests ... no more classmates? For some who move away from Chapel Hill after graduation, it can be a
rude awakening to have a strong social network disap-
pear almost overnight. But Carolina can still help keep
all those other blues away, even from afar.
Wearing light blue socks, striking up a conversation
with the boy beneath the UNC cap or gathering with
fellow fans to scream at a television set and wave pom-
poms, are among the many ways that young alumni
recall their college experience.
"It's kind of like Norm on Cheers," says Katie Mc N-
erny ' 97."People might not know your nan1.e, but
when you say Carolina, there's a special bond there."
Her friends who went to other universities tell
McNerny they don't have a connection this immediate
or as strong with their fellow alumni. She is a market-
ing manager at eBay in San Francisco, where she's set a
special e-mail alert so she knows when ONC memo-
rabilia is posted for auction. She's bought a few items
so far - framed prints and a 1993 championship Coke
can. Her cell phone plays Carolina's fight song. Her
friends say she's a Carolina maniac.
Howard Aldrich, Kenan professor and chair of the
sociology department, says this group mentality can
provide social stability and a way to maintain a stable
orientation to the world.
"As a member of a group, people develop a certain
conception of themselves, and this conception is one
thing they need to live up to," he explains. "When
Carolina people find each other, it's a chance to rein-
force the notion that they are Carolina people, who are
loyal and look after each other."
Eric Johnson '02 lives in London where, he says, an
active group of T* Heels regularly goes out for pork
sandwiches and televised games.
"The barbecue isn't North Carolina-style, but it's
the best I've found in London so far," he says of
Bodean's. In basketball season, Carolina games are on
almost once a week, which helps him tolerate being an
ocean away from Chapel Hill.
Christian End, an assistant professor at Xavier Uni-
versity who specializes in sports fan psychology, also
says part of this identity and self-esteem comes from
being part of a group.
"We take on group successes as our successes," End
says. "It's called, 'basking in reflected glory.' ... We all
have multiple identities, but success determines what
we will tell others we identify with."
Top, some alumni, such as Steve O'Malley ' 87, seize any opportunity to show
Tar Heel pride, outfitting spouses, kids, pets, homes and yards with UNC gear.
Above, Katie McNerney ' 97 Joins UNC friends at a Golden Reece gathering In
Boston, from left: Thomas Koonce ' 95, McNerney, Rebecca Hockfleld ' 99,
Wendy Sarratt ' 95, Kimberly McCutcheon Jablonski ' 94, Sneha Shah ' 95.
Tar Heel sports provide a rallying point for alumni
around the world. For others, the research achieve-
ments of Carolina faculty, the contributions of promi-
nent alumni and high national rankings for academics
are the most important sources ofpride. End says that
fans can bask in the glory of a group just by"commu-
nicating to ourselves and others that we're a part of the
group," whether it's wearing a class ring, hanging the
UNC diploma on the office wall or making a state-
ment from a back bumper.
Valerie Alter '02, a law student at Stanford, has
"HEELS02" on her license plates. They were a gradua-
tion gift from her parents, so she could display her alle-
giance without a bumper sticker. ("I don't think that
looks quite professional enough for a client lunch," she
says.) But the message often is lost on Californians, one
of whom asked her, "Are you a podiatrist?"
May / ju ne 2005