Alicia Bertone, DVM, Ph.D., a prolific biomedical researcher and equine orthopedic surgeon, officially started her role as Charlotte’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs Tuesday, Jan. 3. Bertone joins Charlotte from The Ohio State University, where she most recently served as interim associate vice provost of strategic data and analysis. Get to know her in this Q&A.
You have been a champion of public education. What role does public higher education play in society?
This is the difference between public and private education — public education is for all. Societies that can claim higher standards of living and greater acceptance and tolerance of all their populations have an overall higher level of education of their masses of people. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity for a better life. Public education is critical to achieving this, not only for the success of the individual, but also for the advancement of society.
What attracted you to Charlotte specifically?
Charlotte is a vibrant and growing city of similar size to Columbus, Ohio, where I have spent the last 34 years. The challenges at a large public urban research university are familiar to me. I believe my higher education experiences, accomplishments and interests strongly align with Charlotte’s goals and vision. In addition, Charlotte aligned with my family’s personal goal of living in North Carolina. Over 15 years ago, we purchased a farm an hour west of Charlotte in the heart of horse country. Additionally, our son went to Wake Forest University and lives south of Charlotte.
What are you looking most forward to in your first semester at UNC Charlotte?
I am looking forward to getting to know, understand and appreciate the University landscape. I look forward to working with the academic affairs senior leadership team to understand their challenges and how to help faculty and students achieve their goals and I want to connect with students and faculty. I plan to get right in the saddle and assist Chancellor Gaber and leadership with the vital and upcoming accreditation process.
What inspired you to become an equine orthopedic surgeon?
I have been a horse fanatic since I can remember. I came to the realization in my twenties that I had better work with horses so I can fulfill my personal and professional goals simultaneously. I am a “doer” and came by this naturally having been raised on a farm with a lot of chores. My father made everything we had from wood or metal, so from a very young age, I was using a band saw, screws, clamps and helping him make cabinets and metal structures. This influence became apparent right away in surgery. Putting bones together that had been shattered with plates and screws was second nature. Several professors said I should be an orthopedic surgeon, so I followed that path and never looked back.
You are a prolific biomedical science researcher, but you have an expressed love of the arts and humanities. Why are STEM fields, the arts and humanities equally important in higher education?
A well-rounded perspective and education will yield a thoughtful approach and enhance creative solutions. As the world faces expanding complexity to problems, solutions will require perspectives on social behavior, global languages and cultures, aesthetics, human comfort and instincts, technology, science, design and sound business practices, as well as an understanding of history to see what has been done before and the consequences. The ancient philosophy of “mind, body and soul” to enhance human inward and outward treasures has long been relished by humanity. Diversity of education and advances of all disciplines, as well as critical integration, will support a well-rounded health for our society and its individuals.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you ever received?
Although not received until late in my career, it was to reach out and let others know of your aspirations. It is amazing how many people will want to help you obtain your goals if you let them know what they are. Any fear of not attaining them or that they could be obstructed is thinking that can only hold you back.
You are headed to a deserted island. You can take one food, one book, one song and one movie.
My one food choice is pasta, as it is filling, delicious, never boring and is good with just salt. My one drink, assuming water is always present, is a shaken, not stirred, Side Car. My one book is the “Language Instinct” by Steven Pinker and my song is “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. It is an inspirational rhythmical piece reinforcing carpe diem and that you can pull yourself up and change your life. I need to bend the rules a little when it comes to movies, as I have two. “Little Miss Sunshine” is a great story that casually reflects the fears surrounding, and the importance of, inclusion. And “Babe the Pig” (the first one) is about the value of being different and open minded, as well as the unknown, and underappreciated, relevance of all living things.