2011 Fall Faculty Meeting
Gary L. Miller
Thank you Gabriel for the kind introduction.
It is a great pleasure for me to attend this meeting today, my first faculty meeting as Chancellor and Professor of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
I am extremely proud of my faculty appointment in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology. As an undergraduate, my dream was to become a university professor. I achieved that dream at a relatively young age and was fortunate to have had a wonderful career teaching biology and ecology, conducting research, mentoring masters and doctoral students and providing service to the university.
I consider this to be among the most important experiences I bring to UNCW as Chancellor. Good universities have a good faculty. The most creative and innovative universities, those universities obviously committed to inquiry and discovery, those universities having traditions of academic excellence, engagement and service, universities like UNCW, those universities have great faculties. Your commitment to these things makes this an excellent university, and I congratulate you.
From the time I began thinking about this position, I have been keenly interested in the qualifications and activities of the faculty. And, so, I have lurked about the web pages and read local and state newspapers and studied the national higher education literature with a search image for UNCW faculty accomplishments.
Such accomplishments are not hard to find. I continue to be impressed and very proud of the extremely high level of contribution you are making to your disciplines. Indeed, as we discovered as we pored through the data to shape a new peer list for the university it is extremely difficult to find a public university of our size having both the level of commitment to undergraduate education and a national reputation in research and scholarship. We believe there are fewer than five.
What I look forward to now is getting to know you on a personal basis and having the opportunity to learn as much as I can about your work. I wanted to organize my visits to the academic departments at a time when I could meet as many members of the faculty as possible. So, we are only now beginning those visits, which will be conducted over the next few weeks. I do not consider these initial tours to be the last of my forays into your buildings. I have asked the Provost to work with me to find time to make routine visits to departments and programs during each year. I look forward to this, because everything we do here at UNCW is about our people. And all of you, the faculty, are the core of what makes this university special.
Looking in from afar it is easy to see the products of your efforts in research and scholarships. But, since coming here, I have been able to observe first-hand something that many in this country believe is true about UNCW: the extraordinary level of commitment by this faculty to the magic of direct student-faculty interaction. This is demonstrated in your teaching, for which some of you will be recognized shortly and in the extensive opportunities available to UNCW students to conduct meaningful research in collaboration with a member of the faculty.
This is something many universities only talk about. This is something we deliver at UNCW.
And since we are in the early stages of another academic year, I want to remind all of us to continue focusing on strengthening that relationship between students and faculty.
I want to take just a few minutes to reflect a bit on the comments I made to the university on August 19 and begin to shape the discussion that you and I will have about those ideas in the coming months.
In those comments, I suggested we needed to shape our conversation about the future of UNCW in three broad areas:
- A commitment to and celebration of the achievements and foundation of excellence that characterize this university;
- A deep understanding of the realities of the new environment in which higher education now operates in America and in North Carolina and the recognition of the very direct affect the new environment has on our university; and
- The development and nurturing of a culture of innovation within which we will discover the processes and approaches that will allow us to grow while continuing to embrace the deep values that have sustained this university for nearly 65 years.
I went on to call for us to act in six areas:
- Transform the “most powerful learning experience” into action by embracing the applied learning model of the SACS-QEP.
- Embrace innovation and entrepreneurship as the principal operating model. I believe that we must invent -not plan- our way to the future.
- Recommit to the importance of faculty research and scholarship and graduate education to the UNCW experience.
- Significantly intensify institutional community engagement and broaden our relationships with those who can invest in our university.
- Embrace our place by the ocean and leverage it as a metaphor for commerce and the human condition. There is power in being North Carolina’s Coastal University.
- Reaffirm the fundamental value of tolerance and diversity in all we do.
This is not the forum to begin our consideration of these actions. But, at my level, we are already thinking about how we will organize ourselves to ensure full consideration of these ideas and, more importantly, other ideas you may have. I encourage you to begin thinking about these six areas among your colleges and schools, departments, and with your colleagues across the university.
We have already made some division-level organizational changes, which I announced to the Board of Trustees last week. We also are actively working to reshape the university planning council to include more faculty and to focus the activities on that group in discovering and nurturing innovations in the university. We are making some strategic investments in our advancement and outreach operations in order to position ourselves to be much more aggressive in building partnerships and securing investment in our university. We have nearly completed a revision of the budget planning process that will involve more faculty and campus community input and place us in a position to focus our resources on our highest priorities.
What does this mean for you?
The most important feature of any organization is its human capital. The future of this university does not depend on how we are organized or how we plan – though doing those effectively is necessary. The future depends on our will to seek and embrace innovations that allow us to reinvest in our programs and our people. This falls mostly to you.
Given the level of creativity and energy this faculty puts into its research, teaching and service, I am incredibly optimistic about the future. After all, in the words of Alan Kay:
The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
You are the inventors.
Thank you all, and I wish you a wonderful fall semester.