UNC Effort Maps System's Future
By John Durham
An exploding student population. A rapidly shifting demographic profile across the state of North Carolina. The decline of economic pillars. Accelerating change.
All these topics are fodder for the UNC Tomorrow Commission, which is examining how the state’s public universities can best meet the needs of North Carolina over the next two decades and beyond.
The commission’s members, named in March at the Board of Governors meeting on the ECU campus, are charged with learning what the people of North Carolina need from the UNC system and making recommendations to the board.
Commission members and staff from the UNC General Administration, who are visiting all 16 campuses in the system, were at ECU for a three-hour meeting on May 15. ECU officials, led by Chancellor Steve Ballard, discussed ways that the university assesses and responds to needs of the region.
ECU also showed the team members a 28-minute video depicting 10 projects the university is engaged in across the state. They included the Tillery Learn and Serve effort, Project Heart, Wachovia Partnership East, Los Puentes in Greene Country, and the Bernstein Community Health Center in Greenville.
ECU participants in the meeting included Vice Chancellors James LeRoy Smith, Phyllis Horns, Deirdre Mageean and Marilyn Sheerer and several deans, program directors and faculty members.
The visiting team included UNC President Erskine Bowles; Norma Mills Houston, the director of the UNC Tomorrow project; Board of Governors members Phil Dixon and Estelle “Bunny” Sanders; UNC Vice President Alan Mabe; Kemal Atkins, UNC director for academic and student affairs; and Ginger Burks, UNC associate vice president for finance. Brenda Killingsworth, ECU associate professor of business, chair of the system-wide Faculty Assembly, and a member of the UNC Tomorrow Commission, also attended.
Bowles praised the ECU video. “You should be showing this to the General Assembly,” he said.
Earlier in May, at the first meeting of the commission in Chapel Hill, Jim Phillips, chair of the commission and of the Board of Governors, said, “If we are to succeed as a state and nation, we need more educated people than we have ever had before.
“We must lead the way, or changes that we need to make will not happen. Not making the changes is not an option.”
Phillips said the fundamental tenet of UNC Tomorrow is that UNC must be demand driven.
“We must focus research and scholarship on the needs of the state. We must become more engaged with our communities. We must be more strategic and more identified with the people of North Carolina.”
“The premise is that we can do better,” Phillips said. “The commission’s task is to advise us how to do that.”
In addition to campus visits, UNC Tomorrow teams will meet with regional leaders in different sectors and industries to discuss evolving challenges facing the state and will conduct listening sessions throughout the state.