When she heard about UNC Pembroke’s new Chancellor for a Day program, Sara Pack was eager to apply.
Pack, who is a senior and an Esther Mayor Honors Scholar, believed it would be an opportunity to see the inner workings of a university and its leader in action. Her wish came true on April 6, beginning before 8 a.m. It would be a long day.
With plans to enroll in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at UNCP, Pack studied Chancellor Kyle R. Carter during a day filled with important meetings, including one with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and another with the Faculty Senate.
A DAY AT THE HELM
Even before the day started, Pack had a plan: “My goal is to learn how a new leader deals with critical issues,” she said “I want to see how an organization is run from the perspective of an authority figure.”
By day’s end she said that goal was achieved and more. “This is an extraordinarily busy office; I don’t think people understand how demanding the chancellor’s job is,” Pack said. “It was a great experience for me, and very rewarding.”
Pack’s day started with a University Budget Advisory Committee meeting, followed by a meeting with the Psychology Department. Due to the critical budget issues facing every academic department on campus, the meeting was important.
“In the beginning, I could feel some tension in the room,” Pack said. “He (Carter) went to hear what problems they (faculty) have, and after it was over, the atmosphere was more relaxed. He really listened to them.”
As the day progressed, Pack and Chancellor Carter met one-on-one with administrative staff, lunched with trustees and met with faculty, where she was introduced and offered comments. She took part in Dr. Carter’s senate briefing on budget issues and met Dr. Kenneth Kitts, UNCP’s new provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
Part of the Chancellor for a Day program included Pack representing Dr. Carter and delivering remarks at the Honors College Banquet on April 14, while he attended another Installation Week event. She even played an official role in the chancellor’s installation ceremony on April 15 when she announced the processional.
Pack was impressed with Chancellor’s Carter’s management style from the start. “Chancellor Carter wants to know what people think,” she said. “The first thing he asked was my opinion of the new commencement location, since I’ll be graduating in May. I told him I agreed with his decision to move the ceremony to the Quad, the most historic place on campus and an icon of UNCP.
“The chancellor hopes to create a new tradition: As freshmen, we walk over the bridge towards campus; as seniors we cross over it one last time before leaving. The symbolism adds to the experience.”
The Chancellor for a Day experience exceeded expectations. “The more I think about the day…wow!” she said. “Chancellor Carter said this is a ‘normal’ day; I don’t know how he does it.”
As a student and senior at UNCP, Pack reflected more deeply. “This experience made me feel really positive about our new chancellor and his vision for the university. His heart is in the right place, and he is committed to making improvements where they are needed most.”
Pack was privy to the human side of leadership at the top. “He apologized to me about tuition going up,” she said. “The chancellor has not come in with all the answers, but he’s adapting based on the needs of the university and thinking on his feet. He also has humility, which is an important thing for a leader.”
Chancellor Carter initiated the Chancellor for a Day program with the idea that an outstanding student would benefit.
“Sara showed a great deal of enthusiasm during her tenure as Chancellor for a Day last week,” he said. “It was a pleasure to hear her perspective on issues facing the university. Sara is an outstanding student, and she has clearly represented the Honors College well.”
FOUR YEARS AT UNCP
Pack has had a remarkable four years at UNCP. From Highfalls, N.C. in Moore County, she was the first recipient of the Esther Maynor four-year scholarship in the University Honors College. She quickly completed requirements for an English major, so Pack decided to add a psychology major to her coursework as well as a minor in criminal justice.
“I’m glad I added the minor because I hope to do the criminal justice track in the MPA program,” she said. “I am currently working with UNC-Chapel Hill on a study to find solutions to reduce and prevent youth violence in Robeson County. We're in the assessment phase now.”
Pack is impressed with the study, which is funded by a $6.5 million, five-year federal grant. “They (Chapel Hill) have involved UNCP at Chancellor Carter’s request,” she said. “They have expressed interest in partnering with UNCP in their efforts,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea to involve the local university and the community in a study like this. I really enjoy the work, and I hope they can make a positive impact. For me personally, this is one way to give back to a place I’ve grown to love over the last four years.”
Pack has made the most of her time at UNCP. On April 13, she presented research on the prevalence of gender role stereotypes in young children at the Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium. Last year, Pack presented a research paper on comparative literature. Her poetry has been published in Aurochs, the student literary magazine, and she will be published in ReVisions, the annual magazine of best student papers. Pack also works part-time helping students improve their writing skills at the Writing Center.