The 2022 Tar Heel Bus Tour hits the road

Back after a two-year hiatus, Carolina’s annual “listening and learning” tour gets underway, with a charge to participants from Chancellor Guskiewicz.

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“This is my charge to you,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said during last week’s University Day ceremony, addressing those in attendance who would be joining the 2022 Tar Heel Bus Tour. “I charge you to listen to the people of our state, engage with the towns and communities that our students call home.”

This morning, shortly after sunrise, two busloads of Carolina faculty, administrators and staff will get their chance to fulfill the chancellor’s directive. As they roll out of the Friday Center parking lot — one bus heading east, the other west — they’re bound for a three-day “listening and learning” journey, with more than two dozen stops in 20 counties planned along the way.

“I hope this tour will promote scholarship and service that responds to the concerns of the state of North Carolina and contributes to the common good,” Guskiewicz continued on University Day. “And I charge you to find ways to center our work around the needs of North Carolinians and live our mission of teaching, research and service as the greatest public university in the nation. I, too, am eager to jump on the bus with you.”

The Tar Heel Bus Tour has a rich history dating back to the first tour in 1997. After a decade-long hiatus due to recessionary budget cuts, the annual tradition bounded back in a big and bold way in 2019, only to be stymied again after that due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

But the tour is back, and so is the excitement.

Map of North Carolina showing 22 stops on Tar Heel Bus Tour

“There is something really special about the Tar Heel Bus Tour,” said Lynn Blanchard, director of the Carolina Center for Public Service and east bus host. “We’re very excited to be hitting the road again after the last tour in 2019 before the pandemic.”

At last month’s bus tour orientation session, the no-nonsense North Carolina native, who has coordinated the Tar Heel Bus Tour since 2003, cut to the chase: “It is a big state and a short tour. We can’t cover everything,” Blanchard told a room full of participants. “You will eat more and exercise less than usual. The days are long, and you will be tired.”

But the long days are worth the effort.

“It does your heart good,” Blanchard said in a podcast following the 2019 tour. “These are areas that may be familiar to some faculty and may be completely new to others, but I think everyone has something to learn. And a lot of what they have to learn is how people view the University with, in most cases, high respect and interest in learning more and in working with us.”

The east bus will travel to the coast and back, visiting people and sites in a dozen cities, towns and communities, including Hollister, Princeville, Kitty Hawk and Scotland Neck.

The west bus will travel to the mountains and back, visiting people and sites in 10 places, including Greensboro, Elkin, Grandfather Mountain and Kannapolis. Though School of Government Dean Mike Smith was instrumental in planning the west route, he is unable to attend and University Ombuds Dawn Osbourne-Adams will host the west route.

The community visits address a variety of key issues, such as education, food insecurity, economic development, health and disaster response.

Tour goals

  • Demonstrate UNC-Chapel Hill’s impact in the state of North Carolina and its commitment to public service.
  • Promote scholarship and service that respond to the concerns of the state and contribute to the common good.
  • Introduce faculty and senior administrators to people, ideas and programs that can inform their teaching and research.
  • Learn more about the state we all call home.
  • Encourage connections of faculty across disciplines.

Participants applied to join the tour for a variety of reasons.

“I’m interested in community engagement, and I’m also new to North Carolina, so I wanted the opportunity to meet an array of North Carolinians,” said the School of Medicine’s Lucien Gonzalez, associate professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine. “The opportunity to meet other faculty members across other disciplines is a big part of the draw for me.”

“Eighty percent of our students come from North Carolina, and it’s a big darn state,” said Hilary Lithgow, teaching associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ English and comparative literature department. “I’m really looking forward to learning more about its nooks and crannies so I can better understand where our students are coming from.”

Look for more coverage of the bus tour from TheWell.UNC.edu in the days to come. For more information, go to the Tar Heel Bus Tour website. If you want to follow on social media, participants will be using the hashtag #TarHeelBusTour.