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The Fidget-Spinning Chancellor

Q: The previous chancellor was known for appearing at multiple home games for various sports, how do you establish a deep connection with the students and professors on campus?

A: I am a big supporter of our athletics programs and our student-athletes, as Director of Athletics Dick Christy and his coaches will attest. First Lady Rebecca and I always look forward to attending as many games as our schedules allow.

As one example, I haven’t missed a home football game and have traveled to numerous away games. Cheering on the Braves is one of my favorite parts of the job. Rebecca and I were honored to be named Braves Club Members of the Year in 2017.

One of the ways I have developed connections with the Faculty is by hosting “Coffee with the Chancellor” events. These informal gatherings have been effective in sparking meaningful dialogue.

There is no agenda; we just go around the room and let everyone say what’s on their mind.

I also regularly participate in Faculty Senate meetings and convene joint meetings with the Faculty Senate Chair, Staff Council Chair and Student Government Association President. These are just some of the ways we honor UNCP’s core values of communication and collaboration.

Q: What is one goal you are determined to accomplish for the university this academic year and one goal you accomplished since you’ve become Chancellor?

A: Goal set: Obtain necessary funds to construct a state-of-the-art School of Business to provide our students a world class education and to support UNCP’s role as a driver of economic development across southeastern North Carolina.

Goal accomplished: Expanded academic opportunities for our students by developing “Pathways to Success” with other universities in the fields of engineering and veterinary medicine. We also created additional transfer agreements with our community college partners, including the BraveStep program with Robeson Community College.

With NC Promise potentially bringing an increase in the student population, have you heard any recent plans for parking? Understanding the importance of parking to our entire campus community, the university is partnering with a national consulting firm to develop a comprehensive parking and traffic study.

Increased parking demands fueled by NC Promise will be analyzed in the study, which should be completed in the coming months. The results will likely indicate the need for additional spaces as well as the need for us all to broaden our perspective.

For students at many larger universities, walking 15-20 minutes to class is a daily occurrence. We will endeavor to make parking as convenient as possible, but we may need to adjust our expectations as we grow.

Q: What’s it like to be the chancellor of a smaller university? Do you find your responsibilities easier to accomplish?

A: While UNCP is smaller than many of our peers in the UNC System, you might be surprised to learn our enrollment is average based on a nationwide scale. Among the 1,275 ranked institutions that submitted data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average undergraduate enrollment for fall 2016 was 6,265.

Our size provides many advantages, including our ability to offer a personalized experience and an opportunity to get to know our students, faculty and staff. As Chancellor, I’m not here to maintain the status quo; I’m here to help us accomplish our shared vision for the UNCP of tomorrow.

This is the most challenging job I’ve ever had. But it’s also the most rewarding because of the impact we are making on so many lives.

Q: In the midst of swamping responsibilities, where do you do your best thinking/What do you do to de-stress?

A: I wouldn’t describe my responsibilities as “swamping.” Although I go to bed as tired as can be, I always wake up energized by our mission. On a typical day, I spend a significant amount of time listening to a wide range of voices: students, faculty, staff, alumni, and university partners.

Quiet moments outside the office — often in the evening at the Chancellor’s Residence — provide an opportunity to reflect on the perspectives and information I receive in a given day. And importantly, these moments allow me to consider how we can leverage the events of the day to advance our university.

In terms of destressing, I enjoy interacting with students as I walk across campus in between meetings. I have come to appreciate the fidget spinner that was gifted to me last year. Exercise is the ultimate destresser, when I can work it into my schedule.

#ChancellorCummings #chancellorscorner #aroundcampus

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