By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 —
The chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte came courting Thursday.
Philip L. Dubois made several pitches for UNCC among a few audiences in Stanly County, which traditionally has been fertile soil for the school. Dubois has the distinction of leading the university at a time of academic and enrollment growth.
UNCC began as Charlotte College at the old Central High School, a two-year institution aimed at returning veterans of World War II. Not until 1961 did UNCC become a four-year university while moving to a more rural area north of the city along N.C. Highway 49.
In addition to humble beginnings, UNCC’s growth has been moderately progressive until the last several years.
At Thursday’s Albemarle Rotary Club luncheon Dubois jokingly referred to the early plain, white dormitory architecture as something Vladimir Putin would have designed.
Other than the high-rise dorms, the campus was a mix of brick and contemporary glass structures during the ‘70s and ‘80s. But new construction began the makeover with traditional brick buildings historically found on college campuses.
Plans include putting a brick facade around those older dorms so they, too, blend into the new concept.
Gone is the school’s reputation of a “suitcase” or “commuter” university whereby few lived on campus and those who did seldom stayed on weekends.
“Over time, we’ve added more things for students to stay on campus,” he said.
Eighty percent of freshmen live on campus and 85 percent of undergrads are full time. A plethora of housing enables students to live within 1-mile of campus.
Present enrollment at UNCC stands at 26,571, including 5,000 graduate students.
UNCC has caught enrollment at East Carolina University, with expectations to surpass the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the second most students in the state.
“We’re growing more than anybody else,” he said.
“We think we could reach 40,000 (students).”
Dubois doesn’t feel UNCC can catch enrollment-leading N.C. State.
UNCC’s Cone Center that could only accommodate 7,000 students has been supplanted by the Student Union that serves the entire campus.
Last year, UNCC fielded its inaugural football team on a newly-constructed on-campus stadium. After two seasons playing in the Football Championship Series, formerly Division 1AA, the 49ers will join Conference USA as a Division I school.
Not only has the campus and its activities expanded, but UNCC has undergone an academic transformation.
It offers 80 bachelor’s degrees, 63 master’s and 21 doctoral programs.
UNCC has expanded existing programs within its seven academic colleges.
Plans include adding a law school and a medical school. Dubois predicts a future partnership with UNC’s medical school, citing the growing healthcare needs in the Charlotte region.
UNCC is responsible for 48 percent of the UNC system’s overall growth over the past five years.
Stanly County has been a significant player in UNCC’s growth as well as benefactor of its graduates.
College-bound students in Stanly choose UNCC more than any other university in the UNC system.
Some 207 UNCC alumni work as public educators in Stanly.
Stanly Community College shares a partnership with UNCC to provide a teacher support program.
Twenty alumni teach and work at SCC.
Forty-eight UNCC faculty and staff live in Stanly County.
To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28.