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Sunday December 25, 2005

By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald


The holiday season offers an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past year since so many wonderful things have happened at Carolina. Students, faculty and staff are grateful for the pride our local community shows when the UNC campus achieves excellence. Many of our most recent accomplishments have been among the year's most important.

In August, we welcomed our second class of 346 Carolina Covenant Scholars, who represent nearly 10 percent of our freshmen. Their enrollment followed an excellent first year for this program promising qualified low-income students a debt-free education. Those first-year students posted less than a 2 percent attrition rate. UNC also started a mentorship program for Covenant scholars that is being well supported by faculty volunteers.

Two seniors just won prestigious scholarships and their records here have included service to the local community. Kate Harris received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, distinguishing herself as our 39th Rhodes Scholar since 1902. Wesley Campbell was chosen for a prestigious Marshall Scholarships funded by the British government.

Kate shared her passion for space with our campus and local communities as a founder of SpaceTalk, a student group that presents astronauts and others as lecturers, hosts astronomy observatory sessions at the Morehead and gives school presentations. Wesley has tutored children at a local housing project all four years at Carolina and tutored third-graders in math.

This is a reflection of the commitment our students have always made to academic excellence and community service. We are delighted with the example Kate and Wesley have set for their fellow students when it comes to volunteerism and serving those in need.

I was gratified that so many of our students, faculty and staff mobilized immediately to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, just as they had done for North Carolinians after Hurricane Isabel. The Carolina Center for Public Service helped organize our relief efforts and a great response that continues. More than 30 campus groups raised more than $58,000 for the American Red Cross and other relief organizations. Fifteen law school student volunteers went to New Orleans before Christmas to participate in a pro bono program. Their efforts include helping clients recover Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance for destroyed property.

At home, this year's State Employees Combined Campaign at Carolina and UNC Health Care has raised more than $1 million to help support worthy programs in this community and around the state. The fact that our faculty and staff continue to rally to the call of the SECC - again placing first among all state agencies - demonstrates the generosity of spirit so evident among our work force.

Also important to town and gown alike was the completion and reopening of Memorial Hall, the first step in reinvigorating Carolina as a significant venue for the performing and visual arts.

We are grateful for the strong private support from the local community
for this project and our Carolina Performing Arts Series. We have been pleased with the response to the facility and the programming.

We at the university remain hopeful that continued dialogue and joint work will push progress forward on the town-gown interests in maintaining Franklin Street and the downtown business district.

We are also proud of how, in recent years, the university's sustainability initiative has become a vibrant presence on campus. This commitment has been recognized at the state and national levels. Accomplishments include major advances with recycling, stormwater management and reducing the number of employees who drive alone to work. The university's partnership with Chapel Hill and Carrboro has helped make possible the success of the fare-free transit program benefiting the entire community.

We look forward to a collaborative process with the community for considering Carolina North. Our vision is to create a community that enhances the university's multiple missions, intensifying innovation and redefining our engagement with the region, the state and the world. We want Carolina North to be a place of exceptional energy and beauty, connecting to and enhancing both the main campus and neighboring communities. We also want to provide housing that can be appropriate for the income levels of people who work at Carolina North and the university. Carolina North will have a strong impact on economic development for our region and North Carolina.

Faculty play a key role in our optimism. Faculty quality has helped make Chapel Hill one of the top U.S. public universities in research support. The faculty attracted $579 million in total contract and grant funding in fiscal 2005. That total represents a more than 130 percent over the past decade. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is Carolina's
central funding source, and the faculty ranked 15th overall in 2004 with nearly $290 million in total NIH funding. These are remarkable achievements.

Carolina is moving forward with tremendous momentum. I am looking forward to another successful year in 2006 with future achievements that continue to be positively intertwined with the best interests of the local community, as well as our state. Happy holidays, and my best wishes to all in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County for a prosperous new year.

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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