The future of the Allied Health and Sciences building at UNC Pembroke.

UNC Pembroke has plans for two major projects that depend on new state budget

By Kerria Weaver

As state lawmakers continue to work toward a budget deal, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke hopes for money for two major projects. 

The school stands to get millions over the next two years for a new health and science center. Officials are also counting on a large allocation to renovate the Givens Performing Arts Center, a cultural hub in Robeson County and southeastern North Carolina. 

UNC Pembroke saw a record-high enrollment for the fourth year in a row in 2021, with more than 8,300 students. The growth came as most schools in the UNC System saw drops in enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Enrollment at UNC Pembroke fell in the 2022 fall semester to about 7,600 students. 

In an effort to boost the number of students, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted in January to lift the enrollment cap for out-of-state freshmen from 18% to 25% at five schools, including UNC Pembroke. 

Two years ago, UNC Pembroke received about $25 million from the state budget, a record high for the school.

“The legislators have been extremely good to us over the last several budget cycles,” Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings told the Border Belt Independent in a recent interview. 

Here’s a closer look at the projects that could benefit from a new state budget. 

Allied Health and Sciences

The state General Assembly gave UNC Pembroke the go-ahead in 2021 to start work on a health sciences expansion. This year’s budget proposals call for allocating more than $30 million in additional funds so the university can complete the $91 million project. 

UNC Pembroke has hired Jenkins Peer Architects, a Charlotte-based firm, to design the Allied Health and Sciences building, which will be located on Prospect Street at the current site of University Village Apartments. 

UNC Pembroke plans to launch its first doctoral degree program in spring 2024 – doctor of nursing practice with a population health focus. The goal, the university has said, is to reverse the shortage of health care professionals in the region. 

“The Doctor of Nursing Practice will allow us to train individuals who hopefully will stay with Pembroke and help us educate the incredible increasing number of nursing students we see applying to our program,” Cummings said.

A master’s degree program in occupational therapy is also undergoing the accreditation process, he said. 

Givens Performing Arts Center

The exterior of the Givens Performing Arts Center on the campus of UNC Pembroke.
The Givens Performing Arts Center at UNC Pembroke has not undergone any renovations in more than a decade. The facility does not even have an elevator. (Photo by Kerria Weaver)

The university could get $61 million for much-needed renovations at the Givens Performing Arts Center, which hosts Broadway shows, the Lumbee tribe’s pageants, commencement ceremonies and more. 

“The building was built in 1975 and we need renovations badly here,” said James Bass, who has served as executive director of the GPAC since 2016. “As soon as I got in, our technical director gave me a list of about $16 million worth of things that needed to be fixed.”

The GPAC lobby was renovated in 2011 but has not received funding for any upgrades since then. The three-story building does not have an elevator, creating accessible issues. 

Cummings said money from the state would be used to add an elevator and modernize the stage.

Some people worry, however, where events would be held while the GPAC undergoes renovations. 

“If for some reason they decided to shut this building down while they do renovations, that could be two years that they do that,” Bass said. “Events such as the Lumbee homecoming pageants, there’s nowhere else for them to go.” 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the architecture firm designing the Allied Health and Sciences building.

The future of the Allied Health and Sciences building at UNC Pembroke.
When the project is finished, UNC Pembroke’s Allied Health and Sciences building will house the university’s first doctoral program. (Photo by Kerria Weaver)