As we close another academic year, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past ten months and look ahead to our future. Together we have accomplished a great deal and have reason to celebrate. Among the things worthy of celebration are the roughly 1,450 students who will graduate with a UNC degree this weekend. Tonight we will recognize our doctoral graduates and tomorrow we will host two ceremonies to celebrate undergraduate and graduate students as well students from our GOAL program. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year as we acknowledge our students’ many accomplishments en route to earning their degrees.
In the final weeks of the semester, I had the opportunity to participate in numerous celebrations across the university. These events serve as a reminder of the important work we do at UNC. Among the events I recently attended was the LatinXcellence graduation reception where Dr. Roberto Montoya, Chief Educational Equity Officer at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, was the keynote speaker. He gave an inspirational speech on the value of higher education – and the importance of it – for our communities, our state, and our country. Earning a college degree is lifechanging, and we are fortunate to be a part of those transformational experiences.
Dr. Montoya’s speech also served as a reminder of my responsibility as a steward of this venerable institution. My work here – our work here – is to ensure the ongoing success of our programs and our people. The landscape of higher education is changing – we must adapt and respond accordingly. Part of our diligence in ensuring success is providing students with the proper resources and opportunities that best prepare them to fulfil their dreams while also being cognizant of the changing needs and expectations of our community and state.
As we look forward to the future, I am optimistic about where we are heading as a university. Over the last two years, our work has been guided by Phase 1 of the Rowing, Not Drifting 2030 strategic plan. Individuals from across the university have come together to accomplish a great deal in the past two years – and have done so in a world that was much different than we imagined when we began our planning before the pandemic. While there are still a few months left in Phase 1 and work remains to be completed, the entire campus community should take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the tremendous work already done.
In addition to completing a number of tasks in service to the key actions in Phase 1, you have also helped shape Phase 2. In the spring semester, initial key actions were drafted and shared, and a good deal of feedback has been gathered. In the coming weeks, we will work to refine those draft key actions and incorporate your feedback collected from the town hall and online surveys. I am looking forward to celebrating our Phase 1 accomplishments and beginning our Phase 2 work in earnest when everyone returns to campus in August. I am very appreciative of our community's contributions to this plan – we could not be where we are without your efforts.
As we continue to work together to ensure UNC’s future success, I am committed to working with you as fellow stewards of this institution. There will, necessarily, be challenging decisions made in the future and I remain committed to approaching them in a thoughtful and collaborative way. While we may not always agree with any one decision, I can promise that I will always welcome your input and thoughtful feedback. It has always been my intention to be open, honest, and transparent with our university community and I will continue to work to ensure that appropriate communication and engagement occurs at all levels, including from my office.
This summer and fall, there are several important initiatives occurring that will lay the foundation for our future success. Under the leadership of Dr. Cedric Howard, Vice President for Student Affairs and Pete Lien, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, a strategic enrollment management plan is in development. We are also nearing the end of our comprehensive brand audit, which will help us refine and clarify the way we tell our story, so UNC’s special and unique characteristics are clear to our internal and external audiences. I am also looking forward to welcoming two strong academic leaders to our community, both of whom will play an important role in advancing our strategic plan. Provost Dr. Kirsty Fleming begins later this month and Dr. Beth Longenecker, founding dean of UNC’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, will begin in June.
Allie Steg Haskett, Vice President for University Advancement, and I are working together with the campus community to set ambitious fundraising priorities in support of our strategic plan as we prepare for the beginning of a comprehensive campaign. This campaign will play an important role in our ability to invest in the future of our people and university. Our fundraising work is rooted in our strategic plan and will be an important driver in meeting our 2030 outcomes. One example worth celebrating as we close out the year is the record-breaking success of last month’s Bears Give Back giving day, which saw us increase dollars raised, number of new donors, and number of faculty and staff donors over last year’s already impressive results.
I could continue to go on with the exciting work happening to position us well for the future, but I want to close by expressing my gratitude for our community’s hard work, dedication to supporting student success, and commitment to UNC. Thank you for making this year successful. I look forward to seeing many of you join me in celebrating our graduates at Commencement this weekend.
Rowing, Not Drifting,