In his inaugural address, UNC President Tom Ross noted that UNC "must never lose our clear focus on the University's duty to contribute to the common good, to develop leaders for our communities and to serve those communities in ways that enhance the quality of life for the people who live in them." UNC's Strategic Directions report, "Our Time, Our Future," called on UNC to "serve the needs of our state, regions and communities through active engagement."
The University has a long history of working directly with the people of the state, with statewide organizations like the UNC School of Government, which helps teach government leaders to work more effectively and efficiently, as well as the Cooperative Extension Service, the Industrial Extension Service, and the Small Business and Technology Development Center, which help advise businesses and community organizations on how to work more effectively. Smaller university-based centers throughout the state have addressed regional needs.
Individual campuses are making long-term commitments to build their engagement efforts. Eleven campuses of the University, more than any other university system in the nation, have been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its elective "Community Engagement" designation, in recognition of their existing efforts to reach out to their community through scholarship and volunteer efforts. Systemwide engagement efforts are led by Leslie Boney.