What are WCU’s greatest strengths?
The group felt very strongly that WCU’s greatest strength is its location, allowing access to numerous outdoor recreations in a spectacularly beautiful and small town setting. The group very much felt that as WCU has grown, we have done a very good job of maintaining an intimate campus setting that is very comfortable to students versus a very large campus where a student can just feel they are another number. WCU is a small public university relative to other UNC schools and this allows students to have great access to faculty. This kind of access feels more like a private school, but at a public university school price - a real positive for WCU.
What are WCU’s weaknesses?
One of WCU’s weaknesses is also its location. There is a real disconnect between WCU and town of Sylva, the local community colleges and regional partners such as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. There are many regional relationships that need to be repaired and re-established. Growth of the university is intimidating to the local community therefore their inclusion in those conversations is essential.
The second greatest weakness the group brought forward is a mentality in the way we do business - “we’ve always done it this way.” Nobody challenges dogmatic policies that WCU has created, not those by GA. The way we do the general budgeting process on this campus is holding us back. We are in competition with each other over budget allocations and that is a huge barrier to people working together. There is no support for infrastructure improvements because of the current fee structure.
What are some barriers to developing community relationships?
WCU leadership needs to be more visible in the community. The group applauded recent efforts and improvements along these lines by the Belchers, but question is this will continue long term. WCU has burned some bridges in the past decade and those relationships need to be repaired.
What is the one thing that WCU should do in the future?
Rebuilding regional relationships, strengthening the WCU brand, really deciding what we want that brand to represent and defining a common vision is top of the list for future endeavors.
How do we affect the region?
WCU has positively influenced the region by remaining one of the largest employers in the area. It also has had a positive impact on the public school systems. The university brings many art and cultural events to an area that otherwise would have limited access to these sort of productions. The Mountain Heritage Center is an undervalued asset that needs more attention - should be a center piece for WCU. Additionally, many of the service learning projects that are initiated from the campus have a positive impact on the region.