UNC Wilmington Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli Announces Retirement


Friday, September 24, 2021

After steering the University of North Carolina Wilmington through extraordinary growth with quality, spearheading development of innovative new degree programs, successfully navigating multiple hurricanes and a global pandemic, Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli announced today that he will retire effective June 30, 2022.

During his leadership, the university earned national recognition for achieving excellence amid adversity. UNCW set records for annual enrollment and graduation; publicly launched Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, which is closing in on its $100 million goal; increased community, military and international partnerships; enhanced on-campus and online educational offerings; and achieved a new research designation. For the past three years, UNCW has been one of only three UNC System institutions ranked among the “Top 100 Public National Universities,” according to U.S. News & World Report. The university community also has worked together to overcome significant challenges in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Dorian, to navigate the campus impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to focus more fully on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.  

“The success that our students, faculty, staff and alumni have achieved in recent years has been nothing short of outstanding,” Chancellor Sartarelli said. “I am immensely proud to have served UNCW during such a pivotal time in history, and I want to thank the Seahawk community for making this great university so special. Leaving UNCW and the City of Wilmington will not be easy for my wife Kathy and me, but we are looking forward to a new adventure.” 

The Chancellor took office July 1, 2015, after previously serving West Virginia University as chief global officer and Milan Puskar Dean of the College of Business and Economics. Including his service at WVU, he is among the most experienced leaders in the UNC System. Before transitioning into higher education, Chancellor Sartarelli spent three decades in international marketing and management with three global pharmaceutical companies – Eli Lilly and Company, Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson.  

“Chancellor Sartarelli has taken UNC Wilmington to new heights, leading with ambition all while handling serious challenges posed by hurricanes and the pandemic,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “UNCW has increased its student population by nearly 40 percent in the past decade under the Chancellor’s direction, providing quality educational opportunities to more North Carolinians and expanding campus facilities to meet that growth. I’m so grateful for his steady and visionary leadership, and I know all Seahawks join me in thanking him for his service to UNCW and the state.” 

Sartarelli said that announcing now will give the UNCW Board of Trustees, President Hans and the UNC System Board of Governors approximately nine months to conduct a national search for the next Chancellor. He noted that the university will celebrate its 75th anniversary at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, an optimal time for a leadership transition. President Hans will work with Gidget Kidd, Chair of the UNCW Board of Trustees, on next steps in the search. 

“Thanks to my predecessors, UNCW already was a strong university when I arrived,” the Chancellor said. “I have had the privilege of working alongside dedicated Boards of Trustees, my leadership team, faculty, staff, students and countless alumni, donors and community partners to open new doors of opportunity for the university, the region and North Carolina. I have no doubt that the university’s trajectory of success will continue to soar far into the future.” 

Kidd, a graduate of the Class of 1991, has worked with Sartarelli from the outset of his tenure at UNCW. “Chancellor Sartarelli thrives on turning challenges into opportunities,” she said. “When Hurricane Florence significantly damaged Dobo Hall, our main science building, he and his leadership team used the renovation funds to reconfigure the building, upgrading the roofing and drainage systems to withstand more powerful storms in the future and installing state-of-the-art labs while maintaining the much-loved character of a nearly 30-year-old campus landmark. The Chancellor has inspired the UNCW community to pursue excellence at every level, and the Board of Trustees is very grateful for his service.” 

During his tenure, Chancellor Sartarelli was recognized by Business North Carolina as one of the state’s most influential leaders. Wilmington Biz Magazine included him among the “Power Players – businesspeople and officials having the greatest impact on the region’s business and economic landscape.” A native of Brazil, Chancellor Sartarelli received a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing from the São Paulo School of Business Administration (Fundação Getulio Vargas) in São Paulo, Brazil. He then attended Michigan State University as a Fulbright Scholar, earning an MBA in marketing and a Ph.D. in business administration. 

Many of the university’s major accomplishments during Chancellor Sartarelli’s leadership:

  1. Enhanced the largest sustained enrollment growth with quality among UNC System institutions in recent years. UNCW led the system in enrollment growth from 2009-2021 at a rate of 40 percent and during Chancellor Sartarelli’s term at a rate of 24 percent. Preliminary enrollment data show 18,031 students (highest in UNCW history) for the fall 2021 semester, including a record 3,542 graduate students. Graduate school enrollment grew 121 percent during the Chancellor’s term. 
  2. UNCW’s growth of enrollment resulted in the largest volume of enrollment growth in the UNC System – $74 million over a six-year period.  
  3. Chancellor Sartarelli’s focus on retention and graduation culminated with the largest-ever class of graduates in 2020-21: 5,117 students. Since 2015-16, the number of graduates totals about 27,000 students, about a third of all living alumni of the university. The university has a 6-year graduation rate of 74 percent, one of the best in the UNC System.
  4. Provided strategic support for research and scholarly activities, which earned UNCW the elevated designation of “Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity” – R2 institution – by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in 2018.
  5. In addition to the cutting-edge science conducted at the Center for Marine Science and MARBIONC during Chancellor Sartarelli’s tenure, UNCW students and faculty have also accomplished much related to psychology, artificial intelligence, geospatial intelligence training, national drug courts, creative writing, coastal engineering and international trade and exchange, to name just a few areas of strength. The Chancellor also was a strong advocate for the launch of UNCW’s first nanosatellite, SeaHawk-1.  
  6. Received approval for 17 new baccalaureate- and graduate-level programs including new undergraduate degrees in coastal engineering (the first of its kind in the nation), respiratory therapy, cybersecurity* and intelligent systems engineering* (*pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.) Supported growth of doctoral degrees in educational leadership, marine biology, nursing practice and psychology; and advanced many distance learning options, including clinical research, an accelerated RN-to-BSN program (top 20 in the nation) and an Executive MBA.  
  7. Provided strategic leadership during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which caused $124 million in damage to UNCW. Advocated for and received additional state support to aid in the university’s timely recovery$35 million directly from the legislature. Implemented strategies to diversify structures and ensure resilience.  
  8. During the worst global pandemic in a century, the Chancellor helped guide the campus through state-mandated closures in spring/summer 2020. Worked to ensure the development of policies and procedures to navigate COVID-19 conditions, including comprehensive safety, de-densification, testing and vaccination strategies that positioned the university to remain open and operational, with on-campus living options, since fall 2020. Used federal government funding to further invest in students.   
  9. Connected with all 58 presidents of NC community colleges….


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