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Why I support faculty through the IAH

April 6, 2018 | Allison Burnett Smith

Allison Burnett SmithWhen I think about my favorite professors at Carolina, these names immediately come to mind: Kimball King (English), Frank Daniels (French), John Bittner (Communication), Paul Ferguson (Communication), and Bill Balthrop (Communication). These professors opened my mind in ways that I never expected, and oftentimes I studied from textbooks that they wrote. They helped me develop into a humanist, a “thinking woman’s woman,” and the experience of learning from them has served me well throughout my personal life and professional career.

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH) was created while I was a student at Carolina, but I didn’t learn about it until after graduation. That is not surprising, since it is a faculty support organization, and students have very little, if any, interaction with the Institute or Hyde Hall during their undergraduate experience. Without knowing it, they are being taught by faculty who are at the top of their field due to IAH support.

The significance of IAH impact on faculty hit me in the spring of 2013 when I arrived at Hyde Hall to interview for a position there. I was well prepared to discuss the programs that support faculty and how these programs allowed UNC to retain and develop its top faculty. I walked into the beautiful Fellows Room to interview with a dozen professors, and there at the table was Professor Bill Balthrop! Like all professors, he had not aged one day. (I credit this to all faculty drinking from the Old Well and the “good life” in Chapel Hill). As I looked at Bill, it all came together for me: The Institute was supporting my favorite professors.

Bill has taught at UNC for over 42 years. He and other outstanding Carolina professors could teach anywhere in the world. They choose to stay at Carolina even when lucrative offers come their way. And, they remark that the IAH is one of the reasons they make that choice. Besides offering programs that support faculty at every stage in their careers, the Institute offers something more significant: Community. Faculty feel more connected and invested in UNC because of the rich culture cultivated at Hyde Hall. When faculty are offered better salaries and research funds from other universities, they choose to stay at Carolina because other universities do not have an institute like the IAH.

Although I recently retired from my IAH position, I continue to support its programs and mission. I believe that Carolina professors are the heart and soul of the University, and I bet that you can name more than one professor who made a significant impact on your experience at Carolina. UNC Giving Day (#GiveUNC) is Tuesday, April 10. Please join me in participating by making a gift to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities in honor of one of your favorite professors.

Your support will help secure the tradition of faculty excellence at UNC.