Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Peter Hans, President of the President of the University of North Carolina System, via Zoom and filmed the thirteenth edition in a video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.
Hans has served in many different roles throughout his career that have helped substantially improve economic development in North Carolina, especially in the areas of workforce and education.
Hans became the president of the University of North Carolina System in August 2020. In this role, he serves as the chief administrative and executive officer who manages the affairs and executes the policies of the University, subject to the direction of the UNC System Board of Governors. The UNC System Office oversees its 17 campuses and of a number of University affiliates, including PBS-NC, the North Carolina Arboretum, the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, and UNC-Health.
Hans previously served as president of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). He also served a six-year term on the State Board of Community Colleges, where he was vice chair. The N.C. Senate elected Hans to serve on the UNC Board of Governors in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and he led the Board as chair from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, the UNC System and NCCCS signed the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement, streamlining the transfer of credits for students, under then-Chair Hans’ leadership.
Hans talked about how his experiences with the NCCCS helped shape some of the ideas about how to focus on solutions in the UNC System. He said the life changing work of the NCCCS has helped him deal with challenges with a “make it happen” approach. He noted that the NCCCS can often make things happen with limited resources, and he has taken that approach with him to the UNC System.
Golden LEAF awards 215 scholarships each year for rural students to attend the state’s colleges and universities. Many of those students attend UNC System universities. As part of their strategic plan, the UNC System tracks the enrollment and graduation rates of rural students attending the universities. Although enrollment is flat right now, Hans was happy to report that the graduation rates of rural students is up by 12%. Hans noted that he was a first generation college student from a rural area and that is a motivating factor for him in his role as president of the UNC System. He said that the UNC System is working on graduating more students on time with less debt and in careers of significance.
Hans noted that the UNC System and the NCCCS are working on providing more pathways to pursuing four-year degrees by attending universities remotely, while living and working in their own communities. Hans mentioned the Teaching Fellows program, the GEAR UP program, the School of Science and Math offering virtual classes in rural areas, and the transfer programs from the NCCCS to the university. With an increase in the number of NCCCS transfer students, Hans is making sure the tools are in place to support these students financially, academically, and through more transfer credits counting at the UNC System.
Hans mentioned the UNC System has other rural-focused programs. The College Advising Corp focuses on helping students in rural areas attend colleges. The NC Promise Program offers $500 a semester tuition at Elizabeth City State University, Western Carolina University, Fayetteville State University, and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Project Kitty Hawk is focused on the one million NC learners with college credits but no degree. Project Kitty Hawk will focus on adult learners earning degrees in high demand areas from existing UNC System institutions to help them complete the degrees they have started.
Critical Conversations is a feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our June 9th edition of LEAF Lines.