From Rocky Mount to Kitty Hawk, The Graduate School’s Dean Beth Mayer-Davis was among 80 faculty and senior administrators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to embark on the 2022 Tar Heel Bus Tour, an opportunity to listen and learn from communities in our state. The three-day tour included both an eastern and western route that spanned more than 1,000 miles. Back after a two-year hiatus, the routes covered two-dozen stops in 20 counties across North Carolina.
Early in the bus tour, Mayer-Davis and others attendees stopped at Rocky Mount Mills, where lithographs by Nelson Mandela were on display. The lithographs offer a learning opportunity for those who view them; Mayer-Davis and others listened to conversations with community members who attested to a challenging history—overlaid with what she called remarkable strength and hope.
“Rocky Mount is steeped in history—including the complexities of enslavement,” she said. “Stories from community members about furthering educational opportunities have stayed with me.”
Other stops included Somerset Place, part of North Carolina Historic Sites, where Mayer-Davis convened with Kim Ramsey-White, associate dean for inclusive excellence at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
“The opportunity to travel with colleagues and leadership at the University presented opportunities for informal discussions,” she said. “These types of discussions can drive innovative ideas; simply a change of scenery can provide fresh perspective and meaningful insight into complexities facing higher education in our state.”
Day two included a stop at First Flight High School in Dare County, North Carolina, where attendees heard a student orchestra perform. The high school is a site for the Carolina College Advising Corps, helps low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students find their way to colleges that will serve them well.
“It’s no surprise that our state continues to be an economic and research engine,” Mayer-Davis said. “It’s essential that we continue to highlight the value of and access to public education. The next generation of students and leaders in our state depend on it.”
Day Three and final reflections
The final day wrapped up with stops in nearby Roxboro and Hillsborough. Mayer-Davis said the tour concluded at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, where each recipient shared a single word as part of a reflection. She chose the word compelled.
“I am inspired and fueled by the strength, clarity of purpose, dedication, and wisdom of North Carolinians to bring our history forward to ensure a stronger, more equitable state for all to thrive,” she said. “I feel compelled to ensure that graduate education at Carolina is part of that purpose to ensure a bright future.”