The Spring Class of 2022, the first NC Promise graduating class, leave Cullowhee as one of the most resilient classes in WCU history. They overcame a pandemic that forced a switch to online classes from home, before returning to campus for hybrid instruction, followed by a return to normalcy. Now they are prepared to take that resiliency into the workplace as proud Catamounts.
As a high school senior Olivia Swalm had her life all planned out: Furman University, premed major in biology, then medical school, and a career as a forensic pathologist. Then life – and death – happened, and needing to steady herself, Swalm took a knee.
He entered Western Carolina University in 2018 as Grayson Epperson, the newbie from Lincolnton, who knew no one on campus. He leaves it in May, when he graduates, as G-Ray, the late-night host of his own radio show with an international following.
Rehearsal has looked a little different this semester, but our choir students have continued to come together to make music and share their talents. Throughout the semester, they have gathered weekly via Zoom to warm up and rehearse. Using cameras on their laptops and smartphones, they record solo tracks that are then edited together by a sound engineer into final virtual choir videos.
In December, Kenyatta Fortune will become a three-time graduate of Western Carolina University. Doing so didn’t come without facing significant challenges. “The dynamics are different,” Fortune said. “While the professors provide guidance, encouragement, and support, the student is given full autonomy in setting personal timelines, meeting agendas, and maintaining contact with milestone updates on their thesis research.”
Dakota Groves was inspired by the "Pride of the Mountains" Marching Band after seeing their performance in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His devotion to practice and music led him to being less focused on his electrical engineering classes, which ultimately resulted in academic dismissal. But, his story has come full circle. He returned to WCU, changed his major to follow his love of music, and now, he is marching in the 2019 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with hopes that he can inspire the future generation of musicians
WCU alumna, Sara Mears, who graduated with the spring class of 2020, finds the bright side of COVID-19-related change of plans. Nearly seven months after she had graduated from Western Carolina University, Sara Mears was on day two of a three-day drive from one life-changing adventure to another, oddly for which she had COVID-19 to thank.
When David Benoit graduated in the middle of a global pandemic, the future was uncertain. He was quarantined in Boston with his family, applying for jobs, and applying to be a Peace Corps volunteer. While isolated, watching the news and checking social media, seeing the constant police brutality took a toll on him. “You can only watch so much on television. You can only go on social media and see so much pain, hurt, and violence. That’s all I was seeing and it really affected me,” he said.
When Spencer Childers decided to attend Western Carolina University four years ago, he couldn’t possibly anticipate the roller coaster ride he would take.
Annie Vasquez, a graduating senior studying Spanish, was drawn to Western Carolina University by its close-knit community and the importance the university places on every student. She knew that becoming a Catamount would mean that she would be more than just a number in a system, rather she would be valued as a person.