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July 2005
An ivitation to visit UNC's future
By James Moeser


My wife, Susan, and I recently returned from an exciting week in Singapore and Bangkok. We spent time with students studying in Singapore, with alumni working to forge ties between the Pacific Rim and Chapel Hill, with staff from our Kenan Institute Asia, and with fellow university presidents in a roundtable hosted by the National University of Singapore to explore global developments in university research and education. Carolina continues to explore meaningful partnerships that benefit our students and the state’s economy.

Upon returning to campus, I found progress of another sort. The construction that many of you encounter daily on and near the campus had crept to the doors of South Building, my campus home. South Building is penned in by construction on both sides. Cameron Avenue and Polk Place are the sites of major improvements with excavators rumbling next to my building. (I sometimes think that the oft-threatened fence around Chapel Hill has become a reality.) These two projects represent a fraction of the $1.5 billion capital improvement program that is among the largest on any U.S. campus.

In November 2000, North Carolinians overwhelmingly approved the $3.1 billion bond referendum for higher education. This infusion of funds – $510 million for our campus – jumpstarted many projects identified in the campus master plan in ways we never imagined when that effort began in 1998, involving both campus and community leaders.

The master plan has guided site selection and design for new buildings made possible by the bond referendum, as well as our own faculty through their competitive efforts to attract research funding and the generosity of private donors. We are proud that the vision of the master plan and our approach to implementing it will be nationally recognized tonight with an award from the Society for College and University Planning and the American Institute of Architects.

By following the campus master plan, we are increasing green space on a campus long considered one of the nation’s most beautiful. And as hard as the presence of so many construction cranes and so much red clay may make it to believe, ours is a smart growth campus. In August, we are inviting local officials to tour campus for an update on the construction program and our award-winning sustainability efforts – including traffic, storm water, energy conservation and recycling – that underlie it.

We started updating the master plan last year. When adopted in 2001, the plan identified the ultimate build-out of the campus. Because of the scope and speed of our current construction program, we are running out of space to accommodate research and other activities so critical to remaining a leading public university.

Later this week, we will brief the Board of Trustees on the campus master plan update and the challenges we face in accommodating our needs on main campus. This follows a timely session on Carolina North in May. As we approach the ultimate build-out of our main campus, achieving future growth on Carolina North becomes even more pressing.

Carolina North is more than real estate or bricks and mortar. It is literally our vision for the future. It will be the most important new endeavor this university undertakes in our lifetimes. We must be thoughtful stewards of this property and the ideas for it that can mean so much to this university, our community and to this state – a platform for amazing discovery, innovation and meaningful outreach.

At Carolina North, we will create a setting for service, for reaching out to our communities and beyond. And we will attract to Chapel Hill some of the world’s best thinkers and thoughtful entrepreneurs drawn here by the creative opportunities on our new campus and the wonderful and gracious communities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

We express our values by what we build. On our historic campus, we have embraced the concepts of sustainability, using new ideas to preserve its beauty while we build new buildings. We are committed to doing the same at Carolina North, to create a living-learning community that provides housing and services as well as creates jobs. We want to build in an environmentally sound way following the same principles of sustainability we use on main campus. And we want to integrate these plans thoughtfully with the interests of the campus, adjacent neighborhoods and the community.

I invite you to join us as our trustees are briefed by our planning team and Ayers Saint Gross, our consultants, on the master plan update and implications for future growth. No action on the master plan or Carolina North is expected at this meeting. The board convenes Thursday at 8 a.m. at the Carolina Inn and the master plan update is the last item on the morning agenda. The meeting is in the Chancellors’ Ballroom East and West. If you come by, feel free to say hello to me at the break.

Thanks to The Chapel Hill Herald for this opportunity to contribute a column on the fourth Sunday of each month. I look forward to sharing information and insights about the university with the people of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County.

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Readers may reach him at


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