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Wednesday, 06 March 2019 11:46
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Nancy J. Cable, the recently named eighth chancellor of UNC Asheville, shared her vision for the university during a Feb. 1 address to the Council of Independennt Business Owners at UNCA’s Sherrill Center.

Cable was introduced by John Pierce, the university’s vice chancellor for administration and finance. 

After reviewing Cable’s numerous accomplishments and university administrative jobs, he paused and then noted with a broad smile, “She has the designation of signing Steph Curry’s application at Davidson (University).” Curry went on to excel in basketball at Davidson and later entered the pros, where he remains a standout, six-time NBA All-Star with the Golden State Warriors., 

In concluding his introduction of Cable, Pierce asserted, “She brings a wonderful, wonderful background to UNC Asheville!”

In reference to Pierce’s review of the many university jobs she has held, Cable prompted laughter when she wryly quipped, “Every time I hear something like that, it sounds like I can’t hold a job.”

More seriously, she added, “In my mind, I’ve landed in the very best spot in the very best job.

“I’m very glad Deb Campbell (Ashevlle’s new city manager, who addressed CIBO earlier in the meeting) and the mayor (Ether Manheimer) and I will be able to work together.

She then added, “Today, is a red-letter day for all of us, as Mission Health has been sold” to HCA Healthcare, a for-profit corporation based in Nashville, Tenn. (Mission previously was an Asheville-based nonprofit.)

“You know we are the designated liberal arts and sciences institution of the UNC System.

“The liberal arts has its roots way back in the Renaissance....”

On a lighter note, Cable triggered laughter from the CIBO audience when she said, “Some people say to me, “If you have the liberal arts here, where are the conservative arts?’ That’s a legitimate question.”

Turning more serious, Cable said, “There were four courses in the early liberal arts curriculum: (1) moral philosophy, to teach you how to have the character to advance new ideas (2) the early forms of astronomy and chemistry (3) advanced Christianity and (4) classic languages.

“What was the purpose?” the chancellor asked, rhetorically. “At that time, only the most learned could take those courses.

“But we (through a liberal arts education) are proud that we continue to advance the life of the mind. But it’s also about their (liberal arts students’ and graduates’) ability to collaborate with others, to communicate and to be able to work on projects that are problem-solving.

“But it doesn’t mean we forget the workforce,” Cable said.

To that end, she asserted, “Last year, we had 20 students apply for medical school — and all 20 students were admitted to their first-choice medical school. (applause)

Cable noted that Michael S. Roth, in his book, “Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters,” wrote of “liberal learning’s purpose” at length, noting that a liberal arts education teaches students that, “by challenging the forces of conformity, it promises to shape” the world in a different way.

Also, a liberal arts education, through “the free inquiry (process), helps us think for ourselves, and helps us become better acquainted with our own hopes and desires,” she said. “When liberal education works, it never ends.”

Cable then asked, rhetorically, “But you might say to me this is a very technological world. What does it mean to be liberally educated in such a technological world?”

She cited a high-tech company chief, who predicted that, in five years, “all technology platforms will not be coding language that anyone cares about. ...

“In fact, it’s the softer more intellectual skills (gleaned from a liberal arts education) that will prevail. These are the things that will really sustain us,” she said, quoting the high-tech company chief.

Given the challenge to the value of getting a liberal arts education at this point in American history, Cable said she feels “the thrill of being at an institution” like UNCA.

“We are the home of the Journal of Undergraduate Research for the United States,” she said, with a note of pride. “Forty percent of our students (at UNCA) hold a job while they’re going to school here.

“So when you go to our games, you may not see as many students as at UVa (the University of Virginia) or Davidson (both of which are where she has served in various administrative posts) because many of our students are economic drivers.

“Finally, a couple things about being a chancellor in today’s world... Parents want to know the value proposition in today’s world. We have to hold up the successes of our recent alumni.

“Another challenge is the omnipresence of social devices. We want so much for our students to lay those devices down. And they do so in the classrooms. We really want you to know that’s a problem for us.

“We’re always struggling for additional sources of revenue. At some point in the future, I think you’ll be hearing from us about our fundraising efforts.”

Pausing, Cable then said, “We are so grateful for you” to allow her to address CIBO.

“We are UNCA — And that’s why I have the best job in the house.”

In a question-and-answer session afterward, an unidentified man asked, “I’d like to mention the (UNCA) Steam Studio, which arguably” played a key role in the development of the River Arts District. “I hope this fusion of the city’s riverfront continues to grow.”

In response, Cable said, “If anything, we’d like to increase the fluidity with Asheville and Buncombe in our interactions.”

Amanda Edwards, a new member of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, told the chancellor, “I’m a graudate of this university — I’m very proud to say that. 

“When I was here, the vast majority (of students) didn’t want to be doctors and lawyers. How do you plan to encourage more to be teachers and administrators?”

“It’s never been the majority (of UNCA graduates) going on to graduate school,” Cable replied. “The majority go into professional jobs. 

“We work with them (UNCA students) on career planning from the time they were admitted. The salient question is ‘Not what you want to be when you grow up?’ but ‘What problem do you want to solve?’”

Cable added, “I hope they (UNCA’s graduates) will go on to be teachers….”


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