UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois opened the new academic year last week by challenging staff and faculty to be more “efficient and entrepreneurial” to help absorb the shock of a souring economy.
Speaking at his fourth convocation, Dubois urged the faculty to explore more public-private partnerships that would generate extra money for the university as the state continues to squeeze funding for the UNC System.
Last year, system President Erskine Bowles asked each of the 17 campuses to plan for needs for the next 20 years as part of his UNC Tomorrow effort.
Dubois said much of UNCC's initial planning is complete, and the school is launching into a second phase that will include revisions to the academic plan to accommodate a projected boost to 35,000 students by 2020.
That plan will include revising its mission statement – and proposing new doctoral programs to add to the 18 UNCC already offers. It will also study the feasibility of adding public health and law schools.
Projections have the UNC system expanding by 80,000 students by 2020. Yet Dubois said he doesn't foresee substantial funding increases from state legislators.
Compared to other states, he said, the UNC system is “relatively well-funded.” But he added that pressures on the state budget “will mean that the discretionary higher education budget will suffer disproportionately in the years ahead.”
Dubois said he's ready to submit the mission statement to trustees in September. It draws from the school's relationship with Charlotte and carves out a unique role in the system as “North Carolina's urban research university.”
He urged the faculty to use its research to continue to bind the town-gown connection – and generate revenues by using the university as an economic-development engine through partnerships with Charlotte companies.
The money, he said, could be spent on constructing new buildings. “It appears unlikely that the state process for allocating state construction funding will be able to keep up with UNC Charlotte's enrollment growth trajectory,” he said.
A report on campus security confirmed to Dubois that UNCC is safe. But he wants to make it safer.
He's implementing many of the report's recommendations right away, including more security officers on foot or bicycle in the late afternoon and evening hours. The entire campus will also be put through an emergency training program, including real-time building evacuations. Everyone on campus will be given a card with basics of the emergency plan.
In recent weeks, Dubois has been troubled with a bout of laryngitis, and when he brought up the subject of football at UNCC, he feigned losing his voice – again.
“So I guess I can't talk about it today,” he said. He did say he planned to submit his recommendations to trustees in September, but gave no clue to what they would say.