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Faculty / Staff Conversation - Session 7

Strengths/Opportunities

  • Human Capital - As a university, we have many intelligent people here – who can apply their skills to helping the community.  There are many opportunities for faculty and staff to contribute to the improvement of the community.
  • New leadership gives us the opportunity to reprioritize our goals
  • Caring attitude of employees (i.e. food drives for flood victims, poverty project). 
  • Location is both a strength and weakness for our institution. Strength in that we are a regional institution that can offer what other universities cannot.  Weakness in that we are located off the beaten path.
  • Very clean campus, people are very friendly.  Very well qualified staff members.  We celebrate what little diversity we do have.
  • We seem to be a forerunner in terms of on-line course offerings, although we still have the reputation of a school in the country.
  • New Century Scholars is a way to support our local constituents 
  • Working with and supplementing local public schools to promote WCU is an opportunity.

Weaknesses/Treats

  • Our growth over the last ten years has somewhat strained our abilities to keep up with technology.  We need to study the Strategic Plan longer than just one year, watch the plan over a longer period of time and therefore have the ability to make changes to our Strategic Plan.
  • Communication from the Administration is lacking many times – folks don’t know things until decisions are already made, rather than being informed early on in the process.
  • Many staff members do not have readily available access to campus communications via computer work stations or are not encouraged to check their email if they do.
  • “The Western Way” – if you don’t know what this means, it is a weakness.  “Bells in the Valley” video would be most helpful for new staff to see and understand where WCU came from – very few people ever see this video and learn of the history of WCU.
  • Lack of good community relations off campus and lack of follow-up and follow through with community
  • Lack of Diversity in campus population and services provided for minorities.
  • We lack the kind of social atmosphere students want. Being a dry campus and our distance from Sylva are key factors for this.
  • Cell phone reception.

Barriers to developing off-campus community partnerships

  • We’ve not been viewed as a part of the community for some time.  We must fix our relationships with our campus neighbors – the community seems to not have an interest in being involved with WCU.
  • There needs to be a grassroots effort of organization to foster relationships between WCU and the community. We need to educate the community more on who we are and what we can do for them.
  • Allow more students to have internships with local businesses to build partnerships and “fill the gaps” and make progress.

Priorities – Students Focus

  • If student retention is our top priority, we don’t need to be recruiting students and setting them up for failure. We must provide additional services such as tutoring and other academic success services to promote their success.
  • Place an emphasis on recruiting well-qualified students in terms of academic standards.
  • We need to offer programs that will allow our graduates to compete globally.
  • More social outlets for students. Either have places closer to campus for students to go after hours or provide a better means for them to get to those places off of campus.
  • Improve transportation system off of campus.
  • Promote town and gown relationship with community.
  • Begin an Angels/Alumni Investors project to create business incubators for Students to build a business in the local community starting with Cullowhee. Businesses should be geared toward students and located close to campus.  This could be a collaborative effort with the Business School/Entrepreneurial Program.
  • Promote school pride. Make in effort to see more school spirit on and off of campus.

Priorities – Employees Focus

  • Update our mission statement and create a vision statement for everyone on campus to be on the same page when building our strategic plan. Must know our goals and also have a way of monitoring and revising as needed.
  • More cross-training within each division on campus. There should always be two people who know a process. 
  • WCU needs to be more creative in retaining good workers in light of the lack of funding for salary increases (i.e. employees who earn higher ratings on their performance evaluations could be rewarded with incentives other than monetary – like incentive time off, flex-scheduling, or telecommuting). 
  • Staff training and professional development needs to be more available to staff (i.e. budget training, technology training). Bring back Leadership Training to allow staff to gain training that will better equip them for advancement.
  • Cut fees for staff taking classes with a “Tuition Waiver” (in excess of $100 – not every UNC Institution charges the same amount for fees i.e. App State does not charge these student fees to faculty and staff).
  • Promote from within more. Rather than bringing in new talent from outside of the university, promote our talent and leaders already here on campus.
  • Try to desegregate Faculty, Staff, and other employment types on campus. Have events were all employees are present to show appreciation.
  • To help build employee camaraderie, bring back the Christmas Holiday employee appreciation luncheon and make it a half day like has been done in the past. This is a great way to show employee appreciation without much cost to the university.    
  • Provide a place for both Faculty and Staff to socialize and build commodore free of students. Employees are less comfortable socializing when students are present.
  • Promote more diversity in the work force and provide better services and support for what ethnic groups we do have.

Positive aspects regarding WCU’s influence on the region

  • Dr. Belcher’s visits with each Rotary Club in the region can prove to be valuable. 
  • Community Forums are a good resource to gather feedback.
  • We need to know what the community wants – in order to better provide services and build relationships
  • We play a very large part in supporting the economy of the region

WCU initiatives with the off-campus community

  • Build 2+2s with community colleges beyond Southwestern. We should have more feeder community colleges.
  • Cherokee and Waynesville are  prime opportunities to focus on
  • Reach out to the regional schools by having staff and faculty visit and present info on various topics such as technology.  Offer mentoring programs with the kids in the community.  This could change the attitudes of children to see that they can and should go to college.  Promote and advertise school events and fundraisers to help these schools also promote WCU.
  • Host more events on campus for high schools and middle schools to help build trust with our community. Whether it is sporting events or academic competitions.
  • A newsletter that is shared with the community could be beneficial in fostering a good community channel for communication.
  • Expand our relationships with media outlets through better marketing. 
  • Develop a speaker bureau across each area on campus to promote community organizations and clubs.
  • Open our facilities to host retreats for professional organizations during academic breaks when student are not on campus. Focus on relationship building and lower the cost so organizations are more apt to participate. Have student ambassadors to give participants tours of the campus and it facilities.
 

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