Aswani Volety has been named the next chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors elected Volety at its meeting Thursday afternoon, held at the UNC System office in Chapel Hill.
“We're looking for a leader here, someone who can take the baton from Chancellor Sartarelli and guide the Seahawks into a new era of excellence. I'm absolutely confident that Dr. Aswani Volety is the right person for that role," UNC System President Peter Hans said in the meeting.
“Dr. Volety is a first-generation college graduate and an American by choice. His story speaks to the power of public universities to transform lives, and throughout his career he has demonstrated his commitment to students, to research and to service,” Hans said in a press release. “I know the UNC Wilmington community will be delighted that he’s coming home.”
Volety comes back to UNCW after formerly serving as the dean of the UNCW College of Arts and Sciences, a position he left after he became the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Elon University in 2019.
He worked for UNCW from 2014 to 2019, also serving the role as the executive director of the UNCW Center for Marine Sciences.
At a celebration ceremony Thursday afternoon, students and faculty surrounded Hoggard Hall, the first building constructed at the university, to welcome the new chancellor. In his remarks, Volety twice raised his hands to form a seahawk, met with cheers from the homecoming crowd.
In an interview, the chancellor-elect said he knew he wanted to return to Wilmington, especially since his wife and two daughters had remained while he traveled to and from home for his role at Elon. "In some ways, it is surreal, in some ways, it is beyond exciting," he said.
Hailing from India, Volety has a passion for international partnerships, according to his Elon bio. He spent 15 years as a professor of marine science and was later interim dean for the College of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. With a doctorate degree in marine science from William & Mary and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in zoology from Andhra University in Visakhapatnam, Volety’s expertise is marine-centric.
"We have a strong foundation," Volety said. "So really my job is to make sure we resource these programs and really get out of the way. Because faculty and staff and directors, they know what they're doing."
Volety said one of his top priorities was to ensure student curriculums directly connect to available careers in the marketplace.
"Making sure we blur the lines between academia and industry" will be important, he said, as will forming strong external parterships. "We have expertise and the community has needs, but it's not a one-way direction. So the goal is to align the expertise and the needs together, but also to learn from the community.... My goal is to make sure we have unparalleled connections between UNCW and the community."
UNCW launched a search for a new leader after current chancellor Jose Sartarelli announced in September his plans on retiring
after serving in his role for six years.
Through the search process, the local UNCW Chancellor Search Committee, which met for several months to evaluate candidates, prepared a confidential shortlist of recommendations to the UNCW Board of Trustees. According to an update from the committee, the university trustees forwarded their picks to Hans. Hans then nominated one for election by the UNC Board of Governors.
The goal for the university has been to name a new chancellor ahead of Sartarelli’s last day June 30.
UNCW Board of Trustees vice-chair Hank Miller, who also sat on the UNCW selection committee, said Volety was his first choice going into the process. "Unlike most, he'll be able to hit the ground running. His learning curve is not very much," he said.
The seventh chancellor comes to the university after years of growth, including enrollment increase to about 18,000 students and new educational programs including bachelor’s in cybersecurity and intelligent systems engineering, films master’s degree and doctoral in nursing and psychology, among others.
During Sartarelli’s leadership, the university also received about $450 million from the state legislature to help fund the university’s improvements and facilities expansion.
Read more about Sartarelli’s time at UNCW.