Spellings gets to know UNC-Chapel Hill campus and community

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Alsey Davidson shows UNC System President Margaret Spellings and Chancellor Carol Folt how Honey Halo's beehive design can save the lives of honeybees.

Like many visitors to Chapel Hill, Spellings’ trip began with a tour of campus — which included a closed-door meeting with faculty members and a lunch with students at Gerrard Hall.

But not all students were welcoming, as a small group protested outside Gerrard Hall and other buildings hosting Spellings throughout the day.

Though Rosa Perelmuter expressed concerns for the discussion with Spellings in Monday’s Faculty Executive Committee meeting, the UNC-Chapel Hill Spanish professor said the system president was very receptive.

“There were no feelings of conflict, and the faculty and staff (were) warmly greeted by her,” Perelmuter said.

She said she is hopeful the visit indicates Spellings’ intent to keep an open-door policy.

“She is the person who will be presenting us to the Board of Governors and the general administration, so I hope this is an indication of other meetings to come,” she said.

Spellings said she appreciated the faculty’s focus on the student body and its needs.

“What I’ve been impressed with everywhere I’ve gone is the humility, kind of the servant educator idea,” she said.

Following lunch, Spellings headed to the 1789 Venture Lab on Franklin Street, accompanied by Chancellor Carol Folt, to meet with student and faculty innovators who take part in Innovate Carolina.

The visit included presentations equipped with prototypes, videos and even an interactive portion — where Spellings showed her potential as a DJ.

Senior Alsey Davidson shared her project, an effort to keep bees from dying off called “Honey Halo,” with Spellings.

Davidson said Spellings’ meeting with campus innovators could improve her relations with students.

“She’s really making an effort to meet students to get to know what we need and what we want,” she said. “I think if people see the interview she just gave and her reaction to these projects that it would improve their relationship with her.”

Spellings addressed existing tension between herself and the students with the media, allowing reporters to ask about her trips to campuses and plans for the future.

“I want to hear from everyone with a different point of view and, you know, we’ll attend to their concerns or issues as best we can,” Spellings said.

She said she aims to share her experiences at each institution with the legislature.

“What I’m hoping to do is be able to tell the legislature about what I’m seeing, about what we have to be proud of as an institution, and what we have to invest in and cherish these institutions,” she said.

Spellings will continue her tour in the coming weeks.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the people and hearing what they value and what they think I ought to know to advocate on their behalf,” she said.

“I view myself as a conduit between policymakers and the legislature who are about to be here for a budget session and the people working every day to serve students and citizens of the state.”

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