CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s future rests in the hands of its first female chancellor and brings a storied career to a storied program.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Faculty Council chair Jan Boxill said.
“I think everyone in the community’s been on pins and needles now for the last six or seven months,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.
“I am exceptionally proud of the person that we found,” General Alumni Association Board of Directors Chair Eric Montross said.
“I’m just incredibly excited to be working with Carol,” Student Body President Christy Lambden said.
“I’m really happy for Carolina and I’m happy for Carol Folt,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said.
Those members of the Carolina Community joined with numerous people who told Chapel Hill-Carrboro through WCHL on Friday just how excited they were to have Dr. Folt joining the Carolina Family. Hundreds of people were seen with smiles on their faces at the events on campus that ushered in the new chancellor.
The last of those voices was that of current UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp who remains in office until July 1 when he takes his new position as provost at the University of Washington in St. Louis.
Chancellor Thorp said he’s also very happy for himself in the culmination of this process as it shows how his hard work throughout the five years in office has paid off.
“I feel that if we were doing a good job boosting the faculty productivity, the student demand, and the sense of community at Carolina, then whenever I left—it turned out to be this year—great people would want to come do it,” Chancellor Thorp said. “And for someone like her to be attracted to come to Chapel Hill and do this job makes me feel absolutely great, and it should make everybody who loves this university feel great.”
He said the result of the search process finding as many strong candidates as it did is evidence enough to support that. However, he said the choice of President Tom Ross capped that result.
As Chancellor Thorp mentioned, the relationship between faculty and administration has been a major focus and is key for any university’s success. The chair of the Faculty Council at UNC, Jan Boxill was grinning ear-to-ear Friday when she said just how excited she was to be working with Chancellor-elect Folt.
“I think for faculty, it’s the best choice we possibly could have had,” Boxill said. “I think Carol’s got so much dynamite. When she interviewed, you could just feel the connection, and I think with all of us on the committee. She asked really interesting questions and got the answers that she didn’t expect, and she didn’t know what to expect.”
UNC is a public institution with more than 29,000 students; Dartmouth is a private college with just more than 6,000.
While some may wonder if the jump in size would have any effect on her ability to serve, Chancellor Thorp said Chancellor-elect Folt’s resume speaks for itself.
“I think that Carol Folt, with her record of scholarship and coming from a great place like Dartmouth College where she’s been a long-time administrator and even had nine months as president, I think she is the most qualified chancellor that we could possibly imagine,” Chancellor Thorp said.
Dr. Folt has been at Dartmouth for 30 years and began her career there as a professor. Over the years, she worked through the hierarchy of administrative roles, a quality Boxill said was a major selling point to the search committee, on which she served.
“She had been every administrative position as well as faculty position, so the credentials were just perfect for us, I think,” Boxill said.
Associate Professor of Sociology Denise Anthony served as chair of the Faculty Planning Committee that helped to draft Dartmouth’s latest strategic plan. As a colleague of Chancellor-elect Folt, she said even in just nine months at the helm, she has served a major role in planning for the future of Dartmouth and, in a way, like few others have done it.
“Carol really wanted to do something different here to have the community develop the plan,” Anthony said. “She was instrumental in creating a variety of committees who then worked with people from all across campus—having conversations, working groups—to develop the plan through this sort of wide-spread engagement of the community.”
Friday’s announcement also sets in motion another very important process: the search for UNC’s Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor.
Last summer, Bruce Carney announced that he would be stepping down from the position to go back to the classroom. A search committee was then formed and the beginning stages of the process were set in motion—like posting the job description and creating a website at which people can submit for it. A 21-member panel was created—just as one was for the chancellor search. However, when Chancellor Thorp announced he would not be returning, that process was put on hold because the University’s second-in-command ultimately has to be able to work with its new leader.
UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said Friday’s events were just the start of a roughly 18-month window of major administrative projects for the University.
“You’re going to see a lot of the University initiatives become more public,” Cunningham said.” A lot of the strategic planning, thinking, and a capital campaign that we’re thinking about launching here shortly—to really talk about the future of North Carolina, where do we fit in higher education throughout the country, where are out priorities going to be within the institution, and then her entire leadership team with have to pull together to garner the resources to achieve the results of the plan that we’re going to lay out.”
While “Big Time College Athletics” is a major point of focus in the nation’s top universities, and with the recent NCAA investigation into the University’s football program, how Chancellor-elect Folt handles athletics along with overseeing the academics and other areas of UNC will be something the public likely keeps its eyes on. Cunningham said he’s confident she’ll be able to hit the ground running on day one.
“Carol’s a great leader, and she will fit into the ACC governance structure exceptionally well,” Cunningham said. “I’m looking forward to her leadership campus-wide and assisting her as best we can from an athletics standpoint. The ACC’s an incredibly strong conference; it has great rivalries, great tradition, and we’re doing everything we can to make it better.”
Another member of UNC’s administration that’s just getting started is Student Body President Christy Lambden. He took office on April 2.
President Lambden said few people get to be in office at the start of an administration like he will.
“It’s absolutely a challenge for the student body and for the whole University to be taking on, but I think more than anything it’s just incredibly exciting,” President Lambden said. “I think that as student body president, you get the opportunity to sit down and think for and plan for more than a year in advance, and I think with a brand new chancellor who’ll be planning out her vision for the University, I think I’ll have that unique opportunity. So, I’m very excited.”
You can hear all of these reactions and much more including full interviews from Friday’s announcement by visiting our website, Chapelboro.com.
Chancellor Thorp said there’s still a lot to accomplish in his time remaining at UNC. Chancellor-elect Folt has returned to Dartmouth College to finish out her duties as interim president. She will take office at UNC on July 1.