Chancellor’s Musings – Taking Giant Steps Into the Spotlight

Posted on April 08, 2017

Taking Giant Steps Into the Spotlight

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The Gates Foundation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Education Trust, ESPN, the National Invitation Tournament, and the Society of Health and Physical Educators. What do they have in common? They have each singled out UNCG for national recognition.

Why is this important? Because this wave of recognition signals the world-class company that UNCG does and, even more importantly, should consistently keep. Because it demonstrates that we are emerging from the dubious distinction of being the “best kept secret” in our University system. Because just as it raises our own profile, these achievements bring attention to the incredible talent, capability, and momentum of the greater Greensboro community. And, because it means we are gaining traction towards realizing our aspirations.

Let me provide some detail. As you may have read, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation selected UNCG, along with 30 other institutions, to be part of a new nationwide initiative to close achievement gaps and to improve success, especially for low income, first generation, and minority students. In addition, UNCG was just one of six institutions from the larger cohort chosen to receive a share of the $6 million grant from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. UNCG will receive $640,000 over the next four years to develop and expand new initiatives, from a summer bridge program to online academic support services.

We are also extremely pleased with the article in the March 10, 2017, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Educationfeaturing UNCG’s success enrolling, advising, and graduating a student population that is racially, ethnically, geographically, and socioeconomically diverse. This was echoed by the most recent Education Trust report, which singled out UNCG’s success in eliminating the Black/White completion gap. The Chronicle article points to the hard work of UNCG faculty and staff to develop support services for students who are most at-risk during their freshman year and beyond.

What is clear from the Chronicle piece is that a combination of sophisticated predictive modeling and good old-fashioned “boots on the ground,” person-to-person work accounts for UNCG’s significantly improving student success rates.

Collectively, this recognition shines a spotlight on our unique capability to transform the lives of students by helping them truly achieve meaningful and lasting success through their experience here at UNCG.

But wait. There’s more. The Spartans were on the “mothership,” and how cool was that? For those of you who don’t follow sports, the “mothership” is ESPN, or what sports fans call the home base of ESPN’s constellation of sports channels (e.g., ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, and ESPN Deportes). It is the biggest and most significant sports network in the country, and likely the world. The Spartan’s men’s basketball team was the #1 seed in the Southern Conference championship tournament – so slated because they won the regular season title in breathtaking fashion in front of one of the best crowds we have seen at the Greensboro Coliseum – and played in the championship game that was nationally televised on ESPN. Heck, I got texts from friends in California who were watching it while on the treadmill at the gym; from my dad watching in Orlando; and from college friends from Dallas to Des Moines. What national exposure. And our team made us proud, battling to the very last seconds of the game.

Although we lost the game – a shot to send it into overtime rimmed out – and did not reach our goal of going to the NCAA Tournament, we were still invited to participate in the prestigious National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The final four NIT teams play for the title in famed Madison Square Garden in New York City. That would be one fantastic stage for our Spartans!

Meanwhile, SHAPE – the Society of Health and Physical Educators – recently named Professor of Kinesiology Cathy Ennis as the recipient of the organization’s highest honor, the Luther Halsey Gulick Award. This award recognizes scholars who exemplify the “highest standards in accomplishment, innovation, and leadership.” In other words, this is a big deal!

Professor Ennis is being honored for her long and distinguished career as a researcher and a teacher. She has been the principal investigator for National Institutes of Health grants totaling more than $3 million and has given over 175 presentations to national, international, and regional audiences. She has also received numerous awards for her teaching and curriculum innovations and is the past president of the National Academy of Kinesiology.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of recent accomplishments. Rather, these are just some of the latest examples of how UNCG is taking “giant steps.” Our faculty, staff, and students continue to aspire to world-class excellence, and we are increasingly getting recognition for the important and inspiring work we contribute to our disciplines, our state, our region, and the global community. Indeed, I’m sure there are many other examples from around the campus of high achievement and distinction and I don’t mean to overlook them. These are just a few notable moments that caught my eye and, I think, represent well our collective aspirations.  And I assure you, there is MUCH more to come!

Finally, I know there is a lot of gloom and doom out there in the world, but as I have said before, this should not stop us from recognizing what is good and being motivated to make a difference. Today, I just wanted to lift up some of the many positive things that are happening on our campus before many of you leave for Spring Break. Let’s not be content to be a “secret.”  Instead, let’s let the world know we are here, and we are making our mark!