State News

Hagan highlights UNC, military partnership

Posted November 15, 2010 4:00 a.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2010 2:11 p.m. EST

— Higher education and the military are two of North Carolina's most important industries, and one U.S. senator says it's natural for them to be partners.

Sen. Kay Hagan joined representatives from the military and the University of North Carolina system Monday at a meeting of the North Carolina Military Foundation in Chapel Hill. They explored how the UNC system and military commands based in North Carolina work together on training, access to education and research.

Hagan said such collaborations are increasingly important as the nature of the military's mission changes.

"We need to create a partnership where the university can provide the educational knowledge to our military," she said, citing engineering, chemical analysis and foreign language skills as areas that could benefit the military now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Such cooperation also will help create jobs in North Carolina, Hagan said.

"It's important for the Military Foundation to focus on different job opportunities here in North Carolina," she said. "We have the third largest military presence of soldiers on the ground. However, we are 26th when you look at defense contracts. That's an area in North Carolina we can grow and provide jobs for people here in our state."

UNC President Erskine Bowles said the university campuses also benefit from the experience provided by military personnel. About 40 active-duty military members are at North Carolina State University this year, he said, and the number will grow exponentially in the coming years.

"The military is a treasure for North Carolina. It's an enormous asset, and we wanted to start five years ago to try and figure out how could we be more helpful to the military," Bowles said. "So, we've come up with lots of different programs that they find very useful."