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Who's new at UNC: An overview of this summer's new University leaders

Students walk by the Old Well on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

This summer, a range of leaders have stepped into new roles at UNC. 

The Daily Tar Heel has reported on many of these positions, from faculty leaders to a center's director to the vice chancellor for research.

Here’s an overview of who’s new at the University.

Beth Moracco

Beth Moracco officially began as the chair of the UNC faculty, succeeding Mimi Chapman, on July 1.

Moracco, an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, will serve a three-year term in the role, which includes updating the Faculty Council on the state of the faculty and representing the chancellor in academic matters.

She has been on the Faculty Council and various committees at the University in the past, and hopes to build an inclusive and equitable environment and protect the faculty's role in the University's shared governance.

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

Blair LM Kelley

On July 1, the Center for the Study of the American South welcomed Blair LM Kelley as its new director. The position includes being the co-director of the Southern Futures initiative, a program within the center.

Kelley is a historian and scholar of the African American experience who was previously the assistant dean of interdisciplinary studies and international programs of N.C. State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The goal of CSAS — a research center for the study of Southern culture from the past, present and future — is to uplift diverse perspectives found in the South.

Kelley said she wants the center to be a space of innovation and collaboration for students and faculty.

“I want to make sure that CSAS is a welcoming and special place and an inclusive place for all students,” she told The Daily Tar Heel. “I am excited about that aspect of it, the really public-facing front porch of the University that CSAS can be.” 

Jocelyn Neal

The new chair of the UNC Department of Music, Jocelyn Neal, will continue her previous work expanding the department’s curriculum to incorporate various genres of popular music in her new role.

“Conventionally, music theory courses have focused on a very narrow slice of musical repertory and we have opened up a menu of courses, all of which teach music theoretic concepts, but which engage with a bunch of different musical traditions and a bunch of different notation systems and a bunch of different ways of understanding form in music,” she told The Daily Tar Heel.

Neal, who began the UNC Bluegrass Initiative in 2016, has been interested in introducing alternatives to traditional Western tonal music to undergraduates in the music department since she was a student herself.

In addition to refining the music department’s curriculum, which has been in effect since the fall 2022 semester, she plans to support department faculty in their individual interests as chair.

Penny Gordon-Larsen

Penny Gordon-Larsen became the vice chancellor for research at UNC on July 5 after having served as the interim for the position since March of last year.

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Gordon-Larsen is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, which is in both the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of Medicine.

Her new role includes overseeing 13 research centers and institutes at the University; developing strategic research priorities; and managing proposals, awards and funding opportunities.

Gordon-Larsen said she is focused on innovative research and helping discoveries become global knowledge.

“In our state, we're at a very unprecedented moment, when technological and scientific advances create new areas of scientific inquiry that are happening at the same time that we're getting major expansion of regional industries that directly draw on UNC research talents, and in our workforce pipeline,” she said.

Upcoming positions

Additionally, Dedric Carter and Mary Margaret Frank will be taking over new roles in the coming months.

Carter will be joining UNC’s administration on Oct. 30 as the vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development and chief innovation officer.

Frank will be the next dean of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and will begin her position on Aug. 15.

Defne Önal, Madison Gagnon and Mary Mungai contributed reporting to this story.


@dailytarheel |

Eliza Benbow

Eliza Benbow is the 2023-24 lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer university editor. Eliza is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and creative writing, with a minor in Hispanic studies.