‘Laboratory of collaboration’

At their September meeting, University Board of Trustees members saw the wide sweep of Carolina’s impact on North Carolina – from its established record preparing lawyers for the banking and financing industry to its expanding capacity to respond to environmental issues ranging from oyster restoration to addressing the lingering effects of Hurricane Matthew.

The impact on the state’s environment was highlighted in a presentation about the NC Policy Collaboratory that the N.C. General Assembly created at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2016.

Brad Ives, the collaboratory’s executive director and the University’s chief sustainability officer, said Chancellor Carol L. Folt came up with the word “collaboratory” as part of the title for the initiative.

“What I love about the word is this idea of a laboratory of collaboration to bring people to try things that are truly experimental,” Folt said. Ives and his team have forged partnerships with faculty members across Carolina and the UNC system over the past year, Folt added.

The collaboratory, Ives said, is intended to be a “center without walls” in which scientists can perform their research without regard to physical location. As part of its charge from the legislature, the collaboratory should disseminate best practices, lead or participate in projects around the state and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The legislature committed $8.15 million to fund the collaboratory over the its first three years – support that could be used to leverage an additional $11.65 million in UNC research, said Jeffrey Warren, the collaboratory’s research director.

The collaboratory now has 14 active projects across the state, and two more will be added by the end of the year, Warren added.

Trustee Jefferson W. “Jeff” Brown asked Warren how quickly the state will be able to bounce back from Hurricane Matthew, which spawned historic flooding in central and eastern North Carolina in October 2016 and caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.

Warren said it remains difficult to predict when full recovery will occur. He added, “I think it is safe to say that our research will help us respond to the next one and to bounce back quicker.”

The board also heard from Burton Craige Professor of Law Lissa L. Broome about the UNC School of Law Center for Banking and Finance, which was created in 2000 to enrich the professional development of law students interested in careers in banking and finance.

Broome, who serves as center’s director, reviewed the ways the center supports students, including opportunities to attend national conferences where they can interact with industry professionals.

Four law students involved with the center – third-year law student Monica Burks of Detroit; third-year law student Roy Dixon of Salisbury; second-year law student Laura Gritz of Denver; and second-year law student Jake Rifkin of West Deptford, New Jersey – also gave brief presentations.

Afterward, Folt called them back to the podium to ask them to talk about “the one thing you love” about the law school.

Burks said she loved the feeling of inclusiveness. For Rifkin, it was the atmosphere of collegiality. Gritz prized “the opportunity to learn something every single day – and to push myself every single day.”

Rifkin said what he loved most about the law school was its capacity to prepare him and others for the next thing – no matter what the next thing turns out to be.

Story by Gary Moss, University Gazette and photos by Jon Gardiner, University Communications