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Today's date:
Academic plan to draw
on Carolina’s
strengths, advantages
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Despite continuing hard times and unavoidable budget constraints, Bruce Carney thinks now may be a good time to act boldly on behalf of undergraduate education.

A natural starting place is the development of a new five-year academic plan – the effort Carney is leading as interim executive vice chancellor and provost until a new provost is hired later this year.

As he reviewed the status of efforts to revise the plan with University trustees earlier this month, Carney highlighted the enormous advantages Carolina enjoys, from its increasingly diverse and intellectually curious students to faculty members who excel as scholars and teachers to an array of programs and curricula that are substantive and broadly appealing.

The academic plan, Carney suggested, should harness these advantages into a common purpose, and in so doing, signal to the strongest prospective students that “we intend to move forward, not stand still.”

The 2003 academic plan produced substantial successes, he said, including the new undergraduate curriculum and first-year seminars, growth in the Honors Program, creation of the Carolina Covenant program, enhanced student advising and a reinvigorated honor system.

Carney outlined six themes the 2010 academic plan will promote and advance:

* *The strongest possible academic experiences;
* *Faculty prominence, recruitment, development and scholarship;
* * Interdisciplinary teaching, research and public engagement;
* *Campus inclusivity and diversity;
* *Engagement with the profound challenges of the state, national and global communities; and
* *Carolina’s global presence in research and teaching.

Getting the best students
The heart of the University’s mission is to attract the best undergraduate and graduate students, Carney said, and provide them with a rigorous, stimulating academic experience.

Last June, a task force on excellence in undergraduate enrollment made three core recommendations that the new academic plan should incorporate and build upon, he said.

First, the University must “connect” its best prospective students with existing opportunities in a way that encourages them to enroll and helps them thrive once they are here.

It must also “communicate” with these top prospective students to dispel any misperceptions they may have about the quality of the student body or the size or geography of the campus.

And finally, the University must strive to “create” new intellectually rigorous opportunities to help attract the students it most wants to enroll.

This month, a new initiative will connect the top 1,200 admitted students with existing opportunities and a new pilot program. Also, the University will work closely with campus communicators on new efforts to highlight the overall quality of Carolina’s undergraduates and to help correct misunderstandings research shows prospective students have about the size of the student body and the physical campus.

Keeping the best faculty
Attracting the best students also means making sure a great faculty can teach them when they arrive.

The 2003 academic plan led to an aggressive push for a broad increase in faculty salaries, the creation of the Center for Faculty Excellence and leadership programs offered through the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.

Throughout much of the past seven years, Carney said, the University has done well in retaining prized faculty members who received offers from other universities.

But other universities will continue to target Carolina’s best faculty members, he said, just as Carolina seeks to recruit top faculty members from other schools. In 2008–09, for instance, 120 faculty members received outside offers. The University made counter-offers to 65, and of these, 38 stayed.

Within the College of Arts and Sciences alone, 24 faculty members received outside offers, and of the 18 who received counter offers, 14 chose to stay, Carney said.

Faculty members often stay because of one of Carolina’s intellectual signatures: “the imaginative collaboration across disciplinary boundaries” that has led the way in redefining perspectives on longstanding academic pursuits, Carney said.

They often choose to leave, even after the University matches outside salary offers, because the University cannot match the benefits package they are offered elsewhere, he explained.

Carney said he also is concerned about the trend that Carolina is losing ground with peer institutions such as UC Berkeley, Michigan, Virginia and UCLA in the percentage of classes it offers with fewer than 20 students.

Remaining true to Diversity

An article in the Jan. 13 issue of “The Chronicle for Higher Education” described flagship universities becoming less diverse racially and socioeconomically as they divert money from need-based aid to merit-based aid as a way to attract wealthy students with high SAT scores who could boost national rankings.

But Carolina has done the opposite, Carney said.

During the past decade, he said, need-based grants have met an increasing share of the total published cost of attendance – rising from 30 percent in 1999–2000 to 50 percent in 2008–09. During the same period, Carolina’s average grant support for low-income North Carolinians increased at more than triple the rate of grant support offered to students with no demonstrated financial need.

Carolina, as much as any other university in the country, has demonstrated that it is possible to pursue diversity without sacrificing excellence – and the numbers bear it out, Carney said.

For instance, the percentage of white students dropped from 73.1 percent in 2004 to 67.5 percent in 2009 as the number of first-generation students increased from 16.3 percent to 19 percent during the same period. Within that time, the average SAT scores rose from 1287 to 1303, Carney said.

Next steps
Bill Andrews, senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Sue Estroff, professor of social medicine in the School of Medicine, are co-chairing the effort to update the academic plan. The steering committee – made up of four students, 11 faculty members and representatives from undergraduate admissions, student affairs and the provost’s office – will assess the strengths and shortcomings of the 2003 academic plan; it is working to complete its report in the fall.

Carney’s PowerPoint is available online; refer to “handouts/presentations for January 2010,”

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* *Carolina Counts Web site goes live

* *Faculty and staff survey will help assess workplace

* *University marks successful completion of a decade of bond projects

* *Morehead planetarium shows have gone world class

* *Academic plan to draw on Carolina’s strengths, advantages

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