Carolina answers call to do good, better

Heather Munroe-Blum believes innovation at Carolina is as old as the University itself.

Innovation began when Carolina did, 217 years ago, with the rise of a public university predicated on the then radical notion that the public had an innate intelligence that, if unlocked, would greatly benefit the state, she said.

Then, midway through the 20th Century, Carolina helped co-found a second great innovation – Research Triangle Park – a model that would become the archetype for economic development around the world.

More recently, the Carolina Covenant – which has enabled qualified students from low-income families to graduate debt-free – is another innovation that works, as evidenced by several imitators, said Munroe-Blum, principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University in Montreal, who was the guest speakerfor the traditional University Day convocation.

Munroe-Blum, who earned a doctorate with distinction in epidemiology from Carolina in 1983, has dedicated her career to advancing higher education, science and innovation in Canada. She has advised governments around the world on the role of universities in advancing international competitiveness.

“Now, more than ever, the United States needs innovative universities like UNC-Chapel Hill, because the electronic mobility of the Information Age and the unprecedented mobility of the people around the world are redrawing the map of global influence, and innovation will define its contours,” Munroe-Blum said.

Munroe-Blum said she was proud to be a graduate of a great public university like Carolina that has always been a profound force for good in the world. But the University must do even more.

“Today, we are being asked to examine how we can all do more to make our world a safer, more equitable, healthier and more prosperous place,” she said. “We are being challenged to do good, better.”

Chancellor Holden Thorp said Carolina stands ready – “with the brainpower and talent and ideas” – to answer that call.

“The people of North Carolina and around the world have invested tremendous resources in research universities because they believe that the quest for knowledge improves people’ lives,” Thorp said.

“At critical times in our history, the people have looked to this University for answers. And Carolina has always responded.”

And it will do so again, he said.

Plans to do just that are in hand with the launch last month of “Innovate@Carolina: Important Ideas for a Better World,” a roadmap developed by alumni, friends, faculty and students.