THE STATE OF OUR UNIVERSITY SYSTEM GOES ON TOUR
On March 19, University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings will deliver a much-anticipated State of the University speech at University of North Carolina at Charlotte Center City. Her address will highlight the UNC System’s most significant recent achievements while also mapping out a vision for invigorating the ways its 17 institutions serve the state.
"... provide every North Carolinian access to affordable higher education..."
Honoring the spirit of the University’s mission to provide every North Carolinian access to affordable higher education, the State of the University event isn’t limited to a single speech in a metropolitan area. Rather, the UNC Charlotte address is the first in a series of eight stops, which will roll across North Carolina over the course of the spring. This tour will reach every region in the state, from Wilmington’s coastal dunes to Cullowhee’s mountain hollows, giving students, faculty, staff, and members of the larger campus community multiple opportunities to hear President Spellings’ reflections on how the University can ready itself to serve the state more effectively.
A REASON TO CELEBRATE, A CALL TO ACTION
The content of Monday’s speech will elaborate on the goals outlined in the UNC Board of Governors’ Strategic Plan, Higher Expectations. The Strategic Plan articulates a forceful argument for the continued relevancy of a public higher education system in the face of economic change and widespread disenchantment with public institutions.
At the time of the UNC System’s origination, the very idea of a constitutional mandate to make higher education as free as practicable was a bold, innovative initiative – one that has paid immeasurable dividends. On a daily basis, North Carolina’s residents reap the benefits of the University in the form of economic growth, advances in healthcare, cultural diversity, and overall public enlightenment.
"No state has had a closer and more essential relationship with its institutions..."
“No state has had a closer and more essential relationship with its institutions of higher education than North Carolina,” says Spellings. “The story of this state, especially the rise of modern North Carolina, is the story of its institutions of higher education.”
At the same time, the President’s speech will acknowledge that the UNC System must improve if it is to fulfill its promise of benefitting every community and every family in North Carolina. While every taxpayer in the state invests in the University, the returns on investment aren’t always equally distributed. Restoring the public’s trust in the power of higher education depends on the System’s ability to innovate and adapt. Spellings is optimistic about the System’s capacity to meet this challenge, because innovation is built into its DNA. The University’s storied history helped lead the state into the 21st century. Now the University must invigorate its commitment to reinvention and change if it is lead the state into the future.
A period of economic, social, and political change is not the moment for the UNC System to rest on its laurels. Spellings will outline how, if it is to maintain its mission, the University will need to develop new strategies for ensuring that underserved constituents can recognize and reap the economic, healthcare, intellectual, and cultural benefits the UNC System brings to North Carolina.
To fulfill its obligations to the taxpayers who have invested so much in the System, its institutions will need to commit their energies to tackling three core issues, which motivate the policies outlined in the Strategic Plan. Each institution will work to promote mobility, reaching more low- and middle-income families throughout the state. Each institution will hold itself accountable, measuring the degree to which it meets the goals laid out in the Strategic Plan. And each institution will work to enhance the public good, promoting free expression, intellectual diversity, and diligent engagement with challenging ideas.
As a testament to its commitment to tackling these issues, the UNC System has released a self-evaluation to coincide with the State of the University Tour. This concise booklet offers a compelling snapshot measuring how the University has progressed one year into its Strategic Plan.
LEARNING AND LISTENING IN THE DIGITAL ERA
The timing of Spellings’ State of the University Tour accentuates the subtext of her message. Spring is, after all, the season of renewal and growth.
The UNC System is one of the state’s most venerable institutions. And yet, it is also a vibrant, living entity, ready to adapt and evolve to tackle new challenges and exploit new opportunities. It has embraced cutting-edge strategies for teaching and learning, freeing faculty members from the necessity of delivering course materials in lecture halls.
Educational technologies feature significantly in the strategic plan to expand access to learning opportunities across the state. Distance education platforms afford students greater flexibility to determine when, how, and where they learn, allowing rural students to attend class at distant institutions and working parents to schedule coursework around busy schedules.
"...expand access to learning opportunities across the state."
In this same spirit, President Spellings’ address will stream in real time starting at 12:15 on Facebook Live and on the System’s webpage, opening the door so that anyone can pull up a virtual seat and listen.
The University hopes that everyone with a vested stake in higher education joins President Spellings as she celebrates a revered institution that is at once one of North Carolina’s oldest fixtures and a beacon of our state’s future.
State of the University Tour Addresses