A closer look at UNCW’s newest vice chancellor, Dr. Lowell Davis

Andrew Lemon, Staff Writer

Earlier this month it was announced that the role for the UNC Wilmington (UNCW) vice chancellor for student affairs (VCSA) had been filled. Following a search process spanning many months, Lowell Davis will assume the position effective May 17. The post has been vacant since the passing of Pat Leonard last June, who served the campus as VCSA for 23 years. 

Davis comes to UNCW from Western Carolina University where he held the title of vice chancellor for student success. Davis has previously been a part of the faculty at the University of Alabama, Indiana University and Hampton University. Davis sees himself as uniquely qualified for this newest challenge.

“I have extensive background in both academic and student affairs, which helps me to really see the big picture when it comes to the student experience,” said Davis. “I currently serve on the provost council at Western Carolina University, which comprises all college deans. This gives me a unique lens that is inclusive of faculty and shared governance when considering students. I understand the concerns of faculty, administration, and students, and I want to bring that knowledge and understanding to my work here at UNCW.”

Speaking on his eagerness to get to work in Wilmington, Davis heaped praise onto the university.

“UNCW has a national and international reputation of excellence,” said Davis. “To have an opportunity to follow a nationally renowned student affairs leader, lead a division that has been recognized for its commitment to students, and to be a part of a leadership team that is moving the institution forward, is exciting.”

Speaking about the most important items of business he will be taking on upon his arrival, Davis pointed to the importance of mental health, and re-engagement of the campus community following 18 months of virtual instruction. Davis cited the recent university decision to require two years of on campus residency as part of getting students more involved on campus.

“Theorists in higher education administration literature say that when students are on campus they are more likely to be retained, which hopefully leads to more students graduating,” said Davis. “I know that students are concerned about the sophomore residency requirement, but I think it is a wonderful thing that students will have the opportunity to be continually engaged.”

Davis also emphasized the importance of listening to the student population, and the effect that the thoughts of students will have on administration.

“My first focus will be to listen. I plan to meet with everyone in person or virtually in student affairs and learn about their work and their offices,” said Davis. “Additionally, the provost and I plan to visit every building on campus – yes, every building on campus. I also plan to meet with the faculty senate. 

“Perhaps most importantly, I want to listen to students. I plan on meeting with student representatives—SGA members, students in the Greek system, students from underrepresented groups, student workers and others. I look forward to these conversations and will use them to inform our work in the coming year.”

Within this importance of listening, Davis made clear that diversity and inclusion will be a priority under his leadership.

“My office will assist all students,” said Davis. “We will work to bring speakers and programs that address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will partner with many units on campus, including the LGBTQIA Resource Center, Centro Hispano and the Upperman African American Center. Finally, we must help students understand what it means to be a Seahawk: everyone should know the values we expect them to uphold, especially as they relate to their fellow students.”

Davis said that he would need more time on campus to see the issues for himself in order to further address DEI issues specific to UNCW. 

Looking into the future, Davis painted a hopeful vision of the university for the coming years.

“The academic achievement of students at UNCW is absolutely phenomenal. As a person who was responsible for student success at Western Carolina University, I have watched this university increase not only its enrollment, but also the success of enrolled students over the past seven to ten years,” said Davis. 

“The first time full time student retention rates, the six-year graduation rates are numbers that rival in some instances NC State and Chapel Hill. The students who are here want to be here, and want to graduate from here, which ensures the success of an institution. I think the academic profile of students at UNCW will look a lot like those at Chapel Hill or Duke over the next ten to fifteen years.”