CHAPEL HILL – The new Chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors sees no shortage of priorities to improve the UNC System.
“The biggest focus will be moving the UNC System forward where we’re behind in multiple different areas,” Harry Smith, who became chair of the board July 1, says in the accompanying video.
“So we’ll have a focus on HBCUs/HMIs. We’ll have a focus on online, and a focus on health care that have not been paramount. And then we’ll have a renewed focus on the current committee structure.”
Smith outlines some new committees on the board, as well as issues for existing committees to take up:
- HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities):“What’s amazed me – I’ve been on the board five years. We’ve got five HBCUs. I can’t ever remember a conversation of more than five minutes about an HBCU. We know there are challenges nationwide on the HBCUs. So we’re going to form a committee that focuses on our HBCUs and our one HMI (Historically Minority Institution). And that focus will be how can we strategically help them be successful?”
“By the way, they’re one-third of our assets. What can we do to keep advocacy-focused there to help them be successful?”
- Health Care:“That’s another large part of our assets which we never spend any time on.… That will be focused on System assets. We are a System – you know, everybody gets the football and basketball confused when we talk about coming together for the common purpose of the citizens of North Carolina. So we’ll be focused on how can our med schools, hospitals, nursing programs work collectively together to solve health-care needs in the state?”
- Repairs and Renovation: Smith says he finds it “perplexing” that the UNC System has a more than $2 billion backlog in repair and maintenance needs. “There’s no plan – there’s not been a plan. I mean, that staggers me, right? So what are we doing to develop a plan for sustainability? We’re building buildings like crazy, but we’ve still got $2 billion worth of repair and renovations with no plan.”
- Student Retention: “We’ll put a hard focus on retention, which is the number one black hole in the system. If we get ‘em, do we keep ‘em?”
- Community College Partners: “One of the biggest opportunities that the UNC System has is a finite partnership with the community colleges – instead of competing there, we should be partners there. Because it’s one of the most underutilized assets that we have in the state…. We want to figure out how we can align better for the citizens of the state.”
Smith says he looks forward to working with new NC Community College System President Peter Hans and Scott Shook, Chair of the State Board of Community Colleges.