A Legacy of Leadership

Chancellor Grant's Impact on the University

Chancellor Mary K. Grant

UNC Asheville’s seventh chancellor empowers faculty, staff, and students to hold a mirror up to themselves and see their true potential—not only as individuals, but as leaders and difference makers in Asheville, the region, and the world.

“Chancellor Grant brought a level of energy that matched a faculty eager to help move our campus in a new direction. Thanks to her leadership, the faculty and administration developed a more cohesive relationship with a focus on enhancing our systems of shared governance,” said Micheal Stratton, chair of faculty senate, and chair and associate professor of management. “Together, we asked difficult questions and challenged assumptions in an effort to reimagine our strategic priorities.”

Student success and academic rigor are central to a UNC Asheville education, defined as directions in the university’s strategic plan, which was developed with the engagement of over 500 faculty, students, staff, alumni, trustees, and community members under Chancellor Grant’s leadership. Through this planning, she fostered a deep commitment to supporting diverse and inclusive communities, making innovation a core competency, and renewing attention toward sustainability—all core values of the strategic plan that were unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate—with enthusiasm!

In just three years, she led a renaissance of creative partnerships with the community, including the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Mission Health, and Asheville City Schools. She established UNC Asheville as a center for creativity, innovation, and excellence in the public liberal arts, bringing the community to campus for tours, lectures, concerts, games and important conversations. Chancellor Grant’s work in the community makes it clear that UNC Asheville is Asheville’s university.

“When Jim and I arrived over winter break three years ago, we instantly felt at home and felt the warmth of this campus community. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to have served alongside this distinguished faculty and this talented, passionate group of administrators, staff, and students. We knew that we had made the right choice because of all of you and because of the mission, the strength, and the possibilities of UNC Asheville.”

During Chancellor Grant’s tenure, UNC Asheville was ranked No. 1 for “Making an Impact,” by The Princeton Review, recognizing schools with the best community service opportunities, student governments, sustainability, and on-campus student engagement. UNC Asheville continues to earn high marks for value and academic excellence, garnering an annual Top 10 place on the Best Public Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News and World Report. In addition, The Fiske Guide to Colleges once again named UNC Asheville a “Best Buy,” and the university is also featured in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 375 Green Colleges: 2017 Edition for its commitment to sustainability.

"It has been the privelege of a lifetime to have served alongside this distinguished faculty and this talented, passionate group of administrators, staff, and students."

Since Chancellor Grant stepped onto campus, she has increased access to higher education which brought in one of the largest classes of incoming students on record. Through Chancellor Grant’s encouragement and passion, UNC Asheville scholars succeed in academics and athletics. Seventy percent of student-athletes made the Dean’s or Chancellor’s Lists in 2016, and the Bulldogs scored big on the basketball court, winning three Big South Conference championships in two years. She is a champion for the Bulldogs in the classroom and beyond, bringing women’s golf to UNC Asheville and serving as president of the Big South Conference.

Under Chancellor Grant’s leadership, UNC Asheville secured millions in grant funding for the arts and sciences, from launching the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation scholars in chemistry and biology to securing funding for Center for Creative Entrepreneurship through the Windgate Foundation in partnership with the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recognized the university’s expanded work in community engagement through a $700,000 grant for an arts and educational alliance focused on public humanities, which further connects UNC Asheville’s expertise to the city of Asheville.

“Mary exemplifies integrity, innovation, and strong character—and her authenticity, humility, and insightfulness have been the cornerstone for her remarkable success as chancellor these past three years." —UNC System President Margaret Spellings.

“With her fierce commitment to diversity and student success, Dr. Grant played a pivotal role in securing the $1.5-million grant that is strengthening college careers of low-income, first-generation female minority students as well as those of post-doctoral teaching and research fellows,” said Marilyn Foote-Hudson, executive director of the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation. “Her profound understanding of the value of mentorship and the difference it can make in one’s personal and professional development are just part of her vast legacy. Her strong and visionary leadership, driven by a passion for education and compassion for her students and faculty, sets her apart in the field of higher education. It has been a privilege to work closely with Chancellor Grant, who serves as a beacon for those who love teaching and those who love learning.”

Chancellor Grant is not slowing down, from increasing connectivity through technological advances to encouraging collaboration vital to interdisciplinary innovations, she is moving full steam ahead. The launch of STEAM Studio at the RAMP exemplifies how a liberal arts curriculum drives innovation, bringing together the next generation of makers, engineers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

As students’ learning opportunities continue to expand, so does the campus. Several construction projects are underway including UNC Asheville’s first apartment-style student residences, renovations to the Highsmith Student Union, and renovations to two academic buildings—Owen and Carmichael Halls. These projects represent $67 million in campus construction and renovations, including $21.1 million funded through Connect NC bonds, which Chancellor Grant led the efforts to secure.

“Mary exemplifies integrity, innovation, and strong character—and her authenticity, humility, and insightfulness have been the cornerstone for her remarkable success as chancellor these past three years,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings. “This is no doubt a loss for UNC Asheville and the University of North Carolina System, but we can all agree that North Carolina—and particularly the west—is a better place because of Chancellor Grant’s leadership.”

Chancellor Grant will continue to engage future generations in the work of citizenship and democracy as she takes on her new role as president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.