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A University for the 21st Century

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
State of the Campus 2012

Linda P. Brady, Chancellor
August 15, 2012

Bold Risks Result in Transformative Experiences

Welcome to the 121st opening convocation of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It is a pleasure to be here with you as we embark upon a new academic year.

UNCG is a special place, rich with history and tradition. It is with our bold history in mind that I begin today’s address. Nearly a century ago as our soldiers returned from World War I, our country began its recovery with a new World view.

With a forward-looking vision and a commitment to expanding educational opportunities for women, this university built seven residence halls between 1919 and 1923. Fondly referred to as the Quad, these halls housed generations of women whose lives were transformed by their experiences on this campus.

Four years ago, our campus community was faced with a challenging decision. The Quad, which now houses students from all backgrounds and circumstances, had accumulated millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. Some of us proposed to demolish the aging halls and rebuild. Others argued renovation of the Quad was critical to preserving our history. With both options came risk.

After many months of research, debate and nearly a dozen public forums, we listened and we responded. We came together to do what was best for our students and for our University. Together, we preserved yesterday’s history for tomorrow’s students.

Today, students are making their homes within the newly renovated Quad. With its open gateway, enhanced parlors, faculty offices and apartments as well as academic classrooms co-located with suite-style student residences, today’s Quad represents a UNCG equipped for the 21st century.

Our university has been adapting to a changing environment and redefining what it means to be a public university since the first day we opened our doors; today is no different. In times of challenge, we are neither complacent nor apprehensive. We take bold risks to expand access and provide a transformative experience for our students. It’s in our DNA. It’s what makes us UNCG.


Our people represent the foundation upon which we build. I’d like to recognize the faculty and staff members joining UNCG this year. May I please ask all new faculty to stand and be recognized? If you are a new member of our staff, please also stand to be recognized. Thanks to all of you for choosing UNCG. We stand ready to support you as you contribute to student success.

I also want to recognize Professor John Lepri, chair of the Faculty Senate, and other members of the Faculty Senate who may be with us this morning. In addition, please join me in welcoming Ray Carney and Jason Marshburn, Co-chairs of the Staff Senate, and other members of the Staff Senate with us today. We rely heavily on your leadership and creativity to achieve the goals of this university.

I want to take a moment to personally thank members of the Deans Council and my Executive Staff for their leadership and hard work. Let’s also take a moment to acknowledge the long-standing contributions of John Deal, retiring Dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and retiring Dean Robert Brown of the Division of Continual Learning.

I am also pleased to welcome members of UNCG’s Board of Trustees. Led by Chair David Sprinkle, this Board works hard in the service of the university and guides us as we continue to address challenges and explore new opportunities to serve our students and the citizens of North Carolina. Chair Sprinkle and Board members Kate Barrett, Linda Hiatt, Susan Safran and Chelsea Boccardo are with us today.

In addition, the work of this University is supported by dedicated volunteers, members of the UNCG Alumni Association, Excellence Foundation, and Board of Visitors. I want to thank each and every one of you for your service.

I would like to recognize members of the North Carolina General Assembly who are here today, including two UNCG alumni: Representative John Faircloth and Representative Maggie Jeffus. I also want to extend a special welcome to Greensboro City Councilwoman Ms. Nancy Hoffman. Thank you for your service and for joining us today.

As you entered the auditorium, on display were the names of this year’s recipients of the UNCG Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards Ceremony. I encourage you to attend the Faculty and Staff Service Awards Ceremony on October 5 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 114 of the School of Education Building. We look forward to celebrating the achievements and outstanding service of your colleagues, many of whom are here today. If you are a recipient of one of this year’s awards, please stand so we may recognize you.

Today’s Focus

From State Normal and Industrial School to Woman’s College to present day UNCG, our institution has seen change since its inception in 1891. Remaining constant is our commitment to access and service, in North Carolina and beyond. As the world around us continues to adapt to ongoing economic challenges, political uncertainties and rapidly accelerating technology, so too has higher education.

Today, institutions across the country, including UNCG, are facing significant questions in response to changes in higher education, ranging from how it is funded to how it is delivered.

This morning I will summarize a few of these critical questions. Today is the start of a dialogue that will continue through informal small group chats and larger forums as we prepare to build the university’s next strategic plan, a process set to begin in Fall 2013.

How do we enhance student success?

Today’s incoming students demonstrate that quality and diversity reinforce one another —UNCG has simultaneously enhanced the quality and the diversity of entering freshmen classes. Our students are better prepared for a challenging learning environment that inspires a quest for discovery, the desire to see the world from multiple perspectives, and the confidence to find one’s place in it.

While recruitment is essential, we must focus our efforts on retention and ensure students make steady progress toward a degree. The UNC System funding model, which traditionally rewarded enrollment growth, is shifting focus to undergraduate student success, with the allocation of future resources linked to student retention and graduation rates.

This fall, the Office of Undergraduate Studies launched "Team Up with US," an initiative which invites qualified professionals – including current and retired university faculty and staff – to volunteer for academic support services, including tutoring and advising. Whether through work with UNCG Guarantee Scholars, preparing candidates for scholarship and fellowship competitions, or mentoring undergraduate and graduate researchers, we all have a role to play in student success.

Ashby Residential College opened in 1970, becoming one of the first residential colleges in the United States. This semester, four new learning communities will open, raising our capacity to provide a learning community experience to 45% of all first time college students. These communities support general education learning outcomes and contribute to improved retention and graduation rates. The most recent retention rate for learning community students was 86.5%, compared to 75.7% for UNCG students overall.

We are also focused on increasing retention and reducing time-to-degree for our graduate students through a number of new initiatives, including entrepreneurial career paths, writing support groups, the graduate research and creativity expo, and a Scholar’s Retreat.

We know these initiatives contribute to student success, but not without the leadership and support of our faculty. I look forward to working together with the provost, deans and department heads, as well as faculty leadership, to ensure faculty are not only empowered but recognized and rewarded for integrating learning inside and outside the classroom, whether in a laboratory, a recital hall or in a learning community. Proposals for new learning communities are encouraged from faculty and staff across the campus to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the renovation of existing residence halls and the expansion of residential housing in the mixed-use village currently under construction.

How do we leverage technology to enhance access and learning outcomes?

While residential college experiences remain essential to our institution, UNCG’s commitment to enhancing access requires exploration of innovative delivery methods for high-quality, high-impact education. The Division of Continual Learning will be a resource to academic departments in the creation and sustainment of on-line and hybrid courses, which marry innovative learning technologies with critically important human-to-human interaction. I am pleased that the Faculty Senate will explore distance and on-line education in the coming academic year. We need your leadership at this critical time, and I pledge my full support for a coordinated effort.

This fall, faculty members and the Office of Undergraduate Studies are working together to re-imagine the University Teaching and Learning Center as the Faculty Teaching & Learning Commons. Moving from a services and technology model to a learning-centered model, the FTLC recognizes the need to reclaim our teaching mission and heritage. Under the direction of UNC Board of Governors Teaching Award Winner Professor Patrick Lee Lucas, the FTLC will provide support for curricular innovation and the use of new learning techniques in response to the increasing diversity of learning styles; the integration of curricular and co-curricular approaches to student learning will enhance retention and graduation.

How do we respond to state and federal financing challenges?

Questions of rising costs and fewer resources are inherent to higher education today. But not every University is positioned as well as UNCG for the challenges that lie ahead.

To determine our own destiny, we must create our own path. Over the past several years, UNCG has eliminated approximately 60 administrative positions to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. We have completed academic realignments as well as the most comprehensive academic program review in our University’s history. Our faculty have enhanced externally funded research from foundations and the federal government. We have accomplished energy savings, made improvements in procurement processes, and used technology to reduce costs.

Because more can and must be done to realize cost savings, we are also working vigorously to identify alternative sources of revenue to enable us to thrive in the years ahead.

What’s the future of community engaged scholarship?

We are proud of our faculty culture, valuing interdisciplinary, translational research and creative activity. Grounded in the responsibility of the university to help transform the economy of the Piedmont Triad and North Carolina, UNCG has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as one of the best universities in the country for connecting with its community.

We will continue to leverage existing and emerging strengths with an emphasis on programs defined in the Academic Program Review as “exceptionally strong.” We will also continue expansion of our research portfolio in selected areas where faculty members are likely to have a significant impact, including drug discovery, nanotechnology, and the humanities and social sciences. By combining research and teaching, faculty members are inspiring the next generation of scholars, writers, and transformational thinkers.

There is no doubt our faculty, staff and students represent some of the best and brightest in their respective fields. But what makes us unique is not what we know or even what we do. It’s how we do it. We create our own opportunities. We seek out challenges and tackle them head on. For instance, UNCG researchers from a variety of disciplines leading the TRIAD initiative have been working together for more than eight years, thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health, to tackle health disparity issues affecting underserved populations right here in Greensboro and beyond.

We care, we create, we educate. Not only do we prepare the next generation by providing access to education, we translate our spirit of discovery and inquiry into remedies for the problems we face as individuals and as society.

History demonstrates how we have blazed new trails in the process of expanding access and ensuring our students graduate prepared for personal success and fulfilling lives. We are motivated by that same value today.

That is why I call on all of us to rededicate ourselves to student success, and to pledge our efforts to ensure our graduates leave this university prepared to “Do Something Bigger Altogether,” to make a difference in their personal lives and in the communities in which they will live and work.

Student success begins with enrollment, is measured by retention and graduation, and is defined at its core by how well our graduates are prepared for lives of accomplishment and meaning. In these times all graduates must be prepared to address issues of sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and globalization that will shape their futures and ours.

Today, students are moving into a renovated Quad. We have broken down the traditional walls – both literally and figuratively – that stood for decades between classrooms and residence halls in an effort to provide an integrated educational experience for the 21st century learner. Yesterday’s boundaries are tomorrow’s opportunities.

As a university community, we will always do what we believe is right for our students and in the interests of the people of North Carolina. We follow in the footsteps of those who made the bold decision to build the Quad nearly a century ago, responding to the needs of this state as we define our future.

Thank you for being here today, and for all you do on behalf of this great university.

Best wishes for another successful academic year.