For Streeter, Carolina is all about the people
Charles Streeter is one of those lucky Tar Heels who came to Chapel Hill and never left.
Since 1989, when Streeter enrolled at Carolina and spent six weeks in Summer Bridge prepping for academic life here, he has earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communication, worked close to 20 years in IT and served as chair of the Employee Forum for four years.
This year Streeter received the University’s most prestigious prize, the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.
Grateful for the recognition, “I was more appreciative that the people who nominated me would take the time and feel that I was worthy enough to receive that kind of commendation,” Streeter said. “That means more to me probably than the award itself.”
Streeter, who grew up in Fayetteville, found a welcoming home at Carolina, largely because of the people he met. That list included the financial aid staff who helped him stay in school as an undergraduate, the faculty who taught him, the supervisors who hired him to work in the campus computer lab, his co-workers in Student Affairs IT and the colleagues he met as Employee Forum delegate and chair.
“To me, it is the people who are important, who have made Carolina what it is for me,” Streeter said. “I just wouldn’t be where I am right now or even at Carolina if I didn’t meet the friends, the staff members, the faculty, that I’ve gotten to know over the years.”
Connected and informed
In his job as an applications analyst, Streeter serves as the database administrator and data custodian for Student Affairs. He manages more than 30,000 student records and updates them throughout the year. It’s a vital role that helps every Carolina student—including those in non-traditional undergraduate or graduate roles—to stay connected and informed.
But he is best known as the upbeat representative of the University’s staff, the man with the dazzling smile and resonant voice who speaks for employees at Board of Trustees’ meetings, University Day and other public events.
Streeter had worked here for a decade and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Pfeiffer University before he joined the Employee Forum. Even then, he was reluctant to commit two years as a delegate until his friend Peggy Cotton, a forum delegate and member of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, encouraged him to run.
When Streeter was elected in 2006, “I said, ‘Oh, no. What have I gotten myself into?’ But I stuck with it.” He not only stuck with it, he became its leader in 2013, using his IT skills to improve the organization’s communications and services.
“Under Charles’ leadership, the Employee Forum extended its many services to staff. It has hosted career events, training, social activities and continuing education; assumed management of the Carolina Family Scholarship; professionalized the forum’s digital presence and communication; and expanded the Carolina Community Garden,” to quote his Massey Award citation. “His many contributions to the Employee Forum earned him the inaugural Kay Wijnberg Hovious Outstanding Forum Delegate Award.”
Conflict leads to compromise
Streeter represents staff members on several boards and committees within the University and as one of Carolina’s three delegates to the Staff Assembly of the UNC system.
“He works tirelessly to create unity and inclusiveness as he helps bring staff together to strategize ways to make Carolina one of the best places to work in the state,” wrote one of Streeter’s nominators for the Massey Award.
Perhaps the greatest challenge during Streeter’s tenure was the transition of UNC Student Stores to management by Barnes & Noble College in July 2016. The idea of allowing an outside corporation to manage the 100-year-old institution at first sparked student and employee protests and the fear of lost jobs and salary cuts.
But Streeter, working both in public and behind the scenes, influenced a process that resulted in all 48 full-time staff members keeping jobs at their current salary either under Barnes & Noble College management or with the University.
“Conflict can be a great thing sometimes,” he said, with a flash of the famous smile. “But there’s still a way you have to approach it. You don’t say things in anger in a public setting. The outcome of this was a very good compromise.”
As Employee Forum chair, Streeter had to be able to see issues from all sides, to present employees’ concerns to administrators without hurting their cause. “You have to be the translator. You have to make things known. You have to be tactful and weigh things,” he said. “When you put your stamp of approval on it, you have to be able to explain why and that it’s a very good reason.”
Performer at heart
When his duties as chair are over, Streeter may again pick up other pursuits in his off hours. “I had aspirations of being an actor, but I didn’t want to wait on tables,” he said. “So I worked in IT and continued to act in community theater,” including Burning Coal Theatre in Raleigh, Manbites Dog in Durham and Deep Dish Theatre in Chapel Hill. He also performed in the PlayMakers Repertory Company’s 2006 production of Salome.
An accomplished singer, Streeter sang in the Carolina Choir for 18 years and also performed with Longleaf Opera. He studied ballroom dancing for several years and even taught some students.
But he will also still be deeply involved in Carolina work culture. The University is the only employer he’s had since he worked at Taco Bell in high school.
“This is different from working in the corporate sector,” said Streeter, who relishes the fact that University employees can be involved in policy decisions. “It’s never just, ‘This is a policy. You have to follow it.’ It’s never that. You don’t have to just take whatever treatment is being doled out, which is a great, great thing. That’s way more important than being paid a lot of money but being miserable.”
Far from being miserable, “I’ve been very satisfied with my 20-plus years here,” he said.
You can tell from the smile.