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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Reviewing options for 10-year Academic Plan

Choosing where to begin acting on the 60-plus recommendations of the 2011 Academic Plan is akin to what undergraduates face in signing up for the next semester’s courses. It’s hard to narrow down the options.

But that’s what the Academic Plan Steering Committee has had to do – at least at the outset.

Called “Reach Carolina,” the Academic Plan lays out the University’s academic roadmap for the next decade through six broad interrelated themes: transformative academic experiences; faculty prominence; interdisciplinary teaching, research and public engagement; equity and inclusion; engaged scholarship; and extending Carolina’s global presence. Each theme includes a set of recommendations for realizing it.

The steering committee, led by Alice Ammerman, professor of nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and Regina Carelli, Stephen B. Baxter Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program, has chosen six areas of focus among the set of recommendations for the first year.

“Remember, this is a 10-year plan,” Carelli said. “The committee recommended that we begin with these six areas, but they are not meant to be an exhaustive list.”

A subcommittee has been appointed for each area, and members are examining what already exists at Carolina to support that area and ways to build upon it.

Three areas of focus deal with attracting, challenging and inspiring students through transformative academic experiences.

One subcommittee is examining existing academic regulations as the basis for creating a way for students and faculty to develop exploratory learning opportunities and new models and programs of study.

Another is working on developing direct-entry matriculation programs in which there are defined paths from a bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree, including enhanced advising and mentoring for these programs.

A third is focusing on pilot innovative lecture courses that use a multidisciplinary approach to examine some of the major problems of our time.

Some of the logistical issues for this group include determining the “home” department for each course and how students and faculty would get credit for, respectively, taking and teaching it, Carelli said.

At the other end of the instructional spectrum, the Academic Plan advocates fostering one-on-one interactions between faculty and students that could influence students’ intellectual growth. One subcommittee is looking at ways to establish a faculty-student mentoring program that would meet students’ particular interests and offer faculty a chance to interact with students they might not otherwise encounter.

“We already have a great advising system here,” Carelli said. “This would be a structured way to let students meet with specific faculty members on a topic of mutual interest.”

Another subcommittee is examining what the University is doing – and what needs to be done – to broadly recognize the contributions of engaged scholarship, both to the University and to the communities served.

The final subcommittee is focusing on the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and how a free exchange of ideas can be preserved and appreciated.

When the steering committee first met, these six areas percolated to the top as the best places to begin, Carelli said. Although the group has been mindful of financial constraints, it also is think-ing broadly.

“I think we can get a lot done this first year and be creative in the process,” Carelli said. “Our provost is incredibly supportive and has told us not to limit our discussions based on money. The information we provide will help him as he plans for the future.”

The subcommittees will meet again in another month to discuss their findings and options for moving forward.

For information about the Academic Plan, see academicplan.unc.edu.