When I launched a tour of all 17 UNC campuses a few months ago, I had three big questions for everyone I met: what makes you proud, what are the biggest challenges you face, and how can we strengthen the work of the UNC system?

As you can imagine in such a big and diverse University system, the answers I heard varied widely. But they were all enormously thoughtful, reflecting the level of talent and commitment we are fortunate to have in this state’s public University. While each of our institutions is unique, key themes emerged at every stop that help define who we are as a whole.

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Join President Spellings as she travels “Around the State in 100 Days,” visiting all 16 public universities, the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis, and UNC Health Care.

President Spellings will meet with students, faculty, staff, and campus leadership during her 100 days of listening, learning about and experiencing first-hand what makes the UNC system the greatest public university in the country.

The tour begins in March with visits to Fayetteville State University, Western Carolina University, NC Research Campus, UNC Charlotte, UNC Pembroke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC A&T State University, and East Carolina University. In April, she travels to NC Central University, Appalachian State University, UNC Asheville, NC State University, UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro, Winston-Salem State University, UNC School of the Arts, and Elizabeth City State University . She will conclude her tour with visits to UNC Health Care and NC School of Science and Mathematics in May.


As President Spellings travels through the state, she will pose the following three questions to learn more about the institutions making up the UNC system.

What makes you most proud about your institution and the system more broadly?

What's the most important issue facing higher education in North Carolina?

Where do we have work to do?





UNC-TV is much more than the place where you can get your Downton Abbey fix or nurture young learners with transmissions of Sesame Street. The station provides meaningful, award-winning broadcasting to all 100 counties in the state with four channels in high definition. They reach almost every living room in North Carolina, and that’s a powerful achievement.

I became acquainted with UNC-TV on my first day in office when Shannon Vickery and a video crew came to interview me about plans and expectations for system leadership. And now, wrapping up the tour of the 17 campuses and affiliates, I’m back on the hot seat with Shannon for an overview of what the tour has meant.

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Shannon Vickery interviews President Spellings at UNC-TVShannon Vickery interviews President Spellings at UNC-TVPresident Spellings visits UNC-TVPresident Spellings tries UNC-TV's newest technology – a mobile video studio with clear drawing board – an invention that is being used by many of our campuses to increase the quality and quantity of online educational programmingPresident Spellings visits UNC-TVPresident Spellings visits UNC-TV

NC School of Science and Mathematics


North Carolina is known for educational firsts, so it comes as no surprise that we’re home to the country’s first public, residential high school for gifted science and math students. The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics was a head-turning idea when it launched in 1980, and it has since become a model for more than a dozen other schools around the world.

By immersing some of the state’s most talented high schoolers in a culture of intellectual inquiry and high achievement, NCSSM has built a fantastically effective pipeline of STEM students who go on to excel in college and contribute mightily to North Carolina’s growing economy. The school also has an outsized influence on public education across the state, offering teacher development, curriculum ideas, and direct online instruction that benefits thousands of students from Cherokee to Currituck counties.

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President Spellings meets with students during her visit to the NC School of Science and MathematicsPresident Spellings visits NC School of Science and MathematicsPresident Spellings meets with faculty and staff during her tour of NCSSMPresident Spellings visits NCSSM distance education studio and experiences live-taught courses reaching students across the statePresident Spellings visits NCSSM Fab LabPresident Spellings conducts an orchestra class during her visit to NCSSM

UNC School of the Arts


A public arts conservatory is a marvelous testament to ambition, both for students and for the state as a whole. The UNC School of the Arts is unlike any other institution in the country, offering some of the finest and most creative students across North Carolina the chance to achieve true excellence in some very challenging fields. From ballet to film to costume design to digital animation, UNCSA students are working tirelessly to honor age-old arts and give rise to new ones. The place is a genuine wonder.

Chancellor Lindsay Bierman kicked off the day with a Board of Trustees update that doubled as a master class in public speaking. Having a chancellor who used to edit Southern Living comes with certain advantages, and a keen sense of style is among them.

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Winston-Salem State University


Winston-Salem State University is doing exactly what we hope for in public higher education: transforming the lives of students who are most in need of opportunity and investment.

I’ve spent a lot of time in these past few months hearing about the marquee programs and high-profile work that takes place on UNC-system campuses. And WSSU offers some outstanding examples, from the RAMS Know H.O.W. (Hands on Wellness) Mobile Unit to the unique program in Motorsport Management. But the true point of pride for this historic campus — what makes it so vital for the future of North Carolina — is the leadership that it has shown in broadening educational opportunity for more than 120 years.

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President Spelllings meets with student leaders during her visit to WSSUPresident Spellings visits WSSU's virtual hospital, a facility that provides students with an opportunity to practice realistic health care in a no risk but high-yield environment that replicates the clinical settingPresident Spellings and WSSU Chancellor RobinsonPresident Spellings enjoys a performance by "The Red Sea of Sound," WSSU's renowned marching bandPresident Spellings visits Winston-Salem State UniversityPresident Spellings visits The Diggs Gallery during her visit to WSSU

UNC Greensboro

Driving in the Right Direction

There were plenty of highlights during my daylong visit to UNC Greensboro. The Weatherspoon Art Museum is an absolute treasure, the lunchtime musical performances were marvelous, and you really haven’t experienced the glory of campus golf-carting until you’ve taken a spin with Chancellor Frank Gilliam on the UNCG Warrior Whip.

But what I’ll remember most from UNC Greensboro is their success at tackling one of the core missions of modern higher education — welcoming low-income, first-generation college students and helping them find a path to graduation. Forty-four percent of UNCG students are eligible for Pell Grants, and those students have a six-year graduation rate that is just a few points shy of the university’s overall average.

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President Spellings visits UNCG's SELF Design Studio at the School of EducationUNCG Chancellor Gilliam drives the Warrior Whip golf cart during President Spellings' campus tourPresident Spellings visits the Weatherspoon Art Museum during her visit to UNCGPresident Spellings presents UNCG, students, and Spiro, the spartan mascot, with a dogwood tree during her campus visitPresident Spellings offers an apple to Minerva, a good luck tradition at UNCG, during her campus tourPresident Spellings meets Dominique Edwards, Student Advisory Council member and UNCG senior, and Dr. Omar Ali,  interim dean of Lloyd International Honors College and professor in African American and African Diaspora Studies

UNC Wilmington


The tour of UNC Wilmington actually marks the second time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting “UNC by the Sea,” as one campus trustee called it. Chancellor Zito Sartarelli’s installation in March gave me a glimpse of the pride and beauty of this place, not to mention a chance to see Zito’s energy and drive up close. He’s the right man for the job, a leader with ambition and spirit of service for a campus that is growing and thriving.

UNC Wilmington is a relatively young institution, founded in the years after World War II to serve the booming population of returning veterans looking to put their GI Bill benefits to good use. Thanks to the far-sighted investment of local and state leaders, the original Wilmington College has grown into a regional power, welcoming nearly 15,000 undergraduates and boosting a strong coastal economy.

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President Spellings with UNCW Chancellor SartarelliPresident Spellings visits UNC WilmingtonPresident Spellings tours the UNCW Publishing LabPresident Spellings with UNCW mascot Sammy the SeahawkPresident Spellings met with students in the Watson College of Education, a building that catalogs decades of NC history in a series of exhibitsPresident Spellings met with students and faculty during her visit to UNCW

North Carolina State University


Trying to capture North Carolina State University in a blog post is just foolish. That’s true of any university, but especially an institution that runs a world-renowned research park and educates the largest student body in the UNC system (34,015). A campus that operates huge tracts of farmland and a tiny nuclear reactor. A university that manufactures advanced nanoparticles and churns its own brand of ice cream.

Which is all to say, I plan to be back at NC State often. Both to learn more about the universe of research taking place under the brilliant slogan of “Think & Do,” and also to work my way through all of the flavors of Howling Cow on offer in the Tally Student Union. NC State certainly knows how to make an impression.

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President Spellings tours NC State and meets with Mr. and Mrs. Wuf, Chancellor Woodson, and othersPresident Spellings toured the Hunt Library and Talley Student Union at NC StatePresident Spellings learns about the universe of research taking place under the brilliant slogan of “Think & Do” at NC StatePresident Spellings tours NC State University President Spellings meets with students and faculty during her visit to NC State UniversityPresident Spellings tours NC State Univeristy

Elizabeth City State University


There’s a Rosenwald School on the campus of Elizabeth City State University, a beautiful historic landmark built in 1921 as part of a push to advance African-American education. It’s a reminder of the proud and enduring mission of ECSU, an institution founded to serve a community too long denied educational opportunity.

Like many of the institutions that eventually became part of the UNC system, Elizabeth City began as a teacher’s college. A state representative named Hugh Cale, an African-American merchant and community leader from Pasquotank County, won support for the school. The State Colored Normal School in Elizabeth City opened welcomed its first class on August 15, 1892.

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President Margaret Spellings with ECSU Chancellor ConwayPresident Spellings visits "ECSU: 125 Years of Excellence and Resilience," a new exhibit opening next month at the Museum of the Albermarle in downtown Elizabeth CityPresident Spellings meets with students during her visit to ECSUPresident Spellings visits ECSUPresident Spellings tours ECSU's marquee aviation science programPresident Spellings sits in the cockpit of one of ECSU’s training aircraft

UNC Asheville


One of the marvelous things about the University of North Carolina system, and about American higher education in general, is the choice available to students.

All day long at UNC Asheville, I met students who made a very deliberate decision to pursue a liberal arts education. They wanted close relationships with faculty, the freedom to explore a variety of different subjects, and the rigor and creativity that are at the core of the liberal arts tradition.

They found all of that in UNC Asheville, a true gem for North Carolina and a unique institution within the world of public higher education. Since my first day on the job, I’ve been talking about the need to broaden college access to better prepare a changing nation. 

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President Spellings with UNCA Chancellor Mary GrantPresident Spellings gets an early look at the Belk Theater production of The Bacchae transformedPresident Spellings tours the Black Mountain Museum and Arts CenterPresident Spellings tours the Black Mountain Museum and Arts CenterPresident Spellings visits UNCA during her tour Around the State in 100 DaysPresident Spellings sees the The Plate House during her tour of UNCA. This structure combines origami with structural design to help solve the political and humanitarian problem of temporary housing for refugees

Appalachian State University


I have been hearing for weeks about the beautiful hills and mountains surrounding Appalachian State’s campus. For a while, I was worried I wouldn’t get to see them on my visit, with clouds and rain rolling into the valley as we climbed into the High Country. But even a thick mountain fog couldn’t obscure the good things happening at Appalachian, one of the top regional universities in the south.

Thankfully, it cleared up enough for me to take in the trove of art and culture on campus, starting with Yosef the Mountaineer. Hard to believe a sculpture can be that lively, but he captures the vibe of the whole campus quite nicely. I also got to see the incredible work on display through the Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, a great example of what can happen when philanthropy, arts, and public education come together.

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President Spellings with ASU mascot, Yosef, and Chancellor EvertsPresident Spellings tours the Schaefer Center for Performing Arts at ASUPresident Spellings meets with students during her visit to ASUPresident Spellings meets with students during her visit to ASUPresident Spellings tours Appalachian State UniversityPresident Spellings attends a celebration of the Connect NC Bond and a site dedication during her visit to ASU

North Carolina Central University


There are a lot of things I’ll remember about my very first day as UNC President, but none more happily than my lunch with students at North Carolina Central University. I wanted my very first campus visit, even before the start of my official tour of the UNC system, to be a place that embodies the best of public higher education. In its history, its aspirations, and its commitment to diversity and excellence, NCCU hits the mark.

When Dr. James E. Shepard founded the school in 1910, he offered a mission that is both straightforward and beautifully ambitious: “the development in young men and women of the character and sound academic training requisite for real service to the nation.” 

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President Spellings visits NCCU and meets with Chancellor Saunders White and Durham Mayor Bill BellPresident Spellings talks with researchers at NCCU's Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE)President Spellings meets with students at NCCU's Fab LabPresident Spellings tours NCCU with Olivia Robinson, SGA president.President Spellings listens to the NCCU Jazz EnsemblePresident Spellings meets wit Faye Calhoun, interim director of the Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI)), at NCCU

East Carolina University


It’s easy to claim the value of education, but not always easy to define it. My trip to East Carolina University, though, drove home just how vital education is to overall wellbeing. We cannot improve our health, our economy, or our security without high-quality education. And ECU is meeting its mission on every one of those fronts.

I started the day at ECU’s Health Sciences Campus, a world-class training ground for the doctors, nurses, dentists, physician assistants, and researchers who provide life-saving care across the state. That campus has grown in tandem with the health needs of eastern North Carolina, where an aging population and long-term disparities in health access are taking a toll.

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Chancellor Steve Ballard greets President Spellings during her visit to ECU.Nathan Richards and Scott Rose from the UNC Coastal Studies Institute demonstrate 3-D shipwreck modeling technology to President Spellings.Dr. Wiley Nifong tours the ECHI robotics lab with President Spellings. There he demonstrated the da Vinci surgery system.Ted Morris, ECU's vice chancellor for Engagement, Innovation and Economic Development, shows President Spellings the plans to expand the ECU Research and Innovation Campus.PASC Director Elizabeth Coghill and President Spellings speak with Tutor Christopher Garcia, a junior and member of the National Guard, and student Brandon Prevatte, a sophomore (red shirt). President Spellings tries out a virtual reality simulation in the Innovation Design Lab as Marines from the medical demonstration watch.

N.C. A&T State University


“Aggie Pride isn’t just a chant — it’s a way of life.”

That’s what a faculty member told me toward the end of my Founders Day visit to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. And from everything I saw, it’s clear the Aggie way is winning converts.

Applications to N.C. A&T are up seventy percent this year, which is one of the most striking and impressive statistics I’ve heard since coming to North Carolina. Chancellor Harold Martin had a very simple explanation for that: nothing succeeds quite like success. And the Aggies of N.C. A&T have been on a roll lately.

Many people don’t realize what a research powerhouse N.C. A&T is within the UNC system. It has the third-largest research base of any public university in the state, behind only NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. 

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President Spellings visits NC A&T State UniversityPresident Spellings meets with students during her visit to NC A&TPresident Spellings visits NC A&T State UniversityPresident Spellings visits NC A&T State UniversityPresident Spellings visits NC A&T State UniversityPresident Spellings visits NC A&T State University

UNC-Chapel Hill


My introduction to UNC-Chapel Hill began, appropriately enough, with a crowd of KIPP College Prep students at the Old Well. It wasn’t planned; I was there to see one of the most recognizable college landmarks in the world, and they were there to imagine future lives on a world-class university campus. Most of the KIPP students were low-income, from a region of North Carolina where not enough young people have the chance to attend college.

But they can imagine a future at UNC-Chapel Hill — the University of the People — because of the commitment Carolina has made to keeping a world-class education affordable for all.

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President Spellings meets  KIPP College Prep Students during her recent visit to UNC-CHPresident Spellings visits UNC-CHPresident Spellings meets UNC-CH Nobel Laureates Dr. Aziz Sancar and Dr. Oliver SmithiesPresident Spellings visits UNC-CHPresident Spellings with UNC-CH Chancellor FoltPresident Spellings visits UNC-CH

UNC Pembroke


More than once during my visit to UNC Pembroke, people referred to the Robeson County campus as a “hidden gem” of the UNC system. Well, enough of that. It’s time for this gem to come out of hiding, because the steadfast work of the faculty, staff, and students at UNC Pembroke deserves celebrating.

It’s no secret that Robeson County and southeastern North Carolina face especially tough challenges when it comes to jobs, public schools, and economic mobility. But UNC Pembroke is tackling those issues head-on, educating the teachers, nurses, social workers, artists and entrepreneurs who will become the lifeblood of this region.

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President Spellings visits UNC PembrokePresident Spellings visits UNC PembrokePresident Spellings tries basket weaving during her visit to UNCPPresident Spellings visits with Chancellor Cummings and UNCP's mascot BraveHawkPresident Spellings visits UNC PembrokePresident Spellings meets with student leaders at UNCP

UNC Charlotte


One of the things I noticed again and again during my time in Charlotte was how enthusiastically people spoke about UNC Charlotte — even when they had no direct connection to it. It’s fairly common to hear alumni and students speak with pride about their school, but UNC Charlotte seems to have earned deep and widespread support in the region. Chancellor Phil Dubois and his team have worked hard to make the University a partner for businesses, for civic institutions, and for the cultural life of the whole region.

The institution is a major partner in driving greater economic mobility, welcoming thousands of first-generation college students every year and making sure that graduates emerge ready to participate in Charlotte’s growing industries.

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President Spellings and Chancellor Dubois at UNC Charlotte President Spellings talks with students during her visit to UNCCPresident Spellings visits UNC CharlottePresident Spellings with students and UNCC's mascot Norm the NinerPresident Spellings visits UNC CharlottePresident Spellings tours the campus of UNC Charlotte

NC Research Campus


In one of the buildings on the North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis, there’s a little room — about the size of a small hotel suite — that can measure a person’s exact rate of calorie burn. The NCRC metabolic chamber is engineered to capture every breath you exhale, allowing scientists to measure the impact of diet, exercise, and all sorts of other factors on human health. When I visited NCRC on Monday, the research subjects being tested in Appalachian State’s Human Performance Lab were professional-tier cyclists, pedaling cheerfully while researchers asked questions and took measurements — for two-and-a-half hours.

Dr. Steven Zeisel, director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute, told me I could come back and give it a try sometime, but I’m not sure I want my calorie count benchmarked against a bunch of guys who could compete in the Tour de France.

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President Spellings visits the NC Research CampusNC Research CampusNC Research CampusNC Research Campus in KannapolisPresident Spellings visits the NC Research CampusNC Research Campus

Western Carolina University


Growing a university in a rural mountain valley is no easy task, not to mention building a regional reach across four states (North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina), but Western Carolina University seems to have figured it out. In fact, WCU and its surroundings are clearly thriving and teaching us newcomers to the state a thing or two.

After two marvelous days breathing the rarified air in Catamount Country, I could appreciate the “Western Way” – that community’s pride, family atmosphere, and commitment to its students are unparalleled. I encountered students from every possible background, many of them the first in their extended families to go off to college. 

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President Spellings visits with Paws the Catamount during her visit to WCUPresident Spellings learns about WCU students' education goals and achievementsPresident Spellings visits Western Carolina UniversityPresident Spellings visits the Mosquito and Vector Borne Infectious Disease Facility at WCUPresident Spellings visits Western Carolina UniversityPresident Spellings and WCU Chancellor Belcher

Fayetteville State University

Discovering my Bronco Pride

It’s hard to imagine a more uplifting, energizing day than the one I just spent at Fayetteville State.

I got to meet a prize-winning poet and sit with her while she read to a roomful of children at FSU’s Early Childhood Learning Center. I had a professor of physiology wave a live lobster at me, showcasing his effort to build a mini-aquarium in the Lyons Science Building so that local schoolchildren can learn marine science. And I marveled at the trading room in the School of Business, where students are learning the ups and downs of financial markets.

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