University Launches Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group

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The University’s leadership team is bringing a fresh perspective to fostering academic success for student-athletes during their entire Carolina experience. A working group led by new Provost James W. Dean, Jr. and Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham is taking a comprehensive approach to assessing and enhancing how the University provides academic support to student-athletes.

The Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group is examining current practices, procedures, policies and other factors that affect the lives of approximately 800 student-athletes – from when they are recruited and admitted to when they leave Chapel Hill.

The working group will develop a rigorous and transparent set of processes and metrics as part of an ongoing initiative. The objective is to ensure proper alignment with the University’s academic mission, a goal that is consistent with Cunningham’s strategic plan for the Department of Athletics.

Chancellor Carol Folt, Provost Dean and Athletic Director Cunningham are united in the belief that Carolina is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the national conversation about the role of athletics in the life of a university community.

The working group aims to build on, support and enhance recent progress across campus in strengthening relationships between academics and athletics. Examples include the ongoing work of the Faculty Council’s Faculty Athletics Committee; the reorganization of and new leadership for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, which now reports to the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost; and the implementation of the new strategic plan in the athletics department.

The University also will have the opportunity to consider recommendations from a panel of distinguished leaders in higher education and athletics led by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities. The panel, which grew out of a key recommendation in a faculty report, has been considering how the University’s recent experiences may apply to other campuses and the national higher education community on a broad scale.

Dean, an organizational behavior and strategic decision-making expert and former dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School, became provost on July 1. Cunningham assumed his post in November 2011.

Other working group members are Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions; Michelle Brown, who joined the University last spring as director of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes; Lissa Broome, the Faculty Athletics Representative to the ACC and NCAA, former Faculty Athletics Committee chair, Wells Fargo Professor of Banking Law, and Director of the Center for Banking and Finance in the School of Law; and Vince Ille, senior associate athletic director for compliance.

Serving as an adviser to the group is Debbi Clarke, who worked closely with Dean at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, where she formerly was the director of the master’s of business administration degree program. She holds a doctorate in higher education administration.

Working group members will seek feedback from and engage with four faculty panels:

  • Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions Subcommittee on Special Talent
  • Faculty Executive Committee
  • Faculty Athletics Committee, and the
  • Faculty Advisory Committee to the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes

Ultimately, the goal is for the University to have in place processes covering the total experience of student-athletes that reflect significant faculty involvement and promote ongoing excellence in both academics and athletics. The working group’s efforts can help foster even greater collaboration among and between faculty, students, student-athletes, coaches and administrators that will further strengthen the academic experience for student-athletes at the University.