UNC Pembroke’s new chancellor is the latest in a long line of CEOs with ties to WCU


When Kyle Carter, provost and senior vice chancellor, was selected chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke on April 9, he became the fifth senior administrator at Western Carolina named chief executive officer at another college or university since 1996.

“To have your senior administrators leave to become presidents or chancellors elsewhere is certainly something in which you can take pride,” said Merrill Schwartz, director of research with the Association of Governing Boards, a national organization for academic governing boards, campus CEOs and other senior-level administrators. “It does send the message that you are helping train the leaders of higher education of the future, and that you are successfully and intentionally developing the leadership skills of your chief academic officers.”

Betty Siegel, a member of the WCU board of trustees who is herself a former college president and past WCU administrator, said she believes Western Carolina is a training ground for future leaders because of the influence of current Chancellor John Bardo and the university’s traditional emphasis on community.

“To produce five university or college leaders is a sizable number,” said Siegel, dean of the WCU College of Education and Allied Professions from 1976 to 1981 and president of Kennesaw State University in Georgia from 1981 to 2006. “I believe the fact that so many administrators at Western Carolina have gone on to become college or university leaders in their own right is testimony to Dr. Bardo’s ability to both identify future leaders and to cultivate leadership.”

Siegel said she has seen that cultivation process firsthand in her role as a member of the WCU board. “I have been so very impressed with how Chancellor Bardo works with members of his team. He absolutely respects the people he works with, and it shows. Those of us on the board of trustees see it in the way he asks his vice chancellors and others to share information with us about what is going on in their respective areas of the university. He is giving them the kind of experience that they will need in order to be leaders of their own institutions,” she said.

The process of developing leadership within colleges and universities is somewhat different from what takes place in the business world, said Schwartz. “In higher education, you must prepare the people in your cabinet-level positions for leadership and provide opportunities for them to work closely with the president and board,” she said. “Although higher education does not have the same type of succession plans for top leadership that we see in the corporate world, where CEOs often groom their own successors, this type of intentional leadership development does result in the creation of leaders who can use their leadership skills at their own institutions and, more often, in presidencies at
other institutions.”

Carter assumes his new duties at UNC Pembroke on July 1. Linda Seestedt-Stanford, founding dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, will serve as interim provost.