Aswani K. Volety Named Chancellor-Elect of UNCW

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Dr. Aswani K. Volety, an experienced leader in higher education with deeply rooted connections to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, will return to the institution on July 1, 2022, as the seventh Chancellor. Chancellor-Elect Volety previously served as the Dean of UNCW’s renowned College of Arts & Sciences and the Executive Director of the Center for Marine Science. He is currently Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Elon University. 

Dr. Volety was elected by the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System. He led the College of Arts and Sciences, UNCW’s largest academic unit, from July 2014-August 2019. He led the Center for Marine Science from May 2018-August 2019. UNC System President Peter Hans nominated Dr. Volety during the board’s meeting on May 26, 2022, in Chapel Hill, NC. Dr. Volety was selected for the nomination following a rigorous national search process that involved input from the UNCW community, including students, faculty, staff, the Board of Trustees,  and alumni.

“Dr. Volety is a first-generation college graduate and an American by choice. His story speaks to the power of public universities to transform lives, and throughout his career he has demonstrated his commitment to students, to research and to service,” President Hans said. “I know the UNC Wilmington community will be delighted that he’s coming home.”

Chancellor-Elect Volety will begin his role following the retirement of Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli on June 30, who has guided the university since July 2015. Founded as Wilmington College in 1947, UNCW will celebrate its 75th anniversary in September. Dr. Volety will serve as the tenth leader of the institution, which was led by presidents prior to joining the UNC System in 1969.  

UNCW has a national reputation for academic excellence grounded in high impact, applied learning experiences. The university’s trajectory of success includes record-breaking enrollments; strong retention and graduation rates; robust construction, expansion and renovation of campus facilities; competitive NCAA Division I athletics programs; and a philanthropic campaign that is closing in on its initial goal of $100 million in support for students, faculty, programs, facilities and other university priorities. 

More than 18,000 students attend UNCW, where they are engaged in a full range of baccalaureate, graduate or doctoral programs. The university’s efforts to advance research and scholarly activities earned it the elevated designation of “Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity” institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in 2018. UNCW ranks 96th on the U.S. News & World Report list of 2022 Top 100 Public National Universities. 

"Before I became a part of the UNCW family in 2014, I had been drawn to UNCW’s existing strengths and its future potential. Given the caliber of UNCW’s faculty and staff, it has been no surprise to see the institution and its students continue to achieve so many remarkable things over the past several years. I have always felt very rooted in – and very proud of – this community and the way it has responded to both opportunities and challenges, and it’s such a joy and an honor to return in this new capacity,” Chancellor-Elect Volety said. “For the Seahawk community, it’s all about the students. I know from my previous experience at UNCW that the faculty and staff are dedicated to teaching, mentoring, research, and service, and I’m eager to support and cultivate those efforts moving forward. I am humbled to be able to give back to a university that has offered me so much and excited to lead UNCW’s future successes.” 

According to Gidget Kidd ’91, Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor Search Committee, Dr. Volety’s emphasis on the student experience, his connections to UNCW, and his professional experiences at both public and private institutions inspired the committee's support for him.

“Dr. Volety impressed the committee with his understanding of the complex challenges facing universities today,” she said. “He has the experience and vision to guide UNCW into its next 75 years of success.” 

“We truly believe that this is a unifying moment for our campus community,” Kidd added. “We are confident that we conducted this important process with integrity, collaboration, and appropriate transparency. There has been an unprecedented level of consensus, collegiality, and unanimity during every step of the search. The search committee and the trustees have been guided throughout this process by their commitment to UNCW and its high standards.”  

Dr. Volety, a first-generation college graduate who moved from India to the United States at age 23, will bring diverse cultural awareness and extensive higher education experience to UNCW. In his role at Elon, he has served as the Chief Academic Officer and Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for setting the university’s strategic, operational and financial direction. He provided oversight and support for the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs and led the budget committee that planned and allocated more than $300 million in annual operating funds.  

As UNCW’s College of Arts and Sciences Dean, and as the Executive Director of the Center for Marine Science, Dr. Volety guided the implementation of several innovative programs, expanded the number of experiential learning opportunities, funded faculty professional development initiatives, and increased the college’s fundraising efforts. Through his collaborative efforts with the Chancellor’s Office and the Division for University Advancement, Dr. Volety secured a $5 million gift from Quality Chemical Laboratories in 2018, the largest outright philanthropic commitment by a corporate donor in UNCW’s history at the time.  

Prior to UNCW, he spent 15 years as professor of marine science and Director of Vester Marine Field Station, and later as interim dean for the College of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. His research expertise includes shellfish diseases, physiology, immunopathology, toxicology, and management and restoration of shellfish habitat. He is an accomplished scholar and has been funded by various federal, state, and private agencies such as the National Research Council, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Sea Grant, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. While there, he secured three $1 million gifts to establish a marine laboratory and endow two professorships.  

Dr. Volety graduated from the College of William & Mary with a Doctorate in Marine Science. He received his master's degree in Zoology with a specialization in Marine Biology and his Bachelor of Science from Andhra University in India. Volety also earned graduate certificates in Management Development, and Management and Leadership in Education from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and he is the recipient of Fulbright Fellowship to France. He is a graduate of the American Association for State Colleges and Universities’ Millennium Leadership Initiative. He and his wife, Ai Ning Loh, have two children, Uma and Mia.  

“Public education and this great country offered me the opportunities I have today,” Chancellor-Elect Volety said. “I am committed to working closely with the UNCW community, especially our faculty and staff, to build on the university’s accomplishments to date and expand its future opportunities. Together, we will focus on offering every student who comes to UNCW high quality educational and professional experiences with the potential to make a profound difference in their lives and in the world at large.” 

Aswani K. Volety