Chancellor John W. Bardo
Chancellor John W. Bardo

HICKORY – Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo concluded a yearlong series of community conversations across Western North Carolina with his farthest foray east during a day of meetings with Catawba County business, education and government leaders Tuesday, May 25.

The stop in Hickory was the final leg of the Chancellor's Regional Roundtables series. A fact-finding tour of the state's westernmost counties by Bardo and several Western Carolina officials, the visits are designed to promote an exchange of ideas on the needs and goals of communities in the mountain region, and how Western can play a role in meeting the challenges and addressing those needs.

During a luncheon meeting with Catawba County leaders, Bardo offered the intellectual resources of the university, including faculty expertise and staff assistance, to a region hard hit by business layoffs and plant closings in such traditional manufacturing areas as furniture and textiles.

He specifically spelled out how the university's engineering and technology department has been reaching out to businesses across Western North Carolina, providing technical assistance to help solve problems encountered by businesses both large and small. He invited Catawba County entrepreneurs to contact Western's Center for Regional Development, the economic development assistance arm of the university. And he discussed Western's role in development of new high-speed Internet access that, when complete, will connect Hickory and Cullowhee and all points in between.

Bardo also talked about the need to expand the university's partnerships with community colleges across the region, including existing programs in teacher education offered through Catawba Valley Community College . “We are working closely with Catawba Valley Community College now on a number of programs, and we hope to expand that in the very near future,” he said.

Working collaboratively with the community college system is an important part of Western's efforts to provide a strong college education and to help attract employment opportunities for young people who want to study, live and work within the western part of the state, he said.

“It is Western's mission to educate the students of North Carolina while helping to meet the needs of our region,” Bardo said. “We want to be the cultural, social, economic and environmental engine of development for Western North Carolina .”

Western officials say they plan to examine what they have learned from the yearlong series of visits to WNC communities to begin to develop specific strategies to help meet community needs, with follow-up meetings to be scheduled starting later this year.

The Chancellor's Regional Roundtables began last June with stops in the far western counties of Cherokee, Clay and Graham, followed by visits to Henderson , Polk and Transylvania counties. Roundtables have been held in Macon, McDowell, Burke, Caldwell, Yancey, Mitchell, Haywood, Swain, Buncombe and Jackson counties, and on the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee Indians – a total of 18 counties, plus the Qualla Boundary.

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Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2014 | Originally published: Thursday, May 27, 2004
Copyright 2003 by Western Carolina University