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Examples of Engagement at WCU

Prison Flip WCU

A few highlights of engagement projects active during the 2014-2015 academic year are included, grouped based on the following themes from the WCU 2020 Vision ("By 2020, WCU will be acknowledged as the regional educational leader in the creative arts, education of teachers and school personnel, environment and environmental policy, health professions, innovation and technology, and recreation and tourism"):

Creative Arts


Environment and Sustainability


Innovation and Technology

Recreation and Tourism




The images associated with the projects were provided by faculty, staff, and students working with our community. Please contact the Office of Public Relations at Western Carolina University if you have questions or concerns regarding use of these images.


Creative Arts

Susan Brown-Strauss (bstrauss@wcu.edu) with students in the Costume Technology class partnered with Asheville Community Theatre (ACT) and North Carolina Stage Company (NC Stage) in Asheville in a collaborative project to create eighteenth century costumes for a production of Amadeus, March 2015. Costumes were designed by Brown-Strauss and WCU students were involved with all aspects of creating the costumes including patterning, construction, alterations and modification of existing costumes. This is the second collaborative project with Asheville theaters and WCU costume students. Previous collaboration included a production of In The Next Room with NC Stage in 2012.  Photo: Treadshots.com




WCU faculty members Jack Sholder and Arledge Armenaki, along with the Directing the Documentary and Editing class, have partnered with "The Bascom", a prominent regional museum that features visual art exhibitions and educational programs, this year with a series of highlight videos “The Bascom, Empty Bowls, and Faces and Places” that showcase activities of The Bascom in the Highlands/Cashiers region. The Bascom Staff were quite pleased and the videos show the engagement activities of The Bascom with the surrounding community. The class worked with Sallie Taylor, Executive Director, Will Barclift, Director of Education, Margaret Browne, Exhibitions Curator, Billy Love, Education Manager, Bonnie Potts, Marketing & Corporate Development Manager, Frank Vickery, Director of Ceramics and Ian Ward, Exhibitions Designer. This spring Arledge Armenaki was asked to be the director of photography on a new video "Collective Spirits: Touching Hearts Through Art 2015" for The Bascom. He had WCU FTP graduates and undergraduates on the crew. Regarding the documentary projects, Will Barclift stated, “We are grateful to WCU for introducing these talented and ambitious students to our art center. These projects were fulfilling on many levels – the students developed their research and technical skills by collaborating with a mission-driven organization; The Bascom gained exposure for our work in the community; and the relationship was strengthened between The Bascom and WCU, alma mater to roughly half of our staff.”



The art education program at WCU is involved in a number of small projects - all of which have community impact.  One of these projects, Youth Art Month, attracts about 800 visitors to Bardo Arts Center each March (primarily families of K-12 public school students whose work is displayed). About $800 in awards are given out (funds are raised by WCU Art Ed Club) and a reception/ceremony is held for 2 hrs. Area art teachers are recognized and first place artworks are framed/photographed and exhibited in the Killian building into perpetuity.

Contributor: Erin Tapley


Karyn Tomczak, Program Director of Dance, choreographed and taught ten WCU dance students a Rockette-Style dance routine for the Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries last December. It was part of the kickoff ceremonies to get the evening rolling. It really got the attendees to the event in the holiday spirit with the holiday music and "Santa" costume. The girls took many photos including one with the Mayor of Dillsboro.



Cast Iron pour events are held at Green Energy Park, Dillsboro NC, Brevard College and here at Western Carolina Univ. Casting metal is one of the oldest forms of art making. It is a multi-layered process and requires a lot of involvement from students and staff. Faculty Justin Kennedy works foundry/metal casting into his curriculum. Each student is required to fully engage in both the process and the collaboration. Faculty and staff from all institutes involved participate in the events. We also invite the public in whatever area we are working in to also participate. We approach events as way to communicate who WCU is and how students think. Each other school of the group does the same in return.



Lecturer Peter Doyle (pjdoyle@wcu.edu) along with students in the Stage and Screen department create sizzle reels and promos (3-4 minutes in length) together with treatments and PR materials to promote film festivals or as short films, or as presentation materials to obtain funding for documentaries, and films for distribution to media outlets.  Projects included a short film by Nicole Martin on the music chapter Sigma Alpha Iota that reaches out to Community organizations such Girl Scouts, a promo for a final thesis project by Samuel Wallace on the role the winning Franklin High School football team plays in community cohesion and identity, as well as a promotion film for the local Controlled Chaos Film Festival produced and edited by Joshua Scharfman. Doyle’s role is to provide guidance, constructive criticism, suggestions and contacts where appropriate.


WCU Theatre faculty & staff along with Bardo performing Arts Center student crew collaborated with the Daydreamz Project, to provide technical support to their DEFT theatre program for individuals with varied abilities/ disabilities. The team provided lighting, sound, and video crew support for their production of Nutcracker Sweet. This project gives WCU students Service Learning opportunities, lending theatrical skills/ expertise to high schools and nonprofit groups in need of professional technical support. Theatre faculty David Bortle's (dbortle@wcu.edu) future projects for the group include, continued support of the DEFT theatre-arts program as it expands to serve Jackson county individuals with disabilities, and broadening the collaborative relationship with Smoky Mountain High school.


Dr. Goins along with first year MSW student Jenn Johnson are working to offer a free therapeutic arts program to 72 low income older adults residing in Asheville. The project is in partnership with the Council on Aging of Buncombe County and The Geezer Gallery in Portland, OR. This effort is funded by the Provost's External Funding Support Grant and the Fanny Landwirth Foundation.  The purpose of the project is to examine the effect of program participation using a waitlisted randomized control trial design to assess health-related quality of life, loneliness, depression, apathy, morale, and verbal and episodic memory.



The Concert Choir was invited to sing Alexander's Feast by G. F. Handel with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra (ASO) & Chorus (ASC) on April 18, 2015.  Music faculty Michael Lancaster (malancaster@email.wcu.edu) serves as Music Director of the ASC and works closely with the Music Director of the ASO.  The Concert Choir rehearsed the Handel during normally-scheduled rehearsals as part of the curriculum before joining the ASC & ASO for evening choral/orchestral rehearsals in Asheville.  The performance was a smashing success; as the conductor acknowledged the combined choruses afterward, the swell in the applause was palpable.  Singing with a fine professional orchestra and an excellent community chorus is a memorable event for an undergraduate music student.



Faculty Laura Lembeck (Laura.Lembeck@email.wcu.edu) along with students from the Math 101 Concepts Course, researched Phi (the Golden Number/Ratio) in their own academic area of interest, reporting their findings back to the class through visual means as well as written report style.  Partner school, Union County High, under the direction of teacher, Neil Setzer, (nsetzer@ucschools.org) also researched Phi, particularly in the area of the Fibonacci sequence.  Projects were shared across schools. Projects ranged from a hand-drawn "Einstein in Phi Spiral" to an original rap-song about the concept and the process, to an original statistical project, to Phi in Art, Construction, Beauty, Nature, Music, Sports.  Phi is everywhere!


 Faculty Robert Steffen volunteered engineering work for commissioned artist Alex Irvine, 2014 “The Daydreamer” mural commissioned by the City of Asheville, Aloft Hotel Mural. The engineering work consisted of attachment design, testing, and analysis, as well as determination of construction materials and methods.



Faculty Betty Torrell (brtorrell@wcu.edu) created a team of 4th year students in their Professional Practice course and final Design Studio in the Interior Design program in the SOAD to design a coffeehouse for the Cullowhee Presbyterian Youth Ministry (UKIRK). The goal of the coffeehouse project was to create a comfortable, playful and communal space where WCU students could gather to study and socialize.  The students worked with the Ministry Board of Directors to develop a program for the design of the space and implement that program. The project enabled the students to work with a real client on a real project in a real space with a real budget.  The project provided the Ministry with a student-centered space for their ecumenical community based outreach activities.



Faculty Pavel Wlosok (pwlosok@wcu.edu), along with students from the School of Music Commercial and Electronic area (Jazz oriented), continue to perform live and spread the art of jazz both on and off campus. Not only do students under Pavel's instruction perform for important campus oriented events, such as the Board of Trustees dinner last Fall of 2014 in BAC, but they also perform in state festivals and local venues in the town of Sylva (Innovation Brewery, Soul Infusion, Ronald Reagan High School Jazz Festival 2014). A goal of these projects is to make the public aware of the only true art form which has originated in the USA and spread around the Globe - the art of Jazz. By making the public aware, we make them culturally and socially better and more educated and sophisticated human beings. Art plays a crucial role in this area. Jazz deserves more attention and support given its history and importance.



The combined efforts of the Jackson County Green Energy Park and the faculty and student artists from WCU is a unique combination that presents the annual Youth Arts Festival. Our students and faculty artists provide hands on activities showcasing the talents of the young artists. From sidewalk chalk paintings to cloth quilts, artists share their talents with the children from our community.


 Contributor: Richard Tichich



For over twelve years Bob Beaudet, member of the health and physical education program in the School of Teaching and Learning has taken his students in HPE 424- Adapted Movement and Wellness to Cullowhee Valley Elementary to work with students who have been diagnosed with severe cognitive and physical disabilities.  The students in HPE 424 work one on one with the Cullowhee Valley students.  After meeting their student and conducting an initial evaluation they plan and implement lessons designed to improve their student's motor and locomotor skills as well as their levels of physical fitness in order help meet the goals in their student's IEP.  Additionally the students in 424 take their student into a "regular" physical education class to be included alongside the "able-bodied" students.  This inclusion in the regular class has been beneficial socially for all of the students involved.     



Biology faculty member Sunny Himes (shimes@wcu.edu) and honor student Rachel Rial (rcrial1@catamount.wcu.edu) produced an 8-page children's coloring book about the diversity of fish found in Scott's Creek within the city limits of Sylva, NC.  Fish diversity, as well as diversity of other aquatic organisms, in Scott's Creek is threatened by pollution, sedimentation, and habitat loss and degradation. The book was created as an educational tool for the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River, a citizen-based group dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the health and quality of the Tuckasegee River.  Local children will receive copies of the coloring book at schools, festivals, and local children’s events.   



Faculty Elizabeth Gillespie McRae and Alex Macaulay along with Hunter Library faculty, high school teacher Pam Shuler and social science education undergraduates initiated an oral history training program with Smoky Mountain High School Students.  The "Mountain People, Mountain Lives" project connects the History department with local public high school students in an effort to document the history of this region. Once trained in oral history, eighteen high school students conducted and recorded the histories of eighteen community members, uncovering local history. The goals of the ongoing program are twofold.  First, we want to train students to do oral history, bringing their history and the history of their community alive.  Second, this project seeks to expand the documented history of our region, enriching the Appalachian Oral History Project housed at Hunter Library.



The Honors College student class of 2018 rounded out their social activism studies in USI 101 Honors Forum by participating a competition to see which floor in Balsam and Blue Ridge Residence Halls could collect the most food and personal care items for United Christian Ministries (UCM). UCM is a safety net organization located in Sylva that provides assistance to families in need. Students learned about the non-profit organization in August, gathered 400 pounds of food donations in September, and in October and November, collected 376 in the contest, including baby food, diapers and food staples such as peanut butter and pasta. Blue Ridge Hall came in first at 168 items winning the prize:  A spaghetti dinner prepared by the Honors College staff. The community activity, coupled with their required reading "Soul of a Citizen” by Paul Loeb, provided an entry point for a community connection in the western North Carolina region. For more information, contact Brooke Talley (abtalley1@catamount.wcu.edu), the Community Service Co-Chair of The Honors Board of Directors.



Dr. Lisa Bloom (bloom@wcu.edu) and Dr. Sharon Dole (dole@wcu.edu) along with WCU students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate courses in Gifted Creative and Innovative Education continue to offer Rocket to Creativity, a one week experience in creative thinking and problem solving on the WCU campus each summer. The camp provides an exciting summer enrichment opportunity for children 8-14 and allows WCU students to gain experience promoting creative thinking and problem solving through problem based learning. Children who attend engage in projects such as reenactments of historical events, inventions such as hovercrafts and creations such as animated cartoons.  It is collaboratively planned and facilitated by Dr. Lisa Bloom, three public school teachers/ partners, Kristi Kowalski, Jonnie Walkingstick, and Pam Martin and WCU students. Faculty and partners are collecting data on the creative thinking processes of children and the strategies that promote creative thinking and problem solving.


Growing Minds@ WCU: The Local Food and Farm to School Education Project integrates knowledge of education and nutrition in order to help implement best educational practices and address health and economic needs in the WNC region.  Through this project, WCU students are observing, assisting, and leading local food cooking classes, cafeteria taste tests, gardening lessons, farm fieldtrips, and farmer classroom visits. Activities are happening in preschool (Fairview Head Start) and K-8 (Cullowhee Valley School) learning labs, as well as in field placements throughout western North Carolina.  Growing Minds @ WCU is a partnership between Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, WCU, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Mountain Projects, and Jackson County Schools.  At WCU, the partnership includes the School of Teaching and Learning, the Nutrition and Dietetics Programs, and the Center for Service Learning.  Funding has been provided by grants from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


Contributor: Patricia Bricker


Sharon Dole's students in her Education in a Diverse Society courses individually participated in an activity in which he or she was a cultural minority. The intent of the activity is to experience what it is like to be significantly different from the majority. Students have participated in a variety of activities, including volunteering at a homeless shelter or shelter for abused women, volunteering to work with children with exceptionalities or older people in a nursing home, attending a significantly different religious or spiritual celebration, attending an event where another language is spoken, or attending an event focusing on gay/lesbian/transgender issues.


Faculty Eleanor Petrone (eapetrone@email.wcu.edu) Kim Winter (kkruebel@email.wcu.edu) Chena Flood (ctflood@email.wcu.edu) , Jenny Stuart (jstweart@email.wcu.edu) and Belinda Petricek (bdpetricek@email.wcu.edu)  wrote and received a grant from DPI for the development of the LEAP after school program. This after school program is designed to meet the distinct literacy and English language development needs of emergent bilinguals attending Cullowhee Valley School. As the director of the TESOL program, Petrone is collaborating with the recently hired director of LEAP, Cynthia Calhoun (ccalhoun@jcpsmail.org), in designing a program that caters to the strengths of a bilingual demographic and supports the development of academic language so that these students can be successful in a k-8 setting. The LEAP program will provide an educational setting for WCU pre-service teachers to work with students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds while supporting a local public school.


Karena Cooper-Duffy (kcooper@email.wcu.edu) and Kerri Eaker (Family Support Network) will be interviewing families who have children with a variety of disabilities to learn about the success and challenges the families experience both in their home life and with professionals ( teachers, administrators, physical therapists, speech and language pathologist, nurses, etc.).  The content of the interviews will be used to create a book of case studies that will be used to prepare professionals to learn to collaborate with families who have children with disabilities. Families will provide recommendations of how professionals can enable, support and collaborate with them. These suggestions will also be shared with personnel from the public schools in workshops and publications to improve the collaboration between families and the professionals in the school system.


Faculty Channa De Silva led a project that involved working with high school students at Smoky Mountain High School, Sylva. CHEM 380 students designed worksheets to explain chemistry key concepts to the students.  They also did interactive work sessions with the students.


Faculty Brian Dinkelmeyer made ice cream using liquid nitrogen for a class of 1st graders at Cullowhee Valley Elementary, discussed the existence of atoms, the phases of matter, the nature of heat and how the phases of matter change upon adding or removing heat. He also participated in the Robbinsville High School Science Day with a hands on activity for ~150 K-8 graders.  This activity involved making "slime" by cross linking polyvinyl alcohol with borax.


Jerry Miller, along with students and research technicians form the Department of Geology and Natural Resources, have continued to work with faculty at Tuscola High School to develop and implement a field- and laboratory-based water quality curriculum. A significant component of the engagement includes the training of middle and high school teachers on the collection, manipulation, and analysis of water quality data through a series of workshops. Students and technicians from GNR also assist faculty from Tuscola with field-trips to Raccoon Creek where high school students collect data on a regular (~bi-weekly) basis during the spring and fall. Goals of the project, which is supported Pigeon River Fund, are to increase student interests in, and understanding of, water quality issues in the area and the physical sciences in general. 


Anne Rogers has been involved in several Eastern Band tribal activities, including those involving participants in the "Remember the Removal" bicycle ride, which takes participants along the removal route of the Cherokees in 1838.  This involvement included participation in the send-off event. 


Faculty Roya Scales (rqscales@wcu.edu) and Rus Binkley (rbinkley@wcu.edu), along with WCU education majors in the School of Teaching and Learning, partnered with Oulu International School in Oulu, Finland, for international internships in 2013 and 2015. Perspectives on teaching and learning were shared and continue to shape teachers' thinking about multiple topics, including curriculum, purposes for literacy, assessment, community, culture, teaching, and teacher education.  



Bill Yang (Faculty, Kimmel School, wyang@wcu.edu) will conduct a two-part project, one of which is to continue coaching the Fairview First Lego League (FLL) robotics teams and the second of which is to help the Fairview Science Olympiad team put up a competitive effort on the Robocross, which is one of the engineering events.  Both activities involve coaching middle school students and tie closely to the ENGR 350 Engineering Practices II course, in which he also uses the robotics projects.


Ann Allen’s students lead a team of educators to choose, develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate a reform initiative designed to address an area of shared concern in their school.  The purposes of this project include providing a learning experience for aspiring administrators (the students), stretching and expanding their leadership style, examining the change process by leading a change initiative from inception to evaluation and revision, examining the notion that social science and aesthetics are essential for improved learning, testing the effects of having faith in the process. The Change Project allows students to experience a wide variety of leadership responsibilities and encompasses elements from every leadership standard posed by DPI.


Faculty Indrani Bose (ibose@email.wcu.edu) and students in the Principles of Biotechnology and Research in Biology courses continue to analyze, and curate DNA contigs in Drosophila species as part of the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP), a collaboration with the Biology Dept. and Genome Center of Washington University in St. Louis. Participating undergraduates learn to take raw sequence data and to annotate genes, pseudogenes, transcriptional start sites, and other features, leading to analysis of a question in genomics and potentially a research publication.  This project seeks to give hands-on training to undergraduates in bioinformatics and genomics while at the same time improve genomic analysis by providing high quality annotation for future research questions.


Staff member Brian Boyer (bboyer@wcu.edu), along with students from the Leadership Class the Band of Brothers, provided the staff for the Friday dinner shift at the local Community Table during the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters.  Students were responsible for serving and plating of the food, distributing beverages, washing dishes, and for compiling and distributing food boxes for local families in need of items to supplement their household items.  This project is designed to help students to make connections to the local community and understand that as part of being a student at Western Carolina University they are also a part of a much larger community.  The purpose of the project is also to help students to be responsible and informed members of society, to understand how fortunate they may be, and to embrace the importance in value of giving back.



Faculty Kathleen Brennan (kbrennan@wcu.edu) and students from the Sociology Program continue to partner with Haywood Waterways Association, Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on maintaining and improving surface water quality in the Pigeon River Watershed of Haywood County, NC, by providing research support to aid in the evaluation of the annual Kids in the Creek Program. Administered by HWA and with the commitment of a variety of community partners, the KIC Program aims to expose all 8th grade students in Haywood County to applied activities that raise awareness of the importance of clean water and the issues that could degrade water quality. Ongoing research support provided by Dr. Brennan and her students includes creation of a data codebook, data entry of roughly 1,800 pre- and post-program surveys, data verification and compilation into a cleaned dataset, data analysis, and written results. Results will be used to assess program effectiveness related to learning outcomes and student perceptions of program impact. 


Students enrolled in Dr. Cyndy Caravelis Hughes' (caravelis@wcu.edu) Ripple Effect Learning Community collaborated with community agencies to provide much needed support while learning about social justice issues affecting our local community. Students were afforded the opportunity to choose agencies that aligned with social justice issues that resonated with them and spent the semester building relationships with both the organizations and the people that they served. For example, students concerned about food insecurity worked with the Community Table and assisted with both dinner service and fundraising while students working with REACH of Macon County made care packages for new residents of the shelter. After their semester of service, students created a final project that included photos and videos of their service and shared their experiences and reflections with their classmates.


Faculty James Manning and members of WCU's International Programs and Services or "IPS" made it possible to restart the "International k-12 Outreach program," a community outreach program that offers in class presentations on international cultures to elementary and high school students.  Small groups of students in both sections of Dr. Manning's Intercultural communication class are paired with cultural 'hosts' or international students, faculty and staff through IPS.  Student groups complete several research assignments prior to interacting with their culture's host and to prepare for K-12 presentations.  This end of the semester outreach project requires application of: peer reviewed literature specific to the group's assigned culture; critiques of select current events as reported by U.S. and group's host culture and check for media bias; and, ethnographic interview of cultural hosts.  Class and research preparation must meet class/academic standards and approval from their host and the group's assigned K-12 teacher.  These K-12 class presentations are unique to WNC and WCU.



Dr. Mike Hubble, Director of Distance Learning and Graduate Studies in Emergency Medical Care, takes seniors to the state and national EMS conference every year to conduct and present research.   The goal of this continued project is to teach young professional the process and importance of research.


Environment and Sustainability

Biology faculty and students are involved in long term monitoring of salamander populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest. In this project, they monitor salamander populations at sites in GSMNP and in Nantahala National Forest.  They also collect data on both general salamander abundance, and on movements of salamander hybrid zones at these sites.  This project was started 40 years ago by Nelson Hairston Sr. and R. Haven Wiley at UNC-CH, and more recently has been taken on by Dr. Joe Pechmann and Dr. Jeremy Hyman of WCU.  This project gives a large number of students the opportunity to gain experiences in field biology and to see real world examples of many of the concepts they learn in class.   This project provides our partners with a unique long-term data set which is useful in monitoring sensitive species, such as salamanders, which are good indicators of ecosystem health. 


Western Carolina University would like to begin raising awareness of renewable energy and educating students and faculty on the importance of sustainable energy. WCU Facilities Management contacted Rapid Center at Kimmel School in designing a project that will accomplish these goals. A 10 kW grid-tied PV system that will be centrally located on campus has been designed and proposed by the capstone team mentored by Dr. Karayaka. The system will serve as a living, learning laboratory for the campus community. The solar panels for the system will be mounted on three structures approximately 10 to 14 feet off the ground, which will also provide shade and shelter from the elements. Underneath the solar panels will be benches, tables, electrical outlets, and special hooks for students to hang hammocks. A small garden featuring native plant life will be planted around the solar panel structure. Small informational signage will be displayed throughout the garden informing visitors about the benefits of sustainable energy and how a PV system works.



This year members of the 2014-15 Leadership Academy participated in the third annual Polar Plunge at Lake Junaluska on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.  The event raises money for Haywood Waterways Association’s Kids in the Creek and Youth Education programs, which help children learn about water quality and promote environmentally responsible behavior. The theme of the Leadership Academy this year is ‘leadership in action' and they expressed this objective in the literal sense.  The group from WCU was organized by Lauren Bishop, a member of the Leadership Academy and president of the HWA board of directors.  Several students from ES 350 volunteered making the event a success from registering plungers, serving food, and providing music for the event. The WCU Leadership Academy polar plunge team named itself the “WCU Purple Plungers” dressed in purple from head to toe raised $1,000 for the event.  Overall the Polar Plunge raised just over $25K, which was the goal for the year.


Mary Adams, madams@wcu.edu, along with student volunteers from WCU supervised by Jane Finneran (ARF-Animal Relief Fund), continue to seek grant funding to reduce pet overpopulation and eliminate euthanasia of cats and dogs at the county shelter. This volunteerism will be coordinated by ARF (Humane Society of Jackson County) using records and data collected by the Jackson County shelter. Students will be involved in creating publicity materials and performing statistical mapping of pockets of pet overpopulation for Adams's English 303 class: Introduction to Professional writing. Goals of the project are to understand causes of pet overpopulation, including student ownership of pets, and to assist the shelter with web, print, and grant materials to make a no-kill shelter a reality.



Graduate student Sam McCoy (stmccoy1@catamount.wcu.edu), undergraduate researchers Colin McRae (clmcrae2@catamount.wcu.edu) and Naaman McRae (namcrae1@catamount.wdu.edu), faculty Joseph Pechmann (jpechmann@wcu.edu), and graduate students in the Advanced Ecological and Evolutionary Research Methods course conducted a radio telemetry study of terrestrial habitat usage and needs of the mountain chorus frog.  This frog is a species of special concern in NC.  The research was conducted in collaboration with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the USDA Forest Service.  Data will provide information needed for the protection and conservation of this frog.



Ben Tanner (btanner@wcu.edu, Dept. of Geosciences and Natural Resources), Rob Young (Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines), and Beverly Collins (Biology Department) completed a project at Panthertown Valley within the Nantahala National Forest. Project data were used to construct a record of changing plant communities within the bog over the past 9000 years and were also used to elucidate changes in local climate conditions over that time period. The project was funded by WCU and the US Forest Service and the results from the project will be valuable to scientists from the Nantahala National Forest as they decide how to best manage these types of unique ecosystems given current climate change. WCU undergraduate and graduate students have been heavily involved in data collection and analysis related to the project, both within and outside of class.




Faculty Karen Lunnen (klunnen@wcu.edu) and John Carzoli (jacarzoli@wcu.edu), along with four Doctor of Physical Therapy students engaged in a collaborative project with multiple state and national agencies (Vecinos Farmworker Health Program, North Carolina Agro-medicine Institute, Arthritis Foundation – Mid-Atlantic Region, and North Carolina AgrAbility) for the purpose of: 1) assessing needs of migrant/seasonal farmworkers in western NC, 2) conducting a survey and musculoskeletal screen with farmworkers in the camps where they live, 3) analyzing data related to prevalence and type of musculoskeletal symptoms, 4) developing educational materials to help prevent musculoskeletal problems, 5) participating in an inter-professional, primary care model of service delivery for farmworkers, both on-site and at a university-based pro bono clinic, 6) assisting with delivery of a curriculum for lay health workers developed by AgrAbility in collaboration with the National Arthritis Foundation.



Faculty Elizabeth Sexton (ehsexton@email.wcu.edu) and Cheryl Clark (cclark@email.wcu.edu) along with the last semester nursing students continue to provide health fairs for the homeless populations of Haywood and Buncombe Counties. These health fairs are in collaboration with Open Door Ministry of Waynesville and A HOPE Day Shelter in Asheville and also the help of WNCAP and the Lion’s Club.  For each health fair a group of 3 to 4 students do Qualtrics surveying to assess the needs and interests of the population (IRB approved) and then plan a health fair in which their classmates are involved in providing the health screenings and health promotion activities. The goal of the health fairs is to improve the health of the homeless population in the region through targeted health screening, referrals as needed, and health teaching that addresses the concerns and health issues of the participants.



Students are very involved in planning at North Carolina Acquired Brain Injury Association (Karen Keating, Brain Injury Resource Center, Asheville NC: www.bianc.net, 828-277-4868), providing interventions and being support staff to participants with a wide variety of brain injuries. Faculty Glenn Kastrinos has worked hard along with Karen Keating to plan and organize students to be prepared to work with participants in a productive and meaningful way. They lead everything from therapeutic horseback riding to zip lining, swimming and kayaking. This has been a wonderful arrangement that has benefitted students, BIANC and most importantly the participants who establish lifelong memories that make life worth living.


Faculty Lydia Elliott (lydiaelliott@wcu.edu) revised curriculum for the Primary Care of Children and Adolescents course in the Family Nurse Practitioner program to include community service learning projects. The results were overwhelming positive. During spring 2015, four groups of students within this course self-identified community partners with the goal to connect classroom curriculum with an identified community need.  The community partners were: 1) Oakley Elementary School in Asheville, 2) W. W. Estes Elementary School in Asheville, 3) Asheville City Schools Head Start, and 4) Bair Foundation Child and Family Ministries of Asheville.  The community activities resulted in classroom instruction of approximately 500 elementary students in the areas of hand washing, helmet safety, dog safety, and water safety.  In addition, students developed a form to be utilized by healthcare providers and foster parents to ensure the safe administration of medication to foster children.  These projects have positively impacted the lives of many children and the students as well!



Faculty Melissa Snyder (mmsnyder@email.wcu.edu) and students from the athletic training program collaborated with athletic trainers from their clinical sites to critically examine unique injuries or conditions. The activity ensured that they students treat a patient, used research to formulate a treatment plan and prepared abstracts and posters for dissemination. Some of the students, in collaboration with a faculty member, will present their cases at state and regional conferences.


Faculty Michael Razdrh has students complete an assignment that requires them to volunteer their time at a local (or location back in their home town) agency that deals with people or the service of people.  Examples include: Community Table, Full Spectrum Farms, Habitat for Humanity (out of Franklin), United Christian Ministries, MedWest Hospital, Mountain Trace Nursing Care, Skyland Care Center, Social Service Agencies, etc.  Five hours are volunteered at a Human Service Related Agency or organization. The goal is to get a feel of what it is like to give back to the community and see what it is like to work in an agency with various clientele.


Faculty Elizabeth Tait (emtait@wcu.edu) in partnership with MAHEC continues to educate community members of the whys, whats, and hows of Advance Directives.  While wills are common, Living Wills (an integral part of Advance Directives) are not. Wills take care of the Things after death; Advance Directives take care of the person and their wishes as they approach death.  Dr. Tait and MAHEC members offer seminars around the region to describe in humorous, thoughtful, caring way the importance of having AD completed, with clear instructions on how to get one done.



The agency partner research director (Dr. Vallire Hooper) and faculty member (Dr. Kae Livsey)  co-taught the evidence based nursing practice course during Spring 2015 in the Accelerated BSN program- and designed a specific experience to engage students  in a specific  research project activity, for which the agency partner needed additional data collection support.   Students enrolled in the course served as data collectors for a specific hospital wide quality improvement data collection project that was underway at the clinical agency. By incorporating these service learning activities, students gained hands on experience with clinical research activities. Additionally, student course assignments and projects were specifically designed to incorporate an evidenced based practice recommendation for the clinical unit on which they were placed for their initial medical surgical rotation. This allowed to students to examine evidence and incorporate these new skills to “give back” to the units and help to promote use of evidence based practice.


The initial contact with Vecinos began about six years ago with a comprehensive needs assessment and information gathering.  Continued collaboration has involved two faculty members from the Department of Physical Therapy and a numerous DPT students who have participated in research and community service as part of two-semester long doctoral projects.  Vecinos staff have collaborated with us to develop and implement a demographic survey and musculoskeletal screen with the farmworkers.  We have partnered with them in an inter-professional primary care model of delivery in outreach at the camps where farmworkers live, at a 4-day clinic (over 2 weekends) held in the Health and Human Sciences Building and at a weekly evening clinic.  Faculty have participated in a variety of fundraising and advocacy efforts.  Staff from Vecinos have provided instruction for DPT students in a Professional Practice course focused on cultural competency.

Contributor: Karen Lunnen


Faculty Amy Rose (ajrose@wcu.edu) along with 22 students from the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department (CSD 270), participated in service learning projects throughout the 2015 spring semester. Each student volunteered at least 5 hours of their time to an agency that provides some aspect of human services, including several area nursing homes and schools. Each student then typed a summary account and reflection discussing the agency where they volunteered, what they did, who they served, their role with them, and what they learned. This experience provided real-world application of topics discussed in class.


MSW student Samantha Stark, under the guidance of Dr. Tonya Westbrook, is completing a research project that will describe the services provided by all agencies across America that specialize in providing services to children with disabilities and their families. The project will specifically focus on the agencies that provide services to the typically developing siblings of children with disabilities. The results of this research study will be disseminated through the publication of a directory of these agencies and the services they provide.


Innovation and Technology

The SBTDC at WCU and faculty from the College of Business continue to provide project based research and assistance to area businesses.  Over 60 projects were delivered to business owners and innovative entrepreneurs for Summer 2014, Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.  This level of engagement in the business community continues to move companies forward with growth and expansion plans using data derived from research. Accurate industry information leads to better business decisions and an increase in economic development for the region.  It is a perfect example of how the University can leverage its assets including library databases, students and faculty knowledge to assist a region grow and prosper while adding value to the student's education and resume.  This real-life experience has been the difference in many graduate's job search over the 13 years we have been doing these projects.

Contributor: Wendy Cagle


People are injured every year in accidents that cause a temporary restriction of mobility such as a broken leg or sprained ankle. This can be especially exasperating when it occurs prior to a family vacation. Often the vacation is not cancelled and the injured person simply stays in the hotel. Students in the Engineering and Technology Department, Jason McCurry, Phillip Styles, and Alex Wilfong are address this problem in their capstone course.  Under the guidance of Dr. Martin Tanaka and sponsored by the owner of the Niagara Falls Quality Inn, they are designing a multi-terrain wheel chair that is comfortable, easily maneuverable and capable of traversing wet surfaces.  Our sponsor plans to rent these wheelchairs to his customers providing access to Niagara Falls and expanding his services. This research project was also accepted for presentation at the 2015 Summer Biomechanics, Bioengineering and Biotransport Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.



The semester engagement project in ET 362 provided valuable information about regional manufacturing. The main goal for the completed project was to map a web of industry clusters in the region with the additional information of logistical data about those industries. In order to map out the networks of technical clusters, each group conducted interviews with manufacturing industries in Western NC. With the interview documentation, students used different methods to analyze the findings. They compiled the results in a matrix to determine if there were indeed manufacturing clusters in the region and developed charts to document supplier and customer network for each company. Students gained information about the type of product/services, importance of the company’s current physical location, customers of the company, suppliers to the company, transportation systems for input and output of goods, number of employees at the Western NC site, the company’s presence in other areas, the company’s measure of customer service, and the importance of product lifecycle, recycle waste/scrap.

Contributor: Amber Thompson


Dr. Wright has engaged approximately 400 students with over 100 outside clients in student consulting projects over the last four years as part of the Business School Capstone Course.  Student service hours in these projects amount to nearly 12,000 hours.  Clients are typically small, start-up businesses but have included notable entities such as the Town of Mars Hill, TekTone Medical Systems, Plum-Print (recently funded by the Asheville Angel Investors Network), Nobel Cider, FLS Energy, Asheville Community Theater, Biltmore Winery, and the Medical Clinic at the WCU H&HS College.  Client evaluations of these projects have been very positive.



Each student in the College of Business at WCU will be given the opportunity to apply their learning in a real-world environment by working with a business in the western North Carolina region prior to graduation in a "capstone" course. This experience benefits the local business by providing them with resources not easily available. This experience benefits the students initially by being able to "fit-together" the various business courses studied toward a group-goal and secondly, producing an artifact suitable for presentation at job interviews after graduation.

Contributor: Richard Creasy


Faculty:  Wes Stone; Students:  Ian Williams, Richard Blackwell; Partner:  Webster Enterprises. This project looked at the production line that produced a new product for the medical industry: splints that hold IV tubes in the arms of infants to keep them from shaking them loose.  The production line was mapped out with recommendations for improvements to fixtures and product flow.  Customer orders were analyzed to identify opportunities to streamline that process and significantly reduce finished goods inventory.



Faculty member Susan Swanger (swanger@wcu.edu), along with students from the Master of Accountancy Program, volunteer  with other members of the business community in OnTrack Financial Services' Mad City Money program.  The program volunteers act as merchants and financial counselors to students at Asheville High School in this financial literacy educational activity.  Several hundred high school students participate each year.



Recreation and Tourism

Fall, 2014: Faculty Carroll Brown (cabrown@wcu.edu) and Bill Richmond (brichmond@wcu.edu) collaborated with Rick Westerman, Director of Macon/Jackson County Habitat for Humanity (rickw@dnet.net) to engage HT241 Festivals & Special Events students in planning a Spring 2015 Habitat festival. The festival purpose was to raise awareness of Habitat for Humanity in Jackson County and provide students “hands-on” learning experiences. Student groups recommended festival ideas and presented their findings to Habitat representatives. The best festival components from each project were selected to include in the 2015 event. Spring, 2015: Using the best festival components list, faculty Carroll Brown and Mary Morse (mlmorse@wcu.edu) designed a festival project for HT436 Tourism Planning & Development students. Morse worked with students to plan/develop the “Build & Bloom” festival and Brown tied textbook concepts to students’ festival work to enhance learning. The event benefited Habitat, bringing in over $1,000.00, and was the kick-off for a new Dillsboro event.    



Steve Morse, economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism program in the College of Business with students from senior level capstone class both fall and spring semesters, collected and analyzed tourism economic impact data to generate a custom one-page "Tourism Economic Fact Sheet" for each of the 26 counties in the Western Carolina economic development footprint.  The Tourism Economic Fact Sheets track tourist spending in each county for the last five years and provide a snap shot of the economic importance of tourism to each county's economy.  The fact sheets were presented at the LEAD: Tourism conference on April 21 at WCU where 195 tourism, economic development officials, and local elected and appointed officials attended.  As a result, students gained experience analyzing real-world local data, and 26 counties in WNC received an analysis of the importance of tourism to their local economies in planning economic development strategies for the future.


Faculty member Betty Farmer (Bfarmer@wcu.edu) worked with students in two undergraduate classes (Public Relations Campaigns Spring 2014 and Public Relations Case Studies Fall 2014) to write, edit and promote "A Historic Guide to Dillsboro" in commemoration of WCU's and Dillsboro's 125th anniversaries. Additionally, two students worked alongside Dr. Farmer over summer 2014 in a totally volunteer basis to complete the final draft and prepare it for publication. The 143-page book highlights Dillsboro's history, its myths and tales, the town's significance as a fine arts and crafts destination, and profiles its award-winning artisans. Additionally, "A Guide to Historic Dillsboro" provides information about current businesses, special events, and activities in this tourist-dependent town. All proceeds from the sale of the book have been earmarked for the Appalachian Women's Museum, and, to date, over $800 has been donated to AWM. Student authors Tyler Cook, Michael Lovett and Susan Shelton received an "Outstanding Achievement" award from the Center for Service Learning in Spring 2015. 


Faculty Debby Singleton (singleton@wcu.edu) and Active Routes to School (ARTS) coordinator, Jackie Moore (arts@jacksonnc.org), along with students from the Parks & Recreation Management and Health & Physical Education programs, will work collaboratively to create, implement, staff, and evaluate new and ongoing ARTS programs in the region. ARTS is part of the NC Safe Routes to School Program which is a partnership between the NCDOT and NCDPH. The proposed programs include; before and after school walking/activity clubs, school based programs focused on increasing physical activity minutes each day, workshops and programs focused on bicycle and pedestrian safety, one day health-fitness-activity events to educate and motivate participants, and the completion of a walking trail around Fairview Elementary and Smoky Mountain High School.  The goal of this partnership is to provide meaningful learning experiences for WCU students and to promote healthier habits, cleaner environment, safety, and community building between WCU and our region. 



Sue Grider (sgrider@wcu.edu) with her first semester students explore the opportunities and challenges of being a leader within the digital culture they live. Students explore and define the meaning of what digital culture means and then defines leadership and the various traits and aspects of what leadership means in the 21st century. Ms. Grider and her students then explore how leaders use various forms of digital culture to help their causes both good and bad. This course then culminates in a project where they use digital media to explore and document aspects of selected buildings on campus. The students then write content about the history of these buildings that will then be given to Dr. Dan Clapper for use in his CIS course that is developing a walking tour of campus.



Faculty Julie Johnson-Busbin and James Busbin worked with Haywood Pathways Center to develop a strategic marketing and social media plan to win the national Guaranteed Rate, Ty Pennington, Ultimate Neighborhood Giveback Challenge Contest to flip a former prison into a homeless shelter, soup kitchen and halfway house.  This was a $100,000 contest in which the winner would be awarded $50,000 and 5 additional finalists would win $10,000 each to fund a community service project.  Three hundred and twenty two entrants from 49 states were judged in the contest by their community impact, the plan to execute the idea and the number of votes received on Facebook during three rounds of voting.  Haywood Pathways Center won all three rounds of social media voting by a significant margin.  A video (may be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZaXUfBw78k) was developed along with a social media strategy with the hashtag #TearDownTheseFences.  The WCU Community also became involved and, with the support of Dr. Lane Perry, garnered so many volunteers that it was coined WCU Prison Flip Day.



Since 2011, students in the master’s degree program in human resources offered through the Department of Human Services have been serving as pro bono consultants. They and their professor have served over 40 nonprofit organizations, small businesses and local government agencies located throughout NC, SC, TV and VA. Since the MSHR program is online, 100% of their work is performed remotely, effectively communicating via email and phone. They have completed over 60 HR pro bono consulting projects, which are completed within 10 weeks. The work is part of every course taught by Marie-Line Germain, assistant professor of human resources and leadership. Germain supervises the students’ consulting projects. Virtual consultant teams are formed in every course and each team elects their leaders. A last semester graduate student serves as the projects coordinator --the liaison between the organizations' executive director, the teams of students, and the professor. Projects range from developing Employee Handbooks to employee compensation analysis, to city-wide employee satisfaction surveys.



Through Law 285, mediation students meet the 21-hour educational requirement to qualify as certified community mediators. Faculty member Jayne Zanglein (jzanglein@email.wcu.edu) teaches Law 285 and Law 480 (mediation internship). She works with Lorraine Johnson (mmsbryson@dnet.net) of Mountain Mediation Services to supervise student interns. Several mornings a month, Professor Zanglein and students attend criminal court to handle mediation intake. This requires them to determine cases suitable for mediation, consult with the District Attorney about these cases, gather information from arrest warrants, and meet with plaintiffs and defendants to discuss the advantages of mediation. Students also observe mediations. After they have observed three mediations, they are certified as community mediators and can co-mediate criminal cases. The national American Bar Association awarded students a $300 grant to fund conflict resolution day events. Students also prepared and taught a 6-hour peer mediation training for students at Scott’s Creek School.


Faculty member Jay Gerlach (jdgerlach@wcu.edu) guided WCU MPA students in service learning projects during his spring 2015 version of PA 650 (The Nonprofit Sector).  PA 650 students worked with the Brandi Nichole Family Enrichment Center, Asheville Green Opportunities, Catman2, and the Jackson County Farmers Market to assist in management projects ranging from establishment as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to the development of marketing plans and a grant-seeking handbook.  PA 650 students applied course concepts to real life nonprofit management scenarios under the guidance of Dr. Gerlach and their service learning sponsor organizations.  This was a win-win situation for all involved, as students were able to experience nonprofit management firsthand while offering valuable services to community nonprofit organizations in the Western North Carolina region.  As a result, students made tremendous contacts for future reference on the job market.  One was even asked to serve on the board of directors for the Brandi Nichole Family Enrichment Center. 


Every semester, MPA faculty guide MPA students on an engaged learning project that serves as the capstone experience in the MPA program. These experiences vary in topic, but all must (1) help a community partner, (2) apply skills learned in the MPA program, and (3) further the MPA student's career.

Contributor: Christopher Cooper


Lane Perry (laneperry@wcu.edu) and student Kyra Huffsmith (Junior, Information Technology) have been collaborating with a team of representatives from Waynesville to develop, solicit artists, and build capacity around the on-line marketplace for artists who would like to increase sales and help the homeless and transition populations through the Pathways Center. This marketplace is the Haywood County ARTPATH. The project has led to the development of the ARTPATH website, mobile website, and online marketplace. The team is currently soliciting donations and partnerships with burgeoning and established artists in the county and through this are building an inventory to be valued at nearly $15-20,000. These artifacts will then be sold through the ARTPATH online marketplace and all proceeds go back to the Pathways Center to assist with homeless and transition populations.


Dr. Briggs in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department incorporated her students in her Forensic Evidence K-9 work.  She and her students assisted the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department in the search for evidence at the suspect's residence in a homicide case.   In addition, she and her students, under the direction of search director Edwin Grant from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, worked a cold murder case.


Marilyn Chamberlin and Betty Farmer worked along with students from athletics, student clubs, PR classes and sociology classes to provide Jackson children from families in need of assistance gifts during the holidays. They have partnered with Southwestern Child Development Commission Inc (Sheila Hoyle, Executive Director Southwestern Child Development Commission Inc. (PO Box 250 Webster, NC 28788; Phone: 828-586-5561, sheilahoyle@aol.com), local churches and local schools to provide children with clothes and toys for the holiday season.  The goals of this project are simple: providing for the needs of children and learning how to best serve those needs in our area. The faculty and students have provided their expertise in the area of organizational management, fundraising, childhood in society and poverty to achieve the goals of this project.   Additional projects are under development to expand the reach of these services including a Shoe closet and diaper bank.



Faculty member Todd Collins and graduate students from the Public Policy Institute worked closely with the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits to create and implement a statewide survey of nonprofit officers to determine current trends in nonprofit employment.  The survey examined turnover rates, retention efforts, and employment challenges for the nonprofit sector.  With students involved in all aspects of the project (from survey creation to data analysis and reporting), this project provides practical information for nonprofit managers as well as best practices concerning human resourcing issues. 


Humanite has established itself as having unique, trendy, and fashion-forward women’s clothing in the communities of western North Carolina. However, there has been some confusion over the pronunciation and unusual spelling of the shop’s name. Faculty Scott Eldredge worked on a project developing a communication campaign to re-launch the Humanite brand in western North Carolina, beginning with a research effort to test out new brand concepts and refine both the boutique’s messaging and target audience.


Faculty Robert Jacobs (rajacobs@wcu.edu) established a relationship with the Jackson County Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Jackson County (A.R.F) in autumn of 2014. Students enrolled in any of Dr. Jacobs’ courses are offered extra credit for time spent volunteering for either of these two organizations. At the Jackson County Animal Shelter students spend quality time with the animals, either taking the dogs for exercise/walk or playing with the cats. These are activities that permanent employees do not have time to engage in although these social interactions are extremely important and beneficial to the animals. Shelter employees take notice of a markedly calmer and less stressful environment when students are able to provide these animals some social interaction and physical activity. Students who volunteer at A.R.F. assist with adoption/neutering events, help with public relations, collar dogs, walk the dogs, help with fundraising, run errands, and clean crates.


A Social Entrepreneurship team coupled their course project (i.e., plan to address a social issue) with their volunteer work.  AWAKE (Adults Working and Advocating for Kids’ Empowerment) is a non-profit organization that is “concerned about the destruction of child abuse to children, families and the community” with a Jackson County service area.  Students made and sold cookies for ($2 each) in their respective home communities during Thanksgiving break.  Quoting news coverage, the executive director of AWAKE, Robin Schaeffer, stated: “The project resulted in a deeper connection with WCU students, the opportunity for public school children to use their creativity and the embodiment of the importance of service to the community.”

Contributor: Robert Lahm


Dr. Amy Murphy-Nugen and MSW graduate students are working with community representatives of the Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau (BGCP) in all aspects of developing the organization's inaugural five-year strategic plan. The BGCP opened its doors in September 2014 and is enthusiastically embracing its mission "to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens." In strengthening its solid foundation, the BGCP is undertaking a comprehensive planning process to ensure it is sustainability, and effectively and strategically fulfill its critical mission. Dr. Murphy-Nugen and MSW students are involved in conducting focus groups, engaging in key stakeholder interviews and conducting a community survey. After feedback is collected from the community, Dr. Murphy-Nugen will present findings to the BGCP, facilitate a planning retreat and draft a five-year strategic plan. 




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