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For the first time in 224 years, UNC’s top leadership role will likely be held by a woman.

According to three sources familiar with the chancellor search, UNC-system President Thomas Ross will nominate Carol Folt, the interim president at Dartmouth College, for the chancellor position today.

The UNC Board of Governors will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. at the Spangler Center to vote whether or not to approve Folt as the University’s 11th chancellor.

Folt assumed the role of interim president after Dartmouth’s former president Jim Yong Kim left the college to serve as president of the World Bank. She has served as interim president since July 2012.

But Folt declined to include her name in the search process for the college’s permanent president when she accepted the interim position.

Though he would not disclose Folt’s name, Chancellor Holden Thorp said in an interview Thursday afternoon that the candidate was well-known and a distinguished leader.

“It’s somebody that I didn’t know very well until the process, but since I’ve gotten to meet that person I’ve been really impressed, and think they have a great reputation around the country,” Thorp said.

Folt was one of three candidates presented to Ross by the 21-member chancellor search committee that has been working since October. Regarding Ross’s decision, Thorp said he had good options.
“I don’t think he could have gone wrong,” Thorp said.

If approved, Folt will lead a significantly different institution than Dartmouth when she assumes the role on July 1. Dartmouth is a private, Ivy League college with just more than 6,000 students while UNC is a public university with nearly 30,000 students.

But she is no stranger to higher education’s challenges.

Folt was faced with a number of issues during her time at Dartmouth, including resolving a $100-million budget gap and helping to develop a long-term strategic plan for the college.

Folt, an environmental scientist, has primarily focused her academic research on the effects of dietary mercury and arsenic on human health and aquatic life, Atlantic salmon restoration and climate change.

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. Folt also did her post-doctoral at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University.

Administrators say that any newcomer to the UNC system will face a learning curve.

“If it is a person from the outside, as I was, there is a lot to learn,” said James Moeser, Thorp’s predecessor.

“I wasn’t a North Carolinian or a graduate of the University, so I was determined to know as much as I could know about the history of the University and the state.”

Chemistry professor Joe Templeton, who also serves as a special assistant to Thorp, said one of the new chancellor’s first steps will be to get to know the students, faculty, advisory boards, deans and other administrators across campus.

“The new chancellor will have to work through visiting with all of the groups and constituencies,” Templeton said. “It’s an endless list of wonderful, supportive people to meet with.”

Thorp said the new chancellor will need to learn as much about UNC as possible.

Thorp said he is doing the same to prepare for his role as provost at Washington University in St. Louis, which he will begin in July.

Thorp announced his resignation in September and originally planned to return to the UNC faculty, but announced in February he would take the provost position.

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The new chancellor will also play a role in selecting Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney’s successor — an individual she will work closely with as they both assume their new roles.

Carney, who was a member of the search committee that selected Thorp, said Thorp’s familiarity with UNC and reputation on campus made the transition smooth, while a chancellor from outside UNC would face the challenge of an unfamiliar environment.

“If I were a new chancellor from outside, I would get involved much sooner rather than later,” Carney said.

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