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A message from the chancellor: IDEAs in Action

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz discusses Carolina's IDEAs in Action curriculum, which focuses on fostering capacities like writing, quantitative reasoning, scientific investigation, ethical citizenship and more.

Three people talking together.
The American Indian Center held a welcoming event on August 17, 2021, at their home adjacent to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina community,

At Carolina, we are always working to put our state and our students first in everything we do. We are living in a world that is shifting and changing. In our state, we face major challenges around opportunity, economic growth, population shifts, climate change, the future of democracy and more. Each one of these challenges requires multi-layered research and education with collaboration across sectors and disciplines. Are we preparing our students to face these challenges? Does higher education have the tools and the resources to answer the call? In short, what does a college graduate need to know?

These questions have prompted debate, ignited protest and inspired generations of teachers and students to think about what truly matters in our world. It’s impossible to fit even a fraction of it into the semesters our students spend here. Our faculty, students and staff are working tirelessly to answer these questions, and here’s how.

Five years ago, we asked our faculty to reconsider the question of what our graduates need to know and to rethink Carolina’s curriculum from the ground up. What they delivered — IDEAs in Action — will define the Carolina experience for years to come. “Students should apply their education to acting in the world,” the faculty wrote. In a fast-changing environment, “students should be prepared to participate fully in — and help to shape — this public sphere.” The curriculum has shifted from a focus on academic disciplines to using academic content to foster capacities like writing, quantitative reasoning, scientific investigation, ethical citizenship and more. We are preparing our students not just to succeed in the workplace, but to be effective, responsible citizens and leaders in a world that is changing rapidly.

IDEAS in Action was developed out of conversations with hundreds of faculty, students, staff, state officials, business leaders, alumni, students and other important stakeholders. Last night, I welcomed some of these stakeholders as our advisory boards of the department of economics and the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, one of our most popular minors on campus. We discussed the importance of our curriculum providing our students with a breadth of knowledge across various disciplines, deep expertise within a chosen area of study and the opportunity of practice (hands-on experiential education) to successfully launch their careers and be prepared to potentially pivot in the future. We talked about the habits of thinking that make for a successful entrepreneur, about how you need curiosity and an open mind if you’re going to find a niche within highly competitive markets. Those are the same habits of thought you need to be a good scientist, a rigorous philosopher, and a decent citizen.

In my conversations with students across campus, I hear a lot of anxiety about the problems they’re going to inherit. We prepare our students in so many ways already at Carolina, and the new IDEAS in Action will codify it. It will ensure that Carolina graduates will not be powerless in the face of big challenges. They won’t simply cope with the world; they’ll have the tools to shape it.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz