Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center interviews N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson.

In your view, what is the primary purpose of higher education, and how does NC State pursue that mission?

I believe the primary purpose of higher education is to move the economy of the country forward, and to move the country forward by having an educated workforce and a civilly engaged workforce. And NC State, of course, is a land grant university. We were founded with a specific mission of meeting the practical needs of the country, in fields like agriculture and engineering. In addition to the broader mission of higher education, NC State has always been a university about the needs of the state of North Carolina, particularly as it relates to those practical and applied disciplines like engineering, textiles, and agriculture, but underpinned with a strong liberal arts education.

What are your biggest goals for NC State after COVID-19?

They’re the same goals before and during, which is to serve our mission to the people in North Carolina. Our goals as a university really haven’t changed during the pandemic, they’ve been impacted by the pandemic. And I’ll be happy to talk more about that. We have a new strategic plan. I’m in my 12th year as chancellor, so we’ve concluded the first 10-year plan under my leadership, and we’re now getting ready to launch a second plan, which is really focused on the success of our students—making sure that our students are ready for the workforce and making sure that the university is responding to the needs of the state.

You and I both have been reading about all the new economic development deals in North Carolina and the growing industry here. And a lot of those industries like Google and Apple and Fujifilm Diosynth, and others, are areas where NC State needs to deliver a workforce that’s prepared to go to work in computer science and engineering and biotechnology.