Around the Quad

News on the University's Impact, Initiatives, and Events

Economic Impact

UNC Asheville, an academic anchor institution and one of the top 20 employers in the Asheville area, raised local economic output by almost half a billion dollars in fiscal year 2017, according to an economic impact study conducted by Tom Tveidt of SYNEVA Economics LLC.

“It is clear that UNC Asheville is an engine of economic growth within the region. While it is impossible to put a value on the cultural impact of the institution, the students and wide scope of events held on campus reinforce the critical role the university plays in the creative economy. UNC Asheville’s regional impact is multifaceted, vibrant, sustainable, and diverse, further solidifying its status as the academic, athletic, cultural, economic, and social hub of the region,” said Tveidt in the report.

The 2017 study finds that economic activity generated by UNC Asheville also supports 3,911 local jobs and adds $164.6 million in local income within the four-county metropolitan area of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison. The university increasesannual tax revenues by more than $62.4 million dollars.

“This report quantifies many aspects of our work and exemplifies how a liberal arts education impacts the local community, from the capital projects being constructed on campus to the daily conversations and collaborations happening in our studios, classrooms and labs. Asheville’s university is a regional powerhouse, creating jobs, educating citizens, attracting visitors to the area, and in many cases, giving visitors a great reason to stay, while contributing to the creative economy of our state and region,” said Interim Chancellor Joe Urgo.

Categories of impact include:

  • Campus Operations of $278 million
  • Alumni Education Premium of $96.1 million accounting for the value of spending by the more than 7,000 alumni in the area, who have increased earnings due to their postsecondary degrees
  • Student Spending of $44.3 million
  • Outside Visitor Spending of $15.3 million
  • Annual New Resident Attraction of $9.4 million
  • On-campus Capital Spending of $7 million in fiscal year 2017

$79 million in Capital Projects

UNC Asheville is planning to invest more than $79 million in capital projects beginning in the 2017 fiscal year through 2021.

$16.6 million contributed by Athletics

Of this total, $14.3 million is attributed to UNC Asheville Athletics Campus Operations with $2.3 million from outside visitors.

$12.6 million contributed by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)

With over 2,500 members, OLLI is recognized as one of the largest and most innovative lifelong learning programs for older adults. The total impact of OLLI includes $2.8 million from OLLI operations and $9.4 million from annual new resident attraction.

100,000+ Volunteer Hours Annually

UNC Asheville's campus community contributed over 100,000 volunteer hours annually, representing significant civic engagement.

Impact in Numbers

UNC Asheville Again Tops The Princeton Review List

UNC Asheville has once again earned top marks in The Princeton Review’s Colleges that Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck. The 2018 edition ranks UNC Asheville No. 2 nationally among the Top 25 Best Schools for Making an Impact. These 25 schools were selected based on student ratings and responses to survey questions covering community service opportunities at their school, student government, sustainability efforts, and on-campus student engagement.

Educational Agreement Enhances Research and Resources

In a signing ceremony in January, United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. (USET) and UNC Asheville agreed to collaborate on an education initiative that will offer undergraduate opportunities at one of the nation’s top public liberal arts universities, while enhancing cultural research and resources across the southern and eastern United States.

USET and UNC Asheville will jointly develop programming and research projects for UNC Asheville faculty and students in areas such as economic development, environmental sustainability, health and wellness, and language revitalization, along with other Tribal sovereignty initiatives. The initiatives will enrich both the UNC Asheville campus and the broader Asheville community. Some of these Native American initiatives include programming in the arts, crafts, dance, storytelling, Tribal governance, and issues related to Tribal sovereignty and U.S. federal relations.

Beginning August 2018, UNC Asheville also will set aside 20 enrollment slots for enrolled citizens of USET member Tribal Nations for the fall semester.

Food for Thought

Donna Bailey and Liz Saylor of the Walnut Cove Members Association present the grant to UNC Asheville students and staff on the food security project team in February.

UNC Asheville Named Tree Campus/Bee Campus
UNC Asheville has attained Tree Campus status from the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. The certification comes as the result of meeting Tree Campus USA's five standards, which include maintaining a tree advistory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree programs, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project.

The campus celebrated the newest title on the bi-annual campus service day during spring Greenfest and announced its renewed certification as the eighth Bee Campus USA.

Grant Funding for Community Initiatives

UNC Asheville received a $7,500 grant from the Walnut Cove Members Association, presented by Donna Bailey and Liz Saylor on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. The grant, written by UNC Asheville Director of Sustainability Sonia Marcus, was awarded as part of the Healthy Campus Initiative—initiated through a partnership with Mission Health dedicated to improving the health of students, faculty and staff.

The Pi Run, hosted by the Asheville Initiative for Math, and racing into its second year, received transportation funding from the Gannett Foundation through the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Campus has renewed energy and enthusiasm for electric vehicle charging stations, thanks to a grant from Duke Energy. Awarded in 2016 to UNC Asheville’s Department of Public Safety, the grant added two charging stations at UNC Asheville, free to users. The statewide project aims to increase EV charging stations by 30 percent.

Back on Track

Summer School Leads to Student Success

UNC Asheville has received two years of grant funding to offer cost-free core curriculum classes to upper-level students who need four to eight credits to get back on track for graduation. The pilot program, supported by a $31,500 award from the UNC System helped 23 students in 2017—19 of those have applied for May 2018 graduation, avoiding an extra semester of expenses.

As part of the UNC System’s Actualizing Innovations Meant to Scale (AIMS) grants, the program also provided valuable insight into how it might be applied to future summer semesters through the addition of other core courses, to specific populations such as rural and low-income students, and to more students through price-point incentives. Scaling up has also attained additional grant funding from the UNC System to implement a second year of the summer program.

The First to Finish program starts this summer 2018, with a grant of $95,000 from the UNC System. It will benefit approximately 100 students from UNC Asheville’s AVID, SOAR, and JumpStart Programs. For more information, contact the OneStop Office at

Honorary Degrees

May 2018 Commencement Celebrations

Update: The UNC Asheville Board of Trustees voted to accept the voluntary return of William J. Murdock’s 2018 honorary degree and to rescind the award on March 8, 2019. Read the Board of Trustees' statement.

UNC Asheville’s Spring Commencement recognized William J. Murdock, co-founder and CEO of Eblen Charities, who also served as this year’s commencement speaker, along with Etta Whitner Patterson, a civil rights activist and former student of UNC Asheville’s predecessor institution, Asheville-Biltmore College; and S. Tucker Cooke, professor emeritus of art at UNC Asheville. As honorary degree recipients, each individual is recognized for their service to campus, community, and the state.

William J. Murdock

William J. MurdockWilliam J. Murdock, a resident of Western North Carolina since childhood, is the co-founder and CEO of Eblen Charities and the Eblen Center for Social Enterprise, an award-winning organization dedicated to helping families with medical and emergency assistance.




Etta Whitner PattersonEtta Whitner Patterson

Etta Whitner Patterson was born and raised in Asheville’s historic “East End” neighborhood, served as president of ASCORE, the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality, and in the fall of 1961, became the first black student admitted to Asheville-Biltmore College, UNC Asheville’s predecessor institution.



S. Tucker Cooke

S. Tucker Cooke

S. Tucker Cooke joined the art faculty of Asheville-Biltmore College in 1966. During his four decades at the university—including more than 30 years as department chair—he was instrumental in expanding the art department in both size and reputation.


Watch the Spring Commencement online at

Interwoven Identity

Weaving together art and new media, literature and storytelling, music and dance, craft vendors and the community is an annual tradition for UNC Asheville’s Arts Fest. The 2018 festival embodied the theme through interactive installations thanks to Nancy Belmont’s UNITY and SOAR. Stretching across a 40-foot span on the Quad, the colorful yarn web connected identity and humanity, with classes and the community contributing to the display. See more at

(Photo by Adam Taylor)