Hailing from Canton, Ohio, Nancy Cable first became enchanted with education as a young person who spent her summers teaching and working as a camp counselor. As an undergraduate studying history at Marietta College, her interest evolved into something deeper and broader: what she calls the life of the mind — and the role that universities and colleges, specifically liberal arts institutions, play in creating the larger fabric of our country.
Her pursuit of these values inspired her to earn a Master’s from the University of Vermont and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Virginia. It’s led her to work on Title IX reform at Marietta, tackle issues of diversity and equity as Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Davidson, and become an integral part of UVA’s historic $3B capital fundraising campaign. Before her recent installment as UNC Asheville’s Chancellor, Cable also served as an interim President of Bates College as well as the President of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
To learn more about Cable’s leadership in higher education, her vision for UNC Asheville and how her goals work in tandem with the greater Asheville community, we sat down and asked her a few questions. (Note: the following remarks are excerpts from a longer interview)
How do you see the relationship between UNC Asheville and the business community?
We see ourselves as a contributor to the city, to new businesses, to the responsible growth and development of the city itself. To draw on a previous provost’s quote: We are producing not just workforce, we are producing a thoughtful workforce, or a thinking workforce, or a working thought force. The interplay of those words is really what makes us distinctive here.
Having a symbiotic relationship with businesses and having opportunities with big companies, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and startups — that all helps to draw talented faculty, staff and students here. So in return, what we can give back is the best intellectual capital in the region. We are ready to help at the hospital, MAHEC, contribute to GE Aviation research studies that are happening on our campus. Our students serve in service positions throughout the community. We have faculty doing social science research with Buncombe County and the City schools identifying the achievement gap based on racial inequities in our town and what we’re going to do about it. We create a symbiosis of internship opportunities so when a new company moves in or forms like Avadim, we have a ready group of interns that can help with their projects.
If you had to speak to a couple of concrete places which spark connectivity between students and the business world, what would those be?
One I’ll start with is the Chamber. We have such a good relationship and Kit (Cramer) has been terrific to work with — and former Chamber president Rick Lutovsky serves as a key leader on our board.
At the YMCA, we have a use agreement with our Kellogg Center which is hosting a new after-school child care program at the facility. We’ve recently supported a historical photograph exhibit at the new Eagle Market Community Exhibition Space, which serves everyone in Asheville, particularly our African-American community. We have a joint relationship with MAHEC and UNC Chapel Hill’s Master of Public Health program in Asheville and we have a flow of intellectual capital, research assistance, and students going into that program.
And our McCullough Institute Fellowship Program provides intensive mentoring and study opportunities for students to engage in sustainability projects and then share that research all over town as well as on campus.
How can the Chamber and business community help out UNC Asheville?
We have an open welcome mat. If you have an idea, please call us or come to campus. If the Chamber wants to do a study about internships for high school seniors, wouldn’t that be a cool thing for us to do jointly? I’m totally pulling this out of the air, but if there’s an idea Chamber has where the Chamber can use our services, person power, energy, frankly our creativity and innovation, we’re here to be that partnership. In terms of all businesses, I’d say this: We do rely on philanthropy to make a difference in quality beyond what students are contributing in tuition costs. So we are open to contributions of corporate citizens who would like to see that attention to quality here that we’re deeply committed to but need others to pay for, because tuition dollars aren’t enough.
About five years ago a private group connected to UNC Asheville purchased property off Broadway. In your perfect world how would that property be developed? And what other construction and development is on the horizon?
We think of ourselves as a lifelong learning place and whatever we do with a property that’s either on our campus or contiguous to our campus, it’s all going to be about the mutual meeting of our needs, our educational mission, and the city’s needs. Is there a need for a new performing arts building? Is there a need for a planetarium? Is there a need for an environmental studies center with an outing club function that also serves high school students? Do we want to expand the OLLI program? What are the ways we can serve Givens or Cliffs communities? If anything we’d like to see a corridor made more obvious between downtown Asheville and where we’re located.
There’s all kinds of things like that with our master planning program, which has been going for about a year and will probably go for another six to eight months. John Pierce our CFO has been in charge of that project and we’ve opened the doors to this process with external city leaders. I think we’ll have that happening again before the plan is finalized.
So, on a lighter note, I hear The Hop has an ice cream flavor named after you.
They do! It’s called Cable Crunch. I got to try four iterations of this gluten-free, fruit-based yogurt, and I chose a blueberry, lemon and raspberry combination. Students tell me they love it. It was great to premiere it at the SGA event. That’s just one example of all the great relationships we have with businesses big and small in town. Our economic impact is second only to the hospital. We’re an economic driver, so our doing business with people is important because we know it drives their health and well-being. That’s why we’re a member of the Chamber. We’re proud of our businesses and proud to work with them.