All Aboard: Tar Heel Bus Tour to Include Williams, Fox
How can a new faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has only lived in New Jersey or California or Iowa, best teach students from the Tar Heel state?
And how can these newcomers get the background they need to conduct research and public service that serve the people of North Carolina – part of the University’s mission?
At Carolina, the answer is the Tar Heel Bus Tour, a five-day trip around the state each May on which professors become pupils of farmers, factory workers and financiers; military personnel, museum guides and marine scientists; and longtime citizens who tell them how Tar Heels tick.
Dr. John N. Williams, professor and dean; and Lynn Fox, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Dental Ecology, both of the School of Dentistry, are among the 34 participants in this year’s tour. The week of activities runs May 14 through 18.
Dean John N. Williams and Lynn Fox of the School of Dentistry were among the 34 participants in the 2007 Tar Heel Bus Tour. They are pictured with Teck Penland, director of Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville. The group visited Mountain AHEC on the fourth day of the tour, and Penland demonstrated an interactive video system the center uses to reach out across the state.
“I want to continue my education about the local issues in our great state,” Williams said. “There is no better way to do this than the Tar Heel Bus Tour. Economic development is covered extensively in the tour, and health care and dental care are key components of that issue.
“A community can not thrive economically without good health systems. Through participation in the tour, we learn how our work can have a positive influence on this and other key issues for our state. I’m looking forward to this week.”
This year, tour participants will visit sites including Sharp Farms in Wilson, where a father grows tobacco and his son grows produce; UNC’s Institute for Marine Sciences in Morehead City; Fort Bragg; Bank of America in Charlotte; and a camp for disabled children in Randleman, operated by the Petty family of NASCAR fame. For the full bus tour itinerary, please visit http://www.unc.edu/bustour/past.html
For 10 years, the privately funded tours have covered about 1,100 miles each from the coast to the mountains, stopping at a cross-section of sites important to North Carolina’s history, economy, culture and environment. Since 1997, the tour has rolled every year except 2002, when it was cancelled in light of deep state budget cuts.
Dr. Tony Molina, clinical assistant professor in the School’s Department of Prosthodontics, was a participant in the first tour, and he is featured in a video on the tour’s first 10 years. To watch the video, produced by the University’s Office of University Relations, please visit
In the mid-1990s, Mike Smith, now dean of the UNC School of Government and vice chancellor for public service and engagement, and law professor Judith Wegner, then law school dean and later chair of the faculty, headed the Public Service Roundtable, a group of volunteer faculty, staff and students. The group recommended bus tours of the state as a way to teach new faculty about North Carolina, its needs and where most of UNC’s undergraduates grow up.
The late Chancellor Michael Hooker endorsed the idea and enthusiastically led the first two tours, in 1997 and 1998. Since he came to Carolina in 2000, Chancellor James Moeser also has strongly supported the bus tour and participated in every one.
In the past 10 years, the 336 tour alumni have visited 70 towns and 51 counties and eaten 120 pounds of barbecue, toting booklets brimming with facts about every site and county visited. About two-thirds of them, or 222, remain at UNC. “The tour influenced my attachment to Carolina and my retention here,” said Dr. Kim Strom-Gottfried, a social work professor.
Besides site hosts, bus tour participants hear from faculty colleagues who join the tour periodically to speak about state issues and UNC outreach projects. For example, at the Randleman stop, Kim Uhrich, clinical assistant professor with the UNC Craniofacial Center, will discuss work she and the center did to encourage the camp to host a week for children with craniofacial anomalies.
“I came away awed by the myriad of ways Carolina faculty serve the state,” said Dr. Gwen Sherwood, professor and associate dean in the School of Nursing, of her bus tour experiences. “I am proud to be a part of a University with a value system that gives back to its larger community, embraces public service as a commitment and seeks to instill that value in faculty and students.”