WILMINGTON — The former dean of UNCW’s College of Arts and Sciences was named the next chancellor at Thursday’s UNC Board of Governors meeting.
Dr. Aswani K. Volety, also the former executive director of UNCW’s Center for Marine Science, will serve as the university’s seventh chancellor. He currently holds the position as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Elon University.
The chancellor-elect told Port City Daily that one of his main priorities is to center student voices.
“Keeping the focus on the students is the one and only reason why any student is here. I want to make sure students are the front and center of this institution,” Volety said.
He plans to create a chancellor’s advisory committee solely made up of students to meet with regularly and use as a sounding board for university decisions.
That is in line with what Hannah Horowitz, president of UNCW’s Student Government Association, expects as the university emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s going to be a great deal of work, but definitely top of the list is getting connected with the student body and kind of resurfacing that get back to normal situation,” said Horowitz.
Volety led the College of Arts and Sciences, UNCW’s largest academic unit, from July 2014 to August 2019 and the Center for Marine Science from May 2018 to August 2019. He will return to the Seahawk campus as its formal leader July 1, just as the university prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in the fall semester.
Volety will succeed chancellor Jose Sartarelli, who is retiring June 30. Sartarelli announced in September 2021 he would not return to the campus in fall 2022. The UNC system announced the search for a new chancellor in October 2021.
A search committee was put in place last fall and launched a community survey, and hosted multiple forums for students, faculty and alumni to garner feedback. The committee recommended candidates to the UNCW Board of Trustees in March.
Making UNCW a more diverse and equitable institution has been a major conversation among staff and students over the last few years. Volety said his background has prepared him to address these problems.
“As a first-generation American and an immigrant myself, I’m acutely aware of what people are really looking for. The student body is looking for people who look like them, who can relate to them, and empathize with them,” Volety said. “Whether it is students, faculty or staff, diverse perspectives and diverse opinions around the table result in better decision making, so that would be a centerpiece of my work.”
Volety moved from India to the United States at age 23.
“His story speaks to the power of public universities to transform lives, and throughout his career he has demonstrated his commitment to students, to research and to service,” UNC System President Peter Hans said at Thursday’s board meeting.
“I know the UNC Wilmington community will be delighted that he’s coming home.”
In Volety’s role at Elon, he served as chief academic officer and chief operating officer. Before his time at UNCW, he spent 15 years as professor of marine science and director of Vester Marine Field Station, and later as interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Volety graduated from the College of William & Mary with a doctorate in marine science. He received his master’s degree in zoology with a specialization in marine biology and his bachelor of science from Andhra University in India.
“For the Seahawk community, it’s all about the students,” Volety said in the UNCW press release. “I know from my previous experience at UNCW that the faculty and staff are dedicated to teaching, mentoring, research, and service, and I’m eager to support and cultivate those efforts moving forward. I am humbled to be able to give back to a university that has offered me so much and excited to lead UNCW’s future successes.”
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