New UNCW chief had to make tough first act
August 5, 2011By Jason Frye and Alison Lee Satake
Only days into his tenure as chancellor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Gary Miller was saddled with delivering the news of an incredibly deep cut in the university’s budget – a $16.5 million slash that called for the elimination of 11 positions and left another 136 unfilled.
For Miller – whose curriculum vitae includes stints as dean of Arts and Sciences at College of the Pacific and provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and Research at Wichita State University, but no service as chancellor – it was anything but the way he wanted to start off at UNCW.
He and his wife, Georgia, had hoped to move here, unpack their home box-by-box, introduce their cat to its new home, and start off the fiscal and academic year at UNCW on a good note.
Instead, one of Miller’s first duties was to announce July 7 what he called “devastating” cuts to UNCW’s $104.9 million budget. The cuts represent a 15.8 percent spending reduction. Unfortunately, he said, it’s on par with what’s going on in budget processes for higher education across the nation. Over the past four years, UNCW has seen its budget cut $47.8 million.
It wasn’t new news to him, just news he hoped not to deliver, or at least news he had hoped would be better. The cuts, he said, were representative of the upper range of projected budget scenarios UNCW senior leadership presented to the UNC Board of Governors.
“I had been briefed on this before becoming chancellor and I had talked about it two or three times; I was on a conference call with [former Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo’s] senior leadership several weeks before I arrived on campus, so it was my third day of work, but it wasn’t as if it had just been presented to me,” he said in a recent interview.
Miller said his first concern was the academic experience of the university’s 13,000-plus students, because the budget cuts leave no part of the university unscathed.
“We are concerned about it and we’re going to work tirelessly to make sure that what happens in the future doesn’t diminish the quality of the educational experience for [UNCW] students,” he said.
Charlie Maimone, vice chancellor for Business Affairs at UNCW explained that the bulk of the cuts on the instructional side would come from “not replacing vacant full-time and part-time faculty positions.”
He added that UNCW would not “be able to hire many part-time instructors for the fall or spring semesters.” In eliminating positions and not filling others, Maimone said “our students can expect larger class sizes and fewer course selections to be taught this year.”
In some ways, the budget reduction lends itself to Miller’s desire for outreach in the local business community, where he hopes to forge partnerships and develop relationships that benefit the university and its students, local businesses and the local economy alike.
“Partnerships are essential,” he said. “Our university is rich in knowledge and businesses want to draw on the educational opportunities and quality of life a university brings.”
Along with partnerships, Miller plans to take a look at the applied learning part of UNCW’s academic programming, hoping to find opportunities with and inroads into the business community by enhancing the scope of internships and research opportunities.
To this end he’s met briefly with officials from Wilmington Industrial Development and other area economic development groups, but he acknowledged that he hasn’t had time for in-depth discussions, yet.
Miller’s background is that of a man who has worked to forge such partnerships for internship and research opportunities. As Dean of Arts and Sciences at College of the Pacific he was responsible for all academic program planning and implementation, expanding programs in the sciences, theatre and social sciences. In his tenure there, he organized a full revision of the general education program, helped increase enrollment and expanded the college’s faculty ranks.
His most recent and most senior position as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and Research at Wichita State University in Kansas saw him responsible for the vision, mission and operation of all academics, academic support, research, and outreach programs, including international programs. Research facilities and programs under his jurisdiction included the National Institute for Aviation Research (the third largest university aviation research unit in the nation), the Center for Economic Development and Business Research, Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Innovation and Enterprise Engagement.