By Carrie Henderson
UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA) is a key player in a new initiative to improve the economy in the Triad – and foster collaboration among other educational institutions.
UNCSA Chancellor John Mauceri and Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch are co-chairing the University Transformation Team (UTT), a collaborative effort of the presidents and chancellors of the 11 four-year colleges and universities in the Piedmont Triad region. After a year of planning among the schools, UTT campuses have agreed to work together – and focus their various strengths – to transform the Triad’s creative economy.
The idea of bringing together the region’s colleges and universities behind an organizing, focused economic development effort came from the Piedmont Triad Partnership (PTP), a regional economic development partnership. PTP put together a regional vision plan and identified a broad basis of economic development activities through their application for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant.
To kick off the process, UNC President Erskine Bowles and BB&T CEO Kelly King met with the 11 Presidents and Chancellors in the Triad region and challenged them to increase their global competitiveness through innovation and workforce development. Campus leaders accepted the challenge: UTT was born.
The UTT initiative has two major goals: to create meaningful economic development and entrepreneurial opportunities in the region and to provide a platform for institutions of higher education to collaborate.
“With our background in the arts, and through support and efforts of Chancellor Mauceri, UNCSA is happy to be a player in this collaboration,” said Jim DeCristo, Director of Economic Development and External Affairs.
Apart from UNCSA, other participating UNC campuses include UNC-Greensboro, NC A & T and Winston-Salem State. Private universities, such as Wake Forest, Elon and High Point, and colleges, such as Guilford, Greensboro, Salem and Bennett, are also participating in the efforts.
The Presidents and Chancellors chose to focus the UTT initiative on design and innovation as they relate to the development of the creative enterprise cluster in the Piedmont Triad, which employs 22,356 creative workers (source: PTP Report). The specific focus will be on growing two creative enterprise subsectors that are particularly promising in the Triad: serious gaming and short films.
Next steps for UTT include recruiting university faculty or staff to sit on the committee on short films and recruiting upper level faculty or staff members to serve on a steering committee. The steering committee will oversee higher education’s involvement in the PTP’s WIRED Creative Cluster Initiative. A serious gaming committee already exists.
The work doesn’t stop there. UTT also wants to include the nine Triad-area community colleges in the process, creating a more comprehensive partnership.
Jim Donnelly, Vice President of Innovation and Outreach at PTP, sees far-reaching benefits to the partnership: “We really are excited about the joint commitment of the colleges, universities and community colleges working together and fostering economic development in the community. It sends a strong message to the broader community about the importance of collaboration, innovation and the role of higher education institutions.”
DeCristo says the effort is clearly in line with the goals of the UNC Tomorrow commission, which emphasizes organized, intentional efforts by UNC schools to engage in meeting the needs of the state through active engagement: “UTT is right to the heart of UNC Tomorrow as we are leveraging the assets of higher education institutes to assist in the transformation of the Triad economy.”
For further information, please contact:
Jim DeCristo, Director of Economic Development and External Affairs
University of North Carolina School of the Arts