All things academic
New UNCG Provost Jim Coleman views public higher education as “one of the most brilliant ideas that humans have ever created.”
It’s challenging and political, yes. But the profound impact on people’s lives – through teaching, research, community engagement, and service – is second to none.
Coleman’s passion has propelled his 30-year career in higher education. He comes to UNCG from the University of Arkansas, where he also served as provost. He succeeds Dana Dunn, who had served as UNCG provost since 2014.
An accomplished plant physiological ecologist, Coleman received his PhD from Yale University. When he started his career as an assistant professor at Syracuse University, he never imagined working in administration. But after a year-long stint at the National Science Foundation – in which he was responsible for managing $10 million in research funding – he realized he enjoyed facilitating the success of other people and of organizations. And he was good at it, too.
As provost, Coleman oversees everything academic – students, faculty, research, and curriculum. He views his work as “ethereal in nature.” He encourages faculty and staff to develop graduates who are propelled on to
meaningful and successful lives; conduct research, scholarship, and creative activities that change fields of study and that matter to people; and improve the quality of life and well-being in our community and beyond.
This year, he is focused on navigating the University through the COVID-19 pandemic. More broadly, he shares Chancellor Gilliam’s vision of becoming the national model for how a university can blend excellence, opportunity, and impact. He’s passionate about student success – increasing retention and graduation rates – and equity and inclusion. His father was a professor and civil rights leader in Pittsburgh, and his mother was a special education teacher. Coleman has continued their legacies throughout his career.
“Higher education as a whole has started to become an enforcer of social inequality as opposed to the great equalizer. It’s schools like UNCG that are still committed to that original mission,” he says. “We also have high-quality research, and a deep commitment to the city and the region. I came to UNCG because it checks all of those boxes that I’m passionate about.”
By Alyssa Bedrosian
Photography of Provost Coleman by Martin W. Kane