College Of Health & Human Sciences

Community Engagement

Vecinos Farmworker program


Engagement and Outreach

Western Carolina University has designation as a Carnegie Foundation Community-Engaged Institution for its many service-learning and community engagement opportunities provided to its students. In the WCU DPT program, students are involved in service learning as part of the regular curriculum, and also have the option of doing either community-based research or a service-learning doctoral project. Through these initiatives students are able to:

  • Apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom
  • Perform a service for the community
  • Gain a greater understanding of community needs

Learn about service learning at WCU

Health Care through Community Engagement

Service-learning has always been a strong component of WCU’s physical therapy curriculum, which includes coursework on Health Promotion and Wellness and other extra / co-curricular projects targeted towards our community.

 Examples of our long-standing programs include collaborative teaching/learning opportunities with physical therapist assistant students at Southwestern Community College; partnerships with several agencies at the national, state and regional level for the prevention of falls in older adults; and a clinical partnership with Vecinos Farmworker Health Program to provide physical therapy services and support for one of the most vulnerable populations in the region, migrant and seasonal farmworkers.   


Balance clinic

: The student-run Mountain Area Pro Bono Physical Therapy Clinic (MAPPT) serves uninsured or under-insured individuals in western North Carolina, regardless of socio-economics or health status.  This clinic provides students an opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge and serve the community.

Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic: Balance and Fall Prevention Clinic at Western Carolina University provides inter-professional team-based evaluation, treatment, and consultation services for individuals who have fallen or are at risk for falling.

Examples of Current Doctoral Projects 

Training for Southwestern Community College (SCC)

Dr Starr Program at SCC


Originally developed by physical therapy faculty member Kathy Starr, students conduct education sessions on clinically applied anatomy for physical therapist assistant (PTA) students at neighboring Southwestern Community College. A portion of the educational session occurs in the anatomy lab, the only experience PTA students have to work with cadavers.

Outreach to Farmworkers in Collaboration

Farm workers in field


(with Vecinos Farmworker Health Program and Other National/State Programs Committed to Serving Farmworkers e.g., AgrAbility, Agromedicine Institute and Migrant Clinicians Network)

Over the  past 8 years students have conducted a needs assessment, collected data on the incidence and prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms among groups of farmworkers, provided instruction for farmworkers on the prevention or alleviation of symptoms, conducted a workshop for outreach workers in collaboration with NC AgrAbilty and developed an instructional video for outreach workers in collaboration with the NC Farmworker Health Program.



Core Strengthening Program - WCU Dance Team


Research on the effectiveness of a core strengthening program for members of Western Carolina University’s Dance Team on specific performance parameters.

Health Promotions and Wellness

Students collaborate with a community partner to identify a need and then design and implement a health promotion activity to address the need.  




Health promotion and injury prevention for dancers in collaboration with the WCU Dance Department

(Emily Rhodes / WCU Dance Program, Ashlee Wasmund - WCU dance program coordinator)

Adaptive climbing for individuals with special needs

(Kaya Lindquist, Jarred Lehr / Climbmax Asheville, Catalyst Sports)

Promoting health and wellness at WCU in partnership with W.H.E.E. for Life to enhance musculoskeletal health in office workers

(James Meuth, Rachel Shumate/ WCU’s WHEE for Life)

Running Injury Prevention: Promoting Healthy Habits and Providing Physical Therapy Screens among Recreational Runners in Western North Carolina

(Jennifer Black, Ben Stephenson / Foot Rx in Asheville and The Runner’s Mechanic)


International Outreach


Each year faculty take a group of students to Honduras to provide pro bono physical therapy services.  The citizens of Honduras rarely have access to any type of health care outside of our services.  

…because of this trip, I am more mindful, more appreciative about what I have, and I have a whole new perspective. I can honestly say that this trip will stick with me for the rest of my life, as well as memories of the people I met, the strengthened friendships, and the beauty of the mountains of Taulabe. - Catlin Lemmle

Honduras was so much more than my expectations could have fathomed.  It was an experience of sharing between individuals, stepping outside comfort zones, and building relationships that will last for years to come. The appreciation and gratitude that followed our days in the clinic were more rewarding that any physical possession we could have received.  Even in my broken Spanish, my mind could not conceive the stories I was hearing.  I will take this experience with me always. - Joey Marion

Did I like this trip? Was I impacted? Would I ever do it again? The answer to all of these is most definitely yes! … it was an incredible, moving, and humbling experience. - April Tatum

Office of Web Services