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The Daily Tar Heel

New group focuses on athletes

Jim Dean, who previously served as dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School, hopes to use his business background to help student athletes be academically successful this year.

On Friday, the University announced that the new executive vice chancellor and provost will lead the Student Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group, which will examine every policy associated with athletics — including recruitment, admissions and advising — from beginning to end.

Dean said most companies take a similar process-based approach when they are trying to improve quality.

“I spent a lot of time working in this area — this is a skill set I bring to the job,” Dean said in an interview. “In a way, it’s fun for me to apply this type of thinking to something that is a really important element of what we’re doing here.”

Dean said he wanted to lead the group with Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham after reviewing the athletic department’s strategic plan released in January, which prioritizes academics and administrative engagement with athletics.

“I saw the strategic plan and I saw there were some pretty ambitious goals,” Dean said. “He and I both wanted the same thing — top academic performance for student athletes.”

Cunningham said in an interview earlier this month that the department is working day-to-day on improving student athletics and implementing the strategic plan.

Dean said the group’s findings could provide an opportunity to rebuild some student-athletics processes on campus.

“Rather than try to patch up this, or fix that, it would be a time for us, in some senses, to start over,” he said.

The group includes representatives from different University processes, including Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer as well as Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Vince Ille, among others.

Debbi Clarke, who worked with Dean at Kenan-Flagler, will serve as an adviser, conducting interviews and documenting information on each process for the group, such as admissions or academic support.

Chancellor Carol Folt said in an interview last week that athletes’ academic progress should be judged no differently than any UNC student.

“The goal is that athletes are as successful in academic life that we want all Carolina students to be,” she said.

The committee, which aims to complete its work within the academic year, will have its first meeting once Clarke has documentation ready on the processes, Dean said.

“We need to look at this each year, and next year they’ll take a look again,” he said.

“This is the way that really well-run organizations do things — they have a well-articulated set of processes.”

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