UNCG Campus Weekly

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UNC strategic plan ‘gives us direction,’ Ross says

022013Feature_TomRossBeing more efficient, while being attentive to quality. Assessing learning outcomes. Serving North Carolina. Being accountable.

As UNC President Tom Ross spoke at the Feb. 6 UNCG Faculty Forum, those were some themes.

Ross gave some background on the UNC Strategic Direction initiative, talked about implementation and fielded questions from the UNCG faculty.

“It did move quickly,” he said, referring to the strategic planning process – and acknowledged some people are unhappy with the process and are unhappy with the plan.

“It gives us direction,” he said.

Now the question is, “How do we go from here?”

Another question he raised, referring to the plan’s degree attainment goal: “What do we need to get there?”

It was not just a recession we just went through, he said. It was a pretty substantial restructuring of the U.S. economy.

“The jobs of tomorrow are not going to be like the jobs of yesterday,” he said. We need to be better educated.

Education is changing rapidly, he explained, looking beyond our state’s and even our nation’s borders. He noted that China has built about 2,000 higher education institutions in recent years. “They’re investing.”

The economy of today is not like the economy of the 1990s. Universities need to be more efficient.

He credited UNCG for having already undertaken academic program review. “You are way ahead of the curve” of other universities that will have to go through it, he said.

After speaking for 30 minutes, he took questions from the UNCG faculty for an hour.

Dr. Vidyaranya Gargeya, who serves on the Strategic Direction Initiative’s Faculty Advisory Council, asked Ross the first question: When he looks at UNCG, what are the distinguishing characteristics, in his mind?

UNCG is, physically, not the same campus it was when he was a young man and was familiar with the campus. “It’s now contained like a college campus,” Ross said. And there’s a great sense of community, among students and faculty and staff. He spoke of the importance of “place” for human and intellectual development.

Some programs that readily came to mind were the School of Education, health-related programs, and the business school. (Earlier, he had spoken of the importance of nano.)

He also noted the “quality of undergraduate research here,” speaking about the “depth of education” that that provides students. He explained that UNCG graduates who can “go deep” are needed in the workforce. That quality and skill, which undergraduate research fosters, will help students in their field and throughout their careers.

He responded to questions on a range of topics including distance learning; educating and being transparent to newly elected officials and providing dialog; importance of good data in tracking transfer students and success rates; the need to think long-term for our universities; the role of science and math on UNC campuses; the value of liberal arts; looking at program duplication; and the role of faculty – and students – in assessment measures.

“We are in an interesting time,” he said. He referred to evolving economic, educational and political realities at various times in his talk.

He ended the session by noting the next stage is the plan’s implementation stage. “It’s important that you engage,” he told the UNCG faculty.

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Chris English.