RALEIGH — N.C. State's problem isn't thinking big, Randy Woodson said Tuesday as he was officially installed as university chancellor.
It's paying for it.
At a time when the expense of innovation is clashing with a decline in revenues, NCSU must do a better job of generating its own money, Woodson told the crowd at a Reynolds Coliseum ceremony designating him as the university's 14th leader.
The primary areas for improvement are in federally funded research and private donations to NCSU's endowment, he said.
Woodson hit on these themes and several others in a wide-ranging speech inside a hot, humid coliseum that he joked could use an air-conditioning system if a donor wants to contribute $6 million to pay for it.
A massive recent expansion in federal funding for research through the National Institutes of Health "largely bypassed NCSU," Woodson said, a problem he hopes to attack by placing a greater emphasis on traditional university strengths like life sciences and genetics.
Since he arrived on campus in April, Woodson has spoken of the need for better fundraising. At $400 million, NCSU's endowment is nowhere near the size of many of the university's peers, Woodson noted. Some have private endowments twice or three times as large, he said.
As state appropriations continue to decline, public universities increasingly point to the importance of private giving as a difference-making revenue source.
"We are not going to let budget challenges cripple us, but we have to move forward knowing that we have to think differently about our operation," Woodson said.
The installation ceremony felt a little like a pep rally. Woodson delivered his speech in front of a 20-foot-high, red-lit foam-and-plyboard replica of the bell tower, a leftover prop from a years-ago visit to campus by the game show "Jeopardy."
Woodson said he hopes to improve student and faculty success, engagement and economic development, and organizational effectiveness. He wants to hire more tenure-track faculty, a bold move to some given recent budget constraints. But those faculty conduct research, bring in grant money and attract graduate students who, in turn, help shoulder the undergraduate teaching load, Woodson argued.
To NCSU from Purdue
A native of Fordyce, Ark., Woodson, 53, came to NCSU in April from Purdue University, where he had spent 25 years and was serving as provost. Though not a North Carolinian, Woodson said he has had a minimal learning curve, in large part because Purdue, like NCSU, is a well-regarded land-grant university with similar strengths and challenges.
Affable and quick with a joke, Woodson has quickly endeared himself to various Wolfpack constituencies, said Lawrence Davenport, chairman of the university's board of trustees.
"He's a lot better than I ever dreamed," Davenport said in an interview before the ceremony. "We were looking for a great administrator, an experienced academic and someone who could be well-liked. We thought it would be impossible, but he does it all very well."
Being well-liked matters for a chancellor, whose job is often to close the deal when a wealthy donor is contemplating a big gift. Woodson said he has spent much of his first six months currying favor with alumni.
"I feel like I've made it a high priority," he said in an interview following his installation ceremony. "It's a people-intensive business built on relationships."
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