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Bob Pleasants in the Office for Undergraduate Research has been contributing to research at Carolina for 14 years.

Bob Pleasants has worked for UNC-Chapel Hill in a variety of roles, most recently as director of the Office for Undergraduate Research. He is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior within the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

A black and white photo of Bob Pleasants standing outside Steele Building.
Bob Pleasants (photo by Megan Mendenhall)

What brought you to Carolina?

I came to Carolina as an undergraduate, thrilled to be in a place where everyone seemed to love learning and where I would be exposed to so many new ideas and people. While the cost of a public education was an important factor in choosing Carolina, I was also motivated as a native North Carolinian to join the diverse and prestigious flagship university of the UNC System.

I returned for a master’s in teaching English and later for a PhD in culture, curriculum, and change in the School of Education. As a doctoral student, I studied men’s roles in violence prevention education and researched men’s reactions to learning feminism.

How has your role here changed over the years?

When I did my PhD nearly two decades ago, there were fewer resources available for interpersonal violence prevention and response. I worked with a group of five undergraduate and graduate students to create a working group of students, faculty, and staff dedicated to this issue.

Together, we created the University’s first position dedicated to interpersonal violence prevention, which became my first full-time role here. I wrote grants to create two other positions and presented and published research about Carolina’s innovative approach to the field.

I then moved on to undergraduate education to provide management and campus outreach for the Learning Center, working with an amazing group of staff offering undergraduate academic coaching and support.

I’ve been at the Office for Undergraduate Research (OUR) since 2019. In my current role as director, I oversee the implementation of the University’s curricular vision that every undergraduate will engage in research.

The OUR connects undergraduates to faculty mentors, provides funding for research courses and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs), and helps students share their research at the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research. I also direct the Accelerated Research Program, which supports a cohort of first-year students interested in research.

Although my roles at Carolina have become more administrative over the years, I feel rooted in my dedication to help every student at the University find the resources they need to thrive and grow here. Students who take part in undergraduate research see tremendous benefits — from the intellectual challenge of the research and from the confidence they gain from faculty mentorship.

What’s kept you at Carolina?

I’m a firm believer in the importance of public education. As a born and raised Tar Heel, I have always seen the University as a place that represents the best of our state. I love the diversity of students, faculty, and staff and the shared commitment to education and research as tools for solving some of the world’s biggest problems. It’s a community I have always been proud to be part of.

What contribution are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the teamwork that kickstarted UNC’s violence prevention efforts early in my career. More recently, I’m proud to play a more direct role in the University’s research community. It’s incredibly gratifying to help hundreds of undergraduates articulate their interests, find others doing research in that field, and then connect them to research opportunities. Seeing those students thrive in their placements — presenting, publishing, going on to graduate school — is an absolute joy.

What is a uniquely Carolina experience you’ve had?

As a first-year student, I briefly glimpsed from afar a surreal middle-of-the night ritual on campus that only made sense to me more than a decade later, when I was initiated into one of Carolina’s secret societies. But because I’m sworn to secrecy, I can say no more. . .

Rooted recognizes long-standing members of the UNC-Chapel Hill community who have aided in the advancement of research by staying at Carolina. They are crucial to the UNC Research enterprise, experts in their fields, and loyal Tar Heels.

Carolina celebrates University Research Week Oct. 23-27.

By Carleigh Gabryel, UNC Research

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