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The Daily Tar Heel

Shelton: UNC Should Not Be `Cookie Cutter'

Shelton, who took office Feb. 1, spoke to a crowd of about 80 faculty members after greeting most of them as they entered the building.

As provost, Shelton is the head of academic, administrative and operating affairs at UNC, and his speech emphasized the importance of establishing an academic plan for the University that would incorporate faculty and administrative interests. "An overall academic plan is a vehicle for administration and faculty to offer a shared vision for the University," he said. "We need to work with shared strategies."

When asked what such an academic plan would constitute, Shelton replied that it would define the priorities of the University and specifically address the concerns of how to best compensate faculty for their time.

Shelton also stressed the importance of faculty combining talents across disciplines for UNC to fulfill its goals as a research university. "Research represents creative scholarships in all fields."

But Shelton said it also is important for UNC to maintain standards of excellence and not spread itself too thin while extending its resources across disciplines and into government and private sectors. "These are very exciting and demanding times," he said. "The challenge is meeting these demands while retaining our unique Carolina flavor. There's no need to be cookie-cutter like everybody else."

In a reception that followed, audience members said they were pleased to hear Shelton's promise to work together with faculty from his administrative position. "The overture of engaging faculty as partners is really important," said Archie Ervin, UNC's director of minority affairs. "That's the olive branch."

Faculty members said they were impressed by Shelton's impromptu answers to their questions and by his commitment to work across academic disciplines. "(Former Provost) Dick Richardson had this big, broad tent that was all-inclusive," said environmental science Professor Frances Lynn. "(Shelton) seems to have that message as well."

Shelton spoke briefly about his encounters with students through colorful anecdotes such as "roaring off" in Student Body President Brad Matthews' "unusual vehicle" and speaking with "bleary-eyed students" at the UNC Dance Marathon. He said his admiration of student leaders only underscores the importance of the people who teach them in class. "The point of this is that it all comes back to the faculty," he said.

Shelton also challenged the faculty to exhibit the same degree of energy as student activists when they need to communicate concerns to him. "Don't be strangers," he said. "If groups of students can cluster at South Building, so can faculty. I look forward to working with you as a team."

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