The Carolina Center for Public Service is one of nine centers and institutes at risk of losing state funding, which is about a third of its budget.
“I was stunned and horrified to see that it was on the list,” said Susan Worley, a member of the center’s advisory board.
The Board of Governors moved the center to final review in December, which Worley saw as antithetical to UNC’s mission.
“We’re the first public university and it’s really been a part of what UNC has been from the very start — has been, ‘How does this university serve the state?’ And the center is really the institution that helps make that happen,” she said.
Lynn Blanchard, director of the center, said UNC can be proud of all nine centers and institutes on the board’s list.
“Centers and institutes are the interdisciplinary space of the University, so they’re the places where students and faculty and staff can basically gather across disciplinary lines and break down some of the boundaries,” she said. “The list exhibits that — the diversity of the things that folks address.”
Blanchard said losing state money would be a blow, but the Carolina Center for Public Service would survive.
“People are more willing to give money when they see other people investing in you, and when they see the University and the state investing in us, they think, well you know, if they see enough to invest in, then we want to give money too,” she said.
Maureen Berner, a professor in the School of Government, said she’s benefited from being a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar, a program funded by the Center for Public Service that offers faculty a $5,000 stipend for two years while they do research that helps the state.
“The Thorp program provides assistance in getting scholars to get out in the field and to do this type of work, rather than to just ask the theoretical questions while they sit in their office in Chapel Hill,” Berner said.
Berner’s research examines why North Carolina’s participation in a federal program to reduce children’s hunger is below 20 percent, with zero participation in some counties.
Her research as a scholar has attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, which is starting a national consortium to do research on similar topics.
Berner said the Thorp program represents a small investment with big payoffs in terms of national attention.
“I absolutely applaud their work with public service scholars in the undergraduate programs,” Berner said. “The numbers of students who pursue public service scholar status speaks for itself in terms of having an impact on undergraduate education.”
To be a Buckley Public Service Scholar, students must complete 300 hours of service and graduate with a 3.0 GPA, among other requirements. In the class of 2014, 251 students were Buckley scholars.
Another program in the center is APPLES, one of the oldest undergraduate service-learning programs in the country. APPLES has been part of the center since 2009 but was founded by students in 1990.
Senior Cayce Dorrier, president of APPLES, said the center’s connections across campus help APPLES implement new ideas.
“My college career would not have been the same without it, so I’m hoping that the Board of Governors can see all of that from the little time that (Blanchard) had to present to them, and that we’ll be able to continue to receive state funding, because we really do impact the state a lot,” she said.
APPLES is partly paid for by student fees for service learning. The center’s money comes from the state, grants and gifts, Blanchard said.
Until the Board of Governors meet in Charlotte on Feb. 27, the center must wait to hear if it will lose one-third of its funding.
“We’re pretty proud of everything we’ve done, and think that we have demonstrated that the investment that the state has made in us has paid off in many different ways,” Blanchard said.