The process was to discuss the future of WCU, focusing on three key themes:
- Strengths and Weaknesses
- Number one priority of WCU
- Community and Region
- Students: their manners, personality, and intelligence
- Small class size (relative to other universities)
- A discussion ensued about the increase of class sizes over the last few years. We are losing our identity by increasing class sizes, although it is understood that the budget does play a large part.
- Community: Cullowhee, Sylva, and Dillsboro have the drive to participate in supporting WCU
- Location: This could be considered a strength and weakness. The area is beautiful with many outdoor activities but geographically we are isolated. Because of our location, staff tends to receive lower pay.
- Staff feels appreciated.
WCU was once considered a “party school”, but that seems to have changed for the better. We need to recruit students that “fit” with WCU, just like you would recruit faculty and staff.
We have no choice to grow, but we need to learn to focus the growth while maintaining our small identity. Having a small identity is a plus for the university.
We should enhance what we have now and educate students on what we can offer. We should promote the positive side of the local area. We are not “urban” therefore we should not continue to compare WCU to larger institutions in this manner. Instead of continuous building and expanding, let’s work on enhancing what we already have; make it the best!
Good relationships are formed between staff and students. Many of them come back and visit which makes the staff feel worthwhile.
There seems to be a push to grow due to budget issues. We have to remember that the students are here to get a quality education and that could be at risk if tuition continues to rise.
What are some of the barriers to building community partnerships?
There is nothing in Cullowhee; the industries moved out a long time ago. Jackson County is not a destination location anymore. It seems to be purely a vacation spot and even the number of tourists has dropped.
We could create a business in Cullowhee that is run by students. We could generate more income from outside the community.
One option is to consider Drake Software; they could have operations based out of WCU for students.
The younger generation feels the area would be improved considerably with restaurants, etc. The older generation doesn’t want to see this kind of growth in the area. Many restaurants won’t come here because there aren’t enough people who are financially stable to support the business.
Consider an incentive for students in the Entrepreneur program; something similar to the “Teaching Fellows” program. WCU would give students a break on their tuition if they committed to opening a business in this area for a certain number of years. This might encourage more students to stay in the area after graduation.
Little to do; many Jackson County residents travel to Asheville for shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.
Many felt that faculty and staff should not have been separated during these discussions. There is no “togetherness” on campus; but there is a definite separation of positions. Faculty is treated with kid gloves. There should be more rules enforced upon them to ensure they are offering the students a good education, instead of making sure they’re teaching schedule is Tuesday and Thursday only. We all need to work as one to achieve our goal.
There isn’t enough communication on campus. The staff feels as though they’re only alerted of issues when they’ve done something wrong.
What should be the first priority of WCU for the future?
- Quality education
- Education of the community
- Increase academic standards
- Eliminate classes and programs that have low enrollment and do not assist students in finding employment.
- Improve what we already have and not continuously work on expansion.
- Administration should know and understand what is really happening with faculty (schedules, attitudes, quality of teaching, etc)
What is the one thing you would like to have included in this report?
- Focus on students and their future.
- Focus on offering an education that will keep students at WCU and in the community.
- Focus on what the students want and need; they are not here to please the faculty.
- Continue with programs that work and discontinue the ones that aren’t showing results.
- Don’t forget where WCU came from; what it was founded on.
- Stay focused on student’s needs and retention.
- Offer a quality education with good advising that will produce successful students