During last Friday’s Board of Governors meeting, Margaret Spellings delivered her second President’s report during which she discussed her travel across the state, outlined her plans for change within the UNC system and addressed the increasing protests across the campuses.
Spellings began the meeting by reminding attendees and those watching on the new live stream feature of the ways in which the board is working to make the meetings more accessible and transparent for everyone in the system.
“We’re also preparing for our first public comment session with the board, which will take place at the May meeting,” Spellings said.
She noted that after visiting Appalachian State and UNC-Asheville, her campus tour is more than halfway complete.
“It has been a real thrill to listen to students, faculty, staff and community leaders about what makes them proud of their institutions, what issues they think most important and where they think we have work to do,” Spellings said.
Next week she will visit NC State University, Elizabeth City State University and UNC-Wilmington.
She called her tour both “exhausting and energizing,” and praised the dedication and brilliance of those who work for the various campuses. She continued to praise the chancellors, faculty and staff in the system.
“Our highest priority…in the legislative session must be to provide the proper compensation to staff and faculty,” Spellings said, saying that this sentiment is echoed by the board. “We really must secure a raise for these public servants,” Spellings said.
She then addressed what was referred to as the “concern” over HB2.
“We are at risk of losing great students and faculty and potential business partners and philanthropic support,” Spellings said.
She argued that providing a welcoming and diverse education system is a cornerstone of the North Carolina education system.
“It’s an absolute necessity if we want North Carolina to sustain the educational excellence and leadership that we so treasure,” Spellings said about diverse engagement.
She also noted that she recognized campus tension, saying she has been met with protests on various campuses as she has travelled across the state, but she expressed her appreciation of the respect she has been shown.
“Free speech and differing viewpoints are hallmarks of our academic culture…,” she said. But she advocated for more active listening so as to encourage productive dialogue. “Engagement means more than just making your own voice heard, it means listening,” said Spellings.
She addressed protesters directly, saying “I hear you. I ask in return that you hear from me and from this board.”
She stated that through her campus visits she has been able to meet with faculty and students, saying that she wants to aid in demonstrating the strengths of the campuses.
“I’ve been listening to students and faculty and advocating for them,” Spellings said. “I am here to serve as your chief advocate and spokesperson for your work.”
In order to adequately support the system, Spellings noted, would require a shift in the general administration. She also explained that part of the shift would include more involvement from chancellors and campus leaders in decision-making and planning. She expressed hope that the board would lift the fundraising cap in order to bring in more private funding.
She finished her report by giving recognition for the winners of the 2016 Social Entrepreneurship Competition, two of whom attend North Carolina School of Science and Math and two who attend Duke and UNC-CH.
The two students from NC School of Math and Science, Francisco Coch and Ben Fawcett, created a mobile app that bridges the gap between adolescents diagnosed with cancer and their doctors.
“PACT is our digital collaboration tool that works to improve communication among care-giving teams,” Coch said.
The idea is that patients will be able to answer a series of questions in the app that would rate how a patient is feeling from day to day with things such as appetite, amount of sleep and level of anxiety.
“Adolescents often fall into an awkward age category between adult and pediatric care, where neither has the resources suitable to their specific age needs,” Coch said.
Fawcett explained that the app would actively involve the patient in treatment, as well as simplify data points so graphic data can be more easily accessed by doctors, families and patients.
The hope is that the app will expand to pharmaceutical companies so medical developments with things like prescriptions can become better tailored to patients’ specific needs.
The graduate students, Anne Steptoe and Patrick O’Shea, founded MedServe. O’Shea defined the company as “a two-year service learning program in rural and underserved primary care medicine across the state of North Carolina.”
It works to provide healthcare to underserved areas as well as mentorship for new healthcare practitioners about to begin practicing primary care.
Due to the lack of paths from graduation to primary care practice, many medical students do not get the mentorship or guidance they need to bridge the gap and start in primary care.MedServe operates as the bridge for that gap.
“Our model starts with a one-to-one match between a recent college graduate and…a rock-star primary care practice,” Steptoe said.
Students serve these practices for two years, where they get hands-on clinical experience before applying to medical school.
MedServe has already raised $260,000 and will be starting up in June 2016 with 12 students across North Carolina.