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Bruce Carney: Make students a priority and implement the 2011 Academic Plan

Bruce Carney is tired of seeing students suffer.

After months of grappling with the ramifications of unprecedented budget cuts, the executive vice chancellor and provost said he is confident faculty and administrators will finally implement the solution the University needs — the 2011 Academic Plan.

The plan, only the second of its kind in the University’s history, proposes six themes involving more than 80 recommendations ­— ranging from increasing access to classes to expanding UNC’s global presence.

If implemented, the plan would serve as an academic road map for the next 10 years.

Although only days into the semester, the plan’s steering committee has already identified the focus of the plan for the fall.

Executive Vice Provost Ron Strauss, who is a member of the committee, said the first focus of the year will be student driven.

He said the committee plans to create more bachelor’s to master’s degree programs that can be earned in four or five years of combined study, such as the one in the School of Information and Library Sciences.

Strauss said there will also be a focus on developing direct-entry undergraduate to professional school matriculation — an initiative that will allow highly qualified undergraduate students to enroll in UNC graduate programs.

“We’ll be putting a lot of energy toward this because we’ll be attracting students to graduate programs who might not have considered Carolina as a first choice,” he said.

Alice Ammerman, the Academic Plan steering committee’s co-chairwoman, said she will examine the possibility of relaxing academic regulations, such as those related to double majors and course requirements.

The feasibility of financing the plan — which Carney anticipated would cost at least $40 million when he proposed it to the Board of Trustees — remains uncertain.

“The primary drive in terms of allocating funds will be for the academic mission of the campus,” Carney said.

Ammerman said the University will have to prioritize the plan.

“Just because the budget may be tight, that doesn’t mean everything shuts down,” she said.

Despite budget cuts that have threatened the plan’s funding, Carney said much of the 13.5 percent tuition increase approved in February has been devoted to student-related issues — many of which are included in the plan.

As a result of this funding, students have seen an increased number of first-year seminar courses, twice as many admitted undergraduates into the Honors Program and a set of new team-taught interdisciplinary courses as part of the plan, Strauss said.

But faculty also benefit from the committee’s work — including the reinstatement of the spousal hiring program and an addition of faculty with international experience.

“I’m pleased to see how much has been accomplished in such a short time,” Strauss said. “But it’s important to remember that this is a 10-year plan, and things aren’t going to happen quickly.”

“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to be snoozing.”

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