Ask the President

Ask the President

New project will offer new, innovative approach not found elsewhere.

How does UNC deliver on the promise of a quality education
in the 21st century?

Be radically distinctive. The times call for UNC to be radically distinctive.

That may sound like I’m calling for a break with the past — yet being radically distinctive is a common thread throughout our 125-year history.

It started in 1889 when residents banded together to bring to Greeley the state’s first normal school, devoted to the professional preparation of teachers and to fostering an enlightened and engaged citizenry.

These visionary Greeley residents provided the land and funding to construct our first building, later known as Cranford Hall, which served as the campus entry point for all comers.

Now, 125 years later, we’re carrying on that tradition with a signature project called the Campus Commons.

At the physical heart of our Greeley campus, the Campus Commons, complementary to the existing University Center, will support and showcase the unique transformative education that is the hallmark of a UNC education.

The Commons has three major elements, combined in a way not found elsewhere, which together represent UNC as a whole — a 21st century version of what Cranford Hall once represented.

A distinctive gateway to the university.

  • The Commons will be the welcoming entry point for everyone, including prospective students, their parents, visitors, alumni and community members. It will be the place where individual connections with UNC start, and where public gathering places enhance community connections.

A one-stop-plus center organized for students, not administrators.

  • A student will not have to know what office deals with what issue. Cross-trained navigators will meet with students and connect them to resources they need, without expecting the students to diagnose themselves. No more pinballing around the campus or website. It sounds simple, but the fact is that this approach is not found at other universities.

A showcase for our world-class music and musical theater productions.

  • Currently, students in these crown jewel programs rehearse in hallways and perform in a dilapidated former movie theatre across a state highway from the north edge of campus. The Commons will have a music performance hall, which will bring this vital presence front and center into the life of the university and community.

We make a pledge to our students: If you commit to investing in your education, we commit to investing in your individual success. This partnership distinguishes the UNC experience, and the Commons will enable us to deliver on that partnership pledge for each and every student — undergraduate, graduate, on campus or online, regardless of age, circumstance or background.

As we celebrate our 125th birthday, we honor the past by realizing this dream of the future for UNC students of our next 125 years. Radically distinctive, indeed.


UNC President Kay Norton answers university-related questions about higher education in the magazine. E-mail your question to



The Campus Commons, anticipated to be completed in 2017, will be funded through a combination of public and private sources, including support from generous alumni and friends.

See more renderings of the building.