Moving up in the ranks at Carolina isn’t easy. While many promotions choose the obvious second in command, UNC employs national searches to find the best and brightest to lead the school.
With the departure of Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Melissa Exum, the University is losing another bright mind to another university, and it is losing yet another woman.
Exum, a woman and a minority, follows the loss of diversity in former Provost Bernadette Gray-Little, who left to become chancellor of Kansas University.
In April, award-winning radiologist Etta Pisano left to become the first female dean of the Medical University of South Carolina.
“You want to name men and women, people of different ethnicities, different sexualities, in an environment with one chancellor, one provost, one dean of medicine,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp.
“Chapel Hill is high up in the pecking order. Universities want our people, and if they want our people before we have an opening, they have a decision to make.”
Exum, Pisano and Gray-Little all made that decision when it looked like a logical next career move had opened up.
“Once you’ve been in a job for three or four years you start thinking, ‘Am I capable of the next step?’” Pisano said.
“At UNC I was always going to be second in command, and I could have waited ’til (the dean) stepped down, and I didn’t get chosen.”
Pisano said that in UNC’s School of Medicine, there is a real deficit in female leaders.
“There’s obviously something going on because women are dropping out disproportionately to men,” Pisano said, adding that with the percentage of undergraduate women at Carolina, the percentage of women in high-profile positions should be higher.
However, there are a fair number of women in the chancellor’s cabinet, including Barbara Entwisle who was just appointed as interim vice chancellor for research and economic development.
Exum will be taking the position of vice chancellor of student affairs at Purdue University on Aug. 2, the same position that Winston Crisp assumed at UNC in January.
“The opportunity was one at Purdue where I just couldn’t say no to it, to the possibilities that it had,” Exum said. “It was more what they were doing as Purdue more than what happened here.”
But Exum said that while she brought the ability to build relationships across campus to her position, her race, gender and North Carolinian heritage helped her interact with the community.
“I am both — from a gender and race perspective — to bare on some people that never really interacted with somebody on that level,” Exum said. “It helps break down barriers I believe and helps bring comfort to members of our communities … ‘Well, she understands not just because she’s a black woman, but because she’s not far from here.’”
Contact the Univeristy Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.