When the class of 1910 had “Rowing Not Drifting” inscribed on the Horace Mann Gates on Central Campus, they captured a core value of a young institution that would remain a guiding principle for us more than a century later — to move forward with intention.
Late last fall, as the semester wound down and we prepared to develop our strategic plan for the decade ahead, that phrase naturally fit our efforts. We endeavored to work together to move the institution toward our common goal of success for every student.
Little did we know that 2020 would bring unprecedented challenges to UNC and the world. We find ourselves rowing in uncharted waters. A pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest provoking a renewed movement for justice provide for us three challenging, revealing, transformational, and defining moments. How we respond as a university community reveals our core and character and will shape us for generations to come.
Appropriately, this issue’s theme is “Defining Moments,” reflected in these pages as we share defining moments past and present, discuss policy changes and our work to pursue anti-racism, introduce you to some of the new university leaders who are guiding our efforts, and reflect on how educators are experiencing and innovating K-12 teaching during this time. As you will see, this year’s events have not been distractions from our strategic goals, but instead have served to sharpen our focus on student success as our community came together.
We recognize that ours is not the first generation of Bears to face such moments. Earlier this year, we lost Emeritus Professor Robert Larson, who taught history at UNC from 1960 to 1990. He authored the well-known UNC history book Shaping Educational Change. His book takes us through the life and times — some tame and some turbulent — that our students, faculty, staff, and administrators faced in the university’s first 100 years. In his forward to Larson’s book, alumnus and author James A. Michener called this university a “feisty institution.”
It’s an apt description for a university that perseveres and leads. As I walk across campus these days and pass by those gates, I see our students on their way to classes, just as so many Bears before them. And while this year has been so different from previous years, one thing remains the same: Like the students before them who have faced defining moments, they are continuing to pursue their dreams, find their paths and move forward with intention. I am inspired, and I think often of the foresight of that long-ago class of Bears who understood the “feisty,” purposeful nature of our university.
Rowing, Not Drifting,