UNC System President Spellings, B.O.G. visit UNCW and hear of improvement plans

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UNC System President Spellings, B.O.G. visit UNCW and hear of improvement plans

Lanre Badmus, Staff Writer

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UNC Wilmington’s campus welcomed University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings and other members of the Board of Governors (BOG) to campus on Tuesday, Oct. 24. This visit was conducted for the BOG to learn more about UNCW’s main programs, academic strengths and ability to provide a cutting-edge education at an affordable price.

The visit was part of a statewide tour of UNC system campuses designed especially for the benefit of new BOG members. One recent BOG appointee in attendance was Wendy Murphy, ’93, a past chair of the UNCW Board of Trustees and co-chair of the search committee that brought Chancellor Sartarelli to the university.

The tour began at the Center for Marine Science, where Chancellor Sartarelli gave a broad overview of UNCW’s history, accomplishments and future needs. The BOG also heard presentations about UNCW’s signature coastal and marine science programs and research capabilities.

During a brief stop near the University Apartments, the board learned about plans to add more student housing to accommodate a growing student body.

At McNeill Hall, they saw plans for the new Allied Health Building and learned how UNCW is preparing future healthcare workers with a focus on improving the health and quality of life of North Carolina residents, especially in undeserved rural counties. A stop at the Computer Information Systems Building provided an overview of the university’s business and computer science programs.

A presentation at Watson College of Education covered partnerships between UNCW and the New Hanover County Schools, including efforts to open a K-8 lab school at what is now D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy (grades 6-8) and to establish the Future Teachers Academy at Isaac Bear Early College High School.

Spellings, who was appointed UNC System president in March 2016, stopped for a minute in between her busy schedule of tours and visits to talk briefly with The Seahawk. She gave special praise to UNCW for its academics and leadership within the community and the UNC System.

“Within the first month of my arrival here in North Carolina, I made it my business to visit every single one of the campuses,” Spellings said. “[UNCW’s] a very, very special place…it’s an institution of choice, it’s beautiful, it’s got excellent scholars and leaders, it has an incredible community.”

Being the former U.S. Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, Spellings was well-aware of UNCW’s existence and quality prior to taking up her appointment as president, even mentioning specific standout programs such as the Marine Biology and Education programs, despite never having visited the campus before.

“I was well-familiar with [UNCW] during my time as the Secretary of Education, and I had also been familiar with its excellent programs such as the Marine Science program as one of the leading lights in its academic strengths,” she said. “But I had never been here.”

When dealing with specific changes or improvements to be seen in the university as time progresses, Spellings placed focus on keeping in line with both UNCW’s and the BOG’s respective strategic plans.

“In keeping with UNCW’s strategic plan, and the Board of Governors’ strategic plan, we have to provide high levels of education to more people, and do it more affordably than we’ve ever done before,” said Spellings. “70 percent of the jobs in this and every other state require post-secondary education. Right now, we have attainment rates that are about half that…we’re in a growth industry, and places that are going to meet that need are places like UNC Wilmington.”

Spellings continued to go into some detail about just what the Board of Governors has planned in order to help UNCW improve its status within the UNC system and increase its academic pedigree on a nationwide scale.

“The strategic plan obviously has issues of access and affordability and student success,” she said. “The one we just discussed today was about the lab school. The legislature is requiring the university to create lab schools throughout the system. UNCW was one of the first to raise their hands and say, ‘we want to do it,’ and they’ll open a lab school here in the 2018-19 school year.”

Spellings and the Board of Governors will return to campus in March.