Q&A with Jane Ellison: ‘Everyone Has Something To Give’

Jane Ellison takes her glasses off as she speaks behind a podium. The photo is framed in blue and says 50 Years, Board of Visitors

To celebrate the UNC Board of Visitors’ 50th anniversary, we are sharing what it’s like to volunteer from the perspectives of past and present members.

This month, we chatted with Jane Rouse Ellison ’95, a Carolina Nursing graduate and the current chair of the BOV. Ellison is a pediatric nurse in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and three boys — the eldest a first-year student at Carolina! Her volunteer efforts at Carolina go beyond the BOV. She has served on the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council, the NextGen Committee during the Campaign for Carolina, the Board of Visitors for the UNC School of Nursing, and she recently joined the Executive Committee of Carolina Women’s Leadership Council.

BOV volunteers assist the Board of Trustees and the chancellor in a range of activities that advance the University. Ellison shares her experience as a BOV member in this Q&A.

Why did you volunteer for the Board of Visitors?

It is an incredible privilege and an excellent opportunity to elevate the nursing profession — to get in front of people and show my passion for both my job and Carolina. Also, If you look at the great Tar Heels of all time, most of them served on the BOV. It’s such an honor because it’s an invitation — you don’t apply for it. I highly recommend it if asked. You learn so much more about Carolina — you engage with students, with other Tar Heels, and it gets you back to campus. What’s better than that? Any opportunity that brings me back to Chapel Hill … I’ll take it!

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience as a BOV member?

I find it most rewarding — and motivating — to be in contact with students. I’m always encouraged by their “go get ‘em” attitude. They’re brilliant, know how to advocate for themselves, and start new things: There are 800-plus student-driven clubs at Carolina! I chose to serve on the Career Services Committee within the BOV because we get to interact with students at every meeting.

How does your experience as a Carolina parent impact your service on the BOV?

I engage with the board in a different way through the lens of a parent. I am keeping up with my alma mater and want to keep my finger on the pulse of Carolina because of my role as BOV member and chair, but also because my son is gaining his education — and life education — there. He’s making friends and preparing for his future in Chapel Hill. I want to be able to have educated conversations with him when we talk about his plans and what’s going on at Carolina. Being a member of the BOV gives me that inside glance.

What’s something that surprised you during your service as chair of the BOV?

Carolina continues to challenge me. When I was asked to be chair, I would have never turned it down, but I did pause because of my fear of public speaking. And then I thought, I cannot turn this down as a nurse. I believe in UNC and its “passionately public” mission, and it was important to put my fears aside and rise to the occasion when I was asked. When I look at past chairs, a lot of them have impressive CVs, and I am so proud to be a bedside nurse, feel empowered and know that what I do matters as well. I am excited about the job I’ve done so far because I can look people in the eyes and know that I’ve done my best. Also, I’ve overcome and even embraced a challenge that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Thanks, Carolina!

As the BOV celebrates 50 years, what is one thing you want everyone to know?

Everyone has something to give — whether it’s time, energy, passion or financial support. If you are lucky like me and find yourself with a little bit extra of any of those things, it’s a great feeling to give back to the place that gave so much to us. When I was working in the Burn Center at UNC Hospitals, I carried around a clipboard with a quote that would always remind me: “You make a living from what you get, and you make a life from what you give.” That motivates me as a nurse, as a human and now as a passionate Tar Heel volunteer. When Carolina calls, we should answer!

As told to Angela Harwood, University Development

Top photo by Jen Hughey, frame designed by Maggie Lowe