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Meet Beth Moracco, a candidate for chairperson of the faculty

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Beth Moracco poses for a portrait in her office at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Moracco is running to occupy the position of faculty chairperson for the 2023-24 academic year. 

As a public-health expert, Beth Moracco is uniquely equipped for finding common ground between stakeholders. During her 15-year career at the University, she has leveraged qualitative and quantitative data to address complex issues, such as equitable pay and violence against women. 

Moracco, associate professor in the Department of Heath Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and associate director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, is running for the chairperson of the faculty position.

The 2023 Faculty Election began on March 29 and will close on April 12. 

For eight years, Moracco was the director of UNC’s Master of Public Health program — where she made curricular changes with her colleagues that received approvals from the Graduate School. 

She said she has a “very, very in-depth knowledge” of what it takes to put together and vet program curricula, including the ability to engage with multiple stakeholders to see the future needs for programs. 

“I have a good sense of how faculty governance works,” she said. “I believe in shared governance. I believe that faculty has a role in shared decision-making at the University.”

In 2019, Moracco received the Edward G. McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching from Gillings for her career-long excellence, and in 2021, she was awarded the Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award for her committed dedication to students. 

Stephen Marshall, professor of epidemiology at Gillings and director of the Injury Prevention Research Center, has known Moracco since they were graduate students. 

“That's clearly a really strong thread throughout her whole career — empowering communities so that they make good, collective decisions that are strong and respect the input of everyone,” he said. 

She has been involved with various groups surrounding equity, particularly for faculty members who identify as women. Moracco has held representative positions on the Faculty Council for three terms and has been part of various committees at the University. 

Although the Faculty Council and the Board of Trustees share governance, Moracco said the faculty was “taken aback” when informed of the resolution passed by the BOT in January to accelerate the development of the School of Civic Life and Leadership without their input. 

She said that if she was elected, she would want the faculty to be engaged and involved in the discussions around the creation of any new program, including the new potential school.

As for the new Committee on Academic Freedom and Free Expression, she said she would use a data-driven approach to understand the origin of the need for this sort of committee, including the nature, the determinants and the ways to address the problem.  

Moracco said that she thinks the ban on compelled speech feels hard to interpret, such as in terms of structural racism and its impact on health in the classroom. 

She said that the American Public Health Association has policy statements explaining racism’s effects on health. She believes discussing these findings regarding race and health is necessary for instructing curriculum in a productive way. 

“It's worrisome that there is this policy that is so broad and so vague, and clarification would be very helpful because we can't go back,” she said. “We cannot stop our efforts to be more inclusive, more equitable and to address historic wrongs.” 

Alexis Moore, project manager at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, has crossed paths with Moracco since the 1990s, including at the Injury Prevention Research Center. 

Moore has also worked with Moracco in family violence prevention. She said that she’s always struck by how much Moracco values the perspective of the different constituencies she has worked with, including law enforcement, judges, researchers and non-profit organizations. 

“I've also worked with her in the department of health behavior and had opportunities to sort of observe and be adjacent to the work that she does in terms of planning, teaching, mentoring students and working with colleagues on committees,” Moore said. “She just has this remarkable gift for bringing together stakeholders.” 

When Moracco serves on a committee, Moore believes that she becomes an expert by incorporating many viewpoints into her leadership and the skills she brings. 

“I think she has the capacity to provide really thoughtful, knowledgeable, creative, consensus-building leadership,” Moore said. “These are some big challenges we are facing.” 

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Moracco is facing UNC law professor Tom Kelley in the election.