Folt named Carolina chancellor

Carol L. Folt, interim president of Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences, has been elected the 11th chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina.

UNC President Tom Ross placed Folt’s name in nomination today (April 12) during a special meeting of the board. Folt, 61, will assume her duties on July 1, succeeding Holden Thorp, who announced last September that he would step down June 30 after five years in the post. He will become provost of Washington University in St. Louis.

Folt will become the first woman to lead Carolina, which opened its doors to students in 1795 as the nation’s first public university.

In recommending Folt to the Board of Governors, Ross said: “Over the past three decades, Carol Folt has accumulated a wealth of academic and leadership experience at one of the top-10 universities in America. At each step along the way, she has proven herself to be an engaged and effective leader who promotes openness and collaboration, strategic thinking and creative problem-solving, and an unwavering commitment to academic excellence and student success. She has also earned a reputation for great integrity, sound judgment, and the ability to face tough and complex challenges head-on. I am convinced that Carol Folt has the right mix of experience, expertise, skills, and passion needed to be a truly great chancellor for UNC-Chapel Hill, and I am thrilled that she has agreed to join our leadership team.”

Dartmouth is a private institution located in Hanover, N.H. Founded in 1769, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious educational institutions in the United States. A member of the Ivy League, it has earned a stellar reputation for combining a deep commitment to outstanding undergraduate liberal arts education with distinguished research and graduate programs in the arts and sciences, medicine, engineering and business. Last year, it was listed 10th among national universities in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” rankings.

Folt has served as Dartmouth’s interim president since Jim Yong Kim resigned last July to become president of the World Bank. An internationally recognized environmental scientist and award-winning teacher, she has served the college in a series of senior academic and administrative roles since 2001.

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An Ohio native, Folt attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, earning a bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology (1976) and a master’s degree in biology (1978). She later received her doctorate in ecology (1982) from the University of California at Davis and conducted postdoctoral studies at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station of Michigan State University.

Since joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1983 as a research instructor in the department of biological sciences, Folt has risen steadily through the academic and administrative ranks and has held an endowed professorship since 2007. Praised as an inspiring teacher and innovative researcher, she was named associate director of Dartmouth’s Toxic Metals Research Program in 1998, and two years later became associate director of its Center for Environmental Health Sciences. In 2001, she was named dean of graduate studies and associate dean of the faculty for interdisciplinary programs. She was promoted to dean of the faculty in 2004, tapped as acting provost in 2009, and appointed provost in 2010. She has served as Dartmouth’s interim president since last July.

During her six-year tenure as dean of the faculty, Folt was credited with increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities in leadership positions, increasing endowed professorships and faculty lines to historic levels, launching a number of new academic programs in emerging areas, enhancing the competitiveness of Dartmouth’s graduate programs, and improving critical student services.

As provost, she led Dartmouth’s first campus-wide strategic planning process, engaging hundreds of faculty, staff and students. Following the national economic downturn, she co-led Dartmouth’s efforts to resolve a $100-million budget gap.

As interim president, she has continued to help Dartmouth identify opportunities for greater collaboration across schools to enhance academic quality and competitiveness, overseen significant growth in global partnerships, and augmented support for faculty, student and community entrepreneurship and technological innovation. She has also spearheaded a year-long, campus-wide celebration and focus on the arts, co-education and the future of higher education.

Folt’s interdisciplinary research has several areas of focus, including the effects of dietary mercury and arsenic on human and ecosystem health, salmonid fisheries management and restoration, and global climate change. She and her colleagues have developed new technologies for assessing mercury environmental exposure and its effects, and have formed regional, national and international partnerships to help guide the establishment of public policy for safer waters. Most recently, they published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences evaluating rice as a source of fetal arsenic exposure. She and her team have published widely and received more than $50 million in competitive research grants to support their work. Folt has mentored more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students in her laboratory and is a recipient of Dartmouth’s J. Kenneth Huntington Memorial Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Research.

Folt was among the original faculty involved in Dartmouth’s Women in Science Project — a first-of-its-kind program designed to address the under-representation of women in science, mathematics and engineering. She has been elected to leadership positions in international scientific societies and is a frequent participant on federal research panels and other national scientific outreach activities. In 2010, she was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of her scientific contributions and her leadership in higher education. Last year, she was named honorary professor at Beijing Normal University.

Folt is married to David R. Peart, a fellow professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. They have two adult children, Noah, 27; and Tessa, 25.

About the University

UNC-Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a leader in American higher education and known around the world for innovative teaching, research and public service. Now in its third century, Carolina offers 78 bachelor’s, 112 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs. Last fall, the University enrolled more than 29,000 students who are taught by a 3,600-member faculty. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service priorities to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties.

Read more about the Chancellor Search.

Read Dartmouth College’s news release.

Published April 12, 2013.