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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a leading public institution of higher education. As the oldest public university in the United States, Carolina has a long tradition of producing highly engaged citizens and leaders, driven by an abiding ethos of service to community, and has played a pivotal role in building a stronger, more diversified economy for the people of North Carolina and beyond.


The Blueprint for Next

To ensure continued excellence in a fast-changing world, we must keep our sights set high while also making decisive choices about which challenges and opportunities we will tackle. Envisioning the decade ahead, the University created a framework to guide our decision-making and investments. We embraced a process of strategic thinking, gathering ideas and input from a wide range of students, faculty, staff and alumni. We then conducted market research and gained endorsement from the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees in 2017 of The Blueprint for Next — a unified, university strategic framework.

The Blueprint for Next identified two principles to guide our future: Of the Public, For the Public and Innovation Made Fundamental. These two principles recommitted Carolina to its historic role of service to North Carolina and its people, and to a fundamental quality essential to Carolina’s success: an unwavering commitment to continually reinvent itself, building on its strengths, while acknowledging and addressing shortcomings.

Guided by the Blueprint for Next, over the past two years, the University launched a range of initiatives, including Creativity Hubs to encourage innovative research collaborations; Arts Everywhere to make the arts ubiquitous on the campus and in all students’ lives; and the Global Guarantee to ensure a global experience for all students.

This Document: Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good

In 2018, Provost Bob Blouin convened a group of administrators and faculty members to develop a strategic, yet concrete plan of implementation and assessment in keeping with the vision set forth in The Blueprint for Next. This group also took account of developments during the past two years, including the Campus Master Plan and the University of North Carolina System’s strategic plan. The result is the present document, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. This document serves as the guide for University strategic investment and decision-making during a three-year horizon, with the understanding that its initiatives will be assessed and refreshed semi-annually with an eye toward change as work is completed and new opportunities emerge.

What is the purpose of Carolina Next? The strategic plan aims to turn the University’s vision and aspirational goals into readily understood, significant, implementable, measurable, strategic initiatives and opportunities. We want to be clear what we mean by strategic. In short, Carolina Next is focused on important challenges and areas where we believe the University has the greatest chance to create change and shape the future. This document does not attempt to capture all of the great work happening across the campus, nor does the exclusion of any activity suggest that it has become less important to the University. Rather, this document prioritizes where we can achieve the largest delta of change and, thereby, have the greatest impact.

Carolina Next belongs to all members of the University community and is a transparent, working guide that lets everyone see where and why we are making strategic investments. It also shows where we have made progress.

We begin the document by restating our vision, mission and values, followed by a simple graphic showing the continuous process of strategy setting, implementation, assessment and recalibration.

Carolina Next is framed around eight strategic initiatives. The strategic initiatives represent the core areas of focus across the University. We will make targeted investments that enable our community to: (1) Build Our Community Together, (2) Strengthen Student Success, (3) Enable Career Development, (4) Discover, (5) Promote Democracy, (6) Serve to Benefit Society, (7) Globalize and (8) Optimize Operations. These strategic initiatives are elaborated on later in the document.

We conducted an environmental scan for each strategic initiative. Each scan considers: the external macro-environment, both nationally and globally; the emerging trends, threats and opportunities in higher education; the competitive landscape; and, importantly, the strengths and opportunities for change within the University. For each strategic initiative, we consulted with multiple stakeholders as part of a systematic, thoughtful, fact-based process of determining where we are now, and where our greatest potential for achieving impact exists. The environmental scans enabled the refinement of each strategic initiative.

Three strategic objectives capture the major goals within each initiative. The strategic objectives represent the practical means of steering the University toward a shared vision. Each strategic objective opens the door to strategic opportunities, which can be pursued to bring about change and impact. Strategic opportunities are created in one of two ways: (a) they are existing and ongoing programs within the University that align with a particular strategic objective (several of these are outlined in Carolina Next) or (b) they are identified over time by the campus community and University leadership as new opportunities emerge.

Each strategic opportunity (whether existing or new) will be described in greater detail to provide appropriate context and will include a set of key performance metrics for monitoring of progress, as well as a timeline for implementation and reporting.

Progress toward achieving the goals articulated in Carolina Next will be assessed regularly and reported to the campus community on an annual basis, with updates provided more frequently, when available. The University’s website will include a page dedicated to sharing the progress toward achieving the goals of the strategic plan. While most strategic initiatives will likely hold steady over a period of years, environmental factors can (and do) change over time, as objectives are realized and new opportunities emerge, thus requiring constant examination and refreshing of Carolina Next. As we refresh the strategic plan, we will share and discuss updates with our community.

The ultimate value of Carolina Next will come as a result of its implementation and successful execution, which will require a significant, sustained and unified effort. This document gives us the context and direction we need to achieve our aspirational goals.

Our Vision

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill aspires to be the leading global, public research university in America providing an outstanding, accessible and affordable education; conducting game-changing research and undertaking innovation for the public good; and bringing health and prosperity to the citizens of the state, nation and beyond.

Our Mission

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, serves North Carolina, the United States, and the world through teaching, research and public service. We embrace an unwavering commitment to excellence as one of the world’s great research universities.

Our mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, service and creativity, and to educate a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. Through the efforts of our exceptional faculty and staff, and with generous support from North Carolina’s citizens, we invest our knowledge and resources to enhance access to learning and to foster the success and prosperity of each rising generation. We also extend our knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and its institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the state.

With lux, libertas — light and liberty — as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.

(Approved by the UNC Board of Governors, November 2009 and February 2014.)

Our Values

We lead as a proudly public institution, seeking ways to serve and collaborate with the people of North Carolina and our partner organizations in the state, nation and across the globe.

We celebrate and embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion and their benefits for our campus, the people of North Carolina and the broader communities we serve.

We are dedicated to providing an accessible, affordable and excellent education to students, while giving them the tools they need to succeed through college and beyond.

We strive for excellence in all we do.

We are committed to operating effectively, sustainably, ethically, nimbly, with technological sophistication.

We welcome change and possibility; we seek wisdom in art; we are aspirational, energetic, creative and willing to take risks.

Above all, we care for one another, provide for each other’s well-being, build a highly capable community, and facilitate personal success.

Operationalizing Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good

While most strategic initiatives will likely hold over a period of years, environmental factors can and do change over time, as objectives are realized and new ones emerge, thus requiring regular examination and refreshing of Carolina Next. As this strategic plan is refreshed, updates will be discussed and shared openly, and refinements made accordingly.

Strategic Initiatives and Objectives At-a-Glance

  • 1. Build Our Community Together
    • 1.1 Invest in policies, systems, and infrastructure that promote belonging, community and transparency throughout the University community
    • 1.2 Enhance the educational benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion through effective student recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation
    • 1.3 Prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in teaching, research and service, and in hiring, evaluation, retention and promotion of underrepresented faculty and staff
  • 2. Strengthen Student Success
    • 2.1 Provide a student-centered experience, strengthen success for all students and foster equity in success across student populations
    • 2.2 Facilitate learning that is experiential and collaborative, develops individual strengths and encourages the understanding, ethical use and application of data
    • 2.3 Expand digital and remote technologies to increase access and opportunities for Carolina students, as well as for all the people of North Carolina and beyond
  • 3. Enable Career Development
    • 3.1 Integrate career preparation into all students’ experiences and extend career development opportunities to alumni
    • 3.2 Provide University staff with systematic professional development options, enabling them to grow career opportunities
    • 3.3 Create opportunities to develop the careers of faculty and address the changing conditions affecting the professoriate
  • 4. Discover
    • 4.1 Pursue creative collaboration in research and scholarship
    • 4.2 Encourage artistic practice and artist-scholar synergies
    • 4.3 Lead in solving the world’s most challenging problems
  • 5. Promote Democracy
    • 5.1 Actively engage as diverse citizens responsible for the institutions of American democracy
    • 5.2 Work constructively across differences in society, starting by promoting respect and listening
    • 5.3 Explore how humanity’s highest purposes and potential can be realized through democracy and can help the democracy thrive
  • 6. Serve to Benefit Society
    • 6.1 Engage with communities, including grassroots organizations and local governments, to solve problems and improve lives
    • 6.2 Achieve impact by providing platforms, processes and policies that support faculty, staff, students and external stakeholders in co-developing solutions that address problems with critical implications for North Carolina and beyond
    • 6.3 Grow partnerships with businesses, nonprofits and government to translate and implement research-based ideas and discoveries into practical applications and public use
  • 7. Globalize
    • 7.1 Strengthen global partnerships and bring the world to Carolina with enhanced on-campus global programming
    • 7.2 Guarantee that a global education is available to all students
    • 7.3 Enhance support of Carolina’s international research mission
  • 8. Optimize Operations
    • 8.1 Design, implement, execute, assess and continuously improve the administrative operations that support the University’s mission of teaching, research and public service
    • 8.2 Implement a robust data governance structure and process to inform decision-making and drive change
    • 8.3 Create and maintain world-class physical facilities and infrastructure in support of our institutional mission