We speak with Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., as he begins his sixth academic year as Chancellor of UNC Greensboro. In the midst of a global pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, he shares his personal experience of becoming the first Black chancellor of a non-HBCU in the UNC System. “The beauty of universities is that they can be a space of discovery, and they can also be a space for real dialog,” he says, “At the same time, they can be institutions that reify existing structures of bias and discrimination.” In light of this, Chancellor Gilliam discusses the call to become “anti-racist”, and speaks about the tremendous potential of UNCG as an unusually diverse campus. “We’re diverse on a number of dimensions,” he says. “The campus is not dominated by any one group… What’s interesting about this is that when students come out of their classes, they’re likely to see somebody that looks like them… That’s the power and beauty of this campus. We’re all in one place. It’s a good step in this grand march towards freedom.”
UNCG student Luis Mejia Cruz, a chemistry student who immigrated to Greensboro from Mexico City when he was nine years old, also joins the conversation. Luis shares his thoughts on the importance of connecting with our history, and talks about how the pandemic has sparked connections within his community.