A Message from Dean Matson

A Time of Change

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks at Carolina, to say the least. Chancellor Holden Thorp’s announcement that he would step down at the end of this academic year took us all by surprise. The University community reacted with an outpouring of support for a chancellor widely regarded as a visionary leader. In the days and weeks since Chancellor Thorp’s decision, I have given a lot of thought to the tremendous contributions he has made to graduate education at Carolina.

In the days and weeks since Chancellor Thorp's decision, I have given a lot of thought to the tremendous contributions he has made to graduate education at Carolina.

Holden Thorp and I began our jobs on the same day in July of 2008. His first day received much more attention than mine. From my perspective as dean of The Graduate School, Chancellor Thorp has been an exceptional friend and advocate for graduate education. He understands the value and importance of graduate education as a public good and for Carolina’s future. He has trained graduate students and fully appreciates the contribution they make to the modern research university. I have heard him say many times that without our graduate students we are no longer a research university.

Chancellor Thorp continues to be an eloquent spokesman for the role that graduate education plays in economic development, in the discovery of new ideas, new products and new processes that improve our world. In addition, he appreciates the critical role that graduate students play in undergraduate education. His willingness and ability to serve as a champion for graduate education was a signature accomplishment.

The chancellor has also been generous in his commitment of funds to graduate education. On two separate occasions during the last four years he directed significant unrestricted funds to The Graduate School for the support of our talented graduate students. With this funding we were able to increase the number of students we support with five-year fellowships in the Royster Society of Fellows. These students are our future faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs and public servants. Chancellor Thorp’s investment in these students is an investment in the future.

On September 21st, Chancellor Thorp spoke with our Graduate Education Advancement Board about the future of graduate education in a public research university. He reminded us of the University’s commitments to excellence, access, diversity and innovation and discovery aimed at solving the world’s challenges. This University has a more than two-century-old tradition as a great public university. Graduate education has been a part of that tradition for over 100 years and continues to play an integral role in the excellence of this University.

Our credentials as a research university are strong and will remain strong. In fiscal 2010, Carolina rose to ninth from 16th among private and public research universities in federal funding devoted to research and development. This is a remarkable achievement and one in which graduate students play a key role. The underlying strength of our faculty and our graduate programs position us well for the future. I invite you to read more about Carolina’s recent accomplishments under Chancellor Thorp’s leadership.


Steven W. Matson
Dean of The Graduate School
Professor of Biology
UNC-Chapel Hill