On August 15 UNC Pembroke celebrated its newest students in a convocation, and on August 16, Chancellor Kyle R. Carter got down to business with the annual University Address.
Approximately 800 members of the class of 2015 had their photo taken in the historic quad, then crossed the Alicia and Whitney Jones Bridge and proceeded to the Givens Performing Arts Center for the First Year Student Convocation. It was the start of a new tradition.
Provost Kenneth Kitts, chief academic officer at the university, declared the start of a new academic year, and Chancellor Carter invited the class to walk with him back across the bridge before they graduate in four years. He set expectations high for this class.
“You will feel challenged, maybe overwhelmed,” Dr. Carter said. “That will be the time for you to dig down deep and seek the hawk within yourself.”
Chancellor Carter guaranteed that success in higher education would entail hard work, but he promised, “You’re going to have the greatest time of your life.”
Chemistry professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Meredith Storms delivered the convocation address. She knows about succeeding at UNCP because she is a 1997 graduate.
“I am tangible evidence of what a UNCP degree can do for you,” Dr. Storms told the freshmen. “Welcome to the UNCP family. For me, it is a family because I am the daughter and wife of UNCP graduates. I bleed black and gold.
“You are truly entering a Brave New World,” she said. “When I was in your place, I lacked a lot of the confidence I needed for success. I cried for the first week of classes.
“My advice to you is to get up rather than give up and turn fear into ambition,” Dr. Storms said. “Sometimes you will not have the answer, but there are people on this campus who will help. In fact, that’s why we’re here.”
In his address, Chancellor Carter delivered an update on the current state of the university and plans for the future. His address repeated four familiar themes: fostering student success, becoming an institution of choice, reaching out to the region and the “new normal.”
Chancellor Kyle R. Carter
This year, the new normal was first on the list because of new budget realities. “Last fall, I knew that we would be challenged by the current economy and would have to look for ways to do more with less,” he said. “But I had no idea that I would stand before you today and report that our state appropriation would be 15.5 percent less than last year.”
Despite help from the enrollment growth fund and tuition increases, the university budget was reduced by more than $7 million. “These reductions are daunting,” Chancellor Carter said. “There will be budget tightening across the campus.”
Because the university has kept a close watch on hiring, only three employees were lost due to budget cuts. Because more than three-quarters of UNCP students receive need-based financial aid, raising tuition before the start of the 2011-12 academic year was not feasible, he said.
In the face of the new normal, UNCP will continue to “celebrate our achievements and build community,” Dr. Carter said. “As difficult as the budget is, we cannot let it stop our progress or dampen our spirit.”
Chancellor Carter promised to continue the long-term planning process with a new campus master plan and a new strategic plan. The master plan includes a new library or information commons, new playing fields, more pedestrian walkways and greenways, a greater connection to the Town of Pembroke and preservation of the historical features of campus.
There will be no slowdown in the drive to increase student success either, he promised. Chancellor Carter announced a strategic reorganization of student support offices effective July 1. The offices for advisement, tutoring and other support functions will be consolidated in the D.F. Lowry Building.
Expectations are higher than ever in 2011-12, he said, and the university has already raised admission standards and the minimum GPA requirement for current students. “We hope that raised expectations will encourage students to be serious about their academics from day one,” Chancellor Carter said. “Faculty, please remind your students of this change during the first week of class.”
Chancellor Carter pledged a new effort on branding that will project a consistent image and reflect the university’s core values. “Institutions of choice must differentiate themselves from other institutions through consistent and accurate messages that tell their story,” he said. “The brand is not only the visual imagery like Old Main and the athletic logo, but also the language used to describe themselves and what we promise. We have a great story to tell.”
Chancellor Carter said the university would seize every opportunity to engage with the region through continuing education, service to the military, partnership with the Town of Pembroke and promotion of service learning to incorporate civic engagement into the classroom.
In sum, Dr. Carter sought to part the clouds of uncertainty by encouraging adaptability, resiliency and creativity.
“We have a community spirit that many campuses can only aspire to achieve,” he said. “We need to work extra hard this year to protect and promote our climate of respect and appreciation for one another – regardless of outside pressure beyond our control.”
The entire university address may be viewed online at: www.uncp.edu/chancellor/news/address/2011/.