Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina system, will visit the campus of Western Carolina University on Thursday, March 10, and Friday, March 11.
Spellings, who officially took office Tuesday, March 1, is planning to visit every campus and many affiliates of the UNC system over the next few months. Her stop at WCU will be the second on the statewide tour, which begins Wednesday, March 2, at Fayetteville State University in conjunction with a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors at FSU on March 3 and 4.
Spellings’ visit to Cullowhee will coincide with the quarterly meeting of the WCU Board of Trustees, giving the new president a chance to hear from as many voices as possible from the WCU community. She is planning her campus visits in connection with meetings of each institution’s board whenever possible.
Chancellor David O. Belcher said the visit by the university system’s new leader will provide her with highlights about WCU and the institution’s impact on Western North Carolina and the state.
“This offers us opportunities to underscore the important role we play in serving this part of the state and to showcase points of pride,” Belcher said. “It also offers us an opportunity to share our concerns and our challenges. I encourage those of you who will spend time with her to be open and frank – tell her what you love about what we are doing and tell her your concerns. That is what she is looking to glean.”
During her visit to WCU, Spellings will meet with students and student leaders, leaders from Faculty Senate and Staff Senate, community members, and regional political and business leaders. She will take a tour of campus, attend the Board of Trustees meeting and hold a press conference at WCU’s Natural Sciences Building to highlight the $2 billion bond issue that will go before North Carolina voters on Tuesday, March 15. The statewide bond package includes $110 million for the replacement of the 1970s-era Natural Sciences Building.
Spellings was elected president of the UNC system in October, succeeding Thomas W. Ross, who stepped down in January after five years in the post. Junius Gonzales, senior vice president of academic affairs, served as interim president of the university until Spellings’ term began.
Spellings has extensive experience in education policy, having served as U.S. secretary of education from 2005 to 2009, when she focused on issues of accountability and access at all levels of public education. As secretary, she oversaw an agency with an annual budget of nearly $70 billion, with more than 10,000 employees and contractors. Spellings initiated the 2006 Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which shined a spotlight on the need for greater financial aid, lower cost and stronger graduation rates in higher education.
Prior to her service at the U.S. Department of Education, she was the White House domestic policy adviser from 2001 to 2005, covering issues that included education, transportation, health, justice, housing and labor. She worked on President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, as well a comprehensive immigration plan and numerous other policy initiatives.
Early in her career, Spellings served as legislative director and chief committee clerk for the Texas House of Representatives and special projects director for Austin (Texas) Community College, and led governmental and external relations for the Texas Association of School Boards.
Beginning in 2013, she served as president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In that role, she oversaw the operations of the former president’s foundation and public policy institute, and the presidential library and museum.
More information about Spellings’ statewide tour is available on the website northcarolina.edu/first100.
By Bill Studenc