Carters Enter 5th Year of Chancellorship
By Jonathan Bym, Editor
If you walk past the chancellor’s residence on a sunny day when the Carters are home, the wooden double-doors in the front of the house are open, allowing the light to come into the house through the glass doors.
Even though most people might not even notice it, the open doors are a symbol of how Dr. Kyle R. Carter and Sarah Carter want to be for the campus, open.
“It kind of symbolizes how we view our life here,” Sarah Carter said.
“We truly want people to understand we are open and want them to feel welcome. Even if they are just walking by, we don’t want them to feel as if the residence is closed up tightly because that is not what we want to represent,” Dr. Carter said.
Now entering their fifth school year as the head of the university, the Carters have seen a lot of change on the campus from when they first came in summer 2010.
“The days are long, but the years are short,” Sarah Carter said. ”We really love interacting with the students, and each year we are here we get to know more and become more involved in their lives.”
“When you think about almost a five year period, it’s a normal evolution of a campus that is striving to be better, and that’s what we have been about,” Chancellor Carter said. “You don’t have time to sit back and look at what you have done, you have to keep moving forward.”
Despite having a rough time with student enrollment, retention and budget cuts, Dr. Carter feels that the campus has been very resilient in the face of adversity and seeing that is one of his finest moments so far as chancellor.
“The budget has constantly been an issue for the campus, and it has done a good job at keeping its morale through all of it,” Dr. Carter said. “The faculties have not let the challenges hurt the classroom…that’s a real credit to our faculty.”
After battling with admission standards and retention over the past few years, this year has finally shown promise for the new admission processes as the student population rose this fall and retention rates are up.
Student population is not the only thing that has risen in recent years under Dr. Carter. The physical campus has grown by nearly 60 acres in the past five years, more growth than has happened in the previous 20, according to the chancellor.
Starting in the fall 2011, new ceremonies have been initiated by the chancellor and have been openly accepted by the campus.
The one that Dr. Carter says is his favorite is the convocation and graduation traditions of crossing the bridge.
That along with moving the commencement to the quad for a more intimate setting is something that Dr. Carter is pleased with.
“Now, it is everything I would expect a campus ceremony to be,” he said.
All of the changes have come amid many changes in the chancellor’s cabinet. In the past two years, new cabinet members, such as Dr. Richard Cosentino, Dr. John Jones and Dick Christy, have added new life to the university administration.
“When I first came, we had a whole different cabinet than I do now,” Dr. Carter said. “It has been replaced with innovation and enthusiasm and forward-thinking people.”
Before even coming here in 2010, the Carters took a surprise trip to campus one Saturday afternoon just to walk the campus and see what the campus was about. Needless to say, they liked what they saw.
“We were impressed with the facilities and the grounds, but what made the biggest impression was walking around seeing how friendly the students are,” Sarah Carter said. “There weren’t a ton of people out, but everyone was happy and enjoying where they were at.
“When we got back to the car we both said ‘we have to try for this.’ ”
Along with the positives gathered from the student body, Dr. Carter said the faculty helped make this a great move.
“We did a fair amount of research before we came here,” he said. “I knew we had good faculty based on what I had read, but I was pleasantly surprised at the number of superlative faculty we have on this campus.”
One of Sarah Carter’s main focuses is on her role in health and wellness for the campus and community. She serves on the Helping Employees Achieve Lifetime Total Health (HEALTH) committee and works closely with the Southeastern Regional Medical Center. Over the past five years, there have been a lot of changes to that aspect of campus.
“Our committee has worked really hard to provide opportunities for faculty and staff to have healthy lifestyles,” she said. “When Kyle and I came here, we couldn’t find the salad bar and when you got there it was just iceberg lettuce and cheese. Now the salad bar has a lot of choices and a lot of healthier choices in general. That’s been a real positive for me.”
Dr. Carter also has seen the positive effects of health and wellness on student life and retention, and one program he has seen grow is Campus Recreation.
“We purposely tried to pay more attention to campus rec because it is a key to retention,” he said. “Belonging is one of the most important ingredients in students staying. We are focused on many things outside of the classroom that make students feel involved.”
Although it may seem that Dr. Carter might try to separate his career from his family time, the couple of 45 years feel like leading the university has made their marriage stronger and has allowed them to build a partnership.
“When Kyle started looking for a presidency, we wanted to go to a place where we could be partners, where we could be invested in it as partners. That was very important to us, and we wanted to have common goals and feel like we were making a difference, and we feel that here,” Sarah Carter said.
“Being provost never really gave you the same kind of opportunities for a partnership that this has allowed us,” Dr. Carter said. “She’s not my political adviser when it comes to decisions on campus, but she is someone I discuss things with and that certainly is helpful. Being a chancellor is not simply dealing with an administrative team and making decisions, but it’s also about creating a social environment. It’s better done when two people are working together. It’s been a real good thing for ourselves.”
The driving force for the couple comes down to one common denominator, the students.
“I love nothing better than walking campus and having people say ‘Hey Mrs. Carter’ and that gives you energy to do stuff you might not want to do,” she said.
“The energy cells that drive both of us are plain and simple: the students,” Dr. Carter said. “What’s really neat is to meet that freshman and watch them grow and develop to seniors. It’s really special.”
Photo by Sara Owen. Dr. Kyle R. Carter, right, with Sarah Carter has been leading UNCP for the last five school years.