Delivered March 27, 2001
On the occasion of a panel discussion as part of the 10th anniversary
of the Friday Center
PUBLIC SERVICE OR LIP SERVICE?:
OUTREACH AT A MAJOR RESEARCH UNIVERSITY
By James Moeser
Thanks to all of you for coming tonight
to help us celebrate the 10th anniversary of the William and
Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education. This truly is a world-class
facility that has helped Carolina enhance its efforts to reach
out and to serve the people of North Carolina and beyond. And
as the Center moves into the 21st century and begins a second
decade of outreach and service, I'm delighted to be here and
to have a small part in this program.
In many respects, the Friday Center epitomizes
Carolina's commitment to service. The Center derives its existence
and its purpose directly from the University's mission "to
extend the knowledge-based services and other resources of the
University to the Citizens of North Carolina and their institutions
[in order] to enhance the quality of life to all the people of
the State." Indeed, the Friday Center has become the umbrella
for our efforts to provide lifelong learning opportunities to
the people of North Carolina and beyond the borders of this state
through such efforts as distance education, night classes, conferences
This celebration is an ideal time for the
University to reassert its commitment to the importance of outreach
and public service, the principles at the very core of the Friday
Center and, indeed, an integral and a historical part of the
University's tripartite mission. Carolina is not a great teaching
and research institution at the exclusion of public service.
As we move into the third century of public higher education,
I'm convinced that our service mission will become even more
important and more intertwined with our research and our teaching.
When I came to Chapel Hill last summer
and began the process of learning the history and traditions
of this University, one of the things that most impressed me
was the long legacy of serving the people. As I've learned more
about the University through my visits to the schools and departments,
as well as conversations with faculty, students, alumni and others,
I've been even more struck by this commitment. Carolina truly
is a university created "by the people and
for the people," and throughout its 206-year history, the
people who personify this institution have never strayed from
The late Albert Coates, the founder of
Carolina's Institute of Government and a staunch believer in
the service role of the University, loved to compare UNC's outreach
and its impact to that of the mighty Gulf Stream, whose "warming
effect upon the climates of adjacent land areas is reflected
in the extraordinary mildness of the winters permitting
vegetables to grow and flowers to bloom in the winter, and bettering
the living conditions of the people" in the lands it touches.
"From the coming of the first student
to its open doors the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill has been a magic gulf stream flowing in an ever-widening
current through the lives of people in the cities, the counties
and the state of North Carolina and beyond tempering the
customs, traditions and habits of the people it serves and lifting
them to higher levels of living wherever it has gone."
I love those words of Albert Coates. I
can't imagine a more appropriate analogy, nor one that more fittingly
describes Carolina's public service responsibility and certainly
In 1789, the North Carolina General Assembly
chartered the University and charged it with preparing future
generations for "an honourable discharge of the social duties
of life, by paying the strictest attention to their education."
That included teaching citizens how to understand, how to improve
and defend the principles of our state and nation's fledgling
experiment in democratic government.
Carolina never strayed from that commitment.
We have educated generation after generation of citizens, government
and business leaders, teachers, doctors, and journalists. And
the University has grounded them not only in the academics of
their chosen professions, but also the responsibilities and obligations
that accompany citizenship in an American democracy.
In the early 20th century, President Edward
Kidder Graham fervently stressed the University's role to serve
the public the people for whom and by whom the University
was built, the men and women whose tax dollars supported the
school and those whose sons and a few daughters came
to our campus to learn. He touted our outreach responsibility
in a campaign that encouraged the people of the North Carolina
to "Write to the University when you need help." Citizens
were urged to call upon the University when they had a problem,
and as a result, the campus library was deluged with requests
from citizens, from libraries, from the public schools and other
I'm confident that President Graham's appeal
not only gave the people of North Carolina an appreciation of
the rich storehouse of talent and knowledge available in Chapel
Hill, but also helped those on campus shape their areas of study
and research in response to the queries they received. A two-way
flow communication between the University and the public was
established. Information traveled freely from the campus outward
to the people of the state and from the people back to Chapel
When I first visited Carolina last year,
I was struck, as I'm sure many of you have been, by the beautiful
stone walls that surround the older campus. Some universities
are enclosed by high walls or fences, but the low stature of
our walls is symbolic. You can stand on one side and look out
into the world. Or you can stand on the other and even reach
into the campus. The walls keep no one out and nothing in. While
the stones may mark the physical periphery of the Chapel Hill
campus, they allow us to see out to our greater campus, the campus
beyond the Davie Poplar and the so-called ivory tower. They allow
us to see and respond to the campus that spans the state of North
Carolina and the citizens we serve.
As you have already heard, I had the privilege
to serve with 26 other current and former college presidents
and chancellors on the Kellogg Commission on the future of public
and land-grant universities. One of the key areas our commission
examined was the need for our institutions to return to their
public roots. Indeed, in our 1999 report, the commission called
for colleges and universities to become truly "engaged"
with their communities and with the word "community"
defined in the broadest possible terms.
We wrote: "Engagement goes well beyond
extension, conventional outreach, and even most conceptions of
public service. Inherited concepts emphasize a one-way process
in which the university transfers its expertise to key constituents.
Embedded in the engagement ideal is a commitment to sharing and
reciprocity.defined by a mutual respect among the partners for
what each brings to the table."
Thus engagement involves a redesign of
teaching, research and service to bring our campuses and communities
closer together, building on the synergy that exists between
them. An engaged university can enrich student culture and help
change campus culture by increasing opportunities for students
and faculty to gain access to research and new knowledge and
broaden internships and off-campus learning opportunities. At
the same time, an engaged university puts its knowledge and expertise
to work for its off-campus partners.
The Kellogg report, which sets a new standard
for university outreach and service in modern higher education,
offers three criteria by which we can identify an engaged institution:
First, an engaged university is one that
"must be organized to respond to the needs of today's students
and tomorrow's, not yesterday's." Much as we value our history
and traditions, we've got to keep our focus on the future, not
Second, "it must enrich students'
experiences by bringing research and engagement into the curriculum
and offering practical opportunities for students to prepare
for the world [into which] they will enter."
And finally, "it must put its critical
resources (knowledge and expertise) to work on the problems the
communities it serves face" -- direct application to the
real-world problems around us.
Engagement envisions an equal partnership,
a two-way street with ideas passing freely in both directions.
It is the connection -- the integration, if you will -- of our
campus learning and discovery missions with the world around
us in an active partnership. In short, it is the
university making a difference in the world.
When I arrived in Chapel Hill, I received
data that indicated many people believe that Carolinais the single
most important institution in this state's history not
just the most important university, but the most
important institution now and in the entire
history of this state. One citizen who was cited called us "the
state's greatest man-made asset," while another noted that
"Carolina must understand the world and bring us the future."
The public has tremendously high expectations for us.
We cannot and at Carolina,
I would argue, do not consider engagement
an option. Service and engagement must be an integral part of
a university's life, not something we practice if we have extra
time or if the mood strikes us or if our schedule permits or
if it happens to be convenient. We must consider it an obligation
and a responsibility, something that we owe society.
Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell summed it up eloquently:
"The service we render to others is really the rent we pay
for our room on this earth. It is obvious that man is himself
a traveler; that the purpose of the world is not 'to have and
to hold' but 'to give and to serve.'" What a fitting sentiment
as we consider university engagement and public service.
According to the Kellogg Commission, one of the crucial characteristics
of an engaged university especially when we talk about
a two-way partnership -- is that the university listens.
I hope that's something we do every day at this University. We
should be listening to the people of North Carolina as they tell
us about their concerns, their problems, their needs and aspirations.
We need to take what we hear from the public and then translate
it into action. We need to do something about the
very things our citizens are concerned about. We need to respond.
Consider the plight of North Carolina's
rural schools: under-funded, hurting for teachersand often lacking
state-of-the-art equipment, especially in the sciences. These
challenges come as we face the tough task of promoting high-tech
science careers careers that will be vital to our state
and nation's future. This University has perhaps a small contribution
to make, a small but significant one. It's called Destiny
with a capital "D" -- Carolina's 40-foot mobile science
lab that travels to rural high schools in the state, introducing
students to concepts and equipment they otherwise would not have
been exposed to (at least not until college). This bus-mounted
lab offers hands-on, high-tech learning opportunities, with programs
covering topics relevant to students' lives. Besides engaging
them and broadening their awareness of science, Destiny helps
promote high-tech science careers to those students. Since hitting
the road, Destiny has rolled into small counties down east and
large towns as far west as Greensboro. This is a perfect example
of the University listening and responding to a problem facing
our state and its students.
Along the same lines, Carolina researchers
are engaging middle and high school students in science as they
explore and manipulate objects at the atomic and molecular level.
Most of us can't even imagine such an opportunity, especially
at that age! Key to the effort is the nanoManipulator, a microcomputer
system created here at UNC that uses virtual reality technology
to provide a visual, 3-dimensional image of the sample being
examined. Students use a joystick to manipulate and "feel"
the 3-D image of a virus on the computer screen an image
projected across the Internet from an atomic force microscope
on our campus. Two local schools are participating in the project
this year, and in the third year, the outreach effort will expand
to hundreds of students throughout North Carolina and Iowa. Our
faculty hopes the experience will change students' ideas of what
scientists do and give them a taste of the excitement and enthusiasm
surrounding the scientific endeavor.
Answering yet another call from the public
schools is LEARN North Carolina, an online resource for teachers
coming out of our School of Education. LEARN allows teachers
to chat and share experiences and questions online, and borrow
from online lesson plans that meet the state curricular standards.
It has created a virtual network of educators all across the
state, offering much-needed personal support and information.
All of us recognize that the Institute
of Government (so ably led by Mike Smith who will lead our panel
discussion tonight) as one of the jewels in Carolina's public
service efforts. The Institute's efforts and expertise in civic
education, the courts and justice, governing boards, government
finance, law enforcement, municipal and county administration,
and other areas is tapped by more than 14,000 officials each
year, and faculty members teach more than 200 continuing education
classes annually. The Institute staff are constantly listening
So is Jim Johnson, a Kenan-Flagler professor
who is on our panel tonight. In 1995, he launched the Durham
Scholars program to serve at-risk inner-city youth and their
families by providing after-school, weekend and summer tutorial
and enrichment activities, family-crisis intervention, and parental
involvement activities. The program has been so successful that
thanks to support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
and the Kenan Institute's Urban Investment Strategies Center
it is expanding to four other North Carolina communities
(Asheville, Kinston, Pembroke and Siler City).
Just a few more examples:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, which
so devastated eastern North Carolina, UNC was there to help in
so many ways. When drugs and medical supplies were needed in
storm-ravaged communities, our School of Pharmacy and other health
affairs units set up a hotline to route donations to areas in
need. When the state was overwhelmed in spreading information
about safety, clean drinking water, mental health concerns and
the like, again our faculty and students stepped in. When a strong
back and lots of elbow grease were needed to help salvage homes
and physically clean up the mess left in the wake of the floods,
our campus responded with more than 30 bus trips down east, organized
through the Carolina Center for Public Service. More than a thousand
students fanned out from this campus across the state.
One of Carolina's best examples of service
and engagement is our Area Health Education Centers program,
which takes doctors and other health care professionals to all
corners of the state, offering training to health care providers
in the field and help to patients with little or no access to
health care. In 14 western North Carolina counties, for example,
low-income residents are being tested for hemochromatosis. Although
you probably haven't heard of this disease, it's a common genetic
illness in North America, striking one in 200 people. The disease
affects how the body processes iron, and left untreated, it can
cause liver, pancreas, joint and heart damage. This screening
effort should allow patients to be diagnosed and treated earlier,
before chronic health problems develop.
Our doctors and researchers in the School
of Medicine also listened when statistics concerning AIDS and
HIV patients visiting our Chapel Hill clinic indicated that about
10 percent came from Robeson County. Rather than having patients
drive five hours to Chapel Hill and back for a 15-minute doctor's
appointment, physicians opened an AIDS clinic in the southeastern
county one day a week.
These are just a few of the ways that UNC
is engaged. I would urge you, however, to think of public service
in a larger sense. Consider the University's role of putting
knowledge to work for the practical benefit of the public. Consider
the wide array of research opportunities that allow us to study
real problems in our communities and how the University
connects with the people in these communities and uses its expertise
Take, for example, Carolina's recent commitment
of $245 million to support genome sciences. Now, that sounds
like and it is -- a tremendous boost to our
research endeavor. But this is active research,
research that will ultimately make a difference in all of our
lives. Carolina researchers believe that within our lives
within the next five years they could find a cure for debilitating
diseases like some strains of cancer and cystic fibrosis. They
will be tackling such delicate issues as the ethical dilemmas
surrounding how government and businesses should use the genetic
information that now each of us has. Who has a right to that
information? What are our rights of privacy? What are the policies,
ethical decisions and moral decisions that we as a society need
to be making? Only a great university with a humanistic social
sciences as well as a basic science expertise can really address
a huge area like that, which is of enormous benefit to all our
Genomics may be an extreme example, but
every day Carolina researchers are in the laboratories, in the
communities, and in the field applying their expertise to problems
that directly affect the public, problems like water pollution,
sustainable development, health care, child and family welfare,
education, drug and alcohol abuse, and much more.
Our cultural offerings also fit a service
niche. Thousands of North Carolina sixth-graders go to the Morehead
Planetarium each year to learn about the heavens, and we are
developing greater plans to update it to create a state-of-the-art,
21st-century education center to do for those thousands of kids
what the science bus does to introduce them and to excite
them about the wonders of science. Others visit the Botanical
Garden, where we work to preserve plants that are native to the
Southeast. Garden staff and visiting instructors led 75 lectures,
field trips and workshops for more than 1,500 participants in
last year, and another 140 interpretive tours for 2,811 school
students and adults. And I could go on about the Ackland Art
Museum and all the other places that people interact with this
UNC sets a very high standard for engagement.
I would suggest that as the first state university, there is
no other that has a longer or more prestigious record of service
and of engagement than Carolina. Indeed, that was the impetus
for this University's creation more than two centuries ago, and
today the moral obligation continues to weigh heavily upon us.
There is a special culture inherent in
UNC, one that celebrates excellence but that is equally committed
to service and, beyond service, to social justice and to a transformative
interaction in the lives of our students that builds a lifelong
commitment to service. One of the most fascinating and, to me,
satisfying developments I've seen are the student-initiated programs.
One of the most notable is our APPLES Service-Learning Program.
This was student-initiated, student-run. It brings together students,
faculty and community partners to address social concerns and
needs of North Carolina communities. Students work at integrating
service into coursework for academic credit. APPLES does an excellent
job of linking the classroom and community work for our students.
It helps them understand the responsibility of public service
and, indeed, the joy that accompanies it.
Likewise, many of our student groups have
a strong service component in their mission. Of Carolina's 460
recognized student organizations, some 250 designate public service
as a major theme of their existence and all of them report some
service component. Think about the many Campus Y groups, the
Black Cultural Center and even the Greek community, for example,
all of which do an outstanding job of teaching students about
the value and importance of service.
But can Carolina do more? Could we become
engaged at a greater level? Of course we can, and that's what
we're working toward. Engagement is not a static state. It changes.
It evolves, just as the world around us is changing and evolving.
As we move into the 21st century, we must
continue to keep the flame of engagement alive. There are many
things to do, but I'd like to suggest just a few:
First, we must reward public service
and outreach and recognize it as an equal in UNC's three-part
mission. We must very clearly send
the message far and wide to all parts of our campus and
all corners of our state that we take public service just
as seriously and value it just as highly as we do teaching and
researchthat it is equally important and equally necessary for
us to fulfill our obligation to North Carolina citizens. So as
we look at tenure and post-tenure review, we must consider how
public service and engagement fit into the formula. We must send
a message loudly and clearly from the highest levels of the University
that service is valued, just as teaching and research are. We
clearly need more opportunities, such as the fellowships and
grants offered through the Carolina Center for Public Service,
to encourage and reward dedication in this area.
Second, we must make sure that engagement
is an integral part of the campus plan.
Each college or professional school, as well as the University
itself, must clearly articulate not only their goals to further
engage the people of North Carolina, but how they intend to do
so what actions they are prepared to take to commit themselves
to this level of engagement.
Third, we must find new and innovative
ways to dedicate -- or rededicate University resources
to help our communities, our schools, our families and youth.
That's going to require all of
us to think creatively about engagement and service and how we
best can deploy our resources, especially in an atmosphere where
resources are fixed or even declining. Consider, for example,
the work being done at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center
on teen driving. It's not just research for the sake of research.
It can be and is immediately put to
use. In North Carolina, it has been applied to bolster the argument
for graduated drivers' licenses, while in Georgia it's being
used to argue for legislation concerning teen driver curfews
and the number of teenagers allowed to ride with young drivers.
That's an application of active research research that
can be put to work and make a difference.
Finally, I'd like to suggest that we
must actively seek out and implement partnerships with local
in which we can help address concerns about the environment,
about culture, business and the economy, health and welfare.
Another example: Take Chemistry Professor Joe DeSimone's new
dry cleaning process. Using research and technology developed
on this campus, he has created a new system of ecologically friendly
dry cleaning that uses the bubbling power of liquid CO2 rather
than harsh solvents. Working with experts in our business school,
he developed a business plan and is selling franchise opportunities
around the state and the nation. Not only is his science keeping
our environment healthier, the business opportunities associated
with the franchises are pumping dollars into local economies.
It's hard to place a value on such service. Indeed, this same
technology led to a $250 million investment in Bladen County
by DuPont and led to the creation of a hundred permanent new
As the state of North Carolina's economy
shifts from manufacturing jobs, from textiles, from all the aspects
of tobacco and from all the aspects of the old economy, it will
become, in fact, a knowledge-based economy. The trick for a great
research university is to transform the knowledge created there
into the engine that drives the economy of the future. This may
be one of the most significant ways in which we engage the people
of this state.
Carolina has an excellent record of service
to the people of North Carolina and society as a whole. But we
cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must continually strive
to strengthen that record, to do more, to help more, to engage
more. To do any less would be to offer mere lip service to this
important part of UNC's mission. To do less would be to shirk
a time-honored tradition of public higher education a tradition
that can, in fact, be traced back to the founding of the University
of North Carolina as the first public university. To do less
would be to fail the citizens of North Carolina and the United
States, the many others who count on us and, ultimately, it would
be to fail ourselves.
As the Friday Center enters its second
decade, we have new opportunities to serve the people of North
Carolina, new opportunities to engage them, and new technology
to take to them. This Center will remain a vital conduit for
the University to reach out to the public, one that will become
increasingly important in this third century of public higher
education. Bearing the proud names of William and Ida Friday,
two Tar Heels who share an unparalleled commitment to public
service, how can we expect less from this Center? How can we
expect less from ourselves?