Power 100 2020: Jose Sartarelli
Courtesy of Jose Sartarelli
70 | chancellor, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Learning to balance growth and quality were among the most important skills Sartarelli learned during his 30 years of working for pharmaceutical giants such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly. The Brazil native has translated that balance to lead UNC Wilmington, where he’s helped sustain the fastest enrollment growth among the 16 UNC System campuses over the last decade.
In addition to his business career, Sartarelli served as West Virginia University’s business school dean and administrator for five years. He became chancellor at UNCW in 2015. Sartarelli has a bachelor’s degree from Sao Paulo School of Business Administration and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.
Since arriving at the coast, he’s helped the university expand its research funding and attract nearly 17,500 students to campus for the 2019-20 school year, up 4.5% from a year earlier.
Enrollment has surged 35% over the last 10 years, boosting tuition income that Sartarelli says enables the university to create more programs that meet job demands and prepare students for fast-growing industries. While some Wilmington faculty have criticized the growth as excessive, UNC System leaders have consistently praised Sartarelli’s aggressive approach. Voluntary turnover at the university ranks among the lowest in the system, a January report shows.
Much of his focus has been expanding Wilmington’s graduate programs. It now offers doctoral programs in nursing practice, educational leadership, marine biology and psychology. More Ph.D.-level studies are in the works with a goal of having 10 programs within the next few years, pending approval by the UNC System. The chancellor points to the school’s expanded computer software and engineering offerings as evidence of a stronger focus on careers that are in demand by employers.
Boosting the nursing and engineering programs helps meet the needs of the region’s thriving health care and fintech employers, including New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Live Oak Bank and nCino, Sartarelli says.
The efforts are drawing attention: The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in December 2018 listed UNC Wilmington among 138 doctoral universities with “high research activity.” The designation includes schools that have at least $5 million in research activity and award at least 20 doctoral degrees. Other N.C. universities on the list included Duke, N.C. State and UNC Chapel Hill.
“I believe that if there is a legacy for me, it’s going to be our doctorate status and that we started [an] engineering [program] at UNCW,” Sartarelli says.
UNCW also launched the nation’s first bachelor’s-level program for coastal engineering in 2018. The curriculum combines courses in civil engineering, environmental science and marine science.
The school is working on a new program called Intelligent Systems Engineering, which is made up of software development, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence studies. UNCW would become the second U.S. college, after Indiana University, to offer a bachelor’s degree in that discipline. He expects approval in the next year or so.
Bolstering online bachelor’s programs is another emphasis. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report rated UNCW’s offerings as eighth nationally in a ranking based on student-instructor access, instructor credentials and graduation rates. The goal is to make courses more accessible to students of all ages. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve developed somewhere between 17 and 20 new programs,” Sartarelli says. “Most [of what] we’ve developed has had very high demand.”
To keep up with the growth, more than $400 million in campus improvements, renovation projects and hurricane-recovery construction projects are underway or planned over the next few years. New construction at the campus is taking into account expectations of more frequent severe storms such as Hurricane Florence, which caused $140 million in damage in 2018.
To fund new developments, he’s implemented creative solutions such as public-private partnerships with corporations and nonprofits. UNC System schools are increasingly reliant on funding sources other than state appropriations.
“We spend a lot of time not only thinking about fundraising but how to work tactically with the legislature for funding,” he says. “We have to be creative but also have to look outside the box at the big picture for how to fund the future.”
— Harrison Miller