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October 2007

UNC, A Global University for North Carolina

The great universities of the 21st century will be defined by their presence on a worldwide stage. UNC has recently taken some critical steps toward becoming a great global university, bringing the world to North Carolina and taking North Carolina to the world. On University Day, Oct. 12, we dedicated the FedEx Global Education Center, convened for the first time the Chancellor's Global Leadership Circle and launched the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

We are a world power in global health. Building on our faculty's historic strengths and, through this new institute in the School of Medicine, led by Dr. Myron Cohen, we will become even more effective in our research in infectious diseases, water quality and nutrition - work that is already improving and saving lives here and around the globe. Disease knows no borders, so the valuable knowledge we gain through work in more than 50 other countries can be put to use here in Chapel Hill and Orange County for treatment and disease prevention. Our world-class School of Public Health will soon be renamed the Dennis and Joan Gillings School of Global Public Health, in recognition of the magnificent gift from the former faculty member and his wife. Last year, I went to China, where we co-sponsored a forum on health-care reform with Peking University. Next semester, we will host our Chinese colleagues at a similar conference to develop solutions for health issues in both countries.

In dedicating the FedEx Center, we have for the first time housed under one roof Carolina's primary international and area study programs. The building encourages visitors to explore the differences among cultures, peoples and societies and how they are being challenged, integrated and transformed through globalization. The Global Cup Café has already become a popular gathering spot for the campus and the community, including those who practice their language skills during the Language at Lunch program. At the end of July, several of our Cameron-McCauley neighbors came over to take a tour of the new building and find out more about its environmentally-friendly architectural features (water-free urinals, underground cisterns used to store rainwater, a green roof) as well as the programs that will be housed there.

The FedEx Center has also opened our campus and community to the world with its many free international cultural events and exhibits. Already it has been the site of an exciting concert by a master of the kora, the ancient 21-string West African harp, and next month brings a Latin American film festival to campus. The current photo exhibit by Phil Borges about extraordinary women in remote parts of Africa, Asia and South America, "Women Empowered," was brought to us by Alston Gardner, a Carolina alumnus and member of the new Global Leadership Circle.

The Global Leadership Circle is a task force of visionary alumni and friends formed to help us develop a strategic vision for global engagement. These are the key questions they will address: What does it mean to be "internationalized" and what will it take? What challenges must Carolina overcome to become a global university? Given Carolina's core strengths, where are the opportunities to capitalize on these assets in a global economy?

Even before we declared 2007 a year of international focus across the campus, our students were already leading the way in participation in study abroad programs. Our study abroad program, with more than 300 offerings in more than 70 countries, led the nation for three consecutive years in the percentage of undergraduates at public research universities who participate in study abroad programs and currently ranks second in that category. We have also led the way in expanding scholarships for study abroad, making it more accessible and affordable for more of our students.

Two of those scholarship students - twins and James M. Johnston scholars Tamryn and LyTonya Fowler of Graham in Alamance County - participated in the Carolina Southeast Asia Summer Program at the end of their freshman year. At the FedEx Center dedication, they spoke eloquently of their experiences riding elephants and drinking bubble tea. The experience also made them more sensitive to the experience of an international student coming to Chapel Hill from 1,000 miles away.

Our undergraduate joint-degree program with the National University of Singapore is the first such undergraduate program in the Unites States. The King's College London Exchange Program and our European Study Center at Winston House in London offers students opportunities to study in England and across the European continent. The Kenan Institute in Asia continues to build mutually beneficial partnerships with corporations, academic institutions and government agencies throughout Asia and the United States.

Pursuing these global objectives does not mean Carolina is neglecting its service to the people of this state. UNC must be a presence in the world so that North Carolina can compete in the world. The extent to which we become global in nature will determine our success.




James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages at

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