Peter Hans, current president of the N.C. Community College System, will be the next UNC System President, the Board of Governors voted unanimously Friday at an emergency meeting.
Hans will assume the role on Aug. 1, according to a UNC System press release.
Co-chairperson of the Presidential Search Committee Wendy Murphy said the committee began its work in June 2019, reviewed close to 40 complete submissions and conducted virtual interviews before having in-person interviews with finalists. Murphy, who said the committee submitted three final candidates to the Board, made the recommendation during the meeting that the Board elect Hans.
"Our community college system has 58 colleges with nearly 700,000 students and more than 30,000 employees," Murphy said. "During Peter's time as president, the community college system saw increases in enrollment, completion rates, public funding and private support, along with new and enhanced business partnerships."
Hans previously served three terms on the BOG, including as chairperson from 2012 to 2014. Hans is the ninth president of the N.C. Community College System, and will be taking over the UNC System president position from interim President Bill Roper.
"We've had some wonderful discussions, and I look forward to many more years of progress ahead, a shared commitment to our students at the University (system) and the state of North Carolina," Hans said following the Board's vote.
Roper earlier announced he would step down from the position June 30.
“It has been an honor to serve and it's time for this," Roper said during the meeting.
Board member James L. Holmes, Jr., said the BOG is going to implement a results-based compensation model for the first time, which Hans suggested to the Board. Holmes said Hans' base salary will be around the average salary of UNC System chancellors.
Based on the 2019-20 UNC Salary Information Database, chancellors' salaries ranged from $250,000 to $664,000. UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz's salary was $620,000, as of March 31.
Holmes said the suggestion of using a results-based compensation model demonstrated leadership on Hans' part.
"It demonstrated the fact that here's someone who wants to be rewarded when we all succeed," Holmes said. "And I think that this is a model, hopefully, that we can continue to replicate throughout our recruiting process over time."
N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-District 50, who represents Orange County, expressed enthusiasm about the selection of Hans.
“Peter Hans is a well respected education leader, and I know he will take over our treasured University System with great optimism for the role it can play in North Carolina,” Meyer said in an email statement. “I would encourage him to focus on the role the University System can play in addressing our interlocking challenges of systemic racism, climate change, and public health.”
The national search for a permanent system president — which had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — was announced by the BOG nearly a year ago, and followed former President Margaret Spellings’ decision to step down from the position during the 2018-19 academic year.
Hans had been a finalist for the UNC System president position in 2016, according to a 2018 article by Business North Carolina, although Spellings was eventually chosen. She later hired him as an advisor, a position he served in through 2018.
Breeden Blackwell, chairperson of the State Board of Community Colleges, said the selection of Hans was “not a well-kept secret.” Multiple news outlets reported that Hans would be selected prior to the BOG’s meeting this morning and Rep. Darren Jackson, D-District 39, tweeted confirmation of the choice Thursday.
Blackwell said Hans has brought the UNC and N.C. Community College systems closer, particularly in terms of articulation agreements, which allow for transfer of college credit between institutions. He said, under Hans, enrollment in the N.C. Community College System increased for the first time in nearly 10 years.
“His knowledge of the University system, his knowledge of the community college system, his knowledge of education and what we ought to be doing will blow you away,” Blackwell said. “So he's gonna change, hopefully, some thinking at the University level."
Hans is a North Carolina native and graduated from UNC in 1991 with a degree in political science. He is currently the co-chairperson of the myFutureNC Commission, a statewide nonprofit organization that uses “a broad, bipartisan push” to increase the level of education attainment in North Carolina.
T. Greg Doucette, a Durham-based attorney, who worked alongside Hans on the Board of Governors, said he believes Hans will help break a “longstanding tradition” in which the background of the UNC System president alternates between politics and academia.
The position of UNC System president has been a contentious one in recent years. Former President Tom Ross was forced to resign in 2015, and the tenure and choice itself of Spellings was marked by controversy — over 5,000 students across six UNC campuses protested the selection on her first day in office. The News & Observer also reported in February that the UNC System had spent more than $1 million on the ongoing transition under interim President Bill Roper.
Doucette said Hans’ “bipartisan ties” and experience serving as a Republican BOG member when the N.C. General Assembly was majority-led by Democrats would be helpful in leading the UNC System.
“He's going to have a perpetual challenge having to navigate among those different power centers,” Doucette said. “And I think where I'm hoping he will be a good president, is that he's got some of that experience doing that already and should be able to do the job well.”
Blackwell also said he believes Hans has the potential to work constructively with the N.C. General Assembly and BOG.
“It’s because he speaks the truth and he doesn’t just tell them what they want to hear,” Blackwell said. “And he's tried to help every college, no matter how large or small, rural or urban, or suburban."
Blackwell said while he believes Hans is a dynamic leader, above all, advocating for student success is crucial to his work.
“It's not about the pay, it's not about growing up, it's not about professors, it's not about the Board of Governors,” Blackwell said. “His focus is students.”
A search committee for a new N.C. Community College System president will be in place by July 15, Blackwell said.
The election of the new UNC System president, announced at the BOG’s emergency meeting, was streamed online, with some Board members participating from the UNC Center for School Leadership Development.
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