Happy New Year, fellow Spartans, and welcome back.
2017 was quite a year, in many ways. It was a year of extremes – socially, culturally, and politically. 2017 was certainly one for the books.
As we look to what 2018 may bring, it is always a good idea to renew our focus, even in times of uncertainty. The fact is that we are in the business of changing people’s lives for the better, and these are the core principles that make UNCG truly exceptional:
- A collective and tenacious focus on student success;
- A community of earned achievement and pride; and
- A welcoming environment where everyone finds a home.
Why do these ideas matter? Because they guide us – in our actions, decisions, attitudes – when we are faced with challenges and complexity.
Our first order of business is always being proactive and intentional with our students so they can succeed and make an impact. This takes work – but UNCG is a hard-working place. Our faculty and staff, as well as our students and their families, all have a “roll-up-your-sleeves” work ethic, and this tends to define how we tackle problems and seize opportunities. And we must always be active and thoughtful in our efforts to ensure that this is a welcoming environment for all our students.
The time is ripe for us to be bold, to be innovative, and to explore new ways of doing things. The fact that the status quo seems shaky opens windows for change and progress. Let’s not limit ourselves with old strictures. Let’s not be bound by convention. Instead, let’s ask questions, experiment, and probe.
Let’s seize this moment to crystallize the essence of who we are into something greater, something fresher, something stronger. Whether it is in the classroom, the lab, the residence halls, or the community, be an agent for positive change. Raise your hand to advance new paradigms. Be a leader. Be a strong follower. Be a good collaborator. Be a consistent ally. Take a chance on yourself and your fellow Spartans. Surprise yourself with your capacities for learning and creating.
UNCG is here, in the center of our state, fully engaged with our region, and we – students, faculty, staff, and alumni – have a special opportunity and obligation to make an impact.
I look toward 2018 with a great deal of optimism. There are many wonderful things on the horizon. For example, demolition of the McIver Building will begin in several months as we prepare to build the much-needed and long-awaited new Nursing and Instructional Building in its place. With the help of many of you, we are deep in the process of redefining the narrative and visual identity of our university so that we can claim our distinctive place in the higher education landscape. We have a new Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs joining the Spartan family – Dr. Cathy Akens – who will build on the legacy of the beloved Dr. Cherry Callahan. Millennial Campus activities are starting to ramp up as we are in the final stages of developing governance and organizational structures that will fuel the development of new community and academic resources and facilities around our campus. If all goes well, we’ll hire 33 new faculty members and a couple of new deans. And to continue our anniversary celebration, Pulitzer Prize winning-author Colson Whitehead will be the keynote speaker for our 125th anniversary lecture on February 8.
We will build on the momentum we generated in so many areas during 2017. We will continue our efforts to heighten the visibility of the campus – through social media, print, billboards, and broadcast. We will continue to pursue excellence in our academic programs. We will continue to vigorously fundraise. We will continue to pursue the transformational goals laid out in the strategic plan. We will continue to be a good neighbor and live the ideal of shared fate. And we will keep competing and raising our game in athletics – as evidenced by our women’s soccer team making a run to the NCAA tourney and a statement win for men’s basketball up I-40 in Raleigh a few weeks ago.
Spartans, 2018 is our time. Stay tuned … there is much more in the works. And I’m counting on all of you to turn this vision into a reality.
Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.