Faculty / Staff Conversation - Session 1

What are WCU’s greatest strengths?

One of WCU’s greatest strengths is its community.  That community begins with a campus comprised of students, faculty and staff who are deeply connected to the university and the region in which we live.  This is in part possible because WCU is a small community with much in common with the surrounding region, allowing WCU to become a family and really know its members.  When we are seen in the community wearing a WCU t-shirt or ball cap, people are always positive and curious about what is going on at the university.  WCU provides diversity in a rural setting presenting numerous opportunities the region would not otherwise have.  However, WCU employees know it is time for change that is long overdue and they are ready to embrace the future.  It gives us hope for that future as we watch Dr. and Mrs. Belcher meet with people in the surrounding communities to begin rebuilding relationships.

What are WCU’s weaknesses?

WCU needs to do a better job of communicating with the surrounding region.  We should involve the community on what is going to happen next, talk with them about our infrastructure needs, and communicate about more than just Athletics, making sure citizens know WCU is making more changes than just those in Athletics.  We don’t do enough to keep the community informed and involved – they are excited about the possible changes here and feel positive changes are long overdue.  As WCU plans to grow, we need to decide if that is a good thing or not for us and the community – we don’t want to lose our small town feel.

The budget situation continues to challenge us to do more with less.  However, at some point this has to give – morale is impacted and it can be a challenge to maintain a positive attitude.  We continue to lay off the workers at the bottom who do the infrastructure work.  “You don’t prune a tree from the bottom up – you prune it from the top down.”

WCU needs to develop reciprocity policies with bordering states – potential students go to their own state school even though WCU is much closer and our in-state tuition is lower than their in-state tuition.  Given our rural location, we should not use state lines to define our border, but use a radius instead.

WCU has only two entrances/exits to campus.  This is a safety issue – what if there is an emergency/disaster? How would we evacuate the campus?  It is a major traffic jam exiting campus everyday at 5:00.  Changes to parking could alleviate some congestion.  Freshman could either be restricted from bringing cars to campus or move their parking lot further away.

What are some barriers to developing community relationships?

WCU needs to help the community in feeling more comfortable in attending events on campus they may not have experienced before (i.e. required dress code for museum opening, play or show).  WCU needs to remove any misperceptions that you must be able to dress in a certain way or have a level of education to be part of the campus.  The community wants to be involved – it is up to WCU to help all community members embrace the campus as its own.

WCU should have a tuition discount for the children of employees, limited to immediate family – this is especially important now when financial aid is being cut and tuition is going up.

What is the one thing that WCU should do in the future?

WCU needs to decide what we want to be when we grow up – what kind of institution do we want to be?  Liberal Arts? Professional? Large? Small?  If we decide one of our goals is to grow – then how, when and where?  We need to focus on programs that coincide with our goals, continuing to ask ourselves why we are teaching a particular class; is it relevant to the student’s program or just something we like to teach?  Programs need to effectively communicate program requirements to students – is the degree audit providing all the information students/advisors need at a glance?

What should WCU look like in 5-10 years?

In 5-10 years, WCU should have a larger student population which will bring in revenue and provide more jobs in the region and a better connection with Sylva and Dillsboro.  We need to be an effective institution technologically – how will we need to teach and communicate with new technologies? 

A Town Center is a great idea and would help WCU/Cullowhee in numerous ways.  However, is Camp Lab the right location?  It seems too far away to provide the much needed connection to Sylva.

What quality will we have in 5-10 years?

To maintain quality, WCU needs to grow while still maintaining the feel of a small community. To continue to attract quality students and athletes, we need to provide more scholarships.  We could build a parking garage and give the fees collected to scholarships.

How do we affect the region?

We have affected the public schools in the area as well as the community colleges.  However, these relationships could be better developed.  If we give quality information to staff in community colleges and high schools, then we will receive quality students and this will affect all with a sense of pride in WCU and our community. Transparency with our community will provide the greatest affect.

What is one initiative on which we should focus?

One of our strengths is our location.  It would be great to do something to build a partnership with Sylva by doing something environmentally friendly and embrace our location – a greenway development project!  In line with this, we should continue to develop relations with the Green Energy Park in Dillsboro.

An initiative for the employees of WCU would be to continue these talks.  This should be an ongoing opportunity, not just for this one month of October.


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