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PublicULeaders: East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton

Cecil Staton is the 11th Chancellor of Eastern Carolina University.

What is your proudest accomplishment as leader of your university?
ECU serves more students from North Carolina’s poorer counties than any other university in the UNC System. In many ways, this institution already serves as an economic engine for the area. But there’s more to be done. We’ve now launched the Rural Prosperity Initiative, which organizes our schools and colleges into research clusters focused on specific needs and solutions relevant to each area of expertise, concentrating on health care, education and economic development disparities. In addition, we are partnering with businesses, including SAS, and both government and non-governmental organizations, to focus even greater resources on these rural needs. The goal is to significantly reduce rural/urban disparities in North Carolina and maybe even serve as a much-needed model for rural communities nationwide.

What makes your university great?
ECU is driven by a longtime mission to serve rural eastern North Carolina, a region with a high concentration of Tier 1 and 2 counties and a significant number of students who depend on Student Success programs. The university was established to advance the region through education, starting as a college to prepare more teachers for the region’s rural counties. Its success in addressing that need led to expansion into a broad range of additional offerings. Today, ECU ranks with UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in offering the broadest range of majors. And we are putting more doctors and dentists into rural and underserved areas of North Carolina while offering the state’s largest Colleges of Allied Health Sciences and Nursing, as well as the largest College of Business. The obstacles to creating these programs were enormous, but visionary leaders persevered, and the results in every case have been extraordinary. In fact, if the state didn’t have ECU, it would have to go out and build it tomorrow!

What experience best prepared you to lead a public research university?
Serving as a state senator (Georgia) for 10 years and chairing the higher education appropriations process.

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
In those rare moments of free time, a good book, usually nonfiction, and either a glass of Bordeaux or a big California Cab are a perfect pairing. When the weather permits, my porch is the favorite reading spot, and Winston Churchill is my favorite subject.

What is the best book you’ve read recently?
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. It’s set in rural England just after World War I, and she does a wonderful job capturing life in a small English village. Catherine (my wife) and I love the Cotswolds region of England and visited it often when we lived at Oxford.

If you could travel to one place you’ve never visited, where would it be and why?
New Zealand and Australia. There’s so much to love about both countries, including some very unique terrain, the indigenous people of both countries, and their history. I’m also fond of the Shiraz from Australia and the Sauvignon Blanc from new Zealand.

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