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Q&A with Former Advisory Board Chair, Caroline Williamson

July 15, 2019 | Caroline Williamson, Former IAH Advisory Board Chair

Caroline Williamson, Institute for the Arts and HumanitiesCaroline Williamson served as a member of the IAH Advisory Board from 2006–2018, and led the board as its Chair from Fall 2016 through Spring 2017. Williamson is the President, Treasurer, and Director of the B. Robert Williamson, Jr. Foundation. The foundation was created in 2012 in memory of her late husband, and it provides financial support for nonprofit organizations that focus primarily on the education and empowerment of young people. She currently serves on the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council, Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council, and the Campaign for Carolina Women’s Campaign Cabinet. Williamson graduated with a B.S. in business administration from Carolina in 1983.

We sat down with her to ask questions about her time at Carolina and her generous service to the University. This interview, similar stories and more will be featured in our 2018-2019 Annual Highlights, a magazine that looks back on the Institute’s programs, initiatives, and events from the previous year. Annual Highlights will be published in August 2019.

You were a business major at UNC. What was your favorite class?

Even though I was a business major, my favorite courses were in art history. I am from a small town in North Carolina and my art history courses taught me to appreciate art all around the world. Art, including modern art, is an expression as to how an artist sees the world and their perspective on life.


In what ways have you been able to serve as an alum?

Since graduating from Carolina, I have been lucky to serve the University in a variety of ways. I have been a longtime board member and former chair of the IAH Advisory Board as well as involved with the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council, the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council, the Educational Foundation and with the B. Robert Williamson, Jr. Distinguished Scholarship Program. I am also a season ticket holder for both football and basketball. I am a host for the B. Robert Williamson Jr. accepted students event put on by the New York City General Alumni Association. And finally, I have been involved as a parent to three children who have gone to Carolina, and have served on the Parent’s Council at the Journalism School.


How has your time at Carolina contributed to your success?

Carolina gave me the most incredible group of friends. We have supported each other through good times and bad, and I owe that to our time at UNC.

Serving on the IAH Advisory Board and learning about the signature Faculty Fellowship Program helped me to form the collaborative outlook that I strive for within my Foundation (the B. Robert Williamson, Jr. Foundation) and in my day-to-day work. One project that we at the Foundation support is an Adaptive Leadership Fellowship Program at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. This program enables students to learn about the adaptive framework and directly apply what they learn in the context of their fieldwork in social work. Much like Adaptive Leadership, the IAH has helped me to see how valuable it is to bring people together who have different perspectives and recognize that every individual will bring a unique viewpoint based on their own experiences, values, family, culture and beliefs.


Why is it important to support the Institute for the Arts and Humanities?

Founder Ruel Tyson, though he didn’t necessarily set out to create the Institute as it is today, began demonstrating right away that having faculty members with different areas of expertise and viewpoints around a table not only makes each individual person’s product better but also the university as a whole. The various programs that the IAH offers move people out of their silos and start talking with each other. It helps them feel connected to the university and certainly helps with retention.


What advice would you give to UNC students?

The advice that I gave to each of my children was to seek out teachers who had been IAH Faculty Fellows. These faculty members are some of the best in their field. The second piece of advice I would give is to keep in touch with your Carolina friends. Even if you live in different cities, make it a point to stay connected to them.


What is a book you have read that changed your life?

The Bible, certainly. Right now, I am reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I am getting ready to take a trip to Alabama, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be life changing after having read this book.


Any other thoughts?

In the beginning, I don’t think people really understood the IAH or what we were doing. The more that we invited people in and told our story, they found that our vision for faculty life at Carolina resonated with them. We’re one of the institutions on campus that’s truly cross-disciplinary. We are here to support the Chancellor and the other schools, but at the core, we believe in the benefits of a liberal arts education and approach to life.

Want to receive a copy of our annual magazine, Annual Highlights? Please email IAH Communications Specialist Sophia Ramos at