Tom Ross, president of the UNC system, visited UNCG Friday, Feb. 18.
The EUC was just a couple of miles from where he grew up in Sunset Hills, he said.
He is visiting each of the system campuses, in the first months of his tenure. He anticipates completing the visits by the end of spring, according to his chief of staff.
Friday afternoon was filled with 45-minute meetings with Faculty Senate, then Staff Senate, then the Student Government Association.
John Gamble, chair of the Faculty Senate, provided an overview of what the Faculty Senate had done the past several years. Ross then told a bit about himself and fielded questions.
Ross commended the work in giving faculty credit for engaging in the community as part of P&T – that corresponds with UNC Tomorrow’s thrust, and he said that he’d like to see a copy of that work. He also commended UNCG getting out in front in looking at academic program review.
He told of the value the UNC system brings to the state. “It’s allowed our economy to grow.”
The jobs of tomorrow are going to take higher education, he said.
The state’s population with no high school diploma have 17.4 percent unemployment. Those with a four year university degree have 4.2 percent unemployment, he said.
He discussed the budget. “There’s going to be pain” for the universities, he said. “We need to minimize permanent damage.”
He talked about something he says does not get enough recognition: the teaching. “For students, it’s life-changing.”
He described how a faculty member in Classics changed his life when Ross was a student at Davidson.
In meeting with Staff Senate, chair Jason Morris introduced all the senate’s leadership, and presented its mission. Morris provided examples exemplifying that mission, such as soliciting hundreds of suggestions for improving staff morale.
Ross asked that Staff Senate send to his office the suggestions they’d received regarding staff morale.
He acknowledged the staff’s work. “We would shut down if it were not for you,” he said.
As in the Faculty Senate meeting, he talked budget realities. “I know you’re interested in budget. It’s going to be a hard year.”
But he anticipates that the coming fiscal year may be “the worst of the worst.” The following year may be better. The economy is improving.
He asked for questions. The topics ranged from efficiencies gained from not having to work through other state offices in purchasing, etc, to concerns about universities serving under-represented populations. From early retirement options as part of proposed budget to online education.
He noted that there’s more to education than content, but online education is “an important area where we can improve.” He mentioned the advantage that online courses can provide to the armed services, for example, as well as to individual students who may get deployed during a semester.
In his final meeting of the afternoon, with the students, he again discussed the budget. He spoke of fewer sections, larger classes, etc. He acknowledged that they were at UNCG at a far-from-ideal budgetary time. “You couldn’t choose when you were born,” he said.
Nevertheless, “You are all fortunate to be here at this place,” he said. “It’s really a strong place.”
By Mike Harris
Photograph by Chris English