Cairns began the position on July 1 after being elected by the faculty earlier this year. The election set the record for the greatest voter turnout.
For the next three years, he will lead the Faculty Council, a group of 96 members who address issues that are important to the faculty. There are approximately 3,800 voting faculty members.
“We know that we have had a substantial growth in fixed term faculty,” he said.
Cairns said some possible challenges in the coming years include faculty retention, recruitment and the budget.
“We’re not quite sure what the future will bring,” he said.
There are 27 standing committees that report to the Faculty Council and tackle issues, such as tenure, nominations, grievances and athletics.
Jan Boxill, former chairwoman of the Faculty Council, advised Cairns to have a diverse group of people at the table.
“The biggest challenge is change and also lots of different ideas and how changes ought to be done,” she said. “The biggest thing is to listen.”
Cairns said he plans to collaborate with other groups on campus. He said he has already met with Andrew Powell, student body president; Shelby Dawkins-Law, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation; and Charles Streeter, chairman of the UNC Employee Forum.
Streeter said he and Cairns have already been working closely together and members of the employee forum are going to serve on the Faculty Council’s welfare committee.
“I can’t say there’s anything to improve,” Streeter said. “We’re already taking those steps."
Cairns said he is also working with the Royster Society of Fellows to reduce the stigmas associated with mental health.
“We all have to work together in this new era working with the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees as we move the University forward,” Cairns said.
Faculty has control over the curriculum at UNC. During Boxill’s term, changes were made to the English requirement, the honors program and the independent study policy.
Cairns said he wants to ensure that classes at UNC are of high academic quality.
“How do we measure the effectiveness of the educational curriculum?” Cairns said. “That’s one of the issues we’re going to have to address.”
Cairns said he also planned to increase the amount of global educational opportunities and explore alternative classroom setups, including the flipped classroom.
“One of the issues I know Andrew Powell is interested in, and one we have to address, is the future of the flipped classroom and the blended classroom and what the role of technology is,” he said.
Cairns said he worked closely with Boxill to ensure there would be a smooth transition. She suggested Cairns understand how all his committees and advisors can help him.
“It’s an increasingly complex job,” said Cairns. “It’s important to represent the views of an ever-expanding and complex environment.”