At Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, athletics took center stage. A half-dozen student-athletes stepped forward to share their day-in-the-life experiences, and Chancellor Carol L. Folt outlined six areas in which the University plans to better serve student-athletes moving forward.
“Shaping what it means to be a truly great research university involves examining areas that span commercialization, innovation and translational research,” Folt said, “and it is equally important to look at student activities and the insight that provides for what students truly care about – including athletics.”
The Board of Trustees heard updates about many outstanding facets of the University. Bill Roper, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care, talked about Carolina’s medical school graduates’ high rate of satisfaction with their programs of study and relatively low debt upon graduation, and the extent to which they currently practice in many of the state’s underserved areas. Peter Mucha, chair of the new Department of Applied Physical Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, outlined how the fledgling department is designed to blend a mindset of discovery with engineering to “fill the space between science and engineering.” Doug Shackelford, dean of Kenan-Flagler Business School, presented a group of students from the school’s STAR (Student Teams Achieving Results) Program who have been working with the N.C. School of the Arts to develop a state-of-the-art sound stage as a way to further entice the film industry to our state and boost the economy.
Next to the podium was Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, who was lauded by Folt for taking a leadership role in examining how Carolina can achieve even higher levels of excellence in academics and athletics. She said the University will unveil more details soon about a bold initiative that will create new opportunities for student-athletes.
Meanwhile, she and Cunningham already are focused on a half-dozen areas of future improvement: academic preparedness, quality of educational experience, health and wellness, time demands, resources necessary for student success and increased representation in governance.
The student-athletes who spoke to the board – a mix of scholarship recipients and a walk-on, revenue and non-revenue players, journalism and science majors – talked about their already-positive experiences.
Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Switzer said football has helped him better manage his time and given him athletic and academic opportunities he might not have had otherwise. “Playing a Division I sport takes a lot of time, but we love it,” he said.
Besides developing the self-discipline and organizational skills a CEO would covet, student-athletes learn that leadership applies to everything they do, not only in their sport but also in the broader community and throughout their lives.
Senior softball pitcher Lori Spingola worked to create Champions for Change as a way to integrate people with disabilities into the community. The journalism and mass communication major described to trustees the partnership with the ARC of Orange County that culminates with an invitation to children with disabilities and their families to tour Carolina’s facilities, wear the jerseys of past players and even throw the first pitch in a game.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige, who hails from Iowa, said he chose Carolina over other universities because of the emphasis on academics in Chapel Hill – something his mother, who is a teacher, drilled into him early on.
“I came here because of the quality of the basketball program, of course, but it was also the way Coach [Roy] Williams cares about us off the court and prepares us,” he said. “Our schedule is so crazy, but we do all this because we love it. And off the court, we have an academic support staff like no other. ”
Also addressing the trustees were senior cornerback Tim Scott, an exercise and sport science major; gymnast Michelle Ikoma, a senior biomedical engineering and economics major; and first-year football walk-on Kemmi Pettway, who was redshirted this year.
Folt said she appreciated the student-athletes’ candor because hearing from them was important to understanding how all students can reach their full potential at a top research university like Carolina.
Like all Carolina students, she said, student-athletes face many time constraints, and the key is balance. “The University needs to continue in every possible way to help them negotiate that balance,” Folt said.
The trustees showed their overwhelming support for the group, and Chair Lowry Caudill thanked all of the student-athletes for the joy and excitement they bring to Carolina.
By University Relations staff.
Published March 28, 2014