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Q&A With UNCW's New Chancellor

By Jenny Callison, posted Jul 17, 2015
UNCW chancellor Jose Sartarelli speaks with media on july 8 after starting in the post at the beginning of the month. Sartarelli came to uncw after serving as a business school dean at west virginia university. (Photo by Chris Brehmer)
Since he arrived July 1 on the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus as its new chancellor, Jose “Zito” Sartarelli has described his vision for the university not only as an educational institution, but also as a catalyst and change agent in its community and region.

In recent interviews with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, he articulated his impressions and ideas for his new position.

On the role of UNCW:

“I see the university playing a major role in terms of the community – the business community in particular,” he said. “I also see the university as a magnet for economic development. We should be gathering data … to inform the government and businesspeople so they can make more rational decisions.

“I would love to see, in five to 10 years, UNCW form not only a great center of leisure for the arts in the Wilmington area but also a center where companies could come – to some extent what N.C. State, Chapel Hill and Duke have done for the Triangle area. Companies could come here and say ‘I want to locate myself in [this] particular region because there are resources and trained personnel.’

“We can play a much bigger role in the business community in Wilmington and leverage as much as we can the expertise of our professors in the region and the state.”

On immediate priorities:

“I want to have a strategic plan in place by the end of this year, [something] we can circulate extensively throughout the UNCW community. I’ll be debating that extensively with the board of trustees during the next few months.”

The chancellor said, however, he is not a person who “lives by strategic imperative.” He said he sees the plan as gestalt, as a melding of many parts into an organized whole, a “vision taking us together into the future.” That, he said, is “job one.”

A second priority, Sartarelli said, is getting to know people and issues.

“I’ve met a lot of friends of the university: politicians, representatives of the city and county. I will make a point of meeting with faculty one on one, spending a half-hour with each one and picking their brains. I’ll meet with staff as well. That will be important going forward. We’ll be in a position to set goals.”

On liberal arts at UNCW:

Defining the liberal arts as the humanities, languages and social sciences, Sartarelli said, “I am very supportive of them all, as I am of science in general. A businessperson can be sensitive to the arts. I speak three languages, which I think is a sign of very profound engagement in the liberal arts. I’m a great fan of history. In my life in the business world, I have found that some of the most successful people in business did not get their degrees from a business or engineering school.”

The new chancellor also talked about exploring ways to ensure that UNCW is a center for the visual and performing arts.

“We see these days [universities] become very attractive to retired folks, who are able to benefit from the arts and other good things the university can offer,” he said.

On UNCW’s CREST campus:

“I’ve been out to CREST [Research Park] now twice and want to go back often. What they are doing and have done there is terrific,” he said. “I would like to see, someday, greater investment there, with both government grants and private funds so we could become a greater center in science. I’d also like to see more collaboration between universities in that particular area. I’d love to see someday some molecules with curative properties developed in our lab from the sea.”

The chancellor mentioned that U.S. Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) met him at the CREST campus on Sartarelli’s first day on the job.

“One thing I was looking at with Rouzer was the oyster farming, what they are developing,” Sartarelli said. “The oyster industry in this state has declined significantly. One of our ideas: How do we cultivate new types of oysters that we can establish, at least partially, in the state? I am very supportive of initiatives in the sciences. One thing I want to encourage is not only to be developing these things, but also to make sure we have our intellectual property rights protected so our scientists, society and the university benefit.

On community outreach:

Saying that a university can most effectively engage the community if it has something to offer, he cited the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) as two examples of current outreach efforts.

He mentioned also that Bill Sederburg commissioned a report on engagement during his recent interim year as UNCW chancellor. The new chancellor said he would draw on the findings of the report and look at the implications for UNCW’s centers and institutes, asking: “What are we good at, and how do we go out and disseminate that?”

“The number of retirees are increasing in our region, and that is very important,” he said. “These individuals audit programs and take courses. I think it’s important to identify all the things we do internally – through our College of Nursing, College of Education, School of Business. We’re already doing a lot of stuff, and we can reach out even more to benefit the community.”

On business outreach:

Sartarelli said he wants to see the university continue to provide resources to startups “for very little money,” as the CIE is doing.

“On the other side, I’m going to be working with our deans and professors to organize a business plan competition. We did that where I was before. It was a statewide business plan competition with other universities. We assigned coaches and individual judges to work with [participants] on their proposals, so they could pitch them to investors.

“In a second stage, we decided to do the same thing with high schools and selected the 36 best high schools in the state. Working with juniors and seniors, we replicated that process. It’s important to get people interested in entrepreneurship at a young age.”

Sartarelli said he’d like to do something similar in Wilmington and even extend the initiative to the community colleges in the region.

“The only limits there are our imaginations,” he said.
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