WilmingtonBiz Magazine

C-Suite Convo: Head Of Class

By Staff Reports, posted Jul 7, 2022
Aswani Volety
On July 1, Aswani Volety starts as the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s seventh chancellor.
After a national search and input from local committee members and university trustees, UNC System officials went with a familiar name to replace retiring Jose Sartarelli.
Volety comes back to UNCW after formerly serving as the dean of the school’s College of Arts & 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.
Here is a recent Q&A with Volety about his new role.
How does it feel to be returning to UNCW​? “I am very excited. Serving as UNCW’s next chancellor is the opportunity of a lifetime. I look forward to giving back to an institution that gave so much to me and helped me grow. Based on my previous experiences as dean of UNCW’s renowned College of Arts & Sciences and as executive director of the Center for Marine Science, I know this university has a solid foundation and unlimited potential. It really is a place like no other.”
What are some of your initial priorities? “Initially, I want to work with faculty, staff and administrators to make sure we are doing all that we can to help students settle back into the new normal after the pandemic. Everybody went through challenging times and supporting the health and well-being of our campus community is a hallmark of the UNCW experience.

Additionally, I want to collaborate with the university community to develop a strategic plan that stands on UNCW’s sturdy foundation to advance its mission.

Other priorities that top my list include providing resources for new and growing programs, working closely with business and nonprofit leaders to evaluate market forces within the region, creating and growing programs that address regional and state needs, and consistently graduating a job-ready workforce.”

What are some of your longer-term goals or areas you want to focus on? “I look forward to working with colleagues on campus and supporters in the community to continue UNCW’s momentum and enhance its programs and services.
The university is an anchor institution in the region, and we already have strong partnerships in many areas – biopharma, business, education, engineering, film, health and marine sciences, to name a few. I want to expand these collaborations to enhance students’ access to internships and mentoring opportunities, boost our research capabilities and amplify our community engagement efforts.
We will develop a shared strategic vision for the university to guide these efforts to make sure UNCW keeps soaring toward new levels of service and success.”
Among your previous roles at UNCW was CMS executive director, and your academic background is in marine science. Is this an area you see potentially growing? “UNCW already has an excellent reputation in the marine sciences for the master’s and undergraduate levels, and the university is well known for engaging in applied research.
With our new doctoral program in Applied Coastal and Ocean Sciences, the quick growth of coastal engineering and expansion of research in other areas, we are building on our existing reputation as one of the country’s premier marine science centers.
As a former president of the Southern Association of Marine Laboratories (SAML), I am familiar with the opportunities and strengths of various centers around the country, and I look forward to sharing insights and connections from that experience with CMS colleagues. There’s so much more we can do to support the blue economy here in Southeastern North Carolina.”

Student enrollment has grown steadily in recent years. How do you see the university managing its growth, both physically and with new academic programs? “The university’s strategic plan, which we will develop as a campus community, will help us structure our growth in the future.
UNCW’s future will also be shaped by our location in Southeastern North Carolina, one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. Our region’s coastal location, solid economic and educational opportunities, and outstanding entrepreneurial ecosystem – among the best in the nation and globally – are contributing to new developments in the area’s high-tech industries and knowledge-based economy.
Our corner of North Carolina will generate a lot of opportunities in the future, and UNCW will continue to be a leading partner in our region’s growth for years to come.”

Are there programs you’d like to see added at UNCW or existing ones you think should expand? “Some of the programs that I would like to add are related to health care. Our nation’s aging demographics, combined with the challenges of the pandemic, emphasized the need for more health-related programs and well-educated practitioners.
I also want UNCW to build on its existing strengths in a variety of professional programs supported by a robust liberal arts and sciences core. Our university is well positioned to create new degree combinations that combine essential skills and technical skills in exciting and meaningful ways.”
How do you see UNCW and the business community interacting? “I hope to blur the lines between academia and the broader, regional community. We already are connecting the needs of the community with expertise available on campus. Let’s expand those efforts.
At the same time, our students, faculty and staff need to get even better at listening to and learning from businesses, civic and community organizations. I hope to increase practitioners’ engagement in our classrooms and enhance students’ engagement in the community, which helps them translate concepts and principles from class into solutions for real-world problems.
UNCW is a part of the fabric of this place, and I want people within the community to know UNCW and to feel like it is their institution.”
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