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Strategic Direction #4 – Regional and Community Engagement

Through regional and community partnerships, we will be a force for the progress and growth of Western North Carolina. As an institution dedicated to the overall development of North Carolina, Western Carolina University serves all of the state with particular focus on the communities, towns, and cities of the 17 western-most counties of North Carolina* as well as the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

* Buncombe, Cherokee, Cleveland, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, and Yancey

Goal 4.1: Be the higher education leader in workforce growth and development in Western North Carolina.

4.1.1: Increase the number of graduates in regionally identified growth sectors, such as Health & Human Services, Engineering, IT, Hospitality & Tourism, Business, and other fields as annually identified in collaboration with regional partners. Grow these programs and develop new ones on main campus, the Asheville instructional site, and any other instructional sites, as appropriate.

4.1.2: Expand the regional service footprint of WCU beyond main campus though its instructional site in Asheville as well as other current and future sites in the region.

4.1.3: Expand the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees offered as distance programs, whether entirely online or a combination of face-to-face and hybrid on main campus, the Asheville instructional site, and any other instructional sites.

4.1.4: Develop a program of recruitment and support for part-way home and Finish Line students, who need to return to higher education to complete a degree or other credential, and link these programs with the myFutureNC program.

4.1.5: Establish WCU as the leading UNC system school of choice for students transferring from the North Carolina Community College system as well as other 4-year universities and colleges.

4.1.6: Develop a next-level continuing education and professional development program that utilizes traditional and alternative credentials, as well as stackable credentialing that integrates tightly with undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

4.1.7: Develop a system of research and reporting for real-time awareness of regional workforce and other development needs.

4.1.8: In partnership with regional entities, leverage WCUs alumni network to bring graduates back to the region for relocation.

Goal 4.2: Serve as lead convenor on major issues facing Western North Carolina at both the regional and local levels.

4.2.1: Convene annual think-tanks on key regional issues such as, but not limited to, Community Health, Workforce Housing, Transportation, Broadband, Childcare, and Homelessness.

4.2.2: Convene business and non-profit subsectors on a regular basis to develop and cultivate “big ideas” for regional transformation.

4.2.3: Convene regional partners for collaborative leadership, research, and planning.

4.2.4: Encourage active and multi-lateral community and campus participation in relevant local strategic planning initiatives for communities, municipalities, and the region.

4.2.5: Publish and distribute widely, an annual report of WCUs regional and community development and engagement.

Goal 4.3: Become a key regional partner in business retention and expansion.

4.3.1: Develop two business development centers, one in Jackson County to serve southwest NC and one in Buncombe County to serve metro Asheville, that physically bring together WCU’s and other entities’ business development units.

4.3.2: Lead regional efforts to foster small-business and entrepreneurial endeavors via entrepreneurship curricula, Corporation for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Small Business & Technology Development Center, the RAPID Center, and the region’s Community College Small Business Centers, Community Development Financial Institutions, and non-profit resources.

Goal 4.4: Be a state model for regional and community engagement.

4.4.1: Convene, lead, and invest in the development of Cullowhee as a community.

4.4.2: Develop interdisciplinary clinics(s), fixed or mobile, to serve the region and provide clinical placements for our students.

4.4.3: Develop a university-specific Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), guided by the University’s Strategic Plan, and to include intensive participation from the various communities and counties encompassed in our region to create alignment with dynamic needs.

4.4.4: Develop a tool by which external partners can identify and connect with institutional departments, program and units for regional and community partnerships.

4.4.5: Leverage the fine and performing arts to advance WCU’s commitment to regional and community engagement on the main campus, instructional sites, and across the Western North Carolina region.

4.4.6: Be a regional and community hub for thought leadership at main campus, the Asheville instructional site, and any other instructional sites/facilities.

4.4.7: Make main campus, the Asheville instructional site, and any other instructional sites/facilities easily accessible to the general public through areas such as, but not limited to, wayfinding and convenient parking.

4.4.8: Encourage and support individual regional and community engagement by students, faculty and staff.

4.4.9: Identify and annually place students, faculty, and staff on key regional and community leadership boards.

Goal 4.5: Leverage WCUs expertise in key areas to help other institutions, large employers, and government entities.

4.5.1: Bring in other regional partners to develop their own diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts as the University improves upon its own.

4.5.2: Guide other regional partners to leadership in environmentalism and sustainability.

4.5.3: Leverage WCU’s expertise in public/private partnerships for housing development to grow workforce housing in the region.

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