WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - On the job for nearly six months, Jose "Zito" Sartarelli has had a chance to see and hear how things work on the campus of UNC Wilmington. Sartarelli took over as the school's Chancellor July 1, bringing more than 30 years of corporate and business experience, along with his most recent work as the Dean of the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. Since then, he has started the process of putting his stamp on "UNC by the Sea".
"I think it was important for me to make sure my cabinet was 'replenished', and that is mostly done now," Sartarelli said of finding replacements for some high-level administrators who have left UNCW for other academic institutions. "I took the opportunity to meet with faculty and staff extensively. Both the provost and I have spent a lot of time meeting with all of the chairs of the departments, almost 40 of them, so we could get a feel for the University. I've also spent a lot of time on the road, meeting alumni all across the state".
Like the other Chancellors in the UNC System, Sartarelli will be working with a new president starting in 2016. Margaret Spellings, the former Education Secretary under President George W. Bush, was recently hired to lead the 17-campus university system and begins her duties officially March 1. Many have criticized the choice made by the Board of Governors, specifically faculty and students who have called Spellings' choice "political". Sartarelli says he has heard that talk, but he would rather focus on helping Spellings adjust and succeed.
"I have spoken with her a couple of times, both on the phone and face-to-face," Sartarelli said of Spellings. "I think she is very intrigued and challenged by North Carolina, and very excited about the system. I think we should look at her as a leader, someone who has led different organizations in her past and been successful at it. I think, as good men and women of this great state, let's give her a chance to succeed and let's help her succeed. Because if she succeeds, then we will succeed."
Sartarelli says as the leader of UNC Wilmington, he should advocate for issues and opportunities that will improve the institution. One example is the "Connect NC" bond referendum which will go before voters in March of 2016. If approved, the bond will mean more than $1.3 billion in spending on higher education, with $980 million targeted for the UNC System. Specifically, an approved bond would mean a new $66 million Allied Health Sciences Building for the local campus, to support a program growing in large numbers.
"Our College of Health and Human Services has been growing very fast," Sartarelli said."In the past five years we've grown by about 135 percent, huge amount of growth. We have more than 2,200 students, lots of nurses, lots of students in gerontology and in social work. So for us, we are in need of this building."
Sartarelli arrived in North Carolina as lawmakers in the General Assembly were working on the 2015-16 state budget, which includes appropriations for the UNC System and its campuses. UNC Wilmington is set to receive more than $101 million from general fund appropriations in 2015-16, which is down when compared to the $103 million appropriated for the university in the 2009-10 budget bill. Still, Sartarelli is a fan of the funding system the state has in place for its public university system.
"If you're growing your institution, you're going to get more money to spend on faculty and on students," he said when asked about funding for the school. "If you're not growing your organization, that's a different story. A lot of states won't work that way. In general what we find is, I think the state of North Carolina funds its higher education relatively well. The question a lot of people are asking is, over the past five years, or seven years, or ten years, have we kept up with inflation. We have not. So, when you do inflation-adjusted, we are probably not keeping up. But, on the other hand, the mechanism we have in place now that pays universities on the basis of delivery of student credit hours, I think it does very well."
The native of Brazil will be installed as UNCW Chancellor March 31, 2016, during a ceremony on campus. Sartarelli looks at it as a celebration more for the entire university community rather than for him.
"I want it to be a milestone in the beginning of a great journey," he said. "This installation, this investiture should be thinking in terms of 'How do we see ourselves two generations from now? 25 or 50 years from now?' I think we are at the brink of turning this into a great university. I think it's already a great university, but even greater."