PEMBROKE — Fundraising efforts to build a new state-of-the-art School of Business at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke just got a $1,892,900 shot in the arm, the amount of money that the Golden LEAF Foundation will provide for classroom technology.
UNCP will be required to match the grant, bringing the award total to $3.78 million.
“This major announcement not only represents Golden LEAF’s significant investment in UNC Pembroke, but its continued commitment to Robeson County and all of Southeastern North Carolina,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “State-of-the-art classroom technology will allow the university to prepare the next generation of business leaders for success and position UNCP as a leader in regional economic development.”
The award brings the university closer to reaching its goal of constructing a $36 million facility. The Golden LEAF money will be combined with the $23 million UNCP received from the Connect NC Bond voters approved last March.
Dan Gerlach, president of Golden LEAF, recently visited the Pembroke campus and heard directly from business leaders, students, and professors about the need to modernize and expand the program to meet the economic demands of Robeson County and the region.
“The Golden LEAF Foundation is proud to support UNC Pembroke in its efforts to increase the number of young people served with the high-quality facilities to better meet the demand of local and regional businesses,” Gerlach said. “This grant represents a departure from our usual levels of grant-making because of the opportunity to leverage the state bond proceeds, the historic tobacco dependency of Robeson County and the region, and the demand from the private sector.”
Bo Biggs, a Lumberton businessman and member of Golden LEAF Foundation’s board of directors, said the money will go a long way toward providing UNCP students a first-class education in finance, business administration and accounting.
“This presents a great opportunity and will afford many students in a challenging economic environment a chance to attend a first-rate business school,” Biggs said.
Biggs also pointed to the N.C. Promise Tuition plan which will buy-down tuition at UNCP for in-state students to $500 per semester beginning in the fall of 2018.
“When you couple it all together, the $500 tuition plan and the new School of Business, this is going to provide a great opportunity for folks in our area to acquire skills at a reasonable cost …, ” Biggs said.
The UNCP School of Business is currently housed in the Business Administration building, one of the oldest classroom buildings on campus.
In addition to classrooms, the new building will include a career services center, a fully-equipped auditorium, a video conference room, computer lab, collaborative lounges and study spaces, and a multimedia resource room that enables students to engage in the global conversation.
State Sen. Danny Britt of Lumberton believes a new business school will motivate local high school graduates to remain in the area.
“Anytime UNC Pembroke receives any kind of funds, it’s beneficial for both UNCP and surrounding counties,” Britt said. “This will do a lot to attract students to UNCP when they are considering where they want to attend college. Hopefully, they will stay in the area and help grow businesses in Robeson, Columbus and surrounding counties.”.
As part of the grant application, university officials touted the fact that its School of Business is internationally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction earned by only 5 percent percent of business schools worldwide.
“Once we get the new School of Business up and running, it will be a great recruitment tool for the university,” said state Rep. Charles Graham, a member of the Education K-12 and the Commerce and Job Development committees.
The new facility will serve as a training program for students who want to live in this area after they graduate, Graham said.
“Once the project is complete, it will be a great economic asset for the entire southeastern region of North Carolina,” he said. “It will aid the local economy, while producing the labor force for local businesses seeking qualified applicants. It is a win-win situation for the university and for Southeastern North Carolina.”
Meanwhile, fundraising continues.
“It is our board’s hope and desire that this challenge grant will give Chancellor Cummings some leverage in his tireless efforts to raise funds for the project,” Gerlach said.
The Golden LEAF Foundation was formed in 1999 to administer funds from the court settlement agreement between North Carolina and cigarette manufacturers. It focuses on agriculture, job creation and retention, and workforce preparedness.
Mark Locklear is a Public Relations specialist at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.