Conversation with UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon Gaber about becoming a ‘major research university’

For the last week, we’ve been celebrating 75 years of UNC Charlotte.
For the last week, we’ve been celebrating 75 years of UNC Charlotte.
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:32 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 8:42 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - We’re On Your Side Tonight talking about staying competitive.

For the last week, we’ve been celebrating 75 years of UNC Charlotte.

It’s a milestone but it’s still a young university. As it keeps growing, it’s also trying to forge its own identity - something it can use to compete against other schools.

In the last few months, the school has revealed a new logo, something meant to brand itself as just “Charlotte.”

But there are other plans in the works too to give UNC Charlotte an edge over the competition.

One of them is becoming a major research university.

On Your Side Tonight’s Jamie Boll sat down with UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon Gaber.

She says they’re well on their way to another big step in that goal.

Jamie Boll: When you have research universities and research dollars, I think people in the general community don’t exactly know what that means. Where is Charlotte? Right now, in that regards? Where do you want to go? Why is it important?

Chancellor Gaber: Well, so right now in the state of North Carolina, the research one universities are UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State and Duke. We’re a research two and we’re talking about continuing to move forward, potentially being a research one.

Our plan is a 10-year plan. We believe we certainly could hit that within that time period. It may be seven years.

Why is it important? Because when you get federal dollars, when you get state dollars, when you get industry dollars, then you’re looking at new technologies, new innovations, startup companies, you’re looking at entrepreneurs that come from this.

So, it brings value to the community as well.

Jamie Boll: Is there a reputational value then to that as well?

Chancellor Gaber: Yeah.

Jamie Boll: And I guess, you know, it’s that question, Is this a regional university? Is it a national university? Are we somewhere in between? Where do you want it to be?

Chancellor Gaber: Yeah, we’re a national university at this point.

But I think we are young. And what we know is, research helps to drive people’s understanding of what a university is doing, strengthen academic programs,

Jamie Boll: We talked about competition in other schools. And one thing you have to notice in Charlotte is Wake Forest and its presidency, you know, here in the community, how do you view that? Is that a good thing? Is it something that becomes a competitive thing with them? What is your view on that?

Chancellor Gaber: I’d like to figure out are there are opportunities for our students and our faculty and staff to work with the Atrium, Wake Forest med school program partnership. And, you know, so we’ve reached out and had a few conversations, I don’t know what that will look like.

But I am pleased that they’re at least willing to have that discussion.

Jamie Boll: Because there was obviously a conversation here a few years back about medical schools, law schools, those kinds of things. So, those just set aside for now.

Chancellor Gaber: Well, I mean, they, you know, that’s the med school has happened, and Atrium and Wake are working together.

So that’s not our area. It seems like a lot of focus, you know, right now is well, time to with the data stuff that’s happening here.

Jamie Boll: Yeah, the computer sciences. Is that just sort of right now, kind of a laser focus? Because of obviously the demand everywhere for it?

Chancellor Gaber: In our school of data science, it has been really well regarded. There’s strong demand, our College of Computing and Informatics has been in strong demand and our bioinformatics group, which is in the informatics area, I mean, they have led our wastewater testing work, which has helped to keep our COVID spread minimal.

So, I mean, they’ve done a lot, but it really has been, those areas have really helped grow. And I know that as companies come in, there’s been great demand for those students and those faculty.

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