Transcript of Chancellor Miller’s Remarks

Wilmington Industrial Development Meeting

Organizations like WID are what we need in communities to create strong connections among business, industry, government and higher education. You are leaders in this area, and you bring that to this Southeastern part North Carolina, and it is a very unique place. We are at a place shaped by deep history, by deep roots, by deep cultural roots, and by, of course, by the environment, which includes not only the economic engine and the cities, but also the great ocean that we have in our backyard, and this is very, very important to us at UNCW.

The Greater Wilmington Area has an abundance of opportunities. We know that, and you know most of these: a busy port, a busy airport, and, of course, all the businesses that you represent. But what I want to discuss tonight, for just a second, in the few minutes I have, is the challenge that we face in higher education, and I want you to think about a few things.

We are in a transition in this country in higher education in the way that universities interact with business, and the way we interact with government. We are about renegotiating these interactions, and it is a fairly dramatic renegotiation in the case of some of these.

The vision that you have in this organization is one that we want to join. We have to.  As universities, we have to become part of this community in every way possible. It’s true, we do have educational opportunities here, and our job, our main job for society, is to educate young people and graduate students, but we also conduct research, we create knowledge, and we have enormous capacity to reach out and partner with you to add value to the economy and to add opportunities for our students and our faculty.

As we go forward, one of the things that I have made a hallmark of my brief time here at the university, and I hope to talk about this a lot more as we move through this fall and into the spring, is that we want this university to be nationally recognized in how it engages with business and with this community. We have values at this university, and we will support those values. You have values, and you will support those, but they overlap. There’s a lot we can do together, and there’s a lot we have to do together to continue to improve the human condition, to improve education, to improve the economy and to continue to make the state of North Carolina one of the absolutely best places to live and, of course, Wilmington as the best place in the state.

So what we’re doing at the university, and what we have done over the last couple of months, is to focus our energy on how we transition from an organization that plans to an organization that innovates. And we have put in place some processes that we rolled out to the faculty several weeks ago that will let the enormous, imaginative power, and creative power, of the faculty and students in this university, and the power that comes from their interaction with you, give us ideas about how we do 21st century higher education in a global economy.

This is something that we very much need your help on, and that we very much expect to ask you to partner with us in. Now I’ve challenged my faculty, and we’re challenging the university, to think about not only how we do our work, but how we can do our work with you in a way that will increase our opportunity to give students a good chance – a better chance – to prosper in the 21st century, but also to continue to increase the power of the intangible benefits that come from having a research university like UNCW in our midst. One of the things that is very important to us is this partnership.

We have a wonderful opportunity here. A couple of years ago, two years ago, the university took a risk and decided to partner with the federal government to develop the MARBIONC facility and building at the Center for Marine Science. Now this is, for higher education, a relatively new idea. It is a facility that is intended to be a facility where we don’t just nurture ideas, but we partner to develop ideas, and then translate those ideas to help the human condition, to create food, to create pharmaceuticals and to make things better.

This is a $30 million dollar project, funded half by the federal government and half by the university. We are investing very heavily in this. We are putting our money where our mouth is with regard to engagement in Southeastern North Carolina, and we expect this be one of the more unique partnerships in the country as we go forward.

We have the science, we have the entrepreneurial spirit at the Center for Marine Science, we have potential partners in this state in all of the research institutions in the state (in fact, we had some discussions about that this morning) and we will reach out to you and others around the globe who want to work with us in mining the oceans for pharmaceuticals and translating those to human use in working to develop food sources from the ocean that take less energy on the input side. We believe we can do this and this will be, we hope, a big part of the economy for this part of North Carolina.

We are going to be coming to you individually over the next year or so to talk to you about this MARBIONC opportunity, because we believe it is something that many of you will be interested in. With the help of Larry Clark and his school, we are reaching out across the ocean. We now have people who are working with global companies, talking to them about the opportunity, and we will continue to work – we are just now beginning this – but we will continue to develop partnerships with our sister universities in the state to make sure that North Carolina, led by UNCW, is, in fact, the center of marine research in this nation. Your connections and experience and expertise will be of great help to us in this.

The current economic climate is a difficult one for all of us. We understand that. We have accepted it. We will take as our mantra moving forward, in working with you, that the best way for higher education to predict its future is to invent it, in the words of Alan Kay, the computer scientist.

We can only do this with you, and I appreciate the opportunity, more than you know, to come and be with you briefly this evening, to introduce myself and to introduce this idea.  I look forward to talking with many of you in the weeks to come. Thank you for coming to UNCW; thank you for your interest in this university.  And for those of you who want to stay for another event today, we’ll plan something starting around midnight for you to show up.

Thank you very much for your attention.


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