Brian Cole is installed as ninth chancellor of UNCSA

Brian Cole was installed this morning as the ninth chancellor of  UNCSA at a campus ceremony attended by leaders from the community and dignitaries from the UNC System, universities and organizations around the state, and watched by viewers around the world via livestream. At the ceremony Chancellor Cole delivered a speech introducing “UNCSA Forward,” a vision for the next strategic plan for the top-ranked arts conservatory as it evolves to meet the demands of a transformed arts and entertainment landscape and helps student artists prepare to ignite cultural change in the industry.

Brian Cole was installed as ninth chancellor of UNCSA

Chancellor Brian Cole / Photo: Wayne Reich

watch chancellor cole's installation remarks

The installation event followed a Thursday evening celebration to mark the conclusion of the highly successful “Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA,” the largest fundraising effort in school history. The campaign raised $75.3 million, surpassing its goal by more than $10 million.

"This day is not really about me,” Cole said during the installation ceremony. “It is a celebration of the truly remarkable, unique and magical place that is UNCSA. There is no other place like it in our country — the disciplines of Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking and Music on one campus — a comprehensive ecosystem of the arts that operates alongside the arts and entertainment industry, with an experience that consistently develops the next generation of creatives and leaders. Every year UNCSA is ranked among the very top institutions in our country and as a public institution, we are able to provide a level of access for young artists that isn’t matched by our peers.

“The story of UNCSA is one that we can all be immensely proud of. I’m proud of the rich and meaningful history of this school, and the incredible diaspora of alumni that we have out there leading and advancing the arts,” he continued. “And as chancellor I am committed to honoring that legacy and those who created it by building on that strong foundation and ensuring that UNCSA is on a path to have an even greater impact on the arts and entertainment industry of tomorrow.”

Cole said that industry has evolved in how art is created and shared, and the tools that artists use. “The industry has changed in how stories are told, whose stories get told in the first place, and who gets to tell those stories,” he said. “Thankfully it also continues to evolve in the direction of giving greater access to more people to hear and experience those stories as well. For the sake of today’s students, and those who will join UNCSA in future years, we feel compelled to capitalize on strengths and experiences of yesterday and today, learn from our past and prepare our young artists for the industry of tomorrow.”

Cole and the UNCSA Leadership Council identified five core strategies as part of “UNCSA Forward” that will be workshopped by campus and community stakeholders before being presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in December. Core strategies include equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB); health and wellness; interdisciplinary work in the arts; maintaining and expanding industry relevance; and institutional sustainability.

Brian Cole presided over commencement ceremonies in May.

Brian Cole presided over commencement ceremonies in May. / Photo: Wayne Reich

Since being named chancellor one year ago, Cole filled five key leadership positions at UNCSA, including three arts deans, the executive director of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts, and the executive vice chancellor and provost, completing a talented team that will take UNCSA into the next era.

Within weeks of being named chancellor, Cole also launched an EDIB initiative to strategically identify and dismantle systemic problems of racism and inequality and create significant and sustained change in the institution and society. The EDIB Advisory Committee introduced its vision statement in May 2021:

“At UNCSA, we strive to create a safe environment, one that allows people from all walks of life to thrive. Doing so demands that we commit to an explicit and continual process of identifying and dismantling systems and practices of bias, exclusion and oppression. Education and art-making can be transformational forces for change and we are working so that change leads toward justice.”

EDIB goals in the strategic plan include recruitment and retention of diverse employees and students; hiring a chief diversity officer; managing a campuswide collection of work by historically underrepresented artists; and supporting cultural intelligence through curriculum and professional development opportunities.

In July, Cole announced that UNCSA is the first conservatory in the nation to partner with Posse Arts, an initiative funded by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s family foundation to recruit, train and support talented students who might be missed through traditional avenues.

“I believe that artists will be at the forefront of transformational change in our society, and the students who we train at UNCSA, with the support of Posse Arts, will lead that cultural shift,” Cole said in July.

Cole’s vision also prioritizes health and wellness – particularly mental health – as vital for academic, professional and personal success. It calls for realignment of the daily schedule across campus in order to better manage student and faculty workload, rebuilding the calendar of performances to meet current and future needs of the training programs, and increasing staff who support student mental health.

“Careers in the arts require incredible discipline, effort and grit — and all too often in both the industry and academic settings, success has often been equated with the sacrifice of health and well-being,” Cole said.

“The importance of health and wellness has been brought up by arts institutions with much greater frequency in past years, but I don't know if I have ever seen it included as a core part of an institution's strategic plan, and I am proud to see our community moving in this direction — and I challenge all others to do the same,” he added. “It is that important, and the only way to effect change in this area of the industry is to do it from the ground up and create a new generation of young artists who demand it.”

“UNCSA Forward” also focuses on opportunities for interdisciplinary work in the arts that transcends traditional institutional boundaries to complement students’ learning and to prepare them for successful 21st-century careers.

In essence, we want to embrace our role as a conservatory that hones and develops their craft, but also our role as a laboratory that makes the space for them to work together to create what is next.

Chancellor Brian Cole

“What we continue to see throughout the industry is that the work that is being created today does not exist in the kind of silos and categories that it has in the past. Highly skilled students in any discipline will have access to another realm of opportunities when they also have direct experience with how their craft intersects with others,” Cole said. “Only an arts ecosystem like UNCSA can provide this experience.

"In essence, we want to embrace our role as a conservatory that hones and develops their craft, but also our role as a laboratory that makes the space for them to work together to create what is next," he added. 

A fourth core strategy is maintaining and expanding industry relevance by creating alumni advisory panels and industry partnerships in each of the five conservatories at UNCSA. It also calls for the establishment of a media publishing arm to help students, alumni and faculty advance their creative work and intellectual property.

“Our pipeline to the industry has long been a strength of UNCSA and one that greatly differentiates us from other institutions — but we want to ensure that this will continue to be a strength of this university. UNCSA will continue to enhance its strong ties to the industry and empower our students to be at the forefront of the arts in their careers,” Cole said.

A fifth strategy targets institutional sustainability by addressing faculty and staff salaries; increasing the UNCSA graduation rate from the mid-70s in recent years to 85 percent; and growing revenue from partnerships, strategic alliances and other opportunities. “We also will take actions to reinforce a culture of assessment and data-driven decisions at UNCSA, and promote a campus environment of engagement and transparency,” Cole said.

The Installation

Peter Hans, president of the UNC System, presided over the installation. North Carolina District Court Judge Carrie Vickery, a high school alumna of the UNCSA School of Music, administered the oath of office. Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey, and UNCSA Board of Trustees Chair Ralph Womble provided greetings and remarks, along with chairs of the faculty, staff and student councils.

The installation event began with a live walk-through experience featuring each of the five arts schools, allowing attendees to witness firsthand the talent and artistry of the school’s students and faculty. During the ceremony, the School of Music’s Bergstone Brass performed selections from the Danseyre by Tielman Susato for the fanfare and processional. Students from the School of Dance performed excerpts from “The Nutcracker” and “A Swan Lake Rebellion.” A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute alumna Jodi Burns performed “Take Care of This House” from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” by Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner. The UNCSA Percussion Ensemble, directed by faculty-artist John Beck, performed the recessional.

An all-school lunch in Daniels Plaza followed the installation.

The installation celebration continues with three performance events: Fall Dance, an all-contemporary program featuring three premieres, 7:30 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; a free screening of 2020-21 student films, in-person at 7 p.m. tonight in Main Theatre of the ACE Exhibition Complex and on demand until Sunday; and the Fifth Annual Salem Bach Festival: 1685 ‒ The Birth of Genius, 7:30 p.m. tonight in Watson Hall.

Brian Cole spoke at the launch of Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA

Brian Cole spoke at the New York City launch of Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA in January 2020. / Photo: Chris Lee

Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA

At the Thursday evening celebration, Cole announced that “Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA,” raised $75.3 million, including $35.9 million for scholarships, $5.5 million for faculty support; $25.6 million for innovation; $6.7 million for the living and learning environment; and $1.6 million for community engagement.

"The opportunities this school provides its students have helped make our state a more connected and vibrant place,” said N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper in a video greeting that was shared at the campaign event. “With the continued support of donors who contributed a whopping $75 million, we can continue enriching the lives of young artists and giving them the tools they need to succeed in what they love to do.

“When former Gov. Terry Sanford and the North Carolina legislature helped make this school a reality more than 50 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that even they could have guessed that UNCSA would become internationally renowned like you are,” Cooper continued. “I can’t wait to see what your exceptional students and faculty achieve next.”

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October 01, 2021