Fostering Innovation

UNC President Kay Norton Outlines Plan to Invest $1 Million in Innovative Projects During State of the University Address

To create more opportunities for students to engage in "truly transformative education," UNC President Kay Norton announced Tuesday during her annual State of the University address a plan to invest $1 million in innovative projects over the next two years.

The initiative is in response to economic changes that have resulted in less public funding for public colleges and universities at the same time the need for college-educated workers is growing.

"The work to be done by these graduates is evolving so rapidly that it is no longer sufficient to study and prepare to do a particular job. We have to prepare graduates to adjust and adapt at least as quickly as the world around them changes," Norton told the capacity crowd of more than 400 people who attended Tuesday's address at the University Center.

This, describes "the very hallmark of a UNC education," which means UNC is well-positioned for the future, Norton said.

"We can demonstrate that we are addressing our new reality not only by continuing to change the lives of the students we have traditionally served, but also by fulfilling our mission in new areas and by new means — to address the needs of people who are time-pressed, financially pressed, or unable to come to our campus, but deserve the opportunity for transformative education. "

The process will begin this fall when Provost Robbyn Wacker issues a call for proposals from the campus community to innovate in three areas: academic programs, delivery methods and student success.

"Our goal of the RFP is to catalyze big thinking about innovative pedagogy, delivery methods and student support. It is both about doing things we do now in new ways, and about doing entirely new things. We want to question everything but our core commitment to students' learning," Norton said of the competitive process. "There are many talented and thoughtful people in our university community, and this process is about providing a pathway for bringing ideas to fruition."

Proposals will be due at the beginning of the spring semester. Funded projects will be announced sometime around spring break.

"We have to think outside the gravitational pull of the ordinary," Norton said. "Not every initiative we launch may end up being a game-changing innovation. But we're going to send up enough rockets that some of them are bound to break free—and even from the ones that fail, we're going to learn something.

"And you know what, I like our chances."

For a transcript of the speech, click here (PDF).