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UNCC's First Lady Lisa Dubois Reflects On Her Work On Campus, In Charlotte

Lisa Dubois
Wade Burton
Lisa Dubois, First Lady of UNC Charlotte.

In June, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois will step down after 14 years as president. He has been given a lot of credit for the school’s enrollment increasing to nearly 30,000 students, bringing football to the university and initiating numerous construction projects. But when Dubois leaves the university, the city will lose another community servant -- his wife, Lisa Lewis Dubois, a former criminal appellate lawyer and law professor.

She’s spearheaded numerous projects in the city and on campus, one being a parent and family services office at UNC Charlotte.

She explains its function. 

Lisa Dubois: I thought it was important to build that relationship between parents and the campus community. And so what came out of that was the Office of Parent and Family Services. And it's there to make parents feel comfortable about their children being away at college and to answer any of their questions.

And it has blossomed from just a small thought into now a permanent fixture at the university. And along with that, we have the family brunch every year, which started out with about 50 people having donuts and coffee. And it's now 600 people where we have a raffle for free tuition. It’s a way of communicating with the parents.

Gwendolyn Glenn: And you mentioned it's a way for families to feel comfortable communicating with the university. At times when there have been emergencies, and especially like the tragic shooting on the campus, was that office involved as a way for parents to communicate and find out information?

Dubois: Yes. And a rather sophisticated system, I think has been developed to communicate instantly with students, faculty, parents and staff when such an event occurs as April 30th.

Glenn: Now, another area that I see you've been heavily involved in is students who are veterans who have served in various branches of the military. Why did you connect to that? Is that the history of the university in terms of veterans?

Dubois: Wow, you hit it! Absolutely. We have a proud history of serving the veterans from World War II when they returned home. And veterans are near-and-dear to my heart -- and women in particular, because they have very, very separate, different issues from men. And so annually, I try and get as many women in the military, veterans, together for a luncheon and have a speaker so they can talk and share stories with each other.

Glenn: One thing people might not be aware of is that you are very involved in the Charlotte community. And one of the things you co-founded in 2006 was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Women's Summit. Tell me about your work with that and what have you accomplished since then?

Dubois: It was along with Betty Chafin Rash and Jennifer Roberts, who was our previous mayor. We got together and we realized that there was a gap in the community about awareness of women's issues, and we realized that we could not just rely on anecdotal stories -- that we had to get research and data. So we developed task forces, hundreds of women participated in task forces to gather the data, synthesize it and present it to the community at the women's summit. And it was in five critical areas of interest for women.

Glenn: Those five areas were health, poverty, violence against women, work and politics?

Dubois: Correct. And since then, the women's summit has morphed into becoming a permanent program at the university called the Women and Girls Research Alliance. And they're continuing to do that research. And we'll be holding another summit in April to present their newest findings.

Glenn: And I get from talking to you, empowering women is very important to you. 

Dubois: It is.

Glenn: What's behind that? 

Dubois: I actually had a father who was very empowering of me. And from the time I was a little girl, I took tap dance lessons and ballet lessons. And I'm out there tap dancing away, feeling so great. And my dad comes up to me afterward and he says, "Honey, we're going to concentrate on math." So from then on, I was his someone he would talk to a lot about his work and about my future. And he was a lawyer and I became a lawyer.

Glenn: And do you also do work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools? The dropout prevention program is one that I've heard about. Tell me about your work there. What have you accomplished over all of these years?

Dubois: Well, I was on the board of directors of Communities in Schools for six years, and over 6,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg students participate in Communities in Schools where they are encouraged and empowered to stay in school, to graduate and to achieve things in their life. And it's been a tremendously successful program.

Glenn: Can you give me any statistics in terms of how you guys have determined that it's been successful?

Dubois: They monitor the students who are in the program and they find out how many graduate. And I don't know what the current statistics are on that, but it's very high.

Glenn: And you also are the chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Art Commission, correct?

Dubois: I was chair, but what the Public Art Commission does, the PAC, is it selects public art for the city and the county and the Charlotte-Douglas Airport. So, we've been very involved in all the renovations that have been taking place at the airport. The artwork is tremendous. If you have not been out to the expanded Concourse A, you have to go see Refik Anadol; his digital art is mind-blowing. 

Glenn: Great. Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. 

Dubois: Thank you. 

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.