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Dr. Aswani K. Volety Formally Installed as UNCW Chancellor

Inspired, Grateful, Humbled

Dr. Aswani K. Volety had stood on the stage of Trask Coliseum before. A former dean of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s College of Arts and Sciences and executive director of the Center for Marine Science, he participated in many convocation and commencement ceremonies.

On the morning of March 31, his presence on that stage marked a moment in Seahawk history, as the first-generation college graduate and India native was formally installed as UNCW’s seventh chancellor.

In front of a crowd that included his family, mentors, friends, UNCW alumni, donors, faculty, staff and students, he shared he was “inspired by your charge, grateful for your trust and humbled by your faith. Today, I want to share with you who I am, why I came back to UNCW and what I believe we can accomplish when we work together.”

Reflecting on the history of an institution that was founded as Wilmington College in 1947, it has grown from fewer than 250 to nearly 18,000 students, more than 2,500 employees and nearly 100,000 alumni.

“UNCW’s story isn’t represented by one narrative, one dream or even one idea. Our story is a collection of moments, memories and adventures – some past, some present and some yet to come,” he said.

UNC System President Peter Hans, former UNCW Chancellors James R. Leutze and Jose V. Sartarelli, and members of the UNC Board of Governors and the UNCW Board of Trustees were among the distinguished guests at the ceremony. Chancellor Volety took a moment to acknowledge their leadership that has guided UNCW through both prosperous and challenging times.

Reflecting on his personal “humble beginnings” growing up in a one-room house in South India, he credited “education, mentors and the American opportunity this great country affords” as factors in his success.

“The ZIP code of one’s birth doesn’t have to be a lifelong destination,” he said.

At 23, Chancellor Volety moved to the United States “with $500 and a dream to make a difference.” While he earned a Doctorate in Marine Science from the College of William & Mary, his plans to become a medical doctor fell through.

“For all of you students out there who are wondering what you will do if med school, law school or some other plan doesn’t work out, let me assure you, from personal experience, you will find other ways to soar,” he said.

Since he officially assumed office as UNCW Chancellor in July 2022, Dr. Volety has focused on developing a new comprehensive strategic plan with university stakeholders. The plan’s themes rely on four guiding principles:

  • Is this good for our students?
  • Is it good for the faculty and staff who are steadfast and constant in the life of the university?
  • Will this move UNCW forward and help solidify our role and will it contribute to the UNC System?
  • Is this good for the region and the state of North Carolina?

Given how much education has shaped his own trajectory, Chancellor Volety wants UNCW students to receive even more support, take part in even better learning experiences and graduate even more well-prepared to take their places as educated 21st century citizens.

Borrowing the words of author Stephen Covey, he emphasized, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. At UNCW, our students, their education and their experience are the main thing. Always have been, always will be.”

In closing, he asked all who comprise the Seahawk family “to join me on this most exciting journey. Let’s soar high, soar far and soar together.”

A recording of the ceremony will be available on the installation website for public viewing. For additional details about the chancellor, the event, past leaders and more, visit