How APLU’S IEP Designation Helped UNCW to Continue to Change the TIDES
I arrived on UNCW’s campus in July 2019, pre-COVID and post-Hurricane Florence, from an institution, California State University, Northridge, that had just undergone the IEP designation process. While there, we also earned the Carnegie Elective Classification for Community Engagement. As the newly hired Associate Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement, I had much to learn about UNCW. I was determined to discover more about what I heard during the job interview, that UNCW was committed to economic engagement, especially in talent, innovation, and place.
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington was founded in 1947, as Wilmington College, primarily to serve returning veterans. Born of the desire of local citizens to have an institution of higher education responsive to the needs of southeastern North Carolina (SENC), subsequent decades of growth and improvement elevated UNCW to membership in the UNC System and current status as a doctoral university with high research activity. Throughout, UNCW has remained steadfastly committed to its original community-oriented purpose through engagement in health, education, the economy, the environment, marine and coastal issues, and the arts.
To help determine if our commitments were, in fact, put into action, we embarked on the IEP Self-Study Process. We formed the cross-campus IEP Chancellor’s Advisory Committee (IEP-CAC). I was honored to lead the process with my colleagues, Mark Lanier, Assistant to the Chancellor/Assistant Secretary of the Board of Trustees; and Stuart Borrett, Associate Provost for Research and Innovation. The IEP-CAC met monthly, along with subcommittees on survey design, focus groups, marketing and engagement, and GIS and Asset Mapping.
Through self-study, we discovered both a wealth of accomplishment and essential areas of improvement. We categorized accomplishments into three areas: 1) community engagement and equity; 2) Blue Economy, coastal resilience, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and 3) the talent pipeline developed in partnership with our communities.
Community Engagement and Equity:
As a Carnegie Classified Institution for Community Engagement, UNCW has a long history of community-engaged teaching, research, and outreach designed to create positive social change and promote equity within our community. UNCW regularly secures grant funding for programming focused on uplifting communities and stimulating innovation. For example, an Interdisciplinary team led by sociology and criminology faculty members Kristen DeVall and Christina Lanier received $1.6M from the U.S. Department of Justice to transition the National Drug Court Resource Center from Washington, D.C., to UNCW.
The Blue Economy and Coastal Resilience:
UNCW is committed to coastal resilience, innovation, and entrepreneurship and has invested extensively in dedicated support units, schools, and programs. Well over 100 UNCW faculty are engaged in research to explore and preserve the ocean and coastal environments. Within the UNC System, UNCW has the largest number of undergraduate and graduate students in marine biology, marine sciences, and environmental sciences – and is the only university with a degree program in Coastal Engineering and a Ph.D. program in Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences. Today, one in six jobs in SENC is in the Blue Economy – comprised of the businesses, technologies, and activities contributing to sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods and jobs. The Blue Economy workgroup within UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship works to launch and grow new businesses, attract growth-stage ventures from elsewhere, and entice international companies to select SENC. In the marine biotechnology facilities at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science, faculty and private sector partners research the commercial potential of marine resources (e.g., “pharmaceuticals from the sea”).
Talent Development Pipeline:
UNCW is committed to the entire talent development pipeline. D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, a K-8 year-round public school opened by UNCW in July 2018, offers a family-friendly environment, focusing on the whole child, and opportunities that extend to the UNCW campus and broader community. The school was recognized as a 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School. UNCW’s Watson College of Education also operates an early college high school. Many of UNCW’s academic degrees were started in response to industry demand, in areas such as clinical research, fintech, and film.
UNCW’s IEP self-study strengthened our resolve to review institutional practices, refine communication strategies, and create pipelines for our incredible community partners.
Because of APLU’s IEP designation process and self-study, UNCW is embarking on an initiative to continue to change the TIDES in southeastern North Carolina. TIDES stands for Talent, Innovation, Development, Engagement, and Social Impact. “Change the TIDES” will utilize the resources of UNCW to improve the quality of life, health, education, and employment for the people of our region and their communities. This makes me proud to be a UNCW Seahawk.