“We don’t want you to think about anything else, except keeping on keeping on,” board Chair Cissie Stevens told Ponder after the group went back into an open meeting. “We’re mighty proud that you are our chancellor and we appreciate all that you have been able to do in the last four years and beyond.”
The special meeting held in a conference room on the second floor of the student union was called specifically for board members to evaluate Ponder’s job performance during the last four years. The assessment and the special meeting, explains the board’s Vice Chair N. King Prather, did not arise due to any specific complaints or concerns beyond the need to conduct the review.
“State law requires us to go through this process officially every four years,” Prather said after the open meeting. Though he could not give specific information about what was said during the closed session, he did offer an explanation about the documents the Board of Trustees used to arrive at its decision.
“We used a consultant that’s been through this process multiple times and we use a series of interviews and surveys that go to the constituents that you might expect — students, faculty, community leaders, staff, board members, et cetera,” he said.
Since October 2005, Ponder has served as chancellor at the public liberal arts college in Asheville. Under Ponder’s leadership as the sixth chancellor of the college, the university was chosen as the first national headquarters for the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, adopted a five-year strategic plan and revised its mission statement.
After she was called back into the conference room to hear the board’s unanimous decision, Ponder expressed her gratitude and thanked board members for their thoroughness in the review process.
“If you don’t take time periodically to do evaluations, you don’t have the deep insight into how best to serve the university,” she said.
As chancellor of one of the universities in the 17-campus UNC system, Ponder will need final approval from UNC system President Thomas Ross to complete her evaluation.
Though Ponder says university leaders across the state are facing an environment “as difficult as any higher education leader has ever seen in North Carolina,” the Asheville native says she continues to look ahead to the future of higher education at UNCA.
“Part of the way we will thrive and flourish going forward is that UNC Asheville is very clear about our mission, very clear about our niche, very clear about who we are,” she said after the meeting. “We’re going to continue to be a terrific, nationally known university that’s known for quality, value and an exciting liberal arts curriculum. We’ll be needing to navigate the contact of the economy and the rest of the environment in North Carolina while we deliver that to students and students of the future.”
— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at email@example.com or 251-1333, ext. 140.
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