Archie Ervin will lead diversity efforts at Georgia Tech, and leaves a legacy of steady guidance to help Carolina remain a university of the people
Archie Ervin came to Carolina almost 30 years ago seeking a life direction and, in the process, found his passion. Having overcome long odds for his own academic success to be the first in his family to earn a college degree, UNC’s former associate provost for diversity and multicultural affairs has taken his talent and empathy for opening doors for others to a whole new level.
Ervin was named the first vice president for institute diversity at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Ga., and began his tenure on Jan. 1. He will develop and guide the institution’s strategy for creating a more inclusive campus environment and serve a senior leadership role in the president’s cabinet. Having guided diversity and multicultural initiatives here at UNC and spearheaded a number of new and innovative projects, he is well–heeled to take on a new challenge.
But even as he embarks on this new journey, Ervin offered advice for Carolina’s future: “I would hope that we—and it will always be ‘we’ because Chapel Hill is in my blood—can strengthen our resolve to continue the upward trajectory, even in the face of the uncertainties of an economic decline, and maintain our vigilance as a university of the people.”
For 25 years, Ervin guided Carolina’s “sea change” in diversity. He came to UNC in 1986 as assistant to the vice chancellor for University affairs. He served as assistant to the chancellor and director for minority affairs from 1999 to 2005. He led UNC’s diversity initiatives from 2005 to 2010. During that time he helped realize the creation and construction of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, the American Indian Center and was integral in bringing support to the Carolina Latino/a Collaborative, which formed in 2009 to both unite and integrate Latinos on campus.
In the mid-1980s, minority students made up about 15 percent of the first year classes, compared to more than 30 percent today. And while the University was markedly less multicultural in 1986 than it is now, it was in the middle of what Ervin considers Carolina’s golden years. “I believe that 1981 to 1990 was the era in which this University came of age as an institution that opened its doors to those who earned their way in here and overcame many of the historical issues,” he said. “It was a much more civil kind of climate because people understood that the University was in the throes of growing.”
The diversity axis at the time was black and white, he explained. From 1951 to 1973, there were some 100 black undergraduates, and by 1978 the number had grown to 900, then to 2,000 a decade later. “We really began to be a university of the people more than we had ever been,” Ervin said. “The growth of the African-American presence on campus, for both students and faculty members, paved the way for other minority populations.”
Ervin credits the administration for creating a framework for better understanding diversity at all levels of the University, and noted that Carolina has made strides in recruiting diverse students as well as having more diverse professional schools. “The continuing challenge is this: We must find a way to address the structural barriers that prevent us from moving the needle on increased racial and ethnic diversity in the faculty in general and increasing the gender diversity in the leadership across the entire University community,” he said.
Learn more about Ervin’s Carolina legacy…