University News

Message from Chancellor Guskiewicz on fostering diversity and inclusion

Chancellor Guskiewicz provides an update on diversity and inclusion initiatives, including details about Carolina’s $5 million Build Our Community Together Fund and the launch of the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward.

The Old Well fountain.
(Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community:

Welcome to the start of the spring semester. I hope you enjoyed your time away from campus and have returned energized for the New Year and ready to maximize your Carolina experience. It’s always great seeing the students lined up at the Old Well taking their first sip on FDOC.

Last month, I wrote to you after my appointment as UNC-Chapel Hill’s 12th chancellor and pledged my commitment to build our community together. As a passionately public university, we aim to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. Diversity and inclusion are integrally connected to excellence in making new discoveries and in our service to the people of North Carolina and beyond. Today, I am providing an update about some of the ways we will work together to continue fostering diversity and inclusion on campus.

First, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward to help us study and heal from our past. I have spent the past 10 months gathering feedback from a variety of campus stakeholders on how to best recognize the University’s complicated history, promote reconciliation and build upon the earlier efforts of the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History.

The commission will focus on three main areas: 1) archives, history, research and curation; 2) curriculum development and teaching; and 3) engagement, ethics and reckoning. This effort includes developing curricula that will educate students and help faculty teach the history of the University in alignment with our new General Education curriculum, Ideas in Action. Commission members will work to strengthen the University’s relationships with under-represented communities through conversations regarding the past and develop protocols and practices for ethical engagement with historically disenfranchised people today.

The commission’s multiyear work will begin at its first meeting on Feb. 7 and culminate with a symposium and report that includes reflections and recommendations for how to build a stronger community.

The commission will be co-chaired by Jim Leloudis, a longtime Carolina history professor and scholar on the modern South who is also the Peter T. Grauer associate dean for Honors Carolina and the director of the Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence; and Patricia Parker, also a longtime UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member and chair of the Department of Communication, where she is also an associate professor of critical organizational communication studies and director of the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research. They will guide a strong and diverse group of campus and local leaders, including:

  • Delores Bailey, executive director, EmPOWERment Inc., Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Larry Chavis, clinical associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, Kenan-Flagler Business School; director, UNC American Indian Center
  • Giselle Corbie-Smith, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Social Medicine; director, Center for Health Equity Research; professor, Internal Medicine, UNC School of Medicine
  • Nicholas Graham, university archivist, University Archives and Records Management Services, University Libraries
  • Ronald Harris, dean’s fellow, Honors Carolina
  • Amy Locklear Hertel, chief of staff to the chancellor; clinical assistant professor, UNC School of Social Work
  • Sherick Hughes, professor, UNC School of Education; founder and director, Interpretive Research Suite and Carter Qualitative Thought Lab; founder and co-director, Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Studies
  • Kenneth Janken, professor, African, African American and Diaspora Studies; director of Undergraduate Studies and Department Honors Advisor
  • Dawna Jones, assistant dean of students, Office of the Dean of Students, UNC Student Affairs; chair, Carolina Black Caucus
  • Joseph Jordan, director, Sonja H. Stone Center for Black Culture and History; adjunct associate professor, African, African American and Diaspora Studies
  • Seth Kotch, associate professor, American Studies; director of Graduate Studies; coordinator of Southern Studies
  • Danita Mason-Hogans, project coordinator, Critical Oral Histories, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
  • Josmell Pérez, director, Carolina Latinx Center

My thanks to Professors Leloudis and Parker and the members of the commission for their willingness to take on this important work. They will work alongside selected students throughout the various stages of the initiative. That process will be established by the commission and announced at a later date.

Second, I am pleased to share additional details about Carolina’s $5 million Build Our Community Together Fund. Last month, my first act as chancellor was to create this fund, and I believe it will be a catalyst for helping to build a better Carolina, more capable of solving the grand challenges of our time through our unique culture of collaboration.

Our University is many things, but our core mission is fostering teaching, learning and research that improves the human condition. To accomplish this, we need a strong, stable and welcoming community, where everyone feels emboldened to do their best work and all are dedicated to fostering an environment of inclusive excellence.

The Build Our Community Together Fund will seed initiatives that create opportunities to fulfill this vision. All initiatives supported by the fund will align with Carolina’s new strategic plan Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. Funded initiatives will provide opportunities for our community to study our past, heal from that past and move forward together. The initial initiatives the fund will resource include the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward; The Reckoning Initiative; a new initiative in development titled Southern Futures; and the Campus Safety Commission.

We also want your ideas. The fund will also support collaborative proposals from students, faculty and staff that seek to “Build Our Community Together.” Proposals should include a two- to three-page description of the proposed goals, collaborators, desired outcomes, timeline and budgetary needs. Proposals should be submitted for consideration by the Build Our Community Together working group at buildourcommunity@unc.edu.

I look forward to hearing your ideas and engaging with you in this critical work. Together, we will make Carolina better for generations to come.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz