University launches Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group

The University’s senior leadership is bringing a fresh perspective to fostering academic success for student-athletes during their entire Carolina experience.

A campus working group led by new Provost James W. Dean Jr. and Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham is taking a comprehensive approach to assessing and enhancing how the University provides academic support to student-athletes.

“Our group will look at everything, from when student-athletes are recruited and admitted to when they leave Chapel Hill,” Dean said. “Our focus will be on supporting their academic success as part of an ongoing process.”

The Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group is examining current practices, procedures, policies and other factors that affect the lives of approximately 800 student-athletes and will develop a rigorous and transparent set of processes and metrics as part of the initiative, Dean said.

He said the objective is to ensure proper alignment with the University’s academic mission, a goal that is consistent with Cunningham’s strategic plan for the Department of Athletics.

Chancellor Carol Folt, Dean and Cunningham are united in the belief that Carolina is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the national conversation about the role of athletics in the life of a university community.

The working group aims to build on, support and enhance recent progress across campus in strengthening relationships between academics and athletics, Dean said. Examples include the ongoing work of the Faculty Council’s Faculty Athletics Committee; the reorganization of and new leadership for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, which now reports to Dean’s office; and the implementation of the new strategic plan in the athletics department.

The University also will have the opportunity to consider recommendations from a panel of distinguished leaders in higher education and athletics led by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities. The panel, which grew out of a key recommendation in a faculty report, has been considering how the University’s recent experiences may apply to other campuses and the national higher education community on a broad scale.

Dean, an organizational behavior and strategic decision-making expert and former dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School, became provost on July 1. Cunningham assumed his post in November 2011.

Other working group members are:

  • Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions;
  • Michelle Brown, who joined the University last spring as director of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes.
  • Lissa Broome, the Faculty Athletics Representative to the ACC and NCAA; former Faculty Athletics Committee chair and Wells Fargo Professor of Banking Law and Director of the Center for Banking and Finance in the School of Law; and
  • Vince Ille, senior associate athletic director for compliance.
  • Anna Agbe-Davies, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology.
  • Jim Johnson, William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Kenan Flagler Business School and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center.
  • Andy Perrin, associate professor in the Department of Sociology

The three professors were added in mid-September as a way to bring a strong faculty representation to the group, Dean said.

Serving as an adviser to the group is Debbi Clarke, who worked closely with Dean at Kenan-Flagler, where she was the director of the master’s of business administration degree program.

Working group members will seek feedback from and engage with four faculty panels: the Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admission Subcommittee on Special Talent; the Faculty Executive Committee; the Faculty Athletics Committee; and the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.

Ultimately, the goal is for the University to have in place processes covering the total experience of student-athletes that reflect significant faculty involvement and promote ongoing excellence in both academics and athletics, Dean said. The working group’s efforts can help foster even greater collaboration among and between faculty, students, student-athletes, coaches and administrators that will further strengthen the academic experience for student-athletes at the University.

Published August 23, 2013. Updated: September 18, 2013.