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A message from the chancellor: Reflections from the AAU conference and a partnership commitment

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz reflects on the Association of American Universities annual conference and discusses a research partnership with North Carolina A&T that focuses on data science, environment and climate, cybersecurity and health disparities.

South Building
South Building on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

Earlier this week, I traveled to Washington, DC for the Association of American Universities annual conference. The AAU is made up of leading public and private research universities — 66 institutions that earn the majority of federal research funding. Two things stand out to me from that gathering:

  1. We’re living through a period of extraordinary progress in medicine, energy, data science and a host of other fields that promise to reshape human life for the better. It’s easy to get discouraged about the state of the world when you’re looking at daily headlines, but the great joy of working at Carolina is that we keep our eyes on the long term. And just over the horizon, we’re poised to make some remarkable leaps in science, technology and human health. Carolina is driving a lot of that work, and I want more of our students to take part in it. Few things have brought deeper satisfaction in my life than making contributions as a researcher. More people should have that experience, and the world would benefit from a more diverse array of talent.
  2. Carolina is a unique place, but a lot of the big challenges we face are shared across higher education. AAU schools are public and private, urban and rural, massive and relatively small. Some date all the way back to the 18th century, like Carolina. Some are quite young in college years, founded in the 1960s. But they’re all trying to define higher education’s role in a big and diverse country. It’s worthy work, and I was glad to be among so many thoughtful people who take it seriously.

One of those people is Harold Martin, chancellor of North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. A&T isn’t an AAU member, but it is a powerhouse in the research world, and it’s one of our sister institutions in the UNC System. A land-grant university founded to educate Black North Carolinians, A&T is now the largest HBCU in the nation and produces more Black engineering graduates than any institution in the country, HBCU or otherwise.

For years, faculty at A&T and Carolina have formed research partnerships in health, climate science, biotechnology and plenty of other fields. I joined Chancellor Martin on stage at the AAU conference to talk about taking those partnerships to the next level. We’ve established a group of leaders from both universities including our provosts and vice chancellors for research to lead the effort, and both Chancellor Martin and I have committed half a million dollars to seed this infrastructure development. We are focusing on four main areas: data science, environment and climate, cybersecurity and health disparities. There will soon be a joint call for proposals announced to seed studies in these areas and create partnerships between investigators at UNC-Chapel Hill and A&T. This initiative, which is an AAU priority to partner AAU institutions with the leading HBCUs, has exciting possibilities for the future of both our universities, and I look forward to updating you as we make progress.

Let’s remember that as we head into the home stretch of the fall semester, with projects and papers and final exams on the horizon, to care for one another and to support our colleagues and classmates in every way we can. You hopefully saw an email yesterday about our Mental Health Summit planned for Nov. 15. I hope you’ll join us that day or follow the discussions and ideas that will come out of that gathering. You belong to this community, and we’ll continue to build it together.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz