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Dr. Dana Dunn

Provost Dana Dunn is known as an exemplary leader on the UNC Greensboro campus.

Serving as chief academic officer for the past six years, she has guided the University through many impressive steps forward.

Dunn has led strategic planning, including initiatives in enrollment management and 12 new academic program launches that resulted in an 11% growth in enrollment. Under her tenure, research infrastructure at UNCG has expanded, accompanied by a 24% increase in external funding. With colleagues, she has created a new Division of Student Success and raised over $5 million to support student success initiatives.

Dunn has guided the consolidation of online program development and support into a Division of Online Learning, driving a 30% increase in online student enrollment. She has welcomed over 250 new faculty to the Spartan family, with approximately half in expansion lines. She has also served as principal investigator on a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to recruit and retain diverse faculty.

And, a few miles north of the UNCG campus, she has played a tremendous role in launching Moss Street Partnership School, an elementary-level lab school under full oversight of the University.

Provost Dana Dunn giving a welcome at the opening of the Moss Street Partnership School

The Dunn effect has not gone unnoticed by the UNC System. Earlier this year it was announced that UNCG had surpassed all of the UNC System key performance metrics, making UNCG one of only 3 of 17 in the UNC System performing at this level and the only campus to have surpassed all nine Strategic Plan metrics in the most recent year.

Dunn has supported initiatives and progress across campus at every opportunity. And perhaps as a result, her most important accomplishment of all might be the connections she has made with UNCG faculty and staff, who continue to be inspired by her wisdom, her compassion, and her commitment to building a bright future for the University.

In the Yes, and Café podcast, Professor Nadja Cech recently described Provost Dana Dunn as “full of grace,” a sentiment undoubtedly shared by many in the UNCG campus community.

Provost Dunn with Dr. Lee Phillips, director of the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship & Creativity Office, at the NSF Advance grant launch reception

Provost Dunn will step down from her position July 31 and become a full-time faculty member of the Department of Sociology in Spring 2021.

Read the interview below to learn more about her overall experience at UNCG as provost.

Also, listen to the podcast interview to hear about her favorite time of the academic school year, her pride in the campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, and her personal modus operandi.

Provost Dana Dunn with Chancellor Gilliam

What have been some of your favorite moments as provost?

I very much enjoy working collaboratively with the very smart and capable people on this campus to solve problems, build new programs, and launch initiatives. I also have especially enjoyed the opportunity to bring so many new talented faculty and staff to join the UNCG community. Small group lunches with new faculty were something I always looked forward to. The energy expressed by these new colleagues was contagious. It’s been fulfilling to play a role in the launch of many new academic programs that are high quality and will produce graduates much in demand. And my list of favorite moments has to include attending the many arts-related performances and exhibitions on this campus. We are truly privileged to have such outstanding programs.

What are you looking forward to seeing at UNCG in the future?

I’m very excited about UNC Greensboro’s ability to continue to distinguish itself on the student success front. We are a national leader in closing the student success gaps, and we have the accolades and performance metrics to prove it. I think this is a real differentiator for UNCG – we are just getting started on this important work. I’m also very pleased that we are strengthening our position as a Carnegie high research university, providing the infrastructure needed for our outstanding faculty researchers to carry out their important work. Again, there is much more to be done on this front, but I’m confident we have the momentum and will forge ahead. I’m delighted we have attracted a new provost who is himself a strong researcher. I’m confident he will also make growing research a top priority.

Do you have thoughts you could share with faculty and the campus community about making our way during the COVID-19 uncertainty?

Well, spring was a most unusual semester and had any of us predicted at the outset that by the end of the semester, over 98% of our courses would be successfully transitioned online, we just couldn’t have fathomed that process, but that’s exactly what happened. And faculty from around the campus – all disciplines, all colleges and schools – worked diligently on very short notice with varying degrees of experience to put their courses online. And they did it precisely because of their commitment to the students and their desire that our students be able to have continuity and complete their semesters. I am incredibly proud of our institution for doing that work. And it really tells us that our faculty put our mission front and center, that they value so much what we do, and that they are willing to do whatever it takes. Often, it takes a lot of extra work, particularly when there’s such a monumental disruption. So, I take great pride in that. And I think it speaks volumes about why this University is such a strong one, with such a bright future.

My advice for the future is to remember that much of what we do in the face of these challenges will not be perfect. Academicians strive for perfection. We have to somehow balance our quest for excellence with an understanding of what’s good enough to move us ahead and beyond these trying times.

The phrase “We are all in this together” may not be very profound, but it is very appropriate for describing what we must all keep in mind to navigate this challenge successfully and come out on the other side of this strong. It won’t be easy, and we are in for some challenging times that will ask more of everyone at a time when we are all stressed a bit. If we come together as a community, support one another, and keep our critically important mission front and center, we will be fine.

(reply partially drawn from Yes, and Café podcast interview.)

Are there any new projects or activities you’d like to mention that you’re undertaking?

As I noted when I announced that I would step down this summer, I’ve been a provost now for almost 13 years. I love the work, but for me it’s all-consuming. I’m looking forward to a little time to do simple things – walks in the woods, reading (mostly fiction) and more reading, maybe adopt another dog, cook a bit more, and when I can, travel. I’m a bit disappointed as we all are that plans I’d made to travel have been put on hold, so I’ll just read more novels set in the places I want to visit until I can make my way there.

Once I’ve had some time for these things, I’ll be back as a faculty member and then who knows. I still find the prospect of the future very exciting and can’t wait to see what it holds.

Provost Dana Dunn at Mentoring Monday

Story and interview by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane and Jiyoung Park, University Communications

 
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